Closed to outsiders for much of the 20th century, Albania has long been Mediterranean Europe’s enigma. Until fairly recently its rumpled mountains, fortress towns and sparkling beaches were merely a rumor on most travel maps but with the end of a particularly brutal strain of communism in 1991, Albania tentatively swung open its gates. The first curious tourists to arrive discovered a land where ancient codes of conduct still held sway and where the wind whistled through the shattered remnants of half-forgotten ancient Greek and Roman sites. A quarter of a century after throwing off the shackles of communism, Albania’s stunning mountain scenery, crumbling castles, boisterous capital and dreamy beaches rivaling any in the Mediterranean continue to enchant. But hurry here, because as word gets out about what Albania is hiding, the still-tiny trickle of tourists threatens to become a flood.
DAY 1: ARRIVAL IN ALBANIA – TIRANA (17 KM)
Meet our guide at the airport and head to the hotel. After a short break we will visit the city and the first visit will be Scanderbej Square, the largest square in Europe. In the square we will visit, the Et’hem Bej mosque, the monument of our national hero Scanderbeg, Opera house, Clock tower. Then we will visit the Pyramid monument and Bunk Art museum, Government building, main boulevard, Mother Teresa Square and Bunk’Art 1. In Tirana you will experience a city with a rich history from Ottoman rule through the fall of communist to a modern European city. Take time to immerse yourself in this colorful city where the past meets the present while rapidly striving towards the future. Overnight in Tirana.
DAY 2: TIRANA – KRUJA – LEZHA – SHKODRA (125 KM)
After breakfast we start the day by visiting the medieval city of Kruja where highlights include the castle, Scanderbej Museum, Ethnographical Museum, the Old Bazaar and Ottoman era mosques. Then, on the way to Shkodra, we will stop in Lezha to explore the Mausoleum of Albania´s national hero, Scanderbeg. In the afternoon we visit Shkodra, the most important town of north Albania and the Illyrian capital, in the 3rd century BC. Visit Rozafa Castle from where spectacular views all around can be admired. Experience the supremacy the Illyrians would have feel over their enemies standing in such an imposing castle. Take a walk in the newly renovated pedestrian area of Italian and Austrian architecture, testimony to this town historic links with both these countries and then we will visit the famous Viennese mask factory which is located near the city of Shkodra. The Venetian masks made in Shkodra are all crafted by hand. They combine traditional techniques with new contemporary decoration. The masks have intricate details, bright colors, fancy feathers, gold leaf, and crystals that make them unique pieces of art. The masks are exported all over the world. Overnight in Shkodra.
DAY 3: SHKODRA – DURRES – BERAT (UNESCO) (200 KM)
After breakfast we head to Durres, which was the Adriatic’s largest port for centuries serving as a starting point for Via Egnatia, the ancient Roman road connecting Rome and Constantinople. We visit the Roman amphitheater and Archaeological Museum before continuing to Berat, a traditional town protected by UNESCO for its exquisitely preserved Ottoman architecture. In the afternoon we explore the most beautiful city in Albania or as we call it, the city of a thousand windows, UNESCO since 2005. First we will visit Berat Castle, a fortress offering exceptional view of the town, with museums, churches and a mosque. Within the castle walls, there is a unique residential area with a local community dating back to the 4th century BC although most if it was built in the 13th century. Overnight in Berat.
DAY 4: BERAT – ARDENICA MONASTERY – APOLLONIA ARCHAEOLOGICAL PARK – VLORA (150 KM)
After breakfast we will drive to city of Vlore but first we will stop to visit the Ardenica Monastery, an immense Byzantine Structure of 2,500 square meters, known as the wedding venue of Scanderbeg. Our next stop is Apollonia, an ancient Iliryan city which was taken by Aristotle on his quest to oligarchy and played a significant part of Caesar’s war with Pompey. We explore the ancient ruins and museum, Shen Meri Monastery and Church. In the afternoon, we reach Vlora, where Albanians claimed independence from Ottomans in 1912 and visit the Museum of Independence and then we will visit the Zvernec Monastery. Overnight in Vlora.
DAY 5: VLORA – LLOGARA NATIONAL PARK – HIMARA – ALI PASHA CASTLE – SARANDA (125 KM)
After breakfast we will drive to Saranda and first we will visit Llogara National Park offering stunning views of both the mountains and riviera. On our way to Saranda we stop along the Albania coast at Himara, Borsh, and Ali Pashe Tepelena Castle. In the evening we reach the beach town of Saranda, the unofficial capital of the Albanian Riviera, this resort town comes to life in the evenings on its bustling promenade. Overnight in Saranda.
DAY 6: SARANDA – BUTRINT (UNESCO) – BLUE EYE – GJIROKASTRA (UNESCO) (110 KM)
After breakfast we start the day by visiting the ancient ruins of Butrint, a fascinating archaeological site protected by UNESCO as a testament of almost 3,000 years of Mediterranean history after being abandoned in the Middle Ages before heading to “Blue Eye” National park, named after its extremely blue natural cold-water spring. In the afternoon we arrive in Gjirokaster, “The stone City” another beautiful city in Albania where we will enjoy a city tour including a visit to Albania’s largest castle, Skenduli Characteristic Gjirokastra House, Old Bazaar and narrow cobbled streets. Overnight in Gjirokastra.
DAY 7: GJIROKASTRA (UNESCO) – TIRANA (235 KM)
After breakfast we travel to Tirana but first, we will stop at a Albanian fast food to try the Albanian McDonald’s, which is called pie. Pie can be found in every city but the fast food that we chose for you is in one of the most special in Albania. After enjoying the Albanian pies which are with different tastes and a price of 50 lek for one piece or 35 cents we continue the journey to Tirana. Free afternoon in Tirana. Overnight in Tirana.
DAY 8: TIRANA – TIRANA AIRPORT (17 KM)
After breakfast we drive to the Airport. End of our Service.