Albania is a fascinating, little known Mediterranean country situated just north of mainland Greece with an incredible history set impressively against a wild and rugged landscape. Past civilisations have left their mark, mainly the Romans and Byzantines, which we see at the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Butrint and the famous Berat Fortress, but the real highlight is the warm hospitality received all over this wonderfully undiscovered country.
The tour starts at our hotel in Tirana, Albania’s capital. Those travelling on the group flights will be met at the airport and transferred to our hotel (approx. 20 mins). This afternoon we'll have an orientation tour of the colourful streets of Tirana, which was made the capital of Albania in just 1920. We’ll see the main sites, including the impressive façade of the National History Museum which is adorned with a gigantic mosaic known as ‘The Albanians’. This is one of the finest examples of late Albanian Socialist Realism in the country, depicting the resilience of the people in their fight against invasion and occupation throughout the centuries, and dominates Skanderbeg Square. The exhibits within the museum give great insight into Albania’s intriguing past and recent history up to the present day.
We also visit Et'hem Bey Mosque, one of the oldest buildings in the city. This monument has been under reconstruction for the last two years so we will be able only to view it from the outside in 2020 as well. Closed under communist rule, it reopened as a house of worship in 1991 despite opposition from communist authorities (Ethem bey Miosque is currently under restoration and is closed, so will be visited only if restoration work is finished). We also explore an area known as Blloku on foot, where villas were once occupied by members of The Politburo (a former leading sect of the Party of Labour of Albania) but which is now the lively centre of Tirana’s nightlife where trendy bars, cafés, and fashionable clubs can be found.
Hotel Capital Tirana or Similar
After breakfast, we begin our drive to Pogradec (approx. 3 hrs. drive), but en route we make a short stop to visit the fortress of Elbasan. A city influenced by various cultures including Turks and more importantly Italians, the fortress here dates back to the 15th century. The fortifications originally incorporated twenty-six towers equidistantly spaced from each other along the length of a nine-metre high wall; today the ruins can be seen along the southern wall which remains more or less intact.
Our final destination for today is one of the most charming resorts in Albania, Pogradec, thanks to its position on beautiful Lake Ohrid with clear waters and mountain views. The Albanian side of the lake was included in the UNESCO protected monuments list in 2019. Keep your eyes peeled for Ohrid trout (known as ‘Koran’ in Albania), a species endemic to the lake. We go for a scenic walk at Drilon Park on the far side of the lake, to discover the waterways and ornamental plants and trees that make up this special ecosystem.
Hotel Perla or Similar
This morning we continue driving for about an hour to reach Voskopoja Village (formerly known as Moskopole) an important and well-known centre of art where many talented Albanian painters chose to practice their profession. The village has suffered over the years, as many of its treasures were stolen during the second half of the 18th century and this continued during the world wars. We take a 40 minute walk to visit one of the oldest churches representing Voskopoja religious art.
Another short drive (approx. 30 mins.) takes us to the largest city of south-eastern Albania, Korçë, which sits at the foot of Moravia Mountain, 800m above sea level. This city became an important trading and handicraft centre in the 18th Century and has also been referred to as ‘the city of museums’, being home to the National Museum of Mediaeval Art and Archaeology, the Museum of Education (where the first Albanian School was opened in 1878), and the new museum of ‘Bratko Collections’ displaying antiquities from the Far East. Our visit to Korçë includes the National Museum of Mediaeval Art and Archaeology, Mirahori Mosque (one of the oldest in the Balkans) and the famous church 'The Resurrection'. Korçë has been an important religious centre for Orthodox Christians. It's also worth trying the famous local beer whilst in the city.
Regency Hotel or Similar
Our drive through the mountains today is truly spectacular as we enjoy sweeping views across the Gramos and Nemercka Mountains. Along the winding route, we enjoy a short stop in Ersekë, which at 1050m is the highest town in Albania. This 17th century town is surrounded by beautiful green pastures of the Gramos Mountains. In the lush forests of Leskovik we stop at a working farm situated in the beautiful woodland. We will see how the different animals are raised here, as well as sample some authentic organic produce. Continuing onwards to beautiful Përmet, we make a quick stop at the old bridge of Benje village, and the hot springs, where we have time to relax and swim. After quite a long day (approx. 5 hrs. drive in total) we arrive in Përmet, situated in the heart of the white mountains on the Vjosë River. This evening you’re sure to be in for a treat as Përmet is famous for its food and wine, including 'gliko' sweets and raki.
Hotel Villa Permet or Similar
Drive to the beautiful town of Gjirokastër (approx. 2 hrs. drive), calling in at the traditional village of Dhoksat en route for a home-cooked lunch. In the afternoon we enjoy a guided visit around the famous town of Gjirokastër. Set on a mountain slope, the cobbled streets wind their way between old houses with interesting architectural features including mediaeval towers. The castle is the main feature and stands like a balcony over the town offering wonderful panoramic views of the surrounding landscape. We visit the ethnographic museum which is the house of Albania's former dictator Enver Hoxha.
Please note: Lunch with the local family can sometimes be changed to dinner dependent on their availability.
Argjiro Hotel or Similar
After an early breakfast, we travel to Butrint National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site situated about 18km south of Saranda. Butrint owes its growth and early fame to a sanctuary dedicated to Asclepius, the god of medicine, founded in the 4th century BC. The sanctuary was located on the south slope of the acropolis (hill) and was visited by worshippers to be healed. The Sanctuary was the making of Butrint and the sacred power of Butrint's water, was to be revered as long as the town lasted. The city developed during the Roman times however it fell into decline after an earthquake and was abandoned towards the end of the Middle Ages. From here we drive to Llogora National Park stopping along the coast on the way. Overnight in Llogora.
Llogora Tourist Village Hotel or Similar
After breakfast, we take a walk in Llogora National Park, possibly reaching Caeser’s field. Yes, Julius Caeser crossed into today’s Albania in his battles against Pompei which was won in this territory.Next, we stop at the wonderful ruins of Apollonia (approx. 1.5 -2 hrs. drive). Originally occupied by the Illyrian tribes and then the Greek colonists from Corfu and Corinth around 600BC, Apollonia flourished in the Roman period and was home to a renowned school of philosophy (Octavian studied here) but began to decline in the 3rd century AD when its harbour started silting up as a result of an earthquake. After Apollonia we transfer for just over an hour further inland to the UNESCO town of Berat where we spend the night. Hotel Belgrad Mangalem or Similar
Today is dedicated to Berat the gem of Albania. This morning we enjoy a guided tour around the old district of Berat, with its pretty white buildings perched on the hill amid pine forests. We walk through the narrow cobbled streets and finally reach Berat Castle on the slopes of Mount Tomorr, where we are rewarded with breath-taking views (and begin to understand why it is known to Albanians as 'The City of a Thousand Windows'). Within the castle walls are dwelling houses and the Onufri Museum (Museum of Iconography), which we will visit. The rest of the day is free to explore the town.
Hotel Belgrad Mangalem or Similar
From Berat we drive to the port of Durrës (approx. 2 hrs. drive), the second largest city in Albania and famed for housing the largest amphitheatre in the Balkans. The amphitheatre dates back to the 2nd century AD, seats 15,000 people and contains an early Christian crypt with rare wall mosaics. The city was colonised by colonists from Corinth and Korkyra in 627 BC and was named Epidamnus, but later became Dyrrachium.
We then drive to the famous mediaeval citadel of Krujë (approx. 45 mins. drive), where Albania's national hero, Skanderbeg, led the resistance against the Ottomans. He kept them from crossing into Western Europe for 25 years, earning the title 'Champion of Christ'. In the evening we take a walk to Kruja Hospitality a characteristic house in the castle where you will sample raki and local cheeses.
Hotel Panorama or Similar
After breakfast we’ll have a tour of Krujë. We will visit the Skanderbeg Museum, a rich ethnographic museum inside the castle, and enjoy inspirational views out to the Adriatic Coast. We have time to wander through the medieval bazaar full of souvenirs and handicrafts. A transfer is included to Tirana Airport (approx. 45 minutes drive), which will be scheduled according to the group flight timings.
During your holiday you stay at the following hotels. If you'd like to extend your time at any of these or, if you'd like to enhance your stay with an upgraded room, just let us know at the time of booking.
Our aim is to provide holidays that are unbeatable for choice and flexibility. We've listed our most popular travel options below, however you aren't limited to these - we can tailor-make virtually any holiday to suit.
Here at Headwater we thrive on feedback from our customers. It's the only way we can continue to develop, and where necessary improve, our services and ensure our holidays continue to be the best they can be. As this is a relatively new holiday, we don't yet have any customer reviews available from our customers, but here are the comments that have been received from previous Exodus travellers.
This was a good trip which covered the main highlights of Albania. It is interesting to see how the country is progressing and developing in the last few decades since the fall of communism and regional troubles.
This was my first Exodus trip and it exceeded my expectations. I really enjoyed the different aspects of the trip from swimming in the lake in Pogradec (and eating local korani trout afterwards), to the icon museum in Berat, from the walk in Llogora to the Mirahori mosque visit in Korça. Albania is a fascinating country and I enjoyed exploring it with like-minded individuals who were great fun. I found hotel accommodation very good (single supplement basis).
The trip was packed with interesting and 'must-see' visits and activities, but there was still enough time to relax, explore independently, and try the wonderful locally grown food. Mediterranean climate and food. Mountains, fertile plains, and freshwater lakes, natural springs and the sea to swim in. Welcoming, relaxed and friendly people, a fair level of comfort but not 'touristy' - Albania is a great place to holiday!
A very well balanced trip with visits to UNESCO World Heritage sites, free time to explore our own personal preference areas and introductions to Albanian culture.
Interesting and variedcountry both geographically, politically and socially. Good accommodation. Would have appreciated an included first and last night dinners ( we organised the latter) and/or introductory drinks on the first day. It would have facilitated group sociability.
This is a trip which exceeded my expectations. Friendly locals, fabulous landscapes, cheap and cheerful food and drink with the excellent guide, Ed. I have just one gripe which Exodus should consider and act upon. Despite outside temperatures of around 18 - 20 degrees during daylight hours our driver had the air conditioning on most of the time. The only windows that could be opened on the minibus were located in the front doorseat plus a roof window which was only opened once in 10 days for a couple of hours at my insistence. Some of our 15 strong group, myself included, developed dry throats, head colds, coughs etcetera. A week after returning home I am still feeling the effects. And for the last 24 years I have worked outside in all weathers without catching a cold. Tgere was never any need for the air conditioning to be activated within the outside temperature range at this time of year. Opening a window for fresh air would have sufficed. Instead 17 of us were enclosed in an airtight container for several hours on a daily basis breathing the same recycled dry air. Not healthy! There are court cases pending regarding illnesses contracted from air conditioning on aircraft. Take note Exodus.
When I told friends I was going to Albania, the most common response was 'why?'. Albania is relatively new to tourism so it's a great time to explore the country. The locals are curious to get to know us which is a rarity in Europe. Albania doesn't have really show stopping sights but there are a number of significant highlights which hold your interest throughout and make this a fascinating trip.
This was a thoroughly comprehensive tour travelling around a large part of the country, involving visiting many fascinating historical sites, museums, the countryside ....various towns,mountainous regions, flat fertile plains and the coast .
Overall the itinerary was fine but it could be enhanced. A night was spent in Vlores and a visit made to Durres. Neither town was inspiring and what we saw there was incidental to the trip and would not have been missed if it had not been included. Cut Vlores and Durres out and spend more time in Gjirokaster and / or Berat. Or reroute slightly and include other destinations not on the current itinerary. There was a feeling of being rushed around the Berat Castle area in particular - a quick photo here then move on. No time to take in the scene. The photos have to be good as there's no time to retain a mental impression. The hotel choices were good to excellent and that in Berat exceptional. The minibus concept for transport has shortcomings, particularly when the bus is full. Anyone in an aisle seat has little chance of seeing mountainous countryside as line of vision is directed downwards by the top of the window for a tall person sitting in the middle of the bus.
A great trip with a knowledgeable trip leader. We visited numerous castles, mosques and churches. The mountains are magnificent as are the plains, rivers and beaches.
A brilliant trip and great introduction to Albania, a beautiful country with such an interesting history. Organisation and itinerary were first class, with an excellent guide and driver. The trip is full on, with a different hotel each night, but was not tiring. All except one (which was still OK) of the hotels very good or excellent quality and in very good locations. Food and drink good and very cheap.
This trip gives you a really good taste of Albania. The country was quite different to how I expected and its an absolutely beautiful place. We packed a lot in, but it didn't feel as if it was rushed. I would really love to go again!
Overall a very interesting and informative trip.
This trip really did exceed expectations. Much better than we thought it would be. Beautiful country, somewhere we knew nothing about, leaves you feeling you want to know more....
A guide book can only tell you so much and as I didn’t know anybody else who had been to Albania I really had no idea what to expect. We had a fabulous tour guide, Edjon, which helped make this holiday one of the best I’ve done with Exodus. He knew everything about EVERYTHING Albanian and related the country’s history with knowledge and passion, and most importantly an understanding on long bus trips of when to leave his group in peace to doze! The scenery is spectacular. I’ve never seen so many beautiful little churches and Gjirokaster and Kruge in particular were lovely. Hotels and breakfasts were all of a good standard. None of the hotels had tea/coffee making facilities but all had hairdryers. By day seven I still had money left from the £100 I’d changed into lek and that was after drinking wine with dinner every night! It’s not all beautiful countryside, white stone buildings and UNESCO sites but so much of it is that it’s definitely a place worth visiting. I loved it.
We travelled around most of Albania learning its history and seeing its wonderful scenery, eating the foods and meeting the people.
a brilliant trip giving us a great out look of the country going from city to villages mountains and the sea. the only criticism i have was the hotel in permeti was cold no heating but still a nice hotel. the guide which started the trip with was very helpful with the information about his country it was sad for him to find that his grandmother was very ill and had to leave us to go back to his family i send my regards to ed and his family .the second guide we had was again fantastic. the churches and icons are fantastic to look at ,the food was wonderful and vearied.a big thank you to our driver that took us around the country with great skill and he always had a smile on his face. overall veiw i have of the trip was the country of Albainia is a lovely place to go to and has changed my impressions of the place and people
This trip offers an excellent introduction to the varied and interesting country that is Albania. Amazing mountain vistas, coastal views, friendly mountain towns and authentic villages. Food is fantastic, wine is good and plentiful and raki also available in a range of 'flavours' for those who like it!
Excellent trip, excellent Guide, excellent country!
Excellent trip, excellent Guide, excellent country!
This was an excellent tour with a lot covered in the 10 days enabling us to understand the difficult times Albania has gone through as well as opening up the many things it has to offer as a destination. It was a busy trip but did not feel rushed at any of the places we visited as it has not yet fully embraced mass tourism (although some places like Butrint no doubt get very busy in the summer months).
A wonderful trip to a country emerging from very difficult times, accompanied by a good group and fab guide.
Hi I've travelled a lot but must say this was one of the best places I've been. Wonderful scenery every day. Learnt a lot about its history. Great hotels and food. I spent £200 in 10 days. Thanks to our guide Claudio and our driver Astrid. You looked after us every day. Sue
A trip of unexpected interest to a country whose landscape, history, heritage sites, food and drink all exceeded expectation.
A fascinating trip that explored much of the country with a brilliant guide. Trip sites were well chosen to explore the layers of the country's history and the wealth of landscape and hidden gems both inland and by the sea. A country that is as yet unspoilt and that inspired me to look at visits to the other Balkan countries.
An excellent overview trip of Albania made especially good due to the knowledge and experience of our guide, Erion Puca. His knowledge along with the friendliness of locals and the friendly group of experienced travelers we had made for a wonderful and informative trip. The beauty of the Albanian landscape is exceptional and our guide ensured we understood the history and current realities. For me, the trip had special meaning as I have Albanian-Arbëreschë roots going back to the 1400s. The guide, locals and my fellow travelers on the tour were all very helpful and supportive in my quest to understand more about the connection.
A great travel experience thoroughly enjoyed the trip, very informative guide, Edjon, great food and people.
Every day on this trip brings new insight into Albania. Just when you think you have begun to understand the people and their country you learn or see something new which changes your opinion again. Our group of 14 (3 couples and the rest singles) set off on our adventure from the moment the plane landed, so be prepared this is a busy trip, but not too energetic.
It was more than a holiday. It was an adventure. So exciting to visit a country that is still emerging but accessible enough to explore so much of. Itinerary was full and varied but not exhausting. Gradual 'feed' of information from our own guide and others on route reinforced by visits to sites. Group size sensibly restricted. Living out of a suitcase not as daunting as expected as this enabled us to see so much more. Enough time allotted for most places except might have been better to have had more time in Berat and a brief stop in Durres.
I really enjoyed this trip to this little visited country. It is so little visited we hardly saw any other tourists on our travels. It is correctly graded as a leisurely trip as there is no strenuous activity, but it is certainly a busy one with lots to see. The Albanian people are very friendly and welcoming. We saw stunning scenery and ate wonderful home grown food.
You can be confident that our pricing includes all the standard requirements of your holiday and many additional extras. Always ensure that you are comparing like for like when booking your holiday.
This 9 night guided walking holiday includes:
All breakfasts and 1 lunch included
Transfer for group flights
How to book:
For further details, or to check availability, speak to our sales team on 01606 720199 (we're open until 5pm today) or complete our holiday enquiry form (we'll contact you at a time that's most convenient for you).
|25th Sep 2020||£899||£1279||Tour only: £899
Including flights: £1279
|2nd Oct 2020 °
|£899||£1149||Tour only: £899
Including flights: £1149
|16th Oct 2020 °
|£999||£1279||Tour only: £999
Including flights: £1279
This holiday is operated by our sister company, Exodus
9 nights hotels with en suite facilities
Group normally 6 to 16, plus local leader. Min age 16 yrs
Travel by air-conditioned private bus
Due to the tailor-made nature of our holidays, we need a little more information in order for us to check availability for Highlights of Albania. Simply complete the form below (fields marked * are mandatory) and a member of our sales team will contact you (when it's most convenient for you) to provide availability information, travel options and an accurate price. Of course there's no obligation, but if you do wish to proceed with a booking they will be on-hand to assist you throughout the process.
Alternatively, you can call our sales team on 01606 720199 to discuss your requirements in more detail (we're open until 5pm today) or contact us via live chat for help and advice.