For many travelers, the Balkans don’t spring to mind when looking for places to explore in Europe. Tucked away in the southeast of the continent, they tend to be overlooked in favor of western Europe destinations. The MIR Corp. aims to change that with a seven-nation journey called Balkan Odyssey: Crosswords of Cultures. The Sept. 13 departure travels to Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia, countries that have a mix of Catholic, Muslim and Orthodox religions and ethnic and political divisions. Modern-day Belgrade, the Serbian capital, tempts with its artists’ quarter, Skadarlija. There are many UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Balkans, including the Old Bridge in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina, which dates from Ottoman times, and Dubrovnik’s famed Old Town on the Adriatic coast in southern Croatia. There’s also Kotor, Montenegro, guarded by walls as old as Roman times. Durres, Albania, has the largest Roman amphitheater in the Balkans, and Skopje, Macedonia, birthplace of Mother Teresa, shows Ottoman influences in its Turkish quarter. Cost of the trip is $7,695 per person, double occupancy. International airfare is extra. Info: 800-424-7289, http://tinyurl.com/ydayh7bo
REST OF THE BEST
It’s always interesting to see how the difference in demographics can affect those “best of” awards that are constantly being trotted out. A couple of weeks ago, we reported that Viroth’s Hotel in Siem Reap, Cambodia, was named the best hotel in the world in TripAdvisor’s 2018 Travelers’ Choice Awards. Now we’re perusing The Top 100 Hotels in the World listing as voted by readers of Travel Plus Leisure. No. 1 on this list is Four Seasons Resort Bali at Sayan, Indonesia. Viroth’s is nowhere to be found on this list. In fact, no hotels in Cambodia made the cut. In addition to hotels, the T Plus L rankings cover best cities, islands, transportation and cruise lines globally and regionally. Be warned, they like to keep you scrolling by putting the highest rank at the bottom. Spend the rest of your day with the rankings at http://tinyurl.com/ycvklvu2.
TRIPS WITH A RING TO THEM
ApoteoSurprise bills itself as a Paris-based high-end marriage planner specializing in the organization of spectacular and unique marriage proposals. Its newest and most grandiose and expensive proposal package will have you and your intended blast off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida and spend a week in space, orbiting the moon where you can pop the question. There are a few drawbacks, though. For starters, this won’t be available until 2022. And, you’ll have to undergo three months of astronaut training. Oh, and it’ll cost $145 million. And, if your beloved spurns your proposal, it’ll be a long ride back to splashdown. ApoteoSurprise does have some more reasonably priced options for those looking to propose in Paris. For as little as $339, a fake delivery man can deliver your proposal using some sleight of hand involving a burning envelope and deck of cards. Check out all 30 marriage proposal offerings at http://tinyurl.com/ycb46rov.
(Phil Marty is a freelance reporter.)