Day 1 Arrival in Sofia, transfer & orientation 16.00 - 18.00
The modern capital of Sofia has a long history literally hidden beneath it. Visit the now revealed Roman ruins in the heart of the city and contrast this with the imposing Soviet buildings atop. Not just a historic city, Sofia embraces the modern and chic. You can stock up for the tour in Prada, Louis Vuitton and Hugo Boss. Sink a few Guinness in JJ Murphy's lively Irish boozer, before whiling away the wee small hours in the bohemian Candle Bar, short on electricity, long on atmosphere. Whatever you choose to do, we are on hand to see you safely there and back.
Day 2 Sofia - Skopje 9.00 - 14.00
The Macedonian border is 90 minutes drive from our starting point and via some absorbing scenery rarely travelled. Once across, join us for a stop at the Monastery of St Joacim Osogovski, in Kriva Palanka. As a first view of Macedonia, it really doesn't come any better than this. Peaceful forest, ornate church, soviet transportation. It's a great scene setter. This is the moment where time and the modern world fades into the background to be replaced with trouble free serenity, punctuated with a two-stroke zip-buzz of course. Onto Skopje and the delights of ancient and modern Skopje with a zip-buzz of its own!
Day 3 Skopje - Ohrid 10.00 - 13.00
Our relatively short drive today allows for maximum time in the UNESCO Heritage Site of Ohrid, The most popular tourist destination in Macedonia. Once known as the Jerusalem of the Balkans, its 365 churches allow a different spiritual venue for every day of each year. If religious icons sound too commonplace by now, worry not. Ohrid boasts a rich history, picturesque architecture and a rare natural beauty to occupy any visitor for days on end. We are here to point the way to the best Ohrid has to offer. Ohrid is also twinned with both Veliko Tarnovo and Plovdiv, which can be found on our Beautiful Bulgaria tour.
Day 4 Ohrid - Bitola 11.00 - 13.00
We travel East over some wonderful driving roads, on a somewhat shorter journey today. Our destination is Macedonia's second largest city, Bitola. After a couple of very busy days, Bitola offers us the chance to unwind and take things easy, but the town retains a variety of eating and drinking options for the weary traveller and for those with energy to spare, late night entertainment is available and willing. Our lunchtime stop is at Heracles Lyncestis. The extensive and beautiful mosaics interwoven among the ruins of this ancient forerunner to modern Bitola are unsurpassed.
Day 5 Bitola - Shtip 10.00 - 15.00
We leave Bitola behind us today and head for the centre of wine production in Macedonia. Vranec, the most famous of the native grape varieties, produces wines of an increasingly high reputation, and we will be visiting a local producer to experience why Vranec has become so admired. We will also have the chance to visit the most famous archeological site in Macedonia, Stobi. This important historical site, sprawls across the plain and one can sense the scale of the site and imagine this busy trading centre as it was by walking through the old streets, now preserved. Our day finishes with our arrival in the town of Shtip, and the chance to find a traditional restaurant and enjoy a glass of Vranec over dinner.
Day 6 Shtip - Rila 11.00 - 15.00
A later than usual start is suggested to ensure we wipe away any cobwebs from last night before setting off for Rila. Rila is a hugely important National Park and spiritual location, in addition to being a great place to relax after a busy previous night. The Rila Monastery is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the area provides us with our final night of accommodation. Our last opportunity to cut loose and reflect upon our week together. Our overnight stay is in the vibrant and recently upgraded town centre of Blagoevgrad. Its bars, restaurants and buzzy evening culture offers plenty of options for a final hurrah!
Day 7 Rila - Sofia 9.00 - 11.00
After a hearty last breakfast, a short drive back to Sofia for final farewells to new friends, vehicle handover and transfers to the airport.