For almost 5 decades, the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (which roughly translates to ‘Southern Slav Land’) consisted of the territories of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, and Slovenia. The Republic was led by the charismatic former partisan Josip Broz Tito until his death in 1980. In the years following his death, economic and political tension began to boil before erupting into the blood soaked Yugoslav wars in 1992. This lead to the breakup of Yugoslavia, ethnic cleansing and poverty.
YPT have been pioneering adventure travel to the seven countries that make up the lands of the former Yugoslavia since 2012. Whether as part of our scheduled Balkan Badlands tour or as part of private tours. The incredible natural scenery, hospitable locals, blends of cultures and languages from various empires, fascinating ancient history and harrowing modern history as a result of the recent conflicts provide a unique travel destination unlike any other.
We have a wide range of incredible locations featured on our tour, from the war-torn, Ottoman-style city of Sarajevo which was the site of the longest siege in history during the Balkans war to the divided city of Mitrovica ethnically split between Albanians and Serbs. You’ll also cover the Communist Bloc style city of Belgrade with the mausoleum of Tito to the vibrant capital of Tirana in Albania where Mercedes Benz park next to crumbling military bunkers in the street, designed by the paranoid Communist regime for a Western invasion that never came. Our local contacts and years of experiences and relations gained on the ground ensure we can visit many sites not visited by other tourists.
Morning meetup in Ljubljana, Slovenia, where we will have breakfast and go over the tour plan.
We’ll check out this quaint city that is rather unique and very European compared to the other countries of the Balkans.
We’ll see Yugoslav architecture and monuments, castles, the old town and grab lunch in a cafe called Sarajevo ‘84 which evokes the spirit of the legendary winter olympics.
We’ll grab the late afternoon bus to Zagreb, Croatia, arriving in the evening and heading out for an evening meal.
Overnight in Zagreb.
Monday 31st May – Croatia:
After breakfast, we’ll visit the WW2 underground tunnels and the basement used as a shelter during the air raids on Zagreb as well as learn more about life during the communist era in Zagreb, the fall of Yugoslavia and recent turbulent years of Croatian history
We’ll take a walk around the Museum of bombing of Zagreb before taking a funicular to the top of the city and visiting the unique and bizarre museum of broken relationships.
Free time in the city before meeting up in the evening for a meal of hearty Croatian food
Overnight in Zagreb.
Tuesday 1st June – Abandoned Air Base:
Early start, grab breakfast and check out of the hotel.
We begin our journey for one of the many highlights of the tour, the secret abandoned airbase in the outback of Croatia. This was the largest underground airport and military air base in the former Yugoslavia, and one of the largest in Europe. Whilst it is forbidden to enter and has some minefields in the area, Soviet Wastelands and our contacts on the ground can safely guide you through this underground base, where you will find MiG fighter jets rotting away, decommissioned missiles and explore bullet-riddled cargo planes on the runway.
We will also stop at an incredible display of firepower in a war-torn village on the way. Surrounded by bombed and bullet-riddled buildings, the group will be allowed to explore and climb on the killing machines used in the Croatian war of independence. From armoured tractors and cargo trucks to tanks, fighter jets, and heavy artillery.
We then move on to the evening drive over the border to Sarajevo, Bosnia.
Check into Sarajevo war hotel, a unique historically accurate simulation of war-torn Sarajevo, full with authentic items from the war which serve as decorations and run by a small family which survived the war in Sarajevo and is willing to share their war experience and personal stories with you.
Overnight in Sarajevo.
Wednesday 2nd June – Sarajevo:
We head out and grab breakfast in Sarajevo, for coffee lovers, Bosnian coffee is incredible!
We then meet our local guides and minibus for an excursion to the tunnel of hope, a war-damaged home with a tunnel network underneath that is now a museum and a fascinating insight into the lifeline of this city when it was under the longest siege in history.
After this we head to the Serbian side of Sarajevo, complete with Ratko Mladic banners lining the streets. We continue up to the mountain that overlooks Sarajevo and provides stunning views. We then explore the bobsleigh track from the 1984 Olympics, surrounded by bunkers, this eerie monument has been left to decay since the war but provides excellent urban exploration and photography opportunities. On the way we will have the chance to explore many war-damaged abandoned buildings.
We head back down into Sarajevo, stopping at the spot where Archduke Franz Ferdinand was dramatically assassinated, an event which sparked the first world war, before grabbing lunch nearby.
Begin the Sarajevo war tour, covering sights related to siege time, such as the Sarajevo roses, Children’s memorial, Post office, Canned beef memorial, Sniper Alley, Holiday Inn hotel. The tour will also feature personal stories from the war from the local guide.
Free time in the evening before exploring the Ottoman style old town, its markets and sampling some of the amazing Sarajevo cuisines before winding down with some drinks.
Overnight in Sarajevo.
Thursday 3rd June – Srebrenica:
We grab breakfast, check out of the hotel and board our private bus for a hard-hitting day ahead.
We head to Belgrade but incorporate a visit to Srebrenica, the site of a mass genocide in the 1990’s in which an estimated 8,000 men and boys were exterminated in a mass slaughter inside a warehouse.
We will many sites, the highlights being the vast memorials, the warehouses were the Dutch peacekeepers military base was located and the sites of the massacre. We will also try our best to arrange a talk with a survivor of the massacre.
We board the bus and continue on to Serbia.
Evening arrival in Belgrade, check into our floating boat hotel and head out for dinner and drinks.
Overnight in Belgrade.
Friday 4th June – Belgrade, Serbia:
Head out to explore Belgrade and join a Communist tour. Find out the most interesting stories about former Yugoslavia, World War II, Tito’s life, Youth relay baton movement, 90’s war, NATO bombing of Serbia and Montenegro in 1999 and democratic changes at the beginning of the third millennium. Visit Museum of Yugoslav history which is also a resting place for the lifetime president of Yugoslavia, Tito. See such sites as the Republic Square, Bohemian Quarter, Kalemegdan Park, and the Belgrade Fortress.
Explore the grounds of rival teams Red Star Belgrade and Partizan Belgrade, whose stadiums are covered in interesting political graffiti. Both of these teams have infamous gangs of Ultras, many of whom formed ruthless paramilitary squads during the 90’s wars.
Head out for dinner and drinks in a traditional Serbian restaurant.
Saturday 5th June – Eastern Serbia:
Breakfast at the hotel before we hit the road on an epic road trip across Serbia.
Our first stop will be the city of Nis, here we’ll visit the infamous skull tower. During the time of the Ottoman Empire, Serbian rebels took on Ottoman forces at the battle of Cegar in 1809. Facing defeat, the rebels decided to blow themselves up rather than face capture. The Ottomans collected their heads and stuck them in a tower for all to see, today many of the skulls still remain embedded with human remains.
We’ll visit an epic Yugoslav Spomenik of three gigantic fists symbolizing resistance to Nazi oppression during WW2.
Our next stop will be the mysterious devils town. Whether petrified wedding guests who, on devil’s orders wanted to marry a brother and sister, or people petrified by the witch as they didn’t fulfill their promise; high stone formations are surrounded by mystery and legends. A rare natural phenomenon, the site was recently nominated for the New Seven Wonders of Nature campaign.
We’ll enjoy a traditional Serbian meal in Devils Town before we head to the border with one of the youngest countries in the world: Kosovo!
Check into our hotel and overnight in Pristina, Kosovo.
Sunday 6th June – Kosovo:
We wake up early and grab breakfast before heading to the bus station for the short bus journey to Mitrovica.
This tense and divided city has been the scene of numerous bloody fights and international incidents. Divided into two parts by a river, Kosovar and Serbian, each side is like crossing into a different nation.
We will arrive on the Kosovar side and grab lunch in a local restaurant, before exploring the sights on this side of the river.
We then cross the tense bridge, guarded by international peacekeepers, and enter the Serbian side. We will see huge political murals honouring Serb commanders, generals, and paramilitaries as well as visit a bizarre souvenir shop that sells every pro-Russian, pro-Putin and pro-Serbian thing you can imagine.
We then take a leisurely walk to the top of the town, where there is an awesome Communist monument and incredible views over this divided city, you will likely see some international Black Hawk helicopters patrolling the city from here.
We cross back into the Kosovar side and catch the bus back to Pristina.
On arrival we start our city tour of Pristina, taking in things like the Bill Clinton statue, and stroll past the university to the Grand Hotel and UNMIK, the Skenderberg monument and the new Government Building, then the historic mosques and the tight lanes of the Old Quarter. You will see cafes, street market stalls, kids hawking cigarettes and phone cards, plus the vibrant community life of Kosovo’s biggest city.
Free time back at the hotel before we head out for a group dinner in an awesome local restaurant, where you will be brought numerous local dishes until you can take no more!
Overnight in Pristina.
● End of Group 1
Monday 7th June – Skopje, Macedonia:
We get up early for our private transport to Skopje, Macedonia
We’ll check into our hotel overlooking Skopje and set out to explore the city
This is a smooth ride through stunning mountain scenery, and border control is usually fast and easy.
We’ll arrive in the mid afternoon and check into our hotel in the hills of Skopje.
After getting settled, we will take a walk into town and have some Macedonian street food.
We’ll then start our city tour of Skopje taking in the monument to Broz Tito and the vendetta tower used for protection against blood feuds — an ancient violent law that still binds many people in the Balkans.
We’ll pay a visit to the Mother Teresa museum before marvelling at the many gaudy statues that make up Skopje, including the centrepiece of Alexander the Great on horseback, which cost almost 10 million euro.
We’ll cross the ancient stone bridge into the charming Ottoman Old Town and step into a different world. This is the perfect place to pick up cheap antiques and try Turkish tea, coffee and sweets.
We’ll see the formidable fortress of Skopje, which is stunning when illuminated at night.
Free time to explore at your own pace before meeting up back at the hotel for a traditional Macedonian dinner.
Overnight in Skopje
Tuesday 8th June – Tirana, Albania:
Grab breakfast at the hotel and enjoy a free morning in Skopje before we board our private bus to Albania’s capital, Tirana.
Evening arrival in Tirana and check into the centrally located hotel.
Head out in the evening for some awesome Albanian food, followed by Rakia in a spinning sky bar in downtown Tirana. Doesn’t drinking grape-based moonshine while spinning in a circle at the top of one of Tirana’s tallest buildings sound like a great idea?
Overnight in Tirana.
Wednesday 9th June – Tirana, Albania:
Breakfast at the hotel before an extensive city tour of Albania with a local guide, we will see many relics of the Communist regime, including a bizarre and foreboding pyramid that is perfect for climbing up for those who are brave enough!
Lunch at one of Tirana’s many great restaurants, with the option to eat in the ironic KFC that now overlooks the former home of Enver Hoxha.
We then head to the infamous house of leaves, this was the surveillance centre that the communist authorities used to spy on the population of Albania, foreign embassies and the rare foreign tourists that dared to enter the country back then.
We then pay a visit to one of Tirana’s best kept secrets: a collection of hulking Soviet statues hidden beneath an alleyway. While it is not allowed to enter, as always, your YPT guide can get around it and allow you to get some great shots of Tirana’s former Lenin and Stalin monuments!
We then head to one of the vast former government bunkers of the Hoxha regime, this is where the running of the country would have been coordinated from in the event of an expected nuclear war and is a great insight into the advanced paranoia of the regime.
Free time to rest up before heading out for dinner followed by drinks in Blloku neighbourhood, which was the former area where the most loyal of the Communist party all lived, it’s now full of awesome bars and live music.
Overnight in Hotel.
Thursday 10th June – Albanian Coast:
We grab breakfast in the hotel before beginning our much loved beaches and bunkers tour where we will be heading to the stunning Albanian Riviera, Albania boasts an array of untouched mediterranean coastline, minus the mass of tourists.
On the way, we will stop at the family farm of a hospitable Albanian family. Their farm is home to a mass of ammunition and artillery bunkers from the Communist era. Today, the family use them to brew wine. We’ll be invited to their shaded dining area next to a private lake before being treated to as much mouth watering Albanian food, wine and Raki as you like.
We’ll then reach the coast where you’ll have the chance to hike on cliffs above the azure blue waters of the Adriatic, explore the mass of abandoned Communist bunkers dotted along the coast and finally, we spend a few hours at the beach for people to relax, swim, or grab a few beers and take in the views.
Head back to Tirana for dinner and drinks.
Overnight in hotel.
Friday 11th June – Tirana, Albania:
End of tour
Onward transport to Tirana airport or further destinations can be arranged