Discover Albania The Last Piece in the European Puzzle
Created by Ricardo Fahrig / Destination specialist for Albania
Overview This tour explores the fascinating sights of central and southern Albania. It is a combination of historic cities, dramatic mountains, rural countryside, interesting archeaological and unique UNESCO World Heritage sites. You will visit the unspoilt beaches of the Albanian Riviera, explore the cobbled maze of footpaths, induldge on fresh organic dishes and sample the best drops the country has to offer. An educational journey with relaxing brakes, tailored for the culturally curious and active traveler. Get to know Albania, its people, their history and cusine on an 8-day trip. “Discover Albania” Highlights:
UNESCO World Heritage Site Berat stunning mountain landscape of the Albanian Riviera, Llogara and Tomorri NP best of Albanian cuisine, wine and raki tasting swimming opportunities at the Ionian and Adriatic’s coastline historic sites in Apollonia, Durres and Kruja
Duration: 8 days Group Size: 2-3 Accommodation: comfy middle-class hotels, private rooms with en-suite bathroom Starting in Skenderbeg's capital Kruja and Albania's most important harbour Durres you travel south to visit the remarkable UNESCO protected city Berat to sample its cuisine and wines. On two walks you explore the surroundings and Tomorri National Park. Past the archaeological site Apollonia and seaside resort Vlore you continue to the Llogara National Park for scenic walks above the Ionian Sea to its highest summits, along the Albanian Riviera’s dramatic coastline and forgotten stone villages. Along the Adriatic you return via the Ardenica Monastery and Pellumbas Cave to the capital Tirana and learn about Albania’s modern side.
Tour Facts Services included: 7x accommodation in comfortable hotels, private rooms with en-suite bathroooms o 1x Kruja - historical town (can be changed to Berat) o 2x Berat - UNESCO heritage town o 3x Llogara - national park o 1x Tirana - capita B&B included transfers throughout Albania, from/to airport English speaking guide At your own:
airfare other meals than included, wine and raki tastings entrance fees at sights and museums insurance (compulsory for every participant) tips and personal expenses for drinks or souvenirs
Travelers should bring the following equipment: Sturdy, ankle-high hiking boots, light rainwear and hard-shell (90% of rain falls in winter), warm set of clothing (cold nights in Llogara), sun protection (cream, hat, glasses), 20 to 35 liters backpack, 1.5 liters water gear, towel & swimsuit (optional), the interest to discover Albania. Visitors are expected to respect the wildlife, leave what they find, dispose of their waste properly and to be considerate with locals.
Skenderbeg’s Capital and Roman Traces Introduction to Albania and visit of the Kruja Castle
After our rendezvous at the Rinas airport the country is introduced and you gather first impressions on the drive to Kruja (30min). The white fortress was national hero Skenderbeg’s capital during his campaign against the Ottoman invaders in the 15th century and Enver Hoxha’s daughter designed a museum in honor of his legacy. Depending on the arrival time it is possible to visit the Skanderbeg museum and/or ethnographic museum, as well as castle’s hamam and tekke, a house of worship of the Bektashi sect. There’s also time to individually explore the reconstructed wooden handcrafts bazaar; stroll along the cobbled alleys, watch carpets being woven on handlooms and find true antiquities. In the cooler afternoon hours you walk to the Bektashi shrine on top of the mountain (1.120m ASL) to watch the sunset over the Adriatic. From the terrace during the lights of the Italian coast are visible on clear days. Overnight in Kruja.
Berat – "City of Thousand Windows” and Mt. Shpiragu Albanian Wines, Ottoman architecture and Enver’s Mountain
Today’s journey takes you past the agricultural coastal plain to the UNESCO world heritage town Berat. After visiting the largest amphitheater of the Balkans in the Adriatic port of Durres (45min), once main bridgehead of the Via Egnatia and known as “Epidamus”, the road through the Myzeqe basin is lined with colorful vegetable stalls, bunkers and children selling livestock. Crossing the Shkumbin River which separated the two dialects of Albania, snow-topped Mt. Tomorr becomes visible. At the countries most renowned winery you can sample wines and raki before arriving in the 2400 year old city of Berat (1:45h). After check-in a short drive takes you to the village Mbreshtan from where you walk on the ridge of Mt. Shpiragu to Bjeshov - enjoy the splendid panorama. In the evening you can explore the houses of the Mangalemi district that coined the name “City of Thousand Windows” and visit a traditional restaurant before retiring to your hotel.
Explore the villages of the Tomorr National Park Albaniaâ€™s Olymp, Communist odd ends and the Castle of Berat
Driving along the Osumi River you pass Polican where Enver Hoxhaâ€™s secret weapon factories are holed up in the mountain. In a nearby hamlet (1h) of the Skrapar region the hike to a series of waterfalls and remote villages starts. On ancient mule tracks you enter the Tomorri National Park, climb higher and enjoy the multifaceted views of well-kept fields, stone houses, the barren marble slopes above and stepped olive terraces below. On the peak of Tomorri another temple of the liberal Bektashi sect was erected, thousands join the pilgrimage to it in August. In the afternoon we return to Berat and have more time to explore the upper quarters. The castle sits enthroned on a hill, within its mighty walls many families remain, as do mansions and churches from the 18 th cent. In the Onufri church we find a collection of the most beautiful icons of Orthodox Albania. Sweeping views of the surroundings and the city top off another beautiful day of nature and culture that ends in a small family-run tavern. Return to the previous nightsâ€™ accommodation.
Archaeological Sites and the Adriatic Coast Apollonia, Albanian Independence and Forgotten Villages
Todayâ€™s journey takes you further South, again into the agricultural coastal plain and to another bridgeheads of the Via Egnatia, which connected Rome to Constantinople. The little-known archeological gems astound even the seasoned traveler, a fine example is the Temple of Agonothetes, one among many remains of the Greek-founded city of Apollonia (1:30h). In 1912 almost five centuries of Ottoman occupation ended with the declaration of independence in Vlore (1h), a motif depicted on the current 500 lek note. Today the area is a popular destination for seaside holidaymakers that flock the palm-lined waterfront. After enjoying fresh sea food you can visit the independence or ethnographic museum and swim at one of the small pebble beaches in the Bay of Orikum. Depending on the schedule it might be possible to visit old Tragjas, a village abandoned during WWII and preserved in unchanged state. In the late afternoon you reach Dukat (45min) and experience authentic Albanian hospitality dining in a local family home. By the time you reach the hotel within the Llogara National Park (three overnights) you have traveled through 2500 years of Illyrian, Greek, Roman and Ottoman history.
The Albanian Riviera and its Stone Villages
Greek influence, shimmering sea and polyphonic songs
The cooler climate eases the ascent that starts from the hotel and leads through the dense forest of the national park to a saddle of the Karaburun Peninsula (1.200m). From here the western slopes plunge steeply into the deep blue Ionian Sea, expect panoramic views of the Bay of Vlore, the coastâ€™s highest summit Mt. Cika and the rugged shore of the Albanian Riviera during the walk on the peninsulaâ€™s spine. We pause to memorize the views of jagged peaks and turquoise waters before descending to the point where Caesar allegedly had crossed with his army two millennia ago. After lunch at an iconic viewpoint you descend by car and armed with towels visit the secluded beach Gjipe, best reached on foot, for a relaxed afternoon break - the inexhaustible can explore the 70m deep Canyon. In the late afternoon you can visit Himare, the stronghold of the Greek minority has an interesting old town and popular promenade, sip an espresso before dinner at a popular sea food restaurant in Dhermi. Late evening return to the Llogara NP.
The Coasts’ Highest Mountains – Qorre & Cika Walking 2000m above the Ionian Sea and even above the clouds
Today’s goal is to climb either Mt. Qorre or Cika (2.018/2.044m), the two highest summits of the Ceraunian Coastal Range renowned for their ultra-prominence. Be aware that adverse weather conditions can render the upper walk impossible. You rise early to avoid the heat of the day but the ascend it also partly shaded. From nearby the hotel the trail runs through undergrowth before following serpentines up the rocky, forested ridge. Views in all parts are scenic and the plateau offers especially stunning views of craggy peaks, rugged shore and the turquoise sea. We pause to fully enjoy the panorama from the saddle before tackling the summit, onward the trail isn’t as clear and sometimes vanishes. The unobstructed views right down to the sea and the sheer cliffs create alpine feeling and memorable moments. At the end of the day your efforts will be rewarded with a traditional meal and with a bit of luck you can enjoy polyphonic singing which is typical for the area. Last overnight in the Llogara NP.
Modern Capital with a Rural Face and Intriguing Heritage Byzantine churches, Pellumbas Cave and modern side of Albania
On the familiar road you return to Vlore and bound for capital Tirana visit the byzantine monastery Ardenica. As every church it was affected when Enver Hoxha declared Albania the first atheist country in the world, forbidding all religious activities. Only due to the brave effort of the priest the beautiful building was preserved but used as a holiday complex. From Tirana’s backcountry village Pellumbas you walk to the Black Cave. The 380m long cave is one of the most interesting sights around Tirana, take lights and walking sticks to explore the stalactite formations inside and listen in total dark to the bat colony. In the afternoon you dive from the centrally located hotel into the turmoil of the vibrant city, admire historic buildings of all periods and explore the “blloku” district which once the living quarters of politburo elite turned now into a chic upmarket neighborhood packed with boutique shops and cafes. Our city tour concludes at a highly debated monument and during a last joint dinner we reflect on our multi-faceted unique journey through Albania.
Departure from Albania - Farewell my Mediterranean Love A great journey in Albania ends
Time permitting you can visit the extensive National History Museum, interesting section of Communist era works in the Fine Art Gallery or transfer directly to the airport after breakfast. A stay in Tirana depicts rapid change and stark contrasts, a city very different from the rest of the country, evidence of the split personality of a country caught between West and East. The â€œbllokuâ€? is a perfect example, the night life district you might have explored in the previous night, is now a popular upmarket part of the city, home to boutique shops, cafes and bars, but used to be the nogo living quarter of the politburo elite. Our interesting journey to discover Albania ends at the airport where we wish each other farewell and you a safe trip home.
Published on Apr 28, 2014
Published on Apr 28, 2014
Tailor-made tour of Southern Albania that cuts down on travel time by car and focuses on a small number of bases / avoids changes of the loc...