|14 May - 28 May|
This exclusive Regent group tour combines the historic cities and stunning landscapes of Albania with forays into Kosovo and North Macedonia to visit the unmissable Balkan treasures of Prizren, Skopje and Lake Ohrid.
Staying in accommodation from boutique hotels to mountain guesthouses and even a luxury five-star hotel in Tirana. Travel in a small group with a local guide, discovering Albania’s national parks and UNESCO World Heritage Sites and enjoying many delicious local meals along the way.
This is a small group tour that operates with a minimum of 8 persons/maximum of 16.
Fly to Tirana. On arrival, meet your tour leader and group and head north towards Shkodra. Stop for lunch in the village of Fishta where one of Albania’s most renowned restaurants ‘Mrizi i Zanave’ can be found. The restaurant specialises in regional organic food and was featured on Rick Steins’ ‘Venice to Istanbul’ series. Set on the banks of a sparkling lake and at the foot of the wild and rugged mountains of High Albania, Shkodra was once the largest and most flourishing town in the country. Even today it remains the cradle of northern Albanian culture. Discover Rozafa’s Castle and Marubi Museum this afternoon. (L)
This morning venture into the Albanian Alps and the remote town of Valbone. Board the Komani ferry and sail along the Koman Lake, past remote hillside settlements. Originating from the construction of three dams, Lake Koman passes through much of the beautiful Albanian Alps; a thoroughly memorable experience and a highlight of the tour for many. Arrive in the village of Fierza and continue on to explore the Valbone Valley in the heart of the Albanian Alps. The village of Valbone is tucked underneath Mount Jezerca, the highest mountain wholly in Albania. Overnight at a guesthouse in Valbone. (B,D)
Spend an unforgettable morning in the Valbona Valley. Visit the ’Gheg’ community and learn how they make a living in this remote and dramatic landscape before having lunch in a “stan” – the traditional shepherds' summer house on the slopes of Gjarper Mountain. Continue on to Kosovo and the famous Decani Monastery. The Decani Monastery is the largest medieval church in the Balkans, containing stunning and painstakingly preserved murals. The monastery dates from the 13-th century and consists of a combination of gothic, roman, byzantine and baroque architectural styles. The monastery is recognised by UNESCO as a world heritage site. Reach Prizren and overnight here. (B,L)
Drive to Prishtina this morning, Europe’s newest capital Prishtina. Stop off in the village of Prekaz to visit the house of Adem Jashari, one of the founders of the Kosovo Liberation Army where you will gain a first hand insight into the Kosovan conflict and afterwards visit the Sultan Murat II tomb to get a better understanding of the tumultuous history of the region. On arrival in Prishtina, a drive through the centre will take you past a millennia of regime changes depicted in its architecture, from Ottoman, to Communism, to present day liberation. The Monument of Skanderbeg, Grand Mosque and futuristic National Library are some of the highlights. After a few hours here, return to Prizren. Known for its ethnic diversity, Prizren has a long tradition of tolerance and inter-ethnic cooperation featuring no less than 39 Christian buildings and 46 Islamic. Highlights include the Sinia Pasha Mosque and the Museum of the Prizren League and Helveti Tekke. (B,D)
Depart for the North Macedonian capital of Skopje today. On arrival, take a tour of the city and the many monuments built during the regenerative Skopje 2014 project. Walk up to Kale Fortress to take in the afternoon hustle and bustle of the city below, before visiting the birth place of Mother Teresa and the vibrant Old Bazaar, the second biggest of its kind in Europe (after Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar). Spend time taking in the sites and sounds with an afternoon at leisure before dinner this evening. (B,D)
Depart for the beautiful lakeside town of Ohrid today in the south of the country. En-route visit Tetovo, famous for its Painted Mosque and the Mavrovo National Park. Enjoy a little free time for lunch in this stunning setting before visiting the St. Jovan Bigorski Monastery. Reach Ohrid in the late afternoon and go for dinner in the town. (B,D)
Explore Ohrid on a walking tour of the town which starts from the square of St.Clement and visits the old part of the town, stopping at the Lower Gate and the archaeological museum. Explore the church of St Sophia and then on to the Roman theatre which dates back to the 2rd century BC. Continue to Plaoshnik, the site of the reconstructed church of St Clement, and the Church of St Jovan at Kaneo, one of the most photographed churches in the Balkans due to its beautiful location on the cliffs directly above the lake. Enjoy lunch by the lake before visiting the Monastery of Sveti Naum where peacocks roam the magnificent grounds, which also contain the source of Lake Ohrid’s water. Return to the town by boat across the lake. Free time in the city this evening. (B,L)
After breakfast, journey through Galicia National Park and past Lake Prespa, en-route back to Albania. The first stop across the border is the village of Voskopoja, a cultural centre since 1330 which once had the only printing press in the Ottoman Balkans, outside of Istanbul. After lunch, continue on to this evenings base, Korce. Known as the country’s centre of culture and the arts, the first Albanian language school opened here in 1887. The city served as a very important trading market and caravans travelled from here across Europe. Korce today exhibits eastern characteristics, along with traces of French influence in its urban scheme and grand architectural planning. Visit the Orthodox Cathedral, the Old Bazaar, the Museum of Medieval Arts and Albanian school museum. Free time in the city this evening. (B,D)
After a three hour drive in the morning, stop in Permet for free time for lunch and to stretch the legs. The journey between Permet and Gjirokaster is one of the most scenic highlights of the tour, with imposing mountains rising up alongside beautifully green meadows covered in wild flowers and the river Vjosa running alongside. Continue on to the UNESCO city of Gjirokaster for a brief orientation tour before checking in to the hotel and heading out for dinner. (B,D)
After breakfast, take a walking tour around Gjirokaster. Known by many as the ‘City of Stone’, Gjirokaster 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, Gjirokaster is a magical city with a tumultuous past. A walk around the network of cobbled streets will transport you back in time. A visit to the vast 13th-century Castle brings the adventurous tales of medieval rulers and communist atrocities alive. En-route to Saranda, stop at ‘Labova of the Cross Church’. The Church is one of the oldest in Albania and once contained a relic believed to be part of the true cross of Christ. Make another stop at the Blue Eye Spring before reaching the coastal town of Saranda, where you will spend 2 nights. (B,L)
Visit Butrint archaeological site today. Butrint is a national park that includes a very well preserved archaeological area and the wetlands around the lake provide shelter for different animals and aquatic species in danger of extinction. The site was at it’s most prominent during the Roman period when the city was proclaimed a Roman Colony and used by the Roman aristocracy as a holiday destination. Enjoy lunch in the small resort of Ksamil and an afternoon at leisure in Saranda. (B,L)
Set off along the beautiful Albanian Riviera today. First stop will be at Porto Palermo bay. The Castle of Porto Palermo is located on a small peninsula built by Ali Pasha of Ioannina in the early 19th Century. Enjoy dramatic views of the coast below as you drive up above the clouds and over the Llogara Pass and on to Llogara National Park for a leisurely walk along Julius Cesar’s path. Continue on to Vlore for a quick look, visiting Independence Square where the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1912 and on to the archaeological site of Apollonia which dates back to the Illyrian period. Reach Berat for the overnight stay and dinner. (B,D)
Berat ’the town of a thousand windows’ is renowned for its historic architecture and is on the register of UNESCO World Heritage sites. The town has several beautifully decorated 15th Century mosques and a very large number of Byzantine Orthodox churches. Several of the churches have frescoes by the well known painter Onufri. One of the highlights is a visit to the Onufri Museum, where many fine examples of Onufri’s work are displayed, including many splendid iconostas. Depart Berat for Durres for a quick look at Albania’s second largest city. Durres is the country’s main port and home to some important archaeological monuments that testify to the city’s glorious past. Arrive Tirana in the early evening. (B,D)
The capital and the biggest city in Albania, Tirana could be described as a cross between Istanbul and Naples with a pinch of Minsk. Today’s tour begins in the lesser known parts of the city. Visit the memorials to the British and American mission in Albania and the National Martyrs Cemetery of Albania, located on a hill overlooking the city. Some 900 partisans who died during WWII are buried in the cemetery. Continue the tour with visits to the National Museum, with its impressively decorated facade, and Et’hem Beg Mosque, as well as the House of Leaves and Bunk Art 2 (a former nuclear bunker), two museums dedicated to documenting Communist life and persecution during Enver Hoxha’s rule. Say goodbye to the group with a farewell dinner this evening. (B,D)
Transfer to the airport for your return flight. (B)
|Itinerary Dates||From Price||Single Room Supp.|
14 May 2024
28 May 2024