Danube Express Budapest-Venice Balkan Odyssey


11-Day Escorted Tour

Luxury

The Tour

Explore Eastern Europe’s Balkans on the Golden Eagle Danube Express‘ Balkan Odyssey luxury rail journey. This is a region synonymous with history and legend, stunning architecture and colorful people, yet also with war and tragedy. In one glorious sweep, you’ll travel from Budapest, where you’ll spend two nights at the famed Four Seasons Gresham Palace, then through Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Slovenia, and on into Venice’s Santa Lucia Station.  And you’ll do so in comfort, aboard the Golden Eagle Danube Express.

The Danube Express‘ Balkan Odyssey passes through some of Europe’s most poignant and destructive periods of conflict, complemented by a fascinating insight into the future of modern Europe. The city of Budapest, a remarkable blend of medieval and Baroque style, is our starting point for this remarkable journey. Before boarding our exclusive train, we will take time to discover the absorbing history of the once divided cities of Buda and Pest and explore some of its modern day customs.

Settle in to your private compartments aboard the elegant Golden Eagle Danube Express as your rail voyage meanders through stunningly beautiful countryside and awe-inspiring mountain ranges on an exploration of the mythical Transylvania region. We then route westwards though the intriguing countries of the former Yugoslavia.  At the end of this remarkable journey, we reach the stunning maritime city of Venice, a unique mix of Gothic and Renaissance palaces perched on the edge of the Italian coast.

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“…its riveting itineraries, fully inclusive pricing and comfort undoubtedly put it in the forefront of luxurious European railway travel.”

— Angela Walker, Vice President, Operations, The Society of International Railway Travelers®, following her May, 2015 journey on the Danube Express.

The Itinerary

Day 1: Budapest (Hungary)
Arrive Budapest, where you will be met and transferred to the Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace for a two-night stay. Enjoy a welcome reception dinner in the elegant surroundings of this art nouveau landmark where you can meet your fellow travelers on this highly anticipated journey.

Day 2: Budapest (Hungary)
Budapest is actually two cities separated by the Danube. The old city of Buda and the imposing Royal Palace dominate the city skyline and provide stunning views across the Danube to the commercial heart of Pest. Our city tour includes the Royal Palace, St. Mathias Church, and a panoramic view of the city from Gellert Hill. We will also see the Citadel, the Opera House, St Stephen’s Cathedral, Heroes Square, and the City Park.

The rest of the day is at leisure where you can stroll along the banks of the Danube, visit the historic Great Market Hall, with its endless variety of delicious foods and wines, or head to one of the city’s famous thermal baths for a rejuvenating dip. Alternatively you can relax at the hotel and indulge in the hotel’s luxurious spa with infinity-edge pool or make use of the state-of-the-art fitness center.

Day 3: Lajosmizse & Kecskemet (Hungary)
We enjoy a morning drinks reception in the impressive Royal Waiting Room at Budapest Nyugati station before boarding the Golden Eagle Danube Express. Settle in to your cabin and later enjoy lunch as the train heads to Lajosmizse for a spectacular ‘Puszta’ horse show.

Later in the afternoon we travel the short distance to explore Kecskemét, a fascinating city at the geographical center of Hungary.

Back onboard, enjoy a pre-dinner drink in the Lounge Car as the train continues across the Great Hungarian Plain and dine as we head towards Transylvania.

Day 4: Brasov & Sighisoara (Romania)
Today we arrive in Sighisoara for a walking tour of the town’s highlights. A World Heritage site rumored to be the birthplace of Dracula, it is one of the best-preserved fortified medieval towns in Europe. Burgher houses and ornate churches line its cobbled streets.

We return to the train for lunch as we continue onto Brasov for a tour of Bran Castle. Popularly known as Dracula’s Castle, this beautiful 14th century building is situated amongst stunning mountain scenery.

Back onboard later this evening, the train twists and turns as it climbs over the Carpathian Mountains and threads its way through the dramatic landscape with crystal clear mountain streams. Dinner is served as our train continues onto Bulgaria.

Day 5: Veliko Tarnovo & Plovdiv (Bulgaria)
We arrive after breakfast in Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria’s ancient capital. Nestled in a magnificent mountain setting, the stone houses seem perched, one above the other, on the steep banks of the Yantra River.

A tour includes the superbly preserved medieval Tsarevets Hill and Castle, and there is free time to wander through the streets of the ancient city.

Plovdiv is the second largest city in Bulgaria after Sofia. ‘The City of Seven Hills’ is one of the oldest cities in Europe with more than 200 known archaeological sites. We spend the late afternoon here exploring the many sights in the charming Old Town including its ancient theaters, medieval walls and Ottoman baths.

Day 6: Belgrade (Serbia)
Arrive this morning in the Serbian capital of Belgrade. Located at the strategic meeting point of the Danube and Sava Rivers, this truly cosmopolitan city has fortifications dating from Celtic times, medieval tombs and Turkish baths.

Our comprehensive morning city tour includes Town Hall, Republic Square, Knez Mihajlova Street, and a visit to Tito’s memorial, as well as ‘Varos’ Gate.

Day 7: Mostar & Sarajevo (Bosnia & Herzegovina)
This morning we tour the historic city of Mostar, the crossroads of many civilizations, cultures and three religions. Mostar was one of the most important cities of the Ottoman Empire. The town’s renowned stone arch bridge linking the Christian and Muslim areas was re-built in the summer of 2004. We also visit Turkish House and the mosque before walking through the narrow, bazaar streets, where you can shop for traditional souvenirs and handicrafts.

An early afternoon arrival into the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo which is an intriguing blend of Eastern and Western culture; it has mosques and minarets, an ancient bazaar and an atmospheric old Turkish quarter. Discover the city’s poignant history through a truly absorbing tour detailing the horrors of the Balkan War. Sarajevo suffered from the longest siege of a capital city in the history of modern warfare. The scars of war are still evident as we travel past war-torn buildings and we make a special visit to the Tunnel Museum under Sarajevo Airport. Your guide, who lived through the 1992-1996 conflict, brings to life in touching fashion the struggles the citizens of Sarajevo faced during the siege of the city.

Day 8: Ljubljana (Slovenia)
Today we enjoy a full day visiting the beautiful Slovenian capital city of Ljubljana and the surrounding region. We begin at Predjama Castle, perched on a cliff high above the beautiful Inner Carniola region. Explore the chambers and stairwells and learn about the castle’s most famous resident, Erazem of Predjama. Then, we continue to Postojna Cave as we ride a mini-train deep underground and tour the ethereal network of stalactites, stalagmites and caverns.

From here we return to the city and discover Ljubljana, a delightful combination of ancient architecture and youthful culture. Our afternoon tour includes visits to Preseren Square, Three Bridges, and Dragon Bridge.

Day 9: Trieste & Venice (Italy)
This morning our private train arrives into the Italian port city of Trieste for a short tour. We stop at the vast Piazza Unita d’Italia, the main town square, and can climb the hill to the famous Church of San Giusto built around a medieval complex that dates backs to the 13th century. We will go inside the church for a closeup view of the splendid Byzantine-style architecture replete with precious mosaics.

We enjoy our final lunch on board as we leave Trieste and follow the Adriatic coast towards Mestre, where our train curves to the left onto the 3-mile causeway across the Venice Lagoon and into Venice Santa Lucia station located on the Grand Canal. We say farewell to our train crew and transfer by boat to the five-star Danieli hotel (or similar) for a two-night stay. The hotel enjoys a spectacular location and is only a short stroll from St Mark’s Square, the Doge’s Palace and the Bridge of Sighs.

Day 10: Venice (Italy)
Venice is a truly captivating city of romance; its unrivaled beauty takes away the breath of first time visitors and regulars alike. We have the opportunity to take a walking tour around the highlights of this spectacular city. Walk through the winding lanes beside the Grand Canal to St. Mark’s Square, which for 1,000 years was the heart of Venetian life. We also see St. Mark’s Basilica and stroll through the Rialto Market.

Alternatively, you can enjoy the city at your own pace today. Perhaps take an iconic gondola ride (additional cost) in the Basin of St. Mark’s and along the Grand Canal or stroll through the artists’ district of Dorsoduro, stopping to take in the city’s most breathtaking views from the Accademia Bridge. Simply enjoy the city at your leisure.

This evening we will enjoy a farewell reception dinner at a local restaurant, giving you the opportunity to reflect on your journey through this fascinating part of Europe.

Day 11: Venice (Italy)
Following breakfast in the hotel, you will be transferred to the airport for your flight home. Alternately, choose to extend your stay in Venice for additional nights to explore more of this fascinating city.

Tour also runs Northbound (Venice-Budapest). Lajosmizse and Kecskemet are not included on the Northbound tour. Call or email us for details.

2017 Dates:

September 7-17 (Budapest to Venice) Departed (Venice to Budapest)

2018 Dates:

June 8-18 (Budapest to Venice)
June 15-25 (Venice to Budapest)
September 9-19 (Budapest to Venice)

The Prices

2017 & 2018 Pricing Double Single Deposit
Heritage Class $9,195 $13,695 $1,500
Deluxe Class $14,695 $24,695 $2,000
Deluxe Superior Class $17,595 $29,595 $2,500

All pricing is per person.

Other

For a detailed report on the 2015 Balkan Odyssey journey, please read Angela Walker’s post on our blog, Track 25.

Included in the tour price:

• Arrival and departure transfers.

• A generous drink allowance, including wine, is included with lunch and dinner.

• All gratuities.

• All off-train touring, with personal headsets to make it easy to hear your guide.

• Complimentary tea, coffee and bottled drinking water are available in your cabin 24 hours a day.

• An on-board doctor, with medical facilities, is available, should the need arise.

• 24-hour service attendant.

• Porterage of bags; your bags will be stowed for you on the train and transported to your hotel at the end of your trip.

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The Highlights

  • Travel through seven European countries, with six nights on board the Danube Express
  • Special visit to the Tunnel Museum under Sarajevo Airport with a guide who lived through the 1992-96 conflict
  • Excursion to Dracula’s Castle (Bran Castle)
  • Traditional Puszta Horse Show
  • Accommodation in five-star Four Seasons Gresham Palace Budapest for 2 nights
  • Accommodation in five-star Hotel Danieli in Venice (or similar) for 2 nights
Serbian dancers greet Golden Eagle Danube Express guests in Belgrade.  Photo by IRT / Angela Walker.
Serbian dancers greet Golden Eagle Danube Express guests in Belgrade. Photo by IRT / Angela Walker.
Dining car of the Golden Eagle Danube Express.  Photo by IRT / Angela Walker.
Dining car of the Golden Eagle Danube Express. Photo by IRT / Angela Walker.
Stone arch bridge in Mostar.  Photo by IRT / Angela Walker.
Stone arch bridge in Mostar. Photo by IRT / Angela Walker.
Budapest tram, with Buda Castle in the background. Photo by IRT / Angela Walker.
Budapest tram, with Buda Castle in the background. Photo by IRT / Angela Walker.