We start at Dubrovnik Airport in Croatia before transferring (approximately three hours) to the beautiful sea-faring town of Kotor. Neatly tucked in one of the largest fjords in southeast Europe, Kotor is a cultural treasure dating from the 12th century and still retains the Mediterranean ambience of the region. Stay: Hotel Porto In (or similar) (D).
Today we explore Kotor, visiting the 3mi (4. 5km) long fortification walls and the many churches and palaces. These are the main reasons why Kotor was named a Unesco World Heritage site in in 1979. Our approximately two-hour walk takes us through spacious squares lined with grand townhouses, 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, which explains the distinctly Italian feel. It is dominated by the 17th-century church of St Nikola, protected by a Venetian fortress and surrounded by beautiful palaces and gardens built by once-famous sea captains of the Adriatic.
Here we have lunch overlooking the bay. After, 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 enjoy this fabulous setting. In the evening, we visit Budva, one of the oldest settlements on the Montenegrin coast with perhaps the best nightlife in the area. Stay: Hotel Porto In (or similar). (B)
We transfer (approximately two hours) to Cetinje for a tour. The town lies at the foot of the Lovcen Mountain and was the ancient capital of Montenegro. Since 1485, it has been the sacred centre of Montenegro; as a result, the city houses more museums and cultural heritage sites than any other in the country. Our tour takes us to some of the main sites in this cultural oasis in the Cetinjsko fields. From Cetinje, we set off towards the mountainous interior of Montenegro, visiting the holy shrine of St Vasilije high in the shady Ostrog Mountains en route. Few people expect to witness 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. It has become the largest religious pilgrimage site in the country, with many Orthodox Christians and even Catholics and Muslims paying homage to St Vasilije, the founder of the 17th-century monastery. The day culminates with a drive (approximately three hours) through isolated villages and high mountain passes to the small ski resort of Zabljak, which sits neatly on a plateau at 4,920ft (1,500m), surrounded by beautiful pinewood forests, high alpine mountains and the deep Tara Canyon. Stay: Hotel Zabljak (or similar). (B)
Today we explore the Zabljak Plateau with its numerous lakes and traditional villages. We start with a walk around the largest lake in the area, where the waters reflect the surrounding peaks. Around lunchtime, we transfer to the village of Podgora, which 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 also visit and enjoy views from one of the numerous viewpoints above the Unesco-listed Tara Canyon, said to be the deepest canyon in Europe. We then transfer back to Zabljak and have the afternoon free to explore, enjoy a scenic walk, go for an invigorating dip in the lake, or perhaps drink a glass of local wine or beer in a cafe. Stay: Hotel Zabljak (or similar). (B)
We transfer (approximately two to three hours) to the Montenegro-Bosnia border, via Durmitor's interior with its impressive peaks, isolated mountain lakes and deep canyons. The mountain roads are narrow and we 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, even today.
We wind out of the Piva Gorge down to Scepan Polje, the border crossing into Bosnia and Herzegovina, stopping where possible to enjoy the views in this wild, uninhabited part of Bosnia. Before lunch, we take a walk along the Piva River to an old suspension bridge, which for a long time was the only connection between the two riverbanks. The water here is wonderfully pure and offers a great setting for a photo. After lunch above the Piva River, we continue through an empty and mountainous part of east Bosnia and Herzegovina to Sarajevo. Stay: Hotel Cosmopolit (or similar) (B).
Today we have a full day exploring Sarajevo on foot and by bus. One of the most culturally diverse cities in Europe, Sarajevo spent more than 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 1984 Winter Olympics, 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 piece together its complex history. Our day involves a walking tour of the main sites and a visit to the Sarajevo Tunnel Museum.
The tunnel provided the Sarajevo citizens a lifeline during Sarajevo's 1,400 days of isolation and was the only reliable way of supplying goods and electricity to the city as all other supply lines were cut off by the Serbian Army. This is a sobering and fascinating visit. Stay: Hotel Cosmopolit (or similar) (B).
We transfer (approximately two hours) to Lukomir, the highest village in Bosnia at 4,820ft (1,469m), with its ancient stecci (medieval tombstones). Here we get an insight into the traditional way of life. Customary dress and the occasional turban and fez are still worn, going hand in hand with the more contemporary features of everyday life. The village houses here are a powerful image of a simpler time. We then take a walk down towards the Rakitnica Canyon nearby and find excellent viewpoints to admire this majestic scenery. The scale of the mountains coupled with the canyon far below are sights that will 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. Stay: Hotel Cosmopolit (or similar) (B/L).
We transfer (approximately 2hr 30min) to Mostar where we have a whole day to visit this beautiful Herzegovinian city. Mostar was founded in the 15th century and the architecture is a precious combination of Turkish ingenuity and Herzegovinian and Dalmatian workmanship. We spend the morning and afternoon exploring Mostar, a city split during the conflict of the early 1990s. We see the scars of war, but these days Mostar is once again a warm and bustling place with an intriguing history. The rest of the day is free for you to explore the city on your own. Stay: Hotel Kapetanovina (or similar) (B).
Our first stop today will be Pocitelj, another Unesco World Heritage site and host to the longest-operating art colony in southeast Europe. The most striking object in Pocitelj is the Sahat Kula, a silo-shaped fort that dominates the skyline from a hill above the town. It once housed watchmen and military guarding against possible invasion from the Neretva Valley. Our next stop is Kravica Waterfall, a green oasis in the rocky Herzegovinian landscape. After a short walk, and perhaps a cooling swim, we head to Blagaj for lunch. The Blagaj highlights are the Buna Spring and the adjacent Ottoman house/monastery.
The spring here is amazing. It flows out of a 655ft (200m) cliff wall to form 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 Bosnia and Herzegovina. Blagaj Old Town is worth walking through too. This Herzegovinian town moves at a slow pace and many of the old structures are reminiscent of the Ottoman days. Also in the vicinity are old flour mills that the strong Buna River used to power. We spend the late afternoon and evening in Mostar. Stay: Hotel Kapetanovina (or similar) (B).
Our journey now takes us back to Dubrovnik via Radimlja with its numerous beautiful medieval Christian tombstones, and Trebinje, the southernmost city in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Trebinje has a rich history dating to the Middle Ages. Here we visit a family-owned winery and get a taste of life in old Herzegovina, venturing into the cellars to sample the rich, earthy, bold tastes of the red wines. The wines of Herzegovina are among the newest in the second world wine category. This tradition, however, has been in existence since Roman times. The sunny Mediterranean climate and rich hinterland soils here produce some of the finest wines in southern Europe.
After the lunch break, we travel south to our final destination: Dubrovnik, a magnificent walled city at the southernmost tip of Croatia. Formerly a prosperous trading centre, Dubrovnik is now a Unesco World Heritage site, and the perfectly preserved Old Town and rich cultural life draw many visitors each year. We end the day with free time, so you can swim in the warm Adriatic or explore the Old Town solo and take a walk along the ancient city walls. Stay: Hotel Komodor (or similar) (B).
The trip ends this morning in Dubrovnik after breakfast. You may wish to extend your stay in the Croatian capital to further explore its cobbled streets or enjoy the beautiful coastline. Should you wish to do so, please ask your sales representative about our post-tour nights (B).