Balkan Tour : Albania, Macedonia, Bulgaria and Romania

Balkan Tour : Albania, Macedonia, Bulgaria and Romania

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BALKAN TOUR : ALBANIAMACEDONIABULGARIAROMANIA

Operated by the special Balkan pool of incoming travel agencies

Departure 10 – 25 SEPTEMBER 2019

Day 1 Arrive Tirana

Welcome to Albania. Our guide warmly greets us at Rinas Airana Airport for the transfer to the hotel. Time to settle in and recover from jet lag. Our hotel is a charming 3-star property with a personal ambiance and perfectly situated. Dine tonight at a local authentic restaurant in Tirana. Depending on the arrival, if time permits after check in, a Tirana city tour with highlights such as the Ethem Bey Mosque, National Art Gallery and a stroll to along the Boulevard and Skanderbey Square before optional dinner. Overnight *** Hotel (D)

Day 2 Tirana – Durres – Saranda

We are off to begin our coastal drive toward the South of Albania. First make a short stop to explore the City of Durres, once a major Roman port. We also visit the Amphitheater and Archeological Museum. Continue the drive toward Apollonia, the famous ancient Hellenic city founded in 558 BC by settlers from Corfu and Corinth. We see both the sites and its museum. After break for lunch at a local restaurant, leisurely continue our drive towards the South. Travel along the Albanian Riviera toward the coastal town of Vlora, with stops at several coastal villages. We won’t miss Castle Palermo. Arrive in Saranda, a coastal city in Albania, opposite the Greek island of Corfu. Enjoy dinner at a local restaurant. Accommodation and overnight at the 3/4 stars Saranda hotel.

Day 3 Saranda – Ksmail – Gjirokastra

Visit the World Heritage site of Butrint, Albania’s most important archaeological site, located in Albania close to the Greek border. It was known in Ancient Greek as Bouthroton and in Latin as Buthrotum. Strategically located on a hill overlooking the Vivari Channel, the site has been inhabited since prehistoric times. Butrint was the site of an Epirot city, a Roman colony and a bishopric. After break for lunch, we travel towards the Ancient City of Phoinice where we enjoy a short presentation about the ancient city of Phoinice, one of the great cities of Epirus with the theater accommodating 15,000-18,000 visitors and one the largest Roman theaters in the world. From Phoinice we will visit Mesopotam, a 12th century Byzantine Monastery mentioned in the Battle between the Norman Crusader army and the Byzantines. A countryside short drive to the City of Gjirokastra. Entering the Drinos Valley through the Pass of Muzine, you are sure to be amazed by the beautiful landscape dotted with small villages nestled at the foot of the mountains. On the way, have a splendid view of city of Hadrianopolis. We then arrive in Gjirokastra, a UNESCO World Heritage City. It is one of the most venerable towns of Albania. Located 900 feet above sea level, Gjirokastra has a beautiful and dramatic setting on the side of a lush valley between the high Gjerë Mountains above and the rushing Drinos River below. Our accommodations tonight are at an old Gjirokastra house which has been converted to a B&B.

Day 4 Gjirokastra – Korca

After breakfast we stroll through the old bazaar, visit the Ethnographic Museum and begin our drive through the rural and panoramic landscape to Korça, the regional capital of southeast Albania, whose location is dominated by the Morava Mountains to the east. The town of Korça was called “Little Paris” in the 1930’s because of its thriving intellectual life. It is interesting from a historical point of view, due to its rich cultural traditions as well as some interesting buildings from the Ottoman period. On our way to Korca we visit Berat (UNESCO heritage town) with short walk and wine tasting in the Cobo Winery. We visit following Korca highlights: Mirahori Mosque, built in 1418. In Korça we also visit the Museum of Medieval Arts. Optional dinner at a local restaurant and overnight stay in Korça 4 stars hotel.

Day 5 Korca – Qafe Thane (Headed towards Border for Crossing) – Struga – Ohrid

Following breakfast we enjoy the local town with a stroll through the city for a late morning start toward the Border where you will cross over to experience Macedonia! Welcome by the Macedonian representative on the border of Qafasan. Visit of the village Kalista and Monastery of the Holy Vigrin as well as one of the cave churches. Further, sightseeing of Struga – city of poetry and possibility for lunch by the shore of river Crni Drim. Departure to Ohrid, accommodation in the hotel. In the late afternoon visit of the famous store of Ohrid pearls. Free time for leisure and swimming. Overnight in 3* hotel.

Day 6 Ohrid – Bitola – Popova Kula Demir Kapija

Morning Ohrid old town Sightseeing tour : Saint Sofija Church, Ancient Theatre, Tsar Samuel’s fortress, Plaosnik and the Church of Saint Pantelejmon, Saint John of Kaneo Church. Drive to the Bay of Bones, visit and activities, lunch in the fishermen village. Early afternoon departure to St Naum Monastery. Visit of the churches of St Naum and St Petka and optional boat ride on the springs of river Crn Drim. Ride over Galicica NP to Prespa Lake and Bitola, walk on Shirok Sokak, the clock tower, short refreshment + cake. Late afternoon departure to Demir Kapija for dinner with wine tasting in the famous winery-hotel Popova Kula. Overnight.

Day 7 Demir Kapija – Stobi – Skopje

After the breakfast departure to archeological site of Stobi – the eternal place, a city founded on the sunset of the ancient Macedonian kingdom. The place where the traders through the ancient Roman road Via Egnatia were supplied with gold, white and pink marble, wine, and iron. City among whose walls were issued money with the inscription “Municipium Stobensium”. Jewel of the ancient basilicas adorned with wonderful fresco paintings of sumptuous marsh birds, mosaics of peacocks and deer, with the apse that presents to the eye geometric figures in the form of scales. Upon arrival in capital of Macedonia walking tour of Skopje and visit Mother Theresa house, Old Railway station; Warrior on horse, and many of the monuments from the project Skopje 2014 … famous Stone Bridge and part of the old bazaar. Overnight in nice small hotel 3* near city center.

Day 8 Skopje – Kumanovo – Kriva Palanka – Rila Monastery (UNESCO World heritage List)

After breakfast visit of Macedonian Stonehenge which is the popular name of the Macedonian Megalithic Observatory of “Kokino”. According to NASA this is the fourth oldest observatory in the world. ( more than 3.800 years old). The Observatory defines the four main positions of the moon and three main positions of the sun, the autumnal and vernal equinox, and winter and summer solstice. Visit of the room of rituals and thrones. Transfer to the Monastery of St Joachim Osogovski in Kriva Palanka – an important cultural, religious and educational center for centuries, placed in the middle of the lush woods of Osogovo Mountain. It consists of the church of St. Joachim Osogovski, a smaller 14th century church dedicated to the Holy Mother of God, a three-story dormitory, a bell tower with a charnel house at the bottom, a passage building, guardhouse, new dormitories and a residency of the Head of the Macedonian Orthodox Church. Founded in the 12th century, it was devastated by an earthquake in the 16th century but was rebuilt soon afterward. The great temple, dedicated to Joachim Osogovski, is also a masterpiece by one of the greatest Macedonian architects, Andreja Damjanov. … Transfer to Palanka /Gjueshevo Border where we enter in Bulgaria in the afternoon at the border checkpoint Gjueschevo, where we meet our Bulgarian guide. Transfer to Rila Monastery – one of Bulgaria’s most important cultural, historical and architectural monuments. UNESCO World Heritage Site, the monastery is situated in the southwestern Rila Mountains in the deep valley of the Rilska River at an elevation of 1,147 m above sea level. The monastery is named after its founder, the hermit Ivan of Rila (876 – 946 AD). Ever since its creation, the Rila Monastery has been supported and respected by the Bulgarian rulers. Large donations were made by almost every tzar of the Second Bulgarian Empire up until the Ottoman Conquest in 1396, making the monastery a cultural and spiritual center of Bulgarian national consciousness. The complex acted as a depository of Bulgarian language and culture in the ages of foreign rule. Overnight in a small 2 stars family-run hotel near the monastery.

Day 9 Boyana Church (UNESCO World heritage List) and Sofia

After breakfast Transfer to Sofia (110 Km, 1’40 hours) We visit the medieval Boyana Church, situated on the outskirts of Sofia. A total of 89 scenes with 240 human images are depicted on the walls of the church in 1259. They represent one of the most complete and well-preserved monuments of medieval art in the Balkans. Near the church is the national Museum of history whit the famous Panagyuriste gold treasure – 400 BC and other unique objects connected to archaeology, fine arts, history and ethnography of Bulgaria. Sightseeing tour in Sofia, including the Rotunda of St. George, St Sofia Basilica, Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, the Roman Ruins of Serdica and other landmarks of the Bulgarian capital. Accommodation and overnight in 4-Star Sofia Hotel.

Day 10 Bachkovo monastery and Plovdiv

Breakfast and drive to Bachkovo monastery – an important monument of Christian architecture and one of the oldest Eastern Orthodox monasteries in Europe. The monastery is known and appreciated for the unique combination of Byzantine, Georgian and Bulgarian culture, united by the common faith. We visit the church and the old dinning room, decorated with exceptionally valuable frescoes in 1643. They can be compared to the paintings of 1535 in the dining room of Saint Atanasii Great Monastery in Mount Athos in their respective artistic qualities. Drive to Plovdiv and sightseeing tour in the old city. Overnight in 4 stars hotel in the very heart of the city.

Day 11 The Thracian Tomb of Kazanlak (UNESCO Heritage list)

Breakfast and drive to Kazanlak. We visit the famous Thracian Tomb of Kazanlak. The monument dates back to the 4th century BC an the murals are memorable for the splendid horses and for a gesture of farewell, in which the seated couple grasp each other’s wrists in a moment of tenderness and equality. Driving further we visit the Etar Architectural-Ethnographic Complex – an open-air museum, who presents the Bulgarian customs, culture and craftsmanship. Using original instruments and following the old traditions, locals represent around 20 characteristics of the regional crafts. Drive further to Tryavna – famous with his typical National Revival architecture, featuring 140 cultural monuments, museums and expositions. Overnight in Tryavna 3 stars hotel.

Day 12 Veliko Tarnovo and Preobrazhenski Monastery

Drive to Transfiguration Monastery, located 7 km away from Veliko Tarnovo, below the inaccessible vertical rocks over the left bank of the Yantra River. It is believed it was founded during the Second Bulgarian Empire, around 1360 and played an important role in the religious life of the Bulgarian capital in the 14th century. Then we visit the city of Veliko Tarnovo, famous as the historical capital of the Second Bulgarian Empire. We visit the Medieval fortress, situated on the hill Tsarevets, rising amidst the meanders of the Yantra river and the old market, Samovodskata charshiya, who shows traditions of crafts. Overnight in 3 stars hotel in the old city.

Day 13 The Rock-hewn Churches of Ivanovo

After breakfast we head direction Romania, visiting on our way the medieval Rock-hewn Churches of Ivanovo. This is a group of monolithic churches, chapels and monasteries hewn out of solid rock and noted for its beautiful and well-preserved medieval frescoes from 13-14 Century. Approximately at noon we cross the border between Bulgaria and Romania. Transfer Ruse – Brashov (270 km, about 4 hours driving). Accommodation in 3* Brashov hotel, Brasov walking tour by night.

Day 14 Brashov Castle – Rasnov Fortress – Peles Castle – Sighisoara

Breakfast. Day Tour: Brasov – Bran Castle (Dracula’s Castle) – Rasnov FortressPeles Royal Castle – Brasov. Rasnov castle (visit the Fortress built in stone and brick by Rasnov’s inhabitants for refuge and defense) – Bran (visit the Castle built by the Knights of the Teutonic Order between 1211 – 1225) – Peles Castle a Neo-Renaissance castle placed in an idyllic setting in the Carpathian Mountains, on a medieval route linking Transylvania and Wallachia, built between 1873 and 1883. 3 stars hotel accommodation in Sighisoara.

Day 15 Sighisoara – Transfagarasan road – Balea Lake – Poienari Fortress – Bucharest

Breakfast. City tour Medieval Sighisoara: Discover the only city in Romania which looks exactly the same way as in the 16thth century – Sighisoara. Take a trip in time in this one day tour or simply get all the inside information in a walking tour if you are traveling on your own. We drive to Bucharest via Transfagarasan road, built as a strategic military route, with the highest point at 2042m making it the most dramatic paved road in Romania, connecting the historic regions of Transylvania and Wallachia. Stop to Balea Lake which is a natural glacier lake at 2040 meters elevation, (130 km from Sighisoara) and Poienari Fortress (We drive on Transfagarasan highway, built as a strategic military route, is the second-highest paved road in Romania and considered by some to be the most dramatic, Visit Poienari Fortress, the real Vlad Tepes’ Residential Castle and Balea Lake to Bucharest (240 km). Arival in Bucharest about 8 pm. Accommodation and overnight at 3* hotel.

Day 16 After breakfast Bucharest tour and end of program and services.

Price : 1985 EUR per person /double occupancy/ Minimum : 6 participants

SINGLE SUPPLEMENT : 450 EUR

Included : Transportation with knowledgeable English speaking driver=guide with luxurious AC car or van, 7 BB overnights in 3-4 star hotels in Tirana, Saranda, Gjirokastra, Korca, Ohrid, Demir Kapija, Skopje, Local professional English speaking guide in Albania, Local professional English speaking guide in Macedonia, Entrance fees in Museum of Medieval arts, Archeological Museum in Korca, Phoinice, Mesopotam, Monastery in Kalista, St Sofija, Samuils fortress, Plosnik, St Pantelejmon, St Jovan Kaneo, St Naum, boat ride on the springs of river Crni Drim, Bay of bones, Stobi site, 4 overnights in 3-4 star hotels in Sofia, Plovdiv, Trjavna and Veliko Tarnovo, 1 overnight in 2 Star hotel in Rila Nature Park, Local professional Bulgarian guide and driver including his accommodation, Entrance fees in Boyana Church, National Museum of History in Sofia, the Roman theater in Plovdiv, Bachkovo monastery with old dinning room, the Thracian tomb of Kasanlak, Etar Architectural-Ethnographic Complex, Tsarevets medieval fortress and the rock-hewn Churches of Ivanovo, 3 overnights with breakfast in 3 star hotels in Brasov, Sighisoara and Bucharest, Local professional Romanian guide and driver (English language) including his accommodation, entrance fees for Peles, Bran, Rasnov, Sighisoara, 24 hours professional Logistics and support of Balkan network of selected travel partners – tour operators

Not included: other meals, drinks, personal expenses.

APPLICATION DEADLINE : 180 DAYS PRIOR DEPARTURE

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