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Journey through Central Europe & Romania


Experience the best of this old-world region on a journey through enchanting Central Europe and Romania. Travel to Austria and be immersed in the country's superb musical heritage and step back in time in the castles of the Czech Republic. Experience Polish traditions while exploring the romantic Old Town of Krakow and get active in Slovakia's Tatra Mountains. Then Explore Hungary and Romania, from the beautiful Baroque churches of Budapest to the haunted castles of Transylvania. Learn about the failed Turkish invasion of Eger and take a wine cellar tour in the Valley of the Beautiful Women. Become acquainted with traditional Romanian culture and customs in Maramures. Tour the medieval churches of Brasov, dine with a local family on an overnight homestay in Viscri and visit Bucharest's 12-storey Palace of Parliament. This epic journey through Central Europe and Romania gives a great insight in to that magical part of the world.

24 days, from

$4,385

per person

GROUP SIZE

15 people max

ACTIVITY LEVEL

 
2
Trip code: AMSCC
Style: Original
Theme: Explorer

Details

Countries Visited:  Austria Czech Republic Hungary Poland Romania Slovakia
Accommodation: Hotel (18 nights), Pension (4 nights), Homestay (1 night)
Transportation: Train , Public bus , Private vehicle , Bicycle , Metro , Taxi , Tram
Included Meals:

  • 21 breakfasts
  • 3 dinners

Group size: Minimum 1, Max 15

  • See the classic Polish cities of Wroclaw and Krakow and feel the emotional wallop of a sobering visit to nearby Auschwitz.

  • Immerse yourself in the history, architecture and bohemian vibes of the Czech Republic. Step right into a fairytale in the World Heritage-listed town of Cesky Krumlov before soaking up the smooth sounds of jazz at a low-lit bar in Prague

  • So much of what is great about Europe can be found in Vienna. Revel in the city's rich offerings of art, history and music and stroll along the eclectic Ringstrasse

  • Enjoy a scenic walk along the banks of the River Danube in Budapest. Threaded with bridges and hemmed in by castles and historic city buildings, Europe’s second longest river is also one of its most beautiful

  • Hike in the picturesque Tatra Mountains and traverse the steep slopes via funicular, gondola and electric steam train

  • Sample the famous Hungarian 'bulls blood' in Eger, the wine that supposedly gave the Hungarian army supernatural strength during their battle against the Ottoman Empire

  • Experience peasant life on a full-day tour through the countryside of Maramures, Romania's most traditional and colourful region. Don't be surprised if you see horse-drawn carts along the road

  • Learn spooky stories while travelling through beautiful Transylvania, famous for its medieval fortified churches and as the birthplace of the inspiration for the world's most famous vampire, Dracula

  • A home-stay with a local family in the Saxon/Roma town of Viscri will expose you to Romanian hospitality and some finger-licking home-cooked grub

Itinerary

Show Full Itinerary

Day 1: Vienna

Welcome to Vienna, Austria. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm. If you do happen to arrive early, why not walk around to get your bearings or, better yet, take a spin on the famous Prater Ferris Wheel nearby for a bird’s eye view. Your base for the next couple of nights is Magdas Hotel – a social enterprise dedicated to supporting refugees in a united and compassionate workplace in Vienna. Magdas employs staff from across the world, so expect to hear many accents from a range of backgrounds. The hotel itself is an eclectic mix of styles, décor and furniture, and used to house a homeless shelter before being renovated for its current purpose. Be sure to check out your surroundings and have a chat to some of the staff! After your important meeting, why not use tonight to get you know your travel pals over some dinner.

Day 2: Vienna

Join your leader for a walk through the city's compact centre this morning (approximately 2 hours). Stop at the gothic St Stephen’s Cathedral, wander past the neo-classical Graben and have a look at the Hofburg Palace. Continue along the Ringstrasse and then finish your orientation walk of the city at the State Opera House – one of the world's most important opera houses and the heart of classical Viennese culture. Then you’re in for a real treat! Stop for kaffe and kuchen (coffee and cake) at Vollpension, a local cafe which empowers older members of the community by providing them with employment and purpose, while bridging the gap between the staff and the younger patrons who visit the cafe. Have a chat with the friendly staff while enjoying your sweet treat in this warm and welcoming environment. This afternoon is then free for you to keep on checking out the sights of the city. Art lovers have a so much choice when it comes to museums, such as the Albertina, located in the Museum Quarter. Otherwise, you might like to head out to Schoenbrunn for a guided audio tour of the grand summer palace, designed by Empress Maria Theresa. Tonight is also all yours too – it might mean snatching a last-minute ticket to an opera performance or getting some of your crew together for a twilight picnic in one of the city’s many parks.

Day 3: Cesky Krumlov

Depart Vienna by minivan in the morning and cross the border into the Czech Republic (approximately 3.5 hours). Your next stop is the southern Bohemian town of Cesky Krumlov. This picturesque medieval town dates back to the 13th century and looks like it’s straight out of a fairy tale. Cesky Krumlov means 'crooked meadow', and that makes sense because it’s situated on a tight bend of the Vltava River. Swap a vehicle for two wheels on a cycling trip this afternoon across rolling hills and through tiny hamlets (approximately 2-2.5 hours). If you have time later on, you could explore the city's castle and its fabulous masquerade hall, or climb the central tower for panoramic views over the town.

Day 4: Cesky Krumlov

Today is a free for you to enjoy as you please. Perhaps take an optional guided walking tour of the town, which lets you in on the mysteries that lie behind every shopfront and house on the crooked laneways. For those who want a bit more culture, you could visit the Egon Schiele Art Centrum and browse the gallery that's dedicated to the Austrian painter. If you’re after something more active, jump into a canoe and check out the town from a different perspective – on the Vltava River.

Day 5: Prague

Leave Cesky Krumlov in your dust and travel by bus to Prague (approximately 4 hours). On arrival into Prague, head out on an orientation walk with your leader so you can get your bearings of the local neighbourhood. For your free afternoon and evening, why not discover another great side of Prague – its music! The city has one of the longest-standing and respected jazz scenes in Europe, with jazz clubs playing into the early hours of the morning. Otherwise, have a wander along Charles Bridge or Old Town Square for some magical photo opportunities.

Day 6: Prague

Today is free to explore Prague. The city offers many possibilities, so perhaps take a walk around the Jewish Quarter and pay your respects at the Gothic-inspired Old Jewish Cemetery. This is Europe's oldest surviving Jewish cemetery, with 12,000 tombstones and 100,000 graves. There is also the Museum of Communism, which details the struggles of many European countries and their political rule in the 19th and 20th centuries. Tonight, be sure to check back in with your group and perhaps organise some dinner and drinks in one of the city’s renowned beer halls – it’s a perfect way to Czech off another day in Prague.

Day 7: Wroclaw

This morning, take local trains and private bus to cross the border into Poland and travel to Wroclaw (approx. 5 hours). Wroclaw is the cultural centre of southwest Poland, sitting on the banks of River Oder for over 1000 years and shaped by influences of Czech, German and Polish rule. Arrive in the early afternoon and settle into your hotel, then follow your leader on an orientation walk around this city that makes it feel as though you’ve stepped back in time. The rest of the time today and tomorrow is free for your own discoveries.

Day 8: Wroclaw

Spend another day exploring Wroclaw however you’d like! You may consider checking out Ostrów Tumski (Cathedral Island), the Old Town Square and the Four Denominations District, where the city’s incredible architecture and history is on full display. Don’t miss out on appreciating Wroclaw from River Oder or experiencing the vibrant cultural scene – your leader will be on hand to give recommendations on local hotspots.

Day 9: Krakow

Hop back on a local train to Krakow (approx. 3.5 hours). Possibly the best known of all Poland's cities, Krakow was the residence of Polish kings from the 11th to the 17th centuries, and its Old Town is a World Heritage-listed site. Take part in a leader-led orientation walk with your group, and once you know your whereabouts, you could go and discover one of the biggest – and arguably most beautiful – medieval squares in Central Europe. Maybe discover Wawel Royal Castle, which sits atop a hill next to the Vistula River. Check out the 13th-century town square of Rynek Glowny and get a glimpse inside St Mary's Basilica which features an extraordinary wood-carved Gothic altarpiece. There's also the lovely neo-Gothic St Francis' Basilica, which has some of Poland's best Art Nouveau. In Krakow, you will also find the second oldest university in Central Europe. Jagiellonian University counts Copernicus and Pope John Paul II among its alumni. Tonight is again all yours to do as you please – a good idea is to make your way to the Jewish Quarter for its laidback vibes and good food.

Day 10: Krakow

Today, take the public bus to Oswiecim and embark on a sobering tour of Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum. Instead of joining a big group tour, we’ll have our own guide taking you through the museum and its sites. Back in Krakow in the afternoon, spend some more time exploring in your own time. Or, if you can tear yourself away from Krakow, head out to the Wieliczka Salt Mines – a network of tunnels and chambers some 135 metres below the ground. This is a salt mine that was in operation for over 700 years and is a World Heritage-listed site. At night, pull up a pew and indulge in a plate of pierogi and a few beers to say cheers to another day.

Day 11: Tatra Mountains

Say farewell to Krakow today and travel by local buses through southern Poland to Zakopane where you will switch for private transport (approximately 5 hours total). The trip may be long and a little slow, but the scenery of rolling hills and tiny villages will keep your eyes occupied. Tatranska Lomnica is your destination in Slovakia. It's a small alpine resort at the base of the Vysoke Tatry (High Tatra) Mountains. The Tatras – the highest range of the Carpathians – stretch for about 60 kilometres across the Polish-Slovakian border and are a hiker’s dream. The evening is free for you to enjoy as you please, and perhaps the best way to do it is to sit back, relax and soak up the atmosphere of this beautiful mountainous region.

Day 12: Tatra Mountains

This morning, head out on an included hike in the High Tatra Mountains. The most known route is about 6 kilometres in length and it is normally completed in 3 hours, including stops on the way. The route includes gradual hill ascents and descents and walking on gravel and uneven rocky surfaces with some slippery sections. The pace and distance will be decided on the day, depending on weather and group abilities – parts of it will involve travelling by funicular, gondola and electric train. During the walk, you may notice that some parts of the forest have been destroyed. This was the result of a tornado-like storm in 2004 that decimated approximately 10,000 hectares of timberland. In the afternoon, head back to the accommodation and enjoy the remainder of the day in this beautiful location.

Day 13: Budapest

You have an early start today for the long journey to Budapest. As there won't be too much free time to explore on arrival, perhaps check in to the accommodation and then go for a brief walk around the neighbourhood to get your bearings. The grand architecture and boulevards, café culture and interesting laneways make this one of the truly great cities of Europe. Take the evening as an opportunity to relax after a long day of travelling. Visiting one of Budapest's many restaurants or eclectic ‘ruin’ bars in the Jewish Quarter is a sure-fire way to have a good night out with your crew.

Day 14: Budapest

Today you have a full free day to explore Budapest. Known as 'The Pearl of the Danube', Budapest is a great city to enjoy from the water. Perhaps take a boat trip along the river or catch a funicular up to Buda Castle for spectacular views of the Parliament Building and the Pest side of the city. You could head to Statue Park to see the communist monuments that were removed from the city after the fall of the Iron Curtain. One unmissable activity is to soak in Budapest's hot thermal baths. The pools vary in temperature, and some even feature whirlpools or seats where you can enjoy a game of chess. You might like to take part in one of our Urban Adventure day tours. See urbanadventures.com for more information.

Day 15: Budapest

Today is free for you to enjoy as you please until tonight's group meeting at 6pm back at the hotel.

Day 16: Eger

Take a two-hour train east to Eger today. This beautifully preserved Baroque town is surrounded by hills and is home to some of the most renowned vineyards in Eastern Europe. Visit the wine cellars of the seductively-named Valley of the Beautiful Women with the group to sample some of the town's famous 'Bull's Blood' red wine, which supposedly gave the Hungarian army supernatural strength during their battle against the Ottoman Empire. Among the Turkish soldiers it was rumoured that the enemy army drank blood diluted with wine, as the firm resistance they encountered couldn't be explained any other way. In your own time, perhaps explore Eger's 13th-century castle, which was the scene of the historic siege that thwarted the Ottoman Empire's advancement into Western Europe. Here you can explore the Gothic Palace, a gallery of fine Hungarian art, and tour underground passageways of archaeological finds. You may also like to check out the town's 19th-century cathedral, the northernmost medieval minaret in Europe for views of the city, or the Minorite church in Dobo Square.

Day 17: Maramures

Travel by bus to the pleasant town of Debrecen today (approximately 3 hours). While here, you'll have time to explore Deri Square with its fountains, colourful buildings, museums, and golden Great Church. Continue on by train and private vehicle across the central plains into the Maramures region of Romania. This second part of the journey should take around six hours. Time in Romania is an hour ahead of Hungary, so don't forget to set your watch. Maramures is also a place that can feel like stepping back in time. The region may be modernising, but among the traditional wooden houses and churches, the traditional music and forests, you can still find parts of life fairly unchanged since medieval times. Upon arrival, settle into your room at the pension, which is run by a local family, and look forward to some hearty home-cooked fare.

Day 18: Maramures

Today you’ll discover more about the region of Maramures ('mah-ra-moo-resh') and how it seems frozen in time. Rich in tradition and folklore, the music, costumes, festivals and ancient superstitions of one of the last peasant cultures in Europe continue to thrive here. Each village is distinctive in its colourful outfits and style of hat. Maramures is particularly famed for its wooden churches, many of which are World Heritage-listed. Set out on a guided group tour to explore the region. You’ll visit the unique Merry Cemetery in Sapanta, where the life stories of the deceased – the good and the bad of their lives – are displayed on colourful wooden crosses. There are poems and limericks, and little pictures illustrating how the person died, all single-handedly carved over 40 years by Stan Ioan Patraş until 1977. The work has continued for the last 30 years by his apprentice. You’ll also see the village museum in Sighetu, an assembly of beautiful local wooden architecture, along with stopping by various other traditional villages.

Day 19: Sighisoara

This morning, get ready for a scenic drive to Sighisoara (approximately 5.5 hours), where you'll feel like you've entered a different world. While the name may conjure up images of haunted castles, gothic churches and vampires, this is only a small part of what makes Transylvania such an enchanting and exciting destination. Medieval Sighisoara is likely to seduce visitors more than any other place in Romania. Another World Heritage site, the town was first settled by the Romans but flourished under the Saxons from the 12th century. Take a walk around the old town, which coils up a narrow hill and is surrounded on all sides by fortified walls, and explore the 64 metre-high clock tower that dominates the citadel. The town is famed as the birthplace of Vlad Dracul III, better known as Vlad the Impaler, whose name was the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s iconic Count Dracula. Vlad III is revered as a folk hero by Romanians for driving off the invading Ottoman Turks, of which his impaled victims are said to have included as many as 100,000. Maybe have traditional Romanian fare at ‘Casa Dracula’ tonight.

Day 20: Viscri

Your next stop is less than an hour away to the village of Viscri.The small Transylvanian village of Viscri was originally inhabited by Saxons from the Luxembourg area, and the whole scene is picture-postcard rural. This idyllic village of red tiled roofs is a World Heritage site, virtually unchanged for 900 years. You’ll visit the town's fortified church (thought to be the oldest in Transylvania). You’ll also learn about the Sock Project, which supports the local Roma community. Time permitting, you may even like to go for a horse cart ride through the area, over pastures and through wondrous woods of oak and hornbeam. In the evening, indulge in a home-cooked dinner prepared by a local family, sampling fresh produce, homemade wines and schnapps. Tonight, stay in rustic houses that the locals rent out to visitors.

Day 21: Brasov

This morning, continue to our next stop Brasov on a private transfer (approximately 4 hours). Also known by its German name of Kronstadt, the town is flanked by mountains and city walls was once a major medieval trading centre. Enjoy free time to explore, checking out the ornate churches, townhouses and squares surrounded by gingerbread-roofed merchants' houses. It's worth visiting the town's main attraction, the gothic (Biserica Neagra) Black Church, which took its name from its blackened appearance after a fire in 1689. Stroll along pedestrianized Strada Republicii, take a cable car up to Mt Tampa, or maybe explore the nearby Rasnov Fortress. The fortification is perched on a rocky hilltop above the town of Rasnov, and was constructed by Teutonic Knights in the 13th century as a place of refuge for the common people from Tartar invaders. For those looking for a little nightlife action, Brasov has plenty of funky bars and restaurants to enjoy once darkness falls.

Day 22: Brasov

Enjoy another free day. It'll be the perfect time to head to Bran Castle, said to be the inspiration for the home of Bram Stoker's Dracula. Though not exactly super spooky, it is undeniably impressive, perched on a high cliff top and surrounded by pine trees.

Day 23: Bucharest

Head south to Bucharest on train today (approximately 3 hours). The city is increasingly known for its cosmopolitan vibe and energy, and while not the most beautiful or stylish city, there are some wonderful art nouveau buildings, ancient churches and monasteries, lush parkland, lakes and elegant boulevards. Romania's interesting capital also likes big things. It’s home to one of Europe's biggest squares, and its Palace of Parliament is the second largest building in the world – former dictator Nicolae Ceauşescu ordered the construction of the 12-storied Palace of Parliament, a building of staggering scale and opulence that includes 1,100 rooms and 4,500 chandeliers. You'll embark on a guided walking tour around town to help you get your bearings, then in free time you can choose to further explore some of the sights pointed out. Maybe seek out some traditional home-cooked Romanian food with your fellow travellers tonight.

Day 24: Bucharest

There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time. For those who wish to stay longer in Bucharest please enquire about additional accommodation at the time of booking.