Balkan Classic Tour

15 Day Classic Croatia, Montenegro, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Slovenia

Day 1- Start from USA for the tour

Depart for Croatia

Day 2- Dubrovnik, Croatia Arrive at Dubrovnik, Croatia

Arrive in Dubrovnik and transfer to your hotel. Spend the balance of the day at leisure. This evening, enjoy a Welcome Dinner and orientation.

Overnight: Dubrovnik
Meals: Dinner

Day 3- Dubrovnik

In the morning, we’ll take a city bus to the gates of Dubrovnik’s Old Town, Croatia’s crowning jewel. Located on a rocky spur at the country’s southernmost tip, Dubrovnik is renowned for its medieval walls and historic monuments. Today, the city’s character reflects its storied past as an independent city-state that rivaled Venice. Also known by its Latin name, Ragusa, this was a fortress city that served as the base for a fleet of ships that carried trade between much of Europe and the Middle East. The city-state’s period of autonomy extended from 1358 to 1808 and endowed it with a wealth of historic architecture

Lunch is on your own and your afternoon is free for independent exploration. You may wish to remain in Old Town and spend more time along the Placa (also called Stradun), return to your hotel; or use your all-day bus pass to explore another part of the city.

In the late evening, tour Old Dubrovnik on foot. This magnificent Old Town, with its treasure of Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque churches, monasteries, and palaces, is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. During the walking tour, see the Rector’s Palace, an outstanding blend of Gothic and Renaissance architecture and view the monumental Sponza Palace, one of the most beautiful palaces in the city, preserved in its original form. Under the City Bell Tower, lookout for Orlando’s Tower, dedicated to the legendary Knight that saved the city in the 9th century. Then on to view the Dominican Monastery and Franciscan Monastery with its Pharmacy. Visit the Pharmacy, one of the oldest in the world still in use today. The rest of the day is at leisure. Perhaps spend time strolling along the impressive ramparts overlooking the shimmering Adriatic Sea, or visit the Maritime Museum in St. John’s Castle. Don’t miss tonight’s optional boat ride around the Old City walls to St. Jakov Beach followed by a traditional Croatian dinner with Dalmatian wine along with spectacular views of the night-lit city.

Later, we’ll gather together for a Welcome Dinner at a local restaurant.

Optional: Cruise
Overnight: Dubrovnik
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 4- Dubrovnik- Perast- Kotor, Montenegro- Dubrovnik

After breakfast, we travel south for a full-day excursion to Montenegro, a small country that is home to vast natural beauty—from rugged alpine mountains to a scenic coastline dotted with historic cities. Montenegro’s history is unique in this region in that it managed to avoid being conquered by the Ottoman Turks in the 1300s, when they took control of the rest of the Balkans for the next four centuries. Our first stop is Perast, an ancient village along the Bay of Kotor that is rich in Venetian architecture and historic stone churches. After a brief tour of the village, we’ll board a small boat to visit the Baroque Our Lady of the Rocks shrine on a man-made islet. According to legend, the islet was formed by local fishermen who, after seeing the Virgin Mary in the reef, began dropping stones on the spot each time they sailed by. The shrine now contains 68 paintings by local 17th-century artist Tripo Kokolja, while its greatest treasure is the icon of Our Lady of the Rock, painted by the Dubrovnik artist Lovro Marinov Dobricevic.

Next, we’ll continue by boat farther south to Kotor, a wonderfully preserved medieval walled town situated at the head of southern Europe’s deepest natural bay. A designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, Kotor’s Stari Grad, or Old Town, is full of ancient churches and former aristocratic mansions that line narrow, cobbled streets. After a guided tour of Kotor and lunch on your own, you may join an elective hike that climbs up a steep, rocky trail (part of the city’s medieval walls) to the Church of Our Lady of Remedy. Built early in the 16th century, the old stone structure perched on a mountain slope offers splendid views of the red roofs of Kotor and out across the enchanting bay. Then, we return to Dubrovnik, arriving in late afternoon.

Dinner is on your own this evening.

Overnight: Dubrovnik
Meals: Breakfast

Day 5- Dubrovnik- Mostar-Sarajevo

After breakfast, we’ll journey north and inland to Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia & Herzegovina. Along the way, we’ll stop at the ancient town of Mostar. Established by the Ottoman Turks in the late 15th century, Mostar became a place where the cultures of the Western Europe and the Middle East mingled, blending influences from the mainland and the Adriatic Sea. Mostar is named for the former watchtower keepers (mostari in Bosnian) of its historic bridge. A masterpiece of Ottoman Turkish architecture, this graceful 16th-century bridge has long spanned the Neretva River, whose emerald waters divided the town into Croat and Muslim sections. Destroyed in 1993 during the breakup of the former Yugoslavia, the bridge and Mostar’s historic city center were restored in 2004 and are now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The bridge also represents a powerful symbol of reconciliation and continued peace for the region.

During our time in Mostar, we’ll enjoy lunch of traditional Bosnian fare at a local restaurant before we continue on to Sarajevo, arriving late in the afternoon. Enjoy time to relax and settle into your hotel room, then gather for an orientation walk on our way to an included dinner together at a local restaurant.

Overnight: Sarajevo
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 6- Sarajevo

After breakfast, we’ll embark on a walking tour of Sarajevo. Established by the Ottomans in the 15th century, Sarajevo thrived as a multicultural haven for Muslims, Serbs, Croats, Turks, Jews, and others for hundreds of years. By the late 17th century, Sarajevo was considered the most important city in the Balkans after Istanbul, and it is said to be the only city in the world where prayer calls can be heard simultaneously from mosques, synagogues, and churches. After hosting the 1984 Winter Olympics, Sarajevo, this once-shining example of ethnic diversity, descended into chaos during the Yugoslav wars of the early 1990s. Although Bosnian Serb artillery pulverized the city during a three-and-a-half-year siege—the longest in the history of modern warfare—most of Sarajevo has since been rebuilt, and the city is rapidly reclaiming its spirit of religious tolerance.

In Bascarsija, or Old Town, we’ll see shining examples of the city’s Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian influences, including a 16th-century mosque complex that is considered one of the finest examples of Ottoman architecture in the Balkans. Here, we’ll walk through an old alleyway where copper-smiths still do their trade and enjoy a taste of local snacks. We’ll also explore Ferhadija, the Austrian quarter, along with the historic Latin Bridge—site of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand that proved instrumental to spark the World War I.

Then, you’ll have the afternoon free to explore on your own, perhaps to visit the picturesque Turkish bazaar, or just to mingle with the locals.

Dinner is on your own this evening.

Overnight: Sarajevo
Meals: Breakfast

Day 7- Sarajevo

After breakfast, we turn our attention on Sarajevo’s more recent past, including the events that occurred following the violent breakup of former Yugoslavia in 1992. More than 10,000 people were killed during a three-and-a-half year siege of the city by Bosnian Serbs, shelling from hills above the city. We’ll visit the famous Sarajevo Tunnel (also called the Tunnel of Hope), a vast underground passage dug in 1993 to ferry people out and bring supplies into the struggling city.

After lunch on your own, your afternoon is at leisure. Perhaps you’d like to head out to the National Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina

Overnight: Sarajevo
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 8- Sarajevo- Zagreb

We’ll leave the past behind us and journey overland to Zagreb, Croatia’s modern capital. Upon our arrival, we’ll enjoy dinner together at our hotel.

Overnight: Zagreb
Meals: Breakfast

Day 9- Zagreb

Start the day in busy Kaptol Square in Upper Town, dominated by the monumental Zagreb Cathedral, with its soaring twin spires, its cobblestone streets, and red tiled roof buildings. Walk along Kravi Most (or Bridge of Blood- a vivid testament to the historic rivalry between the two medieval settlements of Gradec and Kaptol), to St. Mark’s Church with its brightly colored roof and the 17th century Jesuit Church of St. Catherine. After a stop at the Parliament building, free time to explore the winding streets of the Old Town and Ban Jelacic, the main square. Or, take a leisurely stroll along Ilica Street, packed with restaurants, trendy cafes and a vibrant shopping scene. The rest of the afternoon is at leisure in Zagreb.

Lunch and dinner are on your own today.

Optional: Dinner
Overnight: Zagreb
Meals: Breakfast

Day 10- Zagreb- Klanjec- Kumrovec- Zagreb

Today, we’ll travel north of Zagreb to explore some of the old-world villages of Zagorje, an idyllic region of winding country roads, natural springs, and unspoiled green hills. Our first halt is Klanjec, a charming town near the border with Slovenia surrounded by fertile wine hills. Klanjec is also the birthplace of renowned sculptor Antun Augustincic, one of the most important Croatian sculptors of the 20th century. Augustincic created the Peace monument which stands in front of the United Nations building in New York City. We’ll see many of the great sculptor’s works during a visit to the Antun Augustincic Gallery. Then, we’ll visit the old village of Kumrovec, a unique open-air museum focusing on traditional ways of life a century ago—and renowned as the birthplace of Marshal Tito, the legendary president of the former Yugoslavia. Visit the Ethnological Museum’s restored village houses from the turn of the 19th century.

After lunch at a local restaurant, we’ll return to Zagreb with the remainder of the day at leisure. Dinner is on your own this evening.

Overnight: Zagreb
Meals: Breakfast

Day 11- Zagreb- Plitvice Lakes- Opatija

After breakfast, we journey overland to Opatija. En route, we’ll break to explore Croatia’s magnificent Plitvice Lakes, a 114-square-mile national park that has, at its heart, 16 turquoise lakes linked by a series of waterfalls and cascades. Bears and wolves call this region home, along with deer, boar, foxes, and more than 120 different species of birds, including hawks, wild ducks, and herons. This natural wonder has been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979. The lake system is divided into the upper and lower lakes, with about 440 feet of elevation between them. We’ll take a walking tour along some of the wooden footbridges of the lakes.

Afterward, we’ll enjoy lunch at a local restaurant before we continue to Opatija. Situated in the Kvarner Gulf that separates Dalmatia from Istria, Opatija is a seaside resort town located in a heart-shaped peninsula just south of Trieste, Italy. Surrounded by landscaped parks and lush gardens dotted with grand villas with elegant facades, Opatija’s history as a Mediterranean resort destination for wealthy European aristocrats, dignitaries, and artists stretches back to 1844.

We’ll have an included dinner at a local restaurant this evening.

Overnight: Opatija
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 12- Opatija (optional tour to Hill Towns of Istria)

Today, we travel along the striking Bay of Kvarner to the picturesque seaside resort of Opatija, the gem of Croatia’s Adriatic coast, with its rich history. Travelers not choosing our optional tour may wish to relax in Opatija or stroll along a section of the famous Lungomare, a 7.5-mile-long waterfront promenade linking Opatija with Lovran, another small resort town dotted with aristocratic villas and manicured gardens.

Or, you may wish to join our optional Hill Towns of Istria tour featuring some of the hilltop villages and towns that surround the region. The tour includes a visit to Motovun, one of the region’s 136 medieval hill towns; a typical Istrian lunch; and a visit to a family-run rakija distillery in the town of Buzet.

Dinner is on your own this evening.

Overnight: Opatija
Meals: Breakfast

Day 13- Opatija- Postojna Cave- Ljubljana

It’s time to enjoy the pleasures of this area before traveling north to the Postojna Caves in Slovenia, a huge network of passages, galleries and chambers, the largest show cave in Europe. Travel aboard the specially designed cave train with electric lighting that allows you to observe the splendor of the underground world, where the geological past is recorded in a unique manner. You’ll be dazzled by the stalactites and stalagmites in a variety of shapes and colors. Afterward, continue towards Ljubljana.

We arrive at Slovenia’s charming capital of Ljubljana, a flourishing university town. A walking tour of Ljubljana will highlight the old-world bridges spanning the gently flowing river Ljubljanica and the narrow streets of its café-lined Old Town. Most of the city’s buildings, parks, and monuments (and all of the bridges spanning the city center) were designed by innovative local architect Joze Plecnik. As the sun sets this evening, we’ll see the city from a new perspective during a cruise along the Ljubljanica.

Tonight, Dinner is on your own.

Optional: Cruise
Overnight: Ljubljana
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

Day 13- Ljubljana (tour to Lake Bled)

Join our full-day excursion to Lake Bled (subject to local weather conditions). This picturesque resort area of Lake Bled features a 17th-century church perched on an islet in the middle of the lake and an 800-year-old castle clinging to a rocky cliff, all against the backdrop of the majestic Julian Alps.  In the morning, we visit the Bled Castle, located on a cliff high above the lake. Rest of the day is at leisure. An afternoon tour is offered to Lake Bled. a jewel among the Alpine resorts and to Bohinj, with its dense woods and spectacular mountains.

Overnight: Ljubljana
Meals: Breakfast

Day 14- Ljubljana

Discover the charming Ljubljana. Much of the city of about 300,000 people was rebuilt after an 1895 earthquake, and it has a unique architectural style that has integrated surviving historic structures with more modern designs. The work of Joze Plecnik, a 20th-century architect and Ljubljana native, is particularly remarkable for the way it incorporates Roman, Medieval, Baroque, and Habsburg elements. A number of buildings that survived the earthquake still stand in the historic part of town, Old Ljubljana.

Lunch is on your own.

Later this evening, rejoin your group for a Farewell Drink and then celebrate your journey during a Farewell Dinner at a local restaurant.

Overnight: Ljubljana
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 15- Ljubljana- USA

After breakfast, transfer to the airport for your departure flight to home.

Meals: Breakfast

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