All new itinerary for 2024! Details to follow…
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Day 1 – Split to Dubrovnik
Considering the late arrival the evening before we commence our tour with an easy and relatively short ride south along the Dalmatian coast with the odd detour up into the mounatins for spectacular coastal views. Our destination tonight Dubrovnik (or Kings Landing for those Game of Thones fans) needs little introduction.
Regardless of whether you are visiting Dubrovnik for the first time or the hundredth, the sense of awe never fails to descend when you set eyes on the beauty of the old town. Indeed it’s hard to imagine anyone becoming jaded by the city’s white limestone streets, baroque buildings and the endless shimmer of the Adriatic, or failing to be inspired by a walk along the ancient city walls that protected a civilized, sophisticated republic for centuries.
Although the shelling of Dubrovnik in 1991 horrified the world, the city has bounced back with vigor to enchant visitors again. Marvel at the interplay of light on the old stone buildings; trace the peaks and troughs of Dubrovnik’s past in museums replete with art and artifacts; take the cable car up to Mt Srđ; exhaust yourself climbing up and down narrow lanes – then plunge into the azure sea.
Day 2 – Dubrovnik to Kotor, Montenegro
Leaving the Bay of Kotor behind we head north for the first time and cross back into Bosnia and onwards to our lunch stop at Trebinje.As the southernmost city in Bosnia and Herzegovina Trebinjeis only 28km from the famous city of Dubrovnik. Its old town lines the banks of the Trebisnjica River that flows through the heart of the city. The river and the city have always been known for the enormous old mills treading the Trebisnjica as well as a small ‘lived in’ walled Old Town and a historic stone bridge, there are wine tastings, Serbian-Orthodox churches and a lovable square with a French-Provençale vibe.
Day 3 – Rest Day in Bay of Kotor
Gorgeous, breath taking, majestic, divine; however hefty your thesaurus, the brain-blowing beauty of the Bay of Kotor will leave you struggling for superlatives. Hemmed in by commanding cliffs and shape-shifting between rippling gulfs and sparkling straits, the cobalt cove even manages to defy geographic description: is it a fjord? A submerged canyon? It seems there’s only one way to define BokaKotorska: un-missable. A little leisurely ambling around the lake is on the cards today or better again a boat trip around the bay or for those feeling more energetic – a climb up the mountain overlooking the bay.
Day 4 – Kotor to Vlore, Albania
First on the cards today is a climb up the serpentine road overlooking the bay of Kotor with unrivalled views from the top. The Lovcen National Park is a stark contrast to the Bay of Kotor. On arrival in Albania we head south for an introduction to the Albanian Alps and a visit to Berat before turning west for the coast and the Albanian Riviera. The following days see us head further south along the coast all the way to the border with Greece before turning in land crossing some high mountains on route to Ohrid Lake.
- Citadel of Berat; a city more than 2,400 years old with a troubled history.
- A night on the Albanian Riviera where the Adriatic and Ionian seas meet; which means clean waters and brilliant beaches. With over 300 sunny days a year, it’s easy to see why it’s a popular beach resort.
- Llogara National Park. The lush forests of pines and oaks are only the beginning of this “mountain of panoramas,” which is beautifully surrounded by numerous mountain ranges and the majestic Ionian Sea.
- Llogara Pass; surrounded by regal forests that remain magically cool even during the scalding heat of the summer. Among them, is the so-called Flag Pine (Pisha Flamur), a century-old tree, bent from the winds into the shape of a flag. Some culinary delights that should not be missed include the hot kulaç (the Albanian version of a hot biscuit) with fresh local butter and cheese, as well as the homemade yogurt, plain or with nuts and the famous Llogara honey.
Day 5 – Vlore to Gjirokaster, Albania
It’s more of the Albanian riviera today as we head further south all the way to the border with Greece before turning inland.
- Butrint National Park; Of the countless antique ruins and landmarks of Albania, Butrint is the one most responsible for putting Albania on the map. Butrint’s glorious 2500-year-old ruins, within a majestic 30 km wide natural reserve, are some of the most well-preserved in Europe. In 1992, Butrint was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and it sits comfortably at the top of every international list of must-sees in Albania. Though life in Butrint had started long before, the influence of Hellenic culture in Albania officially began in the 6th century B.C. when Greeks from the island of Corfu settled on the hill of Butrint. According to mythology, the city’s antique name of Buthrotum comes from the word buthrotos, meaning “the wounded bull,” which refers to the Trojans’ sacrifice of a bull when they established the town on the hill.
- Gjirokaster; is a city in southern Albania, in a valley between the Gjerë mountains and the Drino, at 300 metres above sea level. Its old town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, described as “a rare example of a well-preserved Ottoman town, built by farmers of large estate”. The city is overlooked by Gjirokastër Fortress, where the Gjirokastër National Folklore Festival is held every five years. It is the birthplace of former Albanian communist leader Enver Hoxha, and author Ismail Kadare.
Day 6 – Gjirokaster to Lake Ohrid, North Macedonia
Rural. Remote. Mountainous – today includes some special encounters with the locals as we take on the Barmash Pass over the Gramoz Mountains; part of the northern Pindus mountain range.
- Barmash Pass over the Gramoz Mountains.
- Lake Ohrid is a lake which straddles the mountainous border between the southwestern part of North Macedonia and eastern Albania. It is one of Europe’s deepest and oldest lakes, with a unique aquatic ecosystem of worldwide importance, with more than 200 endemic species.
Day 7 – Lake Ohrid to Peshkopi, Albania
Today is a very short day distance wise allowing us soak up all that’s special in and around Ohrid before an afternoon departure – it’s no wonder this place is so popular!
- Ohrid Town; Ohrid is North Macedonia’s most seductive destination. It sits on the edge of serene Lake Ohrid, with an atmospheric old quarter that cascades down steep streets, dotted with beautiful churches and topped by the bones of a medieval castle. Traditional restaurants and lakeside cafes liven up the cobblestone streets
- The Monastery of St. John of Kaneo; The small monastery was erected to St. John of Patmos, likely the same person as St. John the Apostle, in the 13th century. The monastery can be reached by a 20 minute hike from the ridge above, or a short boat ride from the main dock in Ohrid.
- Lake Ohrid Boat Ride; The crystal blue waters of Lake Ohrid are the heart and soul of this region. The lake provides food and transportation for many of the inhabitants of the town. One of our favorite things to do in Lake Ohrid was chartering a small boat to take us from the Monastery of St. Jovan of Kaneo out onto the lake for views of the mountains and then back to town. This region needs to be appreciated from the water.
- Bay of Bones; dating back between 1200 and 700 BC, the original prehistoric settlement occupied 8500 square meters. The Ohrid Lake, quite shallow around this period, allowed for a massive wooden structure to be erected above the water, considered by many as one of the largest prehistoric palafittes – Bay of Bones is a partial recreation of the settlement
- The 10th century monastery of St. Naum built upon a rock overlooking Ohrid Lake and on the Albanian / Macedonian frontier.
- Mavrovo National Park; The gorges, pine forests, karst fields and waterfalls of Mavrovo National Park offer a breath of fresh. Beautiful vistas abound, and the park is home to North Macedonia’s highest peak, Mt Korab (2764m)
Day 4 – Peshkopi to Valbona, Albania
Like lots of twisty roads through stunning scenery? Today is the day – not that other days don’t have either – it’s just that today is overload.
- Valbona Valley National Park – considered to be the hidden gem of Albanian Alps. The park covers a total area of 80 km2, encompassing Valbona River and its surrounding areas with mountainous terrain, alpine landscapes, glacial springs, deep depressions, various rock formations, waterfalls and the Valbona Valley with its dense coniferous and deciduous forest. It is characterized by its very remote areas which have a large preserved ecosystem all of which is primarily untouched with pristine quality. This vast pristine ecosystem is the centrepiece of what has been referred to as the Albanian Miracle of the Alps.
- Sections of road among the very best we’ve ever ridden!
- Stay in an rural Agrotourism Hotel for a real sample of Albanian cuisine.
Day 9 – Valbona, Albania to Zabljak, Montenegro
It’s a world of mountains and gorges as we meander our way through the highlands of Northern Albania and Eastern Montenegro. Today we visit the Tara River Canyon (deepest in Europe and second deepest in the world after Grand Canyon) & Bridge in Durmitor National Park.
Day 10 – Rest day in Zabljak with optional activities in the Tara River Canyon
Montenegro: which means “Black Mountain” borders Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, Serbia’s breakaway province of Kosovo and Albania. About half of it is covered in thick forest. The pearl of the Mediterranean is situated in the south of the Adriatic. Nowhere else can you find so much natural wealth, beauty, mild beaches, clear lakes, fast rivers and gorgeous mountains in such a compact area as in Montenegro. In the morning you can wake up along the beautiful Adriatic coast, have lunch on the banks of Skadar Lake and enjoy an evening walk in the Montenegrin Mountains.Durmitor is a stunning limestone massif located in Northern Montenegro and belonging to the Dinaric Alps or Dinarides. It is also the name of Montenegro’s largest protected area, the Durmitor National Park, which constitutes the heart of a landscape shaped by glaciers, numerous rivers and underground streams of which are embedded in the much larger Tara River Basin Biosphere Reserve. Some fifty peaks higher than 2,000 metres above sea level rise above plateaus, alpine meadows and forests, including Bobotov Peak (2,525 metres above sea level). From December to March, Durmitor is a major ski resort, while in summer it’s popular for hiking, rafting and other active pursuits.
Day 11 – Zabljak, Montenegro – Mostar, Bosnia
Leaving the Durmitor National Park behind we travel north before turing west for a rural border crossing into Bosnia and onwards to our destination Mostar. First though we must travel through the Perucica Rain Forest. Rainforest? Not quite, but almost. Bosnia is home to Perućica, one of the last remaining primeval (old-growth) forests in all of Europe. So while it may not be the Amazon rainforest it is the closest you will get in Europe. This is remote and rural Bosnia at its very best as we make our way to a city that needs little introduction.
Day 12 – Rest Day in Mostar
Formerly one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the country, and today suffering geographical division of ethnic groups. Mostar was the most heavily bombed of any Bosnian city during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina following the breakup of Yugoslavia.
At dusk, the lights of numerous mill house restaurants twinkle across gushing streamlets. Narrow alley ways bustle joyously with trinket sellers and in between, the Balkans’ most celebrated bridge forms a majestic stone arc between reincarnated medieval towers. It’s an enchanting scene to say the least and if you’re lucky you’ll get to witness some of the local adrenaline junkies jumping off the bridge.
Of course there’s plenty of rideout options nearby to the like of Buna River Spring, Medugorje, Sarajevo etc for those feeling more energetic.
Day 13 – Mostar to Split, Croatia
Our route from Mostar to Split is a fitting end to our Balkan adventure as we travel north and west through rural countrydie with beautiful scenery. On route we will visit the beautiful Ramsko lake and Franciscan Monastery Rama-Šćit. Proudly standing in the middle of the lake, with road leading to it, this picturesque monastery is a witness of rich history of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The franciscans built the monastery in 15th century, before the arrival of the Ottomans. It was destroyed few times throughout history, but rebuilt again every time. The monastery also served as prison during communism time in ex Yugoslavia.
Day 14 – Split (optional local rideout before evening flight)
North or south theres lots of fantastic biking and stunning landscapes on offer. Alternatively, a day strolling around the sights of Split is highly recommended. The largest city on the Adriatic Coast, Split has been under Roman, Venetian, Austrian, French, Italian, and Yugoslav rule. The Old City is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and must-see historic attractions include Diocletian’s Palace, the Cathedral of Saint Domnius, and the striking Grgur Ninski Statue. Take time to stroll along the Riva Harbour, browse through the Green Market, and sample the restaurants and wine cellars.
We will be providing a more detailed itinerary on arrival to include hotel info and GPS co-ordinates. Please note that this is an outline route and maybe subject to change.