Athens to Belgrade

Athens to Belgrade

 Day 01: Embark on an unforgettable journey from Athens, starting with a private pickup after you explore Greece’s vibrant capital. Our first stop is Delphi, a UNESCO-listed ancient site boasting iconic landmarks like the Temple of Apollo and the Castallian Fountain. Marvel at treasures like the Treasury of the Athenians and the bronze Charioteer statue. Then, we’ll head to Meteora, a UNESCO gem from the 14th – 15th century, where monasteries perch atop stunning rock formations. Prepare for a breathtaking sunset, painting the sky above Meteora with vibrant hues—a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience. Rest for the night in Kalabaka, awestruck by the day’s wonders.

Day 02: Today, our journey begins in Ioannina, renowned for its storied past, cultural richness, and breathtaking scenery. Strolling along its ancient cobblestone pathways, you’ll journey through time, witnessing remnants of both Byzantine and Ottoman influence etched into the architectural fabric. Our next destination is the majestic Ioannina Castle, a relic from the Byzantine era, boasting a maze of alleys and historic edifices within its formidable walls. Amidst the lively streets, quaint cafes beckon, tempting you to indulge in authentic Greek fare and local delights. Enjoy some leisurely moments exploring Ioannina’s old town before we set off towards the enchanting “Stone City” of Gjirokaster in Albania for our overnight stay.

Day 03: Today, our journey leads us to Gjirokaster, famously dubbed “The Stone City,” nestled in Southern Albania at the foot of the Mali i Gjere mountain range. Gjirokastra’s charm lies in its fortress-like architecture, with each dwelling resembling a miniature stronghold. Its origins trace back to the ancient Gjirokastra Castle, dating to the 4th century AD, making it a prized relic of medieval Balkan towns. Every half-decade, Gjirokastra hosts the Albanian folklore and music festival, drawing fervent performers to showcase traditional dances, melodies, and attire within the city’s stone walls. Before venturing into the castle, visitors stroll through the medieval bazaar, a prelude to the atmospheric old town with its winding stone streets adorned with local crafts. Our exploration includes a visit to one of Gjirokastra’s best-preserved homes, steeped in authenticity. Our night will be spent immersed in the ambiance of Gjirokaster.

Day 04: Following breakfast, our next stop is Berat, often referred to as the “town of a thousand windows” and recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Strolling along its cobblestone streets unveils a mesmerizing sight of ancient dwellings, characterized by their stacked windows. This city’s history traces back to the 6th-5th century B.C. when it served as an Illyrian settlement. Later, in the 3rd century B.C., it transformed into the fortified city of Antipatrea. Remarkably, Berat’s castle walls still accommodate its residents today. Berat boasts a rich tapestry of attractions, including a majestic medieval castle, historic churches and mosques, a vibrant lower town adorned with elegant houses perched on steep slopes, an ancient stone bridge, captivating museums, and remnants of Albania’s communist era. Additionally, Berat holds significance as the birthplace of Onufri, a renowned painter celebrated for his distinctive reddish hue, which remains challenging to replicate. Our exploration will extend to the Gorica Neighborhood before we settle in for the night in Berat.

Day 05: Today’s journey takes us across the border into North Macedonia, with a picturesque detour first at Drilon National Park. Drilon’s serene lake, nestled amidst lush greenery, offers a tranquil retreat. The gentle sway of weeping willows along the shore sets a peaceful atmosphere, ideal for unwinding amidst nature’s splendor. Our next stop is Tushemisht, a hidden treasure blending natural wonders, cultural richness, and heartfelt hospitality.

Continuing our adventure into North Macedonia, our initial destination is St. Naum. Nestled at the origin of the Crni Drim River, within the Galicica National Park, this monastery holds sacred significance. Its pristine setting reflects the surrounding landscape, with crystal-clear spring waters mirroring both verdant foliage and distant mountain peaks. We conclude the day with an overnight stay in Ohrid.

Day 06: Today, our journey leads us to Ohrid, an enchanting destination in North Macedonia with a rich history dating back to ancient times. Designated as one of Europe’s oldest human settlements, Ohrid boasts UNESCO World Heritage status since 1980, encompassing the city itself and the stunning Ohrid Lake. Once inhabited by the Illyrian Tribe of Enkeleys, the lake was dubbed “Lyhnidas” by the Romans, meaning “the Light Lake.” Our exploration of Ohrid includes iconic sites such as the Church of St. John, the Church of St. Nicolas, and the Halveti Hayati Tekke mosque, offering glimpses into its Orthodox and Ottoman heritage. Renowned for its 365 Orthodox churches, symbolizing each day of the year, Ohrid flourished as a center of faith during the Byzantine Empire. Today, it captivates visitors with its picturesque architecture, hilltop castle, amphitheater, and breathtaking views of the lake framed by mountains. As the day draws to a close, we bid farewell to Lake Ohrid and head towards Tirana, Albania’s vibrant capital, for an overnight stay.

Day 07: Embark on our journey with a discovery of Tirana, Albania’s vibrant capital. Tirana boasts a rich blend of captivating museums, historic landmarks, sprawling national parks, and picturesque mountains. Its eclectic architecture, featuring Ottoman, Italian, and communist styles, provides a delightful contrast. Our first stop is Skanderbeg Square, named after Albania’s revered hero, Gjergj Kastrioti Skënderbeu, surrounded by notable landmarks such as the National Museum and Ethem Beu Mosque. We’ll then explore BUNKART, a unique museum housed within a former nuclear bunker, shedding light on Albania’s communist era. Continuing our tour, we’ll visit Tirana Castle, now a bustling pedestrian zone blending modernity with tradition. Finally, we’ll delve into the lively Blloku Neighborhood, renowned for its vibrant atmosphere and diverse culinary scene. Don’t miss the opportunity to indulge in Tirana’s delectable cuisine, ranging from street food delights to upscale gourmet options. Rest assured, Tirana promises an unforgettable experience.

Day 08: Our day begins with a journey to Kruja, a historic city symbolizing Albanian resistance against the Ottoman Empire in the 15th century. Perched 560 meters above sea level on Sarisalltik Mountain, Kruja’s medieval charm unfolds through its narrow streets and ancient bazaar, offering unique souvenirs like carpets and jewelry. Explore the strategically built Kruja Castle with its hidden pathways, revealing tales of local cunning against invaders.

Next, we venture to Prizren, known as Kosovo’s cultural hub, blending history, nature, and culinary delights. From its Illyrian roots to Byzantine and Ottoman influences, Prizren’s architecture tells a captivating story. Stroll along the river, admire elegant medieval houses, and discover the art of filigree in its shops. Experience the lively atmosphere, especially during the renowned Dokufest in August. Don’t miss the colorful Sinan Pasha Mosque and the panoramic views from the hilltop fortress. Enjoy a leisurely afternoon exploring Prizren before settling in for the night.

Day 09: Following breakfast, our journey proceeds toward Gjakova, renowned for hosting Kosovo’s oldest and largest bazaar. Despite enduring destruction throughout various conflicts, including the Balkan wars and the Kosovo war, the bazaar has been meticulously restored to its former glory. It now stands as a charming spot to savor a meal or browse through stores showcasing traditional handmade crafts by local artisans.

Our next stop is the Monastery of Decan, distinguished by its pristine white exterior. What truly sets it apart is the presence of Orthodox monks who continue to reside within its walls, producing fresh organic delicacies like cheeses. Designated as a UNESCO site in 2004, the monastery’s famed frescoes offer a glimpse into 14th-century life and the transformative Palaeologan Renaissance that revolutionized Byzantine art.

En route back to Prizren, we’ll venture into the Rahovec Valley, hailed as the viticulture capital of the region. With a rich history dating back to Illyrian times, evidence suggests grape cultivation has thrived here for over 2000 years. Nestled in the gentle slopes of Rahovec, vineyards flourish at altitudes ranging from 350 to 520 meters, yielding exquisite wines of exceptional quality. Each September, Rahovec hosts a vibrant wine festival, celebrating its rich viticultural heritage. Our day concludes with an overnight stay in Prizren.

Day 10: Today, our journey begins at one of the premier slow food Agro-tourism farms in the Balkans. We’ll explore the farm’s operations and discover its role in employing over 400 locals. Delve into the process of collecting, processing, and preserving regional organic produce. Witness how this family-run enterprise ingeniously repurposed old communist structures for storing their bioproducts. Afterward, savor a traditional lunch or shop for fresh farm goods at your leisure.

Later, we’ll venture towards Shkodra, nestled in Albania’s northwest, renowned for lending its name to the largest lake in the Balkans. With a history spanning millennia, Shkodra boasts ancient walls dating back to the 1st millennium BCE and a notable mention in Roman history as the capital of the Illyrian king Gent. Our visit includes the awe-inspiring Rozafa castle, offering panoramic views of the converging waters of three rivers flowing into the Adriatic Sea. Discover the city’s architectural charm, influenced by Venetian aesthetics, and perhaps catch the vibrant carnival festival if you’re here in February. Fun fact: Shkodra is a hub for crafting Venetian masks. Its strategic location has facilitated centuries of cultural exchange and trade. Rest overnight in Shkoder.

Day 11: Today’s journey begins with Budva, nestled in Montenegro. Before reaching there, we’ll pause at a viewpoint near Sveti Stefan. Once a humble fishing village on a tiny island, Sveti Stefan has transformed into an exclusive residential resort. Though inaccessible, its allure from the coast is captivating enough for a photograph. Budva awaits, renowned for its beaches, natural beauty, and charming old structures. Divided into old and new sections, New Budva boasts modern amenities, while Old Budva preserves its historical treasures like the St. Ivan church and the medieval wonders of the old town.

Next on our itinerary is Kotor, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Its labyrinth of narrow cobblestone streets was designed to thwart invaders, now a defining feature of the city. Many ancient buildings and churches bear plaques detailing their origins, adding to the city’s allure. Our visit includes Saint Luke’s church, a symbol of unity for the locals. We’ll spend the night near the Montenegrin Riviera.

Day 12: Embarking from Montenegro, our journey leads us across the border into Bosnia & Herzegovina, where the enchanting city of Mostar awaits. Our first stop will be the renowned Old Bridge, or Stari Most, a UNESCO World Heritage site crafted in 16th-century Islamic architectural style. Meandering through the vibrant Old Bazaar, we’ll soak in the lively ambiance of colorful streets. Mostar’s rich history is etched in stone, with reminders scattered throughout the town. Amidst the fusion of old and new, ancient mosques, bustling Turkish markets, and winding cobblestone lanes await exploration. A visit to the Blagaj Monastery, nestled at the base of a cliff, offers a serene retreat amidst stunning natural beauty and the azure waters of the Buna River. Following a leisurely afternoon to wander, we’ll retire for the night in this captivating UNESCO gem.

Day 13: Following breakfast, we’ll depart from Mostar heading towards Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s capital. Today’s plan involves exploring Sarajevo’s diverse terrain and visiting historical ruins. Remnants of the Yugoslav War, like bullet holes and cannon marks, are still visible throughout the city. Our tour will delve into the origins of Sarajevo and the medieval Bosnian Kingdom. We’ll explore both the Ottoman and Austria-Hungarian quarters, experiencing their vibrant markets, mosques, churches, and synagogues, which earned Sarajevo the moniker of European Jerusalem. Highlights include the Latin Bridge, where the triggering event of WWI occurred. Later, indulge in Sarajevo’s renowned meat dishes and desserts during your free time in the old town. Overnight stay in Sarajevo.

Day 14: As your Balkan journey draws to a close, we bid farewell to this captivating adventure through the vibrant history and culture of the region. Today, we’ll journey towards Belgrade, Serbia, with a brief stop in picturesque Zvornik by the tranquil Drina River. Take a moment to unwind before we continue across the border. May these memories of the seven West Balkan Countries remain etched in your heart for years to come.

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