Balkan Journey: Montenegro, Albania, Macedonia and Serbia (June 9-21, 2018)

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Balkan Journey: Montenegro, Albania, Macedonia and Serbia (June 9-21, 2018)

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TOUR PRICE:  This twelve days fully-escorted and air-inclusive package is $2185.00 per person based on double occupancy and a minimum of 21 passengers.  Should the number fall below 21 passengers, we will still operate the tour as a small group tour of 16 passengers or more.  The cost would then be $2354.00 per person based on double occupancy.  Turkish Airlines taxes and surcharges are an additional $454.00 (subject to change until time of ticketing).  The single supplement for the entire tour is $499.00 per person.  There is no triple occupancy reduction.  

AVAILABILITY:  SOLD OUT.

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JOURNEY THROUGH THE BALKANS: MONTENEGRO, ALBANIA, MACEDONIA AND SERBIA

DAILY ITINERARY:

Day 1:    Podgorica

Arrive and transfer to Montenegro’s capital - Podgorica! Montenegro is dominated by towering peaks that provide a stunning backdrop to the sparkling blue Adriatic and the sandy beaches that line the country’s coastline. Its capital is the Ottoman- influenced city of Podgorica, dotted with mosques, cafes and restaurants. The-beaten-path Montenegro, a diminutive southeast European country, boasts big things like the UNESCO-World Heritage-listed Bay of Kotor, the walled seaside town of Budva, the beuatiful town of Cetinje, and many more.

Upon arrival take your local coach to the hotel.  Enjoy the rest of the day at your leisure.  Overnight in Podgorica

Day 2:    Podgorica/Ostrog/Podgorica

After breakfast at your hotel, embark on a half day guided sightseeing tour of Podgorica. The name originates in 1326 and it is built amongst five rivers, the Zeta, Moraca, Ribnica, Cijevna and Sitnica. Most of the city was destroyed during WW II, so Podgorica is relatively new, with modern buildings at every step of the way and green spaces as well as parks. The most sparkling structure and a symbol of 21st century progress is the 140m (459-ft) long Millennium Bridge across the Moraca River.

South of the Ribnica River you will find some remnants of its Ottoman past remain in the city’s old town. In the Old Town square is the 30-m high 18th century Turkish clock Tower while the Muslim quarter houses the renovated 14th century Glavatovici and Osmanagica mosques.  North of the Ribnica is the administrative centre New Town and the very modern heart of Podgorica and its central square Trg Republika. The shopping area is focused on street Slobe where you can find many cafés and bars.

After a stop for a lunch on your own you will continue your journey with transfer to Ostrog Monastery where your guide will tell you more about the history of this incredible place.

Ostrog monastery was carved out of a vertical mountainside of Ostroska Greda. Founded by Vasilije, the Bishop of Herzegovina and later known as St. Vasilije of Ostrog, his body is enshrined in a reliquary kept within the cool dark walls of the cave-church. Word spread quickly of the supposed miraculous healing powers of his mortal remains, and the monastery become a center of pilgrimage not only for Orthodox Christians but Catholics and Muslims as well.

Visit the Monastery, and see believers of all three confessions in the Balkans who search for their peace and serenity.

At the end of the tour you will be transferred back to your hotel. Overnight Podgorica.

Day 3:    Podgorica/Cetinje/Njegusi/Budva

After breakfast at your hotel this morning transfer to Budva. On the way theremake a stop in Cetinje end enjoy a guided sightseeing tour.  Cetinje was founded in the 15th century by Ivan Crnojevic the last ruler of the strong medieval state of Zeta. This was the historical capital of Montenegro for five centuries. After visiting this little town, you will continue your way to Negusi village where you will taste traditional Montenegrin food: domestic prosciutto andcheese.        
Later on transfer to Budva and check into your hotel. The rest of the day is at leisure. Overnight in Budva.

Day 4:    Budva/Kotor/Budva

After breakfast at the hotel embark on a guided sightseeing tour of Budva which is the most popular resort in Montenegro. Founded by the Greeks in the fourth century BC and fortified during the Middle Ages, the town forms the heart of the “Budva Riviera”, which runs 22 miles from Trsteno to Buljarica, and is dotted with a series of sheltered coves and eight miles of sand and pebble beaches. You will start your day by stepping through an arched doorway in Budva’s medieval walls straight on to the town beach. Lined by tables and lounge-sofas, and managed by nearby cafés, this is where glamorous locals come to have coffee and gossip. Note the bronze sculpture of a ballet dancer, a symbol of Budva, performing a graceful arabesque as she gazes out  to sea.

Later continue on your journey with a visit to the beautiful town of Kotor.

As a UNESCO world heritage site, the region of Kotor promises to provide unforgettable views as well as enthralling history and culture. First conquered by the Greeks around the fourth-seventh century BC, the town was once a fortified village surrounded by walls of up to 20 meters which were built to protect the Byzantine emperor Justinian the Great. Through the ages the town has been under Venetian, Ottoman and Napoleonic rule. Today, visitors can wander through quaint narrow streets and alleyways and visit its main square, the Piazza of the Arms, as well as the nearby gate to the city. Kotor is also home to rustic restaurants and bars, establishments serving traditional Montenegrin fare as well as international dishes.

Later in the afternoon return to your hotel in Budva. Overnight in Budva.

Day 5:    Budva/Shkoder/Tirana

After breakfast at your hotel this morning transfer with coach to Tirana. En route to there make a stop in Shkoder for a guided sightseeing tour of the town. Close to the border with Montenegro, Shkoder in Albania is the point of entry for the sublime natural landscapes in almost every direction from the city. East is Drin River that flows through canyons, right to the west is the Adriatic Sea and its sandy beaches, and northeast are the Albanian Alps where the country’stallest peaks can be conquered. For history buffs there’s plenty to catch the eye as Shkodra has been a key trading post for millennia, and both the Ancient Greeks and Romans settled here. Inside Shkodra you can acquaint yourself with Albanian history and culture, visiting Lead mosque, which was built in 1773 by the Albanian pasha Mehmed Bushati of the noble Bushati family, who was vizier of Pashalik of Scutari at the time. Through this act, he intended to give his city of birth the feeling of the capital. 

Continue your exploration with a visit to Rozafa Castle. With spectacular views of the city and Lake Shkodra, the Rozafa Fortress is the most impressive sight in town. Founded by the Illyrians in antiquity and rebuilt much later by the Venetians and then the Turks, the fortress takes its name from a woman who was allegedly walled into the ramparts as an offering to the gods so that the construction would stand.

Later on transfer to Tirana. Checking into your hotel. Overnight in Tirana

Day 6:    Tirana

After breakfast at your hotel this morning discover the city of Tirana on a guided sightseeing tour, and see the major sights of Albania’s colorful capital. Although Tirana was founded in the 1614, it has developed into a modern European city. You will take a walk to enjoy the colorful buildings, green parks, and streets lined with numerous coffee shops.You will begin with a visit to Skanderbeg Square in the city center, where you’ll see the statue of Skanderbeg, Albania’s national hero, and the clock tower, which stands 115 feet tall. See the Et’hem Beu Mosque, adorned by frescos with trees, waterfalls, and bridges that are rare representations in Islamic art. The National Library is located in front of the Mosque, and nearby is the National Historic Museum.

The tour will ends at the hotel and you will have the balance of the day at leisure. Overnight in Tirana

Day 7:    Tirana/Elbasan/Ohrid

After Breakfast at the hotel this morning you will transfer to Ohrid, drive through Elbasan and make a short stop for guided sightseeing tour.

Elbasan was founded in 1466 by the Ottoman sultan Mehmed II, on the site of ancient Scampis, as a base for his military operations against the Albanian commander Skanderbeg. The town was a principal centre of Albanian nationalism during Ottoman rule. Until World War II about 85 percent of the populace was Muslim and most of the remainder Albanian Orthodox. Architectural remains of the former walled town are visible.

After some free time for lunch on your own continue on with your coach to Ohrid.

After checking into your hotel you will have the balance of the day at leisure.   Overnight in Ohrid.

Day 8:    Ohrid/Skopje

After breakfast at your hotel enjoy a guided sightseeing tour of Ohrid. Explore the layers of history spread out on Ohrid hill, hear the story of the town and Ohrid Lake, and see the authentic architecture. You will have the chance to find out why the town and Lake Ohrid are preserved by UNESCO as places of environmental, historical and cultural significance. Visit one of the most impressive medieval buildings in Ohrid and a unique work of architecture of the Byzantine era – St. Sophia Church. The frescoes in the St. Sophia church are characterized by the postures of the figures and the archaic forms, united in an artistic and iconographic whole, unique to church paintings of the time. Continue on your journey with visit to Plaosnik, home to the Church of Sveti Kliment i Pantelejmon. This 5th century church was recently restored in 2002 and is an impressive sight to behold. You will be struck by the grandeur and beauty of the Byzantine church as you enter. Plaosnik has a lot of historical significance as well. It is the site of Europe’s first university and is the place where supposedly the Cyrillic alphabet was created.

Continue on with a visit to St Naum Monastery, located on a high cliff above the Ohrid lake, a locality with rare natural beauty. The creation of this monastery is connected with the name of Saint Naum, associate of saint Clement.

Later on transfer with coach to Skopje. Upon arrival, discover top attractions in the Republic of Macedonia. Follow a guide through the bustling city of Skopje, home to contemporary statues, charming squares and busy boutiques around Macedonia Square. Then, cross the Stone Bridge into the Old Town and take a step back into Skopje’s colorful past.      
The tour ends at the hotel.     Overnight in Skopje.

Day 9:    Skopje/Nis/Belgrade

After breakfast at the hotel this morning get on board your coach for transfer to Belgrade. On the way there make a stop in Nis. Located on the crossroads between Eastern and Western civilizations, Nis offers very rich and unique cultural and historical heritage including archeological finding from the prehistoric, Roman, medieval and Modern period.Get to know one of the oldest cities in the Balkans with a guided sightseeing tour of the town.

Later continue on to Belgrade. Overnight in Belgrade.

Day 10:  Belgrade

After breakfast at your hotel this morning enjoy a guided sightseeing tour of Belgrade. The capital and largest city of Serbia, cosmopolitan Belgrade sits on the confluence of the Sava and the Danube rivers. Situated between the country's mountainous central region and the sprawling northern plains, the booming city boasts an unusual blend of old-world sophistication, socialist architecture, and unparalleled nightlife drawing partygoers from distant corners of the world. With a history dating back to the 4th century BCE, when Celtic tribes settled the area, Belgrade saw more than its share of foreign domination. Ruled successively by the Romans, Ottomans, and the Austro-Hungarians, the city finally gained independence in 1878. Today Belgrade embraces its diverse cultural heritage while maintaining a vibrant city center that serves as the country's hub of culture, commerce, and education. Visit the city’s largest free attraction - the Kalemegdan Fortress.

The tour ends at the hotel. Overnight in Belgrade.

Day 11:  Belgrade/Sremski Karlovci/Novi Sad/Belgrade

After breakfast at your hotel today enjoy an excursion to Sremski Karlovci and Novi Sad. The Serbian town of Sremski Karlovci seems to have it all, combining history, religion, and wine with sheer charm and beauty. This is one of the most picturesque towns in Serbia's Vojvodina region, with its well­-preserved baroque and neo­classicist architecture. Upon arrival enjoy a guided sightseeing tour of the town.

Continue your journey with a visit to Novi Sad which well known for the mighty Petrowaradin fortress, second largest in Europe, and nicknamed 'Giblartar on the Danube’. Visit the Petrowaradin fortress that was a significant military fort of the Austrian rulers who, at the time of Napoleon’s conquests, hid their treasures here. Today it is city’s art center, home to the Exit festival and a place which has a mysterious underground that keeps intriguing explorers from around the world.

In the afternoon come back to your hotel in Belgrade. Overnight in Belgrade.

Day 12:  Belgrade/USA

Transfer from your hotel to the airport for your flight back home.