Day 1: Tirana
15.00 Meeting with the guide at the Airport and transfer to Tirana. Sightseeing tour of the city concentrated on Tirana Highlights.
A cross between Istanbul and Naples with a pinch of Minsk. The capital and the biggest city in Albania offer a wide range of activities, museums and monuments to explore. In the main square of the city, Skanderbeg Square, and along the main “boulevard” named “The Martyrs of the Nations” are located most of the Museums buildings and monuments of Tirana. In the main square are located: The National Historic Museum with its façade decorated by a large mosaic called “Albania”, the huge statue of Skanderbeg, the Et’hem beg mosque with its delicious decorations, the Palace of Culture, where the Theatre of Opera and Ballet and National Library are located, the government buildings that close the square from the south side. Instead along the main “boulevard” and not far from it can be seen: The Catholic church of St. Paul completed in 2001, The Orthodox Cathedral, The late medieval bridge of Tabakeve, the remains of the old fortress of Tirana, different houses in ottoman style. The building of the Parliament, the academy of Sciences building, the Gallery of Figurative Arts, The International Cultural Centre, constructed in 1988 to be the Museum of the ex communist dictator Enver Hoxha and commonly called by the people “The pyramid” according to the strange and curious pyramidal shape of the building, the Palace of the Congresses and the Presidential Residence. The monument of Mother Albania, 12 meters high, was inaugurated in the “Heroes of the Nation” cemetery in 1971.
Day 2: Tirana – Gjakova – Valbona
Set off to the city of Gjakova (Kosova) through the highway and from there start the trip to the national park of “Bjeshket e Namuna” and to the National Park of Valbona. This park with a surface of 8000 hectares is considered as "the miracle" of the Albanian Alps. The park lies between the high and craggy mountains, covered with different fantastic colors in every season, thus giving the image of a valley full of labyrinths and surprises. This is a great place for recreational tourism, with many distinct values, and with a fantastic biodiversity that is extremely beautiful and important. Valbona Village is the most interesting place to visit together with the river that has the same name. Accommodation and overnight stay in Valbona
Day 3: Valbona – Shkoder – Kruje – Tirana
Continue the trip through the lake from Fierza to Koman. Originated from the construction of three dams, Lake Koman passes along much of the beautiful Albanian Alps. Its sinuous and slim riverbed through the mountains of the north makes this trip often described as one of the most beautiful in the world - Evocative and relaxing.
After reaching Koman continue to Shkoder and visit to the castle of Rozafat.
Set on the banks of a sparkling lake 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. Its mighty fortress, Rozafa, still rises proudly over the Drin and Buna Rivers as a symbol of Shkodra's will to survive. Shkodra itself was a hybrid town. The half-Catholic, half-Muslim population was western-oriented and had close ties with Italy. Shkodra’s turbulent 2400-year history has left plenty of interesting relics that make a visit worthwhile. The oldest wall of the Shkodër castle dates from the first millennium bc. Illyrian king Gentius, to the Romans in 168 bc. The town was subsequently held by the Byzantines, Bulgars, Serbs, Venice and Turks. It became the centre of the Albanian cultural movement after the Albanian League was suppressed in 1881. After being occupied by the Austrians in 1916–18 during World War I, it was taken over by the Allied Powers until it was reunited with free Albania in 1921.
After the visits of Shkoder continue to the city of Kruja when will be visits to the medieval bazaar to the ethnographic museum and to the Scanderbeg Museum.
Having survived for thousands of years, nearly disappeared at the beginning of the 20th Century and been brought back to life during the last 50 years, Kruja is a tourist attraction alongside a panoramic mountainside location. “Kruja is a strange town, all clustered around its bazaar.” Some of the main points of interests include the restored Castle and Citadel that it is tied to the legend of the hero who fought against the Turks for about 25 years. The Skanderbeg Museum located inside the castle and erected in memory of the Albanian national hero. Skanderbeg was in fact from these parts and Kruja was a strategic point in the anti-Ottoman resistance. The Old Restored Bazaar has a truly oriental look, multi-colored and overflowing with goods of every description. The citadel includes the restored house of the Pasha of Kruja, dating from the ottoman period, which hosts the Ethnographic Museum.
After the visits of Kruja continue to Tirana - accommodation and overnight in Tirana
Day 4: Tirana – Ohrid (Macedonia) - Korca
After breakfast driving on the footsteps of “Via Egnatia” will bring us to the city of Ohrid (FYR Macedonia) located next to the shore of the same lake. On the way we will stop at Elbasan (Albania), ancient Skampa, to visit the legionary cohort fortress. In Ohrid an UNESCO protected site, which in ancient times was known as Lychnidos, we will visit the monastery of St. Naum, the Hellenistic theatre transformed in an amphitheatre by the Romans. The visit of the city will follow a course that has as its theme the byzantine architecture. Among the monuments to be visited are the cathedral of St. Sofia and other pearls of byzantine period such as the icon collection that is considered to be the most important of the Balkans.
Continue toward the city of Korca known as the center of culture and arts. The first Albanian language school opened here in 1887 and a French Lyceum opened in Korca in 1917 following independence. The city has served as a very important trading market and caravans traveled from here to Greece, Turkey, and Russia. Korca 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, Albanian school museum.
Dinner and overnight stay in Korca
Day 5: Korca – Gjirokaster
After breakfast continue toward the Unesco protected city of Gjirokaster.
From here we take the long journey through spectacular valleys that will brig us to Gjirokastra. Continue to Erseka which is the highest above the sea leavel city in the Balkans, a small town located in the west of the Gramoz Mountain’s valley, near the Greek border. The small town of Permet, close to Vjosa River, on the way to Gjirokastra is famous for the sweets called ‘Gliko’ and the flowers.Drive through the Këlcyra gorge, created by river Vjosa, runs here between Trebeshinë and Dhembel mountains creating spectacular canyons all the way to Tepelena.
“It was a strange city, and seemed to have been cast up in the valley one winter's night like some prehistoric creature that was now clawing its way up the mountainside. Everything in the city was old and made of stone, from the streets and fountains to the roofs of the sprawling age-old houses covered with grey slates like gigantic scales. It was hard to believe that under this powerful carapace the tender flesh of life survived and reproduced.” – (from the book of Ismail Kadare “Chronicle in Stone”).
Gjirokastra, an UNESCO World Heritage Site, is known by many as the City of Stone and 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 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. Overnight in Gjirokaster
Day 6: Gjirokaster – Butrint - Sarande
After the breakfast continue toward Saranda.
Visit the water spring of Blue Eye declared a Monument of Nature followed by a visit in the Church of Mesopotam. Next stop will be at Butrint.
Butrint is a National park that includes a very well preserved archaeological area, an uncontaminated vegetation area of Mediterranean maquis, and has also a lake that is connected to the Ionian sea by a natural channel. The wetlands around the lake are shelter for different animals and aquatic species in danger of extinction. The excavations and studies has proved that during the VII and the VI centuries BC. Butrint was a protourban centre. By the V century BC Butrint has got the full form of an ancient city. During the VI century the city was equipped with new buildings such as the theatre, the agora, the small, temple and the stoa. The complex of the sanctuary of Asclepius forms the most magnificent part of the city. The main importance and magnificence of the Site was in the Roman period when the City was proclaimed a Roman Colony and used by the roman aristocracy as a holiday destination. Even during late antiquity Butrint maintained its importance. The construction of the Great Basilica and of the baptistery dates to this period. The baptistery has the floor surface covered by a mosaic decoration of a very fine processing, which is very well preserved
Sarandë is situated on a beautiful horseshoe bay between the mountains and the Ionian Sea. The name Saranda derives from an early Christian monastery dedicated to Agioi Saranta (Forty Saints). In antiquity, Saranda was known as Onchesmus. Located opposite the Greek island of Corfu, Saranda is one of the most attractive tourist towns on the Albanian Riviera, where honeymooners traditionally spend their holidays.
Day 7: Saranda – Vlora
Continue the trip to the picturesque village of Dhermi driving along the Albanian Riviera. Stop at “The Gulf of Porto Palermo” where we visit the Fortress of Ali Pasha Tepelena situated on an attractive island.
Albanian Ionian Riviera
Albanian Ionian Riviera dubbed by some as “the last secret of Europe”, boasts stunning Mediterranean beaches of the Ionian coast. It’s a stretch of coastline between Vlore and Sarande in south-west Albania. This is the most beautiful part of the coast in Albania and also one of the most beautiful areas in the whole Ionian Sea. The road goes through breathtaking scenery, with mountains rising dramatically up from the coast and the deep blue sea shimmering in the sunlight. The Ionian coast here is very rugged, with rocky coves along the narrow coastal strip and steep mountains rising almost straight up along much of its length. The sea along this part of the coast has clear blue water and the beaches are usually made of small pebbles, but there are also many sandy ones, especially in the south. From here the road begin to snake up towards the Llogara Pass, the highest point of which is 1025m above sea level where you can enjoy dramatic views. (photo shooting is recommended).
Next stop is in Vlora. Vlora is the second largest port city of Albania and the most important economical and cultural city of southwest Albania. It is the city where the Albanian Declaration of Independence was proclaimed on November 28, 1912. The city was for a short time the capital of Albania. Founded as an ancient Greek colony in the 6th century BC by the name of Aulon and continuously inhabited for about 26 centuries.
Overnight in Vlora
Day 8: Vlora - Berat
Continue to the archeological park of Apollonia to visit the ancient ruins.
The ancient city of Apollonia of Illyria was founded at the beginning of the VII century BC by Greek colons coming by the cities of Corinth and Corcyra. Apollonia became an emporium of merchandising between Greeks and Illyrians and prospered very much in both Greeks and roman times. The discovered monuments on the site are: the fortification wall of the city, the Prytaneon, the Bouleterion, the big and small Stoas, the Odeion, the Theatre, the Nympheum and many more. The museum of Apollonia is hosted in the nearby monastery of the XIV century when can be visit also the Church of St. Mary
On the way to Berat we will visit the Monastery of Ardenica. Ardenica Monastery of Theotokos Mary is Built by Byzantine Emperor, Andronikos II Palaiologos in 1282 after the victory against the Angevins in the Siege of Berat, the monastery is famous as the place where, in 1451, was celebrated the marriage of Skanderbeg, the national hero of Albania, with Andronika Arianiti. In 1780 the Monastery started a theological school to prepare clerics in Greek Orthodoxy. It had an important library with 32,000 volumes that got completely burned by a fire in 1932. The Church of Saint Mary within the monastery contains frescoes from brothers Kostandin and Athanas Zografi, notably one of saint John Kukuzelis, born in Durrës, Albania.
Arrival and overnight stay in Berat
Day 09: Berat – Durres - Tirane
Berat: is also known as “The town of a Thousand windows” due to the many large buildings that decorate the houses of the old town. The town is still renowned for its historic architecture and particular beauty and is declared as a world heritage site by UNESCO. Historical Berat consist of three quarters. The quarters of Gorica and Mangalem are situated on the slopes of two hills that are divided by the river Osum. The Kalaja (fortress) quarter stands on the top of the Magalemi hill and is enclosed by a fortification wall that dates back to the IV century BC.
The town has several XV century mosques, very well decorated and a very large numbers of Byzantine orthodox churches. Several of the churches has frescoes by the well known painter Onufri and his school and from other later famous schools of frescos and icons of the Balkan area. Of particular interest are: The icons museum located in the old cathedral church of the Castle and the Ethnographic museum hosted in an old house in the Mangalem quarter.
Drive to Durres
Durres: is the main port and the second biggest city in the country. Some important archeological monuments that testify the glorious past of the city during different periods of history are: The ancient city walls, the roman amphitheater and baths, the byzantine forum, the Venetian tower, the ottoman hamam. The city offers to the visitor also a range of interesting buildings and museums such as: the Archeological Museum, The Exhibition of Folk Culture hosted in an very elegant house of ottoman architecture, The museum of History ect. Of interest to be seen are the Italian building constructed in between the WWI and WWII that now hosts the Municipality, the Cultural centre with the Aleksander Moisiu Theater, the main Library, the philharmonic orchestra ect.
Day 10: Tirane – Out
Depart to Tirana Airport.