The tour starts at our hotel in Tirana, Albania’s capital. Those travelling on the group flights will be met at the airport and transferred to our hotel (approx. 20 min). This afternoon we’ll have an orientation tour of the colorful streets of Tirana, which was made the capital of Albania in just 1920. We’ll see the main sites, including the impressive façade of the National History Museum which is adorned with a gigantic mosaic known as ‘The Albanians’. This is one of the finest examples of late Albanian Socialist Realism in the country, depicting the resilience of the people in their fight against invasion and occupation throughout the centuries, and dominates Skanderbeg Square. The exhibits within the museum give great insight into Albania’s intriguing past and recent history up to the present day. We also visit Et’hem Bey Mosque, one of the oldest buildings in the city. Closed under communist rule, it reopened as a house of worship in 1991 despite opposition from communist authorities. We also explore an area known as Blloku on foot, where villas were once occupied by members of The Politburo (former leading sect of the Party of Labour of Albania) but which is now the lively centre of Tirana’s nightlife where trendy bars, cafés, and fashionable clubs can be found.*Comfortable 3* Hotel.Overnight in Tirana
After breakfast, we begin our drive to Pogradec (approx. 3 hrs. drive), but en route we make a short stop to visit the fortress of Elbasan. A city influenced by various cultures including Serbs and more importantly Italians, the fortress here dates back to the 15th century. The fortifications originally incorporated twenty-six towers equidistantly spaced from each other along the length of a nine-metre high wall; today the ruins can be seen along the southern wall which remains more or less intact. Our final destination for today is one of the most charming resorts in Albania, Pogradec, thanks to its position on beautiful Lake Ohrid with clear waters and mountain views. Keep your eyes peeled for Orhrid trout (known as ‘Koran’ in Albania), a species endemic to the lake. We go for a scenic walk at Drilon Park on the far side of the lake, to discover the waterways and ornamental plants and trees that make up this special ecosystem.*Comfortable 4*Hotel. Overnight in Pogradec
This morning we continue driving for about an hour to reach Voskopoja Village (formerly known as Moskopole) an important and well-known center of art where many talented Albanian painters chose to practice their profession. The village has suffered over the years, as many of its treasures were stolen during the second half of the 18th century and this continued during the world wars. We take a 40 minute walk to visit one of the oldest churches representing Voskopoja religious art. Another short drive (approx. 30 mins.) takes us to the largest city of south-eastern Albania, Korçë, which sits at the foot of Moravia Mountain, 800m above sea level. This city became an important trading and handicraft center in the 18th Century and has also been referred to as ‘the city of museums. Our visit to Korçë includes the National Museum of Mediaeval Art and Archaeology, Mirahori Mosque (one of the oldest in the Balkans) and the famous church ‘The Resurrection’. Korçë has been an important religious center for Orthodox Christians. It’s also worth trying the famous local beer whilst in the city.*Comfortable 4*Hotel. Overnight in Korca
Our drive through the mountains today is truly spectacular as we enjoy sweeping views across the Gramos and Nemercka Mountains. Along the winding route, we enjoy a short stop in Ersekë, which at 1050m is the highest town in Albania. This 17th century town is surrounded by beautiful green pastures of the Gramos Mountains. Continuing onwards to beautiful Përmet, we make a quick stop at the old bridge of Benje village, and the hot springs, where we have time to relax and swim. After quite a long day (approx. 5 hrs. drive in total) we arrive in Përmet, situated in the heart of the white mountains on the Vjosë River. This evening you’re sure to be in for a treat as Përmet is famous for its food and wine, including ‘gliko’ sweets and raki.*Comfortable 3* Hotel. ”. Overnight in Permet
Drive to the beautiful town of Gjirokastër (approx. 2 hrs. drive), calling in at the traditional village of Dhoksat en route for a home-cooked lunch. In the afternoon we enjoy a guided visit around the famous town of Gjirokastër. Set on a mountain slope, the cobbled streets wind their way between old houses with interesting architectural features including mediaeval towers. The castle is the main feature and stands like a balcony over the town offering wonderful panoramic views of the surrounding landscape. We visit the ethnographic museum which is the house of Albania’s former dictator Enver Hoxha.
After lunch we have a short journey (approx. 30 mins) to visit the ‘Blue Eye’, an area where seven artesian wells (natural springs) rise. Named after the largest spring, the water descends to depths of over 50m as it infiltrates the pale-colored surrounding rock. We then continue to the UNESCO World Hiritage Site of Butrint (approx. 1 hr. drive), a sanctuary dedicated to Asclepius, the god of medicine, founded in the 4th century BC. Worshippers came to the sanctuary and left symbolic objects or money for the gods and priests in the belief that they would then be healed by the sacred waters. We spend the night in the city of Sarandë, which is a stark contrast to the tranquil towns we have stayed in so far.*Comfortable 4*Hotel. ”. Overnight in Saranda
In the summer we can swim and sunbathe at the small beach here.
A change of scenery today as we travel through the spectacular Albanian Riviera. We spend time at Porto Palermo Bay and visit Ali Pasha Castle, which was once one of the most important military bases during the cold war. There is a small beach here, suitable for swimming, sunbathing and relaxing in an unspoilt corner of the Mediterranean during the summer months. From Porto Palermo Bay, we wind our way up the coast enjoying views to Corfu and miles of olive groves and pine forests, stopping for lunch en route to the popular destination of Vlorë, where the Albanian Declaration of Independence was proclaimed in 1912. We arrive in the afternoon and there is time to relax before we explore this vibrant large town. (Total driving time today is approx. 3.5 hrs.)*
Drive to Berat and stop at the wonderful ruins of Apollonia (approx. 1.5 hrs. drive). Originally occupied by the Illyrian tribes and then the Greek colonists from Corfu and Corinth around 600BC, Apollonia flourished in the Roman period and was home to a renowned school of philosophy but began to decline in the 3rd century AD when its harbor started silting up as a result of an earthquake. We continue to the beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Site of Berat (approx. 1.5 hr. drive), where we spend a night in the oldest district of the town.*Comfortable 4* Hotel. Overnight in Berat
This morning we enjoy a guided tour around the old district of Berat, with its pretty white buildings perched on the hill amid pine forests. We walk through the narrow cobbled streets and finally reach Berat Castle on the slopes of Mount Tomorr, where we are rewarded with breath-taking views (and begin to understand why it is known to Albanians as ‘The City of a Thousand Windows’). Within the castle walls are dwelling houses and the Onufri Museum (Museum of Iconography), which we will visit. From Berat we drive to the port of Durrës (approx. 2 hrs. drive), the second largest city in Albania and famed for housing the largest Amphitheatre in the Balkans. The Amphitheatre dates back to the 2nd century AD, seats 15,000 people and contains an early Christian crypt with rare wall mosaics. The city was colonised by colonists from Corinth and Korkyra in 627 BC and was named Epidamnus, but later became Dyrrachium. We then drive to the famous mediaeval citadel of Krujë (approx. 45 mins. drive), where Albania’s national hero, Skanderbeg, led the resistance against the Ottomans. He kept them from crossing into Western Europe for 25 years, earning the title “Champion of Christ”. Return in Tirana,*Comfortable 3*Hotel.
After breakfast, will be transferred to Tirana airport for your flight back to home