Welcoming you at the Sofia airport and transport to Sofia, Bulgaria's capital. Check-in to our hotel. Sofia is a city of long history, full of orthodox churches, Ottoman mosques, Roman ruins and old communistic monuments, museums, art galleries, cafes and restaurants. In the afternoon, we start an easy group walk covering the central part of the city, Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, the ancient ruins of Serdica (the ancient name of the city), St. Nedela Church. In the evening, we have organized dinner in a national Bulgarian restaurant to start our food adventure with "shopska" salad, tarator, banichka, shkembe chorba, Bulgarian musaka and sarma, wine and brandy. Overnight in Sofia.
Day 2 Sofia – Rilla – Melnik (240 km) (B, L, D)
In the morning, we depart from Sofia to the smallest Bulgarian town Melnik, famous for its wine production. The first stop to Melnik is the medieval monastery of Rilla, situated high in the mountain of Rilla. Rila Monastery was founded in the 10th century by the monk St. John of Rila and was rebuilt in 13th century. From that time are the fortress tower, the bishop’s throne, richly carved doors and some manuscripts, icon-paintings and church plates. After the visit to the monastery, we take a traditional restaurant by the mountain river to taste the famous Rilla river mountain trout. While we are here, we must taste sweet potatoes, goat cheese and mountain honey. Next we drive to another medieval monastery - Rozhen Monastery of St Nativity of Mother of God. It is the only monastery in Bulgaria which was restored in the first centuries of Ottoman rule and has survived to the present day. After the check in to the hotel, we take a small walking tour around the town of Melnik to admire unique distinctive architecture. Tonight we have dinner in Kordopulova House built in the Renaissance period. We will taste local traditional dishes, like kavrma, and wine from their own wine cellars. Overnight in a hotel.
Day 3Melnik - Gabrovo - Berovo (125 km) (B, L, D)
Soon after crossing the border, we visit the village of Gabrovo, a traditional Macedonian village on the eastern part of the country. The host farmers will be waiting for us there, willing to take us around Strumica plain, one of the most important plains in the country well known for peppers production. We will pick up some fruits and vegetables from the fields and start cooking together with the hosts – fresh salads, fresh baked bread and meat, homemade wine and natural fruit juices will be on our menu for the home hosted lunch. In the afternoon, we walk to nearby Waterfalls of Koleshino to enjoy natural attractions of the area. We drive on to Berovo, a town situated on 1000 meters altitude, called "air bath town", because of its fresh and clean air and environment. After the check in to the hotel, we take a relaxing walk around Berovo Lake. Accommodation, traditional dinner and overnight in a hotel in Berovo.
Day 4 Berovo – Kratovo (137 km) (B, L, D)
This small mountainous town and its healthy environment are well known for bee farms and honey production, so first we do today is taste some of it. In the afternoon our today’s hosts will be waiting for us in the place called Bachilo (sheepfold), and we have an option to walk to Bachilo about 800 m on a steep terrain, or use a tractor from the main road to the sheepfold. It is a private property in the middle of the mountain, where they grow their own fruits and vegetables around the hut and also have their own cattle. The host will take us around the property and serve us some of their home-made food specialties - spinach pie baked in traditional furnace, buttermilk, cottage cheese, other cheese types, juices from blackberry, raspberry, blueberry, black currant and many other forest fruits, mountain potato, tomatoes, carrots, cabbage, cucumbers. After the lunch, we drive to another unique town called Kratovo. Have a guided walking tour around the town, crossing many medieval bridges and towers. See a unique small museum with artifacts from 20th century B.C. until nowadays. Then for dinner we have a chance to taste slowly-cooked food by the locals and taste the local homemade wine and rakija. The dinner consist of round bread, baked in wood, typical of Kratovo region, hard-boiled eggs, sheep cheese, shopska salad (a classic Balkan dish with tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions, covered by a blanket of grated cheese), freshly fried peppers, and baked beans. But the host is mostly proud of unique so called homemade crushed salt made of salt, peppers, rosemary, basil, peppermint, wild mint, and thyme and you must taste it. Overnight in Kratovo.
Day 5Kratovo - Skopje (90 km) (B, L)
This morning, we are heading to the Valley of Stone Dolls first, an area consisting of over 120 naturally formed stone pillars, related to many legends of their creation. Next, close to Skopje, we visit Kamnik Winery. The winery and its vineyards stretch out across 13 hectares of hills and have excellent microclimatic conditions all year round. We will taste some wine varieties both local and international, like Golden Temjanika, Vranec, Pinot Noar, Pinot Grigio, or Rose wine, accompanied with delicious Macedonian national food. Than we continue to Skopje and start relaxing walking tour from the Old Turkish Bazaar, crossing the Stone Bridge, the land mark of the city, and stop in front of the biggest monument and fountain of Alexander the Great. The next stop will be the memorial house of Mother Teresa, born in this city. Free evening and overnight in Skopje.
Day 6 Skopje – Vevchani - Ohrid (212 km) (B, L)
Driving throughout the impressive canyons and mountain rivers, we stop in one of the most important medieval monasteries of Macedonia, Bigorski monastery. The wooden iconostasis of the church is a masterpiece of 19th century. Today’s lunch is in Vevchani. In this village we will visit the springs of Vevchani, a beautiful park of nature. In a national restaurant in the village of Vevchani we will have a chance to taste local food, such as ayvar, pindzur, tavche-gravche (baked beans), variety of salads, grilled mushrooms and peppers, grilled sheep cheese, and homemade wine and rakiya. Vevchani is famous for its Vevchani Carnival. The Vevchani Carnival, claims a 14-century-long legacy held every year 13 -14 January. Drive to Ohrid for overnight.
Day 7 Ohrid – Kuratica - Ohrid (42 km) (B, L)
Breakfast in the hotel, followed by a city tour. Ohrid is Europe’s oldest lake and, as one of the oldest human settlements in the world, it has 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 Macedonian-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. Back in the center by small boats. This afternoon we head to Kuratica – a village on the outskirts of Ohrid. Local hosts will wait for us there and serve different specialties from traditional Macedonian cuisine all that combined with home-made wine and traditional alcoholic drink rakia. The bread and some of the pies come directly from an old furnace, so you will be able to observe the whole backing process. Then the hosts will take us to a short donkey safari around the village, exploring the beautiful nature that surrounds the village. Back in Ohrid and overnight.
Day 8 Ohrid – Dihovo – Bitola (80 km) (B, L)
Breakfast in the hotel. Today we are first heading to the National park and mountain of Galitchitsa to admire the nature from few view points in the mountain. On the other site of the National park, we will have another stop to view Lake Prespa with hundreds of species of birds, pelicans and cormorants among them. We drive onward to Dihovo, a little village sitting in the foothills of Mountain Baba and National Park Pelister. A local Guest House Dihovo is member of the Slow Food organization for healthy food and produces home-made wine, brandy and beer as well as home-made organic food. Our lunch here will consists of variety of home-cooked Macedonian specialties, made with fruits and vegetables coming from its own private gardens, followed by domestic brandy and wine in wooden barrels, as well as a range of homebrewed beers. 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. Overnight in Bitola.
Day 9 Bitola – Edessa - Loutraki - Thessaloniki (270 km) (B, L, D)
Today we drive to Greece. First, we visit Edessa waterfall and after that we go to visit Thermal springs in village Loutraki. We will have lunch in local restaurant. After that we are continue for Thessaloniki, Greece’s second largest city. Filled with the reminders of Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman rule, Thessaloniki is a city situated on the Thermaic Gulf. Today we visit some of the prime sites of the city with a local guide. The steep narrow streets of the district are all that is left of the city's 19th century period and a walk among the whitewashed houses and overhanging balconies leads to some quite magnificent views down into the gulf across the city. There is a possibility to visit the Byzantine Museum, Archaeological Museum etc. on own. We end the day in Thessaloniki to enjoy dinner in a restaurant with traditional Greek music at the central square Aristotle. Overnight.
Day 10Thessaloniki - Naoussa – Thessaloniki (B, L) (202 km)
In the morning, we are heading to an important wine region in northern Greece, in the place called Naoussa to taste some Greek wine and food. Here we visit the Kiryianni wine cellar. They incorporate the balance of wine production between the 100-year-old family tradition and the latest wine-making techniques. Next, the road leads northeast to the outskirts of the pretty village of Gumensa in the Chatzivaridi cellar. The Chatzivaridi family winery embodies the traditions and modern technologies in wine production - its quality is ensured by the constant control of the ripening of the grapes, the fertility of the land on which it is grown, and the organic ways of its cultivation. Of the 120 hectares of its own vineyards, Chatzivaridi produces really good wines, including local Xinomavro, Negoska, Roditis and Assyrtiko. These wines will be combined with a variety of local traditional dishes from this region of Greece, like different pies, pastries, pastas and pickled foods, leeks, eggplants and red peppers. We drive back to Thessaloniki. Free evening and overnight in Thessaloniki.
Day 11Thessaloniki – Airport of Thessaloniki (21 km)
Breakfast and transfer to the airport of Thessaloniki.