Tour Croatia: Fabled Illyria and the Adriatic Coast
Tour Croatia and visit sites in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania and Italy.
with Professor John France
Why Take This Tour?
- Led by Far Horizons’ popular medieval specialist, Professor John France
- Visit 11 UNESCO World Heritage Sites
- Enjoy a specially arranged opening of St. Mary’s Church in Beram
- Travel through five countries along the Adriatic Sea
Day 1: Depart the USA.
Day 2: Arrive Zagreb. Archaeology Museum.
Day 3: Zagreb City Tour. Transfer to Opatija.
Day 4: Pula, Porec, St. Mary’s Church in Beram.
Day 5: Senj, Zadar.
Day 6: Vrana, Sibenik. Transfer to Split.
Day 7: Split tour. Trogir. Velika Tombstone Graveyard.
Day 8: Ston, Narona Museum in Vid. Dubrovnik Walking Tour.
Day 9: Free day in Dubrovnik.
Day 10: Mostar, Pocitelj in Bosnia & Herzegovina.
Day 11: Sokol Tower, Barbara Graveyard. Kotor in Montenegro.
Day 12: Durres, Albania City Tour. Ferry to Bari, Italy.
Day 13: Bari City Tour.
Day 14: Castel del Monte, Alberobello, Castle Gioia del Colle.
Day 15: Fly from Bari back to the USA.
The Adriatic Sea has long been a ‘highway’ of civilizations from prehistoric times to present day. During classical antiquity, the Illyrians inhabited the eastern Adriatic coast, and Rome controlled the waterway from the 1st century until the Ostrogoths, Lombards and Byzantine Empire took over. It was the path of the crusaders on the Fourth Crusade as they marched towards Istanbul, and the Venetians, beginning in 1409, controlled Dalmatia for nearly four hundred years. Each of these cultures has left their indelible mark.
Join Far Horizons’ popular study leader and medieval specialist, Professor John France, along with only 13 others, to meander from northern Croatia through Bosnia & Herzegovna, Montenegro, and Albania, with a final stop in Bari, Italy. Explore Roman remains, magnificent castles, medieval churches and cathedrals filled with stunning paintings, and Ottoman fortified frontier villages. But wait there’s more! See beautifully-decorated medieval tombstones, lovely traditional villages little changed over the centuries, and trulli, characteristic dry-stone conical-roofed houses in Alberobello in Italy.
John France received his PhD from Nottingham University, is Professor Emeritus from Swansea University in Wales, and is a renowned specialist on the Medieval Period. He is the author of The Crusades and the Expansion of Catholic Christendom, Western Warfare in the Age of the Crusades, and Victory in the East: A Military History of the First Crusade. Additionally, Professor France has edited several important books including Medieval Warfare, Warfare in the Dark Ages, and War and Peace in Ancient and Medieval History. As a result of his research covering this period, he has compiled an electronic database of lives of saints prior to the year 1000. He is also an editor of the Journal of Medieval History. Dr. France was a featured scholar on the History Channel’s impressive two-part documentary, The Crusades: Crescent & the Cross. His knowledge of the Middle Ages and his impressive teaching skills will bring to life the ancient cultures of the Adriatic Coast.
‘John France was the highlight of this trip. His command of the topic knew no end, and he was very able to explain some complicated issues in an understandable way. In addition, he is a warm and most friendly person. We really enjoyed seeing how excited he got over some of the sites!’ – Graham & Jacque Loynd
‘Superlative. I cannot say enough great things about John, his knowledge, his sociability, his willingness to answer questions and interact; he is amazing. His ‘lectures’ were knowledgeable, integrated up to the present day, coherent, logical, and instructive.’ – Cathy Scofield
‘John France was a delightful companion. His knowledge and enthusiasm provided perspectives that we would never have thought of. We learned a great deal from his conversational presentation of details. Both his scholarship and his wit were a pleasure.’- Mark & Cynthia Coleman
‘Professor France was one of the things that really made this trip a success. He is very knowledgeable, and, more importantly, can get his knowledge across. He is also an enjoyable lunch and dinner companion, mixing well with everybody – if it wouldn’t sound condescending I would say he was “entertaining.”’ – Henry & Moira Shapiro
(B) breakfast, (L) lunch, (D) dinner
Day 2: Arrive Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, and transfer to the Hotel Dubrovnik. After time to rest, walk to the nearby Archaeology Museum where more than 400,000 artifacts are on display, most from different regions in Croatia. Overnight at the Hilton Double Tree. (D)
Day 3: Our tour of Zagreb takes us to two celebrated churches. Located on historic St. Mark’s Square, the 13th-century Church of St. Mark is one of Zagreb’s most emblematic buildings with the medieval coat of arms of Croatia woven into the roof tiles. Inside the cathedral is the preserved body of the Cardinal Archbishop Aloysius Stepinac, not yet a saint, but beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1998. An Archbishop of Zagreb from 1937 to 1960, under the Nazi occupation during World War II, he helped Jews to escape Croatia. An afternoon drive takes us to the seaside town of Opatija and the elegant 5-star Design Hotel Navis where all rooms have views over the sea. This is our home for two nights. (B/L/D)
Day 4: Our day begins in the tiny mountain village of Beram where we must pick up the key that will unlock the Church of St. Mary of the Rocks, a tiny chapel in the woods outside the town. The sanctuary interior is covered with gorgeous well-preserved frescos, and the ‘Dance of Death’ is one of the country’s most remarkable medieval paintings. In the Middle Ages the skeleton was used artistically as a ersonification of death and the images here depict kings, community leaders, cardinals, and even the Pope dancing with the grim reaper. We drive on to Poreč and the Euphrasian Basilica. Dating from the 6th century, this UNESCO World Heritage edifice is renowned for the dazzling gold tiles used in the interior murals. Our final stop will be in Pula, on the edge of a natural harbor on the Adriatic Coast. There has been a community here dating back to prehistoric times, but we are here to see the magnificent Roman remains. A well-preserved 1st-century amphitheater dominates the heart of the city. It was built during the reign of Emperor Vespasian, at the same time as the magnificent Coliseum in Rome. Still standing intact on Pula’s main square, the 1st-century Temple of Augustus was dedicated to the eponymous first Roman emperor. The magnificent Triumphal Arch was erected between the years 29 and 27 BC in honor of prominent Sergi family members. Dinner is on our own this evening. (B/L)
Day 5: As we begin our drive south, we will stop in Senj where the Nehaj Fort towers over the town. Using the stones of the Templar church and monastery of St. Peter, it was built in 1558 to protect the town from attacks by the Turks and Venetians. Then it’s on to captivating Zadar, capital of Dalmatia for many centuries. Situated on a peninsula into the Adriatic Sea, the walled Old Town contains a wealth of remains from both Roman and Venetian times. We will stroll through one of the Venetian gates to view the many treasures of the city. As indicated by two 3rd-century stone inscriptions on the site, the Roman Forum was endowed by the first Emperor Augustus. Inside we find the round, 9th-century pre-Romanesque Church of St. Donatus. Zadar’s cathedral, St. Anastasia. It was built in the 12th and 13th centuries and is the largest in Dalmatia. It has a richly embellished façade with the remains of frescoes in the interior along with a marble sarcophagus which contains the relics of the saint. Overnight in the Hotel Bastion for one night. This boutique member of Relais & Chateaux was built over the remains of a medieval citadel in the historic section of Zadar. Dinner is free to find one of Zadar’s best restaurants. (B/L)
Day 6: Located just north of Lake Vrana, Croatia’s largest lake, the ruins of the castle of Vrana tower over the countryside. During medieval times, this fortified town was one of the most important centers of political life and the Benedictine monastery here kept the crown of Croatian Kings. After walking through the remains, continue to Sibenik’s St. James Cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Created of stone quarried from offshore islands, it is a beautiful example of the transitional Gothic-Renaissance period. Although the church interior contains masterpiece works by both Dalmatian and Venetian artists, the highlight of the church is the gallery of sculpted heads of 15th-century Sibenik citizens inlaid on the exterior façade. Our lunch will be accompanied by a specially-arranged wine pairing. Transfer to Split and overnight two nights in the Hotel Cornaro located on the edge of the historic area. (B/L)
Day 7:Downtown Split is dominated by the remains of the massive Palace of Diocletian, originally erected at the turn of the 4th century as a luxurious retirement residence for the Emperor. After being abandoned for several centuries, the palace served as a refuge for people who fled their villages when Slavic tribes invaded, and eventually the immense building turned into a city. Today, about 3,000 people live inside the walls of the former Roman palace. After walking through Split’s historic center, a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, move on to neighboring Trogir, another UNESCO World Heritage Site. Built on a small island attached to the mainland by a bridge, this is a lovely medieval town with cobblestone streets, battlements, Romanesque churches and Venetian period red tiled houses. The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Stećci Medieval Tombstones Graveyards is made up of 28 cemeteries spread through four countries. They are noted for the regionally distinctive 12th to 16th century tombstones, or stećci, usually carved from limestone and featuring a wide range of ornamental motifs and inscriptions. This afternoon we will visit the one in Velika before returning to Split with dinner on our own. (B/L)
Day 8:The walls of Ston are the longest complete fortress system around a town in Europe, second in the world after the Great Wall of China. Originally more than five miles in length, they encircle the village of Ston and then climb up the hill to reach the stronghold at the top before joining the walls of the village of Mali Ston, or ‘Little Ston.’ After viewing the battlements, we will enjoy a seafood lunch in Ston before moving on to Vid, once the ancient Roman city of Narona. Archaeological research conducted here in 1995 and 1996 led to a sensational discovery of the remains of a Roman temple, the Augusteum, along with seventeen full size marble statues. This unique archaeological site has been preserved, in situ, in the superb Narona Museum. Continue to Dubrovnik where the city’s distinctive old town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is encircled with massive 16th-century stone embattlements. We will spend the late afternoon exploring the city, including (for the intrepid) walking the mile of walls. Dinner will be in a local restaurant within the old town. Overnight in the Hotel Lapad in Dubrovnik for three nights. (B/L/D)
Day 9: Free day in Dubrovnik. (B)
Day 10: Our all day tour takes us into Bosnia & Herzegovina where we visit two captivating UNESCO World Heritage Sites. During the 15th and 16th centuries the historic town of Mostar was an Ottoman frontier town and is known for its charming traditional dwellings. But the highlight here is the beautiful old bridge, the Stari Most, designed by the great Turkish architect, Sinan, which spans the Neretva River. Nearby Počitelj is a picturesque town climbing the hillside above the river. Surrounded by the remains of a city wall, inside are a beautiful mosque, a tower and a citadel, along with a scattering of 18th-century homes. Historically, Počitelj was a regional stronghold for the Ottoman Empire until the country fell under Austro-Hungarian rule in 1878. However, despite its decline in importance, the village has been preserved. Return to Dubrovnik with dinner on our own. (B/L)
Day 11: Today we head for Montenegro with stops along the way. Sokol Tower was originally constructed by the Romans. Standing high on an inaccessible precipice above the surrounding landscape, this is certainly the most impressive bastion in the Dubrovnik area. Nearby, Barbara is another of the UNESCO World Heritage Stećci Medieval Tombstones Graveyards. Here the stone monuments are decorated with human figures, animals, fantastical winged horses and dragons, and other designs. Leaving Croatia, cross into Montenegro and drive to the Bay of Kotor, where an artificial islet was created in the 16th century by submerging old ships loaded with ballast. We will board a small boat to travel to the island, the home of Our Lady of the Rocks Church. The interior of this tiny church is filled with resplendent baroque paintings created by a local artist. Next, explore Kotor, also on the UNESCO World Heritage list, the loveliest and best-preserved town in Montenegro. The still standing buttresses of the port were built by the Venetians, and the medieval center is characterized by narrow winding lanes and town squares, and is replete with Romanesque churches, including Kotor Cathedral. We spend the night here in the Regent Porto Montenegro. (B/L/D)
Day 12:Depart Kotor, cross the border into Albania and drive to Durrës, or Durrësi, an important port. It is the most ancient city in Albania with almost 3,000 years of history and we will spend the afternoon exploring. We begin by walking through the medieval walls, standing nearly 15 feet in height. The three entrances of the fortification towers are preserved and nearly one-third of the original walls still stand. We will see the amphitheater of the Roman Emperor Adrian, the second largest in the Balkans. Inside the remains of the theater is a 6th-century chapel that is dedicated to the first bishop of Durrës, Saint Astius. Our final visit is to the Durrës Archaeological Museum, the largest archaeological museum in the country, containing an extensive collection from the ancient Greek, Hellenistic and Roman periods. After an early dinner in a traditional restaurant, board an overnight ferry to Bari, Italy. Note: We will stay in cabins with private bathrooms. (B/L/D)
Day 13: Breakfast will be on our own before disembarking. After arriving into Bari, we will gather to discover the mazelike old town to see two important churches along with other historic buildings. The 11th-century Basilica di San Nicola, a key pilgrimage site, was founded in 1089 to shelter the stolen relics of St. Nicolas of Myra, or Santa Claus. Duomo of Bari, or the Cathedral of San Sabino, was constructed between the late 12th and late 13th centuries. It was restored to its original Apulian Romanesque style in the late 20th century. Castello Svevo was first constructed around 1132 by Norman King Roger II to keep Bari’s citizens in check and extended in 1233 by the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II. The fortified walls and moat were added in the 16th century when the castle became a private residence. Overnight for two nights in the Nicolaus Hotel in Bari. (L/D)
Day 14: Our all day tour will take us to three significant sites outside Bari. The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Castel del Monte was commissioned by Frederick II of Swabia in the 13th century. It is a unique piece of medieval military architecture with eight massive octagonal towers. The village of Alberobello is another UNESCO World Heritage Site, known for its trulli, the characteristic white-washed conical-roofed houses of the area. Lastly, the Castle of Gioia del Colle was built on the remains of a Byzantine fortification. Destroyed by William I of Sicily, it was renovated in 1230 by Emperor Frederick II after his return from the Crusades. In the 1800s it became a family home and in the 1960’s this beautiful castle was used to film part of “The Gospel according to St. Matthew”. Gather this evening for our final dinner party. (B/L/D)
Day 15: Transfer to the airport for early morning flight back from Bari, Italy back to the USA. (B)
Single Supplement: $1,195.00. Should a roommate be requested and one not be available, the single supplement will be charged.
Cost does not include: International flights from the USA to Zagreb, Croatia and back from Bari, Italy; a separate donation check of $150.00 per person to a designated donation project; passport or visa fees; airport or departure taxes; alcoholic drinks, beverages or food not included on regular menus; laundry; excess baggage charges; personal tips; email, telephone and fax charges; or other items of a personal nature.
Donation Checks: As a tour company that benefits from the cultural and natural riches of our destinations, we have a policy of donating to the scientific and cultural projects and museums we visit. This has created a bond between Far Horizons and the academic and local communities that has helped us establish an extensive list of lecturers and contacts in each of our destinations. We ask that each participant write a check to the noteworthy project we designate. The donation amount is $150.00 per person.
Fuel Surcharges: Far Horizons must pass on price increases when additional fuel charges are levied.
A deposit of $500.00 is required along with your registration form. Final payment is due 90 days before departure. Upon receipt of your deposit and completed registration form, you will be sent a reading list and a tour bulletin containing travel information. Prior to the trip, we will send links to various websites of pertinent interest. Click here to download our Registration Form.
Cancellations and Refunds
Cancellations received in writing at least 90 days before departure will receive a refund less a $300.00 administrative fee. Cancellations received less than 90 days before the departure date will not receive a refund. If for any reason you are unable to complete the trip, Far Horizons will not reimburse any fees. Registrants are strongly advised to buy travel insurance that includes trip cancellation.
International flights are not included in the cost of the trip. If you do not arrive or depart on the scheduled days, you are responsible for all transportation (including airport transfers) to join the group. If Far Horizons must change the trip dates or cancel the trip for any reason, Far Horizons is not responsible for any air ticket you may have purchased. Please send your complete air schedule as soon as you have it. NOTE: Please contact Far Horizons if you would like for us to handle your air ticketing.
Private Tours of Archaeological Sites
The private tours of archaeological sites and talks by specialists are scheduled in advance and include a donation to each. Specialists working at these sites are excited about showing their work to interested enthusiasts. However, please be aware that there may be times when the director or a member of the staff may not be on site when our groups arrive due to other commitments.
Walking & Standing
The group will be walking into and around cities and archaeological sites extensively. All participants must be physically active and able to walk independently for distances that may exceed two miles or more each day. Keeping up with the group is each participant’s responsibility; please do not expect assistance from the other group members or staff. You will be on your feet for much of the day. Remember that hill towns are on hills and have streets that can be quite steep. By maintaining an flexible attitude you will soon be captivated by the beauty of the natural scenery, the intriguing history, and the fascinating archaeological sites. A spirit of adventure will reward you with a wonderful and memorable experience! If you have questions about your ability to participate on this trip, please contact Far Horizons directly.
This Tour along the Adriatic Sea is limited to 14 participants