Venice to Istanbul by Private Train
A Rail Expedition Through the Balkans & Beyond Aboard the Golden Eagle Danube Express
Board a deluxe private train that sweeps through nine countries and five UNESCO World Heritage Sites on a journey across southern Europe. Roll through capital cities, seaside towns, wooded hills, and little villages on this star-studded survey of highlights from countries clustered near the sunny Adriatic.
There is also a Budapest to Venice rail journey by private train departure with stops in Hungary and Romania, as well as a similar route through the Balkans (learn more).
Travels to: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Italy, North Macedonia, Serbia, Slovenia, Turkey
Photos and details: Discover what life is like aboard the Golden Eagle Danube Express.
Days 1-3: Venice (Italy), Trieste
Spend a day exploring romantic Venice, with its network of canals lined by gorgeous old palazzi (palaces). Board the luxury Golden Eagle Danube Express to the Italian port city of Trieste and climb to its Cathedral of San Giusto.
- Gondola ride along Venice’s Grand Canal
- St. Mark’s Basilica in St. Mark’s Square
- Byzantine Cathedral of San Giusto in Trieste
Days 4-5: Ljubljana (Slovenia), Sarajevo (Bosnia and Herzegovina), Mostar
Make a stop in Ljubljana, Slovenia’s delightful capital where the arts, culture, and nightlife are all flourishing. Travel through the Slovenian countryside, with stops to see Postonja Cave and Predjama Castle, and then continue to Bosnia and Herzegovina to visit the cities of Sarajevo and Mostar.
- Ljubljana’s Triple Bridge, connecting the Market Colonnade with Presernov, the city’s main square
- Predjama Castle, built into the mouth of a cave in the Slovenian countryside
- Postonja Cave, a massive network of caverns beneath the Kars Plateau
- The Tunnel Museum, in the tunnel that linked Sarajevo to the NATO-controlled airport during the siege of the city from 1992 to 1996
- Mostar’s beautifully proportioned, UNESCO-listed Old Bridge, a symbol of the city
Days 6-7: Dubrovnik (Croatia), Belgrade (Serbia)
Next stop is seaside Dubrovnik, Croatia, which owes the harmonious style of its limestone buildings and cobbled streets to a medieval building code. Then it’s inland to Belgrade, the sophisticated capital of Serbia.
- Dubrovnik’s UNESCO-listed Old Town, set atop a walled point jutting into the Adriatic Sea
- The streets of central Belgrade, a very old city that’s also currently one of the hippest places in Europe
- Belgrade’s Kalemegdan Fortress, an ancient citadel that includes remnants of early Roman and Byzantine towns
Days 8-9: Skopje (North Macedonia), Thessaloniki (Greece), Sofia (Bulgaria), Plovdiv
It’s on to North Macedonia’s capital, Skopje, where Mother Teresa was born and raised, and then UNESCO-listed Thessaloniki, Greece’s second city. After that, cross into Bulgaria to visit its capital, Sofia, and Plovdiv, the second-oldest city in Europe.
- Skopje’s Old Bazaar, the largest bazaar in the Balkans
- The walkable urban center of Thessaloniki, dotted with Byzantine, Roman, and early Christian sights
- An al fresco seafood dinner in Thessaloniki
- Sofia’s 4th century St. George Rotunda and its golden-domed Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
- The Roman amphitheater in Plovdiv
Days 10-12: Istanbul (Turkey)
Arriving in Istanbul, disembark the train and check-in for a two-night hotel stay and the opportunity to visit the city’s grandest sights.
- The Blue Mosque, soaring upward with its six minarets and layered domes
- The massive Basilica of Hagia Sophia, built in the 6th century by Byzantine Emperor Justinian and adorned inside with some 30 million mosaic tiles
- Topkapi Palace, the Great Palace of the Ottoman Sultans from the 15th-19th centuries
Dates & Prices
Minimum group size: Minimums vary – call for confirmation status
Land Tour Price, Per Person.
Apr 29 - May 10Twelve-day program in 2023! Special price for April 29, 2023 departure.Deluxe Class, double occupancy$16,995Deluxe Class, single occupancy$25,495Superior Deluxe Class, double occupancy$21,395Superior Deluxe Class, single occupancy$35,795Oct 18 - 29Twelve-day program in 2023!Deluxe Class, double occupancy$17,595Deluxe Class, single occupancy$26,295Superior Deluxe Class, double occupancy$22,095Superior Deluxe Class, single occupancy$36,895
- 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. Elevators are generally not available during touring excursions, leading to some stair climbing. Challenges 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 the inherent challenges of the program should consider joining.
Travelers must be able to walk a mile per day keeping up with other group members. Streets and sidewalks may be made up of uneven surfaces such as cobblestones, 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 when not on board the train.