This program is jointly organized with our partner, Road Scholar.
BREATH-TAKING SCENIC SPLENDOR: THE BALKANS
From Medieval Fortresses to the Majestic Adriatic Sea
- Tour Plan
- Similar Tours
- Accommodation for 15 nights in single or double rooms in 4* star hotels
- Deluxe air-conditioned vehicles and tickets for the public transport
- In-depth sightseeing program
- Entrance fees per itinerary
- Professional local guiding in English
- All taxes and fees
- 15 breakfasts and 25 meals
- Departure Taxes or Visa handling fees
- Excess baggage charge
- Personal expenses
- Visa arrangements
- International flights
- Free time entrance tickets to monuments and museums
- Day 1 - Arrive, Check-in, Orientation, Welcome Dinner
- Day 2 - Herceg Novi
- Day 3 - Kotor and Kotor Bay, Free Time
- Day 4 - Dubrovnik, Free Time
- Day 5 - Cetina Valley, Split
- Day 6 - Diocletian’s Palace, Free Time
- Day 7 - Mostar, Free Time
- Day 8 - Sarajevo, Free Time
- Day 9 - Dinaric Alps
- Day 10 – Belgrade, Free Time
- Day 11 – Novi Sad, Fruska Gora
- Day 12 – Zagreb
- Day 13 – Plitvice Lake National Park, Free Time
- Day 14 – Lake Bled
- Day 15 – Ljubljana, Free Time
- Day 16 – Departures, Program Concludes
Meet and Greet
After arrival meet the group at orientation meeting and then enjoy welcome dinner.
Young settlement yet with turbulent past
We will enjoy an expert-led walk in Herceg Novi. Founded in 1382, this medieval town was formerly known as Castel Nuovo, because of its many fortresses. Explore the winding streets, the Forte Mare, and the port of the city. Some free time to relax or explore. Then, back at the hotel, take in a lecture on the history and present day life of Montenegro.
We will have lunch at a local restaurant in Herceg Novi.
In the afternoon enjoy an expert-led boat excursion on the Adriatic in Herceg Novi Bay. View an Austrian-built fortress on a small island, the Blue Cave, and then stop in Rose, one of the oldest settlements in the region, for a short stroll.
Dinner will be in the hotel dining room.
Living history in a spectacular bay
This morning we have a coach excursion along the Kotor Bay. We will admire the amazing morning views, and take advantage of photo stops, as we wind around the bay. We end up in Montenegro's coastal town of Kotor. A World Heritage Site, Kotor is situated at the head of Southern Europe’s deepest fjord, nestled at the foot of a high cliff. We explore its labyrinthine streets and piazzas.
We will have lunch at a local restaurant in Kotor.
Free time in the afternoon. Continue to explore Kotor before returning to the hotel for the remainder of the afternoon.
Dinner is on your own.
One of the most Prominent Tourist Destinations in the Mediterranean Sea
After breakfast, we continue our journey towards Dubrovnik. We will walk through the beautiful town of Dubrovnik, a World Heritage Site. Pass by the Onofrio Fountain, St. Blaise's Church and the city walls, and explore the inside of Rector's Palace.
We will have lunch at a local restaurant in the Old Town.
In the afternoon we will enjoy a lecture on the present day life of Croatia with a special focus on Dalmatia. Free time in Dubrovnik to explore on your own or walk along the walls. The famous city walls surround Dubrovnik's incredible old town, where the city's history and culture thrive harmoniously with present-day life. Travel along the coastline toward the west, to Neum, for an overnight.
Dinner will be in the hotel dining room.
Two hundred metres deep canyon and fifty metres high waterfall
Transfer to Split in the morning. Travel by coach along the beautiful seafront, enjoying the view of the picturesque islands and the rich Mediterranean vegetation. Enjoy the beautiful scenery of the Cetina River Valley during a boat ride between Omis and Radmanove Mlinice.
Lunch will be en route, we will enjoy lunch at an old mill next to the Cetina River.
In the afternoon we will continue our transfer to Split by coach. Upon arrival in Split, we will enjoy an expert-led excursion in the Mestrovic Gallery. The Gallery is situated in a magnificent villa - the former home of the sculptor - overlooking the Adriatic.
Dinner will be at a local restaurant.
Who SPLIT the Roman Empire?
In the morning we enjoy an excursion to Diocletian’s Palace in Split (World Heritage Site). The palace and fortress was built by Roman Emperor Diocletian shortly after abdicating his throne at the turn of the 4th century, and today is considered one of the most significant living monuments of the Roman era. What remains of the palace is now the old town of Split. Explore the Peristyle, the Cathedral, former gates and rooms of the palace, as well as majestic statues by Ivan Mestrovic, the greatest 20th-century Croatian sculptor.
We will have lunch at a local restaurant in the old town of Split.
You will have free time in the afternoon and dinner will be on your own.
A beautiful slice of the past
In the morning we travel to Sarajevo. In the late morning, we stop in Mostar (World Heritage Site) and take an expert-led walk. The old bridge of Mostar symbolizes the unity of the different nationalities living in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The bridge was destroyed in the war, but was rebuilt in its original shape in 2004.
Lunch: En Route, we will enjoy lunch at a local restaurant in Mostar.
Afternoon: Free time in Mostar. We then continue on to Sarajevo to check into the Hotel Bosnia.
Dinner: In the hotel dining room.
East meets West
In the morning we take an expert-led excursion in Sarajevo by bus and on foot. We will see such sights as the former Austro-Hungarian area, the Bascarsija bazaar and the former Jewish quarter. We will continue walking in the Old Town, and visit the "War Tunnel" which kept the city alive during the war.
We will have lunch at a local restaurant.
The afternoon you will have free time. Before dinner at the hotel, we will enjoy a lecture on the history and present day of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
The dinner will be in a nearby restaurant.
Dinarides – separating land from sea
In the morning we travel to Belgrade. During this journey, we will cross the impressive Dinaric Alps.
Lunch will be en route, we will enjoy lunch at a local restaurant.
In the afternoon we will arrive at the hotel and settle in.
Dinner will be in the hotel dining room.
In the evening at the hotel, enjoy a lecture on the history as well as current life in Serbia.
The White City – one of Europe’s most happening cities
In the morning we will take an exciting bus excursion through Belgrade. We will see the main pedestrian street, Knez Mihajlova, which is always alive with activity. We will explore on foot the old Kalemegdan fortress, St. Sava Church, and the Mausoleum of Tito.
We will have lunch at a local restaurant.
Ther afternoon will be free.
We will have dinner at a local restaurant on Skadarlija Street in the bohemian quarter of Belgrade. Enjoy live music with dinner.
A National Park with monasteries and vineyards
In the morning we will have a full day excursion to northern Serbia, where we will explore the city of Novi Sad during an expert-led walking excursion. We then visit Fruska Gora, a tranquil national park filled with monasteries and vineyards.
Lunch will be at a local restaurant.
In the afternoon we will continue our excursion in Fruska Gora. Visit the Krusedol Orthodox Monastery, and experience a wine tasting in the beekeeping museum, before going back to Belgrade.
The dinner will be in the hotel dining room.
The Croatian capital – Vibrant and cultural
In the morning we travel to Zagreb. Along the way we will cross the northeastern part of Croatia, the “bread-basket” of the country.
Lunch will be en route, we will enjoy a picnic lunch.
In the afternoon we will enjoy an expert-led excursion in Zagreb by bus and on foot. See such sites as the Mirogoj Cemetery, the Cathedral, and St. Mark’s Church. We will walk from the Upper town to the main Jelacic square that is always busy.
Dinner will be at a local restaurant, enjoy a two-course set menu.
A National Park with waterfalls and cascades
In the morning we will have an excursion to Plitvice Lake National Park (World Heritage Site). Plitvice is the most beautiful national park in Croatia, with crystal clear lakes, amazing waterfalls and cascades. We will hike a few hours in the park.
Lunch will be at a local restaurant, we will enjoy a unique lunch.
In the afternoon we will drive back to Zagreb to enjoy some free time in the city.
Dinner will be on your own to explore local fare.
Cannot miss the perfect picture
In the morning we will travel to Ljubljana. On our way, we will visit Lake Bled, one of the most famous sites in Slovenia.
Lunch will be en route, we will enjoy lunch at a local restaurant.
In the afternoon we will enjoy the view of the tiny island in the middle of Lake Bled and the romantic castle on the hilltop. This postcard image is the most photographed part of Slovenia. Continue our transfer to Ljubljana.
Dinner will be in the hotel dining room.
Farewell Dinner with folk music
In the morning at the hotel, we will listen to a lecture on Slovenia and have a discussion to wrap up the program. After the lecture, we will enjoy an expert-led excursion through Ljubljana on foot. We will walk through the charming downtown to appreciate its unique character designed by the famous architect, José Plecnik.
Lunch will be on your own and afternoon is free to discover the city
Dinner will be at a local restaurant, we will enjoy a Farewell Dinner with folk music.
Have a safe flight back home!
More about Bosnia-Herzegovina
Bosnia-Herzegovina is a country on the Balkan Peninsula in southeastern Europe. Its countryside is home to medieval villages, rivers and lakes, plus the craggy Dinaric Alps. Its three main communities are Bosniak Muslims, Croats and Serbs.
Bosnia-Hercegovina’s East-meets-West atmosphere is born of blended Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian histories filtered through a Southern Slavic lens. The capital’s Ottoman-era Latin Bridge is the site of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, which ignited World War I. Many people still associate the country with the civil war of the 1990s, and the scars from that time are all too visible. Bosnia-Herzegovina is recovering from that devastating three-year war which accompanied the break-up of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s. It is now an independent state, but remains partially under international oversight under the terms of the 1995 Dayton Peace Accords.
But today's visitors are likely to remember the country for its deep, unassuming human warmth, its beautiful mountains, numerous medieval castle ruins, raftable rivers and impressive waterfalls. Major attractions include the reincarnated historical centres of Sarajevo and Mostar, counterpointing splendid Turkish-era stone architecture with quirky bars, inviting street-terrace cafes, traditional barbecue restaurants and vibrant arts scenes.
More about Croatia
A country of striking natural beauty with a stunning Adriatic coastline, Croatia is again very popular as a tourist destination. Precariously poised between the Balkans and central Europe, this land has been passed between competing kingdoms, empires and republics for millennia. If there's an upside to this continual dislocation, it's in the rich cultural legacy that each has left behind. Venetian palaces snuggle up to Napoleonic forts, Roman columns protrude from early Slavic churches, and Viennese mansions face off with Socialist Realist sculpture. Excellent museums showcase treasures that cover the gamut of European history, from the prehistoric to the post communist, telling a story that is in equal parts fascinating and horrifying.
The lands that today comprise Croatia were part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire until the close of World War I. In 1918, the Croats, Serbs, and Slovenes formed a kingdom known after 1929 as Yugoslavia. Following World War II, Yugoslavia became a federal independent Communist state under the strong hand of Marshal Tito. Although Croatia declared its independence from Yugoslavia in 1991, it took four years of sporadic but often bitter fighting before occupying Serb armies were mostly cleared from Croatian lands, along with a majority of Croatia's ethnic Serb population. Under UN supervision, the last Serb-held enclave in eastern Slavonia was returned to Croatia in 1998. By early 2003 it had made enough progress in shaking off the legacy of those years to apply for EU membership, becoming the second former Yugoslav republic after Slovenia to do so. Following protracted accession talks, Croatia took its place as the 28th member state of the EU on 1 July 2013.
Croatia's extraordinary island-speckled coastline is indisputably its main attraction. The first thing that strikes you is the remarkable clarity of the water. When it's set against a dazzling white pebbly beach, the water sparkles with a jewel-like intensity in shades of emerald and sapphire. There are long sandy and shingly stretches too – perfect for lazy days spent lounging and devouring trashy holiday novels. If that all sounds too relaxing, there are water-based activities at hand to lure you off your sun lounger – snorkelling, diving, kayaking, windsurfing and sailing, just for starters.
More about Dalmatia
Dalmatia is one of the four historical regions of Croatia, alongside Croatia proper, Slavonia, and Istria. Dalmatia is a narrow belt of the east shore of the Adriatic Sea, stretching from the island of Rab in the north to the Bay of Kotor in the south. The hinterland (Dalmatian Zagora) ranges in width from fifty kilometres in the north, to just a few kilometres in the south; it is mostly covered by the rugged Dinaric Mountains. Seventy-nine islands (and about 500 islets) run parallel to the coast, the largest (in Dalmatia) being Brač, Pag, and Hvar. The largest city is Split, followed by Zadar, Dubrovnik, and Šibenik.
The name of the region stems from an Illyrian tribe called the Dalmatae, who lived in the area in classical antiquity. The tribe was connected with the Illyrian word delme meaning "sheep". Its Latin form Dalmatia gave rise to its current English name. Later, the region became a Roman province, and as result a Romance culture emerged, along with the now-extinct Dalmatian language, later largely replaced with related Venetian. With the arrival of Croats to the area in the 8th century, who occupied most of the hinterland, Croatian and Romance elements began to intermix in language and culture.
After the Medival Kingdom of Croatia fell in 1102, its cities and lands were often conquered by, or switched allegiance to, the kingdoms of the region during the Middle Ages. The longest-lasting rule was the one of the Republic of Venice, which controlled most of Dalmatia between 1420 and 1797, with the exception of the small but stable Republic of Ragusa (1358–1808) in the south. Between 1815 and 1918, it was a province of the Austrian Empire known as the Kingdom of Dalmatia. After the Austro-Hungarian defeat in the First World War, Dalmatia was split between the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes which controlled most of it, and the Kingdom of Italy which held several smaller parts, and after World War II, the Socialist Republic of Croatia as a part of SFR Yugoslavia took complete control over the area. Following the dissolution of Yugoslavia, Dalmatia became a part of an independent Croatia. Dalmatia is today a historical region only, not formally instituted in Croatian law. Its exact extent is therefore uncertain and subject to public perception.
More about Montenegro
Ever since the Roman Empire split in two 1600 years ago, Montenegro has sat on the borderline between east and west. The richness of its cultural history can be seen in the mosaic floors of Roman villas, flamboyantly painted Orthodox monasteries, ornate Catholic churches, elegant minarets of mosques, and the sturdy fortresses built by the numerous powers that have fought over these lands. Then there's the legacy of 50 years as a non-aligned communist state, independent of both the Eastern Bloc and the West. For those with even a passing interest in European history, it's a fascinating place.
Montenegro emerged as a sovereign state after just over 55% of the population opted for independence in a May 2006 referendum. The vote heralded the end of the former Union of Serbia and Montenegro - itself created only three years earlier out of the remnant of the former Yugoslavia. The EU-brokered deal forming it was intended to stabilise the region by settling Montenegrin demands for independence from Serbia and preventing further changes to Balkan borders. The same deal also contained the seeds of the union's dissolution. It stipulated that after three years the two republics could hold referendums on whether to keep or scrap it. Montenegro opted for the latter.
Montenegro, which means "Black Mountain", borders Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, Serbia's breakaway province of Kosovo and Albania. About half of it is covered in thick forest. The tiny republic encompasses an Adriatic coastline, lowlands and high mountain ranges. The Tara River canyon is the deepest and longest in Europe. It's not even 300km from tip to toe, but Montenegro's coastline crams in some of Europe’s most spectacular seaside scenery. Mountains jut sharply from crystal-clear waters in such a way that the word 'looming' is unavoidable. Ancient walled towns cling to the rocks and dip their feet in the water like they're the ones on holiday. In summer, the whole scene is bathed in the scent of wild herbs, conifers and Mediterranean blossoms. All of this – and much, much more – is wrapped up into an area two-thirds of the size of Wales.
When the beaches fill up with Eastern European sunseekers, intrepid travellers can easily sidestep the hordes by getting off the beaten track in the rugged mountains of Durmitor and Prokletije, the primeval forest of Biogradska Gora, or in the many towns and villages where ordinary Montenegrins go about their daily lives. Hike, horse ride, mountain bike or kayak yourself to somewhere obscure and chances are you'll have it all to yourself. This is, after all, a country where wolves and bears still lurk in forgotten corners.
More about Serbia
Serbia became a stand-alone sovereign republic in the summer of 2006 after Montenegro voted in a referendum for independence from the Union of Serbia and Montenegro. The end of the Union marked the closing chapter in the separation of the six republics of the old Socialist Republic of Yugoslavia, which was proclaimed in 1945 and comprised Serbia, Montenegro, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Macedonia. Yugoslavia's communist leader, Josip Broz Tito, kept the lid on ethnic tensions. The federation lasted for over 10 years after his death in 1980, but under Serbian nationalist leader Slobodan Milosevic it fell apart through the 1990s. The secession of Slovenia and Macedonia came relatively peacefully, but there were devastating wars in Croatia and Bosnia. Serbia and Montenegro together formed the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia between 1992 and 2003 before forming a looser union.
Diverse, welcoming and a hell of a lot of fun – everything you never heard about Serbia, and still it’s all true. Best of all, this landlocked country in the heart of the Balkans is still delightfully off the tourist trail. While the feisty Serbian spirit is embodied in Belgrade’s world-class nightlife and Novi Sad’s epic EXIT Festival, if you look beyond these historic metropolises, you’ll discover a crucible of cultures and unsullied outdoors ripe for exploration. The art nouveau town of Subotica revels in its Austro-Hungarian heritage, bohemian Niš echoes to the clip-clop of Roma horse carts, and minaret-studded Novi Pazar nudges the most sacred of Serbian Orthodox monasteries. Established wine regions and thermal spas cradled in rolling hills date back to Roman times. On the slopes of Kopaonik, Zlatibor and Stara Planina, ancient traditions coexist with après-ski bling, while super-scenic Tara and Đerdap National Parks brim with hiking, biking, rafting and kayaking opportunities.
More about Slovenia
Slovenia, a country in Central Europe, is known for its mountains, ski resorts and lakes. On Lake Bled, a glacial lake fed by hot springs, the town of Bled contains a church-topped islet and a cliffside medieval castle. In Ljubljana, Slovenia’s capital, baroque facades mix with the 20th-century architecture of native Jože Plečnik, whose iconic Tromostovje (Triple Bridge) spans the tightly curving Ljubljanica River.
You might be forgiven for thinking that anything of beauty in this greenest of green lands is, well, all natural. But it isn't necessarily so. Where man intrudes is often to good effect, such as at Lake Bled, where a tiny baroque chapel on a picturesque island and a dramatic castle looming above complete a harmonious whole. The architecture is wonderfully varied: from the Venetian harbour towns of the coast and the rustic Hungarian-style farmhouses of Prekmurje to the Gothic churches of the Julian Alps and the art nouveau splendours of Ljubljana. The museums are rich and the culture is vibrant.
More about The Balkans
The Balkans is a region that includes countries on the Balkan Peninsula in the southeast of Europe, including most of the former Yugoslavia.
While lately the very word of Balkans may translate to ethnic strife and civil wars in people's minds due to the headlines in the last decade of 20th century (and unfortunately, there is some truth in this perception), Balkans, with its rich, though often turbulent history and wonderful nature, offers much more than that. Charming multicultural towns, impressive monasteries and citadels dotting the hillsides, mighty mountains sprinkled with a liberal dose of beautiful forests and pleasant lakes, and last but not the least a great folk music tradition - coming off both as much joyful and melancholic as it could be - all survived various wars, if sometimes suffered a bit from the atrocities. With hundreds of kilometres of coastline on both the Adriatic and Black Seas, beachgoers won't be disappointed in this region, either.
The word Balkan is Turkish and means “mountain,” and the peninsula is certainly dominated by this type of landform, especially in the west. The Balkan Mountains lie east-west across Bulgaria, the Rhodope Mountains extend along the Greek-Bulgarian border, and the Dinaric range extends down the Adriatic coast to Albania. By some definitions the region’s northern boundary extends to the Julian Alps and the Carpathians. Among these ranges extensive areas of good arable land are relatively scarce, though the valleys of the Danube, Sava, and Vardar rivers, eastern Bulgaria, parts of the Aegean Sea coast, and especially the Danubian Plain are exceptions. The mountains have a significant impact on the climate of the peninsula. The northern and central parts of the Balkans have a central European climate, characterized by cold winters, warm summers, and well-distributed rainfall. The southern and coastal areas, however, have a Mediterranean type of climate, with hot, dry summers and mild, relatively rainy winters.
Ethnic diversity is one of the region’s most characteristic social and political features. The most numerous of the groups is the South Slavs, who form the majority of the population in Bulgaria, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Slovenia, North Macedonia, and Montenegro. The Bulgarians, North Macedonians, and Slovenes speak their own Slavic languages, while the Slavs of Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Montenegro all speak dialects of Serbo-Croatian.