Black Sea Explorer with Best of the Balkans

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Black Sea Explorer with Best of the Balkans

Tour Description:

Itinerary also travels in reverse.

Map for Black Sea Explorer with Best of the Balkans
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Dates & Pricing

Thursday 26 Sep 24 — Friday 18 Oct 24Starting at $27,321Check Mark Icon SPECIALGet a Quote
Check Mark Icon Disclaimer: Prices listed are per person, based on double occupancy, and in USD. All promotions are valid for new bookings only, capacity controlled and valid on select dates and departures. Individual Terms and Conditions will apply to all promotions. Any promotion can be withdrawn at any time without notice. Please speak with your Pavlus Travel Planner for complete vendor terms and conditions, including eligible tour and cruise dates.


Bucharest, Romania
Welcome to Bucharest. Transfer to your hotel for an overnight stay.  The capital of Romania was once called the Paris of the East, however WWII changed the face of the city with much of its Art Nouveau and Art Deco architecture destroyed. Today, Bucharest fascinates with a unique mix of Art Nouveau remnants and Brutalist-era architecture, along with wide, tree-lined boulevards and leafy squares, hidden street art and thriving nightlife, splendid Orthodox churches, and a gargantuan Palace of Parliament.

Bucharest, Romania > Sofia, Bulgaria
Journey to the historic Bulgarian capital of Sofia, your base for the next two nights, stopping enroute at a local restaurant for lunch.   Two thousand years ago, Sofia was known as Serdica, one of the most important cities of the Roman Empire. Ruins of this ancient city were uncovered in the 2000s, the most extensive of which were found when excavating for the city metro in 2010 and have been built around.   Today’s city is an eclectic mix of architectural styles, with Ottoman mosques, onion-domed churches and communist-era buildings, with a smattering of public gardens and a snow-capped mountain at its doorstep, which turns into an outdoor playground in winter.

Sofia, Bulgaria
Today you will join a local guide for a walking tour along the treelined boulevards of Sofia. Discover the Neoclassical Stalinist architecture, the Botanic Gardens of Sofia University, the 4th century Church of St Sophia, and Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, which was erected to honour the Russian liberators of 1878. This afternoon is at leisure to explore Sofia at your own pace. Perhaps you’d like to wander down Vitosha Boulevard, which is the main shopping promenade and home to many cafes and bars where you can stop and enjoy a glass of rakia (fruit brandy; Bulgaria’s unofficial national drink) or a local craft beer.

Sofia, Bulgaria > Ohrid, North Macedonia
Your first stop today is Skopje, where you will enjoy some free time. Skopje was part of Yugoslavia until 1991, and is now the capital of North Macedonia, which has been inhabited since 4,000 BC. Dominating the skyline is the 6th century fortress, which occupies the highest point in the city, while at its centre, a 12th century maze of cobblestoned streets makes up the bazaar. A 15th century bridge connects this old town to Macedonia Square, which underwent a transformation in 2014 and is now an eccentric mix of Neoclassical buildings and statues, including a giant statue of former king Alexander the Great. Much of Skopje’s buildings are post 1963, when a massive earthquake razed the city, and it was rebuilt with a cutting-edge modernist aesthetic. This afternoon, continue through Macedonian countryside to Ohrid, where you’ll stay for two nights. Known as ‘Jerusalem of the Balkans’ because it had 365 churches – one for every day of the year – Ohrid is one of the most ancient towns in the Balkans and sits on the shores of its namesake lake.   Enrich Tonight’s Scenic Enrich: Macedonian Dinner & Folklore Show: Enjoy a traditional Macedonian dinner and folklore show. Its a wonderful opportunity to absorb some of the regions unique culture. 

Ohrid, North Macedonia
Enjoy a guided tour of Ohrid today, wandering along its extremely well-preserved cobblestone streets to discover temples, ruins and Byzantine basilicas. The city was built mainly between the 7th and 19th centuries, making it one of Europe’s oldest settlements, with the oldest Slav monastery and more than 800 Byzantine-style icons. The region was listed as a World Heritage site in 1979 for its natural and cultural legacy.  After some free time for lunch at your leisure, board a boat for a relaxing cruise on Ohrid Lake, taking in the lush green scenery. Ohrid Lake is recognised by UNESCO as a superlative natural phenomenon, home to numerous endemic and relict freshwater flora and fauna. 

Ohrid, North Macedonia > Tirana, Albania
Arrive in the Byzantine city of Tirana, the Albanian capital. The city stepped out of the shadows of communist rule in the early 1990s and today is a distant version of its former grey self. The centre is a mix of vividly painted buildings and an array of architectural styles, which you will explore today on a guided tour.  Discover the citys fascinating past and see highlights such as the Skanderbeg Square and the impressive 11-metre statue of the 15th-century feudal lord who led the rebellion against the Ottomans. You will also see the historic 17th-century Clock Tower and the Ethem Bey Mosque.

Tirana, Albania > Budva > Kotor, Montenegro
Today, cross over into picturesque Montenegro enroute to Kotor. You will stop at Budva on the way, where your Tour Director will escort you through the town during an orientation tour.   Set on the cerulean Adriatic Sea, Budva is a well-preserved medieval walled city with a World Heritage-listed old town dating to the 5th century.   Continue to the fortified coastal town of Kotor this afternoon where you will stay overnight.

Kotor, Montenegro > Dubrovnik, Croatia
Surrounded by steep, rugged mountains, this charming city is nestled on the Bay of Kotor, which spills out into the Adriatic. Kotor was once part of the Republic of Venice from the 15th to 18th centuries, which is evident in its romantic-style Venetian architecture. You’ll be guided on a tour of Kotor, wandering through the labyrinth of narrow, cobblestoned streets, with its century-old buildings adorned with ornate balconies and colourful flowerpots. See the 12th century Romanesque Cathedral of St Tryphon and say hello to the ubiquitous cats who roam the laneways.   Take in the amazing vistas this afternoon as you cross over the border into Croatia towards Dubrovnik, where you’ll enjoy a two-night stay.

Dubrovnik, Croatia
This unique Croatian city is known as the Pearl of the Adriatic, sitting majestically on the Dalmatian Coast, a spectacular stretch of rocky coastline splashed by turquoise water and dotted with ancient villages. Dubrovnik boasts a distinctive walled Old Town, a complex 13th century system of forts, bastions and towers that are very well preserved to this day.   This morning you’ll take a guided tour of this fascinating port town. See the Onofrio Fountain, which dates to the 1400s and still provides fresh drinkable water today. Youll also see Rectors Palace, a Gothic Renaissance palace that historically housed the elected rector who governed the city for a term of one month only, and visit the 700-year-old pharmacy at Franciscan Monastery, one of the oldest working chemists in Europe.   Freechoice: This afternoon, choose one from the following Scenic Freechoice activities: Tour of Dubrovniks Old Town Walls: Wander along the walls of Dubrovnik, from where you’ll view the city’s iconic red brick rooftops. Built over hundreds of years at the end of the Middle Ages, the wall measures almost two kilometres in length and stands between five and 24 metres high. Excursion to Konavle Villages & Cavtat: Drive outside of the city to the quaint villages of the Konavle region, an area rich in agriculture, dotted with vineyards, olive groves and orchards. Enjoy a tour of these typical Croatian villages with your local guide to see traditional village life. Then continue your trip with a visit to Cavtat, a relaxing seafront town dating to the 6th century. Tonight, you will visit a local farmhouse, meet the owners and taste delicious homegrown produce during dinner.

Dubrovnik, Croatia > Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Depart for Sarajevo this morning, stopping in the beautiful city of Mostar en route. Located in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Mostar is perched on the Neretva River and nestled within a mountainous landscape. Much of this historic city was destroyed during the Bosnian War of the 1990s but has been thankfully rebuilt and is now a World Heritage-listed site.   You’ll join a guided tour to see the old Turkish Houses and the 16th century Old Bridge, Stari Most, a 20-metre-high stone arch bookended by watch towers. Sadly, the original bridge collapsed after being bombed in 1993, but was rebuilt using the same methods and some salvaged materials, reopening in 2004.   Arrive in Sarajevo later today, the capital and cultural centre of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Although Sarajevo is steeped in history dating back centuries, once known as a melting pot of religion, it is best known for harrowing 20th century events, including the four-year siege in the 1990s. In the wake of independence from Yugoslavia, Bosnian Serb Nationalists placed the city under siege, denying them of food, water and power. It became the longest siege in modern European history and almost every building was destroyed. At the beginning of the 20th century, it was also the place of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, which is one of the key events to spark the beginning of World War I.   Today you will explore the treasures of Sarajevo, including the Bascarsija, the bazaar the heart of the old town; the distinctive 16th century Ottoman Gazi Husrev Beg Mosque; and the Sarajevo Tunnels, which were dug by Bosnian volunteers during the siege and part of which is now a museum.  Enrich Tonight’s Scenic Enrich: Traditional Bosnian Dinner: Tonight you’ll be treated to a private home-hosted dinner of traditional Bosnian cuisine. Learn about everyday life from a local Muslim family as you enjoy their hospitality. As this is a Muslim household, no alcohol will be served. 

Sarajevo Bosnia and Herzegovina > Zagreb, Croatia
Continue to the Croatian capital of Zagreb, where you will enjoy an overnight stay. Located on the southern slopes of the Medvednica Mountain and on the banks of the Sava River, Zagreb is Croatia’s largest city, and it beautifully encompasses traditional history with modern function as the economical and governmental hub of the country. Sometimes overlooked for the seaside towns of the sparkling Dalmatian Coast, Zagreb is an underrated gem. It has the tenacity of the Balkans while oozing the laidback charm of the Mediterranean. The afternoon is yours discover this vibrant city, which comprises two districts: the thousand-year-old Upper Town (Gornji Grad), made up of two medieval villages with winding cobbled lanes, and the 19th century Lower Town (Donji Grad), which is resplendent with wide streets and grand townhouses and is the main shopping and cultural centre of Zagreb. A funicular, the shortest in the world, connects the two towns.

Zagreb, Croatia > Plitvice National Park
Discover Zagreb on a guided tour this morning before travelling to Plitvice National Park. The oldest and largest national park in Croatia, it covers 30,000 hectares and was named a World Heritage-listed site for its exceptional natural beauty.   An emerald-hued wonderland, the water that has been flowing throughout the national park for thousands of years has passed over limestone and chalk, depositing travertine barriers and creating natural dams. The result is a utopia of lakes, caves and hundreds of cascading waterfalls, surrounded by hyper-green forest that is home to bears, wolves and rare birds. Meander along the boardwalks that weave throughout the park, stopping regularly to capture the beauty that surrounds you.

Zagreb, Croatia > Budapest, Hungary
Journey to Budapest, where you will stay overnight. One of Europe’s most diverse and vibrant cities, Budapest is divided by the Danube, with Buda on one side and Pest on the other but became united in 1873 when a newly built bridge connected the two. The city is an architectural treasure trove comprising styles from Gothic to Art Nouveau and everything in between. It is also well known for its hot springs and thermal baths and has a vibrant nightlife scene.   Later this afternoon you have some free time to explore Budapest. Pack your swimsuit and make your way to one of Budapest’s thermal baths for a relaxing soak in the therapeutic waters. Szechenyi Baths are the largest, boasting 15 indoor baths and three vast outdoor pools. Or check out the Jewish Quarter’s famous ruin bars, which are housed in old and abandoned buildings that were left in decay after WWII.  This evening, celebrate the end of an unforgettable journey with a farewell dinner in a local restaurant. 

Explore this beautiful city before boarding your luxurious Scenic Space-Ship. 

You will arrive in Kalocsa this morning. This historic Hungarian town has some of the richest folk art in the world, like its beautifully decorated porcelain. It was an important agricultural centre in the 19th century and the region has retained much of its rural charm.   Freechoice: This morning, choose one of these Scenic Freechoice excursions: Hungarian Traditions: The region of Kalocsa is teeming with culture and traditions. It is famous for its traditional handicrafts such as needlework and embroidery. Learn about the origins of these beautiful designs as well as other crafts. Hungarian Horse Show: Kalocsa is located on the Great Hungarian Plain, with an agricultural history dating back more than 2,000 years. Witness a traditional horse show, meet the local horsemen who will demonstrate impressive equestrian skills and enjoy a tasting of local delicacies.

Your Scenic Space-Ship will arrive this morning in the Croation town of Osijek, a small city with a turbulent history. Over the past 500 years it has been part of the Ottoman, Habsburg and Austro-Hungarian empires, and in the 1990s was the epicentre of the Croatian War of Independence. Many of the grand Baroque buildings remain standing but bear the scars of the war. Osijek is famous for its food, which is heavily influenced by Hungary and features plenty of paprika, locally-made sausages and river fish.   Freechoice: Today, explore the region in one of these Scenic Freechoice excursions: Walking tour of Osijek: Take a guided walking tour of Osijek to see the highlights of the town including the well-preserved Baroque Old Town and fortress. You’ll also have the opportunity to hear some traditional and classical music popular in the region. Boat cruise at Kopacki Rit: Kopacki Rit is one of the largest natural wetlands in Europe, covering 238 hectares, and you will have the opportunity to explore it by boat. Learn more about this beautiful untouched piece of nature in the easternmost part of Croatia through a presentation by one of the park’s rangers. During a 50-minute boat ride, you will cruise among lush greenery, hundred-year-old willow woods and meadows, spotting the variety of flora and fauna including deer, wild boar, white tailed eagle and black stork. Ancestry of the Kitchen: Recipes have long been passed down through generations and often kept as family secrets. Today, guests will meet with a local who will divulge a family recipe from traditional fish stew, while also chatting to you about life in this region.   After your touring this morning, all guests will visit the home of a local Croatian family and have lunch with the family members. Immerse yourself in this cultural and culinary experience, and enjoy an authentic meal prepared with fresh vegetables from the host’s garden. North-eastern Croatia is the ‘bread basket’ of the country, so it is only natural that the villagers take great pride in their gardens. You’ll be treated to a feast for both the palate and the eyes. 

The capital of Serbia, Belgrade is known as the ‘Door to Central Europe’ and lies at the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers. This eclectic city is steeped in history, with Neolithic ruins found nearby, a fortress built by the Romans, Brutalist buildings that sit beside Art Nouveau buildings and a bohemian vibe. One of the oldest capitals in Europe, Belgrade has been rebuilt almost 40 times.   Freechoice: Explore your way with one of this morning’s Scenic Freechoice activities: Guided city tour with extended free time: By coach and foot, you’ll tour the major sites of the city with a guide. You will explore the city’s highlights such as cobbled streets of the Bohemian Quarter and Kalemegdan Fortress, an imposing structure that has been the site of more than 100 battles and offers panoramic views of the rivers below. Afterwards, enjoy free time to explore on your own. Guided city tour including Titos Memorial: Join a more in-depth tour of Belgrade with a local guide. See and learn about the major sites of the city including the Ottoman heritage of the Old town, the imposing fortress and Republic Square followed by some free time in the city centre. During this tour you will also visit the memorial dedicated to Tito, the former ruler of Yugoslavia. Cycling tour along the Danube: Trace the banks of the Danube on two wheels during this guided cycling tour. Learn about the region and its people, including the history of Yugoslavia and the history of Belgrade from WWII to today.  You will see the Palace of Serbia (the former seat of the government of Yugoslavia), the historic neighbourhood centre of Zemun, which became part of Belgrade in the early 1900s and still has a distinct character, and Staro Sajmiste, a former concentration camp. Walking tour with a student: Learn about life in Belgrade from a local. Get to the heart of the city and understand the troubles and triumphs that Belgradians have experienced. You’ll get to know these happy and resilient people as you are guided through their city with a local student.   This afternoon is free at leisure to explore Belgrade further. You might like to soak up the bohemian culture with a wander along cobblestoned Skardalija Street, a district once frequented by writers and artists and other creative souls, now home to traditional restaurants, local stores and galleries.   Enrich Tonight, we have a special treat in store for you with our Scenic Enrich event: Classical concert at St. Sava Temple: Visit the St. Sava, the largest orthodox temple in the Balkans. Have a chance to explore the frescos-lined walls of the cathedrals crypt where the church choir will perform some of the most beautiful hymns just for you. Because of the acoustics in the crypt, this is a once of a lifetime opportunity. 

Iron Gates
Today will cruise through the spectacular scenery of the Iron Gates. This stretch of the Danube is the natural border between Serbia and Romania, and features four narrow gorges, soaring cliffs and the mighty rock carving of Decebalus, the former Romanian king. Spend some time relaxing in your suite, many of which have a window that converts into a Scenic Sun Lounge, allowing you uninterrupted views to watch a rolling tapestry of river life as you cruise the Danube. Sweat it out in the state-of-the-art gym or take time out in the wellness centre, then mingle with other guests as you sit back with a regional wine or beer in the Panorama Lounge & Bar.

Svishtov > Rousse
Your Scenic Space-Ship will arrive in the Bulgarian town of Svishtov this morning. Here you will have the choice to disembark and take an excursion to Veliko Tarnovo, known as the City of the Kings, or stay on board and sail towards Rousse (or Ruse), which has been described as ‘Little Vienna’. Freechoice: Choose one of today’s Scenic Freechoice excursions: Excursion to Veliko Tarnovo and Arbanassi: Take a full day excursion from Svishtov to Veliko Tarnovo, one of Bulgaria’s oldest towns which is built among lush, forested hills on the banks of the twisting Yantra River. In the 14th century as the Byzantine Empire weakened, Veliko Tarnovo was the Bulgarian capital and was known as the third Rome. On the way to town, you will stop to enjoy the panoramic views of the old town and see the Asenevtsi Brothers Monument. You will then venture to the nearby leafy village of Arbanassi, stopping to see the 17th century Konstantsalieva House for an insight into how affluent locals lived, and the Christ Nativity Church. Guided city tour of Rousse: Stay on board your Scenic Space-Ship and enjoy a relaxing morning sailing to Rousse. Upon arrival join a local guide on a sightseeing tour of this opulent town, resplendent in Belle Epoque architecture and leafy manicured squares. Afterward you’ll enjoy a short piano recital and some free time to wander, before returning to the ship.

Arrive in Silistra early this morning. This Bulgarian town has changed hands many times over the centuries; a major Turkish fortress and trade centre in the 15th century, it played a significant role in the Russo-Turkish wars of the 1870s, briefly became part of Romania after the Second Balkan War, and finally reverted to Bulgaria in 1940. The town is dotted with historic sites stretching back to late Roman times.   Freechoice: Explore your way with this morning’s Scenic Freechoice options: Active walk to Silistra Fort: Transfer to Silistra Fort by coach. Upon arrival take a guided walking tour of the fort and learn about its history. It is the best preserved of the six points of the Turkish fortification system, which played an important role in the Russo-Turkish wars. Visit Alfatar Village: Take an excursion to the small village of Alfatar, located just outside of Silistra. Visit the ethnographic museum featuring a typical country house, where visitors will see how the residents of this region have lived over the centuries and have kept their traditions alive. Also see the beautifully restored Holy Trinity temple, a treasured symbol of the Bulgarian Orthodox religion, and visit the Alfatar school to meet local children and learn about daily life for young Bulgarians. Excursion to Varna: Take a full-day excursion to the Black Sea coast. Varna is a cosmopolitan city, home to Roman bath ruins, a white-sand beach, and many open-air bars and restaurants. Your local guide will be delighted to show you through the city, including the recently renovated Cathedral and the Military Naval Museum (Please note: The Military Naval Museum is closed on Sundays, and will be replaced with Varna Archaeological Museum).

Giurgiu > Bucharest
Upon arrival, take an orientation tour of the city by coach, from the south of Bucharest to Primaverii Palace stopping to see its squares, including Union Square, University Square, Roman Square, Victory Square and Charles de Gaulle Square. After the orientation tour, explore more of this enchanting city with Scenic Freechoice excursions. Freechoice: Ceausescu’s Spring Palace: Located in one of the wealthiest districts in Bucharest, this 1960s residence is made up of 80 spacious and elegant rooms decorated with silk wallpaper, wood panels, paintings by famous Romanian painters, mosaics, marble, chandeliers and mirrors made of Murano glass. Village Open Air Museum: Explore the ethnography exhibits depicting Romanian heritage and culture at the Village Open Air Museum. The museum depicts authentic peasant houses, barns, churches and more, rebuilt by craftsmen using traditional techniques. This evening you will enjoy dinner with your fellow guests before heading to your hotel.

After breakfast, transfer to Bucharest airport or train station for your onward journey. This itinerary is a guide only and may be amended for operational reasons such as high and low water. As such, the cruise may operate altered from that stated above. Please refer to our terms and conditions.

Check Mark Disclaimer: Prices listed are per person, based on double occupancy, and in USD. All promotions are valid for new bookings only, capacity controlled and valid on select dates and departures. Individual Terms and Conditions will apply to all promotions. Any promotion can be withdrawn at any time without notice. Please speak with your Pavlus Travel Planner for complete vendor terms and conditions, including eligible tour and cruise dates.