At Eastern Europe Insight, the thought of joining a generic group tour fills us with dread. Thankfully, there are travel companies out there who provide the so-called ”anti-group tour” which is generally used to describe organized group trips to undiscovered and sometimes dangerous destinations around the world which are a world away from generic free walking tours and cruise ships. One of the leaders of such alternative travel is Young Pioneer Tours, or YPT, who have recently pioneered (excuse the pun) a range of incredible Balkan tours!
YPT is a travel company with a cult-like status amongst its loyal travel buff clients. It began over a decade ago when it was one of the first companies to enable large scall tourism into the hermit state of North Korea. Since then, it has expanded into a range of other destinations including Syria, Iraq, the former Soviet Union, and the small nation in the horn of Africa, Somaliland. Our favorites, however, have been the groundbreaking range of Balkan tours on offer. In this article, we’re going to look at three of the best Balkan tours offered by this alternative travel company.
5. A Haunted Forest and the Caeusecu Mansion on the Dark Romania Tour
Whilst Romania is largely known for its association with Vlad the Impaler and the Dracula character, there is a far more dark aspect to the country’s history that happened in far more recent times: the era of Communist Romania. On the YPT Dark Romania tour, the trip explores the former playground of communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu from his opulent palace home to the churches he moved on wheels. It then leaves the Romanian capital of Bucharest to explore wider Romania.
The rest of the trip visits the former prison where the infamous Pitesti experiment took place, the haunted forest of Hoia Bacu, and the abandoned prison that once held Nicolae Ceausescu and the military base where he and his wife were gunned down in 1989. For an insight into Romania unlike any other and the see jaw-dropping sites away from the generic tourist spots like Dracula’s castle, then this is the tour for you!
4. Budget Balkan Tours – The Mighty Eurasian Adventure!
The first in our list of YPTs European tours is its most tried, tested, and affordable Balkan tours: the Eurasian Adventure! Beginning in Beijing and ending in Northern Estonia, this epic vacation spans over eight weeks and takes in a huge chunk of not only the former USSR, but the entirety of the former Yugoslavia, Romania, and Bulgaria.
The tour is fast-paced and has been running for a decade since the company first started. Use of cheap and cheerful accommodation, group discounts on transport and local tours, this is one of the company’s cheapest Balkan tours and a favourite amongst travellers seeking an unforgettable Balkan adventure for the right price!
3. Communist Bulgaria Tour
As someone who is living in Bulgaria myself, I was keen to check out the itinerary of the YPT Communist Bulgaria tour to see what was on offer and was surprised to see places I had not yet discovered myself despite living here for three years! This epic tour starts in the Bulgarian capital of Sofia and ends in the Black Sea port of Varna. In between there is a whole host of epic, non-mainstream Bulgarian tourist attractions.
This tour of Bulgaria takes in alternative storage of communist statues in Sofia, epic Communist relics, yards of of abandoned fighter jets, tantalizing Bulgarian cuisine, and a dip in the lovely Black Sea if you take the tour in the summer season. In addition to the communist sights on the tour, there is also an array of historical Bulgarian sights from ancient fortresses to hotbeds of rebellion where the uprising against the Ottoman Empire was hatched.
2. Private Kosovo and Albania tours
In addition to their range of Balkan tours tailored to groups, Young Pioneer Tours also offer private, fully customizable private tours to the Balkans. The most popular destinations for these type of trips, are Kosovo and Albania. Largely due to their undiscovered nature leading to travellers and photographers wanting to spend more time there.
Their Albania tours range from adventures on the last Albanian trains to exploring the countless bunkers that litter this incredible country that was closed from the world for so many years. In neighbouring Kosovo, one of the youngest countries in the world, their tours begin with an exploration of the fascinating suburban Tetris of Pristina before heading to the divided city of Mitrovica which is split between Kosovans and Serbian communities. Two sides which have often clashed violently since the end of the Kosovan War.
1. The King of Balkan Tours – The Ultimate Yugoslavia Tour!
Last but certainly not least on our list is the Ultimate Yugoslavia Tour! This trip takes in every former state of Yugoslavia: Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia with the bonus of visiting Kosovo and Albania! In contrast to the Eurasian adventure, this tour is slightly more expensive but spends a prolonged amount of time in each country.
In our opinion, having done all three tours on this list, we feel the Ultimate Yugoslavia Tour is the most ideal way to gain a key insight into the Balkan region from its food, culture, languages, and the various divisions that have unfortunately been a defining feature of the Balkan landscape since the 1990s. For fans of urban exploration, this tour features a lot from abandoned Yugoslav airbase in Croatia to war ravaged bobsled track in the halls above Sarajevo!
So, for the best way to explore Eastern Europe, Russia, and other undiscovered destinations, look no further than Young Pioneer Tours – The leaders in alternative Eastern Europe and Russia travel. You can find their range of scheduled group tours and contact information to arrange private tours, here.