Discover the treasures of the Balkans on this adventure that starts in Budapest, the lively city on the Danube. Guided sightseeing introduces you to the highlights, including the Royal Castle, Parliament, and Fishermen’s Bastion. Next, head south through ever-changing landscapes to Novi Sad, famous for its citadel, then Serbia’s capital of Belgrade and the breathtaking gorges leading into Bulgaria. Explore Sofia with its ornate orthodox churches; visit Rila Monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage Site; and explore Plovdiv’s charming Old Town and Roman Amphitheater. Continue to medieval Veliko Târnovo and Arbanassi before arriving in beautiful Bucharest, Romania, for two overnights. On to the picturesque mountains, fortified villages, and castles of Transylvania. Visit Sinaia Monastery and Bran Castle, the medieval dwelling of legendary Count Dracula. Enjoy additional stops in enchanting Sighisoara and Cluj-Napoca, and return to Budapest for the final overnight on this outstanding vacation.
Day #1 Arrive in Budapest, Hungary. Check into your hotel. The rest of the day is free. Tonight, meet your Tour Director and fellow travelers.
Day #2 Budapest. Included sightseeing with a Local Guide features Buda Castle, which dominates the twin cities of Buda and Pest, separated by the broad ribbon of the Danube. Also see Heroes’ Square, which typifies the modern capital, as well as the old inns and wine cellars along the riverbank, the Royal Castle, Parliament, Margaret Island, Fishermen’s Bastion, and Matthias Coronation Church. (B)
Day #3 Budapest–Novi Sad, Serbia–Belgrade. This morning, travel southwards at first along the motorway to the border town of Szeged to cross into the province of Vojvodina in Serbia. Stop in Novi Sad, the capital of the province, situated on the River Danube and famous for its Petrovaradin Citadel, known in the west as the “Gibraltar of the Danube.” Drive along the motorway into Belgrade, the capital of Serbia. (B)
Day #4 Belgrade–Sofia, Bulgaria. A comfortable drive this morning southeast by way of Nis; then, across the border into Bulgaria. Arrive in Sofia, its capital, for sightseeing with a Local Guide, which will include such highlights as the Parliament building, Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, St. George Rotunda Church, the National Theater, and St. Sofia Church. The locals will tell you that Sofia is growing all the time, yet never aging. (B,D)
Day #5 Sofia. Excursion to Rila Monastery. This morning, drive to Rila to visit its monastery (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), the most famous in the country. It has a checkered history that goes way back to Ivan Rilski, a hermit who founded it in 927. During the very long Turkish rule over the country, the monastery became a beacon of Bulgarian culture. Return to Sofia. Tonight, maybe join an optional folklore dinner. (B)
Day #6 Sofia–Plovdiv–Veliko Târnovo. This morning, head eastwards to Plovdiv, Bulgaria’s second-largest city, located along the banks of the River Maritsa. Stop here to visit the charming Old Town and the Roman Amphitheater. Journey northwards through fine scenery over the Stara Planina Mountains to Veliko Târnovo. (B,D)
Day #7 Veliko Târnovo–Bucharest, Romania. Today, time to see some of the highlights of Veliko Târnovo, located on the Yantra River. During the Middle Ages, it was Bulgaria’s capital and, although now a modern town, it still retains some of its most attractive medieval features. Later, drive to nearby Arbanassi, world famous for its type of house, which is a cross between a dwelling and a fortress. The village is known as an architectural and historic reserve and was at one time the summer residence of Bulgarian kings. One of the highlights of the visit is the Church of the Nativity, built in 1637. In the afternoon, journey north to Rousse and cross the Danube to reach Bucharest. (B,D)
Day #8 Bucharest. Flower-festooned parks, gardens, and wide boulevards shaded by century-old trees contribute to Bucharest’s beauty. The highlight of your sightseeing tour is a visit to the open-air Village Museum, a unique collection of traditional farmhouses, cottages, wind and watermills, and artisans’ workshops from all parts of the country. The Local Guide will also show you other places of interest, including the Government Victoria Palace, the Royal Palace, and the Savings Palace. There is also an afternoon optional visit to the Romanian Parliament, known as the “House of the People. “ (B)
Day #9 Bucharest–Sinaia–Brasov. Leave this morning for a stop in Sinaia in the Prahova Valley. This is a lovely ski resort, almost 3,300 feet above sea level. While in Sinaia there will be time to visit the Sinaia Monastery and Peles Castle, considered among the most romantic in the world. Only a few more miles and you reach Brasov, a lovely medieval town famous for its town square filled with baroque architecture and outdoor cafés. This evening, enjoy an optional folklore dinner in a typical Transylvanian restaurant. (B)
Day #10 Brasov. This morning leave for Bran and visit its castle, built in 1377 and inhabited by Vlad the Impaler - better known as Dracula. In the afternoon a walking orientation of the Old Town of Brasov will include a visit to the Black Church and leisure time. (B)
Day #11 Brasov–Sighisoara–Cluj-Napoca. Head northwards for a stop in Sighisoara, a medieval town with 11 towers within the city walls, which surround cobblestone streets, ancient houses, and churches—it is one of Romania’s prettiest towns. Legend has it that it is also the birthplace of the notorious Vlad (Dracula). Continue the journey north by way of Tirgu Mures on to Cluj-Napoca in the heart of Transylvania. (B,D)
Day #12 Cluj-Napoca–Budapest, Hungary. Travel westwards today by way of Oradea into Hungary and return to Budapest. In the evening, enjoy an optional excursion. (B)
Day #13 Budapest. Your vacation ends with breakfast this morning. (B)