Enthusiast

The Monte(negro) Python

4 to 8 October 2017
Montenegro

This will be PTG’s first foray to the small Balkan country of Montenegro, a varied country of rugged mountains, thick forestation, fortified towns, medieval villages and narrow beaches, which became a sovereign state as recently as 2006. Connected to the rest of Europe’s passenger railway network only by a long and very scenic line from Serbia, most of the system is electrified but Montecargo have kindly agreed that we can use its class 644 ‘Spanka’ diesel locomotives on our private charter train (with opening windows). During our three day tour we will traverse the whole of Montenegro’s passenger network from the Serbian border in the north to the Adriatic coast in the south, visit the second city of Nikšić in the west and also travel eastwards over the freight only line towards Albania. We intend to include additional freight lines but permission for some of these is still being sought.

We base ourselves in Podgorica for four nights which should allow plenty of time for exploration of this interesting capital city, located at the edge of the Zeta plain at the confluence of the Ribnica and Morača rivers. About a quarter of the country’s total population reside in its capital city.

Culture option at end of the tour for those who want to see some more of this beautiful and unspoilt country.

Tour Manager: Phil

Itinerary

 

Day 1 Wednesday 4 October  Direct flights from London Stansted at 06.55 or indirect flights from other UK airports. Coach transfer to our city centre hotel.

Day 2 Thursday 5 October (B) Our tour starts at Podgorica station where we join our private charter train. Opened in 1976, the country’s main rail artery links the port of Bar with Serbia and its capital Beograd and ranks as one of the most spectacular railways in Europe. As we head northwards the line twists and climbs up the Morača valley and we are treated to magnificent mountainous scenery, heavily forested in places, with numerous tunnels and bridges to negotiate. After passing through Bioče station we cross Mala Rijeka viaduct, which at 198 metres is the highest in Europe. The splendid scenery continues as we reach the line’s summit at Kolašin, having climbed from 40 to 1032 metres above sea level. Soon afterwards we enter the Tara river valley as the line continues to meander towards the Serbian border and our journeys end at Bijelo Polje. We return to Podgorica giving us a second chance to admire the views and appreciate the skills of the engineers who built the railway. We have requested a trip over the private line to the aluminium smelting plant of Kombinat Aluminijuma Podgorica (KAP). This is a short branch line located beyond the locomotive depot to the south west of the capital (at time of writing permission is still awaited).

Day 3 Friday 6 October (B) On our second day we complete the mainline by heading south from Podgorica to the industrial port city of Bar. There is more fine scenery on offer as the line crosses the island of Vranjina, with its photogenic Serbian Orthodox monastery, before crossing beautiful Lake Skadar on a causeway and entering the six kilometre Sozina tunnel to emerge on the Adriatic coast. Bar is a centre for tourism; passenger ferries arrive here from Italy and there are many attractive coastal settlements and beaches nearby. It is also known for production of olive oil and pomegranate juice, and within its municipal area grows lemons, oranges, tangerines and grapefruit. There are extensive docks here, and we have asked permission to enter the port and travel to the far ends of all three major docks branches. We then return to Podgorica for the night.

Day 4 Saturday 7 October (B) The final day, and the highlight for many, will see us depart Podgorica and head eastwards towards Albania over the freight only line to the border station of Tuzi. Built as recently as 1985 the line fell into disuse in 1991, but then reopened in 2003. We have asked if we can travel beyond Tuzi, but given the parlous state of Albanian Railways we are not optimistic of gaining permission.

Retracing our steps to Podgorica once again, we now join the lengthy branch (56 kilometres) to Nikšić. Originally narrow gauge, the line was converted to standard gauge in 1965 but in 1992 passenger services were suspended, reintroduced only when the line was re-engineered and electrified in 2012. For a brief time there was even a direct sleeping car to Beograd. En route, the first major station is Spuž where there is a short branch for grain traffic which we have requested. Nikšić is the second city of Montenegro and lies in a spacious valley at the foot of Mount Trebjesa. An important industrial, cultural and educational centre, it is perhaps best known for its large student population and the Trebjesa brewery. Unfortunately, the long industrial branch shown on some maps has been lifted, but we have asked to go beyond the station to the end of the line, and also visit the bauxite loading siding. The traffic flow from here feeds the KAP smelting plant near Podgorica that we (hopefully) visited on our first day.

We now return directly to Podgorica for the final time to mark the end of what we trust has been a rewarding journey through this beautiful and fascinating country.

Day 5 Sunday 8 October (B) Direct Ryanair flight to London Stansted departs at 11.10. Flights are also available to other UK airports via Belgium, Germany or Austria. Or why not stay on for a few days and see the culture that is to offer in this fascinating country – details on request.

CULTURE ADD-ON

Skadar lake – Bar – St. Stefan – Budva

From Podgorica we head by coach to Skadar Lake. Arrival in small town Virpazar at the biggest lake on the Balkan peninsula with rare beauty, various bird species and plants, pleasant climate, natural wonders, rich historical heritage- all this can be found   at one place, Montenegrin National park, Skadar Lake. Optional: Board a boat for a cruise around: clear water everywhere, lush lake vegetation and the birds and fish you see make this trip memorable. After lunch drive to Bar. Sightseeing old town. Continue along Montenegrin coast, we will pass by small charming coastal villages and towns including famous St.Stefan island-hotel where you will have photo stop. Arrival in Budva. Check in at the hotel.

Day 6 Monday 9 October : Boka bay: Kotor – Perast – Tivat

After breakfast, drive towards the ancient town of Kotor, a medieval Mediterranean jewel under UNESCO protection. We tour the town, visiting the Maritime museum and St. Triphon’s cathedral. Free time.

Continue to Perast

One of the principal attractions on the Bay of Kotor is the ancient village  of Perast, rich in Venice-like architecture which includes sixteen Baroque palaces, seventeen Catholic churches, several important Orthodox structures and a series of nine defensive towers, all set in stone and seemingly untouched by the scourge of modern-day tourism.

Boat ride to Our Lady of the Rocks is a baroque church on one of two islets, deep in the Bay of Kotor, across from the town of Perast. The islet is man-made, and had its original church was built in 1452. The present church was built in 1632 and enlarged in 1722.

According to legend, the islet was made over the centuries by the seamen who kept an ancient oath. Upon returning from each successful voyage, they laid a rock in the Bay. Over time, the islet gradually emerged from the sea. Our Lady of the Rocks was seen on this site. The church contains 68 magnificent paintings by Tripo Kokolja, a famous 17th-century baroque artist from Perast. His most important painting, ten meters long, is The Deathof the Virgin. There are also paintings by Italian artists, and an icon (cca 1452) of Our Lady of the Rocks, by Lovro Dobricevic of Kotor.

On our way back to Budva, we will pass on the other side of the Bay by ferry. Arrival in tivat-Porto Montenegro for short walk in luxury mega yacht marine for coffee break.  Overnight in Budva.

Day 7 Tuesday 10 October : Budva – Cetinje – Budva

After Breakfast SS Budva Old Town with free time. Budva is one of the oldest cities on the Adriatic coast, with a history of about 2500 years. For many centuries the settlement was placed just within the walls of the Old Town. Today the Old town remains on a peninsula and has all the attributes of an old Mediterranean city, with narrow streets, analogous buildings with red tiled roofs, numerous historical sites and monuments.

After Budva sightseeing drive to Cetinje the old capital of the former Kingdom of Montenegro, and the surrounding area can be considered as the cradle of Montenegrin culture, centre of the country’s history, and home to some of the most valuable examples of Montenegrin cultural heritage. Visit King Nicola’s palace. Free time.

Back by the old serpentine scenic road, passed village Njegusi (optional snack home made products) Stop on the view point from where they can see all Boka Bay and further to Troica and to the main road to Budva.

Overnight in Budva.

Day 8 Wednesday 11 October (B) our tour coach will return us to Podgorica airport for our flights back to London

Place(s) available
Holiday prices per person
  • Charter train only: £499
  • Tour including accommodation with breakfast: £659 in twin/double, £699 in single
  • Flights including transfers: from £200 POA

Options

  • 3 day culture add-on: £270 in twin/double, £320 in single

Deposit

  • £200 (plus any flight costs)
Online Booking
Hotel Option: 
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Please click here to see our Booking Conditions

 

Tour Highlights
  • Use of a private charter train
  • Use of rare loco-haulage (by 644 “Spanka” diesels)
  • Rare track, lines and routes
  • Stunning Scenery
  • Good quality hotels
  • Services of our tour manager (tour is fully escorted)
Price includes
  • All travel as outlined in the itinerary
  • Good quality en-suite accommodation with breakfast (not if train only)
  • Services of our tour manager. Holiday is fully escorted

 

Flights
  • Direct flights with Ryanair from Stansted. Indirect flights from other UK airports.