Day 1 Budapest
Since the Communist system collapsed in Hungary, Budapest has experienced a renaissance. The grand architecture and boulevards are an outdoor monument to history while glamorous stores and glitzy restaurants make this one of the truly great cities of Europe.
Known as the Pearl of the Danube, Budapest is the perfect city to enjoy from the water. From here, you can see the buildings that line the banks of the Danube River and the bridges linking Buda to Pest. Take one of the tourist boat trips to see the sights or cross the Chain Bridge for a spectacular view of the Parliament Building and the Castle District. Discover the castle district with its sweeping views over the Danube and Pest’s skyline, climb St Stephen’s Basilica, be immersed in Hungarian history in Hero’s Square, take in a museum tour or soak in a thermal bath.
If you have time, head out to Statue Park to see all the communist monuments that were removed from the city streets after the fall of the Iron Curtain. You could also take in some of the rich folk culture with a music and dance performance or some opera and ballet. Be sure, also, to head on down to the river after dark to enjoy the floodlit nightscape.
Days 2-3 Novi Sad
On day 2, we take a scenic train ride into Serbia (approx. 6 hours). After settling into our accommodation, you may have some time to explore the Tvrdava as the sun begins to set over this beautiful town, also known as the Serbian Athens. Novi Sad has been built, destroyed and rebuilt over the centuries and is an interesting mixture of old Serbian cultural heritage, Austro-Hungarian architecture and scenic beauty. The city is on the banks of the Danube River, surrounded by fertile farms and vineyards, framed with hills in the distance and rich in tradition.
On the morning of day 3, we take an orientation/sightseeing walk (approx. 1.5 hours) in which you get a real feel for the city from a different perspective. The tour finishes at Petrovaradin Fortress sitting high atop the Danube River. It was originally established as a Roman fortress but most of what you see today dates back to the early 18th century. The Fortress is a centre of art today, with studios showcasing the work of local artists, the Art Academy, cafes, easy-to-follow walking routes and underground corridors. The real attraction is the panorama which can be enjoyed from the heights of the Fortress.
During your free time in the afternoon explore the museums and theatres or sit in a cafe and watch the world go by. In the summer months, head to the beach on the Danube known as The Strand. For an interesting dinner, try one of the local boats docked on the shores of the Danube for fresh fish specialties.
Days 4-5 Belgrade
In the morning we travel by train (approx. 1.5 hours) to Belgrade, also known as the White City, which was built on the confluence of two major rivers, the Sava and the Danube. Belgrade is one of the oldest cities in Europe and since ancient times, it has been an important intersection of Eastern and Western Europe. In the afternoon, we go on an orientation/sightseeing walk (approx. 1.5 hours), where you’ll witness the history of this fascinating city.
In the evening, head down to Skadarska street (Bohemian quarter) where you will find inviting restaurants with authentic local food and lively entertainment.
Day 5 is a free day for you to explore Belgrade more intimately. The markets near the Hram Svetog Save (St Sava Church) and Pijaca Venac will keep you occupied for hours (Friday and Saturday mornings are the best time to visit). Take a river cruise, enjoy coffee or shop along Knez Mihajla, visit the Serbian Orthodox Cathedral or spend an evening at the opera or a concert. Throughout the summer months, the city hosts a variety of musical and cultural events, so the city is always full of activities while the cafes overflow with people.
Days 6-8 Sarajevo
We take a very early bus and spend the morning of day 6 travelling through the beautiful countryside (approx. 7 hours) before arriving in Sarajevo, the small but vibrant capital of Bosnia-Herzegovina and our home for the next three nights. More than ten years after the end of a devastating war, Sarajevo is slowly asserting itself as one of Europe’s most beautiful destinations. After settling in, head out to enjoy a simple but delicious meal in Bascarsija where you can find the best bosanski cevapi (grilled minced meat, mixed with some mild spices).
On day 7 we head out of town to Ilidza where we find the source of the River Bosna (Vrelo Bosna). There are thermal springs and beautiful green parks.
Day 8 is completely free for you to explore the city or head out into the hills once again. You might like to take a day trip to Mostar (easily accessible by public transport from Sarajevo).
Day 9 Ostrog Monastery
After driving south by bus to Montenegro (approx. 7 hours), we arrive at the stunning Ostrog Monastery, which was built into the side of a rocky mountain in the 17th century and has since been a destination for visiting Orthodox Christian pilgrims as well as those seeking a cure for their bodies and soul. Many miracles are believed to have taken place here.
Our accommodation for the night is a konak (simple night quarters) close to the Lower Monastery. This is a wonderful opportunity to mingle with other travellers and pilgrims. Men and women stay in separate rooms in the monastery. A more adventurous option is to stay in the ‘konak’ near the Upper Monastery where you get to sleep on wooden benches (blankets are provided). Later in the afternoon, we go on a hike to the Upper Monastery (approx. 1 hour) where relics of the founder, St Vasilije, are kept.
Days 10-12 Budva
A scenic bus journey on day 10 (approx. 2 hours) takes us to the beautiful coastal town of Budva where the Montenegrins spend their summer holidays. After a visit to the stunning Stari Grad (Old Town) where your leader will take you on an orientation/sightseeing walk, the afternoon is free to soak up the sun or rest by the beaches. For food, there is an abundance of great restaurants and interesting cafes in this town to whet your appetite. To get the best sea views, climb the town walls.
On day 11 we take an all-day boat tour of the Bay of Kotor (bus during the off-season). This includes a guided tour of the towns of Herceg Novi and Kotor (UNESCO World Heritage Site), also a small island built on a manmade bed of rocks, and a swim in the Blue Grotto.
There is nothing planned for day 12, our final day in Montenegro, so feel free to visit the nearby resort of Sveti Stefan, explore King Nikola’s palace in Cetinje or just relax on one of the many beaches.
Days 13-14 Dubrovnik
On day 13, we depart Montenegro and travel north by bus (approx. 3 hours) to the southern coast of Croatia and our destination, Dubrovnik. Here we stay in private rooms right near the centre of the walled Old Town. We take a brief orientation walk of Old Town and enjoy the views of the ocean from the 2-km-long city walls surrounding the town. While it experienced devastation during the war in the early 1990s, the old town of Dubrovnik, with its tiled roofs and stone buildings, remains as charming as ever. Extensive restoration has taken place to return it to its original splendour. From the city walls, it is still possible to see repairs being undertaken on roof tiles.
With the clear blue water of the Adriatic in the background, Dubrovnik is picturesque and full of character and can easily be covered on foot. Some of the landmarks that make Dubrovnik special include Onofrio Fountain, the Franciscan Monastery and Museum, the Clock Tower and the Serbian Orthodox Church. The region is also famous for its islands and beaches and if want to make the most of them, you should arrange to stay longer.
In Dubrovnik we use the private houses of our local friends who rent rooms to us for our stay here.
We have several separate houses located near the centre so you may be a short walk away from your other group members. It may be an approximate 25-minute walk from the bus stop to your main apartment in Dubrovnik. Any photo you see of central Dubrovnik is blissfully absent of vehciles – because it is pedestrians only. Therefore there are no options for taxis. Dubrovnik is hilly, and there are stairs everywhere. Some of our apartments require that you scale 173 steps to the front door.
The apartments in Dubrovnik are a real treat. Staying in the city centre allows easy access to all the sights and the restaurants and bars- it is all an easy stroll from your front door (with some steps in the way). This is your chance to look behind those facades. Each apartment has 2-3 rooms with a shared bathroom. Our apartments are not hotels, there is no reception, room service or cleaning service every day, no televisions or washing machines or kitchens, but plenty of charm and you just can not beat the location.