Fly to Dubrovnik in Croatia; transfer (approx. 3 hours) to the beautiful sea-faring town of Kotor. Neatly tucked away in one of South East Europe's largest fjords, Kotor is a cultural treasure dating from the 12th Century and still retains the unique Mediterranean ambiance of the region.
Today we visit Kotor's 4.5km long fortification walls and its many churches and palaces. These are the main reasons why in 1979 Kotor was included on UNESCO's list of natural and cultural heritage sites. Our 2 hour walk will take you through some of Kotor's spacious squares, lined with grand town houses, known locally as palaces, and various impressive religious buildings. After our tour we take a short transfer to Perast, a town once owned by the Venetians, a fact which explains its distinctly Italian feel. The panorama of Perast is dominated by the 17th Century church of St Nikola, protected by a Venetian fortress and surrounded by beautiful palaces and gardens once built by the famous sea captains of the Adriatic. Here we have lunch overlooking the bay. Following lunch we take a boat ride to the 'Lady of the Rocks' island and visit the chapel. The views of towering cliffs of the Dinaric Alps from the boat are truly impressive, giving us a different perspective of the Montenegrin coastline. We transfer back to our hotel by boat, the best way to really enjoy this fabulous setting. In the evening we will explore the fascinating old town Budva, one of the oldest settlements on the Montenegrin coast with perhaps the best nightlife of the entire area.
Transfer (approx. 2 hours) to Cetinje for a city tours. The town of Cetinje lies at the foot of the Lovcen Mountain and is the ancient capital of Montenegro. Cetinje has been the scared centre of Montenegro since 1485 and as a result the city houses more museums and cultural heritage sites than any other city in the country. Our tour takes us to the main sites in this isolated cultural oasis in the Cetinjsko fields, including the Cetinje Monastery, also dating back to 1485, and the former palace of King Nikola, now a museum. From Cetinje we set off towards Montenegro's mountainous interior. Our final destination today will be the village of Zabljak in the centre of the Durmitor National Park, but not before we visit the holy shrine of St Vasilije high up in the shady Ostrog Mountains. Few people expect to see such a marvellous spectacle when they arrive. Intricately carved into the rising rock face the Ostrog Monastery is considered by many to be the most inspiring Orthodox sacred place in the former Yugoslavia, with many Orthodox Christian and even Catholics and Muslims paying homage to St Vasilije, the founder of the 17th Century monastery. The day finishes with a stunning drive (approx. 3 hours) through isolated villages and high mountain passes to the small ski resort of Zabljak. Zabljak sits neatly on a plateau at 1500m, surrounded by beautiful pine forests, high alpine mountains and the slithering deep Tara Canyon.
Today we explore the Zabljak Plateau with its numerous lakes and traditional villages. We start with a gentle walk around the area's largest lake, a beautiful spot with crystal clear waters reflecting the surrounding peaks. Around lunchtime we transfer to the village of Podgora. The village has recently become part of a regional ecovillage network helping to promote tourism in rural communities. A local family provides us with a tasty lunch of traditional Montenegrin mountain food. We then transfer back to Zabljak and have the afternoon free to explore, enjoy more scenic walk, go for an invigorating dip in the lake, or perhaps drink a glass of local wine or beer in one of Zabljak's cafés.
Transfer (approx. 2 hours ) to the border between Montenegro and Bosnia, via Durmitor's interior with its impressive peaks, isolated mountain lakes and deep canyons. The mountain roads are narrow and we will meet the occasional shepherd with his sheep moving up to the higher grassy pastures of Durmitor. This seasonal migration has taken place for centuries and is very much part of Montenegrin culture and tradition even today. We wind our way out of the Piva Gorge down to Scepan Polje, the border crossing into Bosnia & Herzegovina, stopping where possible to enjoy the views. This part of Bosnia is wild and empty. Before lunch, we will take a short easy walk along the Piva River to an old suspension bridge which was the only connection between the two river banks for a very long time. The water here is wonderfully pure, and offers a great setting for a photo. After lunch above the Piva River, we will continue through an empty and mountainous part of east Bosnia & Herzegovina to Sarajevo.
A full day exploring Sarajevo on foot and by bus. One of the most oriental and culturally diverse cities in Europe, Sarajevo spent over 400 years under Turkish governorship until the Austro-Hungarians arrived in the late 19th Century. Forty years later, the empire collapsed when Archduke Ferdinand was assassinated here, hastening the outbreak of the First World War. The late 20th Century saw Sarajevo host the Winter Olympics in 1984, and the long siege of the city during the recent conflict. Our tour of the major historical, cultural and war sites in the city will help you to piece together its complex and fascinating history. Sites to see include: Ancient old town - Sarajevo's mediaeval beginnings Old Town Hall (National Library) - 1896 Alifakovac Cemetery - 1550 Kazandziluk Street - old coppersmiths at work Bascarsija (Old Town's Main Square) Orthodox Church - 1539 Synagogue - 1581 Roman Catholic Cathedral - 1889 Svrzina House (Turkish Style house of well-known Muslim family, and an opportunity to have a coffee or tea) The story of Gazi Husrev Bey - the founding of a city Gazi Husrev Bey's Bezistan (covered market place) Latin Bridge - place of Archduke Ferdinand's assassination on June 28th, 1914 Our day involves a walking tour of the main sites, and a visit to the famous Sarajevo War Tunnel museum. The tunnel provided the citizens of Sarajevo with a lifeline during Sarajevo's 1400 days of isolation and was the only reliable way of supplying goods and electricity into Sarajevo.
Transfer (approx. 1.5 hours) to Lukomir which is Bosnia's highest village at 1469 metres, with its ancient 'stecci' (mediaeval tombstones). Here we get an insight into the traditional way of life. Traditional dress, the occasional turban and fez are still worn and go hand in hand with the more contemporary features of everyday life such as electricity and running water. The traditional village houses here are a powerful image of a simpler time. We take a walk down towards the Rakitnica Canyon nearby, and find some excellent viewpoints to admire this majestic scenery. The scale of the mountains, coupled with the canyon far below, really are sights that live long in the memory. Lunch is taken in the village, prepared by one of the main families still living there and will be traditional and filling. We return to Sarajevo at the end of the day.
Transfer (approx. 2.5 hour) to Mostar for a city tour and a whole day visit to this beautiful Herzegovinian city. Mostar was founded in the 15th Century and will stun you with its beauty. The architecture is a precious combination of Ottoman ingenuity plus Herzegovinian and Dalmatian workmanship. We will spend the morning and afternoon exploring Mostar. Undoubtedly, you will have heard much about this city, which was split during the conflict in the early 1990s. You will still see the scars of war, but these days Mostar is once again a warm and bustling place with a fascinating history. Sites to see include: The ancient oriental old town Turkish Bridge (now reconstructed) - 1566 Koski Mehmed Pasa Mosque - 1618-1619 Kriva Cuprija (Oblique Bridge) - 1558 Kujundziluk Street - old coppersmiths street Karadzozbegova Mosque - 1577 Biscevica House (Traditional Turkish house with courtyard) The rest of the day you will have free to explore the city on your own.
Our first stop today will be Pocitelj. This quaint and unique oriental style town is listed on the tentative list of UNESCO world heritage sites, and besides its stunning oriental architecture and Ottoman feel, it also hosts the longest operating art colony in southeast Europe. The most striking object in Pocitelj is the Sahat Kula, a silo-shaped fort that towers on the top of the hill above the town. It used to house watchmen and military guarding against possible invasion from the Neretva Valley. Our next stop will be Kravica waterfall, a wonderful, green oasis in the rocky Herzegovinian landscape. After a short walk and perhaps even a cooling swim we head off for lunch to Blagaj. Blagaj's highlights are the Buna Spring and the adjacent Ottoman house/monastery. The spring here is amazing. It flows out of a 200m cliff wall and single-handedly creates the Buna River. Unsurprisingly, the Ottoman sultan was impressed, and ordered a Tekija to be built right next to it. This 16th Century house/monastery was built for the Dervish cults and is still one of the most mystical places in all of Bosnia & Herzegovina. Blagaj's Old Town is worth taking a walk through. This lazy Herzegovinian town moves at a slow pace and many of its old structures are reminiscent of Ottoman days. In the vicinity are also old flour mills that the strong Buna River used to power. We spend the late afternoon and evening in Mostar.
Our journey now takes us back to Dubrovnik via Radimlja with its numerous beautiful mediaeval Christian tombstones, and Trebinje - the southernmost city in Bosnia & Herzegovina. Trebinje has a rich history that dates back to the Middle Ages. Here we will visit the Orthodox Monastery of Tvrdos, built in the 15th Century, and get a taste of life in old Herzegovina. At the monastery we will venture into the cellars for an intimate taste of the rich, earthy, bold tastes of the red wines. Herzegovina's wines are amongst the newest in the 'second world' wine category. This tradition, however, has been in existence since Roman times. Herzegovina's sunny Mediterranean climate and rich hinterland soils produce the finest wines in southern Europe. After the lunch break we will travel south to Dubrovnik, our final destination for today, a magnificent walled city that lies at the southernmost tip of Croatia. Formerly a prosperous trading centre, Dubrovnik is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and its perfectly preserved Old Town and rich cultural life draw many visitors each year. We end the day with the free time in Dubrovnik, so you might either go swimming in the warm Adriatic or explore the Old town on your own and take a walk along the ancient walls of Dubrovnik.