Balkan Explorer

Balkan Explorer

10 Days



Balkan Explorer

10 Days Starting in Sofia and ending in Sofia Airport

Visiting: Sofia, Melnik, Boyana Church, Rila Monastery, North Macedonia, Tikveš winery, Bitola, Heraclea, Shirok Sokak, Baba Mountain, Dihovo, Galičica, Ohrid, Kuratica, Tetovo, Šar-planina, Kosovo, Prizrenska, Monastery Gračanica, Skopje, Saint Joachim Osogovski

Tour operator:


Tour code:


Guide Type:

Fully Guided

Group size:

4 - 14

Physical rating:


Age range:

16 to 99

Special diets catered:

Please inform Exodus of specific dietary requirements

Tour operated in:
Trip Styles:

Small Group

$2553 (USD) The Big ADVENTURE Sale: -$72
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Tour Overview

Discover the rich history of Bulgaria, Macedonia and Kosovo, where influences from the East and the West collide. This trip showcases some of the cultural highlights of the central part of the Balkans, famous for ancient civilization traces, UNESCO world heritage monasteries and churches and the vibrant, laidback capital cities of Sofia and Skopje. Having been under numerous influences throughout the ages, both Bulgaria and Macedonia have an eclectic history where different cultures have all left their mark. But a visit to this region of the Balkan Peninsula would not be complete without experiencing the contrasting natural beauty it has to offer: national parks, high mountains, fertile valleys, famous wine regions and the peaceful, alluring Lakes Ohrid and Prespa – they are all part of this comprehensive itinerary.


  • Discover Skopje and Sofia - two of the Balkan's most vibrant capitals

  • 4 UNESCO sites including Bulgaria’s Rila Monastery

  • Macedonia's Tikveš wine region

  • World Heritage city and lake Ohrid

  • Visit Prizren, Kosovo's most historical city

  • Natural beauty, ancient sites, national parks and traditional Balkan cuisine


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Day 1 : Start In Sofia, Bulgaria. After The Meeting With The Leader, We Go For A Welcoming Dinner.
Location: Sofia
Accommodation: Hotel
Accommodation Name: Hotel Sofia Place or similar
Meals Included: No Meals

Our trip commences in the late evening at the hotel in Sofia, when after the
main briefing you’ll have a chance to get to know the group and the leader
over a meal.

Note: Those travelers using the group flight will be picked up at the airport
and transferred to the hotel.

Day 2 : Transfer To Melnik Stopping At Unesco Sites Boyana Church And The Famous Rila Monastery En Route. Free Afternoon Upon Arrival Into Melnik.
Location: Melnik, Boyana Church, Rila Monastery
Accommodation: Hotel
Accommodation Name: Hotel Melnik or similar
Meals Included: Breakfast

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. We have a
quick visit to Kordopulova house, the biggest house from the Revival Period
built in 1754 by the Kordopul family. Here we will become familiar with old
Melnik traditions and architecture. The rest of the day is free to explore
*Hotel Melnik or similar*

Day 3 : *Transfer To Macedonia. After Lunch We Visit The Ancient City Of Stobi And Enjoy Wine Tasting Over Dinner In A Winery Of The Famous **Tikveš Wine Region.*
Location: North Macedonia, Tikveš winery
Accommodation: Hotel
Accommodation Name: Hotel Popova Kula or similar
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

This morning, after breakfast, before we depart for Macedonia, we’ll have a
visit to Kordopulova house, the largest house from the Bulgarian Revival
Period, built in 1754 by the Kordopulos family. Here we will become familiar
with old Melnik traditions and architecture.

Then we bid farewell to Bulgaria and head to Macedonia and the area of
Strumica, in the southeastern region of the country. After 1,5hrs our first
stop will be the carnival city of Strumica where we’ll stretch our legs, as
we go on a short walk around the centre. In Strumica we’ll have our first
encounter with the Macedonian cuisine over a lunch in a nice restaurant.
In the afternoon, we move to the famous Tikveš wine region. Here, we will
visit the spacious archaeological site of Stobi, the largest one in
Macedonia. The ancient city of Stobi was mentioned for the first time in 197
B.C, but its history starts some 5 centuries earlier, developing from a
Paeonian town to the capital of the Roman province Macedonia Salutaris. The
preserved buildings include a large theatre, luxurious palaces with
fountains, peristyles and mosaics (worked in soft green, deep blue, ochre and
reddish tones), Roman thermae, ancient temples and the oldest Christian
church in the country.

In the late afternoon, we check in at our hotel-winery, located in an area
full with vineyards, outside Demir Kapija and spend an evening tasting a
selection of premium Macedonian wines over dinner. Macedonian wines have
taken a central role in society since the ancient times, when the kings and
emperors favored its grapes. Thanks to an abundance of sunshine,
Mediterranean and Continental breezes and rich soil, the grapes thrive in

Day 4 : *Drive To Bitola To Visit The Archaeological Site Of Heraclea And Enjoy A Walking Tour Of The City With Free Time In The Evening.*
Location: Bitola, Heraclea, Shirok Sokak
Accommodation: Hotel
Accommodation Name: Hotel Teater or similar
Meals Included: Breakfast

After a relaxed breakfast, surrounded with vineyards, we head towards the
city of Bitola (2hrs drive).

Our first stop is the ancient city – now an archaeological site of Heraclea
Lyncestis, located on the outskirts of Bitola where we have a tour of
Bitola’s predecessor. Heraclea was founded by King Philip II of Macedon in
the 4th century BC after he had incorporated the surrounding region of
Lyncestis into his kingdom of Macedon. The city was named in honor of the
mythological hero Heracles, whom Philip considered his ancestor. With its
strategic location, it became a prosperous city. Each object, each stone,
each pedestal is shrouded in mystery from the mists of 10 centuries of its

In the afternoon we do a sightseeing of Bitola, the second largest city of
Macedonia. Historically it was a major political, economic and cultural
centre of the Balkans in 19th and early 20th century. Many foreign countries
had their consulates in Bitola, therefore it is also known as the 'City of
Consuls. After a lunch in a local restaurant, your leader will take you on a
walk in the centre of Bitola, showing you the landmarks, including the famous
Širok Sokak Street, the Clock tower, Ottoman mosques, Christian churches and
the Old Bazaar’s paved streets.

After checking in to your hotel, in your free time, you may wish to visit the
rewarding National museum, walk the promenade in the near-by park, or enjoy a
coffee in one of the many cafes and learn about the coffee culture of Bitola
and the significance it has had on this city over the ages.

Day 5 : *Pelister Np Walk, Beekeepers Farm And Lunch In Dihovo, Transfer To Lake Ohrid* *Via Lake Prespa And Galičica Np.*
Location: Baba Mountain, Dihovo, Galičica
Accommodation: Hotel
Accommodation Name: Hotel Lebed or similar
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch

This is a day to enjoy the nature. In the morning we go to Pelister National
Park, in Bitola’s vicinity, to walk “The Path of the First World War”
through forests of Molika pines and to learn about the history of the area
during WW1. Given that Bitola was on the front-line of the Macedonian front
during the Great War, it witnessed the times of madness, and remnants of the
war can still be found in the surrounding mountains

Then we go to the nearby village Dihovo, where we have the opportunity to
explore the fascinating world of the Macedonian honey bee (Apis mellifera
macedonica) as we join one of the local beekeepers. During the demonstration,
protective clothing will be provided and there will be a chance to taste
honey from the comb as well as an opportunity to purchase some if you wish
to.  The lunch is arranged in the garden of a local family home in the

In the afternoon we continue to Ohrid, enjoying a ride via Galičica National
Park. We’ll stop at Lake Prespa and enjoy the tranquility of this Ramsar
Wetland, before we start driving the scenic road through Galičica Mountain
with short en route stops to enjoy the fascinating landscapes of both Ohrid
and Prespa lakes. Driving along the coast of UNESCO listed Lake Ohrid, valued
as a world heritage since 1979, we’ll reach the city of Ohrid, where
you’ll have free time upon arrival.

Day 6 : *A Full Day In Ohrid, A Unesco World Heritage City. Dinner In A Family Home In Kuratica Village.*
Location: Ohrid, Kuratica
Accommodation: Hotel
Accommodation Name: Hotel Lebed or similar
Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner

This morning, after breakfast, we do a walking tour of some of the famous
sites in Ohrid, the pearl of the Balkan Peninsula. Built on a large hill
above the lake, the Old town is one of the oldest human settlements in Europe
with traces of its 3 millennia of existence visible everywhere. Overlooking
the blue waters of the unique lake, Ohrids’s artistic and historical
importance is maybe most apparent through its vast collections of Byzantine
and Post-Byzantine Icons and fresco paintings and by being the site of the
oldest Pan-Slavic university, founded by Saint Clement, the patron saint of
the city in the 9th century. Ohrid region is one of few only in Europe which
are listed as UNESCO World Heritage by both Natural and Cultural criteria.

The sightseeing will take us through the winding, cobbled stone streets, with
traditional houses and many Byzantine style churches, including Hagia Sophia
cathedral, the Holy Virgin Peribleptos and St. John at Kaneo. We will see the
Upper Gate, visit the Tsar Samuel's Fortress and the Ancient Theatre. Ohrid
boasts with preserved handicrafts, precious jewelry, traditional restaurants,
lakeside cafes and historic monuments which all contribute to the charming
atmosphere. You will have a free afternoon to explore, visit some of the
museums, enjoy a panoramic boat ride, or maybe take a swim in the lake.

In the evening we will check out the vicinity of Ohrid by having a dinner in
Kuratica village (approximately 30 mins away), where a local family will
prepare a delicious, home cooked meal in their family home, using organic
local products.

Day 7 : *Transfer To Kosovo Via Tetovo And Šar Planina Np. Lunch In Varvara And A Walking Tour In Prizren.*
Location: Tetovo, Šar-planina, Kosovo, Prizrenska
Accommodation: Hotel
Accommodation Name: Hotel Cleon or similar*
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch

After breakfast, we check out from the hotel and travel from Ohrid to Prizren
in Kosovo. We make a stop in Tetovo (approx. 2hrs drive), to see the Colorful
Mosque, one of the most notable Islamic monuments in Europe, due to its
unique decorative style. From here we head to the nearby village of Varvara,
where the local village community will prepare a traditional lunch on their
beautiful terrace overlooking the Polog valley.

Then we continue to Kosovo, where after the border we’ll have a scenic
drive (two more hours) through Šar Planina National Park in order to reach
Prizren, a historical and vital city, surrounded by incredible nature. This
mediaeval capital is known for traditional handicrafts, its gastronomy and
wines, and a wonderful mix of Serbian and Ottoman monuments. The leader will
take us for a walk around the city to see the most famous sites, including
Shadirvan square, Sinan Pasha Mosque, the Orthodox and the Catholic
Cathedrals, Gazi Mehmet Pasha’s Hammam and the 14th century Our Lady of
Ljeviš (part of a World heritage property).

The evening is at your disposal to enjoy a meal or the sunset view from
Kalaja - the Fortress of Prizren.

Day 8 : *Visiting The Unesco’S Gračanica Monastery Before Arrival To Skopje, The Capital Of Macedonia, Followed By A Walking Tour Of The City.*
Location: Monastery Gračanica, Skopje
Accommodation: Bushi Resort or similar
Meals Included: Breakfast

We leave Prizren in the morning. Our first stop is King Milutin’s final
endowment, Gračanica Monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage site, located in the
eponymous village, in the heart of Kosovo, close to Priština, the capital of
this disputed territory. The masterfully built monastic church was finished
and fresco decorated by 1321 and still is a bastion of Orthodox Christianity,
since Gračanica is one of the few remaining dominantly Serbian populated
areas in Kosovo.

Then we head back across the border to Skopje, the Macedonian capital. We
arrive in Skopje after approx. 2hrs drive and in the late afternoon we have a
sightseeing tour Skopje’s downtown. Skopje valley has been continuously
inhabited since Neolithic times and the city has experienced Roman,
Byzantine, Slavic and Ottoman rule through the ages. Today it is a bustling
and modern metropolis thanks to the redevelopment after the catastrophic 1963
earthquake. The mixture of various period sites and architecture styles makes
it sometimes surreal, however, if you delve beneath the surface you will
discover a city with a complex history and fascinating sights. Some of them
are the Stone Bridge, Macedonia square and street, Mother Theresa memorial
house, the Old Railway Station, Stara Čaršija quarter (the Old Bazaar) –
containing numerous buildings from the Ottoman period and Skopsko Kale - the
mediaeval Fortress.

Day 9 : *Osogovo Monastery Visit While Transferring Back To Sofia For A City Tour And A Farewell Dinner.*
Location: Saint Joachim Osogovski, Sofia
Accommodation: Hotel
Accommodation Name: Sofia Place Hotel or similar
Meals Included: Breakfast

Today’s drive is dedicated to completing the circle back to Sofia. We’ll
break this long drive (4hrs approximately) with a stop before the border at
Osogovo monastery near Kriva Palanka, to visit this historical place in
fascinating settings and to have a lunch.

We return to Sofia in the late afternoon. There will be a walking sightseeing
tour (approx. 2 hours) of some of the main sights of the Bulgarian capital.
Nestled under Vitosha Mountain, Sofia is a laid back city with an eclectic
mix of sites, reflecting its 2000 years of history and various Roman,
Byzantine and Ottoman influence. Capital of Bulgaria since 1879, today it is
known for its diverse landmarks, communist architecture, orthodox churches,
manicured gardens and vast boulevards.

The walking tour will include central Sofia's notability, like Sveta Nedelya
Square, Independence Square with the St. Sofia monument, excavated Roman
ruins of the ancient Serdica, the Council of Ministers and the former House
of the Communist Party, Rotunda of St.George, the National theatre, the
Russian orthodox church, Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, the Bulgarian Parliament
and the monument to the Tsar Liberator.

In the evening it’s time to have a farewell dinner at a local restaurant
where traditional dishes of Sofia are served.

Day 10 : End Sofia.
Location: Sofia
Meals Included: Breakfast

In the morning you have free time to walk around Sofia and say goodbye. The
group flight passengers will be taken to the airport in time for their early
afternoon flight. 

What's Included

  • Transfers for group flights

  • All breakfasts, 3 lunches and 2 dinners

  • All accommodation

  • Local tour leader

What's Not Included

  • Single supplement

  • Travel insurance

  • Visas & vaccinations


All breakfasts, 3 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.


Accommodation listed under each day 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.

Single supplements are available on request.


Check out our Q&As

  • Are children permitted to take part in the tour?

    The minimum age for this tour is 16 years old.

  • Is there a supplement for solo travellers?

    If you would like to be paired with a tour member of the same gender, there is no additional charge. A single supplement can be requested if you would like your own room.

  • Are flights included in this tour?

    International flights are not included with this tour.

  • Who is Exodus Travels?

    At Exodus Travels, we've been exploring the world for nearly 50 years. From Walking and Trekking, Cultural and Cycling, Responsible Wildlife, to Polar and our new Premium Adventures, we are proud to offer award-winning small group and self-guided tours to 100+ countries worldwide.

  • Are the local guides on the tour English speaking?

    Yes, our local guides are English speaking.

  • Can you assist with pre or post tour accommodation?

    We are happy to assist with pre and post tour accommodation. Please enquire for detailed information.

  • What happens if I need to change my holiday date once I’ve booked?

    If you wish to make any changes to your booking, particularly if you need to alter any flights booked through us, please let us know as soon as possible. There is a booking or flight amendment fee of £40 per change and flight amendments often incur extra airline costs depending on the changes to be made and if the ticket has been issued or not.

  • How long has the tour company been trading?

    Exodus has been trading since 1974

  • What documents will I receive before I travel?

    Your final joining instructions and flight details, if booked with us, will then be sent out 2 to 3 weeks before departure. If you would like a hard copy posted, or if you require these any earlier, please contact the customer operations team. We advise that if you are booking connecting travel before receiving these, please ensure you leave plenty of time.

  • Do you operate a “single share” option and how does it work?

    Travellers are welcome to opt to share a room with a tour member of the same gender for no additional charge. If you'd like your own room, we can request a single supplement so that you will have your own room throughout.

  • Can I join the tour once it has departed?

    You are welcome to meet the group after the tour has departed however there is no reduction in rate for joining a tour after the departure date.

Reviews from Travellers on this Tour


A whistle-stop tour of stupendous scenery and fascinating history. Each day brought something new to wonder at.

Great way to explore the region

This is a very nice trip, with no time to get bored. We visited 3 counties in 10 days from the biggest to the smallest cities in the region. It was an interesting contrast. We explored several, churches, monasteries, mosques, UNESCO sites and restaurants. This part of the world is not yet so discovered, it often felt we are the only tourists from abroad. We learn a lot about the history of the area thanks to our skilled leader and tried some local food specialties. The portions are huge there! We had a lovely group that added to the positive experience.

Great trip

As the trip title suggests, this is great way to explore Macedonia, with a couple of days in Bulgaria and a day in Kosovo thrown in. The trip took in a good mix of cities, small towns, national parks and lakes (and a lot of churches, monasteries and mosques!) and included local visits to wineries and a beekeeper's; all well guided/hosted. Although the trip is a leisurely one, the itinerary is very full which was great for the amount we saw and did in 10 days, but did mean that we had less free time than other trips I've been on. The trip was well planned and organised with only a couple of longer drives (needed to see as much as we did) and all the staff and local guides were great. Overall it was a great trip through some beautiful and fascinating countries and I would love to go back to the region.

Great Trip

A really enjoyable and leisurely trip. The distances covered aren’t long which makes for a more leisurely pace. Almost all the accommodation exceeded expectations.

Dates & Availability

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Friday - Sunday

Jun 07, 2024 - Jun 16, 2024
$2625 $2553 (USD)

The Big ADVENTURE Sale: -$72 (USD)

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Friday - Sunday

Aug 30, 2024 - Sep 08, 2024
$2625 $2553 (USD)

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Friday - Sunday

Sep 13, 2024 - Sep 22, 2024
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The Big ADVENTURE Sale: -$76 (USD)

Book with Confidence

  • Transfer as credit to Future Tours

    Exodus allows you to transfer existing payments to a future tour to avoid cancellation fees if you can't travel and inform exodus, 43 days before departure.

  • Low Deposit

    Exodus requires a minimum deposit of 25% or the full booking value, whichever is less, with the final balance not due until 90 days before departure.

  • Cancellation Policy

    We don't charge a cancellation fee, here is a summary of exodus charges.

    Up to 42 days before tour starts: Forfeit 100% of deposit.

    At 20 days before tour starts: Forfeit 100% of booking price.

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