Experience the seaside charm of Dubrovnik, beaches of Levkas and ancient culture of Athens

This adventure combines the must-sees of the Balkan region and the lesser-known glories of Macedonia and Albania to create the perfect balance between old and new. Hang out in Dubrovnik's Old Town, cruise around Lake Ohrid, admire Ioannina's archeological glories and sample some moussaka in Greece's capital. This whirlwind adventure through the Balkans is the best way to check out regional hot spots while also experiencing a hefty dollop of cultural hospitality.

Start
Dubrovnik, Croatia
Finish
Athens, Greece
Countries
Albania,
Croatia,
Greece,
Macedonia,
Montenegro
Themes
Explorer
Code
ZMSM
Physical rating
Cultural rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1 Max 12
Carbon offset
214kg pp per trip


Highlights

  • Sail across the blue waters of Lake Ohrid, one of Europe's oldest lakes. No wonder Macedonia and Albania share this beautiful attraction - nobody would want to let it go
  • Explore Skopje, Macedonia's capital city, which has recently reinvented itself and is now a force to be reckoned with
  • Admire the restored architecture of World Heritage-listed Kotor, Montenegro, on a climb along the ancient city walls
  • Loose yourself in Tirana, Albania's colourful capital, and partake in the local's favourite pastime: Drinking coffee and people-watch

Itinerary

Dobro Dosli! Welcome to Croatia. Your adventure begins with a Welcome Meeting at 6pm on Day 1. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader.

Croatia has recently piqued the interest of curious travellers searching for sunshine, sand and scenery. The chic cities of the glittering Adriatic coast, charming cobblestone towns, UNESCO World Heritage sites and thriving food and wine scene ensure visitors' curiosity is amply rewarded. Like many others, fall in love with the treasures of this Balkan beauty. The undisputed jewel of the Dalmatian Coast, Dubrovnik is a beautiful white stone town surrounded entirely by city walls. Although it experienced devastation during the war in the early 1990s, the old town - with its tiled roofs and stone buildings - remains as charming as ever. Extensive restoration has taken place to return it to its original splendour, and even today repairs are still being undertaken. With the sparkling water of the Adriatic in the background, Dubrovnik is picturesque, full of character and can easily be covered on foot. If you arrive early, why not head out to one of the Elafiti Islands? There's Lopud, a quiet island with lovely hikes, clean beaches and a ruined castle. Kolocep is a sleepy enclave that boasts walks for every fitness level and Sipan, which is the most populated of the isles and reputedly has the most hospitable inhabitants. Alternatively, you might choose to simply laze about on one of Dubrovnik's beaches and people-watch for hours.

There are many monuments to explore in the city including the 15th century Rector's Palace, monasteries with cloistered gardens, and fine baroque churches with copper domes. The main pedestrian promenade, once a shallow sea channel, is now paved with glistening white limestone, in stark contrast to the warm red terracotta roofs. It is hard to imagine a more beautiful city.
An optional walk around Dubrovnik's city walls (approx 2 km) is a highlight not to be missed. The walk takes around an hour and provides panoramic views over the city's rooftops and out across the Adriatic Sea. The walls are on average 24 metres high and 3 metres thick on the seaward side, and were also put to modern use during the eight-month siege of the city in the early 1990s. Thankfully most of the damage done has now been repaired.

Later today we will take our private transfer to Kotor on the Montenegrin coast. Set on a secluded bay, Kotor is listed as a World Heritage site, and its crooked alleyways give lots of opportunities to get lost and mingle with the locals. Perhaps take a cruise on the Kotor Fjord - the longest fjord south of Scandinavia - and visit an island with a church that is almost as big as the island itself!
After breakfast we will be transferred to Tirana, a drive of about 4-5 hours, depending on road conditions and traffic into Tirana. If you think you know Albania, think again. This addictive country has a myriad faces. In the rugged north, the Alps are so fierce they're deemed 'accursed', while the south enjoys one of Europe’s least known and most beautiful coastlines. Tirana is filled with craziness, from its traffic to its nightlife, but on its doorstep are mosques, citadels, Ottoman architecture and a stunning dose of medieval Balkans. The real surprise of Albania is the people. Their warmth to strangers is infectious and you’re bound to find yourself swapping stories over a glass of raki or three. Tirana is the capital of Albania and its biggest city, though it's small and compact with architectural influences from Italy and Turkey. Recently many buildings have been painted to alleviate the Soviet block feeling that pervaded. Many upgrades have been made all over town such as new parks and wide pavements - a process that's still ongoing.
Today take a half-day trip to the mountain village and former Albanian capital of Kruja. Kruja was the last stronghold of Skanderbegs army until the Ottomans took over the entire country. There is plenty of time to explore the citadel and the famous bazaar area. Perhaps pay a visit to the excellent ethnographical museum housed inside the fortress. Return to Tirana after lunch.

Tirana is dotted by many museums. You can't miss the National History Museum if you look for the gargantuan mosaic on the facade which represents the development of Albania's history with everyone from the time of the Illyrians. Inside, each hall of this vast building covers one of the stages in the development of the Albanian nation. The main sight in Tirana is the Et'hem Bey Mosque which is right on the city's main square. Construction of the Xhamia e Haxhi Et'hem Beut started in 1794 and was finished in 1821 by Et'hem Bey. Closed under communist rule, the mosque resumed as a place of worship in 1991. 10,000 people attended the reopening and the event was considered a milestone in the rebirth of religious freedom in Albania. Take a look at the frescoes outside and in the portico that depict trees, waterfalls and bridges - motifs rarely seen in Islamic art. Remember to take your shoes off before entering the inner room.
Travel by private bus to Ohrid in Macedonia, a drive of about 3 hours, situated on a lake with the same name. Get your bearings on an orientation walk around Ohrid, before embarking on a cruise on the turquoise waters of Lake Ohrid to take in the views of the town and the surrounding scenery while afloat.
At 34km long, 14km wide and over 300 meters deep, and shared between Albania and Macedonia, vast Lake Ohrid is one of Europe's oldest lakes and there's plenty of it to explore. Today is free for you to discover the area. Possibly visit the Macedonian Orthodox Church of Sveti Jovana Kaneo, situated on a rocky outcrop above town overlooking the lake. The Sveti Naum Monastery is also a great option and is situated on the shores of the lake south of town. During your time here you may also want to hike to sample some of the flora, fauna and spectacular views found in the mountainous Galicica National Park.
This morning hop onto public bus to Skopje, Macedonia's capital city. In Macedonia’s political and cultural centre, walk through Macedonia Square and sample gozleme and tasty baklava. Take a step back to Ottoman times with a visit to the Daut Pasha Hamam or journey through the humbling Holocaust Museum to learn how Macedonia suffered during this tragic chapter of history. Skopje's stone bridge over the river Vardar is an iconic sight and acts as a handy connection between Macedonia Square and the Old Bazaar. Perhaps visit the Museum of the City of Skopje, housed in the old Railway Station which is a unique piece of history itself. It's unusual, part-ruined exterior is a result of the 1963 earthquake. The large clock on the outside of the building is frozen at 5:17, the moment the earthquake shook the city.
Venture out to Matka Canyon, a deep ravine cut into the mountains by the Treska River. This area is home to several medieval monasteries, caves and to over 70 species of endemic butterflies. There is the option to explore the canyon's sights by boat. One of the monasteries worth exploring is St Andrew's Monastery, which contains many valuable frescoes of great artistic importance. There is also Vrelo Cave, speculated to be the deepest underwater cave in the world. Alternatively, you can take one of the many nature walks in the canyon, or up to the ridge high above the valley. In the late afternoon take a local bus back to Skopje with the remaining part of the day free for you to continue exploring this exciting city.
A 3 hour public bus ride will take you to Pelister National Park, located in the Baba Mountain massif, a perfect location for a walk, and a beautiful landscape with views that go on for miles. Enjoy a great wine tasting experience at our homestay. The owner produces his own prize winning wine while trying many local delicacies including home baked bread, jams, salami...
Take another private transfer across the border into Greece, and on to Ioannina. With astounding archaeological sites, islands of extreme beauty, bucolic villages and some of the greatest food you’ll ever consume, Greece should be on every traveller's list. This gem of the Aegean will satisfy your thirst for knowledge, lust for adventure, desire for partying and craving for cuisine. Opa!
Discover the wonders of Ioannina while ambling through the city’s old town, castle district and along idyllic Lake Pamvotis. Located in the center of the town, Ioannina's castle was the heart of the Despotate of Epirus, and the maze-like layout of the old town's streets, many of which lead to dead ends, was allegedly designed to confuse pirates who would get lost within the fortress and be captured before escaping with their booty. One of the most notable attractions of Ioannina is Nisaki Islet in Lake Pamvotis. Take one of the frequent motorboats that ferry visitors to the monastery of Agios Panteleimon located on the islet. In the evening, jump into Greek culture with a shot of Ouzo before a lively night out.
Take a private bus over the causeway to the island of Levkas (also known as Lefkada) on the Ionian sea. In the birthplace of Greek goddess Aphrodite, there will be plenty of time to rest and relax on blue waters and white-sand beaches. Choose to follow the crowds to Porto Katsiki beach, which is surrounded by white cliffs. There are daily boat trips that leave from Nidri and Vasiliki harbour that take you to this and other beaches.
Continue to explore the island further today as it is a free day. Perhaps try your hand at a challenging hike or mountain bike ride around the surrounding mountains, all of which will afford great views of the Ionian Sea and the rugged coastline.
There's much to be seen in the ancient capital of Greece, vibrant and refreshed following the 2004 Olympics, yet still retaining so much visible history. Named after the goddess of wisdom, Athens has a weighty history that spills out over the modern city, represented most dramatically by the ancient Acropolis, where you can enter the Pantheon and enjoy fabulous views over the city. The birthplace of Western civilisation, Athens has an amazing array of historic sites to explore, including the National Gardens, the Temple of Olympian Zeus and the original Olympic Stadium. Another highlight is the renowned changing of the guard at Syntagma (Parliament) Square.
There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time. As there is so much to see and do in Greece's capital you may want to extend your stay here, and take part in one of our Urban Adventures day trips, such as 'Taste of Athens' or 'Markets, Ruins and Ancient Athens'. We are happy to assist with additional accommodation, subject to availability. Please enquire at the time of booking.
View trip notes to read full itinerary

Inclusions

Meals
13 breakfasts, 1 lunch, 1 dinner
Transport
Public bus, Ferry, Private vehicle, Taxi
Accommodation
Homestay (1 night), Hotel (12 nights), Pension (1 night)
Included activities
  • Kotor Orientation Walk
  • Dubrovnik City Walls Walk
  • Orientation Walk - Tirana
  • Kruja Day Trip
  • Orientation Walk - Ohrid
  • Lake Ohrid Boat Ride
  • Orientation Walk - Skopje
  • Wine Tasting - Dihovo
  • Orientation Walk - Ioannina
  • Boat trip and Ali Pasa Museum - Ioannina
  • Day Trip to Zagoria Villages
  • Orientation Walk - Levkas

Dates

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Important notes

A single supplement will be available for this trip. Please see trip notes for details.

Trip notes

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Your trip notes provide a detailed itinerary, visa info, how to get to your hotel, what’s included - pretty much everything you need to know about this adventure and more.

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Reviews

Our Dubrovnik to Athens trips score an average of 4.68 out of 5 based on 28 reviews in the last year.

Dubrovnik to Athens , September 2015

Dubrovnik to Athens , August 2015

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