The location of the first-ever Regent Holidays tour in 1971, Albania was one of the last countries to gain independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1912.
Discover the country’s central and southern highlights on this private tailor-made tour which journeys from Tirana to Roman archaeological sites and UNESCO World Heritage cities, and along the Albanian Riviera where the landscape changes dramatically from Adriatic to Ionian.
Stay at hand-picked boutique-style hotels, enjoy fresh, organic food and uncover a beautiful land of unspoilt countryside and off-the-beaten-track historical gems.
Opt to extend your holiday with a beach stay in the coastal resorts of Vlore, Dhermi, Saranda or Ksamil.
Fly to Tirana. On arrival, you will be met by your private driver/guide and transferred down to Berat for an afternoon guided city tour. Berat is one of Albania’s oldest cities 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. Overnight in Berat.
Complete the tour of lower Berat before departing for the Archaeological Park of Apollonia. Founded at the beginning of the 7th century BC by the Greeks, Apollonia became a prosperous trading city in Roman times. Here, you can see the remains of the fortified walls and the impressive monument of Agonothetes and Portico. Continue to coastal Vlora to see the Independence Square and Muradie Mosque before driving along the stunning Albanian Riviera towards Saranda stopping in the National Park of Llogara and 19th century Porto Palermo castle. Overnight in Saranda. (B)
Visit the impressive UNESCO World Heritage Site of Butrint this morning. The Greek and Roman ruins of Butrint are Albania's most important archaeological site. This rediscovered city is a microcosm of almost 3,000 years of Mediterranean history. Its sixth century B.C. fortification evokes the city's military power and the third century BC amphitheatre symbolises the rich culture of this once thriving ancient city. Stop off for lunch in the small coastal resort of Ksamil with its sandy beach and crystal clear waters. Continue inland, passsing the Blue Eye Spring, a deep forest spring that resembles an eye from above. Reach Gjirokaster in the late afternoon, spending two nights here. (B)
This morning, visit the village of Labovë e Kryqit to see one of Albania’s most beautiful Byzantine churches before visiting a local family for a traditional lunch in the household. In the afternoon, tour Gjirokaster, 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, Gjirokaster 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. A visit to the vast 13th century castle brings the adventurous tales of medieval rulers and communist atrocities alive. (B,L)
First stop will be Permet and the Church of Leusa. The church houses some of the best frescoes in Albania as it was not damaged during WW2 or during the communist era. Next, visit a family producer of Gliko, a traditional Albanian sweet preserve made out of fruit. Try some of this local delicacy before travelling through the Vjosa river valley, past dramatic mountain landscapes, lush meadows and rushing river torrents. Arrive in Korce, a hub for culture and the arts. The city prospered as a centre for trade over the centuries, particularly during the early 20th Century when many of its important institutions were built. Visit the Museum of Medieval Arts and the first Albanian school, now a museum. (B)
Spend a little time in Korce's old bazaar before heading to Pogradec on the Albanian side of Lake Ohrid for a look at the iconic lake. Afterwards, continue on to Tirana, the nations capital. Enjoy a city tour including visits to Skanderbeg Square, the Mosque of Ethem Bey, the National Museum and Bunk Art 2- housed in a former nuclear bunker, Bunk Art tells the stories of those who were persecuted by the Communist secret police. Spend 2 nights in Tirana. (B)
Embark on an excursion to the cradle of northern Albanian culture - Shkodra. A highlight of this lakeside town are the ruins of the Fortress of Rozafa, an ancient Illyrian castle built on a rock hill with spectacular panoramic views of the surrounding countryside, the lake and the Lead Mosque. Return to Tirana with a stop at Kruja, perched atop a hill and famous for its fortress, the Museum of Skanderbeg and the Ethnographic Museum. Spend some time wandering the Kruja Bazaar, an excellent place to purchase souvenirs. Return to Tirana. (B)