Discover the old-world charm and cultures of the Balkans

Veer off the usual Balkan route and discover some of the region’s lesser-visited attractions on this intriguing backroads adventure. Starting off in cultured and cosmopolitan Budapest, travel on to the Serbian capital of Belgrade for a taste of a European city decidedly on the up. Learn about Bosnia and Herzegovina’s war years on a guided walk through Sarajevo, stop by the famed Old Bridge of Mostar and wind things up in wonderful Dubrovnik. Melding the past with the present, the raw with the cultivated, this trip will both impress and enlighten.

Start
Budapest, Hungary
Finish
Dubrovnik, Croatia
Countries
Bosnia & Herzegovina,
Croatia,
Hungary,
Montenegro,
Serbia
Themes
Explorer
Code
ZMRC
Physical rating
Cultural rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1 Max 16
Carbon offset
129kg pp per trip


Highlights

  • Learn about the dark history and rebuilding of Bosnia and Herzegovina on a walking tour of Sarajevo
  • Visit Mostar’s famous Old Bridge and witness a traditional bridge jumper hurl themselves into the icy waters below
  • Enjoy plenty of free time to discover the communist past and progressive vibe of Budapest, the 'Pearl of the Danube'
  • Immerse yourself in the edgy street scene of Belgrade's Bohemian Quarter, then dance the night away in one of Europe’s nightlife hotspots
  • Admire the restored architecture of World Heritage-listed Kotor, Montenegro, on a climb along the ancient city walls

Itinerary

This itinerary is valid for departures from 01 January 2016 to 31 December 2016. View the itinerary for departures between 01 January 2017 - 31 December 2017

Szia! Welcome to Hungary. Budapest is Hungary's intoxicating capital, on the banks of the Danube River. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6pm today. You can arrive at any time during the day as there are no activities planned until this important meeting. Please check with the hotel reception about where and when it will take place, or check the reception notice boards. If you can't arrange a flight that will have you arrive at the hotel by early evening, 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. In the evening after the welcome meeting, perhaps take a night walk along the Danube River to see the surrounding buildings and bridges lit up in lights, or head out with some of your new travel buddies to one of Budapest's funky 'ruin pubs'.

Day 2 is a full free day to explore Budapest, known as 'The Pearl of the Danube'. Admire intricate carvings on resplendent buildings, cross the iconic Chain Bridge to explore the Castle District, or simply meander through winding streets snacking on local delicacies. Budapest is a great city to enjoy from the water. Perhaps take a boat trip along the river or catch a funicular up to the castle for spectacular views of the Parliament Building. With so much to see and do, hiring a bicycle is another great way to move between the sights. Perhaps head to Statue Park to see the communist monuments that were removed from the city after the fall of the Iron Curtain. You might like to take a tour of the beautiful Hungarian State Opera House, or check out the Hungarian National Museum. One unmissable activity is a soak in the healing waters of Budapest's hot thermal baths. You could also take part in one of our Urban Adventure day tours, such as the Budapest Explorer or Bites and Sights. Check them out at urbanadventures.com. In the evening, board an overnight train to Belgrade.
This morning arrive into Belgrade after your overnight train journey. Known as the' White City', Belgrade is one of the oldest cities in Europe. Sitting at the confluence of two major rivers, the Sava and the Danube, it’s an important intersection between Eastern and Western Europe. Here you’ll experience an energetic mix of progressive flamboyance and conservative customs. On arrival, your leader will take you on a short orientation walk to give you some familiarity with the area and local amenities. Then you'll have almost two full days of free time to explore the city. Perhaps begin with a wander around the city’s wide boulevards and squares, and the historic and green heart of Kalemegdan Park. The park is home to Kelmegdan Fortress, which has overlooked the Danube River here for centuries. In the evening, head down to Skadarska Street in the bohemian quarter of Skadarlija to sample some authentic local food and enjoy the lively atmosphere, in a place where Orthodox churches vie for space next to fashionable nightclubs.

Take Day 4 to further discover Belgrade. You might like to take a 90-minute cruise along the Danube River, passing the Kalemegdan Fortress, Pancevo Bridge and the artist village of Zemun. The markets near the Hram Svetog Save (St Sava Church) and Pijaca Venac will keep you occupied for hours. Perhaps take a stroll through the Nikola Tesla Museum to learn about the life and work of Serbia's greatest inventor, or check out the city's Ethnographic or Military Museums. You can climb the 36-metre, 1896 Gardos tower in Zemun for sweeping views of the city and the Danube, or get crash course in Serbian contemporary art at Zepter Museum. If the weather is warm, why not brave the crowds on Ada Ciganlija beach, where you can swim, take part in water-sports or simply soak up the sun with a cocktail. Throughout the summer months, Belgrade hosts a variety of musical and cultural events and the city is abuzz with people and activities. The city’s nightlife has become legendary throughout Europe, with several hundred floating bars, restaurants and nightclubs lining the Danube and Sava rivers.
Today travel by bus through beautiful countryside to Sarajevo. The journey will take around eight hours in total, so sit back and enjoy the scenery. Sarajevo is Bosnia and Herzegovina's small but vibrant capital. More than twenty years after the end of a devastating war, Sarajevo is slowly asserting itself as one of Europe's most beautiful and interesting destinations. The city often draws comparisons with Istanbul as a city that mixes east and west – dotted with minarets, mosques, bazaars and the aroma of coffee. On arrival, embark on a guided tour to gain insight into the history and culture of the city. Sarajevo is one of the few cities in the world that features an Orthodox church, a Catholic church and a mosque (the famous Begova Džamija) all within close proximity. In the evening, perhaps enjoy a simple but delicious meal in Baščaršija, Sarajevo's old bazaar. Out from here the city’s history unfolds – from Ottoman-era buildings to the elaborate constructions of the Austro-Hungarian period and on to the ugly structures of the communists. Try the local speciality of bosanski cevapi (grilled minced meat mixed with mild spices).

Use Day 6 as a free day in and around Sarajevo. You could take an optional day trip out to the thermal springs and green parks of Ilidza, the source of the River Bosna. You might prefer to discover local history with a visit to the History Museum and the Sarajevo War Tunnels (dug underneath the airport runway and used to smuggle provisions into the city during its siege) and Sniper Alley, or learn about the tragedies faced by the city's Jews at the Jewish Museum. Perhaps get cultural with a stroll through the Art Gallery of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Perhaps return to Baščaršija and get lost in the mosques, caravanserais, and stone-vaulted bazaars, snacking on burek or ćevapi, or ramble along through Park Prinčeva for views of the city. The Pivnica HS brewery, which also has a restaurant, is a good place to sample local award-winning beer and spend an evening.
Today head out of Sarajevo by train to Mostar, a town situated in a beautiful valley in the high mountains of Herzegovina (approximately 2.5 hours). Thanks to the river Neretva Mostar was able to develop as a city in the barren landscape of Herzegovina. Neretva's size turned Mostar into a trading centre of the region very early on. The city was the most heavily bombed settlement in Bosnia during the war, but it has since been rebuilt and now features on UNESCO's World Heritage list. On arrival, perhaps head to the famous Stari Most Bridge, built by the Ottomans in 1565 – it was the great architect Mimar Hajrudin who succeeded with the impossible mission to cross the Neretva River with a single span stone bridge. The bridge also made headline news during the Yugoslav wars when it was destroyed in 1993. It was rebuilt and reopened in 2004, and there’s an interesting museum about its history next to the bridge itself. If you’re lucky you’ll see the famous brave members of Mostar’s diving club hurl themselves into the icy waters below. It’s a tradition for the young men of the town to make the jump, and it’s now an annual competition. We advise against having a go yourself though, as the bridge is very high and the water is freezing. You might like to follow local custom and hand the divers a few Marks.
Today, take a bus ride to Montenegro (approximately 6 hours). Head to Europe's most southerly fjord, Boka Kotorska (Bay of Kotor), before arriving into Kotor town. This 5th-century World Heritage-listed city is set on a secluded bay, with towering peaks surrounding a rocky coastline dotted with pretty waterside towns. When you arrive, head out on a short orientation walk, checking out the 12th-century Cathedral of St Tryphun. The tour will also take you past the South Gates of Kotor (the Gurdich Gate) and the Armoury Square (Trg od oruzija). Afterwards, you might like to get delightfully lost in the crooked alleyways, checking out the boutiques and cafes, or climb the hills behind the city to visit Kotor's ruined fortification walls. A one-and-a-half hour hike up the stone steps, past churches, gates, and bastions to the Fortress of Sveti Ivan at the top rewards you with magnificent views across town and the brooding Bay of Kotor. In the evening the city walls are prettily lit up to provide a unique night-time perspective.
Depart Montenegro by bus, riding along the beautiful southern coast of Croatia to Dubrovnik (approximately 3 hours). Take a walk along the city walls of ‘Game of Thrones’ fame, enjoying views of the sparkling Adriatic Sea in this renowned jewel of the Dalmatian Coast. Visit Big Onofrio's Fountain, built by architect Onofrio della Cava in the 15th century to supply water to the city. Perhaps check out the Franciscan monastery, home to one of the world's oldest continuously-functioning pharmacies, founded in the 13th century. Perhaps check out the 13th-century Franciscan monastery or the Sponza and Rector's Palaces, the only Renaissance buildings in the city to survive a devastating earthquake and fire in 1667. You might like to check out the city's War Photography Museum, or if you have time, even take a boat trip to nearby Lokrum Island, where you will find the French-built Fort Royal Castle, a monastery, and a botanical garden that dates back to when the Austrian archduke Maximilian had his holiday home on the island. At the end of your journey, perhaps you'd prefer to simply unwind on a beach. On the last night of your trip, why not enjoy one last meal with the group and toast to your adventures.

On Day 10 your adventure comes to an end. There are no activities planned and you are free to depart at any time. As there is so much to do in Dubrovnik you might like to extend your stay here. We are happy to organise accommodation for you, subject to availability. Please enquire at the time of booking.
View trip notes to read full itinerary

Inclusions

Meals
2 breakfasts
Transport
Train, Public bus, Private vehicle, Overnight sleeper train, Metro, Taxi
Accommodation
Hotel (4 nights), Overnight sleeper train (1 night), Pension (4 nights)

Dates

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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 Budapest & the Balkans trips score an average of 4.91 out of 5 based on 22 reviews in the last year.

Budapest & the Balkans , August 2016

Budapest & the Balkans , August 2016