Treasures of the Balkans
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Alps, Central & Eastern Europe

Regional Journey

Treasures of the Balkans (Summer 2019)

Duration: 18 days Visiting: Romania, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Albania, Montenegro, Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, Hungary

Prices from US${{lowPrice | number:0}}

Menu
  • Overview
  • Itinerary
  • Highlights
  • Optional experiences
  • Accommodation
  • Reviews
  • Dates & prices

This is where the sway of the Mediterranean meets Central Europe and blends with the exotic East. From the Danube to Dracula's castle, there is history at every turn.

  1. Day 1

    Welcome to Bucharest.

    Transfers depart Henri Coandă International Airport at 12:00, 14:00 and 16:00 for your hotel, which is one of the city's most sophisticated and prestigious landmarks. At 18:00, join your Travel Director and fellow travellers for your Welcome Dinner served with wine.

  2. Day 2

    From Bucharest to Brașov.

    Join a Local Expert for a sightseeing to view University Square and the former communist headquarters. Visit the immense Parliament Palace, one of the largest buildings in the world. Travel along the Prahova Valley to the elegant mountain resort of Sinaia to visit Peleș Castle, the former summer residence of Romania's first royal family. Led by a local historian, admire the lavish rooms filled with art, armour and tapestries. Continue through the Carpathian Mountains to the charming medieval city of Brașov, founded in 1211 by the Teutonic Knights.

  3. Day 3

    Transylvania: Castles and Myths.

    With your Local Expert, take a walk around Town Hall Square, lined with beautiful red-roofed houses and dominated by the Black Church. Visit the medieval fortress guarding the Transylvanian border that is said to be the inspiration for Bram Stoker's novel, Bran Castle. Explore inside this national monument of Romania and discover if this popular image of Dracula's castle is true or like the vampire story itself, only a myth.

  4. Day 4

    Veliko Tarnovo.

    Cross the Danube into Bulgaria and continue to Veliko Tarnovo, the City of the Tsars, where houses cling to the cliffs of the River Yantra, making it one of the country's most beautiful towns. In the evening, enjoy a Highlight Dinner of local specialties and wine, followed by an authentic folklore show.

  5. Day 5

    From the Old Bulgarian Capital to the New.

    In the morning, see the Monument of the Assens, before meeting your Local Expert to climb up to the ruined Tsarevets Fortress, a reminder of the town's former imperial status. Enjoy the stunning views over the old Bulgarian capital and the Yantra Valley. Arbanasi is one of Bulgaria’s most beautiful villages and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The frescoed churches and fortified dwellings offer a unique insight into the former wealth and spiritual commitment of the settlement. Visit a traditional 17th century merchant's house and the Church of the Holy Nativity. Cross the Balkan Mountains to Bulgaria's modern day capital of Sofia. On arrival, sightseeing with a Local Expert takes you to St. Sofia Church, across the square from the golden domed St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral and the archaeological complex, dominated by the church of St. George Rotonda.

  6. Day 6 - Relaxed Start

    Sofia at Your Pace.

    Enjoy the day at your leisure. Perhaps visit the Rila Monastery and enjoy a fascinating insight into the largest and most famous Eastern Orthodox monastery in Bulgaria? Throughout the centuries, this popular tourist destination has been the spiritual, educational and cultural centre of Bulgaria.

  7. Day 7

    Skopje.

    Cross the border and continue to the Macedonian capital of Skopje, an ultra-modern city juxtaposed by an ancient bazaar, where Turkish influences can still be seen and felt.

  8. Day 8 - Relaxed Start

    Ohrid and Tirana on the Move.

    Making your way to the border, stop by the scenic Lake Ohrid for lunch. As you cross into Albania and journey to Tirana, renowned for its friendly locals, you are joined by a resident expert. Continue to the landmark Skanderbeg Square for an insider’s look at the Albanian capital.

  9. Day 9

    Kotor and Dubrovnik.

    Journey through the spectacular scenery of Montenegro to the Old Town of Kotor, known as Stari Grad. Located beside a beautiful bay near the limestone cliffs of Mt. Lovćen, its no surprise it's a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Continue over the Croatian border to the fortified port of Dubrovnik where you are at leisure to explore the Old Town, bustling with street artists, cafes and restaurants.

  10. Day 10 - Relaxed Start

    Dubrovnik Sightseeing.

    Join a Local Expert for a morning of exploring the stone-paved streets within the 16th century bastions. See Onofrio's Fountain and the Rector's Palace, the city walls and the Franciscan and Dominican monasteries. The rest of the day is free for you to immerse yourself in the beautiful surroundings. Perhaps enjoy an Optional Experience to a stunning town on the Adriatic coast, Cavtat, where you can wander along the pine-forest paths beside the crystal-clear sea. At night you may choose from a fine selection of restaurants for your Dine-Around Evening.

  11. Day 11 - Relaxed Start

    Dubrovnik, Paradise on Earth.

    Spend another day at leisure in the Pearl of the Adriatic. Sunbathe by the pool or stroll with friends along the ancient city walls. Perhaps explore some of the filming locations of the award-winning series 'Game of Thrones' and appreciate the enterprising spirit of the Old Harbour? As the sun starts to set, maybe take a relaxing cruise to admire the city and its incredible walls from the water.

  12. Day 12

    Mostar and Sarajevo.

    Journey to Mostar. With your Local Expert, see the famous Stari Most, the Old Bridge, reconstructed after being almost completely destroyed during the war. Explore the cobbled Old Town stretching on both sides of the bridge and filled with shops selling souvenirs. Continue your travels following the scenic route to Sarajevo for a unique and rewarding insight into the local way of life as you are invited into a Sarajevan family home for a dinner with drinks. Savour the authentic cuisine and traditional Bosnian coffee as you hear inspirational stories.

  13. Day 13

    Sarajevo, City of Culture.

    Start the morning with sightseeing. Visit the Sarajevo War Tunnel Museum and talk to one of the survivors, for whom the Siege of Sarajevo remains a defining moment in his life. With a Local Expert, see the Latin Bridge where Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated sparking World War 1. The rest of the afternoon is for you to explore as you wish.

  14. Day 14 - Relaxed Start

    The Serbian Capital of Belgrade.

    Journey through the remote villages and spa resorts of the forested Bosnian mountains to Belgrade.

  15. Day 15 - Relaxed Start

    The Best of Belgrade.

    Join a Local Expert to see the best of Belgrade including Terazije Street, the national museum and national theatre in Republic Square, as well as a visit to the famous St. Sava Church. Finish your sightseeing at the Kalemegdan Fortress, situated at the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers. Enjoy a free afternoon to relax or continue exploring on your own.

  16. Day 16

    Across to Budapest.

    Journey north and cross the Province of Vojvodina to reach Palić on the Hungarian border. See the picturesque lake, where you can admire the art nouveau buildings. Continue on through the vast wilderness of the Puszta, where once cowboys rustled up goulash under the stars. Your destination will be Budapest on the Danube.

  17. Day 17

    Budapest, Queen of the Danube.

    Venture into the heart of Buda's medieval Castle District with a Local Expert to visit Matthias Church and take in the view of the immense Hungarian Parliament Building from the Fisherman's Bastion. Cross the Danube to the Pest district to visit Heroes' Square and travel down elegant Andrássy Boulevard. Enjoy time to wander through the Central Market Hall. Spread over three levels, the market is a foodie's paradise, brimming with aromatic food stalls offering delicious salamis, spicy paprika, delicious Tokaji wines and an array of flavoured Pálinkas, a traditional Hungarian fruit brandy. Tonight you are in for a treat with your Celebration Dinner at Gundel, one of Budapest's most renowned restaurants for over a hundred years. Dine in elegance as you savour hearty, Hungarian delicacies accompanied with specially-selected Hungarian wine.

  18. Day 18

    Depart Budapest.

    Departure transfers arrive at Ferenc Liszt International Airport at 07:00 and 11:00.

Highlights

 

INSIGHT EXPERIENCES

  • Sarajevo: Visit the Tunnel of Hope and hear a firsthand account of when the city was under siege for 44 months from a resident who was privy to the city's secret lifeline.

TOP RATED HIGHLIGHTS

  • Bucharest: Walk the cavernous halls of the vast Palace of Parliament, learn about the history and listen to amusing tales from your Local Expert.
  • Bucharest: During sightseeing with your Local Expert see University Square and the former Communist Headquarters.
  • Sinaia: Led by a local historian, witness the opulent and sumptuous décor in Peleș Castle, the fairy-tale Royal summer residence, at the foot of the Bucegi Mountains.
  • Bran: Visit the imposing medieval castle guarding the old Transylvanian border and embrace its stories, myths and legends from Count Dracula to romantic Queen Marie.
  • Brasov: Explore Town Hall Square with your Local Expert and see the Black Church.
  • Veliko Tarnovo: With your Local Expert, see the Monument of the Assens, dedicated to the Bulgarian Kings.
  • Arbanassi: At the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Arbanassi, visit a traditional 17th century merchants' house and enjoy the acoustics in the Church of the Holy Nativity.
  • Veliko Tarnovo: Ascend Tsarevets, the King’s Hill, crowned by a ruined medieval citadel. Enjoy the views and imagine yourself back in the days of the Crusades when this was the capital of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom.
  • Skopje: Visit the capital of Macedonia.
  • Ohrid: Walk the cobbled, narrow streets of the Old Town with your Local Expert.
  • Tirana: Meet a local resident who will show you Skanderbeg Square and walk you through their home city as they explain what it's like to live in the Albanian capital.
  • Kotor: Visit the Stari Grad, also referred to as the Old Town, perfectly positioned on a beautiful bay.
  • Dubrovnik: Your Local Expert will guide you through this ancient city, surrounded by well-preserved walls built in the Middle Ages. See Onofrio's Fountain, the Rector's Palace and the Franciscan and Dominican monasteries.
  • Mostar: Explore the Old Town and see the Stari Most with your Local Expert.
  • Sarajevo: A Local Expert will show you the cobbled old town market where Sarajevo was founded by the Ottomans, known as Baščaršija. You will also see the Gazi Husrev-beg Mosque and the Latin Bridge where Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated.
  • Belgrade: A Local Expert will show you St. Sava Church, Terazije Street, the national museum, national theatre, Republic Square and the Kalemegdan Fortress.
  • Palić: Visit this town sitting on the Serbian-Hungarian border. See the water tower and the art nouveau buildings by the lake.
  • Budapest: With a Local Expert, visit the colourful Matthias Church in the heart of Budapest's Castle District.
  • Budapest: Visiting the Central Market Hall is a foodie's dream. Accompanied by your Local Expert, wander three levels of stalls, brimming with mouthwatering salamis, spicy paprika, Hungarian wines and a whole lot of Pálinka.
  • Scenic Drives: Venture through Prahova Valley and pass the Carpathian and Balkan Mountains, Lake Ohrid, Bosnian Mountains. Travel through the Province of Vojvodina and Puszta Region.

AUTHENTIC DINING

  • Veliko Tarnovo: Enjoy a Highlight Dinner of local specialties with wine and witness a folklore show.
  • Dubrovnik: You will be offered a varied selection of charming restaurants to choose from for your Dine-Around Evening.
  • Sarajevo: You are invited into a Sarajevan family home for a dinner with drinks. Savour the warm hospitality and authentic cuisine as you hear inspirational stories about their culture and recent struggles.
  • Sarajevo: Experience authentic Bosnian coffee and learn about the traditional ritual of coffee preparation.
  • Budapest: Dine in elegance and savour Hungarian delicacies accompanied with specially-selected Hungarian wine during your Celebration Dinner at Gundel.
  • Dining Summary: 17 Breakfasts (B) and 10 Dinners with Wine (DW) all with tea or coffee.

STAY IN STYLE

  • Sofia: The Hilton Sofia features art deco-styled rooms, and is centrally located, surrounded by the South Park and set opposite the National Palace of Culture.
  • Budapest: The 5-star Corinthia Budapest Hotel is one of the grandest luxury hotels in Budapest. An impressive landmark building with an imposing Neo-classical facade and soaring glass atrium. Excellent technology and personal service ensures an elegant and luxurious stay.

INCLUDED INSIGHT SERVICES

  • Our highly-skilled Travel Director will ensure your journey is seamless, serving as your expert guide, consummate organiser, and friend overseas.
  • Enjoy the comfort of Insight's luxury, air-conditioned, 40-seat coach with double the standard legroom and onboard washroom.
  • Personal radio headsets give you the freedom to wander during visits to famous highlights, without missing any of your Local Expert's fascinating commentary.
  • We carry your bags for you and promptly deliver them to your hotel door.
  • Hotel and restaurant tips are included - you'll never have to worry about how much to give, nor search for foreign currency. We also include all taxes and porterage charges at hotels.
  • Stay connected with friends and family with our complimentary coach and hotel Wi-Fi (where available).
  • From time to time, your Travel Director will enchant you with an Insight Flourish, which is a local specialty representing the destination.
  • If your arrival and/or departure flights are as per the itinerary start and end dates, then transfers are available at scheduled times. If your flights are outside these times, or you have booked additional nights accommodation with Insight Vacations, you may purchase transfers or make your own way from/to the airport.

Optional experiences

Most Insight trips already include a host of bonus highlights and comprehensive sightseeing. There may also be an exciting array of Optional Experiences which will turn an already amazing experience into the trip of a lifetime! These are entirely optional and can be booked through your Travel Director/Local Representative at the commencement of your trip. Please note, many Optional Experiences are operated by independent third party suppliers, not Insight Vacations.

Prices and availability of Optional Experiences are subject to change.

Dinner And Entertainment

Romania boasts a varied and delicious culinary tradition, layered over the centuries by waves of different cultures. Visit a traditional Transylvanian restaurant in Brasov for an evening of delicious Romanian delicacies with music, dancing and wine. You'll also enjoy a short guided tour of the wine cellars with a wine tasting.

Adult Price: EUR 53.00

Code: BRA0002

Traditional Dinner in the Transylvanian Alps

Join us for gorgeous views of Brasov and the Carpathians as we journey deep into the Transylvanian Alps to Poiana Brasov, one of the best preserved mountain areas in Eastern Europe. This well-known winter resort has long been reserved for the rich and powerful. Then we'll enjoy an evening of traditional Romanian cuisine. Grilled appetisers will be served by an open fire in the garden, while a local band entertains us with traditional music in this atmospheric setting.

Adult Price: EUR 55.00

Code: BRA0003

Rila Monastery With Lunch

Rising out of a forested valley, the magnificent Rila Monastery is the largest and most important symbol of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. Founded in the 10th century, it has lasted in various incarnations throughout the ages. From the outside, the monastery looks like a fortress, yet once through the gates you are bedazzled by a series of kaleidoscopic frescoes and red-and-cream striped brickwork, set against the vertiginous green mountains. A local expert explains the apocalyptic artwork beneath horseshoe shaped arches, while black-robed monks go about their business. A truly wonderful day out with lunch included.

Adult Price: EUR 54.00

Code: SOF0001

Cavtat Excursion

The road to Cavtat overlooks the steep coast of the Adriatic sea and presents several opportunities for postcard perfect views. Continue to Cavtat, one of the most enchanting seaside resorts in Croatia - a Mecca for the rich and famous who come every year to moor their yachts at the entrance of Cavtat Bay.

Adult Price: EUR 23.00

Code: DUB0001

Scenic Cruise and Lunch/Dinner

Sit back and enjoy a relaxing cruise around the fabled bay of Dubrovnik. The mighty city walls rise straight from the cliffs that once upon a time were part of yet another island of the Adriatic. Enjoy a typical Dalmatian coast dinner, washed down with local drinks (wine and grappa being the most famous). Then we'll moor for another look at Dubrovnik. (Weather permitting. In some cases the cruise may be operated during the day with lunch).

Adult Price: EUR 57.00

Code: DUB0002

Peljesac – The Great Wall of Ston, Wine & Oysters

A scenic drive along the beautiful Dalmatian coast takes us to the Peljesac Peninsula. We’ll visit Ston, home to the longest fortress system in Europe and the oldest working salt pans on the Continent! Continue past its steep slopes and age-old vines for a tasting in a small family-owned winery followed by a light lunch of local flavours overlooking the bay of Mali Ston, famous for its designation as the number one producer of oysters and mussels in Croatia!

Adult Price: EUR 51.00

Code: DUB0013

Tito's Secret Bunker and Konjic Dinner

Journey southwest of Sarajevo to visit what was once Yugoslavia’s most closely guarded secret, “Tito’s Bunker”. Taking 26 years to build and draining billions of state dollars, the nuclear shelter could house up to 350 members of Tito’s inner circle. Today it's an enduring legacy of a bygone era and an unlikely space for international contemporary art. After, we'll visit the nearby historic town of Konjic to learn about the town’s UNESCO protected craft of woodcarving and then relax with an authentic dinner of regional flavours in this Ottoman-influenced town.

Adult Price: EUR 56.00

Code: SAR0007

Serbian Heritage With Dinner

Drive south through the picturesque Sumadija region to Topola, birthplace of the Serbian Revolution against the Ottomans in 1804. Perched high above the town, visit the amazing Church of St. George, burial place of the Karadjordjevic Royal Dynasty. Don't be fooled by the white marble exterior - inside nearly every inch is bejewelled with stunning mosaic frescoes. Nearby, memorabilia of the royal family is on display at the summer home of King Alexander and Queen Maria. Now head for the spa town of Arandjelovac to enjoy a lavish dinner of local specialties and drinks in a top local restaurant.

Adult Price: EUR 59.00

Code: BEL0002

Danube Cruise Dinner & Drinks

The most leisurely way to discover this fairy-tale city is a private cruise on the Danube with a glass of fine Hungarian wine in hand. See Margaret Island, the Houses of Parliament, Castle Hill with its Fisherman’s Bastion, the Royal Palace, the Citadel and the University. While cruising, enjoy a lavish, gourmet buffet meal of Hungarian specialties and drinks.

Adult Price: EUR 65.00

Code: BUD0001

Revolution Walk & St Stephens

Take a trip back in time to learn of the incredible journey Budapest has taken to once again become the Queen of the Danube. With our local expert, we’ll begin with the moving memorial; “Shoes on the Danube Bank” before discovering Kossuth Lajos Square, situated next to the jaw-dropping Parliament building. We’ll visit the 1956 Underground Museum to hear about the local populace facing off against the might of the Soviet Union during the famous uprising of that year. From darker days to the golden age, we’ll stop in one of the city's many cafes before completing our historic stroll with a visit to the Basilica of St Stephen, whose treasures include the most important relic in Hungary, the miraculous Holy Right Hand of the country’s first King, St Stephen.

Adult Price: EUR 38.00

Code: BUD0015

Accommodation

 

Athénée Palace Hilton, Bucharest.

Bucharest (Heritage) - Romania

Athénée Palace Hilton is one of the city’s most sophisticated and prestigious landmarks. Built in 1914 and situated within the heart of the city it provides spectacular views of Revolution Square.

Aro Palace, Brașov.

Brașov (Traditional) - Romania

This is the only five star hotel in Brasov with a perfect location in the heart of town and a history of outstanding service that dates back over 70 years.

Yantra Grand Hotel, Veliko Tarnovo.

Veliko Turnovo (Traditional) - Bulgaria

Situated at Velchova zavera Square in Veliko Tarnovo – the old capital of Bulgaria, the hotel enjoys magnificent views of the Tzarevets Fortress, the Architectural reserve village of Arbanassi and the University of Veliko Tarnovo.

Hilton Sofia

Sofia (Contemporary) - Bulgaria

The Hilton Sofia features art deco-styled rooms, and is centrally located, surrounded by the South Park and set opposite the National Palace of Culture.

Bushi Resort & Spa/Aleksandar Palace, Skopje.

Skopje (Traditional) - Macedonia

Located in the Old Bazaar district, the Bushi Resort & Spa offers classic style rooms with free WiFi. Make the most of your hotel's facilities by visit its wellness centre, complete with free access to the indoor pool, sauna, spa & Turkish Bath.

The Plaza Tirana

Tirana (Contemporary) - Albania

Just minutes from the city's geographical centre in Skanderbeg Square, The Plaza Tirana is conveniently located in true heart of the city. Trendy, modern interiors enrich a sense of state-of-the-art elegance, while plus, contemporary rooms will make for a comfortable stay.

Hotel Kompas Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik (Contemporary) - Croatia

Overlooking the sea in the beautiful Lapad Bay, the Kompas hotel was fully renovated in 2015 andis only a 2 minute walk to the beach and close to the popular promenade.

Swissotel Sarajevo.

Sarajevo (Contemporary) - Bosnia

Metropol Palace, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Belgrade.

Metropol Palace, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Belgrade.

HomeMetropol Palace, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Belgrade.

Belgrade (Historic) - Serbia

A stunning five star hotel which has always been the heart of Belgrade's social life and the host to all its guests, since originally opening in 1957.

Corinthia Hotel Budapest

Budapest (Heritage) - Hungary

Located in the heart of the city, the Corinthia Hotel Budapest blends classic hotel opulence with the finest five-star luxury. Its refurbished Royal Spa is simply stunning!

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