Budapest to Istanbul aboard the Golden Eagle Danube Express private train

Enjoy the pleasures of luxurious Old World rail travel, gliding in style from the edges of the old Ottoman Empire in Budapest all the way to its heart, Istanbul, where Europe and Asia intertwine. Begin in Hungary and continue through the modern Balkan countries of Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Bulgaria, Macedonia, and Greece before exploring Turkey’s Gallipoli Peninsula and ending in Istanbul. Encounter four UNESCO World Heritage Sites along the rails as you roll from one fascinating city to the next.

A northbound route, running from Istanbul to Budapest, is available as well.

12 Day Trip

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Overview Itinerary

MIR Signature Why end mights on this Tour
  • Admire 13th century Matthias Church
    Admire 13th century Matthias Church, used as a mosque during Turkish rule, from 1541 to 1686...
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  • Visit the Sarajevo Tunnel Museum with a survivor
    Visit the Sarajevo Tunnel Museum with a survivor from Bosnia and Herzegovina who used the tunnel to escape...
    Read More
  • Cross the UNESCO-listed Old Bridge, Stari Most
    Discover the UNESCO-listed area around the Old Bridge, rebuilt over five years in an effort to heal the deep ethnic divide...
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  • Join the throngs of shoppers at Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar
    Join the shoppers in the Grand Bazaar, which appeared in the 15th century near the Golden Horn where ships from foreign lands used to unload their goods....
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Why Travel with MIR on this Tour
  • Over two decades of Balkans travel experience
  • Many intrepid individuals and private groups have entrusted MIR with guiding them to the fascinating Balkan countries
  • Twice named one of National Geographic Adventure’s "Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth"
  • On-the-ground support and quality you can trust
  • Personalized travel planning from start to finish
  • Guides and tour managers that clients rave about
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Itinerary & Highlights at a Glance

Days 1-3: Budapest, Keszthely

Begin in Hungary’s elegant capital, Budapest, exploring Franz-Josef’s Royal Palace and the 13th century Mathias Church, used as a mosque under Ottoman rule. Enjoy great views of the city from Gellert Hill, and perhaps take a stroll along the banks of the Danube before boarding the luxury Golden Eagle Danube Express on its way to Keszthely. Here visit the Helikon Castle Museum, near Lake Balaton, the largest freshwater lake in Central Europe.

Highlights

  • UNESCO-listed Budapest, built in the grand style of the Hapsburgs, with its legacy of fine baroque, neoclassical and art nouveau buildings
  • Facades of the Citadel, St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Heroes Square, and the magnificent neo-Renaissance Opera House
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Days 4-5: Ljubljana, Sarajevo, Mostar

Spend some time in Slovenia’s capital, Ljubljana, a stunning mix of baroque, Renaissance, neoclassical and Austrian art nouveau styles. Visit the Sarajevo Tunnel Museum with a survivor who used the life-saving escape route during the 20th century siege. Explore Mostar, with its UNESCO-listed Stari Most, or Old Bridge, from Ottoman times.

Highlights

  • Ljubljana’s Triple Bridge, connecting the Market Colonnade with Preseren, the city's main square
  • The Postojna Cave system, an underground world of caverns adorned with glittering stalactites and stalagmites
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Days 6-7: Belgrade, Sofia, Plovdiv

Make a stop in Serbia’s capital, Belgrade, a dynamic and sophisticated city of 1.7 million, swiftly becoming one of the hippest places in Europe. Discover Bulgaria’s capital, Sofia, with its 4th century St. George Rotunda, and Plovdiv’s Roman amphitheater, built by Emperor Marcus Aurelius.

Highlights

  • Serbia’s capital, Belgrade, destroyed and rebuilt between 30 and 11 times by conquerors like Attila the Hun, the Visigoths, the Magyars and the Turks
  • Sofia, capital of Bulgaria, with its 4th century St. George Rotunda and golden-domed Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
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Days 8-9: Skopje, Thessaloniki, Gallipoli Peninsula

Visit Skopje, Macedonia, where Mother Teresa was born, and UNESCO-listed Thessaloniki, dotted with early Roman monuments and Byzantine reminders. Pay your respects on the Gallipoli Peninsula, a narrow strip of Turkish land that became the site of a protracted battle between the Ottoman Empire and British and French forces, who tried unsuccessfully to fight their way through to Istanbul.

Highlights

  • Macedonia’s capital and largest city, Skopje, where Mother Teresa was born and raised
  • Mediterranean seafood dinner in Thessaloniki, Greece
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Days 10-12: Istanbul

Disembark in fabulous Istanbul, exploring the legendary Blue Mosque, soaring upwards with its six minarets and layered domes, and Hagia Sophia, originally built by Byzantine Emperor Justinian around 537. Browse the Grand Bazaar, begun in the 15th century near the Golden Horn, where ships from foreign lands unloaded their goods. Admire Topkapi Palace, the Great Palace of the Ottoman Sultans from the 15th-19th centuries.

Highlights

  • Istanbul, sprawled across two continents, and former capital of two great empires
  • Blue Mosque, soaring upwards with its six minarets and layered domes
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See Dates & Prices for more details or to see suggested extensions.

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Tour Dates & Prices

Trip itinerary currently not available.  

Please contact us for more information and a MIR Destination Specialist will contact with you shortly. Thank you!

What’s Included

On Your Tour

  • Accommodation aboard the Golden Eagle Danube Express private train.
  • Per the itinerary, 4 nights of shared accommodation in well-located hotels.
  • All meals starting with dinner on Day 1 until breakfast on final tour day, including a generous, though not unlimited, allowance of wine or local beer, soft drinks and water with all lunches and dinners.
  • 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 per itinerary.
  • The services of an experienced Train Tour Manager, with local guides for scheduled off-train touring.
  • Complimentary tea, coffee and mineral water round the clock from your car attendant while on board the train.
  • All gratuities.
  • Baggage handling.

Before Your Tour

  • Personalized pre-departure support from one of our knowledgeable Tour Specialists.
  • Complete pre-departure information including detailed packing list and reading list.
  • Touring with MIR handbook with country-specific information, maps, and travel tips.
  • Customized visa application instruction kit (please note, visa fees are not included in the tour price).
  • Final document packet including luggage tags, final updates, and more. Assistance booking your custom flight arrangements (on request; please note that international and internal airfares are not included in the land tour cost).
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Prepare for Your Trip

International Airfare

MIR's in-house, full-service air department will gladly assist with your air travel needs.

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Reading List

MIR recommends reading up before you leave home. So settle back in your armchair with some of our favorite books about our favorite places.

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Visas

Most MIR programs require one or more visas, and each visa requires a completely blank page in your passport. Visa information for this particular tour is listed in the Detailed Descriptive Itinerary.

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Travel Insurance

Stay a Little Longer…

MIR can arrange for an extended program in Istanbul or the Caucasus or Central Asia before or after your tour. All of MIR’s destinations are open to you, and all can be attached to this program. Please contact MIR for more details about exciting options for extended travel.

Or, choose from one of these suggested itineraries:

Is this Trip Right for You?

This trip is moderately active, and rated moderate to rigorous touring due to the daily walking involved and the overall shortcomings of the tourism infrastructure. To reap the full rewards of this adventure, travelers must be able to walk at least a mile a day, keeping up with fellow travelers. Flexibility, a sense of humor and a willingness to accept local standards of amenities and services are essential components to the enjoyment of this trip.

A full list of details about the rigors of this tour are explained in the Detailed Descriptive Itinerary.

Read our Travel Journals

MIR's Travel Journals offer first hand accounts of MIR's fascinating destinations.

  • Jewels of Persia: Iran by Private Train

    Jewels of Persia: Iran by Private Train

    Douglas Grimes and Annie Lucas, MIR's President and Vice President, had the privilege of being aboard the inaugural journey of the first western private train allowed into Iran. A round trip journey from Budapest to Tehran and back aboard the Golden Eagle Danube Express private train, this was a first-of-its-kind itinerary and an historic undertaking.... Read More

  • Riding the Trans-Siberian Rails: Moscow to Ulaanbaatar

    Riding the Trans-Siberian Rails: Moscow to Ulaanbaatar

    MIR clients Helge Pedersen and Karen Ofsthus ride the rails of the fabled Trans-Siberian Railway from Moscow to Ulaanbaatar on MIR's Trans-Siberian private rail journey as they check in from each stop with stories, photos and video.... Read More

See All Journals
MIR in the News
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From the Blog
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Golden Eagle Danube Express

Golden Eagle Danube Express

The perfect combination of remote destinations and comfortable accommodations, rail journeys by private train open a world of discovery to travelers who enjoy comfort and leisure time as well as exciting new vistas.

Exclusive private trains furnish the dream of Old World rail travel with modern comforts and amenities that make the journey as pleasant as the destinations. The luxurious Golden Eagle Danube Express offers a restful and satisfying way to experience legendary rail routes.

Train & Hotel Accommodations

Relax and enjoy the panorama rolling past your private window and disembark for guided off-train touring in fascinating towns and cities along the way.

Each car on the Golden Eagle Danube Express has its own attendants who provide bed turndown service, plus tea, coffee and mineral water 24 hours a day. Attendants keep an eye on everything while guests are away from the train. Towels are provided and onboard laundry service is available.

Two styles of accommodation are available on board the Golden Eagle Danube Express: Deluxe Class (en suite) and Heritage Class (shared facilities).

  • Deluxe Class

    Deluxe Class

    The Deluxe Class on the Golden Eagle Danube Express features newly designed air-conditioned cabins which pair luxury with utility, offering superior accommodations that feature two lower berths and fully en suite facilities. Cabins are furnished with two daytime armchairs, a free-standing chair, a window that opens, a table, and a wardrobe with a safe. Your attendant will convert the two armchairs into comfortable twin beds for nighttime use. The en suite bathroom features a range of toiletries, a hair dryer and heated towel rack.

    Additional Information

    Deluxe Class cabin dimensions – 5 cabins/carriage:

    Cabin Area (total, including bathroom) – 83 sq ft (7.7 sq m)
    Cabin length – 13′ (3.97 m)
    Cabin width – 6′ 5″ (1.95 m)
    Bed (two singles, each) – 6′ 3″ x 2′ 7.5″  (1.9 m x 0.8 m)


  • Heritage Class

    Heritage Class

    The Heritage Class features comfortable air-conditioned seating by day, transformed while you dine into upper and lower berths ready for nighttime use. A washbasin is included in the cabin, and large windows make sightseeing pleasant. Toilet and shower facilities are provided at the end of each car.

    Additional Information

    Heritage Class cabin dimensions – 8 cabins/carriage:

    Cabin area – 33 sq ft (3.1 sq m)
    Upper bed – 5′ 10″ x 2′ 5″ (1.8 m x 0.74 m)
    Lower bed – 6′ 5″ x 2′ 5.5″ (2 m x 0.75 m)


  • Hotel Accommodations

    Hotel Accommodations

    The first and last nights of most tours are spent in well-appointed four and five star hotels. Some tours feature additional hotel nights. Please review the detailed itinerary for specifics pertaining to each tour and departure. Additional nights before and after any tour can be arranged on request.

Life Aboard the Train
Golden Eagle Danube Express

The Golden Eagle Danube Express private train provides everything you need for a pleasurable journey. Join travelers from around the world to enjoy the relaxed and casual environment onboard, with no need to wear formal attire on excursions or while dining.

Train formations are not fixed, as the composition varies to suit the number of passengers on a given departure. The exact configuration of train on any particular journey may not be determined until close to departure.

Please note that a variety of cabins styles are in use aboard the train. Décor and layout of dining, bar and sleeping cars on your journey may differ from the sample images depicted in our brochures/websites.

  • Bar/Lounge Car

    Bar/Lounge Car

    A Bar/Lounge Car is included in the formation of the train. The lounge offers a relaxing and comfortable area where you can enjoy a drink and gather with other passengers around the piano.

    Additional Information

  • Dining Cars

    Dining Cars

    Dining Cars feature European cuisine complemented by a selection of European wines.

    Additional Information

  • Off-Train Tours

    Off-Train Tours

    Rail journeys feature an extensive selection of educational city tours in the various stops on our routes. Private coaches and local guides whisk you away from your private train for fascinating half- or full-day forays into the principal towns and cities, sometimes including an in-city dining opportunity. Read through this tour’s itinerary for more information (found on the Itinerary & Map tab of this page).