Balkans Encompassed: Serbia, Bosnia, Croatia, Montenegro, Albania, Greece, Macedonia, and Kosovo 2019
|Tour Dates||11 Aug 2019 - 06 Sep 2019 (27 days)|
|Tour Price (Per Person)||Price to be announced|
|Spaces Available||Spaces available|
An original and truly encompassing and wide-ranging tour of the mysterious and storied Balkans region of Eastern Europe. We will explore the past and hidden wonders of Serbia, Bosnia, Croatia, Montenegro, Albania, Greece, Macedonia and Kosovo, on a completely overland route throughout the ever-changing and awe-inspiring scenery.
- Enjoy the atmosphere of Belgrade, one of Europe’s most fascinating cities.
- Visit the Ćele Kula, (Skull Tower), built in 1809 by Turkish general Hurshi Pasha out of skulls of defeated Serb rebels in Niš.
- Learn of the bloody past of Bosnia in cosmopolitan Sarajevo.
- Explore Bosnia’s highest and most isolated village of Lukomir.
- Admire the famous water mills of Jajce, which date back to the Middle Ages.
- Stroll the beautiful medieval town of Počitelj.
- Walk around the scenic old town of Mostar.
- Take in the epic and beautiful walled town of Dubrovnik.
- Drive the stunningly beautiful coastal roads of Montenegro, dotted with gorgeous islands.
- Enjoy a boat trip on Lake Skader, the largest in the Balkans.
- Learn of the communist history in Tirana, Albania, a country once closed off to tourists until the early 90s.
- Step into the past while exploring the ancient city of Durrës, a wondrous UNESCO World Heritage city.
- Visit the “Town of a Thousand Windows” in the city of Berat.
- The ancient city of Apollonia, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most important archaeological sites of Albania.
- See the awe-inspiring views as we drive the gorgeous Albanian Riviera.
- Relax in Sarandë, one of the most beautiful cities in Albania.
- The well-preserved ruins of Butrint, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Enjoy the gorgeous UNESCO-listed old town of Corfu, Greece.
- Gaze at the famed Blue Eye, a deep and turquoise-blue hole fed by an underground spring.
- Wander the UNESCO World Heritage town of Gjirokastër.
- Drive the 200km breathtaking mountain route from Korçё to Pёrmet.
- Admire Lake Ohrid, the oldest lake (300 million years old) in Europe.
- Breath in the fresh air in Krushevo, the highest town in the Balkans.
- Explore the majestic Matka Canyon in Kosovo and take a boat ride to one of the deepest caves in the world.
- Stroll the city of Prizren with its mosques and monasteries dating to the 14th century.
- Tour the Peć Patriarchate Medieval complex, which is one of the most prominent medieval monasteries in the region with a sisterhood of 24 nuns.
- Take in the energy of Pristina, Kosovo’s capital city.
** All photos taken during our June/July 2016 tour **
|Tour Fact Sheet|
|Max Group Size||12 with 1 Out of Bounds Tours leader|
Day 1: Belgrade
Arrival into Belgrade, Serbia. Depending on the time of arrival, there may be an opportunity to visit the city. Overnight in Belgrade.
Day 2: Belgrade
After breakfast, we will visit of Nikola Tesla Museum, which displays and honors the life of the famed Serbian inventor. Later we will drive to the Zemun suburb (once an independent city in Austro – Hungarian empire, now one of 17 municipality of Belgrade) and visit the viewpoint at Gardos Tower.
Next we will visit all of the city’s main sites, including: the Republic Square; the National Theatre, which was founded in the 19th century; the Parliament; Saint Sava Orthodox Cathedral, which is the second largest Orthodox church in the world, and take a tour of the Belgrade Fortress, where we will learn about its long history, going back at least to the castrum of Roman times and having been destroyed several times by successive waves of invaders, and was then rebuilt as a castle by the Byzantines in the 12th century. Overnight in Belgrade.
Day 3: Novi Sad via Vršac
After breakfast, we will drive northeast to Vršac and tour the well-preserved historical core of the town, including the oldest park in Vojvodina; the first pharmacy of Vojvodina, which is nowadays the memorial gallery to painter Paja Jovanovic; the Saint Nicholas Orthodox Cathedral; the Patriarchal residence, and the St Gerhard Cathedral.
Climbing up to the Vršac Tower, which dates back to the 14th and beginning of the 15th century, we will be rewarded with a beautiful panorama of the area.
Later we will then drive along the Vojvodina plain to Novi Sad, Serbia’s second largest city and the capital of the Vojvodina province. Overnight in Novi Sad.
Day 4: Belgrade via Sremski Karlovci and Fruska Gora Mountain National Park
We start our day with a walking tour of Novi Sad, where we will visit the City Hall, Liberty Square, and the Petrovaradin Fortress – one of the largest and best preserved fortifications on the Danube River.
We will then drive to Sremski Karlovci, which is known as a cultural, educational and spiritual center, and, walking along the beautiful Baroque core, pay visits to the Patriarchal Residence, St Nicholas Orthodox Cathedral, and the Four Lions Fountain.
We will then continue on our drive along the gentle slopes of Fruska Gora Mountain National Park, with a stop at Hopovo Monastery – one of the best preserved and most beautiful fresco-painted medieval monasteries in Fruska Gora region, before continuing to Belgrade for an evening at leisure. Overnight in Belgrade.
Day 5: Niš via Požarevac
Today we will drive via Požarevac to Viminacium Archaeological Park, which was one of the most important Roman towns and military encampments from the period from the 1st to the 6th century. Then we will stop to visit the Golubac Fortress (for photos only as the site is undergoing reconstruction), which is one of the best preserved medieval fortresses in Europe. Lunch will be at Silver Lake Shore, an oxbow lake along the right Danube bank in the Braničevo region in eastern Serbia.
We then continue along the highway to Niš, with a stop at the Manasija Monastery, which is a Serb Orthodox church dedicated to the Holy Trinity founded between 1406 and 1418. In Niš, we will walk along the fantastic 18th century Niš Fortress that was built by the Turks, on the right bank of the Nišava River. Later we will visit the Skull Tower, built in 1809 by Turkish general Hurshi Pasha out of skulls of defeated Serb rebels in Niš. Overnight in Niš.
Day 6: Sarajevo via Zlatibor and Višegrad
After breakfast at our hotel, and a short walking tour around the center of Niš, we will set off on a roughly four-hour drive (288km) through central and western Serbia to Zlatibor, getting an excellent overview of the countryside and stopping for photos and lunch along the way.
Upon arrival in the mountain town of Zlatibor, we will head to one of the most famous smokehouses in the region where we are given presentation of the smoking process.
From here, we drive on to Sarajevo, Bosnia with stop in Višegrad to see the Mehmed Paša Sokolović Bridge, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and walk through Andridgrad, which was built by the famous film director Emir Kusturica in the memory of Ivo Andrid, the only Yugoslav Nobel Prize winner.
Next we will take the winding mountain roads to Sarajevo through beautiful scenery. Overnight in Sarajevo.
Day 7: Sarajevo
This morning we will set off to explore Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, established in the middle of the 15th century, where we will visit Baščaršija, an old trading center from the Ottoman period, and numerous mosques such as Gazi Husrev-begova džamija (Gazi Husrev-bey Mosque), which was built in 16th century and is the largest historical mosque in Bosnia and Herzegovina and one of the most representative Ottoman structures in the Balkans.
We will also explore Morida Han that was built in 1551 and considered a true caravanserai because, when operational, it could accommodate about 300 passengers and 70 horses during Medieval times.
In the afternoon, we will visit the Tunnel Museum of Sarajevo, commemorating the siege of Sarajevo in the 90s war, and the War Tunnel Museum, which preserves the hand-dug tunnel that kept Sarajevo afloat during the Serbian siege. Overnight in Sarajevo.
Day 8: Lukimor & Sarajevo
After an interesting hour and a half drive from Sarajevo, we will arrive in Lukomir, Bosnia’s highest and most isolated mountain village (1469 meters).
The traditional lifestyles of the Dinaric highlanders are still practiced here, providing a unique window into Europe’s past. Traditional dress is still worn, and goes hand in hand with the more familiar signs of everyday life, such as electricity and running water.
On the edge of the village, you will be treated to a breathtaking view of Rakitnica Canyon, which drops 800m below, as well as the neighboring Obalj and Visocica mountains. Overnight in Sarajevo.
Day 9: Mostar via Jajce
Venturing towards Mostar today, in the far southwest of Bosnia, we take in the beautiful scenery breaking in Jajce to visit the waterfall and tour around some of the twenty famous water mills that date back to the Middle Ages. These mills were built on stones and form a barrier between the Great and Small Pliva Lakes and provide a major contribution to the historical environment of the town of Jajce, and are also an expression of the local carpentry skills and traditional building methods.
We next take a short hike up to the top of the Jajce Fortress, which was built around the fourteenth century, within the old town, from where views create a magical panorama of the area. Next we will make a photo stop of the well-known watermills on Pliva River and have lunch on the lakeside.
Later we will arrive in Mostar for a detailed look around the town including the Neretva River – the main river of Herzegovina flows through the center of the town, dividing it in two parts, and around the UNESCO-listed old town of Mostar, which is surely the most charming and attractive part, especially the numerous coppersmiths, goldsmiths, carpet-makers and artisans in the Old Bazaar that is known as Kujundziluk.
The Oriental part of the city has still preserved its old tradition of highly skilled craftsmen in metal engraving, painting and rug-weaving. The central part of the old town with its forts, towers and gates developed around this magnificent monument producing a unique architectural whole. Overnight in Mostar.
Day 10: Dubrovnik via Počitelj
We will begin our morning with a short, final loop through the beautiful city of Mostar for photos, then start our pleasant drive along the fertile valley of the Neretva River, which is the largest river of the eastern part of the Adriatic basin.
Our first stop will be in the beautiful medieval town of Počitelj, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, to explore the small town on foot and visit the fortress.
We later arrive in stunning Dubrovnik and will have time to roam around this world-class city before our proper tour and walk along the fortification wall in the morning. Overnight in Dubrovnik.
Day 11: Dubrovnik and Kotor
We start our morning early with a walking tour of Dubrovnik, with informative visits to the Pile Gate, Orlando Square and Duke Palace. The Dubrovnik region consists of numerous small “jewels” that are worth visiting, small authentic villages, untouched islands and, of course, the Old Town of Dubrovnik, the crown jewel of them all.
Dubrovnik, the pearl of the Adriatic Sea, has been reclaimed not just as a Croatian treasure but also as one of the world’s treasures; a fact that was officially recognized when the United Nations declared this medieval town as a UNESCO.
Its fortresses, imposing walls surrounding the city, palaces, churches and small streets form a nice harmony with nature and tell a history on their own. Lunch will be at a restaurant in the old town of the city.
Later we will drive along the beautiful Adriatic coast to Kotor, a gorgeous UNESCO town in Montenegro, where we will take a walking tour of Kotor’s compact old town. If we are up for it: a sunset hike to Kotor fortifications before dinner. Overnight in Kotor.
Day 12: Budva via Lovcen National Park
After an early breakfast at our hotel, we will start our morning in Kotor with a final walk around the beautiful walled town before heading out on a serpentine route through Lovcen National Park (and stopping for gorgeous views of Kotor Bay) to Cetinje and visit the Palace of King Nikola (which is now a large and imposing museum) and enjoy a traditional lunch.
Next will spend time admiring the spectacular coastal road via Sveti Stefan to the beach city of Budva, where we will have the remainder of the day at leisure to enjoy this stunning beach and vacation city. Overnight in Budva.
Day 13: Shkodër via Lake Skader
We will have an early start this morning and make our scenic mountainside drive to Lake Skader to enjoy a private boat trip on the lake for a couple of hours.
We will stop to visit a secluded island monastery in the lake and see the incredible birdlife with nearly 230 species (which include pygmy cormorants) which the lake has to offer.
After lunch and the boat tour, we will make our way to the border at Tuzi into Albania and cross to Shkodër, Albania’s oldest town. Overnight in Shkodër.
Day 14: Tirana via Krujë
After breakfast, we will visit the old town and market of Shkodër, an age-old town that retains its charm with many locals still peddling around the streets on rickety bicycles.
Next we will take a drive up to the Rozafa Castle in Shkodër, where we will be greeted with epic views of the Lake Skadar and the town. We will then continue our drive down to Tirana via Krujë, where we will visit the scenic castle, tour the Ethnographic Museum and walk along the Krujë bazaar.
Later we will continue our drive to Tirana, the capital of Albania and where we will base ourselves for the next two nights. We expect there to be a good amount of time to walk around the center of the city and get a feel for Albania’s capital. Overnight in Tirana.
Day 15: Tirana
This morning we will explore Tirana, where we will learn about the communist history of Albania with visits to many sights around the city, including the Et’hem Bey Mosque, which was built in the late 1700s and closed under communist rule and later reopened (without permission from authorities) as a house of worship in 1991; the informative and engrossing National History Museum, and Skanderbeg Square – the main plaza of Tirana named in 1968 after the Albanian national hero, Skanderbeg.
In the evening, we will have some free time to explore Tirana at our own pace for our final night in the city. Overnight in Tirana.
Day 16: Berat via Durrës
Leaving Tirana behind, we head out to the ancient city of Durrës, Albania’s second largest city and main port, where we will visit the town, including the Roman Amphitheater – the largest amphitheater in the Balkans, which was discovered in 1966; the remains of a 15km long aqueduct built during the reign of Emperor Hadrian; the remains of the Roman Baths, dating back to the first century AD; the ruins of the Byzantine Forum, and the palace of the former King Zog that was used as the summer palace by the Albanian Royal family during the reign of the Monarch.
Later we will drive to Berat, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which contains many old houses decorated with large windows that cause Berat to be known as the “Town of a Thousand Windows”, where we will visit the fortress and the old quarters. Overnight in Berat.
Day 17: Sarandë via Apollonia, Albanian Riveria, Vlora and Dhërmi
After an early breakfast, we will begin a very busy day starting with a visit to the well-maintained grounds of the ancient city of Apollonia, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most important archaeological sites of Albania.
The fascinating landscape of the archeological park, which has been preserved in an exceptionally intact condition, comprises a successful combination between the beauty of monuments and nature.
We will then begin our coastal drive along the sweeping Albanian Riviera to Vlora. This impressive panoramic Ionian road was built by Mussolini in the 20th century. There will be breathtaking views enjoyed along the way, especially on the side where the hills fall abruptly into the sea below. The mountainous and curvy road goes through wondrous scenery, with mountains rising dramatically up from the coast and the deep blue sea shimmering in the sunlight.
After lunch in Vlora, and a short sweep through the village town of Dhërmi, we will then head to Sarandë, one of the most beautiful cities in Albania, on the Albanian Riviera. Time permitting, we will take in the sunset at the Lekursi Castle overlooking Corfu Island, Greece. Overnight in Sarandë.
Day 18: Corfu Island, Greece and Sarandë
This morning we will board a 1-hour catamaran to the beautiful city of Corfu, Greece, one of the most stunning and picturesque old towns in Europe and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
We will spend several hours wandering around the narrow alleys, visiting the fortress, and admiring the pleasant vibe and seaside location of one of Greece’s most alluring islands.
In the late afternoon, we will return to Sarandë. Overnight in Sarandë.
Day 19: Gjirokastër via Butrint and Blue Eye
Today we will venture on to Butrint, an ancient Greek and later Roman city and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where we will have time to explore this thoroughly interesting and large, historical site.
We will then continue on to the Blue Eye, one of the least-known wonders of the Balkans and reaching unknown depths, this tranquil, turquoise-blue hole is fed by an underground spring and it is mesmerizing to gaze into its portal or go for a (freezing cold) dip.
Later we will arrive in the UNESCO World Heritage town of Gjirokastër, also known as “Stone City”, because most of the old houses have roofs covered with flat dressed stones.
We will stroll the compact and interesting old town, visit the immaculate fortress, and the Ethnographic Museum. Overnight in Gjirokastër.
Day 20: Korçë via Këlcyrë Gorge and Përmet
We will have an early breakfast at our hotel before setting off on an exciting day, where we will cover nearly 200km en route to Korçë via the Këlcyrë Gorge, which is surrounded by the breathtaking mountainous panoramas of the Vlosa River Valley, and is considered one of the most gorgeous drives in Albania, and possibly in Eastern Europe.
Along the way, we will make stops in a couple small village towns, where life has remained virtually the same for the farmers of this region for hundreds of years.
We will stop in Përmet to visit the Holy Virgin Church Leuse, before driving back along the spectacular scenery to Korçë. Here we will visit the Museum of Medieval Arts, stroll along the cobblestone bazaar, and stop at the Korçë Orthodox Cathedral. Overnight in Korçë.
Note: the road is in rough condition in areas, but it well worth it as it offers some of the most rugged and spectacular scenery in Eastern Europe.
Day 21: Ohrid
The next stop on our journey is Ohrid, in Macedonia, with a break to photograph the arresting mountainous and lake shore landscape.
Both the city of Ohrid and Lake Ohrid have been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site: the first for its great cultural value, and the lake for being the oldest lake (300 million years) in Europe with extreme biodiversity. Upon arrival, we visit the Monastery of Saint Naum, the birthplace of Cyrillic script.
In the afternoon, we will tour Ohrid historical core, which houses a bewildering number of Orthodox churches (365); a Roman amphitheater and the medieval Tsar Samoil city walls. Optional visits can be made to the market selling fresh tasty vegetables and traditional items. Overnight in Ohrid.
Day 22: Bitola via Prespa Lake
After breakfast, we will leave Ohrid and drive to the other side of Mount Pelister to Prespa Lake, a nature reserve of white pelicans, cormorants, herons, cranes and swans, and onto the small, ancient medieval church, St George, located up in the mountains and is one of the most important places in the history of medieval Byzantine art in Macedonia.
We then continue to Bitola, Macedonia’s second largest city, with beautiful neoclassical architecture and an old town and bazaar built during the Ottoman Empire. Overnight in Bitola.
Day 23: Skopje via Krushevo and Mavrovo National Park
Today we will drive to Krushevo, the highest town in the Balkans, known not only as the center of the most important battles in Macedonian history, but also for the rich Vlach traditions and art crafts, and for their mouthwatering dishes. This picturesque town where nature and architecture are intertwined in perfect harmony and color, is a city with the cleanest air, not only because of the altitude (1350 m), but also because no industry is present here.
Later we will arrive in the capital of Skopje, in the late afternoon. We will have dinner in a traditional restaurant in the old bazaar and will have an evening at leisure to stroll this interesting, grand and bizarre city. Overnight in Skopje.
Day 24: Skopje
This morning we will take a walk around Skopje attractions including: the Memorial House of Mother Teresa; the restored Macedonia Square with numerous monuments; the Baroque-style buildings constructed for the project Skopje 2014, and over the Stone Bridge into the old town of Skopje and through the small cobblestone streets lined with jewelry, art-craft and antique shops, and a Turkish bath turned into art gallery.
In the afternoon, we’ll take short picturesque drive to the nearby mountain Vodno to St Panteleimon Monastery built in 12th century, hidden in the high monastery walls. Situated on a plateau on Mt Vodno, this monastery gives a magnificent view over the Macedonian capital. Overnight in Skopje.
Day 25: Prizren via Matka Canyon
Today we head into the little-known territory of Kosovo, beginning with a morning drive to the spectacular Matka Canyon. From here, we’ll explore the canyon on foot, weaving our way on a narrow path carved into the rocks by the lake to a 14th century Byzantine church deep in the canyon, where we will take a boat along the river to one of the deepest caves in the world, Vrelo Cave.
Later we continue our trip to Prizren, one of the more stunning and interesting, little-known cities in Europe, where we will take a short walk to explore this beautiful town and its historical core Overnight in Prizren.
Day 26: Pristina via Velika Hoča, Visoki Decani Monastery and Peć
We will start early this morning with a walking tour of Prizren, a city full of mosques and monasteries dating to the 14th century, visiting the Holy Virgin of Ljevis Church, the fortress and the enchanting old quarter with small shops.
Continuing on, we will drive to the famous Visoki Decani Monastery, founded in 14th century by Serbian king Stefan Dečanski, it is nestled among chestnut groves at the foot of the Prokletije Mountains in western Kosovo and is part of the a UNESCO-listed Medieval Monuments in Kosovo.
After lunch we will then head to the Peć Patriarchate Medieval complex, at the entrance of the gorgeous Rugova Gorge, which is one of the most prominent medieval monasteries in the region with a sisterhood of 24 nuns.
We then will will pay a visit to the Gračanica Monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that was rebuilt by the Serbian king Stefan Milutin in 1321 on the ruins of a 6th century early Christian three-naved basilica.
Arriving in Pristina, we will tour the old part of the town, including a visit to the Archaeological Museum (time permitting), walk the lively pedestrian square, and visit the Monument commemorating the Kosovo Battle. Overnight in Pristina.
Day 27: Departure
We will enjoy a final breakfast together and begin our transfers out of Kosovo.