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THE BALKAN PENINSULA – FROM THE DANUB RIVER TO THE ADRIATIC SEA

 

DAY 1 BUDAPEST – NOVI SAD (294 km)

Landing in Budapest. Driving from Budapest we enter Serbia.

Serbia’s cultural centre, Novi Sad, is overlooked by the magnificent Petrovaradin fortress. Built between 1692 and 1780, the fortress was repeatedly attacked but never taken by an enemy. Although it has long since lost its strategic military value, since 1951 it has been an important cultural centre and one of the largest art colonies in the world with over 88 art studios. Visitors can buy art, talk with the artists and feel the atmosphere of studios while works of art are created. There are also three interesting restaurants, a museum, catacombs, great views of the Danube. Novi Sad is also known for its international music festivals, underground military galleries and above ground, such as the International Street Musicians’ Festival in September offering diverse music genres, funny instruments, jugglers, street shows and acrobatics.

 

DAY 2 NOVI SAD – BELGRADE (93 km)

& DAY 3 BELGRADE

Located at the meeting point of the Sava and Danube rivers is Belgrade, the capital of Serbia, where you will have plenty of time to explore. In the course of its long history, Belgrade has been captured 60 times, burned down around 40 times, and has risen phoenix-like from the ashes every time.

Looming over the old city is the ancient Kalemegdan Citadel, which was built in stages from the 1st century BC and was finally finished in the 18th century. We will visit the well-preserved ruins and may even see graffiti made by bored medieval guardsmen, as well as numerous museums and galleries. The view of the city from the fortress is fantastic and not to be missed. If time allows it is definitely worth a visit to St Sava Church, one of the largest Orthodox churches in world. The city itself offers excellent shopping opportunities, from luxurious upscale boutiques through to an enormous bazaar and a Saturday farmer’s market at Zeleni Venac selling an assortment of seasonal produce.

When you’re ready for a break, you can relax on the beach at ‘Belgrade`s Hawaii’ - Ada Ciganlija, an island in the middle of the Sava River. During the summer the island attracts hundreds of thousands of people looking for a place to cool down, so it can be crowded on hot days. Belgrade is very well known for its nightlife and is a major draw card for Europeans looking for a party. There are countless nightclubs, bars, and cafés that stay lively into the wee hours of the night, many of which are located on river barges.

 

DAY 4 BELGRADE – NIS (245 km)

After Belgrade we move on to Niš, one of the oldest cities in the Balkans. Niš is the birthplace of Constantine the Great, the first Christian Roman Emperor and founder of Constantinople, AD 306 to 337. If time allows we may have a chance to visit the Mediana ruins and see where Constantine the Great once lived. The most infamous attraction in Niš is the Ottoman skull-tower known as Ćele Kula. It dates from a time when ruling Ottoman soldiers were growing tired of Serb rebellions against occupation. After quelling an uprising in 1809, Ottoman troops decapitated 952 fallen Serbs and built a short, square tower out of the Serbs' heads. Within a few years the Serbs had managed to get rid of the Ottomans but kept the Skull Tower as a memorial to the sacrifice of the early Serb nationalists. There are about 58 skulls left - others were removed for burial or destroyed over time. Before our onward travel you`ll have an opportunity to visit the Niš Concentration Camp and Museum, one of the few fully preserved fascist camps in Europe.

 

DAY 5 NIS - SKOPJE (203 km)

In Skopje, Macedonia’s capital, you can enjoy 2,000 years of history spanning Oriental and Western cultures, neatly divided by the Vardar River through the centre of the city. Skopje has many historical monuments including the Kale Fortress dating back to the 6th century, the church St. Spas dating from 1348 year, The Stone Bridge, Kurshumli Han (a monument from 1550 year), the Mustafa-pasha's mosque, the Memorial House of Mother Teresa.

 

DAY 6 SKOPJE – TIKVES – BITOLA – OHRID (251 km)

Departure to Tikves wine district and visit of a winery with wine tasting and lunch.

Macedonia has rich wine tradition. Numerous archeological findings, the oldest ones dating 13 century b.c., have proven the affinity towards growing grapes and producing wine as one of the most important in Macedonian history. During the time of Philip II and Alexander the Great, members of the Macedonian royal family were known as strong consumers of Macedonian wine. This tradition continued during the Roman Empire where Macedonia was one of the most important regions for growing grapes in the Empire. Also, the significance of the wine was continued at the time of the introduction and the rise of Christianity whereas wine was part of almost all Orthodox Church ceremonies. History confirms that the wine was important during the rein of Czar Samuil, in the middle ages and during the Turkish rule in Macedonia. The intense aroma of the Macedonian wines is result of the combined influence of the Mediterranean and continental climates, with warm summer days and cooler nights. The lengthy ripening process concentrates the sugar and acids in the grapes, ensuring rich colors and complex aromas in the wines. We continue toward Bitola.

Arrival in Bitola and sightseeing in the city. A walk along the old and well known Sirok Sokak (Broad Street), where the Consulates of European countries were located at the time of the Ottoman Empire. Visit and of the archeological site Heraclea Lyncaestis.

Heraclea Lyncaestis is a archaeological complex, founded by Philip II of Macedon in 359 BC and one of the best preserved antique sites in the Balkans. It has the most beautiful floor mosaics in the World, called "The Universe". Departure to Ohrid

 

DAY 7 OHRID OLD TOWN SIGHTSEEING & ST. NAUM MONASTERY (60 km by boat)

Ohrid is called the Pearl of the Balkans and considered to be one of the oldest towns in the World, with continuous advancement of civilization from its beginning till today. Walking down the narrow streets by Lake Ohrid you can sense the very rich history of this place and feel like you have been traveling through time. Lake Ohrid itself is Europe’s oldest lake having formed over three millions years ago. At every hundred meters you will encounter significant sights such as the following:

The Ohrid Fortress - the Fortress of Tsar Samuel, the crown of Ohrid and of Lychnidos.

Sv.Bogorodica Perivlepta – the Church of the Holly Mother of God Perivleptos dating from 1295, with its remarkable architecture and frescoes is one of the best known monuments of its kind not only in Macedonia, but also worldwide.

The Gallery of icons, belong to the period between the 11th and the 19th centuries.

The Antique Theatre - the oldest antique theatre in Macedonia, built for- among other things – gladiatorial combats, has been reconstructed to house theatrical performances and concerts

Plaosnik – the spiritual and cultural source of Ohrid with preserved, restored and exposed architectural remains from the period of St,Clement, as well as before and after him, an Early Christian complex with the rebuilt church of St.Clement (St.Panteleimon) and parts of the original monastic complex- the first Slavonic University, the cradle of the literacy and culture the Slavonic clergy.

St.Jovan Kaneo - a church dating from the 13th century and situated on a rock above the lake is a symbol of the town, poetry engraved on a rock and well known both in Macedonia and worldwide.

St.Sofia – the cathedral church of the Ohrid Episcopate, with its outstanding architectural construction and invaluable frescoes dating from the 11th and 12th centuries.

The House of the Robev Family (panoramic view), a work of art dating from 1863 and housing a significant collection of exhibits from the Ohrid area and prehistory, the antique period and the Middle Ages.

At noon we depart to St. Naum monastic complex, by boat (11/4 hrs).

On the way to St.Naum visit the Museum on water ”BAY OF THE BONES”, reconstruction of a prehistoric pile dwelling settlement.

The monastic complex St. Naum (dated from 9th century), built by St. Naum, a disciple of St. Cyril and Methodius, and is one of the most significant monasteries in the Balkans, situated on the Macedonian-Albanian border on the west side of the attractive Mount/National Park Galicica. Sightseeing of St.Naum with professional tour guide

 

DAY 8 OHRID – ELBASAN – TIRANA (136 km)

We then head to Tirana, the trendy capital and largest city of Albania, which has transformed from a grey, dismal ex-communist city, isolated by the regime until the 1990s, to a colorful capital buzzing with life. While the city has a long history, you can enjoy its modern outlook, with fashionable bars, and wander boulevards lined with relics of the city’s Ottoman, clubs and boutiques, Italian and communist past. Tirana’s massive main square, Sheshi Skënderbej, is bordered by the National History Museum, the Palace of Culture, the National Bank, the Et'hem Bey Mosque and Skanderbeg's statue. A short bus ride from the centre city, the Martyr’s Cemetery offers marvelous panoramic views over the city.

 

DAY 9 TIRANA – KRUJA – SHKODRA – TIRANA (210 km)

After breakfast drive to Kruja the centre of Albanian resistance against the Ottomans under our national hero Scanderbeg who defeated them in 22 battles including one of the most warrior like sultans Mehmet the Conqueror and resisted the Ottoman occupation for 25 years. We visit the Castle with two great Museums and the Old Ottoman style bazaar. After lunch we proceed to Shkodra, the centre of Roman Catholicism in Albania and a town with long historic routes. It is the only mentioned capital of the Illyrian Kingdom in the 3rd century B.C. Visit the pedestrian area with Italian influences. Afterwards return to Tirana for overnight.

 

DAY 10 TIRANA – DURRES – ARDENICA – APOLLONIA - TIRANA (267 km)

We depart for Durres one of the oldest settlements (founded in 627 B.C.) and we take a sightseeing tour of the Amphitheatre situated in the middle of the modern city in an inhabited area, and the Archaeological museum rich in arte facts found in the city and its suburbs. After the visits in Durres we continue to the monastery of Ardenica, supposed to have been built in the middle ages, as argued by a stone in entrance dating back to the 1417. In fact it is said that Scanderbeg was married at the small chapel of Ardenica. Today inside the church you can admire icon paintings of 1743-1745, by Albanian artists such as Konstandin and Athanos Zografi, as well as Konstandin Shpataraku. Proceed to the ancient city of Apollonia situated on the famous Via Egnatia - one of the most important cities in Roman times. Due to its fame and importance it was known as Apollonia Prima out of 16 ancient cities built to honour Apollo. Caesar chose to send his nephew Augustus Octavian to study oratory in Apollonia revealing the importance of this ancient city.

Return back to Tirana. Overnight.

 

DAY 11 TIRANA – ELBASAN – STRUGA – VEVCANI - STRUGA (150 km)

We drive back to Macedonia. After entering the country again, we stop in the village Kalista to visit a cave church from 13th century. After accommodating in Struga we continue north to the village Vevcani for lunch. Vevcani is situated on the slopes of Mount Jablanica. This village can offers the guests some interesting things: a rare natural beauty, clean air, water (legally protected), still running old watermills. It will be a cultural trip into the past: an interesting combination of architecture of the old houses and the local people still living according to the traditions of the past. In one of the restaurants in Vevcani we will have lunch with homemade rakija (brandy), wine and traditional food prepared by the good old masters of the Macedonian cuisine.

 

DAY 12 STRUGA – MAVROVO – SKOPJE (187 km)

The journey will proceed via the rivers Crn Drim and Radika with views of the picturesque scenery of the canyons of the River Radika.

Visit of the monastery of St. Jovan Bigorski and sightseeing of the area. The Monastery is one of the rare monuments that immediately attract the attention of tourists, its attraction lying both in its setting and in the treasures contained within it. At an elevation of 740 meters, surrounded by Mount Bistra and deeply embedded in the rocks, the architecture of the monastery is unique. Of special note is its vast carved iconostasis or altar screen wrought by well known Macedonian wood-carvers. Within the monastery there is a gallery of icons and liturgical objects. The monastic complex is astonishing with its unique location and character, but what is perhaps even more astonishing is the splendor of the natural beauty of the rivers Crn Drim and Radika together with their lakes, valleys and canyons, lying between Mt. Bistra and Korab, two of the most beautiful mountains in the Balkans, not to mention the attractive tourist and ski centre of Mavrovo. Departure to the Mavrovo Lake.

It`s artificial lake at 1200 m. altitude, perfectly incorporated into its surroundings. Short stop and walk in the area. The National Park - Mavrovo is the largest of all three national parks in Macedonia. As a result of the great relief differentiation, it has an outstanding floristic wealth as well as rather diverse fauna with many different species of birds and mammals. It was founded in 1949 and is located in the western part of the country between the Lake Mavrovo and the Macedonian - Albanian border. Arrival in Skopje and overnight.

 

DAY 13 SKOPJE - SOFIA (228 km)

Bulgaria’s capital Sofia offers a wealth of cultural entertainment, including Byzantine churches, museums full of ancient archaeological treasures, towering monuments and numerous mineral baths adjacent to the magnificent Mount Vitosha. Laid back and cosmopolitan, Sofia offers a thriving and diverse street life, including open-air cafés, busy markets such as the famous Ladies’ Market, rattling trams and buskers all adding to the ambience. At the foothills of Mount Vitosha about 8 kilometres from the city centre you can visit the 900 year-old Boyana Church, considered among the masterpieces of medieval European painting, which features murals and frescoes dating back to 1259 AD, medieval architecture and monumental art. Also at the base of Mt. Vitosha is the splendid National History Museum, with antiques dating back to the Thracian period.

Sofia also offers many beautiful gardens to relax in, such as Boris Gardens and the South Park, which starts just behind the Palace of Culture.

 

 

DAY 14 SOFIA – VELIKO TRNOVO (222 km)

Morning departure from Sofia to Veliko Turnovo – the medieval capital of Bulgaria, situated amphitheatrically on 4 hills. The old capital welcomes its visitors with impressive views - the medieval fortress of Tsarevets and numerous churches and monasteries on the nearby hills. Visit the fortress and see the modern frescoes in the church, feel the spirit of traditions in the old church “St. Peter & Paul”. Take a walk along Samovodene market with its original workshops from the National Revival. Follow the route to the old museum town Arbanassi - a monument architecture from the 17th-18th century. Visit the Nativity Church (16-17th c. AD) with amazing frescoes showing scenes from the New and Old Testament and the ethnographic house of Konstantsaliev. Overnight in Veliko Turnovo.

 

DAY 15 VELIKO TRNOVO – ETARAT – KAZANLUK – PLOVDIV (222 km)

Departure to Plovdiv – the second largest city of Bulgaria. En route visit Etarat architectural and ethnographic open air museum, which presents the architecture and the style of life in Gabrovo and the region during the Bulgarian Revival period - 18th-19th century. On the crafts street the visitors can watch in real time the work of the craftsmen and can purchase the articles made in front of them. Visit the nearby Assumption Sokolski monastery with a famous stone fountain. En route see the golden domes of Shipka Monastery. Continue to the town of Kazanluk known as the capital of the Valley of the Roses. After lunch, visit the Kazanluk Thracian Tomb (4th century BC, UNESCO) and Kulata ethnographic complex in Kazanlak. Continue to Plovdiv. Sightseeing of The Old Town of Plovdiv, which is one of the most remarkable places in Bulgaria with its steep cobble-stoned streets, unique houses and romantic atmosphere. A similarity with Ohrid in Macedonia and especially Berat and Gjirokastra in Albania can be noticed. See 4th century BC Thracian wall paintings, the Roman amphitheater, Byzantine and medieval fortifications and 15th century Ottoman mosque. Overnight in Plovdid.

 

DAY 16 PLOVDIV – RILA MONASTERY - SOFIA (341 km)

Early morning departure for Rila monastery for visit and lunch. This is the most significant and impressive monument of Bulgarian National Revival period. The monastery's most treasured historic and artistic monuments include the 14th century Hrelyo Tower, the five-domed Birth of the Blessed Virgin Church and the original monastery kitchen from the 19th century. The monastery also houses a rich museum collection of valuable old manuscripts and documents, charters and icons, an ethnographic exhibition of fabrics, jewelry, carpets and wrought iron objects, and a library containing more than 16,000 books. Return back to Sofia for overnight.

 

DAY 17 SOFIA INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT

End of program. 

Price List

The price depends from the size of the group, the period of the year, quality of accommodation and other factors. 

Ask for a quotation here: info@vispoj.com.mk