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Cultural Mosaic of the Balkans

(Albania – Macedonia -  Montenegro – Kosovo – Croatia – Slovenia and Bosnia & Herzegovina)

May 11 to June 01, 2019

The amazing cultural mosaic of the Balkans’ region and its diverse ethnic fabric, combined with its historical importance and natural beauty, offers a glimpse of Europe that is a hidden treasure.
This strikingly beautiful region is radiant in the early summer months, when its acacia forests are flowering. Its famous coastline is dotted with sleepy villages on turquoise bays. Its rugged interior mountains are home to ancient Christian monasteries and churches, spectacular lakes and waterfalls. Visit Roman ruins, medieval churches, fortresses and monasteries, colorful old Turkish bazaars, Ottoman citadels and mosques, and Austro-Hungarian town,  many of which are UNESCO World Heritage sites.
You will journey through the former Communist Yugoslavia: Albania, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Slovenia, Kosovo, Bosnia & Herzegovina. It is a historical crossroads where east and west meet. The region is home to an eclectic mix of people: ethnically, geographically and religiously.
Join us on this enchanting journey and connect with friendly people who will overwhelm you with their legendary hospitality.

Tour Escort: Led by Professor Norman Jones

Our cost (land only): $6,995.00 per person in double occupancy

Single Supplement: $800.00    

Price based on group size minimum of 6 participants and maximum of 12 participants

Approx. airfare from east coast is about $1,000.00 round trip using Turkish air

Your tour Includes:

  • All transfers with assistance

  • Transportation with a modern A/C motor coach

  • Accommodation at first class hotels or best available

  • All meals as per the itinerary and water on board bus

  • Professional English speaking guide

  • All entrance fees to visited sites (mentioned in the itinerary)

  • Tips and gratuities to porters, drivers and guides (including lecturer) - Provided min number of participants is met.

Your tour Does Not Include:

  • International airfare

  • Beverages with meals and meals not mentioned

  • Items of a personal nature, i.e. souvenirs, camera fees, laundry, phone calls, emails, etc.

  • supplement for operating with less than 6 participants

  • Travel insurance – Highly Recommended

  • Dayroom or extra hotel nights necessitated by airline flight schedule changes or misconnections

About your lecturer...Professor Norman Jones is Professor of History of Religious Studies at Utah State University. Holding a doctorate from Cambridge University, he specializes in the interplay of religion and culture, especially on the cultural fault lines where religions meet and national identities are shaped through religious allegiances, as in the Balkans. He teaches the history of Christianity, and his publications, focusing on the early modern world, include work on the relations between Christianity and Islam. He has been a visiting professor at Harvard, Oxford, the University of Geneva, the University of Hong Kong, and Cambridge, as well as the Huntington Library and the Folger Library. His expertise will deepen your understanding and enrich the experience.

View Tour Itinerary

Saturday-Sunday, May 11-12
US - Skopje, (Macedonia)

Depart the US on Saturday evening for Europe, arriving the next day (Sunday) in Macedonia. Meet and transfer to the hotel for check in and overnight.

Monday, May 13
Skopje - Prizren, Kosovo –Pristina – Skopje

After breakfast at the hotel, depart for Prizren in Kosovo, a three and a half hour drive. Explore Prizren’s old town, the cradle of cultural wealth for the people of Kosovo. The walking tour will take you to the Ottoman bridge, the water fountain, many unique mosques, the hamman and tekke. Have lunch at a local restaurant before continuing on to Pristina. Upon arrival, visit Gracanica, an orthodox monastery built by the Serbian king Stefan Milutin in 1321 on the ruins of a 6th-century basilica. The monastery was declared a Monument of Culture and Exceptional Importance in 1990, and in 2006 it was placed on UNESCO's World Heritage List. Drive back to Skopje in Macedonia and have dinner and overnight in your hotel. (B,D)

Tuesday, May 14
Skopje – Stobi – Bitola – Ohrid

After breakfast at the hotel begin the morning tour of Skopje, the capital of the Republic of Macedonia. Situated in the heart of the Balkan Peninsula, the city is rich in tradition dating back over 2000 years. Visit St. Spas Church and Mustafa Pasha Mosque. A drive of approximately one hour will take you to archeological site of Stoby. The old city “…Stobis, vetus urbs…”, as the Roman historian Livy described it in the first century AD, is at the confluence of the rivers Crna and Vardar, between the Aegean Sea and the Central Balkan. It was the largest city in the northern part of the Roman province of Macedonia and the capital Macedonia Secunda. It was an important urban, military, administrative, trade and religious center of two large empires: Roman and Early Byzantine. Have lunch in a local winery and continue on to Bitola. (1-½ hours) where you will walk down the Sirok Sokak. Translating to “wide street”, it is the busy pedestrian boulevard lined with romantic and neo-classical buildings. Bitola, was Roman Heraclea, an important city on the Via Egnatia. Dominated by Bulgarian kings in the middle ages, it was named Manastır by the Ottomans. It was their gateway to Europe, a diplomatic center. Continue traveling to Ohrid (1-½ hours) and check into the hotel for your dinner and overnight. (B,D)

Wednesday, May 15
Ohrid – St. Naum – Ohrid

Spend the morning touring the many 13th and 14th c. churches in Ohrid: St. Bogorodica Perivlepta, St. Sophia Cathedral, St. Pantelejmon (outside) and St. Jovan Kaneo (outside). You will have time to wander in the old bazaar before setting out on a boat tour of Ohrid Lake. After lunch visit the medieval Monastic Complex of St. Naum. Dinner and overnight in Ohrid. (B,D)

Thursday, May 16
Ohrid – Berat, (Albania)

Travel to Berat in Albania, a four hour drive. Upon your arrival have lunch at a local restaurant. A UNESCO World Heritage Site Berat has a unique style of architecture. Known as the “city of a thousand windows” because of its Ottoman houses. Berat is an ancient Illyrian settlement founded in the 4th century BC. The town has 3 different districts: Gorica, situated on the far side of the river; Mangalem, situated on the fortress side of the river and the residential quarter within the fortress known as Kalaja. It sits in the shadow of Tomorri to the east, a mountain rising to nearly 8,000 feet. Have dinner and overnight in Berat. (B,D)

Friday, May 17
Berat - Vlora – Porto Palermo – Saranda

After breakfast travel overland to Vlora (2 hours) on the picturesque Albanian Riviera. Enjoy the scenic mountain ride, descending towards the rocky shore and pristine beaches of the Ionian Sea. You will have many excellent photo opportunities of the natural landscape, unique village settings, and fortresses. Stop for lunch as you make your way towards Porto Palermo where you will visit the castle of Ali Pasha Tepelena. By the middle of the 17th century, the Ottoman Empire’s system of administration of provinces changed into the near-autonomous governance of local rulers who were known as pashas. At the end of the 18th century the sultan appointed Ali Tepelana as governor to oversee most of Epirus, present day southern Albania, and much of the Greek mainland. End your day at a hotel in Saranda for your dinner and overnight. (B,D)

Saturday, May 18
Saranda - Butrint – Ksamili - Saranda

Tour Butrint Archaeological Park. A UNESCO Heritage site, it contains ancient and medieval ruins of a city that was abandoned in 11th c. Begin with the Asclepius temple and continue to the theater, Roman portico, baths, early Christian baptistery, byzantine basilica, the defensive walls and their impressive gates. Have lunch in Ksamili before returning to Saranda where your afternoon will be free to relax or explore the town before dinner. Overnight in Saranda. (B,D)

Sunday, May 19
Saranda - Syri I Kalter – Gjirokstra – Durres

Depart for Gjirokastra with a stop enroute at Syri i Kaltër, a karst spring located on the western slopes of Mount Mali Gjerë. The water in the inner source is a very dark blue, like the pupil of an eye, and a lighter color of blue forms the outer ring - the iris, which gives the impression of a blue eye. Continue to Gjirokastra to visit the castle and Ethnographic Museum. This UNESCO World Heritage Site. A well-preserved Ottoman town, the roofs of many of its old houses are covered in flat dressed stones. It is the setting for Ismail Kadare’s novel Chronicle in Stone. Have lunch before departing for Durres where you will check into a hotel for your dinner and overnight. (B,D)

Monday, May 20
Durres - Kruja – Tirana – Durres

Depart after breakfast for a one hour drive to Kruja to visit the fortress. Within the walls of the castle you will find the historic museum dedicated to Scanderbeg, the Albanian noble who, after serving the Ottoman Empire as a governor, led a rebellion against it in the 1460s. You will also tour the ethnographic museum offering a unique perspective of the cultural life of northern Albania. Walk to lunch down cobblestone pathway to the Ottoman bazaar, with wooden shops and displays of various gifts and antique household goods. After lunch, drive one hour to Tirana, the capital city of Albania. Some of the historical highlights include the city center, Skanderbeg Statue, Et’hem Bey Mosque, the clock tower and Martyrs’ of the Nation Boulevard. You will also see the socialist realist buildings of the Communist period (1945-1990), painted in vibrant colors. If time permits, you will tour the National Historic Museum before returning to the hotel in Durres for your dinner and overnight . (B,D)

Tuesday, May 21
Durres – Shkodra – Budva, (Montenegro)

Explore the city of Durres beginning with the ruins of the town forum, byzantine walls, Roman Amphitheater, the city center, town hall and the Venetian Tower. Next head to the archaeological museum, with its display of discoveries of this once important city. Drive two hours to Shkodra to tour the Rozafa Fortress. Take in the panoramic view of Skadar Lake on one side and Drin, Buna and Kiri Rivers on the other side. Walk through the main ancient gate, reconstructed in the 20th century. On a clear day, you may have views of the Adriatic Sea and the Albanian Alps. After lunch depart for Budva in Montenegro, a two and a half hour drive to your hotel. (B,D)

Wednesday, May 22
Budva – Kotor – Lovcen – Budva

Head to Kotor (40 minute drive), located along one of the world’s most beautiful bays. A city of traders and famous sailors, Kotor is a walled medieval city of twisting, pink-paved streets and eclectic markets. Built between the 12th and 14th centuries, the architecture reflects Byzantine and Venetian influences. Proceed through the narrow streets to St. Triphon's piazza to visit the cathedral before heading to the National Park of Lovcen, a cobalt cove hemmed in by commanding cliffs, rippling gulfs and sparkling straits. Stop for lunch as you return to Budva where you will have some free time to relax or explore on your own. Dinner and overnight at the hotel. (B,D)

Thursday, May 23
Budva – Sarajevo,( Bosnia & Herzegovina)

After breakfast at the hotel, depart for Sarajevo in Bosnia & Herzegovinia (2-½ hours). Stop on the way to visit Tvrdoš Monastery of the Dormition of the Virgin Mary (6 km from Trebinje). Attractively set amid vines, beehives and orchards, this delightful monastery complex is best known for its wines. Tvrdoš is of great religious significance to Serbian Orthodox Christians as the place where St Basil of Ostrog, a 17th c. ascetic, took his monastic vows. Those with a serious spiritual interest in Serbian Orthodox monasticism will be allowed to venture further into the complex. Continue driving to Sarajevo, with a stop enroute for refreshments (4 hours). Dinner and overnight in the hotel in Sarajevo. (B,D)

Friday, May 24

After breakfast at the hotel, begin the tour of the city. In the 1990s Sarajevo was besieged and on the edge of annihilation. Today, its restored historic center is full of welcoming cafes and hotels. The bullet holes have been plastered over on the city's curious architectural mixture of Ottoman, Yugoslav and Austro-Hungarian buildings. Visit the Tunnel of Hope/Rescue used during the siege to supply the city before lunch at a local restaurant. Free time to walk around to discover the city on your own. Dinner and overnight in at the hotel. (B,D)

Saturday, May 25
Sarajevo – Mostar – Dubrovnik, (Croatia)

Set out on a two and a half hour drive to the historic town of Mostar. Spanning the deep valley of the Neretva River, it was conquered by the Ottoman Empire in the 15th century. In 1565 Suleiman the Magnificent had the Stari Most Bridge build by Sinan, one of the great pieces of Ottoman architeture. In the 1990s civil war most of the historic town and the old bridge were destroyed. The Old Bridge was recently rebuilt and many of the edifices in the Old Town have been restored or rebuilt with the help of UNESCO. Have lunch at a local restaurant then depart on a three hour drive to Dubrovnik in Croatia. Dinner and overnight in Dubrovnik. (B,D)

Sunday, May 26

After breakfast at the hotel, take a walking tour through the white limestone streets, baroque buildings and ancient city walls that protected the Republic of Ragusa for centuries. A wealthy maritime power that rivaled Venice, it was self governing until conquered by Napoleon in 1808. Have lunch at a local restaurant. Enjoy some free time to explore or hunt for souvenirs in the many fine shops. Have dinner and overnight at the hotel. (B,D)

Monday, May 27
Dubrovnik – Split

Depart on a three hour drive to Split arriving in time for lunch at a local restaurant. In the afternoon visit the Palace of Diocletian, built for the Emperpor’s retirment in 305, it is one of the finest Roman complexes anywhere. The city itself incorporates the sprawling palace, including late medieval Catholic churches. Free time to rest before dinner. Overnight at the hotel. (B,D)

Tuesday, May 28
Split – Hvar – Split

After breakfast head to the dock where you will depart on an unforgettable boat tour off the Croatian coast. Hvar is one of the most popular islands situated off the mainland, between Brac Island and Korcula Island. It is known for its exceptionally mild climate, lavender fields and beautiful Pakleni islands archipelago. Explore the ancient town of Hvar, a Venetian naval base, and then sail back to Split. Have dinner and overnight at the hotel. (B,D)

Wednesday, May 29
Split – Plitvice – Zagreb

Get an early start to the day as you head to Plitvice National Park (3 hour drive). Croatia’s most popular tourist attraction, it was granted UNESCO World Heritage status in 1979. The Park has sixteen lakes interconnected by a series of waterfalls. The area is populated by deer, bear, wolves, boar and rare bird species. At the end of the day you will drive two hours to Zagreb where you will have dinner and overnight. (B,D)

Thursday, May 30
Zagreb – Postoja, Slovenia – Ljubljana

Visually, Zagreb is a mixture of straight-laced Austro-Hungarian architecture and rough-around-the-edges socialist structures, its character a sometimes-uneasy combination of the two elements. Enjoy a city tour where you will see The Mimara Museum of art forgeries and the museum of broken relationships before departing on the two and a half hour drive to Postojna in Slovenia. After lunch at a local restaurant, visit Postojna Cave, the largest Karst cave in Slovenia. With as much as 15 miles of underground tunnels it is one of the most visited natural landmarks in Slovenia. Enter the cave by train and then proceed on foot with a guide. Continue to a hotel in Ljubljana for your dinner and overnight. (B,D)

Friday, May 31
Ljubljana – Bled – Ljubljana

Have breakfast then depart for Lake Bled (1 hour). This Alpine lake with the only island in Slovenia, has attracted visitors for centuries with its natural beauty. Set out to visit the island on a pletna, the traditional wooden boat that has been ferrying travelers around the lake for centuries. They are operated by standing rowers known as pletnars. After landing, guests climb 99 stone steps to reach the Assumption of Mary Church. Have lunch at a local restaurant before returning to Ljubljana for a guided tour of the historical city center. After enjoy a boat tour of ljubljana where you can see a diffrent prespective of the City. Have dinner and overnight in your hotel. (B,D)

Saturday, June 01
Ljubljana – USA

After breakfast at the hotel, transfer to the airport for your flight back to the US. (B)

“We (STS) reserve the right to change hotels, restaurants or the order of activities if/as needed”