What you get
Serbia, North Macedonia, Albania. From Danube River to Adriatic Sea
The Balkans are an amazing region with a gripping past and a fascinating present. We will travel from the Danube bed to the Adriatic coast to learn its culture and history.
- Walk along the narrow streets of ancient Ottoman cities
- Take a look at the futuristic Yugoslavian architecture
- Understand the colorful mosaics of the Balkan peoples
- Relax on the shores of the Ohrid Lake
- Taste eclectic Balkan cuisine
The price of the trip includes:
- All the transportations
- Entrance fees and services of local guides
- Travel insurance that covers costs in case of COVID-19 symptoms during the journey
- Guiding service
What is NOT included:
- Flight to Belgrade and back from Tirana (we will help you find the best tickets)
- Tips for local guides (optional)
- Meals (about $30–40 per day)
Day 1 - 2
We arrive in Belgrade and check into a hotel. In the evening we get to know the Serbian cuisine which has absorbed the traditions of Central Europe, Anatolia, and Greece. Food is a cult in this country and any city is full of cafes, restaurants, and bistros serving local dishes.
The next morning we get traditional Balkan pastries for breakfast and start to explore the Serbian capital. We visit Kalemegdan Park and explore the ancient Belgrade Fortress.
We cross the Sava river and walk along the streets of the Zemun district. It used to be a separate city within Austria-Hungary, which has been developing apart from Belgrade. And now the historical buildings of Zemun differ strongly from the socialist architecture of the Serbian capital.
We get to know the newest history of Serbia, visiting the mausoleum of the Yugoslavian President Tito and see the buildings of the Ministry of Defense destroyed by NATO bombing 20 years ago. In the evening we explore the modern Belgrade and walk along Knez Mihailova Street with its bars serving local craft beers and rakija.
We leave Belgrade and head north (about 1,5 hours). Our first stop is Sremski Karlovci. This small town played a significant role for centuries. Its old Austro-Hungarian buildings are still preserved, and make Sremski Karlovci one of the most beautiful towns of modern Serbia. Apart from this Sremski Karlovci is famous for its wineries, and we visit one of them to taste local products.
Then we go to the Petrovaradin fortress, which has been nicknamed “Gibraltar on the Danube” because of its riverbank location. We will explore this old castle and enjoy a beautiful view of the Danube.
We move to the Danube’s other bank and enter Novi Sad. It is the second most populous Serbian city and the capital of the multinational region of Vojvodina. After lunch we take a walk through the historic quarters with their Austro-Hungarian architecture. We stay for the night in Novi Sad.
We drive to the Tara National Park on the western border of Serbia (5 hours).
On our way, we make a few stops near Yugoslav monuments dedicated to the heroes and victims of World War II. They are better known by their Serbo-Croatian name – spomeniki (memorials). These monstrous constructions were erected during Tito's time in remote regions of the country. Now concrete giants have lost their ideological background, but they still amaze people with their shapes and sizes, especially against deserted surroundings.
In Tara we have a short walk to enjoy a stunning view of the Drina river and the Perućac lake – the opposite bank belongs to Bosnia and Herzegovina. For the night we stay on the shores of the picturesque Zaovine lake.
In the morning we head to Niš (6 hours). We check into a hotel and after lunch we start exploring the city. We see one of the most creepy sights of Serbia – the skull tower Ćele kula. At the beginning of the 19th century, the Ottoman governor ordered to construct it of the heads of the Serbian rebels – almost a thousand skulls were put in fourteen rows. After the liberation of the city, a chapel was built around the tower.
We walk along the streets of the historic center of Niš, visit its Ottoman fortress and stay overnight in a hotel.
In the morning we move to Skopje, the capital of North Macedonia (3 hours).
Our route starts in the city’s heart – the Old Bazaar built during the Ottoman rule. Its narrow cobbled streets are full of old buildings housing cafes, bakeries, jewelry and artisan shops.
We visit Shuto Orizari in the north of the city. It’s just a few kilometers from the center, but it looks like another continent. Roma people are the majority of the population here. And it is the only place in the world where Roma language is taught in schools.
Skopje has a huge number of statues. Every significant person related to Macedonia was honored with his own kitsch monument. Another overwhelming Skopje’s feature is it’s socialistic brutalist buildings. They were constructed after a huge part of the city was destroyed by a terrible earthquake in 1963.
It’s easy to notice red British-like double-decker buses running along the streets. This city tradition dates back to the 1950s and now the government continues it after a long break. We stay overnight in a hotel in Skopje.
In the morning we will go to the city of Ohrid in the south of North Macedonia (4 hours) and spend most of the day on the road. We explore Matka Canyon, one of the most famous local natural sights. The Treska river flows through the canyon and we rent a boat to sail along its turquoise waters. Our route will run between huge rocks, having medieval monasteries at their foot.
We visit the city of Tetovo, where the majority of the population are not Macedonians, but Muslim Albanians. We see the unusual Šarena Mosque, built during the Ottoman Empire. It doesn’t have a dome like traditional mosques do, and inside and outside it is painted with ornaments, still life pictures, and even landscapes.
Balkan region became home to the Order of Bektashi dervishes. Their laws are very different from our ideas about Islam: for example, they have no prohibition on alcohol. We make a stop at the 16th century Arabati Baba tekke, a Bektashi religious building.
Then we move south to the Bigorsky Monastery of St. John the Baptist, nestled in mountains. In the evening we arrive in Ohrid and check into a hotel.
In the morning we walk through the historic quarters of Ohrid, where some houses are older than a thousand years. We climb to the Church of St. John Kaneo to enjoy a breathtaking view of Lake Ohrid – a wide blue surface bordered by mountain peaks.
We have lunch in a local restaurant, where Ohrid fishermen deliver fresh fish from the lake, and then we continue our trip (6 hours). We cross the border with Albania and make a stop in the mountain town of Korçë to drink delicious Turkish coffee in a cozy old coffee house. After a few hours of road serpentines we reach the Albanian city of Gjirokastra, where we spend the night.
We start our morning with a walk in the historical town of Gjirokastra. Its Ottoman architecture is well preserved and has even been included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. We visit the traditional houses of the Albanian nobles of the 19th century and then climb to the castle – from this spot we enjoy the view of the city lying in the Drino River’s valley.
There is also a newer monument – an underground bunker built during the rule of the dictator Enver Hoxha. This huge complex has 80 rooms and could accommodate up to three hundred people.
Between the 1960s and the 1980s almost two hundred thousand concrete shelters and fortifications were built throughout the country, because Hoxha was afraid of a foreign invasion. After the dictator’s death, the state regime has been changed and the bunkers are no longer needed. But it turned out to be too expensive to destroy them. Therefore, many of them still stand in their places, and we will see them during our trip.
After lunch we drive north to Berat (3 hours). It is also a UNESCO-listed medieval Ottoman city, which is sometimes called a Gjirokastra’s twin. We stroll through the historical quarters and explore traditional Ottoman houses and mosques. We spend the night in Berat.
In the morning we head to Albania's capital Tirana (2 hours). We check into a hotel and go for a walk around the city. We explore Skanderbeg Square, surrounded by monuments of Ottoman and socialist architecture. Then we have a walk through the colorful New Bazaar and take a look at the pyramid of Enver Hoxha, which used to be a museum of the Albanian leader.
We visit one of the largest bunkers in the city. Unlike the shelter in Gjirokastra, some of Tirana's bunkers were converted into museums, concert halls of art galleries – it was possible because of their huge size. Our day ends in Blloku. Once a residential area for the ruling party leadership, now it’s the capital's most famous nightlife location.
Day 11 - 12
In the morning we leave Tirana and drive to the city of Durres (1 hour). We spend the last day on the Adriatic sea shore, taking a break after an intense trip and enjoying a meal from fresh seafood. We spend the night in Durres. The next morning we leave for Tirana airport (1 hour) and say goodbye to Albania.
Is this trip for you?
Citizens of most European and American states don't need visas to visit Serbia, North Macedonia, and Albania. PCR-tests are generally not needed for those who arrive in Belgrade by plane from their home country and then move by land to North Macedonia and Albania.
We provide free visa consulting for our clients.
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