General

Designed to satisfy the curiosity of Balkanophile travelers, willing to dig deeper into the albanian and macedonian history and culture.

Day 1 FLY TO TIRANA

Reception and meeting of the group with our representative at Tirana International Airport. Enjoy a city tour including visits to the Mosque of Ethem Bey, the Clock Tower, the National Museum, the National Art Gallery, the Skanderbeg Square, Grand Park and various governmental buildings. Overnight in Tirana. (D)

Day 2 TIRANA TO DURRES (38 Km)

Departure to Kruja, the centre of the Albanian resistance against the Ottomans under the Albanian hero Gjergj Kastrioti, Skanderbeg. We will visit the Citadel, the Ethnographic and Skanderbeg Museum, and the Old Bazaar with local handicraft and authentic antiques. This is an ideal place to shop for Albanian souvenirs. Transfer to Durres and visit the ancient city walls, the Roman Amphitheatre and the Venetian Citadel. Overnight in Durres. (B,D)

Day 3 DURRES TO VLORA (118 Km)

Transfer to Berat for a guided city tour. Berat is one of the oldest cities of Albania and arguably one of the best-preserved Ottoman settlements in the Balkans. Untouched by communist urban planning after being designated a Museum City in 1976, Berat’s attractive white houses wind their way up to the famous hilltop citadel, whose walls encircle a smattering of medieval Orthodox churches and ruined mosques as well as a superb ethnographic museum. Complete the tour of lower Berat before departing to Vlora. Stop at Ardenica Monastery, built by the Byzantine Emperor Andronikos II Palaiologos in 1282 after the Siege of Berat victory. The monastery is also famous as being the place, where Skanderbeg, the national hero of Albania married Andronika Arianiti in 1451. Continue to the Archaeological Park of Apollonia, founded at the beginning of the 7th century BC by the Greeks and a prosperous trading city in Roman times.  You can see the remains of the fortified wall, the impressive monument of Agonothetes and Portico. Continue to Vlora. Overnight in Vlora. (B,D)

Day 4 VLORA TO SARANDA (124 Km)

In Vlora, we see the Independence Square, The museum of Indipendence and the Muradie Mosque. Drive along the stunning Albanian Riviera towards Saranda with stops in the National Park of Llogara and Porto Palermo castle, built by Ali Pasha of Ioannina in the early 19th century. Located south of Himara, on a small peninsula lies the castle of Porto Palermo, built by Ali Pasha of Ioannina in the early 19th century. In the afternoon, visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Butrint. The Greek and Roman ruins of Butrinti are Albania’s most important archaeological site. This rediscovered city is a microcosm of almost 3,000 years of Mediterranean history. Its 6th century B.C. fortification evokes the city’s military power and the 3rd century BC amphitheater symbolizes the rich culture of this once thriving ancient city. Continue the drive to coastal Saranda. Overnight in Saranda. (B,D)

Day 5 SARANDA TO GJIROKASTRA (56 Km)

Driving from Saranda to Gjirokastra, we stop at Syri i Kaltër (the Blue Eye), a deep forest spring where turtles, water lilies, dragonflies and kingfishers can be found. After the Blue Eye, we drive to the city of Gjirokastra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Known by many as the City of Stone, it comprises hundreds of Ottoman-style tower houses with distinctive stone roofs, wooden balconies and whitewashed stone walls. Dominated by the sheer flanks of its vast castle, Gjirokastra is a magical city with a tumultuous past. From feudal stronghold to Ottoman jewel to Italian colony, the city has known many rulers and has inspired poets, authors and artists. We visit the 13th century Castle, the Zekate House and the Ethnographic Museum, home of the former communist dictator, Enver Hoxha. Overnight in Gjirokastra. (B,D)

Day 6 GJIROKASTRA TO KORÇA (191 Km)

Take one of the most scenic routes in Europe from Gjirokastra to Korça along the Vjosa River Valley. Admire dramatic mountains, lush meadows, rushing river torrents and waterfalls crashing down sheer mountainsides. Travel along rickety bridges and watch eagles swooping down the valley below. Pass horses and donkeys with their wooden-framed saddles trotting along with cheery waves from their riders. Pass Erseke – Albania’s highest town and notice how the high mountains are always snowy and the hillsides are covered in young oak trees. As the road approaches Korça, the valley opens out to a plain in the lea of the mountains. Arrive in Korça and check in to the hotel. Overnight in Korça. (B,D)

Day 7 KORÇA TO OHRID (80 Km)

Explore Korça and visit the National Museum of Medieval Arts, which holds some of greatest iconographic works in Europe and further. The first Albanian language school, opened in
1887 and today it houses the National Education Museum. Drive to the Republic of Macedonia alongside Ohrid Lake. On the way, we will visit the Monastery of St Naum, with its beautiful 17th century church rising on a hill above the lake. Overnight in Ohrid. (B,D)

Day 8 OHRID

Enjoy a walking tour of Ohrid beginning at the Square of St. Clement with a stop at the Lower Gate and the archaeological museum situated at Robev house. Visit the Church of St. Sophia, a masterpiece of architecture and fresco paintings, and continue to Plaoshnik to visit the reconstructed church of St. Clement. From here, head towards the Church of St Jovan at Kaneo, which was built at the end of the 13th century, and is one of the most photographed churches in the Balkans, due to its beautiful location on the cliffs directly above the lake. (B,D)

Day 9 OHRID TO BITOLA (138 Km)

Visit the second biggest city in Macedonia – Bitola. Its beginnings date back from the 4th century B.C. when the town was founded by Philip the Second of Macedonia naming it Heraclea Lyncestis. It was a busy town during Roman times and continued to grow until it was unfortunately destroyed by an earthquake in 518 A.D. Later that century migrating Slavs from the north settled in Heraclea naming the city Bitola and its region Obitol. The stately old architecture of Bitola goes back to more than a century ago when the town was a centre for international diplomats to the Ottoman administration, superseding Skopje and becoming known far and wide as the city of the consuls. In the afternoon visit the archaeological ruins of Heraklea Lynkestis before continuing to the town of Ohrid. Overnight in Ohrid. (B,D)

Day 10 OHRID TO TIRANA (135 Km)

Travel to Albania stopping en route at the city of Elbasan. We visit the Ottoman Castles and the Clock Tower. Arrival in Tirana. Overnight in Tirana (B,D)

Day 11 TIRANA TO AIRPORT

After breakfast transfer to airport. Mirupafshim!  (B)

 

Price includes:

• Accommodation in 3 or 4 star hotels on a B&B basis
• Meals as specified (B = breakfast, D= Dinner)
• All transfers and transportation with air conditioned vehicles
• Escorted journey with a professional English/German/Italian speaking guide
• Entrance fees for places visited

Price does not include:

• Lunch
• Travel Insurance
• Tips and gratuities

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Available departures

This tour is available upon request. It can be booked up to 24 hours before departure.

Korça

Korça

Korca is the largest city of the southeastern Albania. Considered as “Le Petite Paris”, the city is largely known for the aristocracy, architecture, civilization.

Old neighborhoods of Korca are located in the eastern part of the city, behind the Cathedral “Ringjallja e Krishtit” (“Resurrection of Christ”). They have the same urban planning of the Balkan medieval centres with narrow winding alleys and low buildings.

The first Albanian language school, originally for boys only, opened in 1887 and today it houses the National Education Museum. A separate school for females was opened in 1891. A French Lyceum opened in Korca in 1917 following independence.

Korça patriots were well organized from 1906 – 1912, and took part actively in the movement to liberate the country from Ottoman occupation. One of the most famous Albanian sculptors, Odhise Paskal, immortalized the freedom movement with the monument “National Hero” depicting men descending from the mountains to liberate the city. Korca enjoyed a heightened period of prosperity in the interwar period when many of its characteristic cultural institutions, mansions and boulevards were built.

Nearby is the picturesque village of Moscopole (Voskopoja), an important historical and touristic site. It is located 21 Km from Korca, in an altitude of 1160 m in the mountains of south-east Albania and is known for its civilization since 1330. The village is widely known for the medieval churches and byzantine frescoes.The churches in the region are among the most representative of 18th century ecclesiastical art in the Balkans. The architectural design is in general specific and identical: a large three-aisled basilica with a gable roof. The churches are single-apsed, with a wide altar apse and internal niches that serve as prothesis and diaconicon. Most churches also have one niche, each on the northern and southern walls, next to the prothesis and the diakonicon. Along the southern side there is an arched porch. Typical architecture of Orthodox religious monuments.

Moscopole widely developed the mountain tourism. There is a combination of mild valley climate in the lower parts and true Alpine climate in the higher regions. Favorable climate conditions make this center ideal for winter, summer, sport, recreation tourism. Moscopole is known, among other things, for the rich cuisine, culture which offers a variety of organic food for tourists.

In August, the biggest beer festival takes place in Korca, gathering more than 100.000 people to enjoy beer and music.

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Gjirokastra

Gjirokastra

Located in southern Albania, Gjirokastra perches on the steep side of the Drino valley overlooking a historic landscape framed by snow-capped mountains.  This ‘city of a thousand steps’ comprises hundreds of Ottoman-style tower houses with charestone roofs, wooden balconies and whitewashed stone walls.  Dominated by the sheer flanks of its vast castle, Gjirokastra is a magical city with a tumultuous past.

The city of stone is an important UNESCO heritage site of Albania, as “a rare example of a well-preserved Ottoman town, built by farmers of large estate.” Known as Argyrocastro, as part of the Byzantine Empire, later fell into the ruling of the Ottoman Empire for five centuries.

Gjirokastra preserves intact its urban scheme. It consists of several neighborhoods built on rough terrain, which surround the castle. Each building in the city has special features associated with the terrain on which they are built. By categories, are distinguished the castle, the bazaar, religious buildings and residential homes.
The castle, which is the core of the city, had military functions and control all of the Drina valley. It was built in the 13th century, from 1811 to 1812 and further expanded by Ali Pasha when he built some roads and developed a water system for the time. It used to supply with drinking water from a natural source.
The castle has three main gates and is kept in good conditions.

The Bazaar, located in the city center, on the side of the castle, preserves the best features of a traditional bazaar with consecutive buildings and paved with black stones. It was originally built in the northeastern side of the castle. A bonfire of the 17th century destroyed it completely,  but was later reconstructed. Solid constructions made in stone are located in the form of parallel arrays, a pattern commonly found in the entire Balkans region.

Houses of Gjirokastra show a special typology of Albania and Balkan of the late Middle Ages. They have played an important role in the physiognomy of the city. These houses witness the evolution of the city from the time they were built. Special protection features resemble to “Kulla” (Tower) and some examples and variants are found. In the first floor the family resides during the cold season. The second floor is inhabited during the warmer months of the year.

In order to adapt to the rocky terrain, Gjirokastra’s houses expand in volume from one floor to another, which creates an uneven structure between floors. The walls are decorated with floral ornaments and decorations (flowers, weapons, etc.). These houses are distinguished mainly for the perfect connection to the land on which they are built, the functional differentiation between floors, highlighting their defensive characteristics and functional settings. These contructions have stone roof tiles, in perfect harmony with the rocky landscape of the territory where they rise.

Gjirokastra is the birth town of the former communist dictator, Enver Hoxha and several times Nobel-candidate, the writer, Ismail Kadare. The latter has written many books, novels and short stories about the city, capturing the magical feeling of it.

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Tirana

Tirana

Home to almost 1 million inhabitants and of the most important governmental buildings, Tirana is the largest city in the country. It has the mountain, the artificial lake, recreational parks and the Adriatic sea within a few miles of driving.

Tirana became the capital of Albania at 1920, a turning point from where the city grew rapidly. Early mentions of it go back as far as 1614, when a local ruler built the Old Mosque, a small commercial center and a hammam. Nevertheless, the area was inhabited since the Paleolithic era, dating back to 1000 – 3000 years ago and later the Illyrian settlement was called Tërana.

Albania is well known for it’s religious tolerance. Et’hem Bey Mosque in the center of the city was build around 1789, being reconstructed several times since then. Starting from 1925 it is home of the World Headquarters of the Bektashi Order. The Catholic Cathedral “Saint Mary” was built in 1865 with the expenses of the Austro-Hungarian emperor Franz Joseph, whereas the Resurrection of Christ the Orthodox Cathedral of Tirana, opened in 2012 and it’s the 3rd largest orthodox church in Europe.

Tirana is notorious for its architecture, mixing both classical and modern styles. The governmental buildings, such as the ministerial complex, the National Bank and the Municipality building located at the city center were constructed by Italian architects during King Zog’s ruling. The main boulevards “Dëshmorët e Kombit” and “Nënë Tereza” was also constructed during that time.

One of the idiosyncrasies of the city can be considered the Pyramid. It was build around 1988 to be a museum or mausoleum for the former dictator, Enver Hoxha. After the ‘90s used to be a club named “Mumja” and was rumored for demolition a couple of years ago. Nevertheless,  now it is named the International Center of Culture, thus being used as an alternative art exhibition area and concert hall.

In the center of Tirana is the monument of the national hero, Skanderbeg, created from the artists Odhise Paskali, Andrea Mano and Janaq Paço. A few minutes in distance, is the Monument of the Independence, created in 2012 to commemorate 100 years of independence.

 

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Durres

Durres

Located about 33 Km away from the capital and at the coast of the Adriatic Sea, it is the second largest city in Albania. It has been home of emperors and gladiators in antiquity; of other important figures throughout the history; visited by apostles and host of main  cultural events of nowadays Albania, it is obvious that Durres posses a great value for the country.

History-wise, it is one of the oldest cities of Albania, founded by Epidamnos in 627 BC. It can be compared with similar large European cities of the antiquity and middle ages. During the ruling of Skanderbeg, Durres was considered as “the 2nd Constantinople”, due to the fact that became a major trading centre and port on the eastern coast of the Adriatic

It used to be the capital from 7 March 1914 until 1920, under the ruling of the Austrian prince, William of Albania.In 1939, it was the first city to be concquered by the Italian Fascists

After World War II, Durres was transformed into an industrial city, and it became an important cultural and educational centre.Durrës was the scene of many demonstrations during the democratic movement of 1990–1991.  Durres has many parks and gardens, and an outdoor theater has been built on the hills above the city. Its main recreational areas are Durrës Beach and Currila Beach, where citizens and tourists enjoy the sea and yellow sand of the Adriatic.

Durres is as much a cultural hub as it is a tourist destination. While the city presents ample opportunity for enjoying the dazzling combination of sun and sand, its archaeological treasures offer a glimpse into the city’s rich history. The city nowadays is located exactly on the ancient ruins. To not miss are The Roman Amphitheater,  The Roman Baths, The Archaeological Museum, The Mosaic of Orpheus, The Venetian Tower, Fatih Mosque, King Zog I Residence etc.

Durres has a strategical and economical importance to the country, being the largest port of Albania and, especially for the proximity with Italian city ports, such as Bari. It also is an important contributor in tourism, welcoming every year visitors not only from Albania and Kosovo, but from all over the world.

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