Serbia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Albania, Montenegro
Day 1: arrival Belgrade (SERBIA)
Day 1 - Arrival Belgrade, Serbia
Arrive to Nikola Tesla International Airport of Belgrade, and transfer to your hotel. The rest of the day is free.
Overnight in Belgrade – Hotel Moskva 4*
Day 2 - Belgrade city tour
Enjoy this morning a city tour of Belgrade, capital of Serbia since 1403, when Despot Stefan, son of Prince Lazar, moved his palace here.
We will start our tour by walking from the elegant Republic Square, where we will make a close inspection of its architectonic monuments such as the National Theatre and the National Museum. We will stroll along unavoidable Knez Mihajlova Street – the main shopping and meeting place, in order to see a few other masterpieces of Belgrade's architecture, such as the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts. We will then visit the oldest quarters of the 19th century, including the 'Question mark sign' Inn, Princess Ljubica's Residence (now housing a permanent exhibition of original furniture), as well as the Patriarchy and the Orthodox Cathedral.
Walking through the streets of the old part of town we will arrive to the fortress of Kalemegdan, which is the symbol of Belgrade, situated where the River Sava flows into the Danube. Our visit to the fort will start with the Upper fortress area. It includes well-preserved artillery structures dating from the mid-18th century, as well as a medieval fortification - an acropolis with original or partly reconstructed ramparts, gateways, towers and the excavated ruins of a 15th century castle. A few Turkish monuments and some ancient Roman remains also lie in this area. In this section of the fortification complex we will see the elegant 18th century Baroque Clock Tower and the Roman Well. Our tour of the Eastern Ward includes the Rose Church of Our Lady, along with a panoramic view of the Lower fortress and its monuments - the Nebojsa Tower, the Baroque Gate of Karl VI, and the remains of the medieval metropolitan palace.
In the evening we will enjoy dinner in the atmosphere of the local bohemian quarters of Skadarlija, with typical food and music.
Overnight in Belgrade – Hotel Moskva 4* (B, D)
Day 3: Belgrade – Viminacium - Golubac – Lepenski Vir – Kladovo
We will begin our day today by a voyage to the distant past. We will drive along the banks of the Danube to Viminacium, a capital of Roman Province Moesia Superior. It was a very important military camp in I and II century housing Legio VII Claudia & IV Flavia. It has the status of “Municipium” in II century during the ruling of Imperator Hadrian and status of “Colony” in III century during the ruling of Imperator Septimius Severus.
We will continue to follow the banks of the Danube and we will soon arrive in another fortified town - Golubac, one of the best preserved medieval towns in Serbia. It is located at the entry of Iron Gate Gorge on the Danube (the biggest gorge in Europe) and it is dated to 14th century. A short drive down the Danube will take us to Lepenski Vir. Dated to 6000 years BC, it is the settlement of one of the oldest Neolithic civilization in Europe, and a whole era was named after this site. As the myth says, it was founded by one of Noah’s sons after the deluge. We will visit the site where many houses of the village from that era can be seen together with famous and very unique sculptures in the shape of human heads.
Overnight in Kladovo - Hotel Aqua Star 4* (B)
Day 4: Kladovo - Gamzigrad/Romuliana - Niš
We will continue our journey by leaving the Danube and going south, driving through the far eastern part of Serbia.
Gamzigrad, our first stop today, was built by the Roman emperor Maximilianus Galerius - Diocletian’s son in law, who named it after his mother Romula, at the end of III century AD. We will witness the once wealthy palaces and villas, beautiful mosaics, and many churches and squares. There is a theory that this once was a very important town and residence of the emperor. Since 2007 this palace is listed as an UNESCO Word Heritage site.
In the evening we will arrive to Niš.
Overnight in Niš – Hotel Regent Club 4* (B)
Day 5: Niš - Naissus/Mediana - Zlatibor/Sirogojno
Today we will get to know Niš, the second largest town in Serbia. This city is most famous as the birthplace of Constantine the Great. It is situated in the Nišava valley, near the spot where it joins the Južna Morava River, one of the most important Balkan and European traffic lines along which peoples, goods and armies moved. Known as the 'Via Militaris' in Roman and Byzantine periods and the 'Constantinople road' in the Middle Ages and the period of Turkish rule, these roads still represent major European traffic arteries. Niš is one of the oldest cities in the Balkans, and has from ancient times been considered a gateway between the East and the West. There is abundant archaeological evidence that Niš was inhabited even in prehistoric times. The city was named after the Nišava River, which was called Navissos by the Celtic inhabitants of the town. Each new conqueror gave the town a new name: Roman Naissus, Byzantine Nysos, Slovene Niš, or German Nissa.
We will see Niš Fortress, a complex and very important cultural and historical monument that dominates the urban nucleus of the city. The existing fortification is of Turkish origin, dating from the first decades of the 18th century. It is known as one of the most significant and best preserved monuments of this kind in the Balkans.
Also we will visit Mediana, a royal property with a luxurious residence, placed in the suburb of the antique Niš, known as Naissus. Constantine the Great (280 - 337 AD) was born and raised in Naissus. He ruled the Eastern Roman Empire from 306 to 337 and he consolidated the frontiers of the Empire by imposing a firm organization on the Army and the civil administration. As a powerful emperor, Constantine did not forget his birthplace. He erected a majestic residence in one of the luxurious suburbs of ancient Niš in Mediana, where he often resided and attended to state affairs. Historical records testify it was in Naissus that he passed several laws in the years 315 through 334.
At the beginning of the 19th century it was crucial that the Serbian state liberate Niš from the Turks. In 1809, the strong Serbian insurrection army of 16.000 soldiers, created six trenches for defense near Niš. The Turks attacked the main trench on Čegar Hill. The battle lasted the whole day. As one witness stated, "the Turks attacked five times, and the Serbs managed to repulse them five times. Each time their losses were great. Some of the Turks attacked, and some of them went ahead, and thus when they attacked for the sixth time they filled the trenches with their dead so that the alive went over their dead bodies and they began to fight against the Serbs with their rifles, cutting and sticking in their enemies with their sabers and knives”. The Turks eventually overran the main trench on Čegar Hill after this fierce fighting. Casualties were heavy on both sides, with the Serbs losing three thousand soldiers and the Turks nearly twice this number.
After the battle of Čegar Hill, the skulls of the dead Serbian soldiers were built in a tower, called The Skull Tower, on the route to Constantinople. It was done by order of the Turkish pasha Hurshid, the brutal Turkish commander of Niš at that time. Rectangular in its base and three meters high, Skull Tower was built out of 952 skulls of the Serbian heroes as a warning to the Serbian people.
In 1892, a chapel was built over the skulls, which now protects the 58 remaining skulls. Skull Tower is a unique monument in the world, and it faithfully depicts the true nature of the Turkish crimes against the Serbian people.
Continuing our journey we will ascend to Mount Zlatibor, one of the most popular mountain resorts in Serbia, both in summer as well as winter. Zlatibor is a National Park famous for its beauty and intact nature. It is a mountain of golden pines, after which it got its name (Zlatan - golden, Bor – pine tree). A short drive through the beautiful countryside will take us into an area where the vegetation will change its look, giving you the impression that you are in a jungle. Here you can find unique flora and fauna, such as the Omorica, the rarest of the pine trees endemic to this area. We will pay a visit to the unique and very charming ethno village of Sirogojno. It is an open-air museum of traditional architecture, as well as an exhibition of handicrafts and world famous hand-knitted clothes.
Overnight in Sirogojno – Hotel village Staro Selo “Special” (B, D)
Day 6: Sirogojno - Mokra Gora – Šargan Eight Train – Monastery Studenica – Novi Pazar
This morning we will take a nostalgic journey by the old steam engine “Šarganska Osmica” for 15km, crossing breathtaking scenery through 20 tunnels, 10 bridges and across many viaducts. Once, this narrow gauge train, affectionately known as the Ćira (Chira), used to be the only traveling solution for the people of the area. The train cut its path through the astonishing landscapes of Serbia and Bosnia, on its way from Belgrade to Sarajevo, and further on to Dubrovnik. Now it is possible to ride a 15km part of it, famous for its curves in the shape of the number 8 that made it possible to climb the steep slopes of the mountains Šargan and Mokra Gora. The track was reconstructed in 1999.
During the ride, the train makes a few stops, one of which lasts 20 minutes to let you take some fabulous photographs, enjoy the views, or have a refreshment in the cafe of a tiny and charming 'railway station'.
Our next visit will be Monastery Studenica (UNESCO site), founded by Stefan Nemanja. This is considered to be the crowning achievement of medieval culture and art in Serbia. The monastic complex consists of the fascinating Church of the Virgin (1183 - 1196), the Church of SS Joachim and Anne (also known as the King's Church) and the Church of St. Nicholas, a simple single-nave building. The monastery circle contains monuments raised over a period of 130 years, and several Serbian rulers had a hand in their construction. At the start of this period, the young Serbian feudal state under Stefan Nemanja was consolidating its independence, and by King Milutin's reign it had reached the height of its political, cultural and economic power. The strengthening of the medieval state and of its ruler's might is naturally reflected in these monuments.
We will have a scenic drive down along the valley of the River Ibar and to our final destination today – Novi Pazar.
Overnight in Niš – Hotel Regent Club 4* B)
Day 7: Novi Pazar - Priština –Monastery Gračanica – Skopje
Leaving Kopaonik in the morning we will drive south towards Kosovo. Crossing the border, we will drive through Kosovska Mitrovica and northern parts mostly inhabited by Serbs. Our first visit will be Priština, the capital of Kosovo. We will enjoy driving around the town for a short panoramic tour and also we will make a stop in the very center to give ourselves time to stroll along its streets and enjoy the main square and busy streets around it.
We will visit Kosovo Battle field from 1389 - Gazimestan as well as the tomb of Ottoman Sultan who was killed in that battle.
Our next stop will be the Monastery Gračanica, with its monastery church devoted to Annunciation. The monastery was an endowment of King Milutin and was built in the early 14th century. Its architectural structure represents the apex of Serbian building that followed in the spirit of Byzantine tradition. This monastery stands apart as a work of harmonious proportions and extraordinary beauty and as such made its way to UNESCO list of World Heritage.
Overnight in Skopje – Hotel Duvet 4* (B)
Day 8: Skopje - St. Jovan Bigorski – Ohrid
This morning we will we will explore Skopje, capital and the largest city in the Republic of Macedonia. It is located in a valley, on both sides of the river Vardar. It can be traced back 2000 years when it was known as the ancient city of Skupi. We will walk through the old part of the town “Charshi”, where is the Stone Bridge - a symbol of Skopje built by Turks in 15th century. We will visit the church of St. Spas, with its marvelous iconostas first from 17th century, Old Bazaar, Fortress Kale whose first walls date to the 6th century, Mustapha Pasha Mosque – one of the most beautiful objects of Ottoman architecture erected in 1492 with the earliest wall paintings, Daut Pasha Bath, a masterpiece of Islamic civil architecture from the second half of 15th century.
In the afternoon we depart for Ohrid. First we will pass through the National Park of Mavrovo - biggest in Macedonia, made famous by its lake, river, gorges and waterfalls. Continuing our drive on a beautiful scenic mountain road, we will arrive to Monastery of Sv. Jovan Bigorski, famous for its iconostasis carved in wood and by its particular nice location on the slope of the mountain. Before arriving to Ohrid we will pas through Struga, a town located at the mouth of river Black Drim into Lake Ohrid.
In the afternoon we will go on a walking tour around the old town-museum of Ohrid (UNESCO cite), located on the shore of Lake Ohrid, which lays at 695m above sea level. The town is known in prehistoric and classical times under the name of Lychnidos - the City of Lights. Slavs gave it the name of Arida in 10th century, and it became a major center of culture and art for this area. It is the cradle of Slavic written language and literature, from where the alphabet called Cyrillic was created by brothers Cyril and Methody and then spread all over the Slavic world.
Out of endless number of monuments and churches – Ohrid is also known as “City of 365 churches“, we will visit the most important ones such as Tsar Smuili fortress from 10th century, St. Kliment from 13th century St. Sophia from 11th , and St. Panteleimon from 9th.
Overnight in Ohrid - Hotel Royal View 4* B)
Day 9: Ohrid – Berat
In the morning, leaving town of Ohrid we will first visit the Monastery from the 10th century dedicated to St. Naum who was, with St. Clement, the most consistent and worthy of pupils of the Thessalonica brothers Cyril and Methodius.
Very near the Monastery we will cross the border into Albania and continue our drive to Berat.
Berat is known as a “city of one thousand windows”, and is a declared as a museum city. The old name of the city was Antipatrea. It is built on the slopes of mountain Timori, with a castle dominating over the city. Within its walls there are dwelling houses and the Onufri Museum, where we will see paintings by this outstanding painter from the 16th century, as well as paintings from his son Nikolla. In the old part of the town we will also see several Byzantine churches.
Overnight in Berat – Hotel Grand White City 4* (B)
Day 10: Berat - Durres – Tirana
In the morning we will depart for Durres, Albania’s second largest city. Durres, formerly Durrazzo, is one of the oldest towns in Albania. The legend says that it was founded by Epidamnos, the Illyrian King of the area, who called it by his own name and named the port area after his grandson, Dyrrah. It was for centuries the largest port on the Adriatic, and the start of the Via Egnatia to Constantinople. Landings here by Italian troops in 1939 met brief but fierce resistance, and those killed defending it are now regarded as the first martyrs of the War of National Liberation. We will visit the Roman amphitheatre and the archaeological museum (time permitted), situated near the sea and rich in objects excavated in Durres. We also visit the Roman Baths behind the Aleksandër Moisiu Theatre on the central square.
Upon arrival to Tirana we will have a tour of the Albanian capital. It is a relatively new town, founded in 1614, and is located on the site of a Byzantine fortress. Tirana has been the capital since 1920. It lies at the foot of Dajti Mountain at only 110m above sea level and is the biggest political, economic, and cultural center of the country. Today we visit Skanderbeg Square in the centre of the town, the old Mosque of Et’hem Bey built in 1789, the Clock Tower from 1830, and the Palace of Culture housing the Opera.
Overnight in Tirana – Hotel Tirana International 4* (B)
Day 11: Tirana – Kruja – Shkodra – Budva
Our first visit today will be to the charming little town of Kruja, perched high on the face of a hill. Kruja was the centre of the 15th century Albanian resistance to the Ottoman Turks under the national hero, Skanderbeg. We will visit the unique Skanderbeg Museum inside the restored castle. The street leading up to the castle is built in the style of a Turkish bazaar.
The next town we will see will be Shkodra, in Illirian times known as Scodra. It is situated near the lake sharing the same name. Shkodra is one of the oldest cities in Europe, and the traditional centre of the Gheg cultural region.
Shkodra is rich with historical monuments, including the old Illiryan Rozafa Castle built on the rocky hill, and the Mesi Bridge built on the river Kiri.
After crossing the border to Montenegro, we will be driving along the Adriatic coast, passing the old town of Ulcinj, the main harbor of Bar and the little town of Milocer. Milocer has a beautiful beach and the palace of one of the last Yugoslavian Queens before WWII. We will make a stop to visit the village of St Stefan and the tourist resort of Becici before arriving to Budva.
Budva is one of the oldest inhabited places in the area, known since Illyrian times. The town of Budva that we can see now is medieval and is definitely the most attractive tourist place on the Riviera. Budva has a fortified old part of the town with the typical architecture of narrow streets and stone buildings placed around the main cathedral. This area is now used as a gathering place for tourists, containing many shops and taverns. Budva also has several attractive beaches and hotels.
Overnight in Budva - Hotel Avala 4* (B)
Day 12: Budva – Cetinje – Kotor
The road going up to the mountain top will take us to Cetinje, once, in the time of Njegos, a capital of Montenegro. It doesn’t have a strong fort like many other important capitals from its time, as nature blessed this place with natural stone protections. The town was founded in 1482, when Ivan Crnojević, the last ruler of the medieval country of Zeta, built here a palace for himself as well as a church. Cetinje stayed the heart and soul of Montenegro all the way up to WW1. In Cetinje we will visit the royal palace of King Nikola II, the last King of Montenegro. The palace contains both a beautiful small museum as well as the Monastery of St. Petar.
A breathtaking drive to Kotor, is passing by the Mount of Lovcen, where, on its top, we can spot the Mausoleum of Peter II Petrović - Njegoš, an absolute pride of the people of Montenegro. Njegoš was ruler of the country in the second half of the 19th century. He was also the head of the Orthodox Church and a leading poet and writer whose achievements are still taught in the schools of Sebia and Montenegro. The impressive monument at the top of Mt. Lovćen, where Njegoš is resting now, is decorated with a statue done by the famous Croatian sculptor Ivan Mestrović.
Kotor, a town museum, (UNESCO site), was inhabited even at the times of the Illyrians and Romans. However, our morning walk through the city will take us back to medieval times, as most of the monuments we can observe now are from the 14th to 18th centuries. The city is surrounded by strong walls, a renaissance tower stands on the main square, and there are numerous churches and lovely houses still remaining. We will see the Cathedral of St. Tryphon, St. Luka Church, St. Mihail Church, and many more.
Overnight in Kotor - Hotel Marija 4* B)
Day 13: Kotor departure
After the breakfast there will be a transfer for your flight. (B)
B - Breakfast L – Lunch D – Dinner
All hotels are carefully chosen for their character or best central location or they are simply the only option at certain destinations. All of them can be changed on a request. The categories mentioned by the hotel names are according to the local standards and sometimes do not reflect to Western standards
Trip organized by: “BALKAN EXPERT” d.o.o. license no. OTP 54/2013
Tour available with general condition of travel of “BALKAN EXPERT”