Balkans rail holiday

“Travel through seven Balkan countries, and experience the diverse cultures and cuisines of their capitals, on this classic, fast-paced European rail tour.”


Discover the Balkans by train | Rich variety of regional cuisine | Ljubljana | Lake Bled | Bled Castle | Zagreb | Plitvice National Park | Sarajevo | Tunnel Museum | Eternal Flame | Mostar | Stari Most | Dubrovnik | Bay of Kotor | Podgorica | Belgrade | Novi Sad | Serbian BBQ | Skopje | See the sunrise from Mt. Vodno | Heraclea | Bitola | Galicica National Park | Ohrid | Saint Naum Monastery | Mavrovo National Park | Pristina |

Description of Balkans rail holiday

Seven captivating countries over 16 days ensure that this Balkans rail tour is likely to prove unforgettable. Many parts of former Yugoslavia remain relatively untravelled, ripe for discovery. Exploring them by train is as romantic as it is convenient, as you move between their capital cities with an ever-changing backdrop of pristine natural scenery through the windows.

The highpoints of this trip are of course too many to mention, but they include an optional day-trip to Slovenia’s amazingly photogenic Lake Bled, once one of Europe’s most fashionable resorts that drew Yugoslav royalty to its picturesque shores; watching the sunrise from Macedonia's Mt. Vodno; the vast Plitvice National Park in Croatia with its waterfalls, inter-connecting lakes and dense woodland that provides habitat for many species of wildlife, and the historic old town of Dubrovnik, which in recent years has ranked among the biggest must-see destinations in the world.

Another aspect of this small-group Balkans tour worth recommending is that the cuisine varies significantly from country to country. Every evening you’ll either dine with your fellow travellers and tour leader at a traditional restaurant, or be left to your own devices, to seek out places that appeal to your own appetite. Sample Serbian barbecue, Montenegrin beer, and Macedonian stew cooked in terracotta pots on a trip that will definitely appeal to foodies.

History is never far away in the Balkans, whether that be recent, such as the sombre Tunnel Museum of Sarajevo, or ancient, in the 2nd century city of Heraclea in Macedonia where you’ll see an amphitheatre once used for gladiator fighting.

Together, the Balkans offer a beguiling mixture of religions, history, cultures, cuisines and natural beauty. There can be few better ways to experience them than by rail.

Travel Team

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14 Aug 2021
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Holiday type
Small group holidays
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?
Big experiences
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 local guide
No matter how experienced your group leader, they can never make up for the knowledge gained from a lifetime in the destination. That’s why many of our trips work with local guides around the world – who invite you into their homeland with pleasure.

Responsible tourism

As the pioneers of responsible tourism, we screen every trip so you can travel knowing your holiday will help support conservation and local people.

For the vast majority of this trip we will be travelling by public trains, which is great way of seeing the countries we are travelling through and allows us to cover a great amount of distance in just 16 days. One of the rail journeys we will take is famed to be amongst the most beautiful in Europe, as we ride the rails of the Bar to Belgrade line. We will also take one overnight train journey, so this will serve as both our transport and our accommodation. From the railway stations we will transfer to our hotels either on foot or occasional by taxi, so again we are trying to keep the amount of pollution we create to a minimum.

Through all the debate over the relative environmental merits of different forms of transport, it is generally accepted that rail travel is a lower carbon option than flying. Conscious of our impact on the environment, by opting to travel most journeys on public trains we are drastically reducing the reliance on privately chartered road transport within this trip. All travel has impacts, but we are confident this trip keeps those to a minimum. Train travel is also a great way to meet local people and get a more personal experience of travel in their country.

To further reduce the level of pollution within the urban centres, the sightseeing tours we operate are done on foot, which is also a great way of seeing all they have to offer first hand.

In addition to the above, we are continually looking for ways to improve and are proud to be ‘Responsible in everything we do’. Education is key and so all staff, Tour leaders and partnering suppliers are trained in responsible and sustainable tourism. At our UK Head Office, we continually strive towards a sustainable and planet-friendly working environment, including having solar panels installed and a company commitment to reducing our plastic usage. As well as this, we have valuable and longstanding partnerships with UK charities Toilet Twinning and Send a Cow, plus many smaller initiatives and projects around the world. We’re members of UK travel industry bodies Tourism Concern and AITO because we believe it’s important to share our knowledge and experience, as well as learn from other operators.

As a company we support Cool Earth. Protecting rainforest is one of the most effective actions to tackle climate breakdown. CoolEarth work with indigenous communities empowering them to conserve their forest; keeping CO2 locked in.

The Impacts of this Trip

On this trip we will explore seven Balkan countries that were formerly part of Yugoslavia, many of which still aren’t a regular stop on the normal tourist trail. We will stay in locally owned small hotels and dine in local restaurants in each of the towns and cities we visit, as well as buying drinks and snacks for our train journeys in local shops and markets. We’re therefore helping to bring economic benefits to many different small businesses in these lesser visited areas, and you are getting to try the great variety of delicious food and drink that they have to offer.

We use a Macedonian Tour Leader and local guides on this trip who know the countries visited well and who will help to give us a unique insight into the history, customs and culture of this developing region and to allow you to get under the skin of the true Balkans. Our Tour Leaders are trained by us in the importance of responsible tourism with guidance given on how they can make a difference.


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