A Balkan Rail Odyssey Aboard the Golden Eagle Danube Express
Glide from grand Budapest to the canals of Venice on this deluxe rail journey by private train. Admire the changing scenes on your way through the mountains, valleys, towns, and villages of seven countries – Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovenia, and Italy – stopping at ancient and modern cities along the way and discovering three UNESCO Sites.
There is also a Venice to Istanbul rail journey by private train departure with stops in Skopje, Thessaloniki, and Istanbul, as well as a similar route through the Balkans.
Photos and details: Discover what life is like aboard the Golden Eagle Danube Express.
Days 1-2: Budapest (Hungary), Lajosmizse, Kecskemét
Board the Golden Eagle Danube Express in genteel Budapest. Head south onto the Great Hungarian Plain for a spectacular puszta horse show in Lajosmizse and a stop in Kecskemét, known for its art nouveau architecture and special apricot brandy, barack pálinka.
Please note, there is no scheduled sightseeing in Budapest on this program. If you would like to see more of the city, contact us to discuss extending your time in Budapest
- Remarkable demonstration of Hungarian horses and horsemanship
- Kecskemét, on the Great Hungarian Plain, renowned for the wonderful art nouveau buildings surrounding its central square
Day 3: Sighisoara (Romania), Brasov
Arrive in the handsome medieval city of Sighisoara, Romania and explore the historic city center. In Brasov, visit Bran Castle, which served as the inspiration for Dracula’s castle in Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
- UNESCO-listed Sighisoara, considered to be the most beautiful and complete medieval architectural ensemble in Romania
- Bran Castle, immortalized as Dracula’s castle in Bram Stoker’s novel
Days 4-5: Veliko Tarnovo (Bulgaria), Plovdiv, Belgrade (Serbia)
The train crosses the Danube into Bulgaria. Here, wander the winding streets of Veliko Tarnovo, capital of the 12th century Second Bulgarian Empire. Stop in Plovdiv, with its huge Roman amphitheater. Spend a day in Belgrade, the sophisticated capital of Serbia, and admire its ancient citadel, Kalemegdan Fortress.
- Veliko Tarnovo, where the preserved remains of the Royal Fortress still stand at the top of Tsarevets Hill.
- Roman amphitheater in Plovdiv, the second-oldest town in Europe
- Serbia’s capital, Belgrade, a very old city evolving into one of the hippest places in Europe
- Kalemegdan Fortress, the ancient citadel that includes remnants of the early Roman and Byzantine towns
Days 6-7: Mostar (Bosnia and Herzegovina), Sarajevo, Ljubljana (Slovenia)
Browse the bazaar of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Mostar, named after the keepers of its UNESCO-listed Old Bridge, Stari Most. Visit the country’s capital, Sarajevo, and tour the gripping Tunnel Museum with a Bosnian War survivor. Continue to delightful Ljubljana, where arts and culture are flourishing; explore the Plecnik open-air market and admire the glittering interior of the Postojna Cave system.
- Mostar’s Old Bridge, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
- Sarajevo, the resilient and irrepressible capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina
- Slovenia’s capital, Ljubljiana, ruled by the Hapsburgs for hundreds of years
- Postojna Caves, second largest cave system in Slovenia and home to a rare salamander
Days 8-10: Trieste (Italy), Venice
Explore the Italian port city of Trieste, climbing the hill to the Cathedral of San Giusto, followed by a farewell lunch onboard the train. Arrive in Venice and check into a five star hotel for a two-night stay in this romantic city on the water.
- Trieste, an Italian port city with an Austro-Hungarian background
- Venice, queen of European cities by the 13th century and UNESCO World Heritage Site
Dates & Prices
Minimum group size: Minimums vary – call for confirmation status
Land Tour Price, Per Person.
Call for dates and prices
- Accommodations, as noted in the itinerary.
- All meals, from dinner on Day 1 through breakfast on final tour day, including a generous allowance of wine, local beer, and soft drinks with lunch and dinner.
- Arrival/departure transfers, provided you arrive and depart on the tour start/end dates and in the tour start/end cities.
- All guided off-train tours, as outlined in the itinerary.
- Services of an experienced Train Tour Manager as well as local guides for scheduled off- train tours.
- Complimentary tea, coffee, and mineral water from your car attendant at all times while on board the train.
- All gratuities.
- Baggage handling.
- Complete pre-departure information, including detailed packing list, reading list, and Touring with MIR handbook with country-specific information, maps, and travel tips.
- Assistance booking your custom flight arrangements, on request. (Please note that international airfare is not included in the land tour cost.)
- International airfare, including taxes/fuel surcharges, and surface transport to the point of joining/leaving the tour. MIR is able to assist with arrangements, as detailed in the itinerary.
- Meals and drinks not specified as included in the itinerary.
- Single supplement (difference between double rate and single occupancy rate) if requested or required.
- Optional pre- or post-tour extensions.
- Expenses incurred as a result of delay, modification, or extension of a tour due to causes beyond MIR’s control.
- Visa fees, excess baggage charges, airport departure taxes, vaccination and other medical costs.
- Travel insurance including cancellation, medical, and evacuation insurance.
- Items of a personal nature such as phone calls, email, laundry, and alcohol.
Level 2: Moderate
This rail journey by private train features significant touring on foot, throughout which travelers are expected to keep up with other group members. Walking during touring days will be on a variety of surfaces with many streets and sidewalks being uneven and elevators generally not available during touring excursions, leading to some stair climbing. Challenges on board on board the train include long onboard distances with heavy doors, as well as steep steps and gaps to navigate while embarking and disembarking. Only those willing to accept local standards of amenities and services should consider joining this program.
Travelers must be able to walk a mile per day keeping up with other group members. Streets and sidewalks can be uneven or unexpected surfaces, and handrails are not always present. Steps, which may be required due to lack of elevators, may be steep and/or uneven, and may also lack handrails. The distance on board the train between sleeping and dining carriages may be significant, and there are many heavy doors to navigate when moving throughout the train. Getting on and off the train involves navigating steep steps, low platforms, and possible gaps between the train and the platform. Navigating rail stations may also involve traveling up and over steep steps/footbridges to cross tracks, or steep steps and dark tunnels to cross under to/from the train station. Although porterage is provided where possible, you may have to carry your baggage for short distances.
General shortcomings of the tourism infrastructure may include problems with bureaucratic service, and availability and quality of public restrooms when not on board the train.