Sveti Jovan Kaneo Church, Lake Ohrid

Balkan Explorer

10 days
Suitable for:
Age 16+
Activity level:
Activity Level: Leisurely
Trip code: 
Way to Travel:
Guided Group
Group size:
Min age:

Discover Macedonia, Bulgaria and Kosovo on this cultural highlights journey across the southern Balkans.

Discover the rich history of Bulgaria, Macedonia and Kosovo, where influences from the East and West collide. This trip showcases some of the cultural highlights of a less visited region of the Balkans, famous for ancient civilisations, UNESCO world heritage monasteries and the vibrant, laidback capital cities of Sofia and Skopje. Having been under numerous occupations throughout the ages, both Bulgaria and Macedonia have an eclectic history where Ottoman, Communist and Roman rule have all left their mark. But a visit to this region of the Balkans would not be complete without experiencing the contrasting natural beauty it has to offer; national parks, waterfalls, famous wine regions and the peaceful alluring Lake Ohrid are all part of this comprehensive itinerary.


  • Discover Skopje and Sofia- two of the Balkan's most vibrant capitals
  • Bulgaria's UNESCO world heritage Rila Monastery
  • Macedonia's Tikvesh wine region and alluring Lake Ohrid
  • Visit Prizren, Kosovo's culture capital
  • Natural beauty, ancient sites and traditional Balkan cuisine

Key information

  • 9 nights comfortable hotels, all rooms en suite
  • Group normally 6 to 16, plus leader. Min 16 yrs.
  • Travel by private air-conditioned minibus


  • Countries visited: Macedonia, Bulgaria, Kosovo

What's included

  • All breakfasts, 3 lunches and 2 dinners
  • All accommodation
  • Transfers for group flights

What's not included

  • Travel insurance
  • Visas & vaccinations
  • Single supplement
Call for general departures:
+91 80 4213 6106
Call for tailor made trips:
+44 (0)20 8772 3874
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

River in Macedonia

At Exodus we believe in the power of Responsible Travel.

Every time we travel, we are part of a global movement that creates jobs, builds more sustainable societies, encourages cultural understanding and safeguards common natural and cultural heritage. To learn more about what Responsible Travel means to Exodus click here… 


  • Day 1

    Start in the afternoon at the hotel in Sofia, Bulgaria. After the main briefing, there will be a 2 hour walking sightseeing tour of Sofia.

    The trip commences in the afternoon at the hotel in Sofia, where after a main briefing, there will be a walking sightseeing tour (approx. 2 hours) of the centre of the Bulgarian capital. Nestled under Vitosha Mountain, Sofia is a laidback city with an eclectic mix of history reflecting its 2000 years of occupation under the Greeks, Romans, Ottomans and Communists. Today it is known for its diverse landmarks, communist architecture, orthodox churches, manicured gardens and vast boulevards.

    The walking tour will take in all of Sofia's sights including Sveta Nedelya Square with the Sveta Nedelya Church, Independence Square with the St. Sofia statue, the Catholic cathedral of St.Joseph, excavated Roman ruins of the ancient Serdica, the Council of Ministers former House of the Communist Party, Rotunda of St.George, the mosque and covered market, the Russian orthodox church, the Bulgarian Parliament and the monument of the Russian Emperor Alexander. The evening is free for you to explore or join the group for an optional welcome dinner.
    Hotel Sofia Place or similar

  • Day 2

    Transfer to Melnik stopping at UNESCO sites Boyana Church and the famous Rila Monastery en route. Free afternoon upon arrival into Melnik.

    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 Melnik.
    Hotel Melnik or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 3

    Morning visit to the Smolare waterfall. After lunch transfer to the wine region of Tikvesh for evening wine tasting via the ancient town of Stobi.

    This morning we bid farewell to Bulgaria and head into Macedonia via the Novo Selo border crossing in the area of Strumica. Our first stop will be the Smolare waterfall (approximately 1.5 hours transfer), located above the village of Smolare in the south eastern region of the country. The waterfall is part of the Lomnica River and is located deep in Mount Belasica at an elevation of 630 metres. Crashing down the smooth, black rock face, and surrounded by 100 year old beech trees, this waterfall is a popular natural attraction for many visitors to the region. To reach the majestic beauty of the falls, we must wind our way up a path that includes 300 stone steps.

    From the waterfall, we visit the nearby village of Smolare where we stop for lunch in an authentic restaurant. There will be time to stretch our legs as we go on a short walk around the centre.

    In the afternoon, we transfer to the famous wine region of Tikvesh (approximately 1.5 hours transfer). En route we stop at the famous archaeological site of Stobi (approximately 30 min transfer). The ancient town of Stobi is mentioned for the first time in 197 B.C, but can be traced back at least 400 years earlier. The preserved buildings of the town include a theatre built in the 2nd Century and luxurious palaces with fountains, mosaics and frescoes. A total of 18 mosaics have been discovered in Stobi, all illustrating stylised animals worked in soft green, deep blue, ochre and reddish tones.

    In the late afternoon, we check in at our hotel-winery and spend a relaxing evening wine tasting a selection of premium Macedonian wines over dinner. Macedonian wine has taken a central role in society since the Roman times, when the ruling emperors favoured its grapes. Thanks to an abundance of sunshine, Mediterranean and Continental breezes and rich rocky soil, the grapes thrive in Macedonia.

    Gardenia Hotel & Spa or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Day 4

    Morning visit to archaeological site and town of Heraclea Lyncestis. Transfer to city of Bitola after lunch and enjoy a walking tour and visit the old bazaar.

    After a relaxed breakfast with views of the vineyard, we head towards the city of Bitola.

    Our first stop is the ancient town and archaeological site of Heraclea Lyncestis, located on the outskirts of Bitola where we enjoy a private tour. Heraclea was founded by Philip II of Macedonia in the IV century BC after he had conquered the surrounding region of Lyncestis and incorporated it into his kingdom of Macedon. The city was named in honour 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.

    In the afternoon we transfer (approximately 1.5 hours) to the second largest city in Macedonia, Bitola. The city was known as Macedonia's unofficial capital during the Ottoman reign. It was a major political, economic and cultural centre of the Balkans, rivalled only by Thessaloniki. Many foreign countries have had their consulates in Bitola, therefore it is also known as the 'City of Consuls.' After checking into our hotel and lunch in a local restaurant, our leader will take you on a sightseeing walk of the centre of Bitola, which will include the famous street of Shirok Sokak and the Stara Carsija (Old Bazaar). You may wish to enjoy a coffee in one of the old cafes and learn about the coffee culture of Bitola and the significance it has had on this city over the centuries.

    Hotel Teater or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 5

    Pelister N.P, lunch in Dihovo, transfer to Lake Ohrid

    Given that Bitola was on the front-line of the so called 'Macedonian' front during WW1, it is safe to say that it witnessed unparalleled horrors during that time. Today, remnants of the war, such as disused bunkers, can still be found in the surrounding mountains. After breakfast, we transfer to the Pelister National Park to walk 'The Path of the First World War' through picturesque landscapes and learn about the history of the area during WW1.

    Lunch is then arranged in the nearby village of Dihovo, in the garden of a local family home. Here we also have the opportunity to explore the fascinating world of the honeybee as we join one of the local beekeepers where he will share the hidden secrets of bees and beekeeping. During the demonstration, protective clothing will be worn and there will be the chance to extract honey from the comb for tasting afterwards. There will also be an opportunity to purchase some honey if you wish. 

    In the afternoon we will transfer from Dihovo to Ohrid, enjoying scenic drive via the Galicica national park, we have a short en route stop at a viewpoint where we can see both the Ohrid and Prespa lakes. Arrival at our Ohrid hotel in the late afternoon hours. Overnight in Ohrid.

    Park Lakeside or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch
  • Day 6

    Morning visit to the Vevcani Springs, followed by lunch in the village; Free afternoon in Ohrid.

    This morning after breakfast we do a walking sightseeing tour of some of the famous sites in Ohrid including the church of St. Sofia, King Samuil's Fortress and the Amphitheatre. Ohrid is the largest city on the lake and is well known for allegedly having 365 churches at one point during the Middle Ages; each church was dedicated to a particular saint. This is why it has often been referred to as a 'Jerusalem (of the Balkans).' Nowadays there are around 60 churches in Ohrid and the surrounding area. Both the lake and town are listed as cultural and natural world heritage sites by UNESCO and are popular destinations in summer. The old town boasts cobbled stone streets, traditional restaurants, lakeside cafes and historic monuments which all contribute to its atmospheric charm. Situated on the lake, the town also has a lovely little boardwalk giving Ohrid a pleasant laid back vibe where you can relax later in the afternoon.

    For those interested, there is the opportunity to visit the nearby village of Vevcani, famous for its beautiful springs (alternatively you might enjoy a free day at Lake Ohrid). The springs are especially beautiful to visit during the summer; isolated by a very dense forest, the water flows over very rocky terrain and under wooden bridges, the sound is mesmerizing and quite powerful. The largest waterfall is located at the opening of one of the many caves that you can find in the region. Below, there are ten other minor springs that converge in their flow. After exploring this unique setting, we can enjoy optional lunch at one of the few traditional restaurants in the village.

    After lunch, we return to Ohrid and will enjoy a free afternoon. In the evening we will transfer to the outskirts of Ohrid (approximately 30 mins), to the village of Kuratica, where a local family will prepare a delicious home cooked dinner in their family home. Overnight in Ohrid.

    Park Lakeside or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast Dinner
  • Day 7

    Morning visit Tetovo Mosque. Afternoon walking tour of Prizren.

    After breakfast, we check out and transfer from Ohrid to Prizren in Kosovo. En route we stop at the Painted Mosque of Tetovo, one of the oldest and 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.

    We will arrive in Prizren mid afternoon, Kosovo's culture capital. Kosovo's second biggest city is rich with history and traditions and is surrounded by incredible nature. Throughout history, Prizren has played a vital role in the region. The city is known in this region of the Balkans for its gastronomy and wines, traditional handicrafts and wonderful mix of Byzantine and Ottoman architecture. Once all checked in and after a short rest, the guide will take us on an orientation walk around the city. We will see the most famous sites of Prizren including the Kalaja (Fortress), the Sinan Pasha Mosque, the Gazi Mehmet Pasha Hammam. Free evening in Prizren. 

    Hotel Cleon or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch
  • Day 8

    Transfer to Skopje visiting the Monastery of Gracanica along the way. Late afternoon arrival into Skopje, followed by walking tour.

    After an early breakfast, we transfer to the Macedonian capital, Skopje, stopping at a few famous sites in western Macedonia along the way. 

    Our first stop is at the Monastery of Gracanica, a UNESCO world heritage site since 2006. The area of Gracanica is one of the few remaining dominantly Serb populated areas in Kosovo. Optional lunch is arranged near the monastery.

    We arrive in Skopje in the late afternoon and have a short walking sightseeing tour of the new and old centre of Skopje including the Old Bazaar, the Stone Bridge and the controversial Skopje 2014 project. Like the Bulgarian capital of Sofia, Skopje also has a long history of occupation, and experienced Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman rule through the ages. Today it is a bustling and sometimes surreal metropolis thanks to the building craze of the Skopje 2014 project. However, if you delve beneath the surface you will discover a city with a complex history and fascinating sites!

    Bushi Resort or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 9

    Free morning in Skopje before transferring back to Sofia.

    Free morning in Skopje, before starting our return journey to Sofia. An optional lunch is arranged near the border in the town of Kriva Palanka, in Macedonia.

    We return to Sofia late afternoon and enjoy a farewell dinner at a local restaurant where traditional dishes of Sofia are served.

    Sofia Place Hotel or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 10

    End Sofia.

    This morning our tour ends after breakfast. Those on the group flight will be transferred to the airport in time for their early afternoon flight. 

    Meals included: Breakfast
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Essential Info



No visa required for British Passport holders.


No visa required for most nationalities, including UK passport holders, most other EU nationalities, US, Canadian, Australian and New Zealand.



There are no specific health risks.


There are no mandatory vaccination requirements. Recommended vaccinations are: Polio, Tetanus, Diphtheria, Typhoid, Hepatitis A, Yellow Fever. The risk of malaria is slight but you may wish to consult your GP or travel health clinic for further advice.


There are no specific health risks.

Eating and Drinking

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.


The Balkans enjoy a similar climate to most of Central Europe - hot summers, cool springs and autumns and cold winters with considerable snowfall. We schedule trips May to September, when temperatures will be generally warmer (20-30ºC). However these temperatures will be a little cooler in the mountain areas. In July and August we can easily expect 25-35 degrees Celcius during the day. The weather in this region can sometimes be unpredictable where Mediterranean and Continental Alpine climates vie for supremacy. The result is an extremely unpredictable climate even in summer. Rain can fall at any time of the year, although in mid-summer it is more likely to come as short, sharp thunderstorms.



Is this trip for you?

The Activity Level of this trip is 1- Leisurely.

This is a cultural discovery trip with some walking, required both to access the sites and to make the most of the trip. The city tours are on foot. Travel is by private bus, generally on good roads and there are some long drives due to the distances covered on the trip.

Following a review of all our trips we have categorised this trip as not suitable for full wheelchair users, but it may be suitable for other persons of reduced mobility. Please contact customer services to discuss the trip and your personal condition.

Call for general departures:
+91 80 4213 6106
Call for tailor made trips:
+44 (0)20 8772 3874
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.



Please be advised that the 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. 

All hotels have en suite facilities and offer free Wi-Fi. 

Single supplements are available on request.

Call for general departures:
+91 80 4213 6106
Call for tailor made trips:
+44 (0)20 8772 3874
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.


Contact a member of staff who has done this trip

Call for general departures:
+91 80 4213 6106
Call for tailor made trips:
+44 (0)20 8772 3874
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Expert Blog Entries

  • Reviewed September 2018
    Vivien Urban

    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.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Every place we visited had its own charm. Lake Ohrid was fantastic. It is beautiful yet not so crowded. We had some free time there and I had the chance to go for a short swim in the lake. I was very pleasantly surprised by Skopje. It is beautiful!

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Nebojsha was very knowledgeable, calm and friendly. He liked to socialise with the group which was appreciated.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Take a waterproof jacket, the weather can be unpredictable, and a swimming costume to take advantage of the spa hotel in Skopje and/or to swim in Lake Ohrid. Make sure you have enough space on your memory card.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    It is worth practising the Cyrillic alphabet before you travel.
  • Reviewed June 2018
    Roz Hampson

    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.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Hard to choose from such a full trip but my personal highlights were Rila Monastery , Lake Ohrid (and the cathedral tortoise), the morning/lunch at the beekeeper's and the night at the winery.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Nebojsha was a great; friendly, organised and incredibly knowledgeable.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    We had limited time in Sofia and Skopje so if I were to do the trip again I would consider adding an extra night or two to the trip to have more time in one or both cities. Be prepared for the very generous portion sizes - you will not be hungry on this trip!

Dates & Prices

An overview of flight options

Exodus is committed to making joining our tours as easy as possible, wherever you live. We generally only block book seats from London, but this certainly does not mean that you need to fly from there. Depending on the route and airlines available, there will usually be various options available for those who want to fly from their local airport.

This page aims to provide a useful overview of the options available to our clients. However, the best flight arrangements should be tailored to your personal requirements, so please contact our Sales team for expert advice.


What kind of options do I have ?

1. We can book for you: Flights from anywhere in the world - not via London  

Depending on the route, this may be direct or via an overseas hub like Amsterdam, the Middle East or elsewhere. On short haul routes there may be direct flights with low cost airlines, charter flights or scheduled airlines. Exodus can book most, but not all, of these for you. The most appropriate airline may be different to that which we use for the group flight from London, but many people now travel on different airlines and meet up with their fellow passengers at the destination.

Pros Cons
  • May be the most direct route
  • Often the extra fare compared to the London flight is minimal.
  • As you will be in the hands a single airline for your entire journey, the airline will be responsible for your bags and your connections.
  • You may not be able to join the group transfers. However, we can usually arrange private transfers, or book your flights to try and coincide with the group transfers. See notes on transfer arrangements below.


2. We can book for you: Connecting flights from your local airport to London

Exodus can book connecting flights to London so you can join the group flight there. Connecting times will be followed according to airline advice, or as requested by clients. There are two types of fares we can use for this option: a 'through-fare' or a 'published fare'.
a) A 'through-fare' is where you will be in the main airline's care throughout. You change planes, but your bags are checked all the way through to your final destination. 

b) A 'published fare' ticket is completely seperate from your onward ticket from London. It is usually cheaper than a through-fare but will need to be paid for and issued as soon as it is booked. This can be a problem if your tour has not yet reached minimum numbers. On 'published fares' neither airline is aware that you have connecting flights, so Exodus is responsible for timing your connection, not the airlines involved. The tickets are also usually non changeable and non refundable.

Pros Cons
  • Depending on the fare type, Exodus or the airline is responsible for flight connections.
  • Through fare tickets can be expensive.
  • On a published fare, tickets must be issued immediately; tickets on published fares can be very difficult to change if onward flight times change; bags are not checked though to your final destination.
  • Published fares are non-refundable.


3. Booking some or all of the flights yourself

You can also book connecting air travel yourself, either to London, or all the way to the start point. There may be certain airlines or routes we don't have access to, so this is always an option. However, if you make your own travel arrangements you become liable for any delays, cancellations or missed connections, and Exodus is not required to offer refunds if you have trouble reaching the start of your trip.

Pros Cons
  • You might find cheaper fares, or routes not available to Exodus.
  • You are responsible for any delays or missed connections, and the cost of the tour is not protected should you miss your flight be cancelled.


 Notes on transfer arrangements

Sometimes it is possible to travel on a different airline to the group flight from London. Where this is the case, we need to think about ensuring you meet up with the group with minimum extra cost and hassle.

  • On certain trips, it is easy to arrive on a different flight and still meet the group at the hotel with time in hand. We can usually arrange private transfers (at extra cost) or offer advice on taking a taxi to the start hotel.
  • On other trips (especially in Europe), the transfer meets the group flight and then travels some distance to the first night's accommodation. Where this is the case, our Sales team will try to arrange flights that arrive before (and depart after) the group. However, we do have to make it clear in your final documentation that if your flights are delayed, the transfer cannot wait for you. While Exodus or our local operators will do what we can to help you reach the start point of the tour, any additional costs must be paid by the client. 


Next steps? 

Call our Sales team on: 0203 733 0698

Email your query: [email protected]

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