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Bulgaria & Macedonia & Serbia – ticked off!

Looking for an off-the-beaten track adventure and would like to learn more about the cultural heritage and the history of the Balkans? Don’t hesitate to join us and explore this restless, exuberant blend of countries and cultures, destined to occupy some of the most important intercontinental crossroads. Let this special part of Europe, where east-meets west, surprise you and enchant you with the myriad of reminders of its turbulent history, the centuries-long cultural heritage and its unspoiled natural beauty!
We will start and finish our trip in Bulgaria – the undiscovered gem in the heart of the Balkans that seems to have it all – fine sand beaches, plenty of hot mineral water springs, mighty mountains, delicious wine and a vibrant capital city that never sleeps! Our taste of the not less interesting republic of Serbia, we will get in its inspiring capital Belgrade – a city built on two rivers, destroyed and rebuilt multiple times throughout history to represent today the country’s turbulent past and quirky modern-day culture! The Motherland of Alexander the Great will reveal to us the charms of its proud capital Skopje, the splendid little villages where traditions are still alive and time seems to have stopped, its magnificent lakes and the stunningly-decorated monasteries!
Join us for this exciting discovery!

Day-to-day Itinerary

Day 1: Welcome to Sofia!
Our guide will meet you at the Sofia Airport upon your arrival and escort you to the hotel. Then it will be just the right time to start creating memories! Today we will explore the Bulgarian capital Sofia. Our guided tour will reveal the colourful blend of numerous ancient sites and modern-day landmarks that shape the face of the city and add to its vibrant character. We will not miss the National History Museum and the UNESCO classified Boyana Church with its stunning 13th - century frescoes, situated at the foot of the Vitosha Mountain, in the outskirts of Sofia.  In the evening we will invite you to a welcome dinner where you will have the chance to get to know your fellow travellers who will share the amazing experience with with you!
Overnight in Sofia. (D)

Day 2: Goodbye Bulgaria! Hello Belgrade, Serbia!
Today we will travel west, cross the Bulgarian - Serbian border and explore the Serbian Capital – Belgrade! After we check in in our hotel, we will have lunch in a local restaurant and start our city tour, which will take us to the central Republican Square, Skadarlija - the preserved Bohemian quarter of the city dotted with traditional “kafanas” (traditional Serbian restaurants which at night turn into bars), the Old Citadel picturesquely perched on a hill situated where the river Sava meets the Danube. We will also be able to see the ruins of the Federal Ministry of Defence left from the NATO bombing of Belgrade in 1999. Many of the destroyed buildings around the city are kept in the same state in memory of the tragic events that took place here at the end of the war in Yugoslavia.
We will have some free time to walk around and explore the l city on our own before dinner.
For dinner tonight, we will try some traditional Serbian dishes and spirits at one of the “kafana” restaurants in the Bohemian quarter.
Overnight in Belgrade. (B, L, D)

Day 3: Beautiful Belgrade!
Today we will have the opportunity to see Belgrade from a different perspective! In the morning we will enjoy a boat cruise on the river Sava and see the Zemun Quay, the famous War Island, the Dorćol area, the mouth of the Sava, Branko's Bridge and more. Then we will visit the Ethnographic Museum, which has existed for more than one hundred years  and its extensivel exhibitions illustrate life and traditional culture of Serbia from the 19th  and 20th  centuries, including depictions of rural households, colourful costumes, musical instruments and weapons.
In the afternoon we will have free time to visit some of the city’s best museums or just stroll down the main  pedestrian shopping street – Kniaz Mihailova and take a cup fo coffe in one of the many inviting cafes and restaurants around. We do recommend visiting Nikola Tesla’s museum with its wondrously sci-fi-ish interactive elements or checking out the Museum of Yugoslav History, where you will find Josep Broz Titio’s mausoleum and  a display of thousands of elaborate relay batons presented to him by young 'Pioneers', plus gifts from political leaders and the voguish set of the era.
Overnight in Belgrade. (B, L, D)

Day 4: South Serbia and North Macedonia!
Today we will travel south towards the next country on our agenda - Macedonia! Our lunch stop will be in the city of Nis, the second biggest city in Serbia and one of the oldest in Europe, scenically situated on the banks of the river Nishava. Historians call it the town of emperors, as it was the birthplace of Constantine the Great, perhaps the greatest Roman emperor, who, by the Edict of Milan in 313 A.D.  proclaimed Christianity as the official religion in the Roman Empire. Before we cross the Serbian - Macedonian, we will will enjoy the gorgeous scenery of South Serbia with its rolling hills and dramatic river beds. We will arrive in Skopje in the late afternoon and have our first taste of the local cuisine for dinner.
Overnight in Skopje. (B, L, D)

Day 5: The capital Skopje and the majestic Matka Canyon
This morning we will explore the Macedonian capital Skopje, the most important cultural, administrative and economic centre in the county. Our panoramic sightseeing tour will reveal the numerous traces of the dramatic history of the ancient city settled on the crossroads between Western and Eastern civilizations. Throughout the centuries Skopje was conquered, destroyed by earthquakes, levelled to the ground by invaders but always revived in an even grader splendour. Today numerous monuments remind of its glory and power. After lunch, we will take a short trip to the spectacular Canyon “Matka” carved by the Treska River less than 30 km west from Skopje. This astonishing natural phenomenon fascinates not only with its extraordinary diverse flora and fauna but also for the great number of native butterfly species, 84 of which can only be seen here! Here will also take a small walk to the Medieval St. Andrea Monastery while for the enthusiasts a more challenging guided tour of the Matka canyon will be available.
We will return to Skopje in the late afternoon and have some free time to go around the city on our own.
Overnight in Skopje. (B, L, D)

Day 6:  West Macedonia and the St. Jovan Bigorski Monastery
Today we will set off towards the western part of the republic of Macedonia. Our first stop will be the town of Tetovo famous for the unique “Sharena” Mosque (‘the painted Mosque). Next we will drive through  the biggest national park in Macedonia - the Mavrovo National Park, where we will have picnic lunch and visit one of the nearby tranquil villages to try some local homemade sweets with coffee and learn how the traditional Macedonian white cheese is made. Last but not least on our agenda for today is the beautiful St. Jovan Bigorski Monastery, built back in 1021. In the late afternoon we will arrive in the city of Ohrid where we will have dinner in a cosy restaurant in town or in the hotel.
Overnight in Ohrid. (B, L, D)

Day 7: The city of Ohrid and the Ohrid Lake
Today’s morning we will dedicate to the UNESCO protected Old Town of Ohrid captivating with its authentic atmosphere and traditional spirit! Our sightseeing tour will take us to all the significant landmarks while we learn about the city’s glorious past and get acquainted with its dynamic modern-day vibe. We will not miss the beautiful Church of St. John the Devine “Kaneo” from where we can marvel at the spectacular scenery of the lake. Next we will relax on an hour boat cruise around the Ohrid Lake which will provide us with a myriad of opportunities to take in the charms of the city of Ohrid and the crystal waters of the lake. Following delicious lunch in a local tavern, we will visit the imposing St. Naum Monastery Complex, a refuge of tranquillity, set amidst lush verdure where the River Crn Drim tumbles into the lake. The rest of our day will be at our disposal to enjoy on our own.
Overnight in Ohrid. (B, L, D)

Day 8: The villages of Podmochani and Braichino, The ancient city of Heraclea, The vibrant city of Bitola
We will start our day with a drive to the tiny village of Podmochani where we will have the chance to see an extraordinary private Ethnographical collection of national costumes from Macedonia and rise a glass of homemade “rakija” (the traditional spirit for the Balkan countries) at the family’s garden. Then we will continue our trip along the stunning Prespa Lake and stop for lunch in the cosy village of Braichino where will get to try some traditional regional dishes and experience the welcoming and hospitable
After lunch we will set off  to the ancient town of Heraclea Luncaestys (4th century BC), located near Bitola. According to the popular belief King Philip II, the father of Alexander the Great, founded the town in the middle of 4th century BC, after he had conquered the surrounding region of Lynkestis and incorporated it into his kingdom of Macedonia. The city was named after the mythological Greek hero Heracles - a legendary hero and father of the Macedonian royal dynasty of Argeadae. Heraclea grew to be an important trading town under the Romans, before being sacked by the northern tribes and eventually falling into decay after an earthquake in 518 A.D. Some of the best preserved mosaics on the Balkans dating back from the late 5th   - early 6th century are part of this historical site.
We will spend tonight in Bitola - the second biggest Macedonian city, which is also one of the oldest cities within the territory of the country. Before dinner everyone can enjoy some free time to stroll down the preserved authentic Boulevards of the Old Town of Bitola, lined with Renaissance and Neo- Barock facade houses and take in the lively atmosphere of the old shopping street known as “charkha”.
Overnight in Bitola. (B, L, D)

Day 9: The ancient city of Stobi, The Popova kula winery and the SPA resort of Sandanski
Our highlight today will be the wine region of Tikvesh in South Macedonia.  En route, we will make a stop at the ancient city of Stobi which was an important, military, administrative, trade, and religious centre of the Roman and early Byzantine empires.  Stobi is one of the most significant and well-known archaeological sites in the Republic of Macedonia and provides insight into the historical events, material culture, and urban planning of the Hellenistic, Roman, and early Christian settlements in the area. The archaeological remains feature 26 exposed buildings, including a theatre, synagogue, palaces, houses, basilicas, and baths, and have been excavated for nearly a century.  We will have our last lunch within the boundaries of lovely Macedonia, at the Popova Kula Winery picturesquely located on the south slopes of the Grand Hill (Veliko Brdo) near the town of Demir Kapija. Of course here tasting some fine local wines is a “must”. In the afternoon we will cross the Bulgarian - Macedonian Border and reach our hotel in the Bulgarian SPA resort of Sandanski.
Overnight in Sandanski. (B, L, D)

Day 10: The wine capital of Bulgaria Melnik, the Rozhen Monastery and the administrative capital – Sofia
This morning we will travel to the smallest town of Bulgaria – Melnik, famous for its ancient traditions in winemaking. On the way we will pass by some of the most peculiar rock formations in the country known as the “Sandstone pyramids”, which overlook the town of Melnik and many consider them to be its mystic guardians. In Melnik we will visit the House of Kordopulov where we will learn about the ancient traditions and wine culture of the region and enjoy a glass of the house wine.  For centuries the classic image of Bulgarian wine has been represented by the old Melnik wine produced from a local broad leaved vine. This wine could have been seen only on the tables of the privileged like Venetian doges, French counts and Spanish dukes.
The next stop on our agenda for today will be the secluded Rozhen Monastery nested in the Southern part of the Pirin Mountain. Here we will have the opportunity to see some intricate woodcarvings and take in the delightfully peaceful atmosphere complemented by a stunning mountainous landscape.
In the afternoon we will return to Sofia, where we will have the option to join a Night city tour or have some free time to relax.
Overnight in Sofia. (B, L, D)

Day 11: Trip finishes in Sofia
Today after breakfast, it will be time for us to say “goodbye” with the promise to keep the memories we created together during our Balkan Adventure! (Transfer to the Airport).(B)

If you like the suggested program, ideas, services and this is really your kind of holiday please send us your request for further details! We will be happy to answer any questions you may have and give you our professional advice. Thank you!

Highlights

  • The Bulgarian capital Sofia - a blend of ancient archaeological monuments and modern-day landmarks!
  • Belgrade - the white city on two rivers!
  • The proud Macedonian capital Skopje!
  • The spectacular “Matka” Canyon!
  • Western Macedonia and the inspiring St. Jovan Bigorski Monastery!
  • A scenic drive through the Mavrovo National Park in Macedonia!
  • The picturesque city of Ohrid and the spectacular Ohrid Lake!
  • The welcoming Macedonian villages of Podmochani and Braichino!
  • The ancient city of Heraclea built by Alexander the Great’s father – Phillip II!
  • The vibrant city of Bitola!
  • The wine region of Tikvesh and the archaic city of Stobi!
  • Melnik - the smallest town in Bulgaria and its delicious red wines!
  • The “Sandstone pyramids” – Melnik’s mystic guardians!
  • The secluded Rozhen Monastery in the South Pirin Mountain!

Route

Photos


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What Is Included

  • 11 days / 10 overnights
  • Countries visited: Bulgaria, Macedonia & Serbia
  • Tour starts: Sofia, Bulgaria
  • Tour finishes: Sofia, Bulgaria
  • 11 breakfasts (B), 9 Lunches (L), 10 dinners (D)
  • 10 nights 4/3 - star hotel accommodation on a twin-share or double basis
  • Guided sightseeing tours of all visited cities and sights
  • Escorted services of an experienced guide in the requested language for the whole tour
  • Transport: Modern air-conditioned coach
  • Group Size: T/A
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