Days11 From EUR 1,310
Start in Tirana and end in Kruja, the Highlights Of Albania trip is a guided walking tour that takes 11 days. You will be touring through Gjirokaster, Permet, Kruje and 6 other destinations in Macedonia, Croatia and Albania. Highlights Of Albania is a small group trip which will include accommodation in hotels, transport, meals and others. Please check the package includes section for more details.
Still emerging from isolation Albania’s wealth of historic sites, charming rural villages and the colourful capital, Tirana, are all waiting to be discovered. Along the way explore the Adriatic Coast, the White Mountains and peaceful shores of Lake Ohrid. Butrint – Discover one of the greatest archaeological sites in the Balkans Llogara National Park – Explore one of the most unspoilt places in the Adriatic Gjirokastra – Stroll along the cobbled streets of this UNESCO-Listed town and visit its hilltop castle
Day 1 : Join trip in Tirana
Arrive in Tirana, Albania’s colourful capital city. With a blend of communist architecture and a backdrop of rugged mountains, Tirana is a mix of new and old.
For those arriving on time our Leader plans to meet you in the hotel reception at 6pm for the welcome meeting and for those that wish, there is the chance to go out for dinner. There are no other activities planned today, so you are free to arrive in Tirana at any time. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you’ll need to arrive into Tirana International Airport (TIA), which is about 30 minutes’ drive. Should you miss the welcome meeting, your Leader will inform you of any essential information as soon as you catch up.
If your flight arrives earlier in the day, perhaps you might choose to visit the Bunk ‘Art Musuem. This huge former Cold War bunker is located in the outskirts of city and here you can view exhibits on Albanian history and see contemporary art.
Whilst in Albania we’ll have the opportunity to sample the delicious cuisine, which is a real mix of Turkish, Greek and Italian influences, like byrek – a spinach and feta stuffed filo pie, and in the more rural mountainous areas barbequed lamb and ‘earthy’ vegetables such as griddled aubergines and mushrooms are particularly popular. Along the coast there will of course be the chance to sample fresh seafood. Albanian red wine is especially good and also local beers, such as Birra Korca.
On this trip we have packed in as many highlights of Tirana as we can, but there is very little free time in the city, so if you wish to spend some time discovering more on your own, we would recommend extending your stay for a night or two.
Day 2 : Visit to Petrela Fortress and walking tour of Tirana
This morning we take a short drive to Petrela Fortress stopping en route at the Bektashi World Centre. The Bektashi Order is an Islamic dervish sect who blends elements of both Shia and Sufi beliefs. We’ll have a brief stop to see their ornately decorated tekke (place of worship) with its marble mosaics. Petrela Fortress dates back to 5th century and is one of the oldest structures in Albania. On a clear day, you can see all the way to Kruja, where we end our journey through Albania.
On arriving back to Tirana, we will have a guided walking tour of the city to see main sights including the government buildings, Skanderbeg Square, the old bazaar and Et’Hem Bey Mosque.
Day 3 : See Elbasan Fortress and drive to Lake Ohrid
This morning before leaving Tirana we will visit the National Museum of History, with its easily recognisable mosaic frontage.
We then drive to Elbasan to visit the historic fortress before continuing on to the picturesque fisherman’s village of Lin where we will have free time for lunch before we drive to Pogradec, on the shores of Lake Ohrid. The lake is one of the oldest in the world and is a spot renowned for its natural beauty.
Day 4 : Drive to Korca via the medieval town of Voskopoja
Today we make the journey to Voskopoja – formally known as Moskopoje. Founded in the 16th century, the town was once a major urban settlement and was famous for its churches which were adorned with many beautiful frescoes. After exploring the churches here, time for lunch and to sample fresh watermelon (when in season) we continue to Korca, sitting at the foot of Moravia Mountain, where we will spend the night.
On arrival we take a city tour including the Resurrection Cathedral, which is the main Orthodox Church, and Medieval Museum which houses a wide selection of stone sculptures, carved wood artefacts and textiles.
Day 5 : Scenic drive to Permeti and walk through the Benja countryside
Our journey today takes us through the southern highlands to Permeti. Just outside Korca we will visit the Kamenica Tumulus archaeological site where we can see a Bronze Age burial complex. Travelling along one of the most scenic routes in Albania, we will reach the Barmash Pass (1,040 metres) where we can enjoy sweeping views of the Nemercka Mountains, which are snow covered for most of the year and form the border with Greece. En route, we will walk through the Benja countryside and have the opportunity to see the stunning view of the Ottoman stone bridge over the river with the mountains in the distance. We’ll then stop for a typical Albanian drink of raki with the locals before driving on to Permeti. This town is located on the Vjose River in the heart of the White Mountains.
The walk near Benja today is for around six kilometres and will take about one and a half hours. This walk is classified as easy as it follows quiet village roads and footpaths.
Day 6 : Drive through the mountains to old Balkan town of Gjirokastra
Our day starts with a walk up to the village of Leusa where there will be time to visit the church, which features some stunning frescoes, particularly on the ceiling.
Our route to Gjirokastra takes us through the White Mountains via Kelcyra Gorge, carved by the Vjose River on its way to the Adriatic Sea. The scenery in the mountains is breathtaking with rolling valleys, that in spring are covered with some of the most exuberant wildflowers you are likely to see anywhere in Albania. As we travel, look out for eagles soaring above us. On the way to Kelcyra, we stop at Dhkosat village, where we will have a traditional homemade lunch.
Later, we arrive in Gjirokastra where we take a walking tour through the cobbled streets of its UNESCO-listed historic centre and visit Gjirokastra Castle and the Ethnographic Museum. The castle sits at a height of 336 metres and is one of the most magnificent structures in the city with views over the hilly countryside, river valley and city. There have been extensive renovations to the building since it was constructed in the 12th century and it now possesses five towers, a church, a cistern, and houses the Weapons Museum. The museum exhibits captured artillery and memorabilia of the Communist resistance against German occupation, as well as a captured US Air Force plane to commemorate the Communist regime’s struggle against the ‘imperialist’ western powers.
The Ethnographical Museum is in the historic district of Palorto and stands on the site where the dictator Enver Hoxha was born. Set over four floors it offers us an insight into the traditional affluent Albanian lifestyle of the town with numerous household items, folk costumes and cultural artefacts on display.
Our walk today in Leusa takes about two hours and is six kilometres. It’s along quiet village roads, but is uphill, so is classified as easy to moderate.
Day 7 : Explore Butrint, one of the greatest archaeological sites in the Balkans
Leaving Gjirokastra behind us, we drive to Saranda. Along the way, we will stop at the karstic spring, known as ‘The Blue Eye’ where we can marvel at the blue clear waters.
This afternoon we visit UNESCO listed Butrint, which is one of the great archaeological sites in the Balkans. With a long and colourful history dating back to the early Neolithic age, Butrint has been occupied and fought over until the Ottoman period when it lay abandoned. More recently, excavations have taken place and all periods of Butrint’s history have been revealed including its Roman theatre, Roman house and thermal baths as well as a fine baptistery with fabulous mosaic floors. The setting is idyllic with the ruins nestling in the bend of the Vivari River. After spending time exploring this fascinating site, we return to the shores of the Mediterranean and Saranda for the night.
Day 8 : Visit Ali Pasha’s Fortress; stay in Llogora National Park
As we leave Saranda, we can look forward to another scenic coastal drive along the Albanian Riviera, before winding over the 1,000 metre high pass at Llogora as we travel to the national park, which goes by the same name. Along our route we pass terraces planted with citrus groves and olive trees and enjoy the views over the mountains, sea and forest. We stop at Ali Pasha Fortress, a castle on a small peninsula within Palermo Bay with stunning views over the turquoise coastal waters. Although small, the walls of the triangular fort are well preserved, along with some cannons found here. We’ll also stop to take a brief stroll along the beach at Himara.
Upon reaching Llogora National Park, we will have time for a three to four hour hike covering seven kilometres in the mountains with many attractive views along the way. The route we follow is along a combination of well-trodden footpaths, goat trails and a military road. We classify this walk as moderate in difficulty.
Tonight we’ll stay at hotel nestled amongst the pine trees of this tranquil national park.
Day 9 : Visit ancient Apollonia and Vlora en route to Berat
This morning en route to Apollonia we stop at Vlora where we will visit Flag Square and the Muradi Mosque. From here we continue our drive to Apollonia. Founded in 585 BC and dedicated to the god Apollo, the city achieved fame and wealth before being incorporated into the Roman Empire to become Caesar’s stronghold during the civil war with Pompey. The most impressive feature of the site is the bouleuterion – a facade with six Corinthian columns which are thought to date back to the 2nd century AD. Although much of the ancient site is yet to be excavated, with so few other visitors, it is possible to imagine a time when the site supported 55,000 men and Octavian (later to become Emperor Augustus) was one of its students. We continue our drive to Berat where we spend the night.
Day 10 : Walking tour of Berat and Durresi
Situated over a gorge next to the Osumi River and in the shadow of Mount Tomori, Berat’s white buildings sprawl up the hillside towards the fortress. New construction is strictly regulated in order to maintain the city’s unique character in its UNESCO listed historical centre.
Exploring on foot this morning, we head up to the fortress and see the painted icons and frescoes in the Church of Saint Mary, one of the seven churches within the citadel walls. We will also visit the oldest mosque in Albania, the Red Mosque, and the Onufri Icon Museum.
We drive on to Durresi which is one of Albania’s main ports. Originally founded in 627 BC by the Greeks and then called Epidamnos, the city was later plundered and conquered by the Illyrians, Romans, Normans, Venetians and Serbs, which resulted in the many reminders we can see as we wander around the city today of its long and varied history. For example, we will stop off at the Roman Amphitheatre, which is not far from the modern city’s main square. We will also visit the Archaeological Museum before we depart and drive to Kruja where we spend the last night of our trip.
Day 11 : Trip ends in Kruja
The trip ends after breakfast at our hotel in Kruja.
There are no activities planned today, so you are free to depart from Kruja at any time. If your flight is departing later in the day luggage storage facilities are available at our hotel. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you need to depart from Tirana International Airport (TIA), which is about 40 minutes’ drive.
Depending on the time of your flight or if you are extending your stay by a night then you may have some free time today to explore Kruja, perhaps to visit the fortress, which is a place of pilgrimage and inspiration for Albanians, the nearby bazaar or the Ethnographic Museum.
GOOD TO KNOW
A deposit of 210 EUR is required to confirm this tour. The remaining balance will be charged 59 days before departure. For any departures within 26 December 2019 full payment is required.
Undiscovered Balkans tour requires that you have adequate and valid travel insurance covering medical and personal accidents, including repatriation costs and emergency evacuation. We recommend using World Nomads’ travel insurance.
For this Undiscovered Balkans tour getting the required visa(s) is the responsibility for each individual traveller, as visa requirements vary depending on your nationality. We recommend to check with your local embassies representing the countries that you are travelling to, as part of this itinerary.
CANCELLATIONNo additional cancellation fees apply for this Undiscovered Balkans tour. You can cancel the tour up to 60 days prior departure and avoid paying the full amount, but your deposit paid is non-refundable. No refund applies for cancellations within 59 days of departure.
NEED HELP OR HAVE A QUESTION ABOUT THIS TOUR?
If you have any question about this tour or need help with planning a trip, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us.We’re ready to help.