Slovenia - Croatia - Bosnia and Herzegovina - Serbia - Montenegro - Macedonia
Day 1Ljubljana Airport – Ljubljana (27 km)
Welcoming you at the Airport in Ljubljana, Slovenia, a country well known for alpine stews, goulash and sauerkraut. Slovenia also boasts wonderful cakes and strudels, teran (wine), prsut (air-dried ham) and sensational olive oils. Picturesque Ljubljana is perfect for starting a food journey, with a surprisingly diverse food scene, progressive modern restaurants, street food, cafes and cake shops. Slovenia's national drink is called snopec. This fruit-based liqueur comes in a variety of flavors, with the local favorite being viljamovka, flavored with Williams pear. Our tour leader will suggest a great place in the heart of the city to sample some delicious traditional dishes. Accommodation in Ljubljana.
Day 2 Ljubljana – Bled - Ljubljana (110 km) (B, D)
This morning we drive to Bled, situated on stunning Lake Bled at the edge of the Julian Alps. We will spend the day exploring this beautiful area, but also to taste a delicious cream cake called kremna rezina, or kremsnita. It’s thought to have been invented in the kitchens of Hotel Park in 1953 by Istvan Lukacevic – chef of the hotel's confectionery store. Since its invention, more than ten million kremsnita have been baked at the hotel's patisserie. Afterwards we hike up to Bled Castle, than visit the 17th century baroque Church of the Assumption, and take a stroll around the lake. Return to Ljubljana in the late afternoon. In the evening, head over to a Slovenian culinary workshop to pick up some tips for creating some traditional Slovenian fare at home, followed by a hearty meal. Your hosts will provide a tasting of typical Slovenian cold starters, so you won't get hungry as you cook! Accommodation in a hotel.
Day 3Ljubljana – Piran - Rovinj (204 km) (B, L)
We leave Ljubljana in the morning and head to Piran, a coastal town, located near the border of Italy and Croatia. The region is renowned for its production of quality olive oils, wine, especially the distinctive teran and refosk, as well as a cured ham called prsut. This is air-dried in the cold dry wind known as bura, which sweeps down to the coast from inland. Take a tasting tour of the township, and then venture into a family-owned konoba (restaurant) for lunch and a wine tasting. Everything you eat is grown and prepared on the property. Next, head to the nearby salt pans of Piran where salt is still manually harvested with traditional tools according to a seven centuries old process. Cross the border into Croatia. Arrive to the town of Rovinj, one of the best-kept towns on the Adriatic Coast. Among Rovinj's qualities is the beautiful, architecturally intact old town centre, with a relaxed Mediterranean feel. Through the centuries, Rovinj’s character has enchanted many an artist or writer, including Jules Verne. Take an orientation walk through the old town. Than we stop into an oyster farm and taste freshly shucked bivalves straight from the ocean. Spend the evening at your leisure and perhaps seek out a local Mediterranean restaurant. Accommodation in a hotel.
Day 4 Rovinj – Zagreb (250 km) (B)
From Rovinj, we drive to the Croatian capital, Zagreb. After the accommodation, we take a relaxing short tour starting from the modern Donji Grad, or Lower Town, whose well-designed street grid was laid out in the 19th century. This area is home to many of city civic and historic monuments. We will continue to Gornji Grad, or Upper Town. In this older part of the city, there are two medieval settlements, Gradec and Kaptol. Among the highlights of Upper Town are the tall twin spires of the Cathedral of St. Stephen, an ancient church dedicated to the Assumption. Recommendation of some local downtown restaurant and free evening and overnight in Zagreb.
Day 5Zagreb – Moslavina region - Zagreb (120 km) (B, L)
After the breakfast, we drive to Moslavina region, southeast from Zagreb, and full of picturesque small towns, family farms and amazing wildlife. In local vineyards everything revolves around the native white variety called Škrlet, a light and crisp dry wine with floral aromas. There are also the usual continental varieties typical for central Croatia: Graševina, Chardonnay, Pinot blanc, Furmint, Muscat, Pinot noir, Blaufraenkisch. Today’s tour is for curious wine enthusiasts seeking new experience off the beaten path, but also for those who love countryside peacefulness. Specialties you can taste on this tour include: Moslavina version of orange wines, especially Škrlet, homemade brandies (cherry, honey, peach, strawberry, cornelian cherry), combined with cheese and meat. Back to Zagreb and overnight in a hotel.
Day 6 Zagreb - Split (408 km) (B, D)
A vibrant mixture of golden history and present-day delights, the city of Split grew out from the remains of Diocletian's Palace – some of the most impressive ruins on the Mediterranean. Today you’ll get the chance to learn more about the sights and flavours of the city as you embark on a walking tour of the city with a local foodie. Take Diocletian's Palace and wander the district's winding streets, before heading into the green market to learn about Croatian agriculture. Taste some artisanal olive oil, pick some mouth-watering local sweets (orancini and lemoncini) before finally paying a visit to the finest chocolatier in town. Finish with a lunch of beer and burek. The rest of the day is free for you to explore. Perhaps take in the fantastically preserved basements under the city, along with the Cathedral in Docletian’s Peristyle and Jupiter’s Temple. As the evening rolls in, you may choose to take another cooking class or put your feet up and relax over a hearty Croatian meal. Accommodation: Hotel
Day 7 Split – Dubrovnik - Trebinje (264 km) (B, D)
We start with a morning drive from Split to the Old Town area of Dubrovnik. The coastal town is surrounded by ancient walls. The old town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has been remarkably well restored. We explore the town on our own, with a prior explanation of our tour leader. From Dubrovnik, we drive to nearby town of Trebinje, in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Our panoramic city tour will start from the old fortresses and old stone Arslanagić bridge from 16th century, than the old clock tower, the urban core Castle built in 18th century, Osman pasha’s mosque from the 18th century and city walls, reaching the poets’ square lined with 115-years-old plane trees. This evening we are guests of Berak Winery, a family winery. Their tradition of wine production dates back several hundred years. They produce several varieties of wine, including Zilavka, Vranac, Chardonnay, Merlot, and Rose. Their latest innovation is a bio wine produced with a blend of old vine varieties. In addition to making wine, they also produce domestic brandy and bitters. Overnight in Trebinje.
Day 8 Trebinje – Njegusi – Kotor (125 km) (B, L)
This morning we drive to Montenegro to visit the town of Njegusi, known around the country for its famous smoke-dried hams and cheeses. Stop into a smokehouse, where the owners take you on a tour and explain their production process, dating back for centuries, and will also take you for a tasting of their famous Njegusi smoked hams, cheeses and grape brandy. Afterwards, visit an olive farm in the village of Tici, located in the Lustica Bay area near Kotor. Discover the art of olive pressing as your hosts share their second-generation organic olive oil production techniques. Wander through the beautiful olive groves before arriving at an ancient stone olive mill, where olives were once milled by hand. A guided tasting will give you an insight into what makes for good oil. Than we drive on to Kotor, with free time later in the day, exploring this small UNESCO town, or perhaps climbing the hills behind the city to experience Kotor’s ruined fortification walls. A hike up the stone steps, to the Fortress of Sveti Ivan at the top rewards you with views across the Bay of Kotor. Free night and optional dinner at a Kotor wine bar. Accommodation in a hotel.
Day 9 Kotor – Shkoder - Prizren (287 km) (B, L)
We leave Montenegro and on the way to Kosovo, first we stop in the Albanian town of Shkoder, to explore Rozafa Fortress, one of the last strongholds of the allied Christian forces against invading Ottomans in the 15th century. In the afternoon, we arrive in Prizren, the second largest city in Kosovo. This picturesque location remains as the most culturally and ethnically diverse in all of Kosovo. The abundance of orange rooftops makes for an interesting sight, as do the impressive mosques and churches in the city. Pass by the sights, smells and sounds of the bazaar, with a whole range of specialties on offer, including stuffed peppers, which are a big hit. This afternoon on our menu there is one of the most popular Kosovo’s gastronomic delicacies, deep fried lamb. Afterword we have guided sightseeing tour and you can choose to continue wandering through the streets on your own in the rest of the day. Accommodation in Prizren.
Day 10 Prizren – Gracanica - Prishtina (87 km) (B, L)
Continue onwards to Pristina today, Kosovo’s capital and the largest city. We first take some time to explore the historic Gracanica settlement, which serves as the home of one of the few dominantly Serbian populations in Kosovo. A special experience waits with a delicious Kosovo-Serb barbecue, prepared by the local hosts who serve sausages and other pork delicacies from their personal smokehouse. Afterwards, round out a big meal by taking a short trip to the World Heritage-listed Gracanica Monastery, built upon the ruins of a sixth-century Christian basilica by Serbian king Stefan Milutin in 1321. Drive to Prishtina for a short city sightseeing. Accommodation in a hotel in Prishtina.
Day 11Prishtina – Tetovo - Leunovo (179 km) (B, L)
After the breakfast, we travell towards Macedonia. Pass through the Brezovica National Park, witnessing the steep cliffs and rugged mountain scenery, we get into the town of Tetovo to visit the beautiful Sarena Dzamija, or the Decorated Mosque of Tetovo. This mosque is famous for its intricate facade and internal painted decorations. In the late afternoon we arrive in the village of Leunovo, to enjoy a meal typical of Mavrovo area at a local restaurant. Considered to be a division of Balkan cuisine, Macedonian dishes reflect influences taken from both Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cultures. The relatively warm climate allows for excellent growing conditions for vegetables and fruits, along with fragrant herbs. Macedonian dairy products, wines and local alcoholic beverages, such as rakija, have gained considerable notoriety for the variety and quality of flavors they offer. However, if there’s two things you should keep an eye out for in Macedonia, it’s tavce gravce – a traditional dish prepared with fresh beans, pepper and onion, and mastika – a liqueur seasoned with resin gathered from the mastic tree. Accommodation in a hotel in the National Park Mavrovo.
Day 12 Leunovo – Janche - Ohrid (110 km) (B, L)
This morning we set off to explore the southern part of the Mavrovo National Park. We take a stop at the nearby St. John the Baptist of Bigorski Monastery, which is widely renowned as the most spiritual monastery in Macedonia. This 19th-century structure, erected upon both the ruins of an 11th-century church and the slopes of Mountain Bistra, is home to a small silver coffin allegedly containing the remains of St John himself. Continue on to the village of Janche, sitting in the canyon that guides the Radika River. The village is known as one of the oldest in the region – its quaint houses line the hillside. After a quick walk around this village, a hands-on cooking class with the local women will teach the skills required to make local pastries, considered to be a specialty of this region. After lunch, drive onward to Ohrid where we will spend the evening. Accommodation in a hotel.
Day 13 Ohrid – Kuratica - Ohrid (42 km) (B, L)
Ohrid is Europe’s oldest lake and, as one of the oldest human settlements in the world, it’s got a wealth of historic sites and religious monuments to discover. The town is said to have once been home to 365 churches, one for each day of the year, earning it the nickname ‘the Macedonian Jerusalem’. Today we start with an exploration of the town’s streets and churches, maybe picking up a bargain or two in the vibrant Old Bazaar, or the ancient Tsar Samoil’s Fortress, which stands on the top of Ohrid Hill and looks across the town, along with a 2000 year old Maceedonian-Roman theatre that was uncovered near its upper gate. We finish at St. John of Kaneo church, which sits on a rocky outcrop overlooking the lake, one of the most popular in Macedonia. This afternoon we head to Kuratica – a village on the outskirts of Ohrid. Here you’ll experience local hospitality and enjoy a home-cooked meal. Your host also brews his own rakija, which you’ll be lucky enough to taste. Back in Ohrid and accommodation in a hotel.
Day 14 Ohrid – Dihovo - Bitola (81 km) (B, L)
After leaving Ohrid, we drive onward to Dihovo, another little village sitting in the foothills of Mountain Baba and National Park Pelister. A local beekeeper will teach you about the honeybee as they share their secrets, you’ll get hands-on with an open beehive demonstration. Afterwards, enjoy a tasting of honey extracted straight from the comb before having a home-cooked meal in a traditional villa. All of the ingredients are organic and come from the family’s private gardens. Continue to Bitola, arriving by mid-afternoon. Relax in one of the city’s many cafes, explore the stalls of the Old Bazaar or choose to take a guided tour of the ancient town and archaeological site of Heraclea Lyncestis, located on the outskirts of Bitola. Heraclea was founded by Philip II of Macedonia in the fourth century BC after he had conquered the surrounding region of Lyncestis. The city was named in honor of the mythological hero Heracles, whom Philip considered his ancestor. Accommodation in Bitola.
Day 15Bitola – Tikvesh Winery - Skopje (181 km) (B, L)
Start the day with a Turkish coffee, or for the more adventurous, perhaps try a bowl of the local specialty ckembe corba (tripe soup). It is claimed that the soup was once an initiation rite for boys, but today it’s commonly enjoyed for breakfast. Later on, head out to the Stobi archaeological site for a short walk. Stobi, once known as Paeonia, was conquered by the ancient kingdom of Macedon and became the capital of the Roman province of Macedonia Salutaris. It is considered to be the most famous archaeological site in Macedonia, with its carved basilica, stone columns and ancient theatre. Onwards to Tikves, where you’ll meet an international wine writer and critic responsible for the first guide to Macedonian wine. The production of grapes is prominent in Macedonia, thanks to an abundance of sunshine and rich, rocky soil. This has been the case since Roman times, where wine production was conducted in monasteries. Tikves continues to play an important role in the country’s wine production and is home to many of the country’s finest wineries – today’s adventures offer a taste of local varieties at two of these estates. Enjoy a pairing of delicious local cheeses next to these wines this afternoon. Arrive in Skopje in the late afternoon where tonight is free to explore. Accommodation I a hotel.
Day 16Skopje – Matka - Skopje (33 km) (B, L)
In the morning we start a walking tour from the Old Turkish Bazaar, mingling with the locals, meeting different cultures and religions, old forgotten crafts, as well. After that we walk to the modern center of Skopje, across the Stone Bridge, the land mark of the city, with possibility to visit the Archaeological museum of Macedonia. In the very center we stop in front of the monument and fountain of Alexander the Great. The next stop will be the memorial house of Mother Teresa. She was born in Skopje in 1910. In the afternoon we drive to one of the most beautiful canyons in Europe, Matka, with its river Treska. We will have lunch break in the restaurant on the bank of the river, a fish stew and grilled river trout, and by small boats we will ride 6 km upstream to visit the cave Vrelo, full of cave decorations, like stalactites and stalagmites. Free time in the canyon for individual activities. Back to Skopje and free evening. Overnight in Skopje.
Day 17Skopje – Airport of Skopje (23 km) (B)
Breakfast, free time, and about 11.00 o’clock transfer to the airport of Skopje.