Bordering Empires of Europe Tour: Austria, Croatia, Turkey & More

A 15 day trip to Austria, Croatia & Turkey 
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The pink façade of the Hagia Sophia glows over the labyrinthine streets of Istanbul. The Hofburg Royal Palace stands at the center of Vienna as a reminder of the city’s opulent past. Red-tiled roofs shine against the backdrop of the cobalt Adriatic Sea in Dubrovnik, a city once controlled by Venice. Your custom tailored Austria, Croatia and Turkey tour guides you along the remarkable landscapes of Europe following the luxurious trails of lost empires, amongst manmade grandeur and the innate beauty of nature. From Vienna to Istanbul, you will find Roman protectorates to Ottoman streets, Hofburg wealth to intricate Venetian décor.

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General Information

Photos
The Old City of Dubrovnik is an UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its well-preserved fortress walls.
Detailed Itinerary

Places Visited 

Vienna, Kumrovec, Zagreb, Plitvice National Park, Zadar, Split, Mostar, Sarajevo, Dubrovnik, Kotor, Tirana, Ohrid, Skopje, Sofia, Istanbul

Departure Dates 

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.

Detailed Itinerary 

Day 1: Arriving in the Imperial City

Vienna holds proudly to its imperial past. The Opera House shimmers beside cobbled streets. Electric trams run through the city center. The black façade of St. Stephen’s Cathedral glistens against the city lights in the evening. Contemporary museums line open antique plazas.

Your private transfer meets you at the airport and escorts you to your hotel located in the heart of the city. Locals sit in cafes and passionately discuss music, art, and architecture. People stroll along the cobbled paths next to active bike lanes. The aroma of freshly brewed coffee drifts from coffee houses. The Danube Canal surrounds the Leopoldstadt district adding another layer of elegance to the city’s design. Around every corner is another historic building with a modern edge that keeps the city connected to its rich history, while simultaneously evolving.

What’s Included: transfer, dinner, accommodation 

Day 2: Collecting Imperial Pictures

The cobblestone streets in the heart of the city reflect the morning light beaming over the buildings. The aroma of fresh coffee and a sweet pastry with jam fill the air. After breakfast, your guide meets you and is eager to lead you through the city’s extraordinary past.

Visit the Museumsquartier, the Museum Quarter, where Baroque buildings stand out from the modern architecture. The Leopold Museum is home to the largest collection of modern Austrian art containing more than 5,000 exhibits. The main gallery shimmers a bright white limestone showcasing Egon Schiele paintings alongside works by Klimt. The exterior brightens the square with a pearl limestone exterior and a glass atrium rising 69 feet in the air and drapes the interior with natural light. The elegance of the museum embodies the architecture surrounding the city, both modern and chic, yet historic and inspiring.

What’s Included: breakfast, tour, accommodation

Day 3: Stepping Into the Past

The city comes to life in the morning with a sense of purpose. Locals cycle or walk, filling the trams and the walkways with earnestness, heading to school, university, work, or cafes. You leave behind the opulent imperial structures and make your way to Kumrovec, Croatia, a town nestled on the banks of the Sutla River. The village has transformed itself into an ethnographic museum, open to the public and the sweet Croatian air.

You step into the Staro Selo Museum to find 40 restored houses and barns dating back to the turn of the 19th century. Traditional furniture, toys, and baker’s tools fill the buildings. You can hear the bubbling stream wind alongside the village. A life-size statue of Tito, the president of Yugoslavia, stands outside his old home constructed in 1860. The statue shows the former president striking a stoic pose against the emerald greenery surrounding the homes. The unique display of the region’s history takes you deeper into the exceptional culture amassed over centuries.

What’s Included: breakfast, dinner, transfer, tour, accommodation

Day 4: Lakeside Majesty

After the morning touring around Zagreb, one of our travel agents for Croatia will arrange for your guide to lead you to the breathtaking Plitvice Lakes National Park. The dense forest creates a canopy of emerald leaves blocking out the sky. Sixteen lakes blend and weave into one another with crystalline waters cascading down small hills. Stroll along the wooden paths that stretch 11 miles throughout the park weaving underneath clouds of fluttering butterflies. The largest lake reaches a length of over two miles and reflects the immaculate greenery around its shores.

The tallest waterfall in Croatia, Veliki Slap, trundles 257 feet into a lower rippling pool. People check out rowboats for a different view of the surrounding landscape. The water bubbles when the paddles hit the surface. You can hear the rumbling of the falls nearby. The water curtains the hillside with what looks like white lace. The natural beauty around the national park is unparalleled. 

What’s Included: breakfast, dinner, transfer, tour, accommodation

Day 5: Croatian Intrigue

Cobbled streets line the ancient coastal city of Zadar. History pulses through the buildings and central tower, dating back to battles with the Venetians and the Turks. Medieval churches cast shadows over cosmopolitan cafes. The picturesque city has Habsburg elegance set along the coast and is filled with an equal mixture of locals and visitors for a comfortable, relaxed atmosphere.

The Sea Organ sits alongside the esplanade, brushed by the soft current of the Adriatic Sea. Waves and wind push through the tubes situated underneath large marble steps to create random harmonic sounds. The music is almost unbelievable, calling out from the water like a sporadic symphony you have to hear to believe. The coastal aroma sweeps through the streets blending with the rich scent of morning coffee. You guide leads you out of the city to the remarkable seaside city of Split, Croatia’s second-largest city.

What’s Included: breakfast, dinner, transfer, tour, accommodation

Day 6: Wonders of the Past

The antique streets of Split and the cobalt waters of the Adriatic fade behind the horizon as you make your way to Mostar in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The city dates back to the 15th century and maintains a medieval charm. Mostar is nestled inside the surrounding mountains and divided by the Neretva River. The gentle current allows the water to reflect overlooking homes and Old Bridge. The bridge forms a stone arc connecting two refurbished medieval towers. The scenery reminds you of a storybook. People linger in the Ottoman quarter where shingled roofs slope down over the cobbled streets, and the rugged mountains stand behind tall stone buildings. The Old Bridge was originally constructed in the 16th century. Locals stand on the edge of stone bridge and dive into the cold water below with grace and showmanship. 

What’s Included: breakfast, dinner, transfer, tour, accommodation

Day 7: Back from the Brink

Sarajevo has reconstructed its historic center and returned a sense of vibrancy absent during the 1990s. Jovial cafes echo across the cobbled streets, and refurbished buildings contain a mixture of Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian architecture. A remarkable aroma of historic buildings lifts through the scent of verdant leaves. Small stairways climb up and down narrow alleys adding to the Ottoman ambiance. Bosnian houses line the valley walls with bright red roofs. Minarets peek through the sea of red shingling guiding your eyes towards the green summits of the nearby mountains.

Your guide takes you through the Svrzo House, an area of whitewashed walls and cobbled courtyards draped in vines and the occasional dark timber. The preserved 18th century assortment of homes provides a sense of the city’s past lives.

What’s Included: breakfast, dinner, transfer, tour, accommodation

Day 8: Awe of the Adriatic

Dubrovnik causes people to marvel at the rich history emanating from the architecture, whether visiting for the first or fiftieth time. Old Town brims with Baroque buildings encircled by the cobalt Adriatic waters. Marble streets shine against stone structures underneath rising towers. The laidback ambiance stems from a Mediterranean lifestyle blending with sunlight glinting off of the stone.

Your guide takes you through the pristine streets and alongside the dramatic ramparts encompassing the city. The Rector’s Palace dates back to the 15th century with a combination of Gothic and Renaissance design. Vaulted ceilings line the porch colonnade, lined with Corinthian columns. The interior houses a Cultural History Museum displaying portraits and coat of arms that represents the city’s lavish history dating back to the Venetians.

If you want to extend your time in Croatia, browse the vacation package to Croatia section on Zicasso for ideas.

What’s Included: breakfast, tour, accommodation

Day 9: Bay of Heritage

In the morning, you leave the medieval coastal city for the shores of the Republic of Montenegro and the city of Kotor. Dramatic mountains surround the city pushing the streets against the edges of the bay. The city dates back to the 9th century, continuously evolving until the 18th century. Homes climb up the rugged mountainside and almost blend into the rocky terrain. The water glows azure against the encircling landscape. Marble lanes wind through the city like a maze, passing medieval churches, contemporary shops, and modern bars. The historic walls make a protective loop around the homes and building ascending 858 feet above sea level, reached by a staircase with 1,350 steps. At the top, you have an unobstructed view of the red-tiled roofs, sporadic greenery, and craggy surrounding mountains, along with the meandering encompassing walls.

What’s Included: breakfast, dinner, transfer, tour, accommodation

Day 10: Surprising Albania

The enrapturing beauty of Albania can be seen from the capital city of Tirana. The city center glistens with buildings painted with primary colors, public squares filled with jovial locals, and pedestrian-lined streets built for strolling around the cityscape for the sake of wandering. People enjoy the trendy neighborhood of Ish-Blloku, lined with boutique shops and chic bars. Public parks create vibrant green spaces amidst the communist era buildings connecting the gray history of the city to its vibrant contemporary vision.

Delicate minarets combine with relics of an Italianate history. Et’hem Bey Mosque was constructed between the 18th and 19th centuries but was closed for decades during the communist regime. Frescoes decorate the exterior of the small, but graceful edifice. The paintings bring the trees and waterfalls of rural Albania to life, commemorating the beauty of nature and the rarity of images captured in Islamic art. Your day continues when you venture to the picturesque Old Town of Ohrid, situated on the shores of a pristine lake.

What’s Included: breakfast, dinner, transfer, tour, accommodation

Day 11: Spirited Macedonia

Leave behind the lakeshores of Ohrid for the eclectic, small capital of Macedonia, Skopje. The city was recently overhauled with charming fountains, statues, and bridges to help evoke a sense of national identity and pride. Elements of the city’s Ottoman and Byzantine era continue to shine through the stunning monuments recently erected. The city maintains roots dating back to 4,000 BC and held a Roman military camp in the 1st century AD. The old Stone Bridge crosses the Vardar River with numerous, elegant arches based on Roman foundations.

Follow your guide to Sveti Spas Church, a 14th century construction built partially underground in order to stay within the Ottoman law that no church could stand taller than a mosque. Your guide leads you to the door, and you pass through to find stunning wood-carved images of historical iconoclasts standing almost 20 feet tall and 33 feet wide. The detailed images provide remarkable storytelling and were done by 19th century woodworking masters.

What’s Included: breakfast, dinner, transfer, tour, accommodation

Day 12: Bulgarian Youthfulness

You notice the beauty of Bulgaria’s capital city, Sofia, in the connection of the antiquity of east meets west and the wistful modernity of city’s youth. The block architecture reminds visitors and locals of the Soviet past sharing the skyline with onion-domed churches and Ottoman mosques. Bright trees and grassy parks cut through the urbanity adding a graceful lushness to the streets, with manicured gardens providing colorful blossoming flowers. The aroma of crispy filo dough and melted cheese drifts along the streets in the morning.

Your guide meets you at the hotel and takes you through the spirited cityscape to the Holy Sofia Church. The church provided the namesake for the city and was constructed in the 6th century with Byzantine roots. The faint aroma of frankincense wafts around the nave. Stone archways line the hall to the pulpit, lit by fine chandeliers. The acropolis holds 56 historic tombs, some even featuring murals. The simplistic nature of the construction highlights specific elements of beauty and grandeur around the church.  

What’s Included: breakfast, tour, accommodation

Day 13: Arriving in Byzantine and Ottoman Majesty

The morning shines over the elaborate capital and glistens over the nearby Iskar River. An evergreen forest covers the surrounding Vitosha Mountains. The aroma of banitsa, a pastry filled with feta cheese, adds a decadent aroma to breakfast. Your guide meets you at the hotel and escorts you through the rolling mountains and encompassing forestry to Istanbul, Turkey. The treasured city rises and falls over seven separate hills along the Bosphorus, the strait connecting the Sea of Marmara to the Black Sea. Narrow alleys wind around the streets connecting Byzantine and Ottoman architecture. Old men sit at tables lining the cobbled laneways outside of cafes and play backgammon.

Sixty-four streets fill the Old City where 4,000 vendors peddle their wares around the Grand Bazaar dating back to the 15th century. Silk fabrics press against open walls on display. Geometric designs embellish hand-woven carpets. Vendors call out to one another with spirit and urge you to enter their store. The aroma of sandalwood and cumin wafts through the streets near the Spice Market. Minarets rise above the tightly-knit buildings. You can see ferries passing the Galata Bridge taking people across the strait.

What’s Included: breakfast, dinner, tour, transfer, accommodation

Day 14: Indulging in Turkish Delights

In the morning, the harmonious sounds of the Call to Prayer echoes across the hills of the city. Ships cruise through the Bosphorus and fishing boats leave the marina setting out in search of their daily catch. The Grand Bazaar fills with vendors opening shops, and cafes begin to brew decadent Turkish coffee. The aroma accompanies breakfast. Sugar dissolves in the strong, thick liquid for a touch of sweetness against the rich, bitter flavor. Your guide leads you through the remarkable history of the city, taking you along the waters of the Bosphorus to see the exceptional Topkapi Palace, an ornate palace home to Ottoman Sultans.

The Blue Mosque creates the city’s skyline in the Old City district with towering minarets and an opulent dome. The dome reaches a height of 141 feet and the minarets stand 210 feet tall. The edifice was constructed in the 17th century mimicking the splendor of the Hagia Sofia but consisting of eight secondary domes cascading downward from the main dome. The interior borders on the majestic decorated with 20,000 handmade ceramic tiles. Natural light pours through the stained glass windows. A concentric light fixture brightens the prayer area, circling the ceiling with gentle light. The decadent construction highlights the dedication of past sultans and citizens.   

What’s Included: breakfast, dinner, tour, accommodation

Day 15: Far-Flung Farewells

Local vendors line the esplanade along the harbor and sell fresh oysters, squeezing a touch of lemon and sprinkling a dash of cayenne pepper over the luscious treat. The sounds of the city rise through the stone staircases climbing the hillsides. The European side of the Beyoglu neighborhood is rich with winding roads dividing centuries-old buildings to create quaint quarters. Bohemian culture simmers around the major boulevard of Istiklal Caddesi, a long stretch of contemporary boutique shops and cultural centers filling 19th century buildings. Antique trams crisscross the street past charming cafes and energetic pedestrians.

Soon, your private transfer will meet you at the hotel to escort you to the airport. You have seen marvelous imperial and contemporary pasts enriching the European landscape; you could always extend your stay to explore the continuous riches of the Mediterranean.

What’s Included: breakfast, transfer

Price

Price 

Please inquire for a custom quote. The price is customized based on final hotel choices, travel dates, and other custom preferences.