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Balkan_Roundrip

13 days / 12 overnights
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Itinerary/Route:
Istanbul – Plovdiv – Sofia - Rila Monastery – Edrine - Istanbul- Melnik – Thessaloniki – Olympian Riviera-Vergina - Ohrid- Tirana - Dures - Skopje - Sofia
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Program
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DAY 1: Istanbul
Arrival at Istanbul airport. Transfer to the hotel. Dinner and overnight in Istanbul.
DAY 2: Istanbul
Breakfast. Sightseeing tour of Istanbul’s historical center, former Constantinople: visit to the Blue Mosque, the only mosque in the world with six minarets; the Hippodrome square with an Egyptian obelisk; the Column of Constantine, the Serpent Column and the Fountain of Kaiser Wilhelm II. A visit to St Sophia Church, the royal church of the Byzantine Empire in Constantinople. It was built in just 5 years, from 532 to 537, by emperor Justinian, who wanted to build the biggest and greatest temple in the world. St Sophia Church is considered to be the brightest example of byzantine architecture and because of its size and the engineering successes surrounding it, it is considered to be one of the grandest buildings of the Antiquity. 1000 years after its completion St Sophia Church remains the biggest temple in the world and even today is the world’s fourth largest temple. In 1453 St Sophia Church is turned into a mosque by the ottoman conquerors. A visit to Topkapi Palace - center of the Ottoman Empire’s government for 400 years (from 1465 until 1853). Dinner at a restaurant offering evening entertainment program with oriental dances. Overnight in Istanbul.
DAY 3: Istanbul
Breakfast. Panoramic tour of Istanbul – the Golden Horn, the Bosphorus, a tour of the Asian part of the city. A visit to Dolmabahce Palace, official residence of the sultans since its completion from 1853 until 1922. Free time. Dinner. Overnight in Istanbul.
DAY 4: Plovdiv
Breakfast. Departure for Bulgaria. Sightseeing tour of Plovdiv – a tour of the old town which consists of one of the most spectacular ensembles of town houses from the period of the Bulgarian National Revival. Visit to the Saints Constantine and Helena Church, Roman Theatre, Regional Ethnographic Museum. Accommodation at the hotel. Dinner. Overnight stay in Plovdiv.
DAY 5: Sofia
Breakfast. Departure for Sofia. Sightseeing tour of Bulgaria`s capital – St. Nedelya Cathedral, St. George Rotunda, Russian Church of St. Nicolas, St. Sophia Church, St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Ivan Vazov National Theater. A visit to the Boyana Church, which is included in the UNESCO List of World Cultural Heritage. It has preserved frescoes of an unknown artist, which date back to the year 1259. The frescoes impress with the spirituality and expressiveness of their images, created 7 years before the birth of Giotto di Bondone, considered the first Renaissance artist. Free time. Dinner at a typical Bulgarian restaurant with a folklore program. Overnight in Sofia.
DAY 6: Sofia – Rila Monastery – Melnik
Early morning departure for the pride of Bulgaria, Rila Monastery (10th century.) One of UNESCO’s most precious treasures, Rila Monastery is the largest monastery in Bulgaria and all of the Balkan Peninsula. We’ll have lunch, and take a tour of the magnificent complex. In the late afternoon, we’ll depart for Melnik, Bulgaria’s smallest town, well known for its “sand pyramids,” red wine, and traditional houses. Once we’re there, we’ll tour the Kordopoulov’s House, the largest residential building in the Balkan’s from the National Revival Period. Enjoy a wine tasting in the wine cellar at the Kordopoulov’s House, and then an evening at your leisure. Dinner. Overnight in Melnik.
DAY 7: Melnik – Thessaloniki – Olympian Riviera
After breakfast, we’ll depart for Greece. Afternoon arrival in Thessaloniki. Panoramic excursion of Thessaloniki, visiting the White Tower, Rothonda, Byzantine fortress walls, catacombs, and St. Dimitrios Church. Free time for leisure. Then, we’ll depart for Platamonas, located at the foot of the Olympus Mountain. Dinner. Overnight in Platamonas.
DAY 8: Vergina - Ohrid
After breakfast, visit the Alexander the Great's father's tomb and museum. Continue across the border to Macedonia, and on to Ohrid. Free time in Ohrid. Dinner. Overnight in Ohrid.
DAY 9: Ohrid - Tirana
The lakeside resort of Ohrid is an important cultural and spiritual center, classified as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Start your morning sightseeing tour with a walk through the cobblestone streets of the old town. Visit the Cathedral of St. Sofia, containing some magnificent frescoes from the 10th century. In the early afternoon, travel to Tirana, the capital of Albania. Dinner. Overnight in Tirana.
DAY 10: Tirana - Dures
On a morning sightseeing tour, see the Skanderbeg Square, the Mosque of Et'hem Bey, the Clock Tower, and the statue of G.K. Skanderbeg, Albania's national hero; the Palace of Culture, built with Soviet assistance; and the National History Museum, with a mosaic on its facade portraying Albanian history. The afternoon arrival in Dures - the perl of the Albanian adriatic coast.Your afternoon is free to exploring on your own, shop, or just relax. Dinner. Overnight in Dures.
DAY 11 Dures - Skopje
In the morning we depart for Skopje, the capital of Macedonia and birth place of Mother Theresa. We take a sightseeing tour of the city, including the Kale Fortress, the Church of the Holy Saviour with its iconostasis and fine example of traditional walnut woodcarving, the Old Bazaar and the Stone Bridge. We drive to the slopes of the Vodno Mountain where we visit the Monastery of St. Panteleimon with its 12th century iconostasis and frescoes ranking among the highest achievements of Byzantine art. Dinner. Overnight in Skopje.
DAY 12: Skopje - Sofia
In the morning depart for Sofia. Free time. Dinner. Overnight in Sofia.
Day 13: Return home.
Breakfast. Transfer to the Sofia airport for your flight home.