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Cycling in Albania

from $1,749.00

Discover the beauty of this previously isolated country by bike

  • Reviews 10 Reviews
    5/5
  • Vacation Style Holiday Type
    Guided
  • Activity Level Moderate / Challenging
  • Group Size Small Group
    4 - 16
All about the Cycling in Albania.

Some say that visiting Albania is as close as you’ll get to travelling back in time. It wasn’t until the collapse of the People’s Socialist Republic of Albania in 1991 that the world got its first glimpse of the country within. Huge snow-capped mountains, inviting beaches, pretty rural villages, a genuine subsistence culture and an exceptionally friendly welcome is what you will find here. We cycle through the very best of Europe’s beautiful unknown, beginning our tour on the border of Macedonia, biking towards the ancient town of Gjirokastra passing soaring peaks and lush green valleys. From here we begin our descent to the Albanian Riviera passing the UNESCO site of Butrint and Llogara National Park, before relaxing by the sea at our hotel in Vlorë.

The tour package inclusions and exclusions at a glance
What is included in this tour?Items that are included in the cost of tour price.

* All breakfasts and 2 dinners included
* 5 nights hotels, 2 nights guesthouses
* Airport Transfers (at designated times)
* Local bike rental

Group normally 4 to 16 plus local cycling leader and driver. Min age 16 yrs.

What is not included in this tour?
  • Flights
  • Single Accommodation (available on request, inquire for supplement)
  • E-Bike (available on request, inquire for supplement)

Highlights

  • Immerse yourself in a previously isolated country
  • Cycle from mountain plateaux to the Albanian Riviera
  • Visit the UNESCO World Heritage site of Butrint
  • Trip can be combined with Cycle Macedonia & Northern Albania
  1. Day 1 Start Pogradec.

    Start Pogradec. Those booked on the group transfer (at designated time) will be met at the airport and transferred to our hotel in Pogradec, situated on the shore of Lake Ohrid (approx. 3hr drive). The afternoon is free to relax and enjoy this lakeside location.*Comfortable Hotel*

  2. Day 2 Transfer to Korçë; steady climb through a landscape of barren rock interspersed with wild flowers; cycle towards Grammoz Mountain and over the Barmash Pass (1159m) to Gërmenj.

    We begin with one of the most demanding days of the tour. After a quick transfer to Korçë, we begin cycling and leave behind the agricultural plateau, climbing steadily into the border mountains through a landscape of barren rock interspersed with wild flowers. Numerous cols and valleys lie ahead, climbing towards Grammoz Mountain and over the Barmash Pass (1159m) to Gërmenj, lying in its own tranquil valley. Here we relax at our accommodation, Farma Sotira, which is also a working trout farm. Meals here consist of organic produce that is reared or sourced from the farm itself. Once you’ve finished eating your hearty dinner, you can sit and relax by the open roaring fire in the dining area with a glass of homemade wine or a bottle of Korçë beer (Albania’s most popular).Cycle approx. 72km, total ascent approx. 1150m, total descent approx. 1050m.*Standard Hotel*

  3. Day 3 Cycle through high grassy plateaux surrounded by soaring peaks before descending to Carshove and on to Benje; ride to thermal springs for a swim.

    In the morning there is a climb out from Germenj to a high grassy plateau close to the Greek border, surrounded by soaring peaks before reaching the source of the River Vjosa and descending through its spectacular gorge to Leskovik. We continue descending to Çarshove and then follow the corniche route high above the river to Benje situated on a ridge above the river. After lunch at the guesthouse, we take a short ride to the thermal springs to relax and soothe aching muscles. Both lunch and dinner will be served on the peaceful terrace.Cycle approx. 60km, total ascent approx. 687m, total descent approx. 1352m.*Standard Hotel*

  4. Day 4 Valley ride towards Kelcyra; after lunch at Tepele Waterfalls transfer to Gjirokastra for afternoon city tour.

    Today is one of the easiest days. We continue along the valley towards Kelcyra with its distant shark-tooth peaks, which guard a further gorge. We ride between these gorges until the two rivers meet. After lunch at the waterfalls of Tepelene we drive (approx. 30 mins) through the wide plain toward the town of Gjirokastra (city of 1000 steps). The well-preserved town is perched on the steep side of the Drino Valley, overlooking snow-capped mountains. In the afternoon we take a cultural tour through the city and explore its narrow cobbled alleys and 18th Century Ottoman houses. We also visit the 13th Century castle and learn about the fascinating history of this town, which has seen many rulers and has inspired poets, authors and artists.Cycle approx. 46km, total ascent approx. 350m, total descent approx. 520m.*Comfortable Hotel*

  5. Day 5 Transfer up the Muzina Pass, long descent to Sarandë via the coast and the UNESCO site of Butrint.

    After breakfast we load the bikes on to the support vehicle and transfer up to Muzina Pass (approx. 45 minutes), the gateway to southern Albania, for a spectacular downhill ride to Sarandë. Located on the Ionian Coast, Sarandë is sandwiched between the high mountains and the sea and is close to the ancient remains of Butrint, which we visit on the way. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Butrint is located very close to the Greek border and is one of the country’s most important archaeological sites, tracing its origins back to the Greeks and the Romans. We have lunch at the site and continue along the coast to Sarandë.Cycle approx. 70km, total ascent approx. 725m, total descent approx. 1285m.*Comfortable Hotel*

  6. Day 6 Spectacular coastal ride to the long beach of Himarë Bay.

    Climbing steeply out of Sarande to a rocky plateau, we enjoy a spectacular coastal ride over cols into bays and around headlands. Always with the stunning mountain scenery to the right and sea to the left, we continue along before descending to Himarë, a small communist-era fishing village with a small promenade filled with cafes, restaurants and ice cream stands. There is plenty of time for a swim in the Ionian Sea, and our hotel is a short walk to Potam Beach.Cycle approx. 54km, total ascent approx. 1064m, total descent approx. 1064m.*Comfortable Hotel*

  7. Day 7 Ride towards Vlorë; optional 1043m climb to the Llogara Pass; long descent through Llogara N.P. finishing by the coast.

    Today’s route is as challenging as it is spectacular as we cycle the most demanding ride of the tour; it will show you how strong you have become. In the morning there is a climb out of Himarë, which naturally is rewarded with an enjoyable downhill. We then have another climb before our coffee break. Our break is followed with a nice downhill, but we must climb yet again before we regroup. We then come face to face with the long steady ascent to the Llogara pass. At 1043m above sea level, this climb is completely optional, so if you think it is too much then you can jump in the support vehicle. However, if you are looking for an extra challenge, this climb comes with a real sense of achievement, and the views are fantastic. At the pass itself (which you will also see if you take the van) it is possible to see across to Italy on a clear day. We recommend taking a warmer layer for reaching the top of the pass. From here you enter Llogara National Park, home to black pine, Eurasian otter and golden eagles. The park is a scenic expanse of protected woodland that encompasses the forests on the northern side of the Llogora Pass. We begin to descend and have lunch in the National Park. In the afternoon we continue descending towards our hotel, which is located by the sea just outside of the city. Here we can relax and take a dip in the sea, the perfect reward for a hard day’s cycle. Cycle approx. 65km, total ascent approx. 1630m (including the optional climb), total descent approx. 1630m.*Comfortable Hotel*

  8. Day 8 End Vlorë.

    End Vlorë. Those joining group transfer (at designated time) will be transferred to Tirana airport in the morning (approx. 2.5hr drive).

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Where you stay

On Days 2 and 3, we are deep in the Albanian countryside and we stay in comfortable guesthouses. In Germenj we stay in Sotira Farm that is nestled in a tranquil valley, with fresh water running down from the mountains. It is also a trout farm, so you may find dinner to be fresh from the stream. Here we stay in wooden cabins that contain two rooms with twin beds in each room. Each cabin of two rooms will share their own communal bathroom. In Benje we stay in a guesthouse that is only a few kilometres from the thermal springs and Ottoman bridge. Run by a local family, dinner will often be taken out on the veranda where you will be served their own homegrown produce. Again, rooms here are a little more basic than hotels, each with an ensuite bathroom.

For the remaining nights, we use hotels that are of a comfortable 3 and 4-star standard, all with ensuite rooms.

Single accommodation available on request from with prices starting from USD$186. Please note, single rooms may not be available in the guesthouses in Germenj and Benje due to a limited number of rooms.

 

Eating and Drinking

All breakfasts and 2 dinners included.

Food in Albania is quite varied thanks to the many influences on the country and particularly Mediterranean combining Turkish, Greek and Italian tastes. Dairy products, especially milk and yoghurt are present in almost every meal, usually locally sourced.

Under the leadership of Enver Hoxha (the communist leader of Albania from 1944-1985), Albania became a self-sustaining country due to its isolation to the world. However due to the lush fertile valleys, fresh mountain springs and Mediterranean climate, they are still very much a subsistence culture and show very little signs of changing. In the countryside expect your food to have been reared/grown not too far from your plate.

Breakfasts are typically eggs, fresh bread, jam, honey and coffee or tea. For lunch and dinner, meat dishes are often goat or lamb, with fish dishes ranging from trout to whitebait. Courses often come in mezze form complimented with a variety of succulent vegetables, salad, freshly baked bread, homemade cheeses, local wines and of course, raki. Your guide will recommend the best options when in the towns.

This trip is classified Road

Activity Level: 4 (Moderate/Challenging)

Average daily distance 60km (37 miles)

No. of days cycling: 6

Full vehicle support

Terrain and route: 100% tarmac, where some sections are in a poor condition with potholes and some unsurfaced areas. The terrain is undulating with some long, but gradual climbs. The optional climb on day 7 (1043m) is the most challenging, although there is always the option of the support vehicle to get you up to the pass. We aim to use quiet roads where possible, although on one occasion we need to pass busy sections in order to reach the quiet roads beyond.

Overall Rating
5/5
Reviewed On 07/10/2019
5/5

Cycling in Albania

  • What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Cycling upto the trout farm. A long steep climb but all in the shade and amazing smell of the pine cones. The exhilarating downhills on the bike. We had a great group and we all got on really well. Scenery every day was amazing and very tranquil. Thermal spring visit was great - water was lovely and warm. The coffee on some of our stops was amazing. Lovely food including fish, grilled vegetables, greek yoghurt, sea food risotto, seafood linguine and chips. Wine very nice in some places and very cheap too.
  • What did you think of your group leader?

    Brillant - organised everything and gave us maps, told us what was coming up next on each cycling day. Took care of all the coffee stops and restaurant ordering and everything else. Really friendly and gave us history lesson. Our leader Erlis was really well supported by Ouni (trainee leader) and Tani (driver) so we were really lucky. They also both did a great job.
  • Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Have a bit of fitness behind you as the climbs are steep and long in places. Take some aqua shoes as beaches and theral spring have a fair amout of pebbles. Take care on the downhills as they are very steep and windy in places.
  • Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Best holiday ever - book it now!

Reviewed On 07/10/2019
4/5

Nice but not perfect

  • What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    I did enjoy the cycling in those desolated monutain regions, with practically no traffic in company of our joung enthusiastic guides.
  • What did you think of your group leader?

    Very helpful enthusiastic young guides.
  • Is there anything else you would like to add?

    The hotels at the coast were nice, although concerning the meals there was room for improvement. It would have been nice to dine a couple of time in a restaurant instead of staying always at the hotel.

Reviewed On 07/10/2019
5/5

Just book it

  • What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    On day 7 the ride towards Vlorë and the spectacular climb over the breathtaking Llogara Pass.
  • What did you think of your group leader?

    Erlis and Oni were both amazing. Great personalities, well organised, courteous and always smiling. Their history knowledge of Albania during its troubled times was also top notch.
  • Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Don’t hesitate just book the trip. Albania is such a beautiful country, away from over commercialisation. Great friendly people, lovely, healthy and wholesome food (all locally sourced). Don’t be off put by the climbs in the mountains as the bikes have a high gear ratio and there is always the minibus as an alternative option. The age group of our trip varied between 35 to 71 years. You must book this trip before the big tour companies get into Albania
  • Is there anything else you would like to add?

    I never knew much about Albania before this trip as the country was always a bit of a guarded secret with the old communist rule. Erlis and Oni our guides did a fantastic job of the trip and I would give it a 10 out of 10. Thank you Exodus and we’ll done Erlis and Oni

Reviewed On 20/09/2019
5/5

What a nice surprise!

  • What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    We had mountains / lakes / coastal scenery; great cycling with nice climbs and descents; UNESCO sites; swim in the Med. or a modern pool and even natural thermos pools + fresh cheap food and beer. Just about perfect!
  • What did you think of your group leader?

    Erlis was our leader and since he did the trip more than 40 times, he knows everything there is to know. The organisation is amazing and we never have to wait for anything (coffee stop, water, food, sites, hotel check in....). Everything is time to perfection and he explains the routes (with the best maps including the profiles) everyday so that we know exactly what to expect before hand. He always brief us and ensure that we are safe. The whole group felt that we were being extremely well looked after and the food was always fresh local produce which is great (and the prices are very reasonable compare to UK!).
  • Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    I didn't prepare for the trip but it would be more enjoyable if I did a bit more cycling before hand. A nice saddle is a good idea as the climbs can be long. Also, do try to spend (or exchange) your LEK before the airport since the banks/money exchange at the airport may be closed (may be it is open at the arrival hall but we were too lazy to go and find it). We had 6000 LEK left and had to buy a few bottles of expensive wines at the duty free (not a bad thing :) ) to spent it all!!
  • Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Just book this trip :)

Reviewed On 26/07/2019
5/5

Best Ever

  • What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    It's hard to choose one, but maybe getting to the top of that looong climb on the last day. I also really appreciated the history and cultural info that Erlis imparted to us throughout the trip.
  • What did you think of your group leader?

    Erlis was an amazing group leader! I had put in place a lot of structures that made our trip as easy and smooth as it could have been. He shared a lot of history and cultural information that really enhanced our travels and understanding of Albania. He was kind and patient and funny, and the trip would not have been as incredible without him at the helm. Tani, our driver/mechanic/snack procurer/hydrator was also an integral part of the group. He was incredibly thoughtful and accommodating, and anticipated needs we didn't even know we'd have.
  • Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Go on this trip! The trip notes and packing list covered everything very thoroughly.
  • Is there anything else you would like to add?

    The trip was very well run, and truly excellent. I cannot say enough about how great Erlis and Tani are - they really made this trip this wonderful. I would highly recommend this trip to anyone who can handle some challenging cycling.

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