Zivjo! Welcome to Slovenia. Known as ‘Europe in Miniature’, tiny Slovenia has a huge heart and a wealth of diversity. Best known for hearty, alpine stews, goulash and sauerkraut, Slovenia also boasts wonderful cakes and strudels, not to mention the culinary treasures found in the coastal Karst region, including teran (wine), prsut (air-dried ham) and sensational olive oils. Picturesque Ljubljana is perfect for starting a food odyssey, with a surprisingly diverse food scene that– great local eateries, progressive modern restaurants, street food, cafes and cake shops. After an important welcome meeting at 6 pm, perhaps toast to your trip with a glass of Slovenia’s national drink: schnapps (zganje in Slovene). This fruit-based liqueur comes in a variety of flavours, with the local favourite being viljamoka – flavoured with Williams pear. Your leader can then suggest a great place in the heart of the city to sample some delicious traditional dishes.
Bled / Ljubljana
This morning, take a public bus to Bled (approximately 1 hour). Situated on stunning Lake Bled at the edge of the Julian Alps, this is a postcard location straight out of a fairytale. You will have a large part of the day here but be sure to taste one thing in particular – a delicious cream cake called kremna rezina (kremsnita to the locals). It’s thought to have been invented in the kitchens of Hotel Park in 1953 by Istvan Lukacevic – chef of the hotel’s confectionery store. Since its invention, more than ten million kremsnita have been baked at the hotel’s patisserie. Tuck into your own slice to find out what all the fuss is about. Afterwards, perhaps hike up to Bled Castle or visit the 17th century baroque Church of the Assumption, or simply take a stroll around the lake. Return to Ljubljana in the early afternoon. In the evening, head over to a Slovenian culinary workshop in the evening to pick up some tips for creating some traditional Slovenian fare at home, followed by a hearty meal. Your hosts will provide a tasting of typical Slovenian cold starters, so you won’t get hungry as you cook!
Piran / Motovun
Travel by public bus to Piran this morning (approximately 2 hours). Piran is a coastal town, located near the border of Italy and Croatia. The region is renowned for its production of quality olive oils, wine (especially the distinctive teran and refosk), as well as a cured ham called prsut. This is air-dried in the cold dry wind (known as the bura), which sweeps down to the coast from inland. Take a tasting tour of the township, then venture into a family-owned konoba (restaurant) for lunch and a wine tasting. Everything you eat is grown and prepared on the property. Next, head to the nearby salt pans of Piran where salt is still manually harvested with traditional tools according to a seven centuries’ old process. Cross the border into Croatia. Croatia has long piqued the interest of curious travellers searching for sunshine, sand and scenery, with charming cobblestone towns and World Heritage sites. Recently it has gained recognition as an exciting food and wine destination, with the region of Istria leading the charge as the culinary capital of the country. Arrive at your final destination, the Istrian town of Motovun, by early evening. The evening is free for your own food adventures.
Motovun is one of the best preserved medieval Istrian towns in Croatia, with houses scattered all over the hill and a spectacular view of Mirna River Valley. Motovun Forest is the best place for hunting the famous Istrian truffle, and the nearby village of Livade is considered the truffle capital of Istria. Take a walk through the woods with an experienced truffle hunter and learn about this intriguing vocation. Perhaps sniff out a truffle of your own! Then enjoy a tasting of regional specialties including olives, honey and (of course) truffles. Arrive to the romantic Croatian town of Rovinj, one of the best-kept towns on the Adriatic Coast (approximately 1 hour). Among Rovinj’s qualities is the beautiful, architecturally intact old town centre, with a relaxed Mediterranean feel. Through the centuries, Rovinj’s character has enchanted many an artist or writer, including Jules Verne. Take an orientation walk through the old town. For fans of oysters, a cruise on Lim Bay is highly recommended. Stop into an oyster farm and taste freshly shucked bivalves straight from the ocean. Spend the evening at your leisure and perhaps seek out a local Mediterranean restaurant.
Plitvice National Park / Rakovica
Take a private transfer to the stunning World Heritage-listed Plitvice Lakes National Park (approximately 4 hours). It’s the largest national park in Croatia and known to be one of the oldest in southeast Europe – full of waterfalls and spectral blue lakes. The waters tumble from a high, tree-lined ridge down through the valley before skirting dense forests of beech, spruce and pine. The Upper Lakes are in the dolomite cliffs, where rushing water weaves in and out of the karst before dropping dramatically down to the forest, grottoes and steep cliffs of the Lower Lakes. After taking in this unique landscape, head onwards to Rakovica village where you’ll stay the night. Dinner includes a delicious home cooked meal provided by your hosts – a hearty serving of traditional Croatian kotlovina. This mixed meat dish consists mainly of pork schnitzels and sausages, traditionally made in a cauldron (which translates to kotlovina) for large groups of people, feasts, holiday celebrations or just parties. The hosts will let you witness firsthand how the meal is prepared before you tuck in, enjoying the robust flavours and hints of spice.
Pag Island to Zadar
Farewell your hosts and then travel by bus to nearby Pag Island (approximately 2 hours). The karst island of Pag is home to sheep and a determined group of islanders who wring themselves a living from the barren, rocky landscape. Settled in pre-Roman times, the island has been at the mercy of the shifting fortunes of various Dalmatian rulers, and today, reminders of its prosperous salt-mining past lie in the main town. Meet a producer of the island’s renowned cheese: paski sir. This artisan sheep’s milk cheese has long been a valued commodity of the island. Discover more about the production process and enjoy a tasting. There will also be an option to enjoy a specialty dish of the region – lamb cooked peka-style – beneath a metal bell. Continue on to the walled city of Zadar (approximately 1.5 hours). For centuries, Zadar was the capital city of Dalmatia, and the city’s rich heritage is visible at every step. It’s also celebrated for many culinary treasures, including fresh seafood, the sheep and goats that are reared for their meat and milk in the mountains to the north, and the wonderful fresh produce that is grown in a broad belt of land surrounding Zadar. Don’t forget to try the famous liqueur, Maraskino, made from locally grown maraschino cherries according to a centuries’ old secret recipe. This unique drink was a favourite at European imperial and royal courts and has been produced in Zadar since 1821.
Rise early for a stroll through Zadar’s vibrant fish market. The fish market is built into the city ramparts at the spot where the trawlers land with their catch. This will also give you an opportunity to see some of the produce grown in the area. Depending on the season, you may find citrus fruits and kiwis from the islands, fresh and dried figs and home-made olive oil. The city is also home to a vibrant café culture. Afterwards, travel by public bus southeast to Split (approximately 3-4 hrs), arriving in the late afternoon. Take in vistas over vineyards, olive groves, bays, beaches, steep cliffs and islands along the way. The evening is free for your own food adventures – your leader will have plenty of local suggestions.
A vibrant mixture of golden history and present-day delights, the city of Split grew out from the remains of Diocletian’s Palace – some of the most impressive ruins on the Mediterranean. Today you’ll get the chance to learn more about the sights and flavours of the city as you embark on a walking tour of the city with a local foodie. Take Diocletian’s Palace and wander the district’s winding streets, before heading into the green market to learn about Croatian agriculture. Taste some artisanal olive oil, pick some mouth-watering local sweets (orancini and lemoncini) before finally paying a visit to the finest chocolatier in town. Finish with a lunch of beer and burek. The rest of the day is free for you to explore. Perhaps take in the fantastically preserved basements under the city, along with the Cathedral in Docletian’s Peristyle and Jupiter’s Temple. As the evening rolls in, you may choose to take another cooking class or put your feet up and relax over a hearty Croatian meal.
Enjoy a free morning in Split before catching a ferry to Korcula (approximately 3.5 hours). Upon arrival, embark on an orientation walk to get a feel for this historic fortified island town, including the Cathedral of St Mark, the 15th-century Franciscan monastery and the massive fortifications surrounding the city. Whether or not this can be proved (the Venetians have a similar claim), Korcula is steeped in a long history that’s resulted in Greek, Slav and Roman settlers – resulting in a romantic and evocative cultural old town. What’s more, there are plenty of warm beaches to relax on if that’s more your speed. You might like to take a swim, walk around the bays and villages near Korcula town, pay a visit to the Marco Polo Tower, go shopping, or just soak up the ambience. Later in the evening, you will have the option to make the short journey by local bus (approximately 30 minutes) to the tiny village of Pupnat in the interior of the island. Consider dinner in the village, enjoying a meal made entirely from local produce. Perhaps you can drink your wine like the locals do – mixed with a bit of water.
Relax into island life in the morning before heading to Zrnovo village for a hands-on cooking class. You’ll learn how to make zrnovo makaruni (a local hand-rolled pasta), and you’ll enjoy this with lunch with some included local wines. One of these wines is Grk – a curious drop. The wine cannot replicate itself as it only has female parts and needs to be planted with another male grape variety in order to pollinate. It seems like a lot of work to make a wine, but the end result is a glass of acidic white, featuring a robust aroma and hints of pine that has been loved around the country for ages. In the afternoon, return to Korcula town for some free time – beach, anyone?
Travel to Dubrovnik by catamaran. With the sparkling water of the Adriatic in the background, Dubrovnik is picturesque, full of character and can easily be covered on foot. With no activities planned once arrived in Dubrovnik, you are able to explore the Old Town at your leisure. The next stage of your trip will begin with a welcome meeting at 6:30pm. After this meeting, head out on an included dinner with your group. Croatian cuisine varies between regions, but an unwavering favourite is the charcuterie. Traditionally created with pork, charcuterie involves using a lot of specially prepared meats, all of which showcase flavours specific to their preservation process. If the option’s there, definitely give it a try.
After breakfast, head to the Peljesac peninsula, stopping along the way. Take some time to explore the long city walls of Ston before watching the production of sea salt at the local salt panels, then continue on your panoramic drive along the bay. Spend some time passing the local vineyards before reaching the small village of Brijesta. Enjoy a visit to a local agriturismo to learn more about regional production and harvesting techniques before eating lunch. Today’s meal at the konoba includes traditional seafood dishes (fresh oyster tasting), olive oil and local home-made wine.Transfer to Kotor later on, where you’ll spend the evening.
This morning, visit the town of Njegusi – known around the country for its famous smoke-dried hams and cheeses. Stop at a smokehouse, where the trip leader will explain their production process, dating back for centuries, and will also take you for a tasting of their famous Njegui smoked hams, cheeses and grape brandy. Afterwards, visit an olive farm in the village of Tici, located in the Lustica Bay area near Kotor. Discover the art of olive pressing as your hosts share their second-generation organic olive oil production techniques. Wander through the beautiful olive groves before arriving at an ancient stone olive mill, where olives were once milled by hand. A guided tasting will give you an insight into what makes for good oil. Back in Kotor, with free time later in the day, consider getting lost in the town’s crooked walkways, or perhaps climbing the hills behind the city to experience Kotor’s ruined fortification walls. A 1.5-hour hike up the stone steps, to the Fortress of Sveti Ivan at the top rewards you with views across the Bay of Kotor. With a free night, why not have an optional dinner at a Kotor wine bar?
Say goodbye to Montenegro and head to Kosovo. The first stop on the journey is Rozafa Fortress, Albania – one of the last strongholds of the allied Christian forces against invading Ottomans in the 15th century. In the afternoon, arrive in Prizren – the second largest city in Kosovo. This picturesque location remains as the most culturally and ethnically diverse in all of Kosovo. The abundance of orange rooftops makes for an interesting sight, as do the impressive mosques and churches in the city. Pass by the sights, smells and sounds of the bazaar, with a whole range of specialties on offer, including stuffed peppers, which are a big hit. After visiting the bazaar, you are free to explore Prizren at your own pace. A guided sightseeing tour is on the cards with your group, and you can choose to continue wandering through the streets on your own as the sun goes down and Prizren’s nightlife takes charge.
Continue onwards to Pristina today – Kosovo’s capital and largest city. Take some time to explore the historic Gracanica settlement, which serves as the home of one of the few dominantly Serbian populations in Kosovo. A special experience awaits with a delicious Kosovo-Serb barbecue, prepared by the local hosts who serve sausages and other pork delicacies from their personal smokehouse. Afterwards, round out a big meal by taking a short trip to the World Heritage-listed Gracanica Monastery – built upon the ruins of a sixth-century Christian basilica by Serbian king Stefan Milutin in 1321. Return back to Prizren for another night at leisure.
Enjoy some breakfast before travelling towards North Macedonia. Pass through the Brezovica National Park, witnessing the steep cliffs and rugged mountain scenery. Onwards through Tetovo to the nearby village of Varvara, enjoying a delicious Macedonian lunch of regional specialties. Afterwards, loop back to see the beautiful Sarena Dzamija, or the Decorated Mosque of Tetovo. This mosque is famous for its intricate facade and internal painted decorations. Arrive in the village of Janche, located in the south part of the beautiful Mavrovo National Park in the early evening, to enjoy a meal typical of the Mavrovo area at a beautifully decorated traditional restaurant. Considered to be a division of Balkan cuisine, Macedonian dishes reflect influences taken from both Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cultures. The relatively warm climate allows for excellent growing conditions for vegetables and fruits, along with fragrant herbs. Macedonian dairy products, wines and local alcoholic beverages, such as rakija, have gained considerable notoriety for the variety and quality of flavours they offer. However, if there’s two things you should keep an eye out for in North Macedonia, it’s tavce gravce – a traditional dish prepared with fresh beans, pepper and onion, and mastika – a liqueur seasoned with resin gathered from the mastic tree.
Have a delicious village breakfast, which will include local jams and cheese. Afterwards, set off to explore the southern part of the Mavrovo National Park. This region serves as the home to an indigenous community of Macedonian Muslims and, as a result, the area is culturally and ethnically different from the rest of the country. Take a stop at the nearby St Jovan Bigorski Monastery (St John the Baptist), which is widely renowned as the most spiritual monastery in North Macedonia. This 19th-century structure, erected upon both the ruins of an 11th-century church and the slopes of Mt Bistra, is home to a small silver coffin allegedly containing the remains of St John himself. Return to the village of Janche, sitting in the canyon that guides the Radika River. The village is known as one of the oldest in the region – its quaint houses line the hillside. After a quick walk around this village, a hands-on cooking class with the local women will teach the skills required to make local pastries with wild porcini mushrooms, considered to be a specialty of this region. After lunch, drive onward to Ohrid where you will spend the evening.
Ohrid is Europe’s oldest lake and, as one of the oldest human settlements in the world, it’s got a wealth of historic sites and religious monuments to discover. The town is said to have once been home to 365 churches, one for each day of the year, earning it the nickname ‘the Macedonian Jerusalem’. Today is free for you to explore the town’s streets and churches, maybe picking up a bargain or two in the vibrant Old Bazaar. Alternatively, consider joining your leader for an optional day trip to Ohrid Lake and the mystical Sveti Naum Monastery – one of the most important places of pilgrimage in North Macedonia. Take in the ancient Tzar Samoil’s Fortress, which stands on the top of Ohrid Hill and looks across the town, along with a 2000-year-old Roman theatre that was uncovered near its upper gate. The Sveti Jovana Kaneo church, which sits on a rocky outcrop overlooking the lake, is one of the most popular in North Macedonia. This evening, head to Kuratica – a village on the outskirts of Ohrid. Here you’ll experience local hospitality and enjoy a home-cooked meal. Your host also brews his own rakija, which you’ll be lucky enough to taste.
After leaving your accommodation in Ohrid, head down to the green market for a traditional breakfast. You might like to try the best burek in town or enjoy a ‘gjomleze’ pie. It is a fairly plain dish, but it’s the added condiments that truly make this pie shine. Drive onward to Dihovo – another little village sitting in the foothills of Mt Pelister. A local beekeeper will teach you about the honeybee as they share their secrets – you’ll get hands-on with an open beehive demonstration. Afterwards, enjoy a tasting of honey extracted straight from the comb before having a home-cooked meal in a traditional villa. All of the ingredients are organic and come from the family’s private gardens. Continue to Bitola, arriving by mid-afternoon. Relax in one of the city’s many cafes, explore the stalls of the Old Bazaar or choose to take a guided tour of the ancient town and archaeological site of Heraclea Lyncestis, located on the outskirts of Bitola. Heraclea was founded by Philip II of Macedonia in the fourth century BC after he had conquered the surrounding region of Lyncestis. The city was named in honour of the mythological hero Heracles, whom Philip considered his ancestor.
Skopje / Tikves
Start the day with a Turkish coffee, or for the more adventurous, perhaps try a bowl of the local specialty ckembe corba (tripe soup). It is claimed that the soup was once an initiation rite for boys, but today it’s commonly enjoyed for breakfast. Later on, head out to the Stobi archaeological site for a short walk. Stobi, once known as Paeonia, was conquered by the ancient kingdom of Macedon and became the capital of the Roman province of Macedonia Salutaris. It is considered to be the most famous archaeological site in North Macedonia, with its carved basilica, stone columns and ancient theatre. Onwards to Tikves wine district , where you’ll meet an international wine writer and critic responsible for the first guide to Macedonian wine. The production of grapes is prominent in North Macedonia, thanks to an abundance of sunshine and rich, rocky soil. This has been the case since Roman times, where wine production was conducted in monasteries. Tikves continues to play an important role in the country’s wine production and is home to many of the country’s finest wineries – today’s adventures offer a taste of local varieties at two of these estates. Enjoy a pairing of delicious local cheeses and cured meats next to these wines this afternoon. Arrive in Skopje in the late afternoon where tonight is free to explore – perhaps ask your leader for some restaurant suggestions.
Wake early and enjoy ‘breakfast on the move’ through the streets of Skopje. Pay a visit to the Green Market to learn more about the ingredients that make up Macedonian cuisine. Travel to Matka Canyon – a fascinating gorge containing a rich complex of medieval buildings, churches, monasteries and the remnants of a fortress. After a short walk to the Monastery of St Andrew, a boat will collect you for a relaxing sail through Matka Canyon and down the Treska River with a picnic lunch stop along the way. Once lunch is finished, return by boat and head back towards Skopje. This evening, the group leader will offer suggestions for a celebratory group dinner – the perfect way for say farewell to North Macedonia.
With no activities planned for today, you are free to leave the accommodation at any time. That doesn’t mean your adventure has to end! If you wish to spend more time in Skopje, we’ll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability).
Ljubljana - Snops Tasting
Bled - Day Trip
Bled - Kremsnita Tasting
Ljubljana - Slovenian Cooking Class
Piran - Tasting Tour and Lunch
Motovun - Truffle Hunt and Tasting
Rovinj – Day Trip
Plitvice Lakes National Park
Rakovica: Home-cooked Meal
Pag Island - Cheese Tasting
Split - Old Town Food and Culture Tour
Korcula - Winery Cycle Tour
Dubrovnik Card (1 day local transport and entry to sites)
Ston - Town Visit
Putnokovici - Local Farm Visit
Njegusi - Smokehouse Visit & Tasting
Lustica - Olive oil farm visit
Prizren - Walking Tour
Albania - Rozafa Fortress
Shkoder - Rozafa Fortress visit
Kosovo - Sightseeing Tour
Pristina - Gracanica Monastery Visit
Gracanica - Traditional Lunch
Leunovo - Painted Mosque of Tetovo Visit
Leunovo - Traditional Home Cooked Dinner
Janche - Cooking Class
Mavrovo National Park Visit
St Jovan Bigorski Monastery Visit
Kuratica - Local Home Cooked Dinner
Dihovo - Beekeeping Masterclass
Ohrid - Green Market Visit/Breakfast
Dihovo - Villa Dihovo Lunch
Tikves - Wine Tasting
Bitola - Stobi Archaeological Site Visit
Matka - Matka Canyon Boat Cruise
Skopje - Green Market/Picnic