SERBIA, KOSOVO, MACEDONIA
Day 1: arrival Belgrade
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 – Monastery Manasija – 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.
Time permitted, very close by, we will discover an underworld of coral-like stones, jewels, and snow white crystals in the biggest and most attractive cave in Serbia - Resava Cave.
Next on our way is the 14th century Monastery Ravanica, built by Prince Lazar just before the battle of Kosovo where he was killed. His body was taken back here where he was buried. Close by is also the very important Monastery Manasija, built by Despot Stefan Lazarevic. This monastery played a very important role in the cultural life of Serbia, as it contained the biggest school at the time. The church itself is in the center, surrounded by strong fortified wall and towers, all from the 15th century.
In the evening we will arrive to Niš.
Overnight in Niš – Hotel Regent Club 4* B)
Day 5: Niš - Naissus/Mediana - Stobi – Herakleja - Bitola
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.
Latter, we will visit the ruins of one of the largest ancient town in Macedonia - Stobi. It was built just before the rule of Philip II, father of Alexander the Great in the early Hellenic period. It had beautiful basilicas and palaces, and many wonderful mosaics still can be seen.
Our next stop will be Bitola. “City of the Consuls” as it used to be called. This town is an extraordinary mixture of old and new, a meeting point of different cultures and civilizations, where for centuries Christians, Muslims and Jews lived side by side. We will see the church of St. Dimitrius, one of the biggest Orthodox temples in Macedonia, and we will enjoy the Old Bazaar, which is among best preserved in the country.
On the outskirts of the town we will find the very famous and very important Roman town of Heraclea Lyncestis. The founding of this town is linked to Phillip II in the middle of the 6th century BC. Later it become a Roman military base and important urban center, and we can still see today the Episcopal residence, basilicas, a theater, and many floor mosaics.
Overnight Bitola - Hotel Epinal 4* (B)
Day 6: Bitola – Lake Prespa - Mt. Galicica - St. Naum - Ohrid
After breakfast we will start our journey by driving around Lake of Prespa, second largest lake in Macedonia, with its extraordinary, wild and unique beauty. It covers an area of 274 sq. km and lies at an elevation of 853m above sea level.
We will descend into breathtaking Mt.Galicica (National Park), which makes the natural division between Lake Prespa and Lake Ohrid, and is blessed with an abundance of diverse flora and fauna.
Coming down to the Lake Ohrid and before arriving to the town of Ohrid we will 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.
Overnight in Ohrid-Hotel Royal View 4* (B)
Day 7: Ohrid – St. Jovan Bigorski - Skopje
This morning 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.
In the afternoon we depart from Ohrid. First we will pass Struga, a town located at the mouth of river Black Drim into Lake Ohrid and we continue our drive on a beautiful scenic mountain road. Our first stop will be The 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 reaching Skopje we will pass through the National Park of Mavrovo - biggest in Macedonia, made famous by its lake, river, gorges and waterfalls.
In the afternoon, 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.
Overnight in Skopje – Hotel Duvet 4* (B)
Day 8: Skopje - Monastery Gračanica – Priština – Novi Pazar
From Skopje this morning we will drive north towards Serbia. Crossing the border into Kosovo, our first visit 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.
Following a short drive from Gračanica we will make our next stop in Priština, the capital of Kosovo. We will have time to stroll along its streets and enjoy the main square at the very center of the town.
Continuing our drive north, we will pass by the town of Kosovska Mitrovica and then exit Kosovo into Serbia.
Our final destination of the day will be Novi Pazar – the capital of the Serbian region of Sandzak .
Overnight in Novi Pazar – Hotel Tadz 4* (B)
Day 9: Novi Pazar – Monastery Sopocani – Monastery Studenica - Sirogojno Ethno Village
Our first visit today will be to the one of the most treasured sacral buildings of the Nemanjić era, the Monastery Sopoćani. It is an endowment of King Uroš from the 13th century, and its mural painting ranks among the most magnificent and beautiful in European medieval art. The monumentality of Sopoćani frescos, the harmony of colors, and the refinement of expression were all responsible for being granted a place on UNESCO’s World Heritage list.
We will visit 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.
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. First 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 at Sirogojno - Hotel Ethno Village Staro Selo - “Special” (B, D)
Day 10: Mokra Gora – Šargan Train – Mećavnik – Belgrade
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'.
After the train ride we will pay a visit to the ethno village of Mecavnik, the 'Wooden City', built as a setting for the latest film of the very famous movie director Emir Kusturica. The amazing village was, until recently, merely a couple of salvaged traditional wooden houses on a bluff above a beautiful valley.
Departing back to Belgrade we will pass through the region of the Ovcar and Kablar Gorge, where a number of old monasteries were built in Turkish times. Here fervent adherents of the Orthodox Church withdrew to the mountainous, inaccessible, and isolated parts of the country.
In the evening we will return to Belgrade
Overnight in Belgrade – Hotel Moskva 4* (B)
Day 11: Beograd departure
Transfer to the airport for your flight home. (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”