Balkan Explorer - XABE

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Mike and Stephie
Oct 31, 2020

Experience the very best of the Balkans! Explore the sun-soaked Adriatic coast, the rejuvenated cities of Tirana, Mostar and Belgrade, and the historic sights of ancient Greece in one exciting tour!

Starting in Athens, you'll visit the ancient Greek city Delphi and the stunning natural landscape and monasteries of Meteora, before we explore Ohrid in Macedonia. Many of the cities in the Balkans have shaken off their communist past to transform into vibrant, fun cities, and you'll experience this for yourself as we visit Tirana in Albania, Belgrade in Serbia and Sofia in Bulgaria. Other highlights include the medieval walled city of Dubrovnik and the beautiful scenery of Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia, Budva and Kotor in Montenegro, the Stari Most bridge in Mostar and the Hungarian capital Budapest.

As with all coach tours, this tour is a guaranteed departure, and you will be accompanied for the duration by an experienced and passionate tour leader. Our tour busses are modern, comfortable and air-conditioned, and at each hotel we include free wi-fi in your tour package so you can stay connected and share all your incredible photos and memories with your friends and family while on tour!

Itinerary

DAY 1: Arrive in Athens

Welcome to Athens! If you arrive early enough, head into the city to see for yourself all the treasures this ancient city has to offer. Meet up with your tour leader at our hotel in the afternoon, and then enjoy an orientation tour of Greece’s capital. Tonight, you’ll meet the rest of the tour group at our included welcome dinner.

DAY 2: Delphi - Meteora

Today we’ll head north through the Greek mainland, stopping off on the way in Delphi. In antiquity, Delphi was considered the “omphalos” (navel) of the earth, and the place where people from around the world would visit in order to receive an “oracle” from “Pythia”. We will admire the Sanctuary of Apollo, the Treasury of the Athenians and we will also visit the museum of Delphi. Later this afternoon we’ll arrive in Kalabaka, ready to explore Meteora tomorrow morning!

DAY 3: Meteora - Ohrid

Today we have the full morning to explore Meteora! These dramatic ‘columns of the sky’ were settled on by monks from the 11th century, and by the 1400s there were 24 in total. We’ll visit St. Stephen's Monastery, which was founded in 1400 by St. Antoninus Cantacuzene and is now a nunnery. We’ll then travel on into Macedonia and the undiscovered jewel of Ohrid. A UNESCO World Heritage Site on the shores of Lake Ohrid, this city is one of the oldest human settlements in Europe, and is notable for once having had 365 churches, one for each day of the year. To finish off the day we'll enjoy an included dinner this evening.

DAY 4: Ohrid - Tirana

This morning we’ll leave Macedonia for its Balkan neighbour Albania, driving onto the capital city, Tirana. In a story typical of many cities in this part of Europe, Tirana has undergone a remarkable transformation, shaking off communism to become a vibrant, fun city. You’ll be introduced to the city on a walking tour, from the buildings painted in bright colours, to the architecture influenced by the Ottomans, Italians and of course communism. This evening, we will stay at a resort, where dinner will be included.

DAY 5: Budva - Kotor - Dubrovnik

Heading north, we leave Albania behind and travel through Montenegro. Our first stop is at the picturesque coastal town of Budva, known for its well preserved medieval walled city, which you will have some free time to explore. We then make a comfort stop at the UNESCO World Heritage listed town of Kotor. The old port of Kotor is surrounded by fortifications built during the Venetian period, and is a picturesque Mediterranean landscape. It is then time to make our way to the walled city of Dubrovnik in Croatia, where your tour leader will take you on a walking guided tour of the old town to see the Franciscan Monastery, Dominican Monastery, Cathedral, Onofrio fountain, Orlando’s column, Sponza Palace, Rector’s Palace, Stradun and the City Walls.

DAY 6: Dubrovnik - Free day

You have a full free day to explore Dubrovnik's incredible history! Want the best views of the ‘old town’ and islands? Catch the cable car to the top of Mount Srdj and enjoy! It is highly recommended for a scenic sunset photo or two. Visit one of the city’s many museums; the Maritime Museum is one of the most popular, or maybe just browse the shops, including the traditional jewellery shops where you can find unique handmade silver or gold jewellery.

DAY 7: Mostar - Northern Croatia

Today you will travel to another country, Bosnia-Herzegovina and head to the town of Mostar. Mostar is an enchanting and historical town, and you will have some free time to explore the numerous religious buildings, and see the Roman and Ottoman influences. After your time in Mostar, the coach will travel back into Croatia for an overnight stay.

DAY 8: Plitvice Lakes - Ljubljana

Your European tour continues today with a mix of sublime scenery and a stunning Slovenian capital. Today you will be treated to some of the most picturesque natural landscapes in the whole of Europe. The Plitvice Lakes National Park is known internationally for its cascading lakes, waterfalls and dynamic landscape. We will take you into the reserve, so you can stroll along the boardwalks and marvel at the incredible natural scenery of Croatia’s largest national park. This is one of the most beautiful stops on the tour and is home to numerous rare animals, so make sure you have plenty of space in your cameras! After your brush with nature, it’s off to the pint-sized city of Ljubljana in Slovenia. A local guide will escort you on a walking tour of this fairytale city, pointing out the numerous bridges and brilliantly preserved baroque, gothic and medieval architecture

DAY 9: Ljubljana - Budapest

Today we’ll cross into Hungary and head for the capital, Budapest a city cited as one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. Straddling the historic Danube River, Budapest is well preserved and boasts numerous UNESCO World Heritage Sites - its natural geo-thermal springs are a highlight. Enjoy a driving tour of the city, and then use your free time this evening to explore, or join our optional excursion to the Széchenyi Medicinal Bath, one of the most famous icons of the city and Europe’s largest medicinal bath.

DAY 10: Budapest - Free day

With traces of the past evident in the interesting and unusual details, this is your chance to get up close and personal with Budapest. Look out for remnants of the conflicts of WWII and the uprising of 1956, try Hungarian cuisine (so much more to it than just goulash), sample world-renowned wines, and soak your weary rambler’s bones in one of the city’s bath-houses – something Budapest has been known for since the Roman times, with some 123 thermal and 400 mineral springs from 14 different sources. Then, maybe catch the sunset with an evening stroll along the Danube.

DAY 11: Budapest - Belgrade

Saying goodbye to Budapest, we make our way to the Serbian capital of Belgrade. On arrival in Belgrade we’ll enjoy a tour of Serbia’s capital city with a local guide, who will introduce us to the city's highlights, including Republic Square, Bohemian Quarter (Skadarlija), Kalemegdan park and Belgrade fortress.

DAY 12: Nis - Sofia

Our first destination today is a stop off in Nis, a historic city in south-eastern Serbia that was ruled by the Turks from the 14th-19th centuries. Included in your tour package is a visit to the Tower of Skulls, one of the most prominent reminders of its Ottoman past. We’ll then make our way to Sofia, where we’ll enjoy a driving and walking tour of Bulgaria’s capital city to introduce you to the main sights and help you plan for your free day tomorrow.

DAY 13: Sofia - Free day

Enjoy a free day to explore Sofia. A young and city, the capital combines a pleasing east-meets-west atmosphere against a backdrop of contrasting communist and contemporary architecture. There’s a partially exposed 1,800-year-old Roman city to discover, plenty of relaxing green spaces, and a variety of churches and mosques to explore. Alternatively, the hiking trails of Mt Vitosha are a short bus ride away.

DAY 14: Sofia - Thessaloniki

Today we head back to Greece, arriving in the northern port city Thessaloniki in the afternoon. Its compact size makes it a delightfully walkable city, which you’ll discover for yourself on an orientation tour of the historic centre. The tour will finish on the waterfront close to the famous White Tower, where you will find plenty of restaurants and bars to enjoy the evening.

DAY 15: Thessaloniki - Athens

Today we’ll head south through the Greek countryside back to Athens. On our way we’ll stop off in Kamena Vourla, a small town on the south coast of the Malian Gulf, and a beautiful spot to grab lunch. On arrival in Athens we’ll check into our hotel before enjoying a farewell dinner on the last night of the tour.

DAY 16: End of tour

After breakfast, your 16 day Balkan extravaganza concludes - unfortunately it is time to say your goodbyes to your fellow travellers. We hope you have enjoyed your tour.

Tour Inclusions

  • 15 nights' accommodation in twin rooms with private en-suite facilities. Single travellers have the option to pay a single supplement to ensure a private room.
  • 15 breakfasts, 8 dinners
  • All taxes and fees
  • Any public transport used as part of the tour (excludes free days)
  • Modern air conditioned coach with reclining seats, TV for showing DVDs, and toilet.
  • 18 Experiences (including guided walking tours, orientation walks, driving tours of cities plus other exciting experiences)

Departure Dates

  • 03 Apr 2021 - 18 Apr 2021
  • 24 Apr 2021 - 09 May 2021
  • 15 May 2021 - 30 May 2021
  • 26 Jun 2021 - 11 Jul 2021
  • 07 Aug 2021 - 22 Aug 2021
  • 18 Sep 2021 - 03 Oct 2021

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