A guided tour of Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea. Old-fashioned hospitality in the communist D
Over the course of this intense 13-day tour we’re going to cruise across Serbia, Bosnia & Herzegovina then Croatia, as we tour the Balkans in search of Yugoslav-era memorial sites. It won’t just be concrete and steel we’re looking at though – along the way we’ll see mountains and lakes, explore underground tunnels, we’ll stay in ridiculously Brutalist hotels and get to know the people who make up this diverse and colourful region of Eastern Europe.
13 DAYS & 12 NIGHTS
28 SEPT-10 OCT 2018
3 Places Left
Transport. Over the course of these 13 days we’ll travel more than 2,200km, and through three very different countries. Comfort is a priority – so we will have our own private bus for the journey, a modern, air-conditioned vehicle with a professional driver.
Hotels. All 12 nights of accommodation are included. Sometimes we’ll stay at modern 4-star resorts, while other nights we’ll be immersed in retro hospitality at Brutalist-style 1970s hotels. Some of these buildings are as interesting as any monument we’ll see.
Food. The price of the tour includes a daily breakfast, usually a full breakfast buffet at our hotel. Four evening meals are also included in the price – the first night, the last night, and a banquet dinner in both of the other two capitals.
The Tour. All entry fees related to the tour are included in the cost. In addition to a dedicated driver there’ll be two guides on hand throughout: myself and a local colleague, who between us will be able to answer your questions, share stories, provide translations and generally make sure your needs are being met.
Why ‘Special Edition’?
I have run this particular tour two times so far, and I already have two planned for 2019. But the former Yugoslav region is vast, and there’s so much to see… more than I could ever hope to fit into any single tour.
For that reason, every so often I like to try adding new sights, cities and experiences to these tours. This Special Edition version of my Yugoslav Memorial Tour is going to do exactly that: I reversed the route, included a few surprises, and I have also added new monuments that have never featured on these tours before.
As a result this trip will feel much more adventurous than any tour I’ve run for a while. I have also lowered the price of this tour to reflect its ever-so-slightly experimental nature, and if you’re the kind of person who usually likes to travel independently, then the flexibility of this new trial route is going to make it a perfect fit for you.
NB. The following itinerary should be taken as guidelines, not gospel. Due to the somewhat experiemental nature of this tour, we might make detours along the way or investigate locations outside of the set plan. But rest assured – we will see at least as many sites as I’ve listed below, with a number of special surprises to be thrown in along the way.
The tour begins with a gentle introduction to Serbia, and a chance to get to know your fellow travellers. We will meet at our accommodation, Hotel Jugoslavija, located in the Novi Beograd district of Belgrade. It’s just a short taxi ride from the airport, in a part of the city famed for its Brutalist and Modernist architecture.
We’ll admire some of the local sights around Novi Beograd, before settling down for a traditional Serbian dinner.
SLEEP: Belgrade, Serbia
After breakfast we’ll have a walk through Belgrade – taking in sights such as Republic Square, the Kalemegdan Fortress, and looking at the city’s diverse architecture ranging from Serbo-Byzantine to Postmodernist.
Lunch is a traditional meal in the Old Town area – ‘Skadarlija’ – then in the afternoon we’ll visit an abandoned factory on the outskirts of Belgrade [pictured], and, access allowing, take a look inside a derelict Nazi bunker.
SLEEP: Belgrade, Serbia
Today we’ll drive south to the Šumarice Memorial Park at Kragujevac: a site of terrible atrocities during WWII and now a place of great national significance. We’ll visit the museum, then explore this massive park on foot as we admire the many monuments placed in memory of the victims.
By early evening we’ll arrive in Niš, heading straight up to visit the Bubanj Memorial Complex [pictured].
SLEEP: Niš, Serbia
Before leaving Niš we’ll visit the Red Cross concentration camp museum – and then we’re on the road again.
Southern Serbia is densely packed with bizarre Yugoslav-era monuments. We’ll visit some of the best ones today – stopping at the Mausoleum in Čačak, the Monument to the Brave at Ostra, and the Sniper Monument at Popina, before finally arriving at our accommodation for the night: the ridiculously Brutalist ‘Zlatibor Hotel’ in Užice [pictured].
SLEEP: Užice, Serbia
Užice is a paradise for fans of Brutalist architecture. We’ll take a walk through the city in the morning, then later we’ll visit the nearby Kadinjača Memorial Complex. After that we bid Serbia “Zbogom,” as we cross the border into Bosnia.
We’ll drive first to the Tjentište Monument, in Sutjeska National Park [pictured]. We reach Sarajevo in the evening – heading out after dark to get out first taste of the Bosnian capital.
SLEEP: Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina
Today you’ll learn about the 1992-96 Siege of Sarajevo, as survivors share their stories with you during a walking tour of the abandoned Olympic bobsleigh track which became a front line during the conflict [pictured].
In the afternoon you’ll have some free time to explore. Sarajevo is an extraordinary place – it is rich and layered with history – and in the evening you’ll have the opportunity to sample a thriving contemporary craft beer scene, too.
SLEEP: Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina
In the morning we drive north. There’ll be more monuments to look at along the way, before lunch in the historic city of Zenica. By late afternoon we’ll arrive in Banja Luka: the largest city in Bosnia’s ‘Republika Srpska’ region.
Here we will take a look around the city centre, and there will also be an option of an early evening hike: to visit the grand Socialist-realist mausoleum that rises on a nearby hilltop [pictured].
SLEEP: Banja Luka, Bosnia & Herzegovina
Crossing the north of Bosnia today, we’ll drive first to Mount Kozara, to visit the memorial tower built on the site of a WWII battlefield [pictured]. Next we continue west to Bihać to see the Garavice Memorial Park, and learn about the town’s troubled history.
After that, we’re crossing the border – out of Bosnia, and entering Croatia to reach our final stop, a cosy guesthouse in the Plitvice National Park.
SLEEP: Plitvice, Croatia
Today, you’ll have the morning to admire the famous Plitvice Lakes, and after that we’re planning to explore (access allowing) the nearby Željava Air Base, an abandoned tunnel complex hidden deep beneath a mountain on the Croatian-Bosnian border.
By early evening we’ll visit the largest monument of this tour – the colossal memorial house on Petrova Gora [pictured] – before driving on north to the Croatian capital.
SLEEP: Zagreb, Croatia
We have two nights in Zagreb, which gives us a full day of relaxed exploring in between. You will have free time in the morning, then in the afternoon we’ll meet for an organised walking tour.
First we’ll immerse ourselves in the history of the city, before heading up the mountain to see an abandoned sanatorium [pictured]. Later we’ll return to the centre for dinner and drinks.
SLEEP: Zagreb, Croatia
A handful of curious Croatian monuments await us today. We’ll make stops at the iconic monuments in Podgarić and Sisak, before driving south to Jasenovac: to visit the ‘Stone Flower’ memorial that marks the site of a former WWII concentration camp [pictured].
After the Jasenovac monument and museum it’s one more hour from here to our accommodation, a traditional-styled hotel in the town of Slavonski Brod.
SLEEP: Slavonski Brod, Croatia
On our last full day we’ll make our first stop in Vukovar, where we’ll visit the peculiar Dudik Memorial Park.
After that we cross the border back into Serbia, reaching Belgrade by mid-afternoon and heading straight to see the Museum of Yugoslav History and Tito’s tomb in the ‘House of Flowers’ [pictured]. By early evening we’ll be back at Hotel Jugoslavija, ready to wind down with one final dinner and drinks in the Serbian capital.
SLEEP: Belgrade, Serbia
Day 13: Tour Ends.
Breakfast on Monday will be our last group meal… but the fun doesn’t have to end there. If you still have the energy, I’ll be glad to provide you with a map of more things to see and do in the Serbian capital. When you’ve had your fill, Belgrade has one of the best-connected airports in the Balkans, making it easy to plan the next stage of your journey from here.
Testimonials for Previous Tours
The combination of breadth and depth of information, knowledge of hidden places, genuine warmth, and affordable prices is hard to beat. 100% recommended!
Darmon is an excellent guide, and this tour has become one of the highlights of my travelling experiences. I can’t recommend it highly enough.
– David J.
There’s such a huge amount of knowledge, time and love gone into the planning. I saw buildings and monuments that I never thought I would be able to visit… and stood in places that were more moving than I thought possible. It’s a fantastic experience, you should go.
– Matty M.
The Small Print
Still got questions? You might well find the answer below… but if not, feel free to send me a message.
What does the price not include?
Airfares. The tour begins and ends in Belgrade, Serbia. You’ll need to arrange your own transport in getting there.
Travel insurance. You’ll need to sort this out for yourself before you travel.
Meals. Apart from breakfasts and four evening meals, your food won’t be included in the tour price.
Drinks. I reserve the right to sometimes surprise you with a cocktail… but I’m afraid I won’t be picking up your bar tab!
Other costs. This should go without saying, but just to be clear: I can’t help you with any additional airline charges, Paypal fees, credit card fines or bail payments.
What makes this tour so special?
As far as I know this tour is one of a kind… and what’s more, I think it’s important. Tour buses used to arrive at these memorial sites every day of the year, but ever since the collapse of Yugoslavia they stopped coming. Over the course of 13 days, we’re going to visit 20+ remarkable monuments and treat them to the well-deserved attention that they’ve been largely missing for these past few decades. We will honour them not as political symbols, but rather as extraordinary works of art commemorating events which should never be forgotten.
Why aren’t all meals included in the price?
On my 7-day Bulgaria tours, I have really enjoyed offering evening meals as a part of the inclusive package. I’ve taken the group to some of my favourite restaurants, always booking ahead to arrange particular speciality dishes or platters for sharing. This time around though, it just isn’t practical.
We’ll be crossing three borders on this tour, which means more than a quarter of our evening meals would need to be arranged from a foreign country. Given that this is a longer tour, I’m also assuming that people will likely want some time to themselves sooner or later – so I don’t want to lock you into the same dining arrangement for 12 nights in a row.
We will still get to enjoy a fancy banquet together at least once in every capital city… but this way you can opt for room service and a movie some nights, without feeling like you’re losing out on the deal.
Will I be sharing a room with someone?
Yes – for the standard price you’ll be sharing a twin room with someone else. Naturally, I’ll try to pair you with someone you get on with… or if you’re travelling with a friend or partner already, then that’s even easier.
Alternatively, if you’d like a room to yourself just let me know. There’ll be an additional €320 charge for having your own single room throughout the tour.
Will I have a chance to take photos?
I’ve been on a few of those tours in the past where groups are rushed from one place to another so fast that there’s barely time to set up a tripod. This isn’t going to be like that, though. If you follow this site then you’ll already know that I’m passionate about photography – and there’s no way I would bring you to places this photogenic, without ensuring you’ve got plenty of time to capture the experience.
Can I go off exploring on my own?
Sure. There’s absolutely nothing stopping you from heading out on your own some days, if you want to. I can gladly recommend walking routes, shops, markets, museums, parks and various other places of interest. I’ve already factored some down-time into the itinerary, and I’m not going to be offended if you feel like you need a little more.
Just please, keep an eye on the schedule – I’d hate to keep the bus waiting because one of our crew’s gone missing.
But I’ve heard that Serbia/Croatia/Bosnia is dangerous…
It’s understandable – the Balkans doesn’t exactly have a stable history, and some of the places we visit you might only have heard of in association with war-time news stories. But times are changing. Adventure tourism is really taking off in these countries, driven largely by outstanding natural scenery and the very warm hospitality of local cultures. By the end of the tour, I expect you’ll feel as comfortable here as I do.
Am I going to get tired of looking at concrete?
The truth is, there’s so much more to this tour than just the monuments themselves. These objects were typically built in really interesting places: on mountain peaks, in forests, in city centres or right out in the middle of nowhere. As a result, our surroundings will constantly be changing.
Meanwhile, these tours seem to attract a reliably decent bunch of people. We trek through mountain landscapes together, we explore tunnels by flashlight, get lost in forests and generally have a good time. And then there’s the food… to say that we eat well on these tours would be an understatement.
A prior obsession with bizarre architecture will be a bonus – but it certainly isn’t mandatory.
What happens if I need to cancel my place? Can I get a refund?
I don’t want your money if you’re not coming with us… but at the same time, the moment you commit to this tour I’m going to start planning things around you. It’ll cost me money to receive your payment, and so 10% of the tour cost is non-refundable in order to cover these handling fees.
If you want to cancel your place more than a month before the tour starts, then just tell me – and I’ll send you back the full price minus handling fees right away. The closer we get to the tour though, the harder it’ll be for me to fill your place on the bus. For this reason, if you cancel less than a month before the tour starts then I’ll need to hang onto 50% of the amount as security against empty seats.
In the highly unlikely event that it’s me who cancels, then you’ll get everything back – I’ll refund you the whole lot, including any charges incurred during the transfer.
How do I sign up?
Your place on the tour is guaranteed the moment you put down your first payment.
The tour costs €1,770 per person. If you want a single hotel room throughout the tour, then it’ll be €2,090. I’m also happy to take the payment in two instalments, if you prefer… though in this case there will be additional handling fees to consider.
For any more information, or to talk about reserving your seat, just get in touch.