ATHENS | Welcome to Athens! Meet up with your tour leader and tour group at the hotel in the morning. An overview of the upcoming itinerary will be given. Then, enjoy an orientation tour of Greece's capital city and explore some of the incredible sights that this ancient city is known for. See top attractions like the Academy, National Library, Greek parliament, Panathinaikos marble stadium, Hadrian's Arch, ana the temple of Olympian Zeus. Tonight, get your first taste of Greek cuisine with an included welcome dinner at a local restaurant.
DELPHI - METEORA - KALAMBAKA | Travel north through the Greek mainland, stopping off in Delphi along the way. In antiquity, Delphi was considered the "omphalos" (navel) of the earth. Admire the Sanctuary of Apollo, the Treasury of the Athenians and visit the museum of Delphi. Arrive in Meteora this afternoon. This dramatic series of rock formations is home to a large complex of Eastern Orthodox monasteries. Explore St. Stephen's Monastery, founded in 1400 by St. Antoninus Cantacuzene and now a nunnery. Peruse the 18th century main cathedral and take in the views of Kalambaka. Catch a glimpse of the Holy Trinity Monastery perched atop a single rock formation before we depart. Stay over in the nearby town of Kalambaka this evening.
KALAMBAKA - OHRID | This morning we'll travel on into North Macedonia and the undiscovered jewel of Ohrid. A UNESCO World Heritage Site on the shores of Lake Ohrid, this city is one of the oldest human settlements in Europe, and is notable for once having had 365 churches, one for each day of the year. We'll explore the Old Town on a guided tour, where you'll see the famous sights, including the Church of St. John at Kaneo, which is situated on a cliff overlooking Lake Ohrid. To finish off the day we'll enjoy an included dinner this evening.
OHRID - TIRANA | This morning, depart North Macedonia and journey to its Balkan neighbour Albania, driving into the capital city, Tirana. In a story typical of many cities in this part of Europe, Tirana has undergone a remarkable transformation, shaking off communism to become a vibrant, fun city. You'll be introduced to the city on a walking tour, from the buildings painted in bright colours, to the architecture influenced by the Ottomans, Italians and of course communism.
BUDVA - KOTOR - DUBROVNIK | Heading north, bid farewell to Albania and travel through Montenegro. Today's first stop is the picturesque coastal town of Budva, known for its well preserved medieval walled city, which you will have some free time to explore. Next, it's time to make a comfort stop at the UNESCO World Heritage-listed town of Kotor. The old port of Kotor is surrounded by fortifications built during the Venetian period and is a picturesque Mediterranean landscape. Later, the tour continues onwards to Croatia. On arrival in Dubrovnik, your tour leader will take you to the entrance gate to the Old Town, which you can explore during your free time this evening.
DUBROVNIK | This morning, join a local guide for a walking tour of the Old Town to see the Franciscan Monastery, trie City Walls and more. The rest of the day is free to explore Dubrovnik's incredible history! Want the best views of the 'old town' and islands? Catch the cable car to the top of Mount Srdj and enjoy! It is highly recommended for a scenic sunset photo or two. Visit one of the city's many museums; the Maritime Museum is one of the most popular, or maybe just browse the shops, including the traditional jewellery shops where you can find unique handmade silver or gold jewellery. The Game of Thrones walking tour is another popular optional excursion!
MOSTAR - NORTHERN CROATIA | Today, a true Balkan gem is on the itinerary. Hop aboard the coach and cross the border into Bosnia and Herzegovina - a Balkan country filled with rich history and culture, which is also home to beautiful towns and scenic landscapes! Arrive in Mostar, a historic Balkan town. This enchanting town has been rejuvenated following the tumultuous years of the Bosnian War. Its most famous site is Stari Most Bridge which is an icon of the city. Enjoy free time to explore Mostar's numerous religious buildings and see the Roman and Ottoman influences before travelling back to Croatia this evening.
PLITVICE LAKES - LJUBLJANA | The tour continues today with a mix of sublime scenery and the stunning Slovenian capital! Begin with a visit to one of the most picturesque natural landscapes in the whole of Europe. The Plitvice Lakes National Park is known internationally for its cascading waterfalls and dynamic landscape. Take a tour of the reserve, stroll along the boardwalks and marvel at the incredible natural scenery of Croatia's largest national park. Next, travel onwards to the pint-sized city of Ljubljana in Slovenia. Join a local guide on a walking tour of this fairytale city. Later, choose to join the Slovenian evening optional excursion for a fun night of live music, singing and dancing with a three-course meal.
LJUBLJANA - BUDAPEST | Today it's time to travel into Hungary and head for the capital. Budapest is cited as one of the most beautiful cities in Europe! Straddling the historic Danube River, Budapest is well-preserved and boasts numerous UNESCO World Heritage Sites - its incredible architecture and natural geo-thermal springs are definite highlights of this famous Eastern European city! Arrive and enjoy a driving tour of the city with a local guide to see top sights such as the Castle District and tne Hungarian Parliament buildings. Enjoy an included dinner with the group tonight and toast to the first night in Budapest!
BUDAPEST - FREE DAY | With traces of the past evident in the interesting and unusual details found across the city, today is your chance to get up close and personal with Budapest! Look out for remnants of the conflicts of WWII and the uprising of 1956, try Hungarian cuisine (there is so much more to it than just goulash!), sample world-renowned wines or soak your weary rambler's bones in one of the city's famous bath-houses. Budapest has been known for its thermal spas since Roman times, with some 123 thermal and 400 mineral springs from 14 different sources located in the city! Tonight, why not enjoy a mesmerising view of Budapest during an optional dinner cruise on the Danube? It's sure to be an unforgettable night!
BUDAPEST - BELGRADE | Say goodbye to Budapest as the tour continues onwards to Belgrade in Serbia. Arrive in Serbia's capital city and embark on a walking tour with a local guide. Look forward to seeing the city's highlights including Republic Square, the Bohemian Quarter (Skadarlija), Kalemegdan Park and Belgrade Fortress. Serbia is nestled in the heart of the Balkans and Belgrade is the vibrant city at the centre of it all. The city is located where the Sava and Danube rivers meet and it is an exciting mix of history, culture, grit and character! Tonight, enjoy an included dinner with the group.
NIS - SOFIA | See more of Serbia this morning. Today's first destination is Nis. Enjoy a lunch stop in this historic city in south-eastern Serbia that was ruled by the Turks from the 14th to the 19th century. Visit the quaint cobbled streets of Tinkers Alley (Kazandzijsko Sokace). This nostalgic alley in Nis is the last preserved portion of the craftsman quarter from the age of the Ottomans. Afterwards, travel onwards to Sofia, Bulgaria's capital city. Get to know the main sights on a driving and walking tour of Sofia - this is a perfect introduction to this bustling Bulgarian capital city! Enjoy an included dinner with the group tonight.
SOFIA - FREE DAY | Enjoy a free day to explore Sofia! A young and vibrant city, the capital of Bulgaria offers a mesmerising east-meets-west atmosphere against a backdrop of contrasting communist ana contemporary architecture. There's a partially exposed 1,800-year-old Roman city to discover, plenty of green spaces to relax in and a variety of churches and mosques to explore. Alternatively, the optional excursion to Rila Monastery, which includes visits to the Boyana Church and Communist Junk Museum en route, is highly recommended today. This ancient Eastern Orthodox monastery features striking architecture, important historical relics and beautiful frescoes and is surrounded by the stunning Rila Monastery Nature Park. Don't miss out on one of Bulgaria's top cultural sights!
SOFIA - TFIESSALONIKI | After two weeks spent encountering the magic of the Balkans, today the tour heads back to Greece! In the afternoon, arrive in the northern port city of Thessaloniki and embark on an orientation tour of the historic centre. Its compact size makes it a delightfully walkable city! The orientation tour wraps up at the Thessaloniki waterfront, close to the famous White Tower. Here, there are plenty of restaurants and bars. Choose a spot and enjoy an evening of delicious Greek food and lively nightlife!
TFIESSALONIKI - ATHENS | Buckle up once again and head south through the Greek countryside. Today the tour returns to Athens. Along the way, enjoy a stop in Kamena Vourla which is located on the south coast of the Malian Gulf. Here, find a local spot to grab lunch in this scenic destination. Next, it's time to get back on the road. Arrive in Athens later today. Check into the hotel in Athens before enjoying a farewell group dinner. It's officially the last night of the tour which means it’s the perfect opportunity to reminisce about an incredible time spent exploring the Balkans and make a few more memories before the tour ends tomorrow.
ATHENS | After breakfast, this 16-day Balkan extravaganza concludes. The time has come to say your goodbyes to your fellow travellers. We hope you have enjoyed your tour with Expat Explore!