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Tours & Cruises | THE BALKANS

War sites, age-old castles

September 10, 2006|Maggie Barnett | Times Staff Writer

TAKE a fall journey through the Balkans on an 18-night trip that includes Albania, Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia.

The tour, which begins Oct. 5, will give participants a look at "places like Albania that are opening up to tourism ... [and] countries that couldn't be included before because of wars and insurrections," said Kathy Kutrubes of Kutrubes Travel.

In Albania, the tour takes the group to the capital, Tirana; Kruja; the old Roman city of Durres; and Berat, whose castles and fort are more than 2,400 years old.

Participants also travel to Elbasan, Pogradec and Lake Ohrid before crossing into Macedonia, where they will stroll the Turkish bazaar in Skopje.

In Kosovo, the group tours the site of the 1389 Battle of Kosovo and the capital city Pristina then heads into northern Albania to the Italianate city of Shkoder, which was once part of the Venetian empire.

In Montenegro, the tour stops in Podgorica (formerly Titograd) before traveling the Adriatic Coast to the Croatian city of Dubrovnik. The group tours churches and palaces on the way to Mostar and Sarajevo in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The tour returns to Croatia, stopping in the city of Split and at Plitvice Lakes National Park with its 16 lakes and cascading waterfalls. Continuing, the group visits Slovenia, the Julian Alps resort town of Bled and the capital Ljubljana before returning to Croatia for two days of sightseeing in Zagreb.

Cost: $3,802 to $4,783 per person, double occupancy ($682 single surcharge), including hotels, most meals, ground transportation, guides, entrance fees and airport transfer. International airfare, departure and custom fees are not included.

Contact: Kutrubes Travel, Boston; (800) 878-8566, www.kutrubestravel.com.

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MEXICO

Deep inside Copper Canyon

TRAVERSE Copper Canyon by train on a trip that includes visits to villages, birding in the rugged landscape and seeing archeological sites.

The 10-night trips, scheduled Sept. 29, Oct. 31 and April 14, begin in El Mochis and travel through the Sierra Madre, navigating 87 tunnels and crossing 37 main bridges on the way to Chihuahua.

The tour visits the home of Pancho Villa in Chihuahua and takes in the scenery of Arareco Lake. The group will stop in the village of Mata Ortiz, known for its pottery.

The tour also will deliver supplies to a school on the way to Urique.

Cost: $2,360 per person, double occupancy ($350 single surcharge), including lodging, ground transportation, meals, guides, admissions, transfers and a $200 tax-deductible donation to the Santa Teresita Clinic in Creel and two schools in the region. Airfare from Los Angeles to El Mochis is not included.

Contact: Cultural Arts Tours and Workshops, Los Angeles; (323) 344-9064.

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FRANCE

An intimate look at wine

WINE and dine on a gourmet tour of the Champagne and Burgundy regions of France that begins Oct. 22.

The six-night tours visit Paris, Reims and Dijon.

"We are focusing on a small group because the wineries prefer small groups," said Kathleen Sedlmayr of Classic Travel.

In Paris, the group will tour the city, including Montmartre and the Eiffel Tower, and dine in restaurants such as the elegant Lasserre. In the Champagne region, the group will tour the cathedral of Reims and taste wines at the Mumm winery and Moet et Chandon near Epernay.

The group travels to Dijon and tours wineries in Gevrey-Chambertin and Ladoix-Serrigny, returning to Paris by train for a day of independent touring and dinner at chef Alain Reix's Jules Verne Restaurant on the Eiffel Tower.

Cost: $5,699 per person, double occupancy ($500 single surcharge), including deluxe hotels, meals, ground transportation, winery tours and tastings, excursions and room taxes. International airfare is not included.

Contact: Classic Travel, Westlake Village; (805) 495-5211 Ext. 3, www.classictravel.net.

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JAPAN

500 torches light the way

CELEBRATE the Kurama Fire Festival in Kyoto on a tour of Japan that begins Oct. 18.

The 12-night excursion travels from Kyoto to Tokyo and stops in villages between the two cities.

The group stays in an ancestral country home in Kameoka, visits the mountain town of Takayama, and Tokyo, where they will visit museums and see Kabuki theater.

The Kurama Fire Festival (Kurama-no-Himatsuri), on Oct. 22 features more than 500 torches, which light the way to the Kyoto Imperial Palace.

Cost: $5,280 per person, double occupancy ($1,695 single surcharge), including accommodations, most meals, ground transportation, entrance fees and performances. International airfare is not included.

Contact: Asian Pacific Adventures, Tarzana; (800) 825-1680, www.asianpacificadventures.com.

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Send information to Tours & Cruises, Los Angeles Times, 202 W. 1st St., Los Angeles, CA 90012, or send e-mail to travel@latimes .com.

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