“An 11 day holiday, travelling in a small group through Serbia, Bosnia, Macedonia and Albania. Mountains and cities. Staying in small hotels and rural cabins.”
Holiday in four Balkan countries | Belgrade | Stari Grad | Visegrad | Cuprija na Drina (Bridge on the Drina) | Sirogojno museum | Mokra Gora National Park and heritage railway | Skopje | Matka Canyon | Ohrid | Lake Ohrid | Tirana | Berat | Kruje
Description of Holiday in the Balkans
This eleven day holiday in the Balkans is about celebrating the bountiful cultural heritage and beautiful natural heritage of the four countries we journey through. With such a key position in Europe the history here is fascinating, both ancient and more recent of course, with influences that range from the Byzantine to the Ottoman Empires.
No better place to start than Belgrade, the capital of Serbia which was also once capital of Communist Yugoslavia, its strategic position where the Danube and Sava Rivers meet means it has seen many invaders. The old city, Stari Grad is a wonderful place to wander around and hear about its many influences, from Celts to Romans to Byzantines. And then, during WW2 the city as a whole was severely bombarded although the city fort, cathedral and great square still all stand proud.
We take a daytrip into Bosnia and Herzegovina, travelling over mountainous terrain to the traditional border town of Visegrad after crossing the UNESCO Ottoman Bridge that crosses the Drina River. Back in Serbia, the Mokra Gora National Park takes us through more magnificent mountain terrain, where traditional villages and wooden cabins are scattered between peaks and forested slopes, and where we spend one of several beautifully tranquil Balkan nights. We also go on the heritage railway journey here which is a total treat.
Macedonia is our next stop, and its capital city of Skopje. This is a tiny country, the same size as Sicily and, because it is landlocked, it has seen many invaders over the centuries including Ottomans, Romans and Greeks. Skopje is both ancient and modern, with Roman aqueducts and bridges, Ottoman mosques and Turkish bathhouses, and of course plenty of churches. One highlight of our trip is a boat ride down the Matka Canyon. At the other end of the country, we visit the city of Ohrid, in a wonderful location on the eponymous lake which has become quite a sacred spot over the centuries, still boasting prolific and historic churches. Everything about Ohrid is either ethereal or exquisite, or both.
Our last country on this Balkan tour is Albania, one that has been closed off to the rest of the world for a long time but which is now slowly but surely revealing its stunning Accursed Mountains, fascinating cities of Tirana, the capital and Berat. We spend time in both, but also head up to the medieval citadel town of Kruje.
Hello. If you'd like to chat about this holiday or need help finding one we're very happy to help. Rosy & team.
Small group travel is not large group travel scaled down. It is modelled on independent travel – but with the advantage of a group leader to take care of the itinerary, accommodation and tickets, and dealing with the language. It’s easy to tick off the big sights independently – but finding those one-off experiences, local festivals, travelling markets and secret viewpoints is almost impossible for someone without the insider knowledge gained from years in the field. If you’re heading off on a gap year your, perhaps – but for those with a two-week holiday, a small group tour will save valuable planning time.
The leaders are not guides – they’re not there to shepherd you around. Instead, they’ll let you know which local restaurant serves great value food – without running the risk of travellers’ tummy. They’ll allow you to avoid hour-long queues at train stations and attractions.
We like to think of small group travel as the Goldilocks option. It is independent travel without the fuss, worry and bunk beds – and organised travel without the coaches. And it’s cheaper than a tailor made tour. It’s sits somewhere in the middle – and we think it’s just about right.
What are the main benefits?
Have big, life-enriching experiences that would be impossible to organise without lots of time and insider knowledge.
Make the most of your holiday time by letting someone else do the hard work and boring logistics!
Peace of mind
Small group tours take care of the security aspects – and provide a safety net should anything unexpected happen.
Who is it ideal for?
Travellers who are short of time
If you don’t have three months to spend exploring, small groups trips let you cover more ground in less time. Your days are not spent queuing for tickets or finding hotels – so you can squeeze more into your holiday.
Solo travellers who’d like company
Likeminded travel companions plus peace of mind for those travelling alone. Single supplements are usually available – providing privacy if you want it.
Less confident travellers
Stray from the tourist trail without worrying about getting lost, and meet local people without dealing with the language barrier.
“I won’t get any privacy!”
Couples and friends have private rooms, and you can choose to eat alone or not. Single supplements give solo travellers their own room.
“There won’t be any free time”
Free mornings or afternoons let you explore on your own, or just relax.
“The accommodation will be basic” Trips are as high or low end as you like. Though off the beaten track destinations won’t have luxury hotels, this is all part of the adventure.
“I won’t like the other travellers!”
Tour operators try to create groups with a similar demographic – age, families, activity levels... Chances are, you’ll even make new friends.
“Will we be following an umbrella?”
Meet a group Leader
Name: Valerie Parkinson
Story: The first British woman to climb Manaslu, Valerie climbed Everest for her 50th birthday. She’s spent fourteen Christmas Days trekking to Everest Base Camp, and is involved insetting up Responsible Tourism initiatives in the Himalayas.
Meet a local guide
Name: Roshan Fernando
Story: Roshan has led over 130 trips – he adores showing travellers around Sri Lanka. He won the company Leader Award in 2010, but his career highlight was working on their Tsunami Project – which earned him a responsible tourism award.
Responsible tourism: Holiday in the Balkans
Accommodation and Meals: We will spend 8 nights in standard hotels and 2 nights in traditional cabins. All accommodation is locally owned and staffed, which provides employment and income alternatives for many locals. All hotels also comply to environmental regulations, such as energy and water management, and we ask guests to try and reduce their usage of both when staying, and to only request changing of sheets and towels when necessary. Where meals are provided, locally sourced, traditionally used ingredients like yoghurt, meat (pork, lamb and veal) and seasonal vegetables will be provided. Guides will be able to recommend authentic restaurants to visit for dinner and these will often be family run.
UK Office: It all starts at home so we have first worked at reducing our carbon footprint in our UK Offices. Through energy conservation measures and recycling policies, we are proud to be actively reducing the waste produced and our impact on the environment. We support various projects all over the world to try and give something back to the places we visit.
Local Craft and Culture: This tour is packed with culture: we visit the St. Sava Orthodox Cathedral and museums in Belgrade, a 14th Century monastery, Albanian bazaars and traditional mountain villages. However, the best way to culturally explore the three countries in this trip is to engage with local people. We arrange to have lunch with a local family in one of the small, mountain highland villages we visit, where we can enjoy some authentic food and see that our presence benefits this remote economy. After this there is the chance to buy traditional handicrafts, like woollen gloves and sweaters or carven wooden relics, directly from the villagers.
Community: This trip designed to allow a high degree of economic benefit to the local communities; we buy local produce, eat local food and use local services, thus ensuring that as much money as possible is retained within the local economies and the host communities. By visiting a large number of cultural and natural sites and paying entrance fees, we are contributing towards maintaining, restoring and protecting these valuable monuments and facilities.
Group Size: This small group tour has a maximum of 18 participants, meaning that we have a low impact on the environments and communities we visit and are able to ensure that we do not disrupt or lead to the displacement of local people. The small number also allows us to stay in unique, family-run hotels that cannot benefit from coach tours and other mass tourism due to their limited sizes.