Cultural Mosaic of the Balkans
(Albania - Macedonia - Kosovo - Montenegro - Croatia - Bosnia)
May 26 to June 10, 2018
The amazing cultural mosaic of the Balkans’ region and its diverse ethnic fabric, combined with its historical importance and natural beauty, will let you savor a Europe that is a hidden treasure. Our special tour goes in depth into Albania, the most undiscovered gem in Europe. Plus the journey through the former Yugoslavia which is home to a very eclectic mix of people, ethnically, geographically and religiously!
This strikingly beautiful region is radiating in the early summer months, with all its mountains covered with green foliage and blooming flowers, as well as its turquoise colored coastline dotted with gorgeous villages. Its rugged interior mountains are home to a gamut of high perching monasteries and churches, spectacular lakes and Waterfalls. Albania is a former enclave of the Ottoman Empire, and today this nation is emerging from its medieval existence under a very strict Communist regime and is filled with surprises, and it offers the visitor a glimpse into a unique culture heritage. Visit flavorful old Turkish Bazaars, Ottoman citadels, mosques and towns, mediaeval churches, fortresses and monasteries as well as ancient Roman ruins and many UNESCO World Heritage sites. Join us on this beautiful journey and connect with friendly people who will overwhelm you with their legendary hospitality.
Tour Escort: Led by local guides
Air & Land Cost per person in double (From NYC) $6,495.00
Single Supplement: $600.00
Airfare credit for doing your own air: $950.00
Group Size: minimum 4 participants; maximum 12 participants
Your tour Includes:
- International airfare from NYC (or other east coast gateways) based on Turkish Airlines schedule and fare.
- All transfers with assistance.
- Transportation with a modern A/C motor coach.
- Accommodation at first class hotels.
- All meals as per the itinerary.
- Professional English speaking Guide.
- All entrance fees to sites mentioned in the itinerary and Boat trip in Ohrid.
- Daily bottled water on bus while touring.
- Airport taxes, fuels surcharges and security charges (At today’s current rate of $440.00 – based on JFK origination)
Your tour Does Not Include:
- Tips and gratuities to porters, drivers and guides.
- Airfare from your home town or other cities to JFK or supplement from other gateways.
- Dayroom or extra hotel nights necessitated by airline flight schedule changes or misconnections.
- Beverages with meals and meals not mentioned.
- Trip surcharge to operate below required minimum participants.
- Items of a personal nature, i.e. souvenirs, camera fees, laundry, phone calls, emails, etc.
- Any increase in Fuel costs or airport taxes.
- Travel insurance.
View Tour Itinerary
Saturday-Sunday, May 26-27
USA to Albania
Depart your hometown arriving the next day in Tirana, upon arrival, meet with the Albanian guide and driver. After airport procedures, board the bus and depart to Tirana and transfer to Tirana international hotel or similar for check in, dinner and overnight.
Monday, May 28
Tirana to Kruja and back
Drive to Kruja, the area nearby was inhabited since the 3rd century B.C, Kruja was mentioned for the first time as a Christian religious center in the year 879. The famous English painter, Edward Lear, who visited Kruje in 1848, wrote: “Kruje, a charming little town all up in the sky”. Head to Kruja fortress with a visit to the museum of Gjergj Kastrioti, Skanderbeg. It honors Gjergj Kastrioti Skanderbeg (1405–1466), a national hero of Albania, the Ethnographic museum and the Old Bazzar. Enjoy lunch at a local family then depart Kruja for Tirana with a stop at your hotel. In the afternoon, start Tirana city tour including a visit to the National Historic Museum, the Statue of Gjergj Kastriot Scanderbeg in Skanderbeg Square, The Center of Development of Culture & Business, formerly the Enver Hoxha Museum, was inaugurated in 1988. Popularly referred to as ‘the Pyramid’, it was designed by a group of architects under the direction of the dictator’s daughter, Pranvera Hoxha, and her husband Klement Kolaneci., the Palace of Culture (Pallati I Kulturës), where the Theatre of Opera and Ballet and the National Library stands, It was completed in 1963 on the site of the former Tirana marketplace, with the first brick being placed by Soviet president Nikita Khruschev in 1959., the Mosque of Haxhi Et’hem Bey at the south east corner of Skanderbeg Square and the Clock Tower next to the Et'hem Bey Mosque. Have dinner at Taiwan center or Piazza restaurant then spend the rest of the evening at leisure and overnight at your hotel. (B,L,D)
Tuesday, May 29
Tirana to Durres to Apollonia and then to Fier
Drive to Durres, one of Albania's oldest cities, the country's main sea port, well known for the nearby beach resort of Durres Plazh, with its wonderful sand and warm sea water. Start your city tour with a visit to the Amphitheatre dating back to the 2nd century AD and containing an early Christian Crypt with a rare wall mosaic and the Archeological museum. After lunch, continue to Fier, upon arrival check into Fieri hotel or similar and then head to Apollonia Park for a visit including a visit to the Archaeological Museum of Apollonia and the Excavation & Monuments of Apollonia. Unfortunately, some of the statues and objects were appropriated before 1946 by other countries. Those remaining are displayed in the museum, which is housed in the monastery. The monastery courtyard enclosed a Byzantine church dating back to the 14th century. Return to your hotel for dinner & overnight. (B,L,D)
Wednesday, May 30
Fier to Berati to Korce
Depart Fier for Berat Known as the “City of one thousand windows” and is declared a Museum City. Start the tour of Berat visiting the fortress even though considerably damaged, remains a magnificent sight. The surface that it encompasses made it possible to house a considerable portion of the cities inhabitants. The buildings inside the fortress were built during the 13th century and because of their characteristic architecture are preserved as cultural monuments. Also visit the Onufri’s museum which has a rich iconographic collection and some religious service items. It is organized in Virgin Mary cathedral, built in 1797 on the foundation of an older church with the same name. It bears the name of the most remarkable Albanian painter, Onufri, who left a very rich fund of iconographic creation. Have a traditional lunch at Mangalemi Restaurant, then continue to Korce, upon arrival transfer to Life Gallery hotel or similar. Check in, dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)
Thursday, May 31
Korce to Ohrid (Macedonia)
After breakfast begin your city tour of Korce which became an important trading and handicraft center in the 18th century due to the development of trade with neighboring regions. The museum of Medieval Art is in Korca. It presents the material culture of the Albanian people. Interesting is also the first Albanian school, opened in 1878, now it is the ABC museum. Depart for Ohrid, with sightseeing of Pogradec en route to Qafe Thane border crossing. Upon arrival in Ohrid, check into your Donco hotel or similar and have dinner at your restaurant alongside the lake and overnight. (B,L,D)
Friday, June 01
Ohrid to St. Naum and back
Start your day with a city tour of Ohrid, classified as a UNESCO`s World Cultural Heritage site. Morning sightseeing tour includes the church of St. Sofia (11th century), the most eminent medieval monument in Macedonia with magnificent Byzantine fresco paintings, and Saint Kliment’s Church with its icon of Annunciation. Have lunch in the old town restaurant then in the afternoon time at leisure then a tour of St. Naum – Boat trip from Ohrid to St. Naum to visit the Monastery, the monastic complex and church of St. Naum were built originally at the turn of the 10th century by the monk of the same name; Macedonians believe you can hear the saint’s heartbeat by pressing an ear to his stone coffin inside the church. While most of its iconostases and frescoes date from the 16th and 17th centuries, earlier etchings in the Byzantine Greek vernacular also remain. The icons of St. Naum are among the best achievements of religious painting in the Balkans. They date from the first half of the 18th century. The wood-carved iconostasis itself was made in 1711 by an unknown artisan. Board the bus at St. Naum and continue to Ohrid. Enjoy dinner at the restaurant and overnight at your hotel. (B,L,D)
Saturday, June 02
Ohrid to Bitola
Continue to Bitola and after a brief city tour in Bitola, which is known as the city of Churches, mosques and bells, visit the Military school, where Kemal Attaturk was enrolled as a young cadet. Lunch then continue to your Kapri hotel or similar, for check in and freshen up. Start an afternoon tour of Heraklia, famous for its dazzling mosaics, ancient theater and Roman baths, Heraklia is the most vividly preserved city from the Ancient Macedonian Empire surviving in the country. Founded in the 4th century B.C.E. and conquered by the Romans two centuries later, it was built on the Via Egnatia and became one of the key stations on this trading route. From the 4th-6th centuries C.E. Heraclea also had an Episcopal seat. The first excavations were done before the First World War, but only since then have the full glories of the ancient city been revealed. Beautiful Roman baths, the Episcopal church and baptistery, a Jewish temple, portico and the Ancient Roman theater now used for summer concerts and theater shows all survive in excellent condition. Have dinner and then overnight at your hotel. (B,L,D)
Sunday, June 03
Bitola to Stobi then to Skopje
Leave Bitola and continue to Stobi an ancient town of Paeonia, later conquered by Macedon, and later turned into the capital of the Roman province of Macedonia, begin your tour of Stobi Park for an hour, it is considered to be the most famous archaeological site in the Republic of Macedonia. Stobi was built where the Erigón River nowadays River Crna joins the Vardar River, making it important strategically as a center for both trade and warfare. Proceed to Negotino winery for a short lunch break and wine tasting with a snack. After lunch proceed to Skopje, upon arrival transfer to your Karpos hotel or similar for check in, rest of the day at leisure walk in the main city promenade. Dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)
Monday, June 04
Skopje to Pristine (Kosovo)
Begin your day with a city tour in Skopje, where you can find the signs of East as it was under the rule of Ottoman Empire for a long time. We spend the day in the old town visiting the Daud Pasha baths once the largest baths in Balkans now the City Art Gallery, the imposing Mustafa Pasha Mosque or the bustling old market area. Possibility to visit St. Panteleimon, Clock Tower, the Turkish Bazaar, the Isa Bey Mosque, the Kapan Khan, the Stone Bridge, Mother Theresa Monument from outside, panoramic view of Modert Art Museum, Railway station and Sveti Spa Church. Lunch on the way, then proceed onward to Pristine, upon arrival, check into Victory hotel or similar for freshen up then start the sightseeing of Pristine. Possibility to see the tomb of Sultan Murad Hudavendigar, the Fatih Sultan Mehmet Khan Mosque & Bath, the Statue of Skanderbeg – The hero Gjergj Kastrioti and the Parliament building. Have dinner, rest of the day at leisure then dinner and overnight at the hotel. (B,L,D)
Tuesday, June 05
Pristine to Kolasin (Montenegro)
Continue towards Montenegro border, lunch on the way to Kolasin head towards Biogradska Gora in the mountainous region of Bjelasica that is located in the central part of Montenegro between the rivers, Tara and Lim, and is surrounded by three municipalities: Kolašin, Berane and Mojkovac. The thing that makes Biogradska Gora unique is the virgin forest. In the very heart of Biogradska's virgin forest is Biogradsko Lake, the largest glacier lake in this National park. Biogradska Gora abounds in cultural and historic heritage consisting of sacral monuments national building and archeological localities. Numerous authentic buildings of traditional architecture at summer pastures and villages spread at limit of virgin forest reserve of mountain Bjelasica. Basic elements of the Park are: untouched forest with trees over five hundreds of years old, large mountain slopes and tops, glacier lakes. The Park is renowned as unique geological - morphological region and as such very attractive for scientific research. When Kolašin was liberated from Turkish rule in 1878, people from the Morača and Rovca presented a part of the forest to King Nikola I Petrović-Njegoš of Montenegro. This forest was known as "Branik Kralja Nikole" and it was protected. Biogradska Gora was proclaimed a National Park in 1952. Upon arrival check into your Lipka hotel or similar and prepare for a buffet dinner. The evening is at leisure, and overnight at the hotel. (B,L,D)
Wednesday, June 06
Kolasin to Podgorice to Cetinje and onward to Kotor
Continue to Podgorice, with a stop at Moraca Monastery for a visit, one of the most significant orthodox Middle Age monuments in Montenegro. It was founded in 1252 by Stefan, son of Vukan Nemanjić, king of Zeta, the grandson of Stefan Nemanja. This is written above the western portal. It consists of an assembly church, devoted to the Assumption of Mary, a small church, devoted to Saint Nicola, and lodgings for travelers. Continue to Cetinje passing through Podgorica, capital of Montenegro. Lunch in Cetinje, a city which was once the royal capital of Montenegro, today, it is one of the landmarks of the country with several museums and embassies that today are historic monuments followed by a short town panoramic tour of the Ethnographic Museum, King Nikola Historic Museum and the Monastery. Continue towards the town of Kotor, upon arrival proceed to your Avala hotel or similar, for check in, later on start Kotor town tour, Its name stems from the word DEKATERA (from the old Greece KATAREO - meaning HOT). Meet your guide for a visit to the Cathedral of St. Tryphon, St. Ivan Fortress, Drago, Prince, Pima and Bizantine Palaces and the town gates. Have dinner and spend the rest of the day at leisure and overnight in Kotor bay. (B,L,D)
Thursday, June 07
Kotor to Dubrovnik (Croatia)
Proceed to the town of Dubrovnik, originally called Ragusa and it was founded in the 7th century, when coastal residents took refuge there under the onslaught of barbarian invasions and begin your tour with a visit to the city then head to visit the Pila Gate, Rector’s Palace, Onofrio Fountain, Church of St. Blaise & Cathedral and also the Franciscan Monastery. Lunch break then proceed to your Petka hotel or similar for check in and freshen up, then have a walking tour and time at your leisure in the town along the seaside. Dinner and overnight at the hotel. (B,L,D)
Friday, June 08
Dubrovnik to Medjugorje to Mostar to Sarajevo (Bosnia)
Start your full day tour to Medjugorje, a village in the southern part of Herzegovina in the present-day state of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Although the apparitions have not been validated by the Catholic Church and therefore official pilgrimages are not allowed, the Shrine of the Queen of Peace at Medjugorje attracts thousands of pilgrims and tourists each year. Head to St. James and for a visit, have time for lunch then depart to Mostar to tour the city which has passed the terrible combating when the country was divided. Mostar is a city and municipality in Bosnia Hercegovina the biggest and the most important center of the Hercegovina Neretva canton of the federation. It was named after its Old Bridge: and the towers on its sides, "the bridge keepers" (natively: Mostari). The bridge was destroyed by Croatian defense Council units during the Bosnian war. Visit the Mostar Bridge, the Old Bazaar and Old Town. Depart for Sarajevo and transfer to Bristol Sarajevo hotel or similar for dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)
Saturday, June 09
Begin your day with a city tour of Sarajevo one of the most oriental and culturally diverse cities in Europe, and had spent over 300 years under Turkish rule until the Austro-Hungarians arrived in the late nineteenth century. The empire collapsed 50 years later when Archduke Ferdinand was assassinated here, hastening the outbreak of the First World War. The late twentieth century saw Sarajevo host the Winter Olympics in 1984, and the long siege of the city during the recent conflict. Head to visit the old town, the town hall, Brusa Bezistan (old bazaar), Sarajevo city museum, the old coopersmiths at work, the Orthodox Church and the Synagoue. Then head to the Roman Catholic Cathedral, the Latin bridge (the site of assassination of King Ferdinand) and the tunnel museum for a visit. Return to your hotel for dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)
Sunday, June 10
Sarajevo to the US
Morning transfer to the airport for your fight back to the US.
“We (STS) reserve the right to change hotels, restaurants or the order of activities if/as needed”