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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. Comfortable Hotel
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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!
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
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This 9 night guided walking holiday includes:
All breakfasts and 1 lunch included
Transfer for group flights
How to book:
|8th May 2020||US$1549||Tour only: US$1549||Check availability|
|15th May 2020||US$1399||Tour only: US$1399||Check availability|
|12th Jun 2020||US$1399||Tour only: US$1399||Check availability|
|26th Jun 2020||US$1399||Tour only: US$1399||Check availability|
|7th Aug 2020||US$1399||Tour only: US$1399||Check availability|
|4th Sep 2020||US$1479||Tour only: US$1479||Check availability|
|11th Sep 2020||US$1399||Tour only: US$1399||Check availability|
|18th Sep 2020||US$1399||Tour only: US$1399||Check availability|
|25th Sep 2020||US$1399||Tour only: US$1399||Check availability|
|2nd Oct 2020||US$1399||Tour only: US$1399||Check availability|
|16th Oct 2020||US$1549||Tour only: US$1549||Check availability|
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 1-800-267-3347 to discuss your requirements in more detail.