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Highlights of Albania

from $1,399.00

Enjoy outstanding natural beauty and rich culture in undiscovered Albania

  • Reviews 18 Reviews
    5/5
  • Vacation Style Holiday Type
    Guided
  • Activity Level Leisurely
    1/8
  • Group Size Small Group
    6 - 16
All about the Highlights of Albania.

Albania is a fascinating, little known Mediterranean country situated just north of mainland Greece with an incredible history set impressively against a wild and rugged landscape. Past civilisations have left their mark, mainly the Romans and Byzantines, which we see at the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Butrint and the famous Berat Fortress, but the real highlight is the warm hospitality received all over this wonderfully undiscovered country.

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 1 lunch included
* 9 nights hotels with en suite facilities
* Airport transfers (at designated times)

Group normally 6 to 16, plus leader. Min age 16 yrs

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

 

Highlights

  • Visit UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Butrint, Berat and Gjirokaster
  • Discover historical monuments including Durres Amphitheatre, Korce Medieval Art Museum and Resurrection Church
  • Journey through the beautiful Albanian Riviera
  • 9 nights hotels with en suite facilities
  • Group normally 6 to 16, plus local leader. Min age 16 yrs
  • Travel by air-conditioned private bus
  1. Day 1 Start Tirana.

    The tour starts at our hotel in Tirana, Albania’s capital. Those travelling on the group flights will be met at the airport and transferred to our hotel (approx. 20 mins). This afternoon we’ll have an orientation tour of the colourful streets of Tirana, which was made the capital of Albania in just 1920. We’ll see the main sites, including the impressive façade of the National History Museum which is adorned with a gigantic mosaic known as ‘The Albanians’. This is one of the finest examples of late Albanian Socialist Realism in the country, depicting the resilience of the people in their fight against invasion and occupation throughout the centuries, and dominates Skanderbeg Square. The exhibits within the museum give great insight into Albania’s intriguing past and recent history up to the present day.We also visit Et’hem Bey Mosque, one of the oldest buildings in the city. Closed under communist rule, it reopened as a house of worship in 1991 despite opposition from communist authorities (Ethem bey Miosque is currently under restoration and is closed, so will be visited only if restoration work is finished). We also explore an area known as Blloku on foot, where villas were once occupied by members of The Politburo (a former leading sect of the Party of Labour of Albania) but which is now the lively centre of Tirana’s nightlife where trendy bars, cafés, and fashionable clubs can be found.*Comfortable Hotel*

  2. Day 2 Visit Elbasan Fortress en route to Pogradec, offering views across Lake Ohrid.

    After breakfast, we begin our drive to Pogradec (approx. 3 hrs. drive), but en route we make a short stop to visit the fortress of Elbasan. A city influenced by various cultures including Turks and more importantly Italians, the fortress here dates back to the 15th century. The fortifications originally incorporated twenty-six towers equidistantly spaced from each other along the length of a nine-metre high wall; today the ruins can be seen along the southern wall which remains more or less intact.Our final destination for today is one of the most charming resorts in Albania, Pogradec, thanks to its position on beautiful Lake Ohrid with clear waters and mountain views. Keep your eyes peeled for Orhrid trout (known as ‘Koran’ in Albania), a species endemic to the lake. We go for a scenic walk at Drilon Park on the far side of the lake, to discover the waterways and ornamental plants and trees that make up this special ecosystem.*Comfortable Hotel*

  3. Day 3 Transfer to the artists' village of Voskopojë; continue to Korçë.

    This morning we continue driving for about an hour to reach Voskopoja Village (formerly known as Moskopole) an important and well-known centre of art where many talented Albanian painters chose to practice their profession. The village has suffered over the years, as many of its treasures were stolen during the second half of the 18th century and this continued during the world wars. We take a 40 minute walk to visit one of the oldest churches representing Voskopoja religious art.Another short drive (approx. 30 mins.) takes us to the largest city of south-eastern Albania, Korçë, which sits at the foot of Moravia Mountain, 800m above sea level. This city became an important trading and handicraft centre in the 18th Century and has also been referred to as ‘the city of museums’, being home to the National Museum of Mediaeval Art and Archaeology, the Museum of Education (where the first Albanian School was opened in 1878), and the new museum of ‘Bratko Collections’ displaying antiquities from the Far East. Our visit to Korçë includes the National Museum of Mediaeval Art and Archaeology, Mirahori Mosque (one of the oldest in the Balkans) and the famous church ’The Resurrection’. Korçë has been an important religious centre for Orthodox Christians. It’s also worth trying the famous local beer whilst in the city.*Comfortable Hotel*

  4. Day 4 Drive via the mountain village of Ersekë to Përmet, famous for its food and wines.

    Our drive through the mountains today is truly spectacular as we enjoy sweeping views across the Gramos and Nemercka Mountains. Along the winding route, we enjoy a short stop in Ersekë, which at 1050m is the highest town in Albania. This 17th century town is surrounded by beautiful green pastures of the Gramos Mountains. In the lush forests of Leskovik we stop at a working farm situated in the beautiful woodland. We will see how the different animals are raised here, as well as sample some authentic organic produce. Continuing onwards to beautiful Përmet, we make a quick stop at the old bridge of Benje village, and the hot springs, where we have time to relax and swim. After quite a long day (approx. 5 hrs. drive in total) we arrive in Përmet, situated in the heart of the white mountains on the Vjosë River. This evening you’re sure to be in for a treat as Përmet is famous for its food and wine, including ’gliko’ sweets and raki.*Comfortable Hotel*

  5. Day 5 To Gjirokastër via the characteristic village of Dhoksat.

    Drive to the beautiful town of Gjirokastër (approx. 2 hrs. drive), calling in at the traditional village of Dhoksat en route for a home-cooked lunch. In the afternoon we enjoy a guided visit around the famous town of Gjirokastër. Set on a mountain slope, the cobbled streets wind their way between old houses with interesting architectural features including mediaeval towers. The castle is the main feature and stands like a balcony over the town offering wonderful panoramic views of the surrounding landscape. We visit the ethnographic museum which is the house of Albania’s former dictator Enver Hoxha./Please note: Lunch with the local family can sometimes be changed to dinner dependent on their availability. /*Comfortable Hotel*

  6. Day 6 Visit Butrint, continue to Llogora National Park.

    After an early breakfast, we travel to Butrint National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site situated about 18km south of Saranda. Butrint owes its growth and early fame to a sanctuary dedicated to Asclepius, the god of medicine, founded in the 4th century BC. The sanctuary was located on the south slope of the acropolis (hill) and was visited by worshippers to be healed. The Sanctuary was the making of Butrint and the sacred power of Butrint’s water, was to be revered as long as the town lasted. The city developed during the Roman times however it fell into decline after an earthquake and was abandoned towards the end of the Middle Ages. From here we drive to Llogora National Park stopping along the coast on the way. Overnight in Llogora.*Comfortable Hotel*

  7. Day 7 Llogora National Park walk and visit Apollonia.

    After breakfast, we take a walk in Llogora National Park, possibly reaching Caeser’s field. Yes, Julius Caeser crossed into today’s Albania in his battles against Pompei which was won in this territory.Next, we stop at the wonderful ruins of Apollonia (approx. 1.5 hrs. drive). Originally occupied by the Illyrian tribes and then the Greek colonists from Corfu and Corinth around 600BC, Apollonia flourished in the Roman period and was home to a renowned school of philosophy but began to decline in the 3rd century AD when its harbour started silting up as a result of an earthquake. After Apollonia we transfer further inland to the UNESCO town of Berat where we spend the night.  *Comfortable Hotel*

  8. Day 8 Day in Berat.

    Today is dedicated to Berat the gem of Albania. This morning we enjoy a guided tour around the old district of Berat, with its pretty white buildings perched on the hill amid pine forests. We walk through the narrow cobbled streets and finally reach Berat Castle on the slopes of Mount Tomorr, where we are rewarded with breath-taking views (and begin to understand why it is known to Albanians as ’The City of a Thousand Windows’). Within the castle walls are dwelling houses and the Onufri Museum (Museum of Iconography), which we will visit. The rest of the day is free to explore the town. *Comfortable Hotel*

  9. Day 9 Drive to amphitheatre and port of Durrës; Continue to Krujë.

    From Berat we drive to the port of Durrës (approx. 2 hrs. drive), the second largest city in Albania and famed for housing the largest amphitheatre in the Balkans. The amphitheatre dates back to the 2nd century AD, seats 15,000 people and contains an early Christian crypt with rare wall mosaics. The city was colonised by colonists from Corinth and Korkyra in 627 BC and was named Epidamnus, but later became Dyrrachium.We then drive to the famous mediaeval citadel of Krujë (approx. 45 mins. drive), where Albania’s national hero, Skanderbeg, led the resistance against the Ottomans. He kept them from crossing into Western Europe for 25 years, earning the title ”Champion of Christ”. In the evening we take a walk to Kruja Hospitality a characteristic house in the castle where you will sample raki and local cheeses.*Comfortable Hotel*

  10. Day 10 Tour of Krujë; visit the ethnographic museum and wander through the bazaar.

    After breakfast we’ll have a tour of Krujë. We will visit the Skanderbeg Museum, a rich ethnographic museum inside the castle, and enjoy inspirational views out to the Adriatic Coast. We have time to wander through the mediaeval bazaar full of souvenirs and handicrafts. Those travelling on the group flights will be transferred to Tirana airport for your flight back to London (approx. 45 mins. drive).**

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Where you stay

Hotels

We spend each night in a different 3 or 4-star hotel or pension with good service, amenities and en suite rooms. Each night we will be situated within walking distance of local attractions and a variety of choice for restaurants to eat in the evening. The accommodation ranges from comfortable modern properties to older properties bursting with character.

Eating and Drinking

All breakfasts and 1 lunch 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 Albania became a self-sustaining country due to its isolation from the world. However the lush fertile valleys, fresh mountain springs and Mediterranean climate, means it is still very much a subsistence culture and shows very little sign of changing. In the countryside expect your food to be very locally sourced. Breakfasts are typically eggs, fresh bread, jam, honey and coffee. 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 vegetables and salad, freshly baked bread, homemade cheeses, local wines and of course, raki. In the cities along the coast there are a number of restaurants to choose from with an array of Mediterranean cuisine and fresh seafood.

This itinerary includes the main highlights of this fascinating country as well as some well-kept secrets that provide true insight into the Albanian culture. There will be some long drives (maximum 5 hours on day 4) on winding roads through the spectacular wild scenery of southern Albania. All hotels are equivalent to 3 and 4-star accommodation with en suite rooms yet the standard may vary depending on location. Roads in Albania are full of potholes and of a much lower standard to what we are used to in Europe. Although they are currently improving many routes, please be prepared for some bumpy journeys.

Overall Rating
5/5
Reviewed On 25/06/2020
4/5

A very interesting trip

  • What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Enjoying the wonderful hospitality from an Albanian family in the tiny village of Dhoksat, where we ate their home grown and produced vegetables, cheese and wine. I also loved Butrint, even though we visited it in a spectacular thunderstorm and ended up wet through.
  • What did you think of your group leader?

    Our group leader, Erion Puca, was very good indeed. His historical knowledge was excellent and he went out of his way to ensure that all our particular interests were covered. Our driver Timi was superb and deserves a memtion too.
  • Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    If you travel outside the height of summer, waterproof jacket is essential. Take an umbrella too, those of us who had one during our Butrint thunderstorm fared better. In restaurants it is normal for side dishes and salads to arrive before the meat, fish or main vegetable. It took us a while to work this out. There are lots of ATMs but Albania is a cash economy and I didn't see anywhere outside Tirana where a credit card was accepted. However, compared with other destinations, apart from Kruja there isn't much in the way of traditional handicrafts to buy. The airport currency exchange office surprised us by telling us to exchange money somewhere else as their own rate was awful! On the downside, Albania certainly has a problem with litter, stray dogs and bad driving, but it is all part of seeing somewhere different.
  • Is there anything else you would like to add?

    I would go before it becomes spoiled. At the moment it is a land of contrasts. Some people are driving round in fancy cars, but round the corner someone else is leading a donkey along loaded with his produce. It is a country well worth visiting if you enjoy history, Mediterranean style food and wine and lovely scenery.

Reviewed On 25/06/2020
5/5

Albania a Country of Contrasts

  • What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Starting the trip with small historic churches, onto prehistoric remains, recently abandoned communist villages, ancient civilisations and modern european style towns the trip has too many highlights to list. Add to this the magnificent sea views, wide open plains and snow topped mountains the countryside is equally fascinating.
  • What did you think of your group leader?

    Erion our leader and Goshi our driver were both highly professional, but also good fun guys. Noting was too much trouble.
  • Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Hotels vary through the trip from basic to modern or quaint. Food is mainly meat on the bone or fish (seaside/lakeside) with salads, grilled veg and potatoes. Often the food is served in bits e.g. salad, then meat, then veg, so this can be confusing. Raki is the local drink and "Raki O Clock" seemed to occur several times a day at the request of our tour group.
  • Is there anything else you would like to add?

    If you go to Albania in a few years, this will be very different. Areas are fast becoming more european, so try and see it before it changes too much.

Reviewed On 25/06/2020
5/5

Excellent overview tour of Albania

  • What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    There were several. Krujë was not only a beautiful city, with the Panorama Hotel being the best hotel of the trip, but it had historic significance for me. Porto Palermo and a stop in Himarë were also beautiful and meaningful for me. Gjirokaster was our first city where the weather was excellent and we could visit many historical sites. It was made all the more fun as we were one of the first tour groups of the season and were interviewed and appeared on local television. The ruins and our guide at Butrint were also very interesting. The visit to the Apollonia ruins with one of the chief archaeologists of the site was also superb. There was an overall good quality of food, with the lunch at the mountain restaurant just after the pass above Himarë standing out with its fresh lamb and homemade yogurt/honey dessert. We also tried many of the different sorts of raki, which was always an adventure.
  • What did you think of your group leader?

    Erion Puca was a very experienced and considerate guide with excellent English and Italian. He understood what we wanted as tourists. He had a good sense of humor. He also explained the history of Albania and how things really work on a day to day basis in the country. If he did not know something, he took the extra time and trouble to get us an answer as quickly as possible. He had good connections that got things done. He also inspired hope for the future of Albania. His efforts to help me understand my genealogical roots in terms of history and places were much appreciated and interesting to all. When the National Musuem in Tirana was closed due to holidays, so that we did not lose out on learning about Albanian history, he found time at the end of the trip to bring us back to the Bunker Art Museum that was not at all what we expected and we enjoyed it very much.
  • Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    The weather started off a little cold in the first and northern most part of the trip, but as it got later in March and we traveled more to the south, the weather became warmer and we were definitely into a lovely spring. Shopping for Albanian items and souvenirs is limited and we really only had good opportunity for this in Krujë. The hotel in Permeti, the Hotel Permeti, was not that good, although it may have been the best option available. We all commented on the weird, squishy, wet bath mats that were in the bathrooms. In spite of that, the dinner of wild boar and local specialities and a quick morning walk in town on our own time before getting in the van were appreciated. There is a lot of time spent traveling in the van, but it was a good mix of sitting and walking when combined with the sightseeing we did when we got to our destination. Berat is a good city to walk around in and very beautiful, especially at night.
  • Is there anything else you would like to add?

    This was my first Exodus trip and it was done so flawlessly that I will definitely be a returning customer. Perhaps the Bunker Art Musuem should also be added into the Tirana stop, although that might mean too much museum time there as we spent more than one hour in Bunker Art.

Reviewed On 25/06/2020
5/5

Wonderful Albania

  • What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The scenery.
  • What did you think of your group leader?

    Very knowledgeable.
  • Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Don't take too much luggage.

Reviewed On 25/06/2020
5/5

Albania is a hidden gem!

  • What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    I enjoyed seeing long-forgotten frescos in churches previously abandoned during the communist era. I also found the concrete mushroom bunkers scattered everywhere a poignant reminder of the recent history of this amazing country.
  • What did you think of your group leader?

    We had two leaders as Ed unfortunately had to leave mid-way through. Ed - super passionate about his country, really gave a compelling impression of what it was like to live through recent history with stories of his family, friends (he has many...). I was really sad to lose him so soon. However Erion was an incredible replacement! He had to pick up half way through - a difficult job, but he is such a professional guy. Knowledgeable and able to explain complex subjects in a really clear way. I learnt a lot about Albania from Erion and he was also good company and very funny guy. I think we were lucky in the end to have two guides - Ed was very much 'heart and passion' and Erion was very much 'educator and friend'.
  • Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Order wine by the 0.5 litre rather than the glass as its better value!
  • Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Some more opportunity for walks would have been good.

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