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Western Balkans Uncovered


Be the star of your own historical epic as you walk along the city walls of ‘Game of Thrones’ fame in Dubrovnik, explore the World Heritage-listed architecture of Montenegro’s Kotor, and stroll down hidden alleyways that have existed since ancient times. This adventure combines the must-sees of the Balkan region and the lesser-known glories of North Macedonia and Albania to create the perfect blend of old and new. Hang out in some of Europe’s most atmospheric and lesser known Old Towns, cruise around Lake Ohrid, and explore boutiques in Tirana. You’ll check out regional hot spots and experience a hefty dollop of cultural hospitality on this immersive 12-day journey.

12 days, from

$2,583

per person

GROUP SIZE

12 people max

ACTIVITY LEVEL

 
2
Trip code: WMKK
Style: Comfort
Theme: Explorer

Details

Countries Visited:  Albania Croatia Macedonia, Republic Of Montenegro Kosovo
Accommodation: Hotel (11 nights)
Transportation: Private vehicle , Taxi
Included Meals:

  • 11 breakfasts
  • 2 lunches
  • 1 dinners

Group size: Minimum 1, Max 12

  • Sail across the blue waters of Lake Ohrid, one of Europe's oldest lakes. No wonder North Macedonia and Albania share this beautiful attraction – nobody would want to let it go.

  • Admire the World Heritage-listed architecture of Dubrovnik and Montenegro’s Kotor as you walk along their ancient city walls.

  • Enjoy a traditional Balkan dinner, featuring dishes like stuffed peppers, cheese and spinach pies, hearty meat dishes, plenty of grilled and fresh veggies, and perhaps a glass or two of raki.

  • Lose yourself in Tirana, Albania's colourful capital, and explore the wonders of Berat on walking tours with expert local guides.

  • Venture out to Matka Canyon, a deep ravine cut into the Suva mountains by the Treska River, and explore this beautiful natural area on foot or by boat.

Itinerary

Show Full Itinerary

Day 1: Skopje

Welcome to Skopje. If you arrive early in North Macedonia's capital city, you may like to step back in time with a visit to the Daut Pasha Hamam or explore the 30 mosques, innumerable caravanserais, and hamams that fill the winding streets as a testament to Skopje’s Ottoman past. Discover the statues and grand monuments the city has become famous for, like the massive statue of Alexander the Great on horseback in the centre of Macedonia Square, or stroll past Byzantine domes, Turkish baths, and neo-classical buildings, sampling gozleme and baklava along the way. After the group welcome meeting, you may like to head out with your travel pals to a local bar or restaurant.

Day 2: Matka Canyon / Skopje

Venture out to Matka Canyon, a deep ravine cut into the Suva mountains by the Treska River, 15 kilometres southwest of the city. This area is home to several medieval monasteries, caves, and over 70 species of endemic butterflies. Explore the canyon's sights by boat or take one of the many nature walks in the canyon, or up to the tracks that hug the ridge high above the valley. When you arrive back in Skopje, the afternoon and evening are yours to explore the city your way. Get lost in the narrow lanes of Caršija, Skopje's most atmospheric neighbourhood, or take in the stone bridge over the river Vardar. Perhaps visit the Museum of the City of Skopje, which is housed in the old Railway Station, and learn the story behind the building’s clock.

Day 3: Prizren / Skopje

Enjoy a day trip to historic Prizren, Kosovo’s second biggest, and arguably most beautiful city. Prizren was spared from destruction in the 1999 conflict and is filled with traditional handicraft shops and Ottoman charm. On arrival, head out an orientation walk of the city, starting alongside the Bistrica river, taking in the cobbled Shadervan square and the Old Stone Bridge, and exploring the Kalaja Fortress. Explore famous mosques and see the abandoned Serbian Orthodox churches which stand as sombre reminders of the ethnic divisions that still simmer under the surface. Wander the bazaar or admire some of the traditional jewellery in the many filigree shops before returning to Skopje.

Day 4: Lake Ohrid

In the morning, board your private transport to Lake Ohrid and enjoy the scenery during the drive. Europe’s oldest lake, and one of the oldest human settlements in the world, Ohrid has a wealth of historic sites and religious monuments to discover. The town is said to have once been home to 365 churches, one for each day of the year, earning it the nickname “the Macedonian Jerusalem”. Despite being a World Heritage site for over 30 years and having historical excavations dating back to Neolithic times, the town remains under the radar for visitors. Get your bearings on an orientation walk around the old bazaar area and enjoy free time to explore on your own.

Day 5: Lake Ohrid

Embark on a scenic cruise on the turquoise waters of Lake Ohrid, ringed by mountains, attractive villages and beaches, and take in the views of the town and the surrounding scenery. At 34 kilometres long, 14 kilometres wide, and over 300 metres deep, all shared between Albania and North Macedonia, there’s plenty to explore. The afternoon is free for you to discover the area your way. There are many churches and monasteries to visit, but one of the most popular is the Macedonian Orthodox Church of Sveti Jovana Kaneo, situated on a rocky outcrop above the town, overlooking the lake. Past the church you can wander around to the back of town, exploring the old walls and fortress, and admiring the views of the lake. Lying on the shores of the lake, with well-kept grounds that are home to peacocks, the Sveti Naum Monastery is also a great option. Tast Samoil’s Fortress stands on the top of Ohrid Hill and overlooks the town, while a 2,000-year-old Roman theatre was uncovered near the Upper Gate – in summer it’s still used for concerts and performances.

Day 6: Berat

Take it slow as we cross the border into Albania and continue to the remote and rarely visited town of Berat, a gem of a town that was lucky to escape destruction during communist times. Learn about the city on a guided walking tour before climbing up to the still inhabited fortress for fantastic views over town. In the afternoon there is plenty of time to mingle with locals at the park or at the city’s many cafes. The warmth of the Albanian people is infectious and you’re bound to find yourself swapping stories over a glass of raki or three. In the evening enjoy a traditional Balkan dinner with your group, featuring dishes like stuffed peppers, cheese and spinach pies, hearty meat dishes, and plenty of grilled and fresh veggies.

Day 7: Tirana

After breakfast, transfer to Tirana. Learn how the Alps in the rugged north are considered so fierce they're called 'accursed', while the south has one of Europe’s least known and most beautiful coastlines. With its unique mixture of cultures and customs, Tirana is filled with mosques, citadels, Ottoman architecture, and the medieval atmosphere of the Balkans. On arrival, embark on a guided tour to get your bearings in Albania’s capital which is compact and ideal to explore on foot. Filled with architectural influences from Italy and Turkey, upgrades have been made all over town, such as new parks and wide pavements, a process that's still on-going. If the weather is good, you may like to take a cable car ride up Dajti Mountain for breath-taking views of the city below.

Day 8: Kruja / Tirana

Today, take a half-day trip to the mountain village and former Albanian capital of Kruja. Kruja was the last stronghold of Skanderbeg's (the national hero of Albania) army until the Ottomans took over the entire country. Pay a visit to the ethnographical museum housed inside the fortress and enjoy some free time to explore the citadel and famous bazaar area. On your return to Tirana, you may like to visit the National History Museum which has a giant mosaic on its facade that represents the development of Albania's history. The main sight in Tirana is the 1821 Et'hem Bey Mosque, right on the city's main square. Closed under communist rule, the mosque resumed as a place of worship in 1991, a reopening that was considered a milestone in the rebirth of religious freedom in Albania. Take a look at the frescoes outside and in the portico that depict trees, waterfalls and bridges – motifs rarely seen in Islamic art.

Day 9: Shkoder / Kotor

On your way to Kotor, drop into ancient Shkoder which is one of Europe’s oldest cities and the largest town in northern Albania. Upon arrival, head out on a short orientation walk along the Pjaca, the main pedestrianized street which is lined with 19th-century architecture and dominated by Ebu Beker Mosque. Then head north of the city to visit the Venetian era Rozafa Castle, set high on a mountain with panoramic views of Shkoder, Lake Skadar and the Albanian countryside, before continuing to Kotor on the Montenegrin coast, your next overnight stop. Enjoy the rest of the evening in this picturesque medieval town located on the fjord of the same name.

Day 10: Kotor

Enjoy a free day to take in Kotor, Montenegro’s fortified town wedged between soaring mountains and sparkling Adriatic waters. This 5th-century World Heritage-listed city is set on a secluded bay, with towering peaks surrounding a rocky coastline dotted with pretty waterside towns. Its winding alleyways are the ideal spot to mingle with the locals. Check out the 12th-century Cathedral, the South Gates, and the Armoury Square. Later, perhaps take a cruise on the Kotor Fjord – the longest fjord south in Scandinavia – and visit an island with a church that's almost as big as the island itself. In the evening the city walls are lit up and provide a beautiful night-time view.

Day 11: Dubrovnik

Today you will be transferred to picture-perfect Dubrovnik. The main pedestrian promenade, once a shallow sea channel, is now paved with glistening white limestone, in stark contrast to the warm red terracotta roofs. It is hard to imagine a more beautiful city. Join your leader for a walk along the city walls of ‘Game of Thrones’ fame and gaze out over monasteries with cloistered gardens, fine baroque churches with copper domes, and the sparkling waters below.

Day 12: Dubrovnik

Your Western Balkans trip comes to an end this morning. There are no activities planned for today and you're free to depart the accommodation at any time. As there is so much to see in Dubrovnik, we recommend you stay a little longer. We are happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). Please speak to your agent at the time of booking.