Istanbul to Budapest aboard the Golden Eagle Danube Express private train

Enjoy the pleasures of Old World rail travel, gliding in style from the heart of the old Ottoman Empire, Istanbul, all the way to its far reaches in Budapest. Begin in glorious Istanbul, where Europe and Asia intertwine, admiring its fabulous palaces and mosques. Continue through today’s Balkan capitals, ruled by Greece and Rome long before the Ottomans arrived, and end in elegant Budapest. Encounter four UNESCO World Heritage Sites along the rails as you roll from one fascinating city to the next through eight countries – Turkey, Greece, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovenia, and Hungary.

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Day Trip

Overview Itinerary

MIR Signature Experiences on this Tour
  • Join the throngs of shoppers at Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar
    Join the shoppers in the Grand Bazaar, which appeared in the 15th century near the Golden Horn where ships from foreign lands used to unload their goods....
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  • Cross the UNESCO-listed Old Bridge, Stari Most
    Discover the UNESCO-listed area around the Old Bridge, rebuilt over five years in an effort to heal the deep ethnic divide...
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  • Visit the Sarajevo Tunnel Museum with a survivor
    Visit the Sarajevo Tunnel Museum with a survivor from Bosnia and Herzegovina who used the tunnel to escape...
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  • Admire 13th century Matthias Church
    Admire 13th century Matthias Church, used as a mosque during Turkish rule, from 1541 to 1686...
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Why Travel with MIR on this Tour
  • Over two decades of Balkans travel experience
  • Many intrepid individuals and private groups have entrusted MIR with guiding them to the fascinating Balkan countries
  • Twice named one of National Geographic Adventure’s "Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth"
  • On-the-ground support and quality you can trust
  • Personalized travel planning from start to finish
  • Guides and tour managers that clients rave about
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Itinerary & Highlights at a Glance

Days 1-3: Istanbul

Begin in fabulous Istanbul, exploring the legendary Blue Mosque, soaring upwards with its six minarets and layered domes, and Hagia Sophia, originally built by Byzantine Emperor Justinian around 537. Admire Topkapi Palace, the Great Palace of the Ottoman Sultans from the 15th-19th centuries. Browse the Grand Bazaar, begun in the 15th century near the Golden Horn, where ships from foreign lands unloaded their goods. Board the luxury Golden Eagle Danube Express on its way to Gallipoli.


  • UNESCO-listed Istanbul, sprawled across two continents, former capital of two great empires
  • Blue Mosque, purposely situated by the Ottomans on the site of the former Byzantine emperors’ Great Palace
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Days 4-5: Gallipoli Peninsula • Thessaloniki • Skopje

Pay your respects on the Gallipoli Peninsula, a narrow strip of Turkish land that became the site of a protracted battle between the Ottoman Empire and British and French forces, who tried unsuccessfully to fight their way through to Istanbul. Visit UNESCO-listed Thessaloniki, dotted with early Roman monuments and Byzantine reminders, and Skopje, Macedonia, where Mother Teresa was born.


  • ANZAC Cove, the beachhead on the Gallipoli Peninsula where the soldiers of the Australia and New Zealand Army Corp made their camp for the eight months that the battle raged
  • Mediterranean seafood dinner in Thessaloniki, Greece
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Days 6-7: Plovdiv • Sofia • Belgrade

Discover Plovdiv’s Roman amphitheater, built by Emperor Marcus Aurelius, and Bulgaria’s capital, Sofia, with its 4th century St. George Rotunda. Make a stop in Serbia’s capital, Belgrade, a dynamic and sophisticated city of 1.7 million, swiftly becoming one of the hippest places in Europe.


  • Roman amphitheater in Plovdiv, the second-oldest town in Europe
  • Sofia, capital of Bulgaria, with its 4th century St. George Rotunda and golden-domed Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
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Days 8-9: Mostar • Sarajevo • Ljubljana

Explore Mostar, with its UNESCO-listed Stari Most, or Old Bridge, from Ottoman times. Visit the Sarajevo Tunnel Museum with a survivor who used the life-saving escape route during the 20th century siege. Spend some time in Slovenia’s capital, Ljubljana, a stunning mix of baroque, Renaissance, neoclassical and Austrian art nouveau styles.


  • Mostar’s beautifully proportioned Old Bridge, a symbol of the city
  • Ottoman-era Kujundžiluk Bazaar in Mostar, lined with workshops selling copperware, carpets, jewelry and fabrics
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Days 10-12: Budapest

Disembark in Hungary’s elegant capital, Budapest, exploring Franz-Josef’s Royal Palace and the 13th century Mathias Church, used as a mosque under Ottoman rule. Enjoy great views of the city from Gellert Hill, and perhaps take a stroll along the banks of the Danube before the journey comes to an end.


  • UNESCO-listed Budapest, built in the grand style of the Hapsburgs, with its legacy of fine baroque, neoclassical and art nouveau buildings
  • Facades of the Citadel, St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Heroes Square, and the magnificent neo-Renaissance Opera House

See Dates & Prices for more details or to see suggested extensions.

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Tour Dates & Prices

Trip itinerary currently not available.  

Please contact us for more information and a MIR Destination Specialist will contact with you shortly. Thank you!

What’s Included

On Your Tour

  • Accommodation aboard the Golden Eagle Danube Express private train.
  • Per the itinerary, 4 nights of shared accommodation in well-located hotels.
  • All meals starting with dinner on Day 1 until breakfast on final tour day, including a generous, though not unlimited, allowance of wine or local beer, soft drinks and water with all lunches and dinners.
  • 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 per itinerary.
  • The services of an experienced Train Tour Manager, with local guides for scheduled off-train touring.
  • Complimentary tea, coffee and mineral water round the clock from your car attendant while on board the train.
  • All gratuities.
  • Baggage handling.

Before Your Tour

  • Personalized pre-departure support from one of our knowledgeable Tour Specialists.
  • Complete pre-departure information including detailed packing list and reading list.
  • Touring with MIR handbook with country-specific information, maps, and travel tips.
  • Customized visa application instruction kit (please note, visa fees are not included in the tour price).
  • Final document packet including luggage tags, final updates, and more. Assistance booking your custom flight arrangements (on request; please note that international and internal airfares are not included in the land tour cost).
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Prepare for Your Trip

International Airfare

MIR's in-house, full-service air department will gladly assist with your air travel needs.

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Reading List

MIR recommends reading up before you leave home. So settle back in your armchair with some of our favorite books about our favorite places.

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Most MIR programs require one or more visas, and each visa requires a completely blank page in your passport. Visa information for this particular tour is listed in the Detailed Descriptive Itinerary.

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Travel Insurance

Stay a Little Longer…

MIR can arrange for an extended program in Istanbul or the Caucasus or Central Asia before or after your tour. All of MIR’s destinations are open to you, and all can be attached to this program. Please contact MIR for more details about exciting options for extended travel.

Or, choose from one of these suggested itineraries:

Is this Trip Right for You?

This trip is moderately active, and rated moderate to rigorous touring due to the daily walking involved and the overall shortcomings of the tourism infrastructure. To reap the full rewards of this adventure, travelers must be able to walk at least a mile a day, keeping up with fellow travelers. Flexibility, a sense of humor and a willingness to accept local standards of amenities and services are essential components to the enjoyment of this trip.

A full list of details about the rigors of this tour are explained in the Detailed Descriptive Itinerary.

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Golden Eagle Danube Express

Golden Eagle Danube Express

The perfect combination of remote destinations and comfortable accommodations, rail journeys by private train open a world of discovery to travelers who enjoy comfort and leisure time as well as exciting new vistas.

Exclusive private trains furnish the dream of Old World rail travel with modern comforts and amenities that make the journey as pleasant as the destinations. The luxurious Golden Eagle Danube Express offers a restful and satisfying way to experience legendary rail routes.

Train & Hotel Accommodations

Relax and enjoy the panorama rolling past your private window and disembark for guided off-train touring in fascinating towns and cities along the way.

Each car on the Golden Eagle Danube Express has its own attendants who provide bed turndown service, plus tea, coffee and mineral water 24 hours a day. Attendants keep an eye on everything while guests are away from the train. Towels are provided and onboard laundry service is available.

Two styles of accommodation are available on board the Golden Eagle Danube Express: Deluxe Class (en suite) and Heritage Class (shared facilities).

  • Deluxe Class

    Deluxe Class

    The Deluxe Class on the Golden Eagle Danube Express features newly designed air-conditioned cabins which pair luxury with utility, offering superior accommodations that feature two lower berths and fully en suite facilities. Cabins are furnished with two daytime armchairs, a free-standing chair, a window that opens, a table, and a wardrobe with a safe. Your attendant will convert the two armchairs into comfortable twin beds for nighttime use. The en suite bathroom features a range of toiletries, a hair dryer and heated towel rack.

    Additional Information

    Deluxe Class cabin dimensions – 5 cabins/carriage:

    Cabin Area (total, including bathroom) – 83 sq ft (7.7 sq m)
    Cabin length – 13′ (3.97 m)
    Cabin width – 6′ 5″ (1.95 m)
    Bed (two singles, each) – 6′ 3″ x 2′ 7.5″  (1.9 m x 0.8 m)

  • Heritage Class

    Heritage Class

    The Heritage Class features comfortable air-conditioned seating by day, transformed while you dine into upper and lower berths ready for nighttime use. A washbasin is included in the cabin, and large windows make sightseeing pleasant. Toilet and shower facilities are provided at the end of each car.

    Additional Information

    Heritage Class cabin dimensions – 8 cabins/carriage:

    Cabin area – 33 sq ft (3.1 sq m)
    Upper bed – 5′ 10″ x 2′ 5″ (1.8 m x 0.74 m)
    Lower bed – 6′ 5″ x 2′ 5.5″ (2 m x 0.75 m)

  • Hotel Accommodations

    Hotel Accommodations

    The first and last nights of most tours are spent in well-appointed four and five star hotels. Some tours feature additional hotel nights. Please review the detailed itinerary for specifics pertaining to each tour and departure. Additional nights before and after any tour can be arranged on request.

Life Aboard the Train
Golden Eagle Danube Express

The Golden Eagle Danube Express private train provides everything you need for a pleasurable journey. Join travelers from around the world to enjoy the relaxed and casual environment onboard, with no need to wear formal attire on excursions or while dining.

Train formations are not fixed, as the composition varies to suit the number of passengers on a given departure. The exact configuration of train on any particular journey may not be determined until close to departure.

Please note that a variety of cabins styles are in use aboard the train. Décor and layout of dining, bar and sleeping cars on your journey may differ from the sample images depicted in our brochures/websites.

  • Bar/Lounge Car

    Bar/Lounge Car

    A Bar/Lounge Car is included in the formation of the train. The lounge offers a relaxing and comfortable area where you can enjoy a drink and gather with other passengers around the piano.

    Additional Information

  • Dining Cars

    Dining Cars

    Dining Cars feature European cuisine complemented by a selection of European wines.

    Additional Information

  • Off-Train Tours

    Off-Train Tours

    Rail journeys feature an extensive selection of educational city tours in the various stops on our routes. Private coaches and local guides whisk you away from your private train for fascinating half- or full-day forays into the principal towns and cities, sometimes including an in-city dining opportunity. Read through this tour’s itinerary for more information (found on the Itinerary & Map tab of this page).