Balkan Odyssey

From Budapest to Venice aboard the Golden Eagle Danube Express

Overview

Aboard a luxury train, the Golden Eagle Danube Express, journey through seven countries—from Hungary and Romania to Slovenia and Italy (and many stops in between!)—and discover the  enchanting cities and delightful landscapes of Transylvania and the captivating atmosphere of the Balkan nations. You’ll relish the leisurely pace as you’re transported to some of Europe’s most intriguing destinations with their cultural and artistic attractions, while enjoying the intimacy of your private carriage.

 

Note: This rail journey is not exclusive to, nor operated by, Wilderness Travel, who acts solely as agent in booking your reservation with the operator. The itinerary, lecturers, and all other arrangements are subject to change at the discretion of the operator.

Itinerary at a Glance

Day 1, Aug 5, 2023
Budapest, Hungary

Arrive in Budapest, where you will be met and transferred to the five-star Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace (or similar) for a two-night stay. Enjoy a welcome reception dinner in the elegant surrounds of this Art Nouveau landmark, where you can meet your fellow travelers on this highly anticipated journey.

Day 2, Aug 6, 2023
Budapest

Budapest is actually two cities separated by the Danube. The old city of Buda and the imposing Royal Palace dominate the city with stunning views across the Danube to the commercial heart of Pest. Your city tour includes the Royal Palace, St. Mathias Church, and a panoramic view of the city from Gellert Hill. You 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 so 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.

Day 3, Aug 7, 2023
Lajosmizse / Keckemet, Hungary

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. Afterwards there is free time to explore Kecskemét, a fascinating city at the geographical center of Hungary. Back on board, enjoy a pre-dinner drink in the Bar Lounge Car as the train continues across the Great Hungarian Plain and dine as the train heads toward Transylvania.

Day 4, Aug 8, 2023
Sighisoara, Romania / Brasov

Today you will arrive in Sighisoara for a walking tour of the town’s main 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. Return onboard for lunch as the train continues onto Brasov for a tour of Bran Castle. Popularly known as Dracula’s Castle, this beautiful 14th century building is situated amid 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 the train continues to Bulgaria.

Day 5, Aug 9, 2023
Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria / Plovdiv

Arrive 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, known as “The City of Seven Hills,” is the second largest city in Bulgaria and one of the oldest cities in Europe, with more than 200 known archaeological sites. You will spend the afternoon here exploring the many sights in the charming Old Town including its ancient theatres, medieval walls, and Ottoman baths.

Day 6, Aug 10, 2023
Belgrade, Serbia

Arrive this morning in the Serbian capital, Belgrade. Located at the strategic meeting point of the Danube and Sava Rivers, this truly cosmopolitan city has fortifications from Celtic times, medieval tombs, and Turkish baths. You will spend a full day here and your city tour includes Tito’s memorial, the Town Hall, Republic Square, and Knez Mihajlova Street, as well as Varos Gate and a visit to the mighty Kalemegdan Fortress.

Day 7, Aug 11, 2023
Mostar, Bosnia & Herzegovina / Sarajevo

This morning, 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. You will also visit a local mosque before walking through the narrow bazaar streets, where you can shop for traditional souvenirs and handicrafts. Early afternoon arrival into the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo, 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 you travel past war-torn buildings, and you will 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, Aug 12, 2023
Ljubljana, Slovenia

Today you will enjoy a visit to the beautiful capital city of Ljubljana, a delightful combination of ancient architecture and a youthful culture, with visits to Preseren Square, Three Bridges, and Dragon Bridge. You will then travel out of the city to visit 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, continue to Postojna Cave as you ride a mini-train deep into the famous cave and tour the ethereal network of stalactites, stalagmites, and caverns.

Day 9, Aug 13, 2023
Trieste, Italy / Venice

This morning the Golden Eagle Danube Express arrives in the Italian port of Trieste for a short tour. Stop at the vast Piazza Unita d’Italia, the main town square, and climb the hill to the famous Church of San Giusto, built around a medieval complex that dates backs to the 13th century. You will go inside the church for a close-up view of the splendid Byzantine-style architecture enriched with precious mosaics. Enjoy a farewell lunch onboard as you leave Trieste and follow the Adriatic coast toward Mestre, where the train curves to the left onto the 3-mile causeway across the Venice Lagoon and into Santa Lucia station on the Grand Canal. Bid farewell to the train and 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, Aug 14, 2023
Venice

Venice is a truly captivating city of romance; its unrivaled beauty takes away the breath of first-time visitors and regulars alike. You will 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. You will 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 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, 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, Aug 15, 2023
Venice / Depart

Following breakfast you will be transferred to the airport for onward flight departures. There is also an option to extend your stay in Venice for additional nights to explore more of this fascinating city.

Highlights

Highlights

See a traditional Hungarian "Puszta" equestrian show
Walk the UNESCO-honored streets of Sighisoara, the fabled birthplace of Count Dracula
Visit one of the world’s best preserved Roman amphitheatres in ancient Plovdiv
Discover Sarajevo’s poignant history through a truly absorbing guided tour of the city
Explore the ethereal Postojna Cave network of limestone caverns and monuments
Enjoy a gondola ride through the iconic waterways of romantic Venice

Details

Length: 11 days
Cost From: $16,295  
Arrive: Budapest, Hungary
Depart: Venice, Italy
Lodging: 6 nights aboard the Golden Eagle Danube Express, 4 nights hotels
Meals: All meals included
Activity: Cultural Adventures, Walking, Journeying by Rail
Trip Level:

7-day rail journey, cultural explorations and walking tours