General

Day 1 Airport – Kruja

Meet and greet with our guide. Then we will drive to Kruja, the centre of the Albanian resistance against the Ottomans under the National Hero Skanderbeg. He kept them from crossing into Western Europe for 25 years, thus earning the title “Champion of Christ” given by Pope Calixtus III. Visit the Castle, Skanderbeg Museum, the National Ethnographic Museum and spend some time shopping for souvenirs in the old bazaar. Overnight in Tirana. (D)

Day 2 Kruja – Prizren – Valbona

We will leave Tirana, drive to Tropojë taking the highway through the mountains aka “The Road of the Nation”. After entering Kosovo, will have a small break in Prizren. Then, taking a  shortcut, we will reenter Albania and arrive in the beautiful Valbona Valley. Free time to explore the village on foot. Overnight in a guesthouse in Valbona. (B/D)

Day 3 Valbona

This day is about getting a taste of the culture of  “Malësorë”, Northern Albanian highlanders. After breakfast, begin the guided tour in the Valbona Pass. Visit the Cave of the Wind, Zhapore trail and beautiful alcoves. Discover the Valbona Valley, its hidden attractions and pristine panoramas by foot. For a glimpse of daily life, will stay overnight in a guesthouse of a local family and have a traditional dinner.  Overnight at local guest house in Valbona. (B/D)

Day 4 Valbona – Tirana

Early in the morning, drive to Fierza and take the 7:00am ferry on Lake Koman. Meanwhile, we will enjoy a 2.5h trip through steep mountains that create dramatic landscapes. Will visit Shkodra on the way and have lunch by the lake. Afterwards,  pay a visit to the Castle of Rozafa and head back to Tirana. Overnight in Tirana. (B/D)

Day 5 Tirana – Berat (UNESCO) – Vlora

After breakfast, we will drive to Berat, one of the most visited and characteristic towns in Albania under the protection of UNESCO. It is called “the city of a thousand windows”, due to its characteristic architecture of the windows overlooking in the city. Berat Castle is of particular interest as people still live within the walls in their traditional houses, as have done their ancestors for centuries. The castle used to have over 40 churches of which 7 still remain including St. Mary’s church turned into Onufri Museum. We will visit the Castle and Onufri Museum. Accommodation in Berat will be in a hotel with characteristic architecture in the old district. Departure for Vlora and overnight there. (B/D)

Day 6 Vlora – Saranda

After breakfast, we will continue along the wonderful coast past Saranda to reach the ancient city of Butrint, another UNESCO World Heritage site. It is considered the best archaeological site in Albania and probably one of the most important in the Balkans. The city was first settled by Greek colonists and was continuously inhabited for centuries forming archaeological layers of passing civilizations, giving archaeologists the possibility to study continuity through time. The site has been occupied since at least the 8th century BC, although myths associated with its origins speak of the city’s foundation by Trojan exiles. Overnight in Saranda. (B/D)

Day 7 Saranda – Gjirokastra – Tirana

Early in the morning, leave to Gjirokastra. It is a museum town under the protection of UNESCO, as a World Heritage Site with beautiful and very distinct architecture. Visit the fortress of Gjirokastra, part of which was turned into a political prison for dissidents of the communist regime and the  Continue to the Ethnographic Museum, which is also the house where the Albanian dictator was born in, as well as a 300 year old house next to it, where the grandeur of Gjirokastra’s master builders can be observed. After the visits we drive to Tirana. Overnight in Tirana. (B/D)

Day 8 Tirana – Airport

After breakfast free time to explore the city and its main sites, including: Et’hem Bey Mosque, National Historical Museum, Clock Tower, National Gallery of Arts. Transfert to airport. Mirupafshim! (B)

 

Price includes:

• 7 nights accommodation in good standard hotels with breakfast
• Meals as specified (B = breakfast, L= lunch, D= Dinner)
• Entrance fees and sightseeing with English speaking guides
• Ferry boat ticket from Fierza to Koman

 

Price does not include:

• Lunches
• Dinners where are not mentioned
• Insurance

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Available departures

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

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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Valbona

Valbona

Valbona refers to the river holding the same name, as well as a small village in the Valley of Valbona. It is located 25 Km from the city of Bajram Curri, in the north of Albania, near the border with Kosovo.

Valbona’s Valley is part of the Albanian Alps, also known as the Accursed Mountains (Bjeshkët e Namuna). Don’t let the name fool you: it’s rather the contrary. The area is blessed with scenic landscapes and pure nature, which makes it unforgettable. Combined with the hospitality of the area, Valbona is definitely a must-see destination in Albania!

Due to it’s geographical location, it’s one of the few areas in Albania hardly conquered or subdued during tumultuous times of war in the country and the region. “Malësorë”  or highlanders are the inhabitants of the area and are well known for their proud and fierce personality. Considering this, customs and old traditions are preserved through generations.

The road to Valbona goes through Lake Komani, via ferry. The trip lasts about 2 hours, but it is well spent, considering the magnificent area’s scenery. Lime gorges are reflected in the lake, creating a rather dramatic effect on the passengers of the ferry.

“Hane” are inns of Northern Albania. Holding a typical alpine architecture, nowadays, they’re the primary source of tourism in the region. These “hane” are mostly small family businesses, self-sustainable, using all resources of the area to create the business climate. It’s not uncommon to find a family run business, where the man of the house is the owner, whereas the wife runs the kitchen and takes care of the accommodation of the guests.

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Kruja

Kruja

One of the most historical cities of Albania, Kruja is located in central-north of Albania. It is seldom considered as the city of the national hero, Skanderbeg. History says that Gjergj Kastrioti, Skanderbeg protected the castle 3 times against the ottoman’s siege until his death in 1468.

Early mentions of the city go back to the Illyrian tribe of Albanis and their settlement of Albanopolis. Regarding the etymology of the name, “Krujë” comes from the word “kroje”, which means “springs” in albanian. During the ottoman era, it was known as Akhisar (from turkish: ak- white, hisar – castle,  ).

The Castle of Kruja has 9 towers and it includes the Skanderbeg Museum, the National Ethnographic Museum and in the highest point, the Clock Tower. The latter used to signal other cities and castles during war times. The view from up there is amazing and it reaches up to the Adriatic sea. It was build in the 5th-6th Century and it was the last to fall into the hands of the Ottomans, 10 years after the death of Gjergj Kastrioti.

The Museum of Skanderbeg pays tribute to the national hero, as the name suggests. Well curated, it has on display old artifacts dating as back as 15th Century and exposes an important part of the albanian history.

Inside the Castle grounds, it’s the National Ethnographic Museum. It is an old house with çardak, which belonged to the Topia Dynasty, wealthy merchants of the time. It is a large, 2 story house with 15 rooms, including the guest room, the living room, the children’s room, the Turkish bath, the kitchen and its appliances etc.

The old bazaar is one the most notable highlights of the city. Built since the 15th Century, it’s one of the largest handicraft markets in Albania. It is well preserved and has the characteristics of the traditional albanian markets of the 18-19th Century.

In antiquity, Kruje was a site used for paganism. After the spread of Christianism, the church of the Saint Alexandre was built at the foot of mountain Krujë.  Nearby there is Dollma Teqe (Tekke), a Bektashi temple. Dollma Teqe was build in 1789 and can be reached by foot outside the castle walls. On top of the mountain and over the town, there’s a religious spot called Sari-Salltik.

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