Under the guidance of knowledgeable locals, you’ll visit some of the region’s most beautiful cathedrals, monasteries, palaces, Ottoman mosques and UNESCO-protected townscapes.. The smaller, lesser-known destinations on this trip are some of the best. The crystalline beauty of towns like Mostar and Veliko Tarnovo is the stuff of fairy tales.. Visit the Zivanovic family’s honey museum and winery in Sremski Karlovci. Their old house has been converted into museum full of beekeeping memorabilia and the have had a wine cellar here for 300 years.. Explore cultural and architectural delights of Sofia on a tour with a local guide, stopping along the way to indulge in local delicacies like shopska (cucumber salad), ukanka (semi-dried salami) and wine.
Embrace romance on this 23-day tour through Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Serbia, Bulgaria and into Turkey. This itinerary combines the best of the Balkans; a colourful tapestry of cultures, landscapes and traditions, with whimsical villages and walled cities to sparkling waters and stunning national parks. Be charmed by the hearty food and opulent buildings of Sofia, learn the political history of Sarajevo, discover a 10th-century monastery in the Rila Mountains, and spend three nights on the Black Sea Coast. With local guides to illuminate the historic sights and cities along the way, this trip is a feast of ancient cultures, untouched wilderness and some of the best food and drink in Europe.
Breakfast Included: 22 Lunches Included: 5 Dinner Included: 8
Arrive in Dubrovnik, one of Croatia's most bewitching seaside cities. There are no activities planned before this evening's group meeting, so you may arrive at any time. If you arrive early, perhaps take a stroll through the charming Old Town, or simply enjoy the city's lively outdoor cafe culture. After the meeting head out for a group dinner at a traditional restaurant.
Kotor / Dubrovnik
Set out from Dubrovnik on a day excursion to the stunning country of Montenegro. Montenegro occupies a thin strip of the Adriatic coast and is a land of beautiful sandy and pebbled beaches, dramatic mountain peaks and delightful old villages. Your excursion will take you to Europe's most southerly fjord, Boka Kotorska (Bay of Kotor), one of the most beautiful bays of the region. On the way, pass through the small and picturesque towns of Risan and Perast, situated on the banks of the bay, before arriving at the UNESCO World Heritage listed town of Kotor, where you will embark on a sightseeing tour with a local guide. Visit the Cathedral of St. Tryphun, which dates back to the 8th century (according to the annals of Constantine Porfirogenet, the Byzantine czar), the South Gates of Kotor (the "Gurdich Gate"), and the square "Trg od oruzija" (The Armory Square). Return to Dubrovnik in the afternoon.
Blagaj / Mostar / Sarajevo
Depart Dubrovnik this morning and travel to the peaceful town of Blagaj, our first stop in Bosnia (approximately 2.5 hours). Blagaj is the location of the turquoise Buna River spring, where you’ll visit a historical tekija (Dervish monastery). After lunch there is a short drive to Mostar (approximately 30 minutes), a town situated in a beautiful valley in the high mountains of Herzegovina. Thanks to the river Neretva, Mostar was able to develop as a city in the barren landscape of Herzegovina. Neretva's size turned Mostar into a trading centre of the region very early on. The most famous feature of the city is its bridge. Stari Most ('Old Bridge'), which was built by the Ottomans in 1565. It was the great architect Mimar Hajrudin who had succeeded with the impossible mission to cross the Neretva River with a single span stone bridge. In the late afternoon you will drive to Bosnia's capital, Sarajevo (approximately 2.5 hours). Enjoy a dinner in a local restaurant.
Explore Sarajevo this morning with a walking tour of the city. You will visit the famous Baščaršija, the old Turkish quarter, home to one of the most interesting market centres in the country. Sarajevo is one of the few cities in the world that features an Orthodox church, a Catholic church and a mosque (the famous Begova Džamija) all within close proximity. You will be visiting all three buildings on your tour. This city may well be one of the highlights of your trip. It has emerged from the brink of ruin in the 1990s to become one of the most interesting capital cities of Europe. After your exploration of the city, there will be free time for lunch before you depart for the Tunnel Museum in the suburb of Ilidža. The tunnel was dug underneath the airport runway and was used to smuggle provisions into the city during the siege. The rest of the afternoon ids free for you to explore this exciting city.
Srebrenica / Belgrade
After breakfast transfer from Sarajevo for Srebrenica (approximately 2.5 hours). Explore the narrow streets and learn about the town's tragic past on a guided tour, including a visit to the Srebrenica Memorial Center. The Centre honours the thousands who died in the infamous Srebrenica Genocide of 1995. The local guide who has lived through the horrors of war will answer any question you might have. Take time to reflect on the experience over lunch at a local restaurant before travelling to Beograd, the Serbian capital more commonly known as Belgrade (approximately 3.5 hours). The 'White City' is one of the oldest cities in Europe. Sitting at the confluence of two major rivers, the Sava and the Danube, it’s an important intersection between Eastern and Western Europe. Here you’ll experience an energetic mix of progressive flamboyance and conservative customs.
After breakfast take part in a guided sightseeing tour of Belgrade to give you some familiarity with the area and local amenities. Then you'll have the rest of the day free to explore the city. Perhaps begin with a wander around the city’s wide boulevards and squares, and the historic and green heart of Kalemegdan Park. The park is home to Kalemegdan Fortress, which has overlooked the Danube River here for centuries. In the evening, head down to Skadarska Street in the bohemian quarter of Skadarlija to sample some authentic local food and enjoy the lively atmosphere.
Novi Sad / Sremski Karlovci / Belgrade
Embark on a day trip to Serbia's second-largest city, Novi Sad (approximately 1.5 hours). Experience Novi Sad's fascinating blend of traditional culture and Austro-Hungarian architecture wit your leader. Visit the city’s fortress of Petrovaradin, which sits right on the Danube and contains a museum of historic artefacts from the region. In the afternoon, head out of town to visit a local vineyard in Sremski Karlovci (approximately 30 minutes) and see the workings of a family-run wine making business. Visit the Zivanovic family’s honey museum and winery. Their old house has been converted into museum full of beekeeping memorabilia and the have had a wine cellar here for 300 years. You’ll try Bermet dessert wine which is a speciality of the region. Reports suggest it was drunk at the emperor's court in Vienna and was even served on the Titanic. This family are said to have kept the original recipe. Return to Belgrade in the evening and enjoy dinner with your group.
Today is at your leisure, so perhaps spend your spare time exploring the markets near the Hram Svetog Save (St Sava Church) and Pijaca Venac. In the evening, meet for another group meeting at 6 pm, where new travellers may be joining you, and your group leader may change. Get to know each other with an included dinner of some Serbian food and perhaps enjoy a glass of Slivovitz (Serbian brandy) later on.
Belgrade / Drvengrad
The morning is yours to do as you please. Perhaps take a wander through the historic, bohemian Skadarlija street and imagine life as an impoverished 20th-century poet. In the afternoon, travel by private vehicle to Drvengrad (4 hours). This traditional-style Serbian village was constructed under the direction of filmmaker Emir Kusturica, inspired by the ancient city of Ephesus, his memories of pre-war Sarajevo and a utopian ideal of village life. Kusturica’s film Life is a Miracle (2004) was filmed in Drvengrad and the town has since hosted several festivals. Spend the evening at your feature stay in this whimsical village, where the streets are named for revolutionaries and artists.
Tara National Park / Drvengrad
This morning you will further immerse yourself in antiquity with a ride on the Sargan Eight Railway. Board this old-fashioned train and travel along a narrow-gauge railway, which snakes (in the shape of a figure eight) around the mountain. Views of woodland and small villages greet you as you gaze out the window while the train slowly gains 300 metres in altitude. Your included lunch today is a real treat – a leisurely Serbian gastronomy experience with a cooking class hosted by a local villager, specialising in Western Serbian Cuisine. You can expect to prepare a range of typical dishes which may include some of the following, depending on seasonality: muckalica (barbequed meat and vegetable stew) or the vegetarian equivalent (duvec), burek (pastries, filled and baked), gibanica (cheese and egg pastry dish), cakes and preserves. All ingredients are locally grown and sourced. The experience is part of a locally developed sustainable tourism initiative, which is hoped to replace more impactful economical activities such as logging and hunting, and preserve local cultural heritage. The income the family receives from our visit stays within the community. After lunch, explore the serene Tara National Park on a 2-hour hike to the spongy meadows of Red Creek natural reserve. After your hike, return to Drvengrad for the evening and enjoy an included dinner in this unique village.
Make the approximately 4.5-hour journey from Drvengrad to Nis by private vehicle, breaking up the drive with some stops along the way. On arrival in Nis, set out on a guided tour of the city with a passionate local. Nis has a rich history, occupied by the Romans, the Slavs and the Ottoman Turks, among others. The city was the staging ground for numerous Serbian rebellions and uprisings until it was absorbed by the Serbian state in 1878. Continue to Bubanj Memorial Park to observe the Three Fists monument, dedicated to the memory of local people executed in WWII. Enjoy a free evening to explore or relax in Nis. Perhaps ask your leader to point you in the direction of Tinkers Alley – a great place to grab a meal or sit and people watch.
Leave Nis behind to and make the 3-hour drive to Sofia, a city where Soviet, Ottoman, Russian and Bulgarian Renaissance influence is evident in the architecture. In the afternoon embark on an Urban Adventures tour of the city with a local guide, learning history while you sample local food and drinks. Wonder at icons like the National Theatre and King’s Palace and refuel with snacks such as shopska (cucumber salad) and a glass of ayran (yoghurt drink). This 3-hour tour offers a fantastic introduction to the cultural and culinary delights of Sofia, after which you are free to explore on your own.