CZ5 Eastern European Exposition TOUR

SEARCH TOUR

Our Full Eastern European Series

TOUR HIGHLIGHTS:

Prague: one of the world's most magical cites; Exquisite gothic and baroque Cesky Krumlov; Bratislava's the historic Old Town; Budapest walking tour; The "painted monasteries" of Bucovina; Unsurpassed frescoes of Rila Monastery

  • DATES & PRICES
  • FULL ITINERARY
  • MAP & HOTELS
  • TRIP INFORMATION

Dates & Prices

To book this tour, please refer to the sidebar ►

Prices are in US Dollars (USD), before taxes (if applicable) - All pricing reflects per-person Land Only expenses, however, we can book flights from virtually every city. Please call us for an air quote.


Start DateEnd DatePriceMore Info
Sat 05 Sep 2015Fri 09 Oct 2015 $7480
Sat 16 Apr 2016Fri 20 May 2016 $7480
Sat 02 Jul 2016Fri 05 Aug 2016 $7480
Sat 03 Sep 2016Fri 07 Oct 2016 $7480

Optional Single Supplement: $1440 (number of singles limited).


Tour Overview


This epic, 35-day extravaganza of a tour is the ultimate showcase of the histories, cultures, landscapes and natures of these five exciting destinations in Eastern Europe and the Balkans.

Beginning in Prague, a city that is often compared to Florence and Rome for its beauty and one that Goethe once called the prettiest gemstone in the crown of the world, we begin our Czech Republic leg of the tour basking in the glories of one of the most stunning and memorable metropolises on the planet. We also visit world-famous spa towns; take a ride up a funicular to admire striking vistas; and spend time in the UNESCO-designated historic centre of Cesky Krumlov, perhaps the most exquisite city in the country.

We travel through regions famous for orchards and vineyards in the Slovak Republic en route to Bratislava, the capital and often the most popular attraction in the country. After comprehensive exploration of the country's largest urban centre, we head to one of the most impressive areas of natural beauty in Central Europe at Pieniny National Park, before pressing on to Budapest, Hungary.

From Hungary, we cross into Romania, starting this leg of the adventure in Bucharest, once known as 'The Paris of the East'. A historically fascinating destination, Romania is home to over 2,000 fresco-brimming monasteries, dozens of picture-perfect castles and countless fortified villages.

Regions visited: Central And Eastern Europe
Countries visited: Czech Republic; Slovakia; Hungary; Romania and Bulgaria


Testimonials


I would definitely recommend this tour to anyone wishing more information on how the states in CZ5 formed, how they are doing now, their geography, their peoples, their culture.

The tour inside the Opera house in Cesky Krumlov was a wonderful surprise. We enjoyed touring behind the stage, the singing from the local guide and the short video of a life performance at that opera house. The river rafting in the Pieniny National Park, Slovakia, was also excellent. We enjoyed the mountain air and the scenery.

Ondrej is a Master Tour Guide who has "seen it all" and can "roll with the punches" with ease.

Full Itinerary

To book this tour, please refer to the sidebar ►

Day 1 Arrive in Prague
Today we arrive in Prague and transfer to our hotel.

Prague lies on the seven hills flanking the banks of the Vltava River with the most outstanding views being from Prague Castle. Sometimes it is called Prague the Golden, sometimes Prague the City of 100 Spires. It is compared with Florence and Rome in its beauty. Thomas Mann said it was one of the world's most magical cities; Goethe called it the prettiest gem in the stone crown of the world. Virtually untouched by war, its architecture is Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, Rococo, Neoclassical, Empire and Art Nouveau.

Overnight in Prague.

Meal plan: dinner

Day 2 Prague: Prague Castle & Old Town
Our morning sightseeing tour of Prague travels through the city centre to Prague Castle. We begin our WALKING tour near Pohorelec Square before the Cernin Palace. As we head towards the castle we will pass the following: Strahov Monastery, the Loreta, the Cappucin Monastery, and the Archbishop's Palace. Before entering the castle, we will pause by the wall for a city panorama and orientation before our 2-hour visit of the castle.

We enter into first courtyard with its famous fountain and walk over to the Chapel of the Holy Cross. We continue to the St. Vitus Cathedral and visit the choir and crypt before heading to the third courtyard. Here we enter the Old Palace from St. George Square and then continue toward the Golden Lane (Kafka's House) where we pause for a break and refreshment, and then carry on the Old Castle Steps with photo stops along the way.

We will stop at Nikolas Church before crossing the ancient Charles Bridge (Karluv Most), an artistic masterpiece famous for its vendors and artists. For over four hundred years, this work of art, built by King Charles IV in 1357, was the only link between the two halves of Prague. We admire the many sculptures as we walk across. We finish the formal part of our tour in the Old Town, an excellent spot for lunch. The afternoon is free to further explore this amazing city.

Overnight in Prague.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 3 Prague: Old Jewish Quarter & Wenceslas Square
Our WALKING tour today takes us to the Old Jewish Quarter and the old Town Square with its famous town bell and astronomical clock.

The Old Jewish Cemetery is an incredible sight. The second oldest in Europe, it was established in the 15th century. Burials took place from 1439 to 1787. Today there are 12,000 tombstones jammed together, leaning one on another, every one at a different angle and size, the whole creating a graphic and surreal image. We also visit the museum/memorial and the Klaus Synagogue with a permanent exhibition called "Jewish Customs and Traditions" highlighting the significance of the synagogue and Jewish festivals.

We continue to the Old Town Square. The 15th century designer of the astronomical clock located here was master clockmaker Hanus of Ruze. According to legend, he was blinded by Prague's town councilors for fear that he would make another like it for another town; so magnificent and applauded was his creation. One day toward the end of his life, he asked a friend to lead him to his great creation. As the figure of Death tolled the hour, Hanus thrust his hand into the clock's apparatus; the clock stopped, and it was centuries before a craftsman could be found who was skilled enough to make it work. In World War II, the clock is said to have stopped again after the Nazi murder of hundreds of citizens of Prague.

We finish our walking tour at Wenceslas Square in time for lunch (your own account). The balance of the day is at leisure. Prague is famous for its concert halls: The Municipal House, Rudolfinium, Mozart Theatre, National Theatre, The State Theatre -- all of them close to the center of the city with performances almost every night. Your Tour Leader can help organize optional evening activities.

Overnight in Prague.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 4 Prague - Konopiste - Karlstejn - Karlovy Vary
After our morning departure from Prague we visit the Renaissance chateau of Konopiste and its priceless interiors. Set in a hilly wooded park, this castle was built as a stronghold at the end of the 13th century, the present appearance dates from alterations made at the turn of the 19th to 20th century by the last owner, Franz Ferdinand d'Este.

After a lunch break we enjoy a tour of the Karlstejn Castle, a Gothic fortress and home to the imperial crown jewels. After our visit we continue east toward the famous spa of Karlovy Vary (Karlsbad). This town is beautifully located in the valley of the Tepla River and is famous for being one of the oldest and largest health spas in Europe. The hot medicinal spring water is famous the world over.

Overnight in Karlovy Vary.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 5 Karlovy Vary
This morning we have a half-day WALKING tour of Karlovy Vary, an elegant spa town, and favourite retreat of crowned heads and international celebrities. "When the disorder becomes a disease, doctors prescribe the hot waters of Carlsbad." Our walking tour will take in all the sights, including the many springs and the graceful Mill Colonnade. A ride up the nearby funicular provides us with great views of the surrounding landscape of beech and oak forests.

The afternoon is at your leisure in this charming town.

Overnight in Karlovy Vary.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 6 Karlovy Vary - Marianske Lanze - Cesky Krumlov
This morning we depart for Marianske Lazne. The historic centre of the town stretches along the spa colonnade with its unique singing fountain and the main avenue lined with pastel coloured Art Deco facades. Most of the old state spa buildings date from the second half of the 19th century and are set amidst thickly forested hills. After our visit we depart for Southern Bohemia, where many towns have a Bavarian or Austrian flavour. In the late afternoon we arrive in the town of Cesky Krumlov.

Medieval arcades and etched Renaissance facades in apricot, beige, and pea-green shades; rust-red, pink, and golden Baroque buildings surround this cobble stoned square with a Plague Monument (Morovy sloup) in its centre. Here you can explore the square, the side streets, and the winding River Vltava that separates the Old Town from the towering castle. This is undoubtedly one of the most exquisite towns in the Czech Republic.

Overnight in Cesky Krumlov.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 7 Cesky Krumlov: Castle Tour
Cesky Krumlov is undoubtedly one of the most exquisite towns in the Czech Republic, and always a favorite among travellers. Today we will visit the mighty Renaissance castle of Cesky Krumlov, once the seat of the powerful Lords of the Rozmberks and the Schwarzenbergs. The castle houses a rich collection of period furniture, tapestries and historical weapons. The present castle complex is one of the largest in Central Europe and was recorded on the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1992

The great castle complex dominates the town of Cesky Krumlov. Under the Castle Complex lies the old town with its winding alleys and venerable Gothic and Renaissance houses. The historical centre of the town is on the UNESCO Heritage list, and after our castle tour the rest of your day will be free to stroll in this historical city centre. Explore the backstreets, visit the small shops and cafes, and wander the pathways along the river.

Overnight in Cesky Krumlov.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 8 Cesky Krumlov - Telc, Czech Republic - Bratislava, Slovak Republic
This morning we travel through the spectacular countryside of carp ponds to the medieval town of Trebon. The houses lining the thin main square are as romantic as they come, and the three gateways of the town wall have survived from the 16th century. After our visit in Trebon, we continue on to the historic town of Telc. The town of Telc dates from the 16th century and the historic houses which surround the central square are all linked by continuous arcades. In 1992 UNESCO added the historic centre of Telc to the World Heritage List.

We continue to travel through the rolling hills of Southern Moravia, a region famous for its orchards and vineyards. Picturesque villages, towns and chateaux punctuate the landscape. After crossing the border into the Slovak Republic we will travel through the Small Carpathians, a thin strip of limestone hills altogether different from the soft, pine-clad hills of the Czech lands.

In the late afternoon we will arrive in Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia. Bratislava is situated on both banks of the Danube and a promontory of the Little Carpathians. During the second half of the 20th century, Bratislava finally became a Slovakian city where an ambitious rebuilding and restoration program has transformed the city.

Overnight in Bratislava.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 9 Bratislava - Trencin: Castle Tour
Our morning city tour takes us to the main sights of Bratislava, including the historic Old Town, the Gothic Cathedral of St Martin, and the 14th century Tower of St Michael in the ancient city walls.

After lunch in Bratislava we travel to Trencin in western Slovakia. Upon arrival we enjoy a walking tour of Trencin, including Trencin Castle. Together with Nitra and Bratislava, Trencin is one of the oldest of Slovak cities, chronicled as early as in the 11th century. Its strategic location near three Carpathian Mountain passes on the crossroads of commercial routes, has always determined the character of the city as a significant landmark. As early as in the ancient times, the famous Jasper Road used by the Etruscan, Greek, and later Roman merchants to transport precious jasper from the Baltic region, was crossing Trencin.

The city is dominated by Trencin Castle, which is the third-largest castle in Slovakia. Trencin Castle, with extensive fortifications, has several palace buildings that surround the central medieval tower. Today this remains the highest point of the city. Below the castle, on the hillside, is a small square that is reached by a historic covered stairs as well as by winding side streets. The old town also has a large main square, with a large baroque church and a variety of shops.

Overnight in Trencin.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 10 Trencin - Bojnice - Ruzomberok - Horny Smokovec
Today's journey takes us via Bojnice, a small town in the center of the country at the upper Nitra River. This is one of the oldest spa towns in Slovakia and home to the famous Bojnice Castle, which we will visit during our stop here. We will take a short walk through the town itself is situated just below the castle. We will also stop today in the town of Ruzomberok situated in the Vah River Valley. Established by German colonists in 1223, Ruzomberok became renowned for its guilds, industrial production, tinkers and craftsmen.

Horny Smokovec is the gateway to the High Tatras National Park, founded in 1948 and forming the northernmost section of the Carpathian Mountains. This geographic region is home to numerous glacial lakes and has a distinctly alpine character.

Overnight in Horny Smokovec. Hotel Bellevue or similar.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 11 Pieniny National Park
Our sightseeing for today takes us first to the Pieniny National Park, crown jewel of the most impressive areas of natural beauty in central Europe. Our visit to the park region will include a tour of the medieval Cerveny Klastor, at one time a Carthusian monastery. Adjacent to the monastery runs the Dunajec River, a natural border dividing Slovakia and Poland. From here we will continue on to the open-air museum of folk architecture in Stara Lubovna. This visit gives us the opportunity to walk amongst a collection of precious wooden houses dating from the late 19th century to the early 20th century.

After lunch we continue on to the town of Kezmarok where part of our tour includes a visit to the famous German built wooden Lutheran Church, a unique work of great carpentry and artistry. From here we return to Horny Smokovec.

Overnight in Horny Smokovec. Hotel Bellevue or similar.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 12 Horny Smokovec - Bratislava
Today we journey back to Bratislava, a scenic route through the mountain ranges of the High Tatras to the Low Tatras -- mountain peaks and hiking trails, still green forests, bubbling streams, and haystacks like miniature, peak-roofed houses. We arrive in the mid-afternoon.

Overnight in Bratislava.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 13 Bratislava, Slovak Republic - Budapest, Hungary
This morning we travel by train from Bratislava to Budapest, the capital of Hungary. Hungary is a land of beautiful monuments and romantic music. Buda and Pest, two of the city's three regions, both face the mighty Danube, which forms the physical and spiritual centre of the Hungarian capital. It is its centrepiece, its heart, and its pulse. Its relationship with the city is even more intimate than that of the Seine with Paris or the Arno with Florence.

On arrival we will embark on a walking tour of city's urban heart. This area is full of stately old buildings, grand avenues, and innumerable tiny streets. We will take local transport to the huge neo-Gothic Parliament (Orszaghaz), the most visible building of Budapest's left bank. Built by 1000 workers between 1885 and 1902, this building has now become the symbol of the capital with its slender towers, spacious arcades, high windows and vast central dome. Nearby one can see the magnificent building housing the Museum of Ethnography. Walking southeast we come to the stately and sprawling Liberty Square (Szabadsag ter). In the square's center remains a gold hammer and sickle atop a white stone obelisk, one of the few monuments to the Russian 'liberation' of Budapest in 1945. Passing by Roosevelt Square we soon come to the famous Chain Bridge, the oldest and most beautiful of the seven road bridges that span the Danube in Budapest. Before it was built, the river could be crossed only by ferry or by a pontoon bridge that had to be moved when ice blocks began floating downstream in the winter.

We continue along the pedestrian 'Promenade' with great views of Gellert Hill and Castle Hill on the opposite bank. We will stroll past the Concert Hall (Vigado), which is a curious mix of Byzantine, Moorish, Romanesque and Hungarian motifs. From here we walk to one of the liveliest places in Budapest, Vorosmarty Ter, a large square that the north end of Budapest's best known shopping street--Vaci Utca. This is a fantastic pedestrian-only area of the city that has undergone a full transformation over the last 10 years.

Eventually we will arrive at the famous 19th century Central Market Hall. This cavernous three-story market teems with people browsing stalls packed with everything from salamis and red-paprika chains to folk embroideries and souvenirs. We finish our day back at our hotel with a break before dinner.

Overnight in Budapest.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 14 Budapest: City Tour
This morning we depart our hotel by private bus for Heroes Square where we will disembark and learn of the history of Hungary as it pertains to the monument. We then WALK over to Vajdahunyad Castle before continuing to St. Stephen's Basilica for a quick look inside. We will pass by the Parliament buildings continuing toward Margaret Bridge over which we cross to Buda. We drive along the water and continue up to the castle area. Our next stop is the Citadel -- good for panoramic views. Our bus leaves us for the day, allowing us to continue on foot to the Fisherman's Bastion.

After a lunch break we reconvene in front of the Plague Monument from where we proceed to St Matthias Church. After visiting the church we will walk down Tarnok Utca to the Royal Palace. At the Royal Palace we visit the National Gallery, devoted exclusively to Hungarian Art.

At this point you are free to continue independent exploration, or return to the hotel. One of the highlights of our Eastern European tours is using the local transport in each city -- most travellers truly enjoy the experience. Your Tour Leader can help plan the rest of your day.

Overnight in Budapest.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 15 Budapest: At Leisure
The day is yours to explore on your own. You may choose to return to the promenade, explore a museum, or enjoy a coffee and cake in one of the many coffeehouses. The coffeehouse has a long tradition in Budapest; at the turn of the 20th century there were more than 400 coffeehouses in the city, many of them patronized by struggling writers. The coffeehouse was a cornerstone of Budapest literary life.

Overnight in Budapest.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 16 Budapest - Szentendre - Holloko - Eger
This morning we travel by private coach to the riverside town of Szentendre, along the 'Danube Bend'. Szentendre is known for its museums, galleries and artists. Populated for well over a millennium, under the Romans it was called Ulcisia Castra, meaning Wolf Castle. Today its south European atmosphere with baroque architecture, churches of various faiths, narrow side streets, and cobblestone roads characterizes this town. You tour leader will take you on a walking tour through this gorgeous little town.

From Szentendre we continue on towards Eger. We will make a stop in the UNESCO protected village of Holloko, a small town of approximately 650 people. What sets this village apart from others is the 'Old Village' where 50 houses have been listed and declared historic monuments. Throughout time Holloko has managed to preserve its unique ethnographic and folk art values. The village itself is picturesque, with its cobbled streets and little white houses. Atop the nearby hill we can view what remains of a 13th century castle that was blown up by the Hapsburgs.

From here we continue on to Eger, situated in the Eger Valley between the Bukk and Matra Hills. Eger is famous for Red Bull's Blood (Egri Bikaver) wine, its medieval library, and for having the northernmost minaret in Europe. There are still many accessible sites and much charm to the narrow streets, arcaded buildings, wrought-iron gates, and Baroque towers and domes of the Old Town. This is the perfect walking city with something interesting at every turn. The nearby peaks of some of Hungary's highest mountains provide a natural backdrop for this city's historic monuments.

Overnight in Eger.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 17 Eger: Town Tour
Eger has been inhabited since the Stone Age. During the early Middle Ages the area was inhabited by German, Avar and Slavonic tribes. Taken over by the Hungarians in the 10th century, Eger reached an age of prosperity during the 14th-16th centuries. Winegrowing, for which the town is still famous, began to be important at that time. During the Turkish occupation of Central Hungary, Eger became an important border fortress, successfully defended by Hungarian forces in the 1552 Siege of Eger, in the face of overwhelming odds.

Our walking tour today will include a visit to the famous castle of Eger with its museum and underground casements. We will also see the Archbishop's Palace, Franciscan Church, and Turkish Minaret.

Overnight in Eger.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 18 Eger - Paks - Siklos - Pecs
Today we depart early for our journey from Eger to the region of Southern Transdanubia, a region of undulating hills, forest clad ridges and rural ambience.

After passing Budapest we start our route south, traveling parallel to the Danube River for much of our journey. After passing by Paks, a town in central Hungary on the banks of the Danube River, we will continue to the city of Pecs. Pecs has been selected to be the European Capital of Culture in 2010, sharing the title together with Essen and Istanbul. This is a city not to be missed; as it is a major art center and university town. Here we will take a walking tour of the Old Town, and will see the historic cathedral, synagogue, mosques and fourth-century Christian necropolis, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with burial chambers decorated in murals.

Overnight in Pecs.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 19 Pecs - Villany - Pecs
This morning we will venture towards the southern border to visit the historic town of Siklos and its well-preserved medieval castle. Wine has been produced in this region since the Romans settled here at a place they called Seres. After our visit to the castle we will continue on to Villany for lunch and an afternoon of sightseeing. The famous Villany -- Siklos Wine Road is 30 km long and covers 8 villages. The Romans finds uncovered at the base of the hills prove that people have been growing grapes and making wine here for over 2,000 years. Today the Villany -- Siklos wine region covers an area of about 2,000 hectares. In Villany, the village after which wine region is named, we will visit the Wine Museum, situated amongst the historic wine cellars. We will take a walk here, on the mild slopes of the southernmost wine region of Hungary. We will visit some of the local cellars and sample some of the locally produced wines. We then return to Pecs for our overnight.

Overnight in Pecs.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 20 Pecs - Lake Balaton Region - Budapest
Today we proceed north to the Lake Balaton Region. Lake Balaton is the largest lake in Central Europe and is often affectionately called the "Hungarian Sea".

Our day will be spent exploring this region. We will cross the lake by ferry from Szantod to Tihany. The Tihany Peninsula was declared a national park in 1952, and the peninsula is well known for its historical monuments, beautiful panorama and its Mediterranean climate. Balatonfured is a small town on the northern shore of the lake and is part of a region that was important to social life in the 18th century, even before bathing and swimming took off as a mass pastime 100 years later. This is the place where the first Balaton steamship started its trips, and the first yachtsmen's association began here. Here were built the villas of 19th-century celebrities, and the town is still the center of festivities. Patients have been treated here for three hundred years with the help of the mineral water sources, as the water is good for diabetes and digestive malfunctions.

Veszprem is a quaint and quiet town away from the lakeshore region, and here we will take a walk in the Castle Quarter.

At the end of our day we travel back to Budapest for our last night in Hungary.

Overnight in Budapest.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 21 Budapest, Hungary - Train to Bucharest, Romania
This morning is a free in Budapest.

Later we take the overnight sleeper train to Bucharest.

NOTE: Single compartments are not available on overnight train. Single supplement rates reflect sharing for this one night.

Overnight train.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 22 Arrival in Bucharest - Sinaia: Peles and Pelisor & Bran Castles - Sighisoara
Today we arrive in Bucharest and depart by road toward Sinaia.

Upon arrival we will visit the nearby Peles and Pelisor Castles. Considered by many one of the most beautiful castles in all Europe, Peles Castle is a masterpiece of German new-Renaissance architecture. This castle was built in the final quarter of the last century for Romania's 'imported ruler' King Carol. Designed mainly in German Renaissance style, this summer residence was decorated throughout by Carol's eccentric wife Carmen Sylvan. Many valuable objects are contained within the castles 160 rooms.

Almost adjacent to Peles Castle is Pelisor ("Little Peles"). King Ferdinand, who succeeded Carol I, intended to use Peles Castle as a summer residence. Pelisor's 70 rooms feature a unique collection of turn-of-the century Viennese furniture and Tiffany and Lalique glassware, and were mostly decorated in the Art-Nouveau style by Queen Maria.

We also visit Sinaia, the "Pearl of the Carpathian Mountains". We will take a leisurely STROLL up to the 17th century Sinaia Monastery, an interesting cluster of churches and courtyards which take their name from the ancient Egyptian monastery on Mount Sinai. After a break for lunch in Sinaia we depart for Bran and Bran Castle.

Bran Castle is erroneously claimed by some to be that of Count Dracula, the world's most famous vampire. Perched atop a rocky outcrop, this strategically located castle was built in 1377 to protect nearby Brasov from invaders. The castle's rooms and towers surround an inner courtyard. Some rooms are connected through underground passages to the inner court. Bran is home to a rich collection of Romanian and foreign furniture and art items from the 14th-19th centuries. After our visit we continue to Sighisoara, arriving in time for dinner.

Overnight in Sighisoara.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 23 Sighisoara: Town Tour - Biertan - Sibiu - Sighisoara
Sighisoara -- Schassburg in German, or Segesvar in Hungarian -- is the only inhabited Middle Ages city in Europe. Mentioned by historians as far back as 1191, Sighisoara has a long tradition in craftsmanship and trade and its fortifications and defense towers still witness for guilds as those of tinsmiths, butchers, hatters, and blacksmiths. Narrow winding streets, houses with thick walls and huge portals painted in vivid colours, towers, and churches, all old and very old (13th-16th centuries) enhance the charm of the place.

This morning we will start with a walking tour of Sighisoara. We will visit to the History Museum located in the former Town Hall. The Clock Tower, dated from the 14th Century, reveals a marvelous view over Sighisoara. We will also see the house where Vlad Tepes once lived.

We continue on to Biertan, a former Saxon village south of Sighisoara. Here we find a fortified church from 15th century, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage, representative of the unique Transylvanian phenomenon of building rural fortified churches. Surrounded by three lines of defense walls of 12m high and towers, the church was never breached by invaders.

After time for lunch in Biertan, we continue to Sibiu. Called Hermannstadt in German, Sibiu was the most important of the 12th century Saxon settlements in Transylvania and its industrious emigres, primarily from the Rhineland, the Moselle Valley, Flanders and Saxony, erected walls around it for protection. The first wall destroyed by invaders not long after its construction, but remains of a 15th century brick wall still stand. Because of the blood shed at its walls, the Turks, after an unsuccessful onslaught, called Sibiu the "Red City." Built into the walls are defense towers that were assigned to particular guilds and medieval houses.

Upon arrival we will enjoy a sightseeing tour of Sibiu, one of the oldest towns on the Transylvanian Plateau. We will wander its old quarter, where houses with immense roofs have been built within the fortifications, giving Sibiu its powerful medieval aspect. The Tartans destroyed the town's first Citadel in the 13th century and the massive Evangelical Church now occupies the site. It took 200 years to build the church in the 14th and 15th centuries.

Return to Sighisoara.

Overnight in Sighisoara.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 24 Sighisoara - Praid Salt Mine - Bistrita - Gura Humorului
Today we visit is one of the biggest salt mines in Europe. Its exploitation has been an important income source for the inhabitants of the area for hundreds of years.

We arrive in the heart of the mountains by bus through a long tunnel (1500 m). 120 m below the surface we find an underground city. The air is ionized and it is believed to have therapeutic qualities for those suffereing from respiratory ailments. Treatments are given under the supervision of a medical team that organizes gym programs and breathing exercises. Tourists have everything they need: treatment places, coffee shops, billiards, libraries, entertainment and even a place where people can pray.

After a break for lunch in Praid, we continue via Bistrita, founded in the early 13th century by German settlers and (due to its location on the main trading route with Moldavia) to become one of Transylvania's major Medieval cities. Some visitors are attracted by the fact that the town was mentioned in Bram Stoker's novel, Dracula.

We overnight in Gura Humorului, the perfect base for our explorations of the Painted Monasteries of Bucovina.

Overnight in Gura Humorului.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 25 Bucovina Monasteries
Today is spent visiting some of the most impressive Bucovina monasteries. These triumphs of Byzantine-influenced art reflect a flowering of Moldavian civilization in the 15th and 16th centuries. The "Painted" Monasteries are a major Moldavian destination, because of the vivid and animated frescoes on their church walls. In acknowledgement of their value, the monasteries in Becoming have been declared as UNESCO protected cultural sites. The art historians compare their artistic value with the mural paintings of the San Marco church of Venice. The secrets of the Moldavian painters who prepared the colors and the techniques that made the paintings incredibly resistant are still a mystery.

We will visit Voronet, a nun monastery consecrated to St George, within walking distance from Guar Humorous town. Voronet is probably the most accomplished sample of artistic achievement in Moldavian architecture and painting. The monastery was built at a time of peace with the Turks, when Stephen had centralized the state, giving a new impetus to its economy and culture. We will also visit Humor Monastery, founded in 1530.

After a visit to the famous Marginea black ceramics centre, we visit the Sucevita Monastery, the largest and arguably the finest of the Bukovina monasteries. The church inside the fortified monastic enclosure (1586) is almost completely covered in frescoes inside and out.

Overnight in Gura Humorului.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 26 Gura Humorului - Cheile Bicazului - Lacu Rosu - Brasov
This morning we will depart for Brasov via a photo stop at Cheile Bicazulu (Bicaz Canyon).

The road that slices through the Bicaz Gorges is among Romania's most spectacular. The gorge twists and turns steeply uphill for 5km, cutting through sheer, 300-meter high limestone rocks. At one point, the narrow mountain road runs beneath the overhanging rocks in a section known as the 'neck of hell'. This stretch of road is protected as part of the Hasmas-Bicaz Gorges National Park.

A few kilometers west we will cross into Transylvania's Harghita County and immediately come to the resort area of Lacu Rosu or Red Lake. The alpine resort in this region sprang up in the 1970's and is still a magnet for hikers from both Transylvania and Moldavia. We'll break for lunch before continuing to Brasov.

Overnight in Brasov.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 27 Brasov: Town Tour - Bucharest: City Tour
This morning we tour Brasov. Kronstadt in German, Brasso in Hungarian, Brasov ranks second in size after Bucharest. The Old Town lies between two mountains, surrounded like a halo by the Carpathians. In Brasov we will visit the Black Church and Museum of First Romanian School of Schei.

We depart for Bucharest, arriving in time for a break for lunch. We then begin our sightseeing program in the capital, the nation's powerhouse of cultural and economic life founded 500 years ago. During the 1930's, its tree-lined boulevards and fin de siecle architecture earned it the nickname "The Little Paris of the East". There is even an Arc de Triomphe on the handsome Soseaua Kiseleff, itself longer than the Champs Elysees and alive with blossoms in the spring.

Despite the massive reconstructions of the 1980's, Bucharest remains a 'Garden City', leafy and pleasant, with many sidewalk cafes. Our tour today will include the Cotroceni Palace and Museum where we see the 6,000 room Parliament Palace. We will also see the Triumphal Arch, the Romanian Athenaeum, and University Square. We will drive out to visit the Bucharest Village Museum. Situated in a picturesque environment on a lakeshore, this is one of the largest and oldest outdoors museums in Europe. Its exhibits, including houses, churches, water and windmills are of great historic and artistic value.

Overnight in Bucharest.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 28 Bucharest, Romania - Sofia, Bulgaria
Today we fly to Sofia, the capital city of Bulgaria.*

Sofia itself is largely a city of wide boulevards and squares, pleasant parks, and enormous Socialist Realism-style buildings. In the 5th century BC, Sofia was the Thracian city of Serdika. When the Romans conquered Thrace, they made it the capital. Then the hordes of Attila the Hun set it on fire in the 5th century AD and Justinian rebuilt it.

* THE TIMING of today's flight will determine if we have free time in Bucharest or Sofia.

Overnight in Sofia.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 29 Sofia: City Tour
Today we have a sightseeing WALKING tour of Sofia. The motto of the city is "Sofia Grows but Never Ages"; founded over 7,000 years ago, Sofia today is an exciting meeting place of history and the present. Traces of the lives of Thracians and Romans, Proto-Bulgarians and Slavs can be seen here. More than 250 historic, archaeological and architectural monuments have been preserved in Sofia, the center of the country’s political and cultural life.

We'll see some of the most famous landmarks: The magnificent St Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, one of the most spectacular buildings in Sofia. In addition to the splendor of the building itself, the cathedral is also remarkable for its icons and murals, painted by the time's foremost artists. Its crypt contains the most valuable collection of Bulgarian icons.

St Sofia's Church (5C) is the second oldest, but most significant building, which gave the city its name. Specialists highly value this remarkable archaeological monument, witness of Serdica's golden age during the 6th century.

The large archaeological complex of Roman and medieval ruins, dominated by St George Rotunda (4C) is the oldest building in Sofia. Repeatedly destroyed and rebuilt, the St George Rotunda has been restored to its original 5th century appearance when it was used as a Christian church.

The remainder of the afternoon is at your leisure.

Overnight in Sofia.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 30 Sofia - Plovdiv
Today we travel to the ancient city of Plovdiv, situated in the Plain of Thrace. Plovdiv was formerly known as Pulpudeva until Philip II of Macedon's weary horse collapsed under him here at the edge of the Thracian plain in AD 342. Since that was surely an omen, he built Philippolis on the site in the horse's honour. Later the Romans renamed it Trimontium -- the City on Three Hills. For five centuries, under Turkish rule when it was known as Philibe, it suffered much devastation. Today it is a city of great charm, with legacies of a hectic past.

Plovdiv has a lovely "stariyat grad," or old town, with Turkish influences and a charming character. Our tour includes the Old Quarter, the Ethnographical Museum, and the Roman Amphitheatre. Within Trimontium, the historic heart of Plovdiv, typical 19th century Bulgarian homes line the streets.

Overnight in Plovdiv.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 31 Plovdiv - Valley of the Roses - Veliko Turnovo
This morning we depart Plovdiv for the world famous Valley of the Roses.

In this valley, 70 percent of the world's "attar", or extract from roses, is produced. Nimble- fingered women and girls do most of the picking, while donkeys are used to carry the petals away.

In the town of Kazanlak we visit the Thracian Tomb (fourth and third centuries BC). The Thracians are regarded as the original Bulgarians, a people closely linked with the ancient Greeks. Before our climb over the Shipka Pass we will visit the Shipka Memorial Church. The golden Domes of this Russian-style church rise out of the hillside. After crossing the spectacular Shipka with its majestic vistas and momentous history we visit the open-air Ethnographical Museum of Etura, a recreation of a typical 19th century village.

After a tour of the museum we continue on to Veliko Turnovo, once the capital of Bulgaria (1185-1396) and still showing the remains of its past glory -- fortress walls and palaces perched among the steep cliffs of the Yantra Gorge. Clinging to the crags that rise above the River Yantra, this capital of the second Bulgarian Kingdom of the Middle Ages is one of the country's most picturesque sites. It rises on three main hills: fortified Tsarevets; Trapezitsa, where boyars lived; and Sveta Gora, then the centre of a scholarly monastery, now a university site.

Overnight in Veliko Turnovo.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 32 Veliko Turnovo: Town Tour
Today we have a tour of this town laced with history. We will admire the breathtaking views of this picturesque region during our tour of the Tsarevets Citadel (Castle of the Czar). This commanding position was first fortified in the 6th century and had become the royal centre of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom by the end of the 12th century. A short drive away is the hilltop village of Arbanassi, first settled by Albanian immigrants in the 15th century. We will have the opportunity to visit several of the houses in the region dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries.

Balance of the day at leisure.

Overnight in Veliko Turnovo.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 33 Veliko Turnovo - Sofia
Today we travel to Sofia via the beautiful Danube Plain. En-route we will cross over the Troyan Pass and visit the nearby Troyan Monastery, Bulgaria's third largest. After a lunch break we will continue on the well-preserved 'museum-town' of Koprivshtitsa. It was here that the revolt against the Ottoman occupation began in 1876. A visit here gives us an insight as to how Bulgarians lived a century ago. Our WALK throughout the enchanting town will bring us to many unique houses with wooden columns, painted facades, richly decorated interiors, and lovely gardens.

Overnight in Sofia.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 34 Sofia - Rila Monastery - Sofia
This morning we depart for the 10th century Rila Monastery, 121 km (75 miles) south of Sofia at the end of a winding road through high rock walls with formations like giant animals waiting to pounce. This most-revered of all Bulgarian monasteries lies nestled in a soft, green wood. Mountains rise all around it; below it the Rilska River races over a stony bed.

In the 9th century, twenty-year old Ivan Rilski (John of Rila) fled to this peaceful place seeking escape from the sordidness of the world. Finding a cave in the woods above this present monastery site, he took up the hermit life. Here he fed the animals and the birds and prayed in the stillness to God. In time, like-minded men joined him and they built the first monastery here about a 2.4 km (1.5 mile) from the present site, where, today, you will find his tomb, the little Church of St. Luke, and the cave he inhabited. In the past, pilgrims were not deemed sinless enough to enter the monastery.

The Rila Monastery is one of Europe's largest monasteries, located in some of Bulgaria's most beautiful terrain. Sightseeing of the monastery features the unsurpassed frescoes of the Church of the Blessed Virgin. Monks still practice within this five-domed treasure. Also contained within the exquisite fortress-like walls of the monastery is the Historical Museum featuring a collection of objects connected with the monastery's thousand-year history. After lunch we will return to Sofia.

Overnight in Sofia.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 35 Departure
Departure from Sofia.

PRIJATNO PATUVANE!!

Meal plan: breakfast

Tour Map

To book this tour, please refer to the sidebar ►

*The red tour trail on the map does not represent the actual travel path.


Hotel List


The following is a list of sample hotels at some locations included on this tour. The hotels shown here are meant to provide a general sense of the standard of hotel we usually aim for; they are not necessarily confirmed for your chosen departure.


Orea Hotel Pyramida

Rating: 4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation
Location: Prague
Country: Czech Republic

Rooms: Hotel Pyramida offers 344 rooms, all of which are comfortably furnished and equipped with bathroom and toilet, direct phone
... SAT TV and safe. The rooms were refurbished and refurnished in the second half of the year 1999.


Read More.

Maltezsky Kriz Hotel

Rating: 4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation
Location: Karlovy Vary
Country: Czech Republic

Welcome to the comfortable Maltezsky Kriz hotel **** (Maltese Cross) which is situated on the bank of the river Tepla
... in the heart of Karlovy Vary. The house was built in 1706 and is the oldest half-timbered house in the whole colonade Stara louka (Old Meadow). On the walls, even after a complete renovation in 2003 preserved the historic wall murals and half-timbered walls. The hotel offers very spacious and comfortable accommodation in almost a family atmosphere with plenty of additional services like a spa, Thai massage and much more ...
Read More.

Hotel Zlaty Andel

Rating: 4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation
Location: Cesky Krumlov
Country: Czech Republic

All rooms (28 luxury rooms, 8 suites) on an international standard are equipped with bathroom (bath/shower), WC, satellite TV, minibar,
... Services: Restaurant Petr Vok (with view of the castle), restaurant, terrace, coffeehouse, music, dance and cocktail bar, exchange-office, antique shop and gallery.



Read More.

Hotel Ibis Bratislava

Rating: 3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation
Location: Bratislava
Country: Slovakia

The Ibis Bratislava hotel is ideally located in the city centre and easily accessible by public transport. For lovers of
... and history, the centre of the old city and Bratislava castle can be reached on foot in a few minutes. Built recently, the hotel has 120 queen beds, and a bar with snacks open 24/24.


Read More.

Grand Hotel

Rating: 3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation
Location: Trencin
Country: Slovakia

This new hotel is located in the heart of the old city centre of Trenčín. The 25 rooms are all
... in a modern and trendy style. Solarium, whirpool and finish sauna are included in price of room.


Read More.

Hotel Ibis Centrum Budapest

Rating: 3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation
Location: Budapest
Country: Hungary

The Ibis Budapest Centrum hotel is located in the centre of the financial, cultural and commercial district of Budapest. Ideal
... business or tourist stays, it is within easy access by public transport. The hotel has 126 air-conditioned rooms. You will appreciate its garden with a terrace and its bar open 24/24 to serve light meals and snacks. Restaurants are immediately close by. Wifi Internet access for guests.


Read More.

Best Western City Hotel

Rating: 4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation
Location: Sofia
Country: Bulgaria

As part of the Best Western brand, City Hotel in Sofia features: full buffet breakfast, data ports for Internet connection
... hair dryers, iron and ironing boards, coffee/tea makers (upon request), complimentary toiletries available in all rooms and upon request. Our hotel rooms have individually controllable air-conditioning. They are equipped with telephone (in both room and bathroom), colour TV set (international satellite TV channels, as well as Pay-TV are available), hairdryer, music system, in-room electronic safe, a stocked mini-bar, magnetic card lock.

Read More.

Novotel Plovdiv

Rating: 5 Star Accommodation5 Star Accommodation5 Star Accommodation5 Star Accommodation5 Star Accommodation
Location: Plovdiv
Country: Bulgaria

Novotel hotel offers 321 rooms with:
luxurious bathroom with a separate toilet; air conditioning; Mini bar; Colour TV with satellite
... direct dial phone; possibility for internet connection; 24 hour room service. Hotel offers: indoor swimming-pool; jacuzzi; solarium; bowling hall; pool hall; fitness-room.

Read More.


Trip Information

To book this tour, please refer to the sidebar ►

Inclusions

Breakfast and dinner (hotels & local restaurants) daily. All accommodation, transport, sightseeing and entrance fees for sites noted as 'visited' in the detailed itinerary. Gratuities for local guides, drivers, restaurant staff, porters. Airport transfers for land & air customers arriving / departing on tour dates.

Exclusions

Tour Leader gratuities, lunches, drinks, personal items (phone, laundry, etc), domestic and international air taxes (if applicable), excursions referenced as 'optional'. Airport transfers for Land Only customers. Our post-reservation trip notes offer further guidance on optional meal costs and shopping.

Seasonality and Weather

This tour is offered in spring, summer and fall the most popular of which is are spring and fall when temperatures are relatively mild and crowds thinner. Showers quite possible in spring and fall, somewhat less so in summer though can occur any time. Summers can be humid though long daylight hours maximize exploration.

Transport and Travel Conditions

Land transport throughout by private air-conditioned motor coach, 24-36 seats depending on ultimate group size (see 'group size'). Though we will have a couple of full bus days there are plenty of stops of interest. Comfortable overnight sleeper trains Budapest-Bucharest (lavatories at the end of the carriage; luggage stays with us in the cabins). Though we do not rate this tour "strenuous", it is a busy program with numerous city / town walking tours featuring uneven surfaces, inclines and / or stairs. You must be able to spend several hours on your feet per day, walking at a leisurely pace. There may not be porters available in all locations. We also make use of public transit in some cities in order to maximize sightseeing where vehicles are impractical (most people quite enjoy this insight into daily life).

Accommodation

Well-located, air- conditioned, mid-range hotels (3-star) throughout. Many are smaller properties (3-4 story) that may not have elevators. All hotels have en suite toilet and bath, though most have shower only. Porter service is sometimes available; you MUST be independent with your luggage. Single rooms are limited and likely smaller than twins.

Staff and Support

Tour Leader, driver, local step-on guides in various locales.

Group Size

10-21 (plus Tour Leader)