Macedonia Explorer

10 days
from
$1,785 USD
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Leisurely
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Trip code: 
ATO
Ways to Travel:
Guided Group, Tailormade Adventures
Activity:
Multi-country
Min age:
16
Group size:
4–16

Discover Macedonia, Bulgaria and Kosovo on this cultural highlights journey across the southern Balkans.

Discover the rich history of Bulgaria, Macedonia and Kosovo, where influences from the East and West collide. This trip showcases some of the cultural highlights of a less visited region of the Balkans, famous for ancient civilisations, UNESCO world heritage monasteries and the vibrant, laidback capital cities of Sofia and Skopje. Having been under numerous occupations throughout the ages, both Bulgaria and Macedonia have an eclectic history where Ottoman, Communist and Roman rule have all left their mark. But a visit to this region of the Balkans would not be complete without experiencing the contrasting natural beauty it has to offer; national parks, waterfalls, famous wine regions and the peaceful alluring Lake Ohrid are all part of this comprehensive itinerary.

Highlights

  • Discover Skopje and Sofia- two of the Balkan's most vibrant capitals
  • Bulgaria's UNESCO world heritage Rila Monastery
  • Macedonia's Tikvesh wine region and alluring Lake Ohrid
  • Visit Prizren, Kosovo's culture capital
  • Natural beauty, ancient sites and traditional Balkan cuisine

Key information

  • 9 nights comfortable hotels, all rooms en suite
  • Group normally 4 to 16, plus leader. Min 16 yrs.
  • Travel by private air-conditioned minibus

 

What's included

  • All breakfasts, 2 lunches and 2 dinners
  • All accommodation
  • Transfers for group flights

What's not included

  • Travel insurance
  • Visas & vaccinations
  • Single supplement
Call for general departures:
1 844 227 9087
Call for tailormade trips:
1 800 267 3347
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

At Exodus we believe in the power of Responsible Travel.

Every time we travel, we are part of a global movement that creates jobs, builds more sustainable societies, encourages cultural understanding and safeguards common natural and cultural heritage. To learn more about what Responsible Travel means to Exodus click here… 

Itinerary

  • Day 1

    Start in the afternoon at the hotel in Sofia, Bulgaria. After the main briefing, there will be a 2 hour walking sightseeing tour of Sofia.

    The trip commences in the afternoon at the hotel in Sofia, where after a main briefing, there will be a walking sightseeing tour (approx. 2 hours) of the centre of the Bulgarian capital. Nestled under Vitosha Mountain, Sofia is a laidback city with an eclectic mix of history reflecting its 2000 years of occupation under the Greeks, Romans, Ottomans and Communists. Today it is known for its diverse landmarks, communist architecture, orthodox churches, manicured gardens and vast boulevards.

    The walking tour will take in all of Sofia's sights including Sveta Nedelya Square with the Sveta Nedelya Church, Independence Square with the St. Sofia statue, the Catholic cathedral of St.Joseph, excavated Roman ruins of the ancient Serdica, the Council of Ministers former House of the Communist Party, Rotunda of St.George, the mosque and covered market, the Russian orthodox church, the Bulgarian Parliament and the monument of the Russian Emperor Alexander. The evening is free for you to explore or join the group for an optional welcome dinner.
    Hotel Sofia Place or similar

  • Day 2

    Transfer to Melnik stopping at UNESCO sites Boyana Church and the famous Rila Monastery en route. Free afternoon upon arrival into Melnik.

    After breakfast we begin our transfer towards our second stop, the picturesque town of Melnik. En route we first visit the Boyana Church, a small mediaeval orthodox church listed as a world UNESCO cultural heritage site, located in a suburb of Sofia. Despite the church's small size, its frescoes are historically significant and part of an artistic achievement that started the technique illustrating biblical figures with emotions, and placing them alongside local aristocracy.

    The second UNESCO world heritage site we visit is perhaps the most famous in Bulgaria, the Rila Monastery (approximately 2 hour transfer from Sofia). The monastery is a must-see sight for anyone who visits the region and is regarded as one of Bulgaria's most important cultural, historical and architectural monuments. The combination of arcaded balconies, unique frescoes (the work of one of the most famous Bulgarian Revival Period artists), the gilded iconostasis, and the fabulous mountain views make a visit to this 10th Century monastery truly extraordinary. During our visit, your leader will be able to tell you its history and there will be plenty of time to explore with the option of lunch at one of the restaurants near the monastery complex.

    After lunch, we transfer to the small town of Melnik, the smallest Bulgarian settlement with a city status, known for its historic architecture. The rest of the day is free to explore Melnik.
    Hotel Melnik or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 3

    After breakfast we visit the Kordopulova House, the Rozhen Monastery and then into Macedonia to the Smolare waterfall. After lunch transfer to the wine region of Tikvesh for evening wine tasting.

    After breakfast there will be some free time before heading to Kordopulova house, the largest house from Bulgaria's Revival period. The house was built by the wealthy Kordopul family from Melnik in 1754 and a visit allows us to become familiar with the old Melnik traditions. There may also be an opportunity to arrange wine tasting at the famous 250 year old Kordopulova House winery (optional).

    Near the town of Melnik we also visit the Rozhen Monastery, the biggest in the Pirin Mountains and one of the few mediaeval Bulgarian monasteries that is well preserved today.

    We then bid farewell to Bulgaria and head into Macedonia via the Novo Selo border crossing in the area of Strumica. Our first stop will be the Smolare waterfall (approximately 1.5 hours transfer), located above the village of Smolare in the south eastern region of the country. The waterfall is part of the Lomnica River and is located deep in Mount Belasica at an elevation of 630 metres. Crashing down the smooth, black rock face, and surrounded by 100 year old beech trees, this waterfall is a popular natural attraction for many visitors to the region. To reach the majestic beauty of the falls, we must wind our way up a path that includes 300 stone steps. Lunch can be organised at a restaurant in the nearby village of Smolare.

    In the afternoon, we transfer to the famous wine region of Tikvesh (approximately 1.5 hours transfer) where we check in at our hotel-winery and spend a relaxing evening wine tasting a selection of premium Macedonian wines over dinner. Macedonian wine has taken a central role in society since the Roman times, when the ruling emperors favoured its grapes. Thanks to an abundance of sunshine, Mediterranean and Continental breezes and rich rocky soil, the grapes thrive in Macedonia.
    Hotel- Winery Popova Kula or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast Dinner
  • Day 4

    Morning visit to archaeological site and town of Stobi. Transfer to city of Bitola after lunch and enjoy a walking tour and visit the old bazaar.

    After a relaxed breakfast with views of the vineyard, we head towards the city of Bitola.

    Our first stop en route this morning is at the famous archaeological site of Stobi (approximately 30 min transfer). The ancient town of Stobi is mentioned for the first time in 197 B.C, but can be traced back at least 400 years earlier. The preserved buildings of the town include a theatre built in the 2nd Century and luxurious palaces with fountains, mosaics and frescoes. A total of 18 mosaics have been discovered in Stobi, all illustrating stylised animals worked in soft green, deep blue, ochre and reddish tones.

    In the afternoon we transfer (approximately 1.5 hours) to the second largest city in Macedonia, Bitola. The city was known as Macedonia's unofficial capital during the Ottoman reign. It was a major political, economic and cultural centre of the Balkans, rivalled only by Thessaloniki. Many foreign countries have had their consulates in Bitola, therefore it is also known as the 'City of Consuls.' After checking into our hotel and lunch in a local restaurant, our leader will take you on a sightseeing walk of the centre of Bitola, which will include the famous street of Shirok Sokak and the Stara Carsija (Old Bazaar). You may wish to enjoy a coffee in one of the old cafes and learn about the coffee culture of Bitola and the significance it has had on this city over the centuries.
    Hotel Teater or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 5

    Pelister N.P, lunch in Dihovo, Heraclea Lyncestis

    Given that Bitola was on the front-line of the so called 'Macedonian' front during WW1, it is safe to say that it witnessed unparalleled horrors during that time. Today, remnants of the war, such as disused bunkers, can still be found in the surrounding mountains. After breakfast we transfer to the Pelister National Park to walk 'The Path of the First World War' through picturesque landscapes and learn about the history of the area during WW1.

    Lunch is then arranged in the nearby village of Dihovo, in the garden of a local family home. Here we also have the opportunity to explore the fascinating world of the honeybee as we join one of the local beekeepers where he will share the hidden secrets of bees and beekeeping. During the demonstration protective clothing will be worn and there will be the chance to extract honey from the comb for tasting afterwards. There will also be an oppportunity to purchase some honey if you wish. 

    In the afternoon we visit the ancient town and archaeological site of Heraclea Lyncestis for a private tour, located on the outskirts of Bitola. Heraclea was founded by Philip II of Macedonia in the 4th Century B.C after he had conquered the surrounding region of Lyncestis and incorporated it into his kingdom of Macedon. The city was named in honour of the mythological hero Heracles, whom Philip considered his ancestor. With its strategic location, it became a prosperous city. We then return to Bitola for the evening.
    Hotel Teater or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch
  • Day 6

    Transfer to Ohrid via the Galicica National Park for photo stops along the way. After lunch in the fisherman village of Trpejca, we arrive at Ohrid and have a walking tour of the old city.

    This morning after breakfast we depart Bitola for Ohrid driving through the beautiful areas of Prespa and the Galicica National Park where we will make a photo stop and enjoy great views over the lakes of Ohrid and Prespa. We then visit the fisherman village of Trpejca where we have lunch in a local restaurant and then continue onto Ohrid to check into our hotel.

    This afternoon we do a walking sightseeing tour of some of the famous sites in Ohrid including the church of St. Sofia, King Samuil's Fortress and the Amphitheatre. Ohrid is the largest city on the lake and is well known for allegedly having 365 churches at one point during the Middle Ages; each church was dedicated to a particular saint. This is why it has often been referred to as a 'Jerusalem (of the Balkans).' Nowadays there are around 60 churches in Ohrid and the surrounding area. Both the lake and town are listed as cultural and natural world heritage sites by UNESCO and are popular destinations in summer. The old town boasts cobbled stone streets, traditional restaurants, lakeside cafes and historic monuments which all contribute to its atmospheric charm. Situated on the lake, the town also has a lovely little boardwalk giving Ohrid a pleasant laid back vibe. The rest of the day and evening is free for you to relax.
    Hotel Lebed or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 7

    Morning visit to the west Ohrid coast villages of Kalishta and Radozda. Free afternoon in Ohrid followed by dinner at a local family home in the nearby village of Kuratica.

    After breakfast, we transfer to the west coast of Ohrid to visit the villages of Kalishta and Radozda. Here we visit unique cave churches and get a feel for the relaxed lifestyle of the fisherman in Radozda, one of the oldest fishing villages on the banks of the Ohrid Lake. An optional lunch can be arranged at one of the lakeside fish restaurants in Radozda.

    We return to Ohrid in the afternoon where you will have free time to enjoy the old city. In the evening we will take a transfer to the outskirts of Ohrid (approximately 30 minutes) to the village of Kuratica, where our local hosts will prepare a home cooked dinner for the group in the garden of their family home. Return to Ohrid.
    Hotel Lebed or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast Dinner
  • Day 8

    Transfer to Skopje visiting Monastery of Bigorski and the Painted Mosque at Tetovo along the way. Late afternoon arrival into Skopje, followed by walking tour.

    After an early breakfast we transfer to the Macedonian capital, Skopje, stopping at a few famous sites in western Macedonia along the way.

    Our first stop is at the monastery of St. John the Baptist Bigorski (approximately 2 hours transfer), one of the most ancient monasteries in the region. It is famous for its unique masterpiece; the wooden carved iconostasis created by the local woodcarvers in the 19th Century- a must-see for every visitor to the area. Lunch will be arranged in the monastery restaurant.

    Our second stop on the way to Skopje, is the Painted Mosque of Tetovo (approximately 1.5 hours transfer), one of the oldest and most notable Islamic monuments in Europe; due to its unique decorative style.

    We arrive in Skopje and have a short walking sightseeing tour in the new and old centre of Skopje including the Old Bazaar, the Stone Bridge and the controversial Skopje 2014 project. Like the Bulgarian capital of Sofia, Skopje too has a long history of occupation, and experienced Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman rule through the ages. Today it is a bustling and sometimes surreal metropolis thanks to the building craze of the Skopje 2014 project. However, if you delve beneath the surface you will discover a city with a complex history and fascinating sites!
    Bushi Resort or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch
  • Day 9

    Morning transfer to Prizren, Kosovo followed by a walking tour, lunch and free time to enjoy Prizren in the afternoon. Transfer back to Skopje.

    After breakfast we transfer (approximately 2 hours) from Skopje over the border to Prizren, Kosovo's culture capital. Kosovo's second biggest city is rich with history and traditions and is surrounded by incredible nature. Throughout history, Prizren has played a vital role in the region. The city is known in this region of the Balkans for its gastronomy and wines, traditional handicrafts and wonderful mix of Byzantine and Ottoman architecture. On arrival, we enjoy a welcome coffee before departing on a walking tour of the most famous sites of Prizren including the Kalaja (Fortress), the Sinan Pasha Mosque, the Gazi Mehmet Pasha Hammam and the outside of the 14th Century church of Our Lady of Ljevish, a UNESCO world heritage cultural site.

    (Currently the Our Lady of Ljevish is closed and guarded by police due to several attempts of vandalism. However, all efforts will be made on the ground to see if the church can be opened for us. This will only be confirmed once you are in Prizren).

    There will be the option to stop for lunch in the city centre, at the Shadervan, where you can try the famous traditional Prizren dishes such as flie, shar cheese and a selection of grilled meats. The afternoon is then free to enjoy the beautiful and compact old Bazaar of Prizren.

    We return to Skopje in the evening hours and enjoy a farewell dinner at a local restaurant where traditional dishes of Skopje are served.
    Bushi Resort or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 10

    Early transfer (3.5hrs) back to Sofia Airport in Bulgaria. End of trip.

    This morning we depart early and take a long transfer (approximately 3.5 hours) back to Sofia Airport in Bulgaria arriving before midday. For Land Only clients, the trip ends upon arrival at the airport.

    Meals included: Breakfast
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Essential Info

Visas

Bulgaria

Visas are not required for Bulgaria for British and other EU passport holders. Other nationalities should check with the relevant authorities.

Kosovo

No visa required for most nationalities, including UK passport holders, most other EU nationalities, US, Canadian, Australian and New Zealand.

Vaccinations

Bulgaria

There are no mandatory vaccination requirements. Recommended vaccinations are: Polio, Tetanus, Diphtheria, Typhoid, Hepatitis A, Yellow Fever. The risk of malaria is slight but you may wish to consult your GP or travel health clinic for further advice.

Kosovo

There are no specific health risks.

Eating and Drinking

All breakfasts, 2 lunches and 2 dinners are included.

Food in the Balkans is quite varied thanks to the many regional influences, particularly Mediterranean combining Ottoman, Oriental and European tastes. Many corners of the Balkans have popular dishes with the same names but often have big differences in taste. Dairy products, especially milk and yoghurt are present in many dishes. Grilled meats are very popular with pork and lamb being prevalent in Macedonia and Bulgaria. Pastries, pies, salads and fresh vegetable dishes are a staple of the Balkan diet.

Macedonian wine is incredibly good value, especially wines from the Tikvesh region. Rakija, similar to brandy, is very popular and often locals make their own. Mastika, a liquor, is considered the national drink of Macedonia and is usually poured over ice and enjoyed with a selection of small dishes.

Vegetarian and some special dietary requirements can be catered for but options are limited throughout the Balkans. Please inform the office of any specific requirements upon booking.

Weather

The Balkans enjoy a similar climate to most of Central Europe - hot summers, cool springs and autumns and cold winters with considerable snowfall. We schedule trips May to September, when temperatures will be generally warmer (20-30ºC). However these temperatures will be a little cooler in the mountain areas. In July and August we can easily expect 25-35 degrees Celcius during the day. The weather in this region can sometimes be unpredictable where Mediterranean and Continental Alpine climates vie for supremacy. The result is an extremely unpredictable climate even in summer. Rain can fall at any time of the year, although in mid-summer it is more likely to come as short, sharp thunderstorms.

Sofia

Skopje

Is this trip for you?

The Activity Level of this trip is 1- Leisurely.

This is a cultural discovery trip with some walking, required both to access the sites and to make the most of the trip. The city tours are on foot. Travel is by private bus, generally on good roads and there are some long drives due to the distances covered on the trip.

Please be aware that on the last day of this trip, there will be an early morning long transfer (approx. 3.5 hours) from Skopje back to Sofia Airport in Bulgaria, arriving around midday. For land only clients, the trip will finish upon arrival at Sofia Airport. For clients on the group flight, this flight departs Sofia Airport in the middle of the afternoon.

Call for general departures:
1 844 227 9087
Call for tailormade trips:
1 800 267 3347
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Accommodation

Hotels

Please be advised that the below accommodation listed in each location are the standard hotels used. However, there may be some departures where groups stay at similar hotels of the same standard and quality. 

All hotels have en suite facilities and offer free Wi-Fi. 

Hotel Sofia Place- Sofia

Hotel Melnik- Melnik

Hotel-Winery Popova Kula- Tikvesh region

Hotel Teatar- Bitola

Hotel Lebed- Ohrid

Bushi Resort- Skopje

Single supplements are available on request.

Call for general departures:
1 844 227 9087
Call for tailormade trips:
1 800 267 3347
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

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