Day 1: Shkoder
Meet with our guide in the airport and transfer to the city of Shkoder. Upon arrival start the city walking tour when we will walk up to visit the ancient remains of the castle and after transfer to the heart of the city to visit the old monumental centre, the city museum and several important monuments.
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 tour and the visits, check in Hotel. Dinner and overnight in Shkoder.
Day 2: Shkoder – Valbone (through Koman – Fierza Lake)
In the early morning, we will drive to the ferry, which goes through the spectacular canyon of river Drin. The lake was created, after the construction of the dam of Koman, in the 80-ies.The transfer will continue along the beautiful valley of river Valbona, until the picturesque location of Quku i Valbones where we will stay overnight.Possibly the best trip you will ever do in Albania is the Lake Koman is one of the largest artificial lakes in Albania being 72Km long and possessing a surface area of 8160ha and containing 40 coves and inlets. The lake was created in 1978 by the construction of the Fierza hydroelectric facility bordering on all three of the region’s districts of the region. The lake is formed by the Drini i Zi, Drini i Bardhe and Luma Rivers. It is home to 13 species of fish, molluscs, crabs, and amphibians. The boat trip passes between 1000-1500m-high mountains and through a series of deep gorges and interconnected lakes, with hardly any signs of human activities on the shores – though occasionally the ferry will stop to let off some hardy peasants, who proceed to climb up the steep hills to their hidden villages. The wild landscape is somewhat reminiscent of the Norwegian fjords, and is a dramatic highlight of any trip in Albania. Upon arriving in the village of Quku I Valbones awalking tour will follow. Dinner and overnight in a local guest house.
The name “Valbona” is used to refer to the Valbona River, which in turn flows through the valley bearing its name, anda small village in the valley, as well the general area informally. It’s located in the Tropoja District of Northern Albania. This district, bordering Kosovo to the northeast, and Montenegro to the northwest, in combination with the adjacent district to the west, encompasses a region called the Malësi in Albanian, which translates roughly as “The Highlands,” with all the attendant romance conjured up by the English term. A wild, high, mountainous region inhabited by strong and fiercely independent people, the Malësi has for the history of Albania been the region which was never really conquered or subdued by the various waves of invaders during the last 2,000 years of Balkan history. While the proper name of the mountains around Valbona specifically are the Malësi e Gjakovës (after the town of Gjakova in Kosovo), their name is most often translated in English as “The Accursed Mountains,” based on the name given to them by disgruntled Serbian would-be invaders.
Day 3: Valbone – Kruje – Durres
After the breakfast drive towards the town of Kruja. The itinerary will enter for a short part in the Republic of Kosovo and then reenter Albania to Kruja. Here we will visit the Ethnographic museum, Historic museum, the medieval bazaar and the remains of the medieval castle.
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 - a typical Ottoman market right before our eyes. The citadel includes the restored house of the Pasha of Kruja, dating from the ottoman period, which hosts the Ethnographic Museum. After the visit and the lunch in Kruja the tour will continue to reach the city of Durres when a short visit in the historical city centre and in the roman amphitheatre will be done before accommodation in the hotel.
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 4: Durres – Berat – Apollonia – Vlore
In the morning after the breakfast the tour will continue toward the charming and UNESCO protected town of Berat. Upon arrival in Berat we will start the walking tour of the town to visit the upper castle with its characteristic houses and the museum of the icons. Walking down in the lower part of the town we will visit the medieval centre and some very beautiful examples of byzantine churches and ottoman mosques.
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.
After the visits and the lunch in Berat our tour will continue toward the Archeological Park of Apollonia. Here during the walking tour we will visit the ruins of the ancient city, the monastery of Saint Mary and the archeological museum.
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 an Illyrians and was taken by Aristotle as a model in his analysis of oligarchy due to the distinct and separate Greek and Illyrian communities. The city prospered very much in roman times. It was a vital stronghold in Caesar’s civil war with Pompey and also important in early Christian history as the resident bishop attended the councils of Ephesus and Chalkis in 431 and 451. 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.
After the visit, transfer to the city of Vlora. Dinner and overnight 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.
Day 5: Vlore – Butrint – Gjirokaster
In the morning the tour will continue on the road that snakes up towards the Llogara Pass, the highest point of which is 1025m above sea level where you can enjoy dramatic views. (First stop, where photo shooting is recommended).
Llogara National Park
The Llogaraja National Park takes its name from the passage with the same name, which is over 1000 meters in height and extend along the road that from the city of Vlora goes toward the south of the countcharacterized by a wild and untouched nature where the peaks of the “Malet Vetetimes” or the Mountains of the Lightings, are often surrounded by clouds and so much more evocative. The breathtaking views enjoyed from the park, especially on the side where the hills fall abruptly into the sea below.Leaving Llogara the road will continue along the Ionian Riviera to reach the city of Saranda and the Butrinti National Park. ry. This impressive panoramic Ionian road was built by Mussolini in the Thirties.
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.
Arrival in Butrint. Here we will visit the well preserved ruins of the ancient city of Butrint and its museum hosted in the Venetian castle.
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.After the visits in Butrint, the tour will continue toward the city of Gjirokaster, another Unesco protected site for the particularity of its medieval architecture.
“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 “Cronicle 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.
After visiting the city with its fortress the ethnographic museum and the typical Zekate house, check in the hotel.
Dinner and overnight in Gjirokaster
Day 6: Gjirokaster – Antigonea – Gjirokaster
In the morning before departing for a visit in the area of the ancient city of Antigonea, a meeting with the conservation team of the Gjirokastra Heritage Foundation will take place. After the meeting transfer to the proximity of the ancient city of Antigoneawhere our walking tour through the nature and history will begin.
Picnic lunch will be served. Pyrrhos, the King of Epiros, (in today’s southern Albania and northern Greece) founded Antigonea in the year 295 BC. Antigonea developed as an important economic, social, cultural and political center, and at the end of the 3rd century and in the beginning of the 2nd century BC took shape as a polis (city-state) and one of most important settlements of antiquity. The city thrived for several centuries. However, like the surrounding region it became involved in the clash between the Roman Republic and the Kingdom of Macedonia. Pyrrhos called the city Antigonea after his first wife, the daughter of Berenice that married Ptolemy, the King of Egypt, in the court of whom Pyrrhos got acquainted with Antigone. In the area of Antigonea you can get in touch with all historic periods of mankind from prehistory to modern times. While the caves of Spile and Ladovishtë indicate that the area has been populated from the earliest times, the greatness of antiquity is represented by Antigonea. Three basilicas in the neighboring villages testify to the outset of Christianity, and the monastery of Erem in Spile, with Saint Nicola Church, is evidence of the Byzantium era. The Ottoman period has left its traces through the architecture of 17th - 18th century houses in Tranoshishtë, and the trends of the communist period can be seen in the agricultural cooperative villages named after partisans Arshi Lengo and Asim Zeneli.
After the lunch and the visits transfer to Gjirokaster.
Day 7: Gjirokaster – Tirane
In the morning, transfer toward the capital city of the country, Tirane along the way possibility to visit the orthodox monastery of Ardenica. Upon arrival in Tirane check in the hotel. Overnight in Tirane
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.
Day 8. Tirane – Aeroport
After the breakfast walking tour of the city and a visit at national museum will follow.
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.
Transfer to Airport