Bestway custom Balkan tour

By: Tony Leisner
This item appears on page 26 of the February 2018 issue.

Depending on how you count, there are 13 countries on the Balkan Peninsula. My wife, Patti, and I had visited several of these but not some of the newest ones since the breakup of the former Yugoslavia.

We contacted Bestway Tours & Safaris (206-8678 Greenall Ave., Burnaby, V5J 3M6, B.C., Canada; 800/663-0844, www.bestway.com) after seeing their ad in ITN for a 14-day “Balkan Mosaic” tour.

We spoke to Chi Pham, and when we explained which countries we wanted to see, that we required hotel rooms with balconies and that endless stair climbing to view ruins and castles was not at the top of our list, Chi suggested a private custom tour.

Working with their in-country provider, Chi proposed a tour for May 4-25, 2017, with a private car (Mercedes E-Class) and a driver/guide. The total price for both of us was $14,011 and included all admissions, tolls and, usually, tips for local guides at the sites. (This was competitive with the prices of many small-group tours that carry six to 12 people in vans.) 

After reviewing all the suggested hotels and checking TripAdvisor.com, we accepted many and chose several of our own (4-star or better), ones that were smaller and not traditional for tour buses nor sterile new ones. We always got the room of our choice (with a balcony), ended up enjoying the ambiance of a 400-year-old hotel and a 200-year-old hotel and had fantastic views near the Adriatic and lakes Ohrid and Bled. All breakfasts were included.

Within 24 hours of our arrival, our professional driver/guide, Dimitar, knew when we wanted to start and end a day as well as our preferred mealtimes and styles, how often a convenience stop was needed and our limit on how many steps up and down we could walk.

In Slovenia, there were some spectacular caves. The first, complete with a train for the trip in and out, was almost overwhelming, but it also had about a mile of steep inclines to walk up and down. We were scheduled to see a second cave, but, seeing our lack of excitement, Dimitar suggested we take a side trip to Trieste, Italy, a half-hour away, for a gelato break by the harbor on the Adriatic. Priceless!

Dimitar also often directed us to off-the-beaten-path lunch places where he was known by the owners.

In all, we spent a few days in each country: Macedonia, Albania, Kosovo (one day), Bosnia & Herzegovina, Slovenia and Montenegro. We only drove through Croatia, as we had been there previously. We added Slovakia so I could reach my goal of visiting 100 independent nations. (Patti will catch up with me on our fall cruise to Australia.)

Bestway uses an affiliated air desk to help with flights. 

We are now truly spoiled and are looking forward to working with Bestway again!

TONY LEISNER

Tarpon Springs, FL