Albania has natural beauty in such abundance that you might wonder why it took 20 years for the country to take off as a tourist destination since the end of a particularly brutal strain of communism in 1991. So backward was Albania when it emerged blinking into the bright light of freedom that it needed two decades just to catch up with the rest of Eastern Europe. Now that it has arguably done so, Albania offers a remarkable array of unique attractions, not least due to this very isolation: ancient mountain codes of behaviour, forgotten archaeological sites and villages where time seems to have stood still are all on the menu. With its stunning mountain scenery, a thriving capital in Tirana and beaches to rival any elsewhere in the Mediterranean, Albania has become the sleeper hit of the Balkans. But hurry here, as word is well and truly out.
Meet & Assist on arrival
Arrival to Tirana airport, meeting with the guide,transfer to hotel in Tirana
We will start out with a guided tour to the capital of Albania – Tirana. At first, we will visit the Clock Tower dated 1821 and in its 200 years of existence it became the symbol of the city. The Mosque of Ethem Bey is just next door. Its beautiful stoned building is unique as the exterior and interior are all decorated with frescoes. After that we will we go alongside state buildings which house the many offices of the state infrastructure. One of the newest museum, is an old Bunker. It is built on three levels and provides an overview of the police force looking as far back as 1913, a few months after the proclamation of Independence up to 1991, it is a history marked by violence, torture, imprisonments and martyrs. We will visit the old “Block”area, which was a part of the town where only the communistic leaders used to live. After a short drive, we will becoming to a beautiful town nestled on the side of a mountain. Kruja is connected with national hero Gjergj Kastrioti Scanderbeg. After optional lunch we will visit the ruins of his castle, which was built during the 5th and 6th centuries. Inside the castle is today his museum and also the Ethnographic Museum. To buy some traditional handcrafted items visit the attractive Medieval Bazaar.For accommodation, we return to Tirana.
After a short drive to Durres, we will start our tour by the “Torra”, Venetian Tower which was part of the defensive walls of city since the 15th century. Next, we will visit the Amphitheatre, built in the 2nd century A.D.After hearing some interesting stories and seeing a beautiful wall mosaic, we will travel a short while to the periphery of the town, to the “Gjergj Kastrioti Skenderbeu” Canteen , the largest one in Albania, dated on 1933.
In the afternoon, we visit Apollonia archaeological park, located on the western plane on the shores of the Adriatic Sea. Apollonia was an important city founded in the 6th century BC. The fame of the city attracted many personalities as the eminent roman philosopher and orator Cicero. The city grew rich on the slave trade and local agriculture, as well as its large harbor, said to have been able to hold a hundred ships at a time. The city also benefited from the local supply of asphalt. Its decline, however, began in the 3rd century AD, when an earthquake changed the path of the river Aoos. For accommodation, we will travel to Vlora.
After breakfast, we will depart towards the center of the second largest port, Vlora, where will have the opportunity to enjoy the beauties of the city, like the Monument of Independence, which stands at the Flag’s square. Nearby stands the monument of Ismail Qemali, the chairman of the first Albanian government. We can visit the Independence museum too. Later, we take a small country road out of Vlora to the Zvernec Island, which is in the Narta Lagoon (situated on the southern corner of the Adriatic, north of the bay of Vlora). It is an evergreen island with a monastery of the XIV century, which is the areas greatest cultural wealth. Visit to the Church of Saint Mary, which is a well-preserved Byzantine Church, surrounded by evergreen trees. Another church to visit is the Church of Marmiro, whose technical construction is fascinating and it is called “the Mother” of the Zvernec Monastery.
Later if the weather permits, we will depart for port of Vlora to board the boat, which will take us on a lovely cruise along the Karaburun Peninsula. It is the largest peninsula of Albania, it has an area of 62 km2 (24 sq mi) and is not populated. It is 16 kilometers (9.9 mi) long with a width that varies from 3 to 4.5 kilometers. The peninsula is a Natural Reserve and parts of it are still a military zone. While its surrounding sea waters form part of the Karaburun-Sazan National Marine Park. Near there is a point where the Ionian and Adriatic seas meet. You can see also the infamous Sazan island , which has been until recently an army base. Sazan has а coastline of 15 km and along its’ western shore there are cliffs descending up to 40 meters underwater. Sazan has а climate unusual in Albania due to its’ maritime location. The flora is different from that of ther est of Albania as it is subtropical, like in countries of North Africa. We will also see the Haxhi Aliu’s pirate cave. After return to Vlora we will travel back to your hotel.
In the morning, we will travel to the fascinating old center of Gjirokastra is on UNESCO’s World Heritage list. Largely medieval, with some lovely architecture to admire, reflecting the town’s wealthy past, it is built on a hill overlooking a valley and mountains. The drive to Gjirokastra is lovely. At first, we will visit the castle overlooking the entire town and its surroundings. The architectural unity of the city is enhanced by cobblestone streets polished by centuries crossing the “neck of the bazaar.” This large castle houses a weapons and large arms museum. From there you will be guided on a small walk through the narrow streets of town towards the Ethnographic museum, which used to be the house of the parents of ex-dictator Enver Hoxha. This interesting museum will give you a good idea how people used to live during the Ottoman period. After a short break to see the old shops and to purchase some typical products, we will be leaving this great city for our accommodation.
Today we will travel up to the National Park of Llogara. The park has been established in the seventies and has always been a popular vacation spot for locals and tourists alike. The Llogara Pass is a high mountain pass on the Ceraunian Mountains connecting the Dukat Valley in the north with the coastal region of Himara on the southern side. It has an elevation over 1.000 meters. The Caesar’s Pass named after Julius Caesar who marched down near the area in pursuit of Pompey is also located near Llogara Pass. We will visit this pass.
Short stop at a local restaurant with traditional Albanian cuisine,will offer spectacular views of the mountains and the Ionian Albanian Riviera below.
We will travel thought some of the lush vegetation, citrus groves and beautiful unspoiled beaches yet. We will pass through small stone villages, like Dhermi, Himara and Qeparo. We will stop for an interesting coffee break in a village of Borsh. Here is a beautiful waterfall which flows through the garden and the building of the very restaurant.
We can spend today some time trying local beaches and waters of Ionian Sea. After this relaxing time, we will return back to Vlora.
After breakfast, we will travel to Berat, city known as the city of 1000 windows because of the southern orientation of all its houses built on the hillside. Our travel will take us through the lash “garden” region of Albania. We will beheading to the mountains on the horizon, where snow capped Mt. Tomorri is standing like a protector over the old city of Berat.
Berat is a town-museum which demonstrates the coexistence of different religious and cultural communities. She has beautiful sloping cobbled streets lined with old Ottoman houses with beautiful carved doors, many Byzantine churches with murals and icons 12-15 centuries, a 13th century citadel overlooking the city and the river Osum.
In the morning at first, we will seethe Citadel overlooking the city and river below. The Citadel is one of the oldest, largest and still mostly settled in Europe. After a walk through we will visit famous Onufri’s Museum, where you will see one of the largest collection of icons in Balkans.
We will take a short drive to see the quarters Mangalem and Gorica, which are by the river Osum. The small stone houses and narrow streets look like they are glued to the side of the mountain. Later we will travel back to your hotel.
Departure to Tirana airport and end of service.