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Balkan Explorer

Absorb the unique blend of culture, ancient tales and architectural treasures

From £6,895 per person


Absorb the unique blend of culture, ancient tales and architectural treasures on this fascinating voyage aboard the Golden Eagle Danube Express. Meandering through verdant landscapes and along turquoise coastlines, this exclusive rail cruise delivers a captivating exploration of the Balkan nations and their surrounding countries.

The itinerary for your journey
Tour highlights
Days 1-2 - Venice
Grand Canal, Venice

After your flight to Venice (flights not included)  where you will be met and transferred to the luxurious five-star Danieli hotel for a two-night stay. The legendary hotel enjoys a spectacular location and is only a short stroll from St Mark's Square, the Doge's Palace and the Bridge of Sighs. Today is at leisure for all guests to explore this wonderful city. This evening we will enjoy a welcome reception and dinner, giving you the opportunity to meet your fellow travelers.

Venice is a truly captivating city of romance; its unrivalled beauty takes away the breath of first time visitors and regulars alike. On Day 2 we will have the opportunity to take a walking tour around the highlights of this spectacular city. Walk through the winding lanes beside the Grand Canal to St Mark's Square, which for 1,000 years was the heart of Venetian life. We also see St Mark's Basilica and stroll through the Rialto Market.

Spend the rest of the day exploring this magnificent city. For a truly iconic experience, take a gondola ride (additional charge) in the Basin of St. Mark's and along the Grand Canal followed by a short stroll through the artists' district of Dorsoduro, where we will stop to take in the city's most breath-taking views from the Academia Bridge, before returning to your hotel.

Day 3 – Trieste
Trieste

This morning we transfer from the hotel, by boat, directly to Santa Lucia station on the Grand Canal. Here our private train, the Golden Eagle Danube Express, is ready to receive us. Mid-morning the train will thread its way out Santa Lucia station onto the 3-mile causeway over the Venice Lagoon and on to on our first stop at the Italian port city of Trieste, for an afternoon tour. We stop at the vast Piazza Unita d'Italia, the main town square, and can climb the hill to the famous Church of San Giusto built around a medieval complex that dates backs to the 13th century. We will go inside the church for a close-up view of the splendid Byzantine-style architecture enriched with precious mosaics.

Day 4 - Ljubljana & Zagreb
Ljubljana

Ljubljana is a delightful city, a combination of ancient architecture and a youthful culture. Our morning city tour includes visits to Preseren Square, Three Bridges, Dragon Bridge and Plecnik Market. We enjoy lunch back onboard the train as we travel onwards towards Croatia's elegant capital Zagreb.

This afternoon we will tour Zagreb, a central European city with over 900 years of documented history. We will take a walking tour of the upper town and 'Kapitol' (the ancient town centre), which abounds in Baroque atmosphere and cultural monuments. We will also see the ornate buildings of the lower town and its wide boulevards.

Day 5 - Sarajevo & Mostar
Mostar

Early morning arrival into the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo which is an intriguing blend of Eastern and Western culture; it has mosques and minarets, an ancient bazaar and an atmospheric old Turkish quarter. Discover the city's poignant history through a truly absorbing tour detailing the horrors of the Balkan War. Sarajevo suffered from the longest siege of a capital city in the history of modern warfare. The scars of war are still evident as we travel past war-torn buildings and we make a special visit to the Tunnel Museum under Sarajevo Airport. Your guide, who lived through the 1992-1996 conflict, brings to life in touching fashion the struggles the citizens of Sarajevo faced during the siege of the city.

Following a light lunch in Sarajevo, this afternoon we travel along a very scenic line to the historic city of Mostar, the crossroads of many civilizations, cultures and three religions. Mostar was one of the most important cities of the Ottoman Empire. The town's renowned stone arch bridge linking the Christian and Muslim areas was re-built in the summer of 2004. We also visit Turkish House and the mosque before walking through the narrow, bazaar streets, where you can shop for traditional souvenirs and handicrafts.

Day 6 - Dubrovnik
Dubrovnik

Since its foundation in the 13th century Dubrovnik has been attacked many times but it is now restored as one of the great cities of the Mediterranean, essentially unchanged for 700 years. We will tour the city travelling through Ploce Gate to visit the Franciscan Monastery with one of the world's oldest pharmacies, the Old Harbour, St Laurence Fortress and the Rector's Palace. We have lunch overlooking the Adriatic and have free time to wander the narrow streets. Mid-afternoon we head back to the train in Mostar for dinner as we depart towards Serbia.

Day 7 - Belgrade
Belgrade

Arrive this morning in the Serbian capital, Belgrade, the former Yugoslavian capital. Located at the strategic meeting point of the Danube and Sava Rivers, this truly cosmopolitan city has fortifications from Celtic times, medieval tombs and Turkish baths. We spend a full day here and our city tour includes the 'House of Flowers' -the mausoleum of Josip Tito, the Town Hall, Republic Square and Knez Mihajlova Street, as well as 'Varos' Gate and a visit to the mighty Kalemegdan Fortress.

Day 8 - Skopje & Thessaloniki
Skopje

Overnight the train twists and turns as it climbs over the Carpathian Mountains and threads its way through the dramatic landscape with crystal clear mountain streams.

This morning we arrive in Sinaia for a tour of Peles Castle. The castle is a masterpiece of German new-Renaissance architecture, considered by many one of the most stunning castles in Europe. Commissioned by King Carol I in 1873 and completed in 1883, the castle served as the summer residence of the royal family until 1947. Its 160 rooms are adorned with the finest examples of European art, Murano crystal chandeliers, German stained-glass windows and Cordoba leather-covered walls.

Returing to our private train for lunch we continue onto Brasov in the afternoon for a visit to Bran Castle. Surrounded by an aura of mystery and legend and perched high atop a 200-foot-high rock, the 14th century castle owes its fame to its imposing towers and turrets as well as to the myth created around Bram Stocker's Dracula. Following a tour of the castle and its surroundings we will enjoy a gala dinner tonight inside the castle walls.

Day 9 - Sofia & Plovdiv
St Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Sofia

The site of Bulgaria's modern capital, at the foot of Mt Vitosha, Sofia was first occupied by the Thracian tribe of Serdi. On our morning tour we will visit sections of the Roman wall, admire the ancient church of St George, the golden domed Alexander Nevsky Cathedral and the Turkish Bashi Mosque.

We enjoy lunch on the train as we travel from Sofia to Plovdiv. The second largest city in Bulgaria after Sofia, 'The City of Seven Hills' is one of the oldest cities in Europe with more than 200 known archaeological sites. We spend the afternoon here exploring the Roman Forum and Amphitheatre. We'll visit the charming Old Town including its medieval walls and Ottoman baths

Days 10-11 - Istanbul
Istanbul

This morning we arrive into Istanbul where we stay for one night at a five-star hotel.

This fabled city that spans Asia and Europe is our final stop on our tour so there is time to see how old meets new, east meets west when we visit Istanbul's must-see historic sites. One of the most famous monuments in both the Turkish and Islamic worlds, the Sultan Ahmet Mosque (the Blue Mosque) is a superb creation in the classical Ottoman style and features six towering minarets and 260 windows illuminating its vast main chamber, which is decorated with more than 20,000 Iznik tiles.

Now a museum, Hagia Sophia was built in the 6th century by the Emperor Justinian, and was one of the largest basilicas in the Christian world. After the Ottoman conquest, it was converted to a mosque and is today one of the most magnificent museums in the world. Take a moment to linger here to admire the fine Byzantine mosaics.

Following breakfast on Day 11 you will be transferred to the airport for your flight back home (Flights not Included)

Departure Dates

All prices are per person and assume full occupancy of the room.
Please always refer to the website for up-to-date prices and availability.

Trains
Danube Express
Danube Express

On the Danube Express we include accommodation in Classic cabin compartments. These historic cars date from the 1950s and were used by officials and dignitaries of the Hungarian government. Fully refurbished they retain many of their original features including wooden panels and elegant furniture.

Each two-berth compartment provides a private, on board haven of peace and quiet, with a banquette style sofa and large, opening windows. Each cabin has a washbasin, hanging space for clothing and overhead racks to store luggage. Shower and toilet facilities are available in each car, just a short distance down the corridor. At night, your attendant will convert the cabin to upper and lower beds.

Lunch and dinner are served in the train's elegant restaurant cars, and wine, beer and soft drinks are included with meals. Deluxe cabins with private bathrooms featuring a shower, washbasin and WC are available at a supplement.

Hotels
What's included

Not Included

Enhancing your tour

Upgrades

We offer a selection of upgrades and 'add-ons' designed to help you make the most of your holiday - and make it even easier!

Flight upgrades
Flight upgrades

Flight upgrades are available. Please see the information regarding the types of upgrades offered by the various airlines we use in the Add-ons section of 'Things you should know' or call us for details.

London Hotels
London hotels

Spending a night in London before your tour can make such a difference to the first day of your holiday - you can arrive in the capital in good time, relaxed and ready to join your Tour Manager the next morning. You may even want to take in a show on the West End, or dine in one of London's famous restaurants. Perhaps on your return to London, you would like to break your journey with an overnight stay before continuing home.

We are able to book a wide range of hotels in central London or, for our holidays beginning with a flight, at Heathrow, Gatwick or Manchester Airport for the night before or after your holiday. The hotels listed below are some of the more popular hotels our customers book in Central London, others are available on request.

Hotel Board Star Weekday room rate Weekend room rate
Pullman London St Pancras B&B 4-star From £240 From £220
Comfort Inn Kings Cross B&B 3-star From £150 From £150
President Hotel B&B 3-star From £110 From £110

 

The prices above are from prices and are per room per night based on 2 sharing a twin/double room, subject to availability. Prices may change without prior notice. Booking conditions apply. If you would like a quote for your particular holiday please contact us on 01904 521900

UK rail connections
UK train tickets

Buying tickets for UK train services can be a tricky business - there are so many fares to choose from, each with different rules and restrictions. As you are connecting with an international departure, we strongly recommend that you book a fully flexible ticket to ensure that should the departure times for your holiday change, your rail ticket can allow for these changes.

We can book fully-flexible UK rail tickets from your local station to join your holiday whether this be a European holiday from St Pancras or a UK holiday. The prices are competitive and tickets are not restricted to a particular train or time of day, and in most cases offer you a free choice of routes.

Estimated costs of return rail travel in the UK can be found on our add-ons page.

For an up to date quote from your local station, please ask one of our Tour Advisors.

This page was printed from www.greatrail.com/grj-independent/holidays/balkan-explorer/#INDBEX on 24 November 2020.
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