MUNICH TO ISTANBUL – The Alps to the Balkan Countries

                                                                                                       Section 1

 

Dates:                                                 August 10 – 31, 2016
Length:                                               22 days
Countries to be visited:                   Germany – Austria – Slovenia – Italy – Croatia –  Bosnia and                                                                                     Herzegovina – Montenegro  – Albania – Macedonia –
Bulgaria – Turkey
Total distance:                                  ±3220 km
Per person price:                             USD$8400 (based on twin-share)                                                               USD$1620 (single room supplement)

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 DAILY ITINERARY

Day 1, Wednesday, August 10                    Journey start from Munich, Germany
Our 2016 Silk Road drive will start from Munich, Germany.

 

Today, all Silk Road overland travellers arrive Munich, our 2016 meeting point. Upon arrival, you will be met at the airport and transferred to a city centre hotel.
Welcome dinner at the famed Hofbräuhaus München
Holiday Inn or King’s Hotel

Day 2, Thursday, August 11                          Munich – Memmingen  (distance: 115 km)
This morning we will be transferred to a scenic Bavarian village Aitrach, near the city of Memmingen.
We will be introduced to our vehicles here and test drive around the town.
The historic town of Memmingen has a wonderful array of interesting sights with a Mediterranean touch. The historic center is the perfect place for a gentle stroll and a little shopping all topped off with some local culinary delights.
We will overnight at a local guesthouse to enjoy the Bavarian small town atmosphere.
B/D Local Gueshouse

Day 3, Friday, August 12                            Memmingen  – Innsbruck, Austria (driving distance: 242 km)

Today is our first driving day!
Leisurely drive to drive into Austria, and overnight at Innsbruck.
The historic city of Innsbruck is nestled in between two Alpine mountain ranges. The Brenner Pass, an easily crossed path through the Alps, made the position of the town a strategic location. The importance of the valley eventually gave rise to the ultimate evolution of Innsbruck into a cultural and commercial hub. It is said Innsbruck was the West-most city that Genghis Khan’s Mongolian Empire had ruled. 
B/D  Innsbruck Hotel or similar



Day 4, Saturday, August 13
                          Innsbruck - Hallein, Austria (driving distance: 189 km)
Today’s drive is long but very scenic. Having lunch en route, we will arrive Hallein, a salt mine city near Salzburg in the afternoon. Send the night at a local guesthouse.
This afternoon we will visit the salt mine upon arrival.
B/D Hallein Guesthouse

Hallein Salt Mine

Day 5, Sunday, August 14                             Hallein – Salzburg – Liechtensteinklamm
(driving distance: 108 km)
After breakfast, we first drive to Salzburg to visit Mozart’s birth place. After spending time in Mozart’s Museum and the old town, which is like a Baroque postcard town, we will drive southbound to reach Central Austria’s Liechtensteinklamm Gorge, one of the most beautiful and longest gorges in the Alps.
Upon arrival, we will check hotel and overnight.
B/D Hotel Alpendorf


Day 6, Monday, August 15                           Liechtensteinklamm – Bled, Slovenia (driving distance: 185 km)
Today we leave Austria, drive through beautiful alpine region and enteer Slovenia.  Arrive Bled and check into our hotel by the lake side.
Bled, also called “the mountain pearl” is Slovenia’s most visited scenic spot. The town is best known for its lake, Lake Bled, with a little island in the middle, where we will take a boat ride to visit. Visit Bled Castle standing on a high cliff overlooking Bled Lake and enjoy fantastic panoramic view of landscape around it.
We will spend two nights here.
B/D Park Hotel or similar

bled_hazy_autumn

Day 7, Tuesday, August 16                           Bled
Enjoy Bled! Morning take the boat trip to reach the island in middle of the lake. Afternoon visit the castle and the winery inside of the castle.
B/D Park Hotel or similar

Day 8, Wednesday, August 17                    Bled – Postonjna Cave – Trieste, Italy (156 km)
This morning, we drive to visit Postojna Cave, a 24,120-meter long karst cave system near Postojna, southwestern Slovenia. It is the second-longest cave system in the country as well as one of its top tourism sites.
After the cave visit, will drive 54 km to reach the Adriatic Sea and overnight at a historical town in Italy.
Trieste is a city and seaport in northeastern Italy. It is situated towards the end of a narrow strip of Italian territory lying between the Adriatic Sea and Slovenia. Trieste is located at the head of the Gulf of Trieste and throughout history it has been influenced by its location at the crossroads of Latin, Slavic, and Germanic cultures.
Trieste was one of the oldest parts of the Habsburg Monarchy. In the 19th century, it was the most important port of one of the Great Powers of Europe. As a prosperous seaport in the Mediterranean region, Trieste became the fourth largest city of the Austro-Hungarian Empire (after Vienna, Budapest, and Prague). In the fin-de-siecle period, it emerged as an important hub for literature and music.
In 2012, Lonely Planet had listed the city of Trieste as the world's most underrated travel destination.
B/D Hotel Riviera & Maximilian’s

Day 9, Thursday, August 18                          Trieste, Italy – Pula, Croatia (driving distance: 119 km)
In the morning we will drive southbound into Croatia. Arrive Pula in the afternoon.
The wealth of Roman architecture makes Pula a standout among Croatia’s larger cities. The focal point of the town is the remarkably well-preserved Roman amphitheatre, smack in the heart of the city, which dominates the streetscape and doubles as a venue for summer concerts and festivals. We will visit the amphitheatre in the evening when the lights are lit.
The amphitheatre is the only remaining Roman amphitheatre to have four side towers and with all three Roman architectural orders entirely preserved. It was constructed in 27 BC – 68 AD and is among the six largest surviving Roman arenas in the World. A rare example among the 200 Roman surviving amphitheatres, it is also the best preserved ancient monument in Croatia.
Historical attractions aside, Pula is a busy commercial city on the sea that has managed to retain a friendly small-town appeal.
We will overnight at this very scenic town of Croatia.
B/D HotelAmfiteatar

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Day 10, Friday, August 19                             Pula, Croatia – Plitvice Lakes NP (driving distance: 188 km)
After some leisure time in the morning, we will drive westbound along the scenic coast towards Plitvice Lakes National Park.

Pula

Enjoy a visit to Plitvice Lakes National Park, a string of 16 turquoise coloured lakes linked by 92 waterfalls and cascades and surrounded by densely wooded mountains and lush vegetation. Admire the landscape formed by the mineral-rich waters which carve new paths through the rock, and enjoy your time in the middle of nature.
Arrive hotel in late afternoon. 
B/D  Plitvice Hotel

Day 11, Saturday, August 20                        Plitvice Lakes National Park – Split – Tucepi
(driving distance: 295 km)
Drive to Split in the morning.  En route pass through a scenic town Split.
Split is the second largest city in Croatia, with just over 200,000 inhabitants, and is the largest city on the Adriatic coast. Coupled with its strong history - it emerged from a settlement around a palace built by Roman emperor Diocletian, and this lively city was also important within Yugoslavia.
Afternoon tour the Diocletianus’ Palace. Split. Within area of Split and Solin the oldest findings are from the time of Neolithic and Eneolithic. In late ancient period during the Roman administration, the splendid Diocletian Palace was built.
After touring Split, we will drive to a seaside town, Tucepi to overnight.
B/D Bluesun Seaside Resort
Day 12, Sunday, August 21                           Tucepi – Mostar, Bosnia (driving distance: 106 km)
Drive to Bosnia and overnight in Mostar. Upon arrival, check into a local guesthouse.
The historic town of Mostar, spanning a deep valley of the Neretva River, developed in the 15th and 16th centuries as an Ottoman frontier town and during the Austro-Hungarian period in the 19th and 20th centuries. Mostar has long been known for its old Turkish houses and Old Bridge, Stari Most, after which it is named. In the 1990s conflict, however, most of the historic town and the Old Bridge, designed by the renowned architect Sinan, was destroyed. The Old Bridge was recently rebuilt and many of the edifices in the Old Town have been restored or rebuilt with the contribution of an international scientific committee established by UNESCO.
B/L Shangri-La Guesthouse

Mostar

Day 13, Monday, August 22                         Mostar – Dubrovnik, Croatia  (Driving distance: 123 km)
Drive back to Croatia and arrive Dubrovnik.
Often being described as "Paradise on Earth" and "a Jewel in the Crown of the Adriatic", Dubrovnik has also been regarded as the most perfectly preserved medieval town in the world and is a city which for centuries rivaled Venice as a major sea trading port. It has now been fully restored to its former glory and is an ultimate expression of all that is fine in medieval building. The enormous walls, built between the 11th and 17th centuries are still intact and provide a beautiful setting for the numerous cafes and restaurants that they house.
We will spend two nights in this historical city. Afternoon at leisure.
B/D Dubrovnik Palace Hotel

Description: Dubrovnik2

Day 14, Tuesday, August 23                         Dubrovnik
Half-day old town tour of Durbrovnik.
We will spend the morning in the old town with an English-speaking guide. After lunch, enjoy some free time. Optional hiring a boat to sail in the picturesque Adriatic Sea.
B/D Dubrovnik Palace Hotel

Day 15, Wednesday, August 24                                 Dubrovnik – Kotor, Montenegro (driving distance: 88 km)
Today we will drive along the coast into Montenegro and arrive Kotor to spend the night.
The Old City of Kotor is an ancient trade center, due to its fortified entrance to the sea. It's also a UNESCO World Natural and Historical Heritage Site and Montenegro's most famous town. The Old Town is a well-preserved collection of buildings, churches, squares and stone streets that date back to the Middle Ages. Our hotel is located inside the car-free, walled town. We need to pack an overnight bag to enter the old town while parking the cars outside of the city wall.
Tour of old town.
B/D Hotel Galathea
Day 16, Thursday, August 25                       Kotor, Montenegro – Tirana, Albania (driving distance: 195 km)
Today we will leave Montenegro and enter Albania. Arrive Albania’s capital, Tirana in the afternoon.


Albania – a country in Europe genuinely exotic and not yet full of stag parties – or becoming rapidly out of date.

Visit Tirana and you will see a part of Europe yet to succumb to mass tourism, where you can still glimpse just how different some parts of European continent were a few generations ago.  Albania is only just escaping from a difficult period in its history. It suffered under a particularly oppressive form of communism, when virtually all contact with the outside world was forbidden.  It emerged from this with a speculative boom and a national pyramid-selling scam, so its first experience of the market economy was a catastrophe – encouraging huge numbers of Albanians to emigrate, mostly illegally, to either Greece or Italy, but with quite a few ending up in Germany or Britain.

   

Albania is trying to be a normal European country, regardless its all sorts of difficulties. 
B/D Dinasty Rezidence Hotel 
Day 17, Friday, August 26                             Tirana, Albania – Demir Kapija, Macedonia
(driving distance: 450 km)
We will leave Albania and drive into Macedonia.
After crossing the border into Macedonia, we will arrive Demir Kapija. Demir Kapija is a small town, located on the left bank of the Vardar River in the Povardarie region in southern part of Macedonia. Demir Kapija is known as for the production of red paprika and for it's wineyards.
The name Demir Kapija is preserved from the Ottoman period, which means literally means Iron Gate. We will overnight at a local vineyard hotel here.
The Popova Kula Hotel and Vineyard offers unique experience to its guests with its comfortable rooms and impressive wine production. We will enjoy wine-tasting here tonight.
B/D Polova Kula Hotel and Vineyard

Macedonia

Day 18, Saturday, August 27                       Demir Kapija – Sofia, Bulgaria (driving distance: 230 km)
Today we drive through Macedonia and enter Bulgaria from its Southern border. Upon arrival, check into the city center hotel to rest.
B/D  Hotel Anel

Mt-roads

Day 19, Sunday, August 28                           Sofia
 A walking city tour will take up the whole morning. Visits include: Alexander Nevski Cathedral, National Assembly Square, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, Former Royal Palace (now Ethnographic Museum and National Revival Art Gallery), National Theatre, National Archaeological Museum, Presidency, St. George Rotunda, Central Square with closed market, St. Nedelya Old Metropolitan Church, the 16th century Banya Bashi Mosque and the Synagogue.
Afternoon at leisure.
B/D  Hotel Anel

Sofia

Day 20, Monday, August 29                         Sofia – Plovdiv
(driving distance: 132 km)
Drive to Plovdiv, entering the old city and settle in our historical hotel.
Afternoon, tour the old city including the Roman theatre, the Roman mosaics, and the presumed beginning of Via Trayana.
Plovdiv is a modern city with an ancient spirit and charm, emanating from its numerous remains of old times. Enjoy some leisure time walking through the city.
B/D Dedeman Hotel Plovdiv

Description: 017   Description: Sofia3

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Day 21, Tuesday, August 30                         Plovdiv – Istanbul, Turkey (driving distance: 380 km)
Drive towards Turkey via Svilengrad.  
After border-crossing formalities, will drive into the crowded city of Istanbul. Check into a centrally located hotel in Sultanahmed area.
Welcome to Istanbul!
In the Afternoon visit the Blue Mosque, built in 1616 unequalled for its mosaics, and the Haghia Sophia dedicated in 536 AD during the reign of Justinian, we will also visit Topkapi Palace, which was built by Mehmed the Conqueror.  
Evening dinner cruise along the famed Bosphorus, and celebrate the completion of our first section of the Silk Road drive!
B/D  Seven Hills Hotel or Sultanahmed Palace Hotel

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Day 22, Wednesday, August 31                                 Depart Istanbul
After breakfast, transfer to the airport for your onward flight.
This is the end of Section I.
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What’s included in AAST’s services:

  • 4WD vehicle throughout the journey (3-4 people per vehicle).
  • Petrol charges, toll fees, maintenance and repair of the vehicle.
  • Leadership of experienced group leaders including mechanical support.
  • Local sightseeing tours with entrance fees (sometimes via chartered van or coach).
  • Accommodation: 3 & 4-star hotels in major cities, local guest houses or best available in remote areas.
  • Hotel taxes and service charges.
  • Meals which are indicated in the day-by-day itinerary (in this section, breakfast and dinner daily).
  • Arrival and departure transfers.
  • All cross-border handling.
  • Banquets, parties and special events.
  • Travel manual and educational materials.
  • Use of travel accessories (GPS, maps, GMRS Radio Walkie-Talkie, tools, general emergency kit)

What would be your extra cost:

  • Your international flights and related taxes.
  • Personal travel insurance (mandatory) .
  • Visa fees.
  • Vaccinations (not mandatory).
  • Items of a personal nature such as telephone calls, use of internet, laundry, shopping.
  • Cash payment (5 euro or 6 dollars per traveller, per day). This will cover all gratuities and incidentals. The group leader will collect this cash payment at your trip’s starting point.

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