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Every year we try to enrich our portfolio of offroad/overland tours in order to meet the expectations of both old and new customers, and 2023 could easily be the biggest move forward so far. All of our traditional tours are still there for those who haven’t tried them yet, with one exception – since Homolje Goldrush has lost momentum in a way, we decided to replace it with an all new hotel tour season opener in Western Serbia – much better hotels, with a picturesque pinetree scenery of national and nature parks, not inferior to that in the east, guarantees an overwhelming experience to all those who have booked this new tour.
Introducing the van/truck and SUV tours
However, by far the biggest announcement that we’ve made this year was the introduction of two completely new tour types, which have received their own calendar page – van/truck and SUV tours. As we have had many inquiries from van and truck owners in the past years about the possibility to take part in our standard tours, which we, unfortunately, had to turn down because of narrow trails overgrown by vegetation or being to steep or slippery, we simply decided to design completely new itineraries, that would be suited to their expectations and the capabilities of their vehicles.
And when it comes to the SUV tours (which will be introduced later in the year), they are simply an attempt to offer some great journeys to absolute beginners and people who simply drive factory standard SUVs and do not wish to modify them in order to be able to tackle some technically more demanding trails. More detailed explenations about both tour types you will find in the introductory part of their separate calendar page (all but one of these tours will start in 2024, but are already bookable now) – https://www.rustikatravel.com/van-calendar/
Which are the new offroad/overland tours in 2023?
Yes, I’m sure this is something that most of our returning customers are eagerly awaiting to hear. And I’m proud to announce that in 2023 we have something even for those who have been with us on tour 10 times or more!
Green Hideouts of Serbia
First, we wanted to offer a camping season starter already in May, because that is the time of year when nature in Serbia (especially in the northeast) has already fully awakened, and unlike the higher mountains which may still be covered in snow, is thriving with colourful vegetation and warm spring nights. So in an attempt to show you all of those places which we have unjustly been skipping in the tours in recent years, we created the Green Hideouts of Serbia in the northernmost part of the serbian Carpathian mountains, which reach 1000-1300 m of altitude at the peaks, but are extremely picturesque and full of secret features. Obviously, our old customers have understood the message of this tour very well, since it’s already booked out at the time of writing this! But don’t worry, you will get a chance to experience it, as we’re sure to repeat it in 2024.
Trails of Gods (Greece)
Another 2023 premiere is the Trails of Gods tour through the Pindos mountains of Greece, which will mark our triumphant return to making greek tours after three years. These mountains are often called the “Greek Alps”, and it’s certainly not without a reason – ridge after ridge of dramatic, rocky landscape with peaks higher than 2000 m stretches all the way from the border of Albania to the Peloponese, seemingly forever, constantly raising your threshold of landscape beauty to new heights as you progress. This needs to be seen to be believed, and I think that the video from our 2022 custom tour in this area shows very well what I’m talking about (click below to watch the video).
Discover Peloponese (Greece)
Trails of Gods is not our only greek premiere this year – further down south lies the peninsula of Peloponese, loaded with historical sites of ancient greek culture, scattered among the high mountains and some of the most spectacular beaches that you’ve seen in your lifetime. So the Discover Peloponese tour is slightly different in caracter to most other tours that we organize – technically it is by far our easiest tour, which made it an offer where we can also accept vans and trucks, alongside regular overlanding vehicles. 2/3 of the tour are actually driven on tarmac roads, and it visits some of the most important cultural sites daily, as it progresses over the 12-day itinerary, most of the time camping in really fantastic wild campsites. A real jewel for the easy-going, true hedonists among overlanders! Take a look at the tour programme, and join – https://www.rustikatravel.com/peloponese/
Although we have already performed it twice (in 2019 and 2022), Ancient Trails can also be considered as one of our relatively new tours of Serbia, as most of our old customers haven’t taken it yet – and we think it really has to offer a lot of what they like and why they keep returning to us year after year. The challenge that this tour has put before us was to see if we can design a total wilderness tour with extraordinary campsites in a part of Serbia which is 4x more densely populated than the east. And I think we managed to do it in great style! If you think I’m exagerating, take a look at the video from our 2022 tour (below) and I’m sure you will agree!
June, when this tour takes place, is a quirky month which can bring anything from monsoon like rain to scorching summer sun, so it’s ideal for people who like being challenged by nature. And, just like Green Hideouts, for those who just love wilderness in it’s greenest phase, and rivers and lakes full of water. And at the time of writing this overview there are still free spaces in this tour, so hurry up to reserve your spot!
What about our “old” tours?
You know what they say – old is gold, and that is exactly the case with our traditional tours, which we have done many times so far, and through extensive experience have carved their itineraries to perfection. Which I’m sure that hundreds of satisfied customers would confirm.
Secret Carpathians (Serbia)
(one camping, and one hotel tour)
I will start with our by far most famous tour, Secret Carpathians, which has had many variations over the years (both in regular and custom private tours), which I hold very dear as, in a way, my “firstborn” tour, that I will never stop enjoying very much while guiding (although I can pass it blindfolded). What is secret about the Carpathians in the tour, you might ask? Well, most of all, for the geography knowledge of an average European the fact that Carpathian mountains also extend to Serbia is the biggest secret of all!
When one says Carpathians, people usually associate that term with Romania, neglecting the fact that the Carpatho-Balkanic mountain range actually extends through 8 countries, and is the longest one in Europe after the Alps. And these hidden, serbian Carpathians are no less beautiful than the rest. We drive to above 2100 m of altitude in the tour, and camp by several beautiful lakes and in the most picturesque river valleys. If you’re sceptical about it, just take a look at the video from the 2022 Secret Carpathians tour (below).
And if you’re a hotel accomodation fan, it doesn’t mean that you can’t experience the fantastic tracks of Secret Carpathians – we have an Indian Summer variation of the tour every October, with high quality hotel accomodation (take a careful look in the Secret Carpathians programme).
The Montenegro Highlands is the tour which we usually recommend to beginners and people sceptical about scratching their vehicles, but it’s much more than a technically easy tour through open air (bushless) spaces. There’s no smaller country in Europe with so much concentrated beauty of mountainous landscape than Montenegro. the dramatic, rugged scenery becomes obvious the moment you arrive there, and you’re so bombarded with impressions, that many times you simply don’t know where to look first, as you’re turning your head (and cameras) in awe. It features some of the most beautiful glacier lake campsites in the Balkans, and it is also our highest average altitude tour, with the camps mostly being in the range between 1500 and 1800 m (therefore nights tend to be cool, even in mid summer!). And again, as pictures speak louder than words (and videos even louder), take a glimpse at the video from the 2022 Montenegro Highlands tour.
Albanian Wild Tracks
And when it comes to Albania, we are quite certain that we’re offering, through the vast knowledge of our albanian guide Alfred, the ultimate wilderness experience of this unbelievable Balkan country in our Albanian Wild Tracks tour. In the 10 tour days you will discover some exclusive, high mountain trails which aren’t present in any maps, or known to other guides. It’s the closest to the feeling of exploring the remote mountains of central Asia that you can get while still in Europe. If you have doubts, take a look at our tour video from the 2021 tour below. Anyway, as we strongly believe in the attractiveness of this tour, we’ve offered it in August, and in October. And don’t you think that October is too late for a (dominantly) camping tour – down south in Albania it’s still summer!
Rhodopean Quest (Bulgaria)
Last but not least, we present you the glorious Rhodopean Quest tour through the mountains of Bulgaria, which has become tremendously popular over only three seasons – with the itinerary brought very close to perfection! It’s another one of the total wilderness tours, spanning through some of the most attractive of Bulgarian mountains, starting in the northwest corner of the Balkan mountain, and ending in the heart of the Rhodopeans, far down south near the greek border. During the 10 days we descent into civilization only twice for fuel and food resupplying, having an extra fuel stop at a village petrol station towards the end of the tour in order not to run out of it. Because the Rhodopean mountains are a tremendously huge highland plateau of pinetree forests, about 200 km in diameter, featuring some of the most beautiful mountain lakes, that will make you feel like you’re in British Columbia. And twice during the tour we will ride the sky-high ridges, above 2000 m of altitude. To cut the long story short, just take a peak at the 2022 tour video.
Not enough choice?
I honestly wouldn’t say so. Our tour calendar has been carefully put together to offer something for every adventurer’s heart. Of course, we will expand it further in 2024, by offering a second tour in Bulgaria, an all new Bosnian tour, a completely new itinerary in Serbia for the most enthusiastic serbian fans, and some real surprises in Asia and Africa. But lets not reveal more than necessary for now. Lets grow together, and have loads of fun and unforgettable adventures in 2023, just like we did in previous years. Your satisfaction, resulting in your return for the next tour, is our greatest reward.
You can find all these tours on our calendar page here – https://www.rustikatravel.com/calendar/ (or click on the tour picture or title)