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 on this private journey through Albania. Perhaps opt to extend your holiday with a beach stay in one of the many small family-run hotels near Vlora, a wonderful coastal city where palm trees line the main road and the museums reflect on the city’s pivotal role in Albania’s history.
Fly to Tirana and transfer 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.
Complete the tour of lower Berat before departing to Vlora. Stop at Ardenica Monastery, built by 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. The Austrians began excavating during WWI and the French continued through the 1920s and 1930s. In more recent years Albanian archaeologists have made progress but much of the ancient city remains buried under a hill. You can see the remains of the fortified wall, the impressive monument of Agonothetes and Portico. The museum of Apollonia is located in the nearby monastery of the XIV century, which can also be visited. Contine to Vlora and see the Independence Square and Muradie Mosque. Check in to the hotel for one night. (B)
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 Himarare on a small peninsula lies the castle of Porto Palermo, built by Ali Pasha of Ioannina in the early nineteenth century. Visit the beautiful church of Agios Nikolaos, which is connected with various legends and stories about the construction of the castle. Continue to the Porto Palermo Naval Base which looks like a scene from a James Bond film, and 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 sixth century B.C. fortification evokes the city's military power and the third century BC amphitheater symbolises the rich culture of this once thriving ancient city. Continue the drive to coastal Saranda and check in to the hotel for an overnight stay. (B)
Stop at Syri i Kaltër (Blue Eye), a deep forest spring where turtles, water lilies, dragonflies and kingfishers can be found. Continue to the church of Labovë e Kryqit, one of the oldest churches in Albania, and Libohovë, a small village located at the foot of Mount Bureto, dominated by a fortress. Stroll down its pleasant, leafy main street and admire the extensive views across the valley to the west of Drino River. In the afternoon visit the town 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. A visit to the vast 13th century castle brings the adventurous tales of medieval rulers and communist atrocities alive. Check in to the hotel for an overnight stay. (B)
Depart to Tirana with a stop en route at Durres, the country’s most ancient city which has been an important trading hub ever since the first ships docked in the 7th century BC. Though little of its rich history remains on display today, the Archaeological Museum houses a superb collection of Illyrian, Greek and Roman artefacts. Continue to Tirana and check in to the hotel for three nights. (B)
Tirana is located on the site of a Byzantine fortress and has been the capital of Albania since 1920.Enjoy a city tour including visits to the Mosque of Ethem Bey, the Clock Tower, the National Museum, National Art Gallery, Skanderbeg Square, the Martyrs’ Cemetery, Grand Park and House of Leaves which documents the history of violence and control under the Communist regime from 1944-1991 . (B)
Embark on an excursion to the cradle of northern Albanian culture - Shkodra. A highlight of this lakeside town are the 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. (B)