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Hiking through south-east Europe

The Sultanstrail is a long-distance hiking and cycling trail through south-eastern Europe from Vienna to Istanbul.

The dominant natural feature along a major part of the trail is the Danube river, the second-longest river in Europe, after the Volga. This river was once the long-standing northern frontier of the Roman Empire. The trail follows the Danube through Austria, Slovakia, Hungary and Serbia, where it leaves the river which is left to continue its course east, through Romania unto the Black Sea.

The Sultanstrail turns south from the Danube near Smederevo in Serbia at the mouth of the Big Morava river, roughly following the ancient Roman via Militaris towards Niš and further to Sofia in Bulgaria, Edirne in Turkey and ultimately Istanbul, the ancient capital of the Eastern Roman Empire and later the Ottoman empire.

Assets

The trail is generally well provided with accommodation facilities, except for a few areas in Bulgaria and Turkey that require a bit more logistical planning.
Camping is possible all along the way. In Austria, Slovakia and Hungary it is expected that you use official campsites, beyond Hungary rules are more liberal or totally absent. It is advisable however to check with local residents (if any) about the best place to pitch your tent.
In cities and villages, you can find small shops for replenishment.

Places of Interest

Manasija Monastery in Serbia

The trail follows the Roman Limes and Via Militaris so it will not surprise that you will witnesses roman culture surface along the way. Very noticeably in Petronell-Carnuntum in Austria, or Aquincum in Budapest, Naissus (Niš) in Serbia, Serdica present-day Sofia and of course Constantinople Istanbul.
In the middle ages, various kings ruled the lands. The visual remains of these kingdoms can be seen in Vienna, Bratislava, Budapest, Székesfehérvár, Belgrade, Kruševac and Edirne, along with mediaeval cities and fortified monasteries.

The major religions along the way are Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, Muslim, each with different rites, symbols and architecture. Among Ottoman remains are mosques, cisterns, hammams, caravanserai and clock-towers.

Not only the distant past but modern history too, left its marks, as can be seen at the Red-cross Nazi concentration camp in Niš or during the “communist city tour” in Sofia.

If you are interested in pre-historic cultures, interesting places are Százhalombatta, in Hungary (bronze age Hallstatt culture), Vinča near Belgrade (Neolithic Vinča culture) and the Thracian city Perperikon in Bulgaria.

Travel

Major cities on the trail are easily accessible by low-cost airliners, such as Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, Sofia and Istanbul.

Good train connections to western Europe exist with Vienna and Budapest.
Within the region, the primal means of public transportation is by bus.
Some countries also have a well-functioning train system, like Austria, Slovakia, Hungary and Bulgaria.

It is not always possible to take a bicycle on the bus or train.

Route

Hikers and cyclist follow a slightly different route. Due to these different modes of transportation requirements are different. Cyclist may prefer asphalt, whereas hikers do not. For more details continue reading at hiking trail or cycling trail

When to go

Balkan weather, source: www.meteoblue.com

The “mean daily maximum” (solid red line) shows the maximum temperature of an average day for every month for Balkan Mountains. Likewise, “mean daily minimum” (solid blue line) shows the average minimum temperature. Hot days and cold nights (dashed red and blue lines) show the average of the hottest day and coldest night of each month of the last 30 years. For vacation planning, you can expect the mean temperatures, and be prepared for hotter and colder days.

As a rule we tend to avoid being on the trail in July and August, since temperatures are likely to rise above 300C. In spring it may rain, which is more of a nuisance for hikers then cyclist as the path may become muddy and slippery. In March and November, it can be cold, depending on the location.
Best months are March-June and September-October. Weather may be stable until halfway November.

For actual weather conditions check Meteoblue here

Material

The route is not marked, the way other routes are marked. Occasionally you may find a sticker, informing you that you are still on the trail. But these are insufficient for navigation.
The cycling route is described in two cycling-guides (Dutch) that are available from our web store, a GPS track for self-navigation goes with the guide. Check here
For the hiking route GPS-tracks are available from our web store, Digital Information Package, to be loaded into a navigation device (Garmin, or mobile phone App). Check here.
The tracks can also be obtained from Google Playstore as ready-to-use Sultans Trail hiking App, for Android devices. Check here

A Sultans Trail Passport will help you to introduce yourself to locals, and collect evidence of your passing there by way of getting it stamped.

For the ones that have completed the trail we have a certificate ready called Ferman. Just report your trip to us and ask to be inscribed into the Ferman Register.

Stickers and trafic signs

The trail is not marked. But occasionally, you can find these stickers on the trail to remind you that you are on the Sultans Trail. 
For navigation on the trail we have GPS-tracks available to be used in Gamin devises of mobile phones. The full Information Package is available from our web store. Android users are recommended to use our Sultans Trail Hiking App, available fro Google Play Store.

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The Sultans Trail Digital Information Package contains all GPS-tracks, the full POI-list and addresses of accommodations and more…