Albania Explorer Tour – a 9 day Small Group Tour.
Much maligned, even Michael Palin found it hard to say a good word about Tirana, Albania is a revelation.
Rich in Roman archaeological and Ottoman architectural sites, maintaining a wild and rugged natural landscape and a beautiful coastline, there’s an honesty to Albania lost in other more touristed Mediterranean countries.
Albania makes a good case as an intriguing and quirky travel experience not too far from other major European destinations.
As a geographical and cultural entity Albania has often been enigmatic and somewhat misunderstood. This ancient land offers something increasingly rare in Europe these days – a glance into a culture that is all its own.
Our 9 day small group tour focuses on the cultural and historic aspects of the country but you will also find beautiful pristine beaches and dramatic mountain citadels.
After exploring Albania, you may wish to extend your stay and make a foray into North Macedonia on our extension and sample the delights of Lake Ohrid and old Skopje.
Day 1 – Arrival in Tirana
(Approximate driving time 30 mins)
Arrive in Tirana and transfer to your hotel. Depending on when you arrive there may be time to explore the city. Overnight Boka Hotel or similar. No meals or guided arrangements today.
Day 2 – Tirana, Shkoder and Kruje
(Approximate driving time: three-hours)
This morning we head to Shkoder. Shkoder is one of the oldest cities in the Balkans and was once a capital of the Illyrian state. We visit the castle then have time to walk in the pedestrian area and visit the cathedral and mosque. We have lunch in Shkoder before travelling to Kruja, one of Albania’s most important towns due to the part it played in the resistance against the Ottomans. Visit the Skanderbeg Museum and the castle. There may be time to visit the old bazaar, where you can see the local artisans and their handmade souvenirs. We return to Tirana for an overnight stay. Overnight Boka Hotel or similar (BL)
Day 3 - Durres and Berat
(Approximate driving time: two hours)
Drive to the coastal city of Durres, Albania’s second largest. Explore its sites including the Roman amphitheatre and Archaeological Museum before continuing to the stunning town of Berat, with its white houses clinging to the hillsides. We visit the citadel which contains numerous churches and an interesting museum, and has been listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. We will have a traditional dinner tonight before staying overnight in Berat. Overnight Hotel Onufri or similar. (BD)
Day 4 - Ardenica Monastery, Apollonia, Vlore and Llogara National Park
(Approximate driving time: three-and-a-half-hours)
Today we visit Ardenice Monastery, a 13th century Byzantine site locally famed for hosting the wedding of the hero Skanderbeg. We continue from here to the ruins of Apollonia, an atmospheric set of Roman remains on a remote hillside and once an important city in the region. Later in the day we travel to the coastal city of Vlora and have a short sightseeing tour of the city, before heading for our overnight stay in the National park of Llogara. At over 1000 metres above sea level and overlooking the turquoise waters of the Ionian Sea and white sandy beaches, we spend the overnight in a traditional style hotel, in the forest area. Overnight Hotel Alpin or similar. (BL)
Day 5 – Butrint – Gjirokastra
(Approximate driving time: five-and-a-half-hours)
After breakfast, we continue to the south of Albania, via some picturesque seaside villages to Saranda and onto the ruins of Butrint, Albania’s most important archaeological site, and a UNESCO site. Butrint dates from the 7th century BC, later becoming a Roman colony, then falling under the sway of the Venetians and Turks. Explore numerous buildings including an acropolis, basilica and palace. The location of the site itself is also very attractive surrounded by trees and water. After lunch (paid locally) we depart for Gjirokastra with a short stop in Blue Eye national Park, a fairy tale landscape of mountains and the clear waters of the Bistrica river. On arrival in Gjirokastra we will have a traditional diner and stay at our hotel for the night. Overnight Vila Sharm or similar. (BD)
Day 6 – Gjirokaster and Permet
(Approximate driving time: two-and-a-half-hours)
This morning we explore Gjirokaster, known for its distinct and traditional architecture. We have time to explore this UNESCO listed site, with its imposing citadel and numerous houses with typical styling. We visit the castle and old bazaar area before transferring to the small town of Permet on an panoramic drive. Later in the day we visit the village of Benja and have a relaxing afternoon at the famous thermal waters which form six beautiful small natural pools. The Ottoman Bridge of Katiu is a wonderful sight as it spans the river Langarica. We have dinner and overnight in Permet. Overnight Hotel Alvero or similar. (BD)
Day 7 – Permet and Korce
(Approximate driving time: four-hours)
On our winding journey through the mountains towards Korca, we enjoy wonderful panoramic views. This afternoon we arrive in Korca where we should have some time to explore. Overnight Hotel Cathedral or similar. (BD)
Day 8 – Voskopoja and Tirana
(Approximate driving time: three-and-a-half-hours)
This morning we continue to Voskopoja, once an ancient city rich in history, with interesting Romanesque architecture and Orthodox churches featuring some of the best 18th century frescoes in Southern Europe; today it is a small mountain village around 1300m above sea level. We will continue to Tirana and begin a tour of the city. We visit Skanderbeg Square, dedicated to Albania’s national hero, and the Mosque of Ethem Bey, one of the oldest buildings in Tirana. We then visit Bunk Art 2 – an old atomic bunker, now a museum representing the days of the communist regime in the country. There is a farewell dinner with our guide. Overnight Boka Hotel or similar (BD)
Day 9 – Departure
(approx. driving time 30 mins)
Time at leisure until your transfer to the airport for your departure. (B)
Extension to North Macedonia
Extension Day 1 - Tirana to Lake Ohrid
(Approx. overall driving time today is 3.5 hours)
After breakfast transfer to Ohrid, North Macedonia. This afternoon, enjoy a walking tour of Ohrid including a visit the Church St. Sofia, built between the 11th and 14th century. Observe “St. Clement”, a classic Orthodox Byzantine church, dominating the Old Town, demonstrates the link between Byzantine and Italian Renaissance art. St. John at Kaneo, stands alone on a small peninsula which juts out into the lake at the western end of the Old Town, and provides a spectacular panoramic views of the lake and the surrounding mountains. Overnight Hotel Villa Sofia or similar. (B)
Extension Day 2 - Ohrid - Mavrovo National Park - Skopje
(Approx. overall driving time today is 3.5 hours)
This morning depart Ohrid and continue the journey to Mavrovo National Park where we will have a short stop and visit the Monastery of Saint Jovan Bigorski dedicated to John the Baptist and said to date back 1000 year. Later this afternoon we arrive at Skopje. Overnight Hotel Aristocrat Palace or similar. (B)
Extension Day 3 - Skopje - Matka Valley - Skopje
This morning we explore the old part of Skopje including, the memorial house of Mother Teresa, The Stone Bridge, church St. Spas (17th Century), and Skopje Fortress. We will also take a walk through the Bazaar. Later, visit Matka Valley – A gorge in which a rich complex of medieval buildings survives, including churches, monasteries and remnants of a fortress (the medieval town of Matka). There are dozens of caves and a large number of endemic plants and animals. Take a boat ride to appreciate the views of the canyon. Later this afternoon we return to Skopje. Overnight Hotel Aristocrat Palace or similar. (B)
Extension Day 4 - Depart from Skopje airport
Time at leisure until transfer to the airport for your onward flight. (B)
Dates & Price.
Minimum Group Size
This group tour operates subject to a minimum group size of 2 travellers.
Single Supplement from £125
Return flights from London to Tirana start at £245. Contact us for a quotation.
Travel to Albania by Train and Ferry
We know that for many of our destinations flying cannot be avoided. But we believe that for some of our tours, taking the train is a practical, affordable and most of all a very enjoyable alternative. Even flying in just one direction will have a very positive benefit on the environment. To compare the emissions for your next trip take a look at this easy to use emissions calculator – https://uic.org/ecopassenger.
One-way fares from London to Tirana by train and ferry or vice versa start at £200.
Please note that the journey will normally involve an overnight stop in Milan. The cost of accommodation is not included. We can book a wide choice of hotels and will be pleased to provide further details.
For a quote to travel from a European city other than London please contact us. We will advise you of the options, including routes and fares.
Contact us for further details about how we can help you plan the perfect environmentally friendly addition to your holiday. As well as train tickets, we can arrange stopovers along the way, including hotels and guided tours.
Albania Explorer Private tour
Kindly note that if you do not wish to travel as part of a group, this tour can also be arranged on a private basis. Prices start at £1395 per person based on 2 people travelling and sharing a room. Larger private groups or a private solo tour can be also arranged on request – contact us for details.
If you wish to have your own Albania experience tailored to your requirements please get in touch with Mark Huggins who will be pleased to design your perfect tour.
North Macedonia Extension following Albania Explorer group tour
After travelling Albania, continue your exploration of the Balkans with a foray into newly renamed North Macedonia. There is plenty to impress the visitor, not least spectacular Lake Ohrid, the old town of Skopje and Mavrovo National Park. Prices start from £595 per person based on 2 people travelling and sharing a room. Single supplement on the extension from £95.
Want to see details of your itinerary on a map?
Download the full tour dossier for this trip here.
For expert advice get in touch now with our passionate,
+44(0) 191 296 2674 from THE UK
1-800-614-2967 from THE US & CANADA
1-300-956-415 from AUSTRALIA
- Arrival and departure transfers
- Transport throughout
- All accommodation
- Daily breakfast (B), plus lunch (L) and dinner (D) as shown in the itinerary
- Services of English speaking guide – small groups will be driver/guide
- Entrance fees for sites listed as part of the itinerary
- International flights
- Any airport taxes
- Travel Insurance
- Items of a personal nature
- Tips (discretionary)