Day 1: Tirana
Meet at airport and transfer to the hotel. Driven tour of the capital. We visit the main sites like the Ethem Bey Mosque, clock tower, Scanderbeg Square, Orthodox Church, National Historic Museum. Overnight in Tirana. Hotel 4*
Day 2: Tirana – Shkodra – Kruja – Tirana
After breakfast we drive to Shkodra the most important town of north Albania and the Illyrian capital, in the 3rd century BC. Visit Rozafa Castle with striking views all around. Continue to town for a visit at the Marubi Photographic Museum with a selection of prints of negatives taken in the second half of the 19th century till the 1900-s, illustrating the life of the population of the area in that period. 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 visit a communist prison turned museum. Proceed to Kruja – the centre of Albanian resistance against the Turks under our national hero Scanderbeg who kept them from crossing into Western Europe for 25 years, thus earning the title “Champion of Christ” given by the Pope. Lunch in Kruja Castle. Afterwards we visit the Skanderbeg Museum, a very rich Ethnographic Museum and the Old Bazaar where the best handmade souvenirs can be purchased. Return and overnight in Tirana. Hotel 4*
Day 3: Tirana – Durres –Berat (UNESCO)
Depart to Durres one of the oldest towns in Albania and the first and perhaps the most important of the Greek colonies in the country. It was founded at Epidamnus in 627 B.C. by Greeks from Corcyra (present-day Corfu) and Corinth. Greek and Roman authors called it “the Admirable City” for its temple, statues, and other monuments. Today only a few remains remind us of this city’s glory days and will visit the Amphitheatre, as well as the well-stocked Archaeological Museum. On the way to Berat we will pass by Kavaja’s Rock where Caesar camped his troops during the civil war with Pompeii. Close by is the field of Golem where the outcome of the war was actually decided. Berat is one of the most visited and characteristic towns in Albania under the protection of UNESCO as a patronage of humanity for its architectural uniqueness. In Berat we visit the Castle and the Onufri Museum. Berat castle is of particular interest as people still live within its walls in their traditional houses, as have their ancestors for centuries. The castle used to have over 40 churches of which 7 still remain including St. Mary’s church turned into Onufri Museum. Onufri was a famous Albanian Icon master painter of the 16th century who painted many orthodox churches in Albania and Greece, using a special red color.
Overnight in Berat. Hotel 4*
Day 4: Berat – Ardenica – Apollonia – Vlora
After breakfast depart to Vlora where Albanian Independence was proclaimed. On the way we stop at the Monastery of Ardenica, supposed to have been built in the middle ages, as argued by a stone in entrance dating back to the 1417. In fact it is said that Scanderbeg was married at the small chapel of Ardenica. Today inside the church you can admire icon paintings of 1743-1745, by Albanian artists such as Konstandin and Athanos Zografi, as well as Konstandin Shpataraku. Proceed to the ancient city of Apollonia situated on the famous Via Egnatia – one of the most important cities in Roman times. Due to its fame and importance it was known as Apollonia Prima out of 16 ancient cities built to honour Apollo. Caesar chose to send his nephew Augustus Octavian to study oratory in Apollonia revealing the importance of this ancient city. Afterwards we continue to Vlora where we visit the Independence Museum, situated in the original house where the first Independent Albanian Government had its offices and Muradie Mosque one of the early works of the great architect Sinan. Dinner in a local restaurant. Overnight in Vlora. Hotel 4*
Day 5: Vlora – Zvernec Monastery – Butrint (UNESCO) – Saranda
After an early breakfast we depart for Zvernec Monastery situated in a beautiful natural peninsula. After visits drive on the spectacular Albanian Riviera towards Saranda. Breathtaking sceneries await us at the Llogara pass – 1000 m above sea level. We continue on to Saranda, make a short stop at the fortress of Ali Pasha a fortification used to control the sea trade routes where we have a light lunch. Then we continue past Saranda, to the ancient city of Butrint a UNESCO world heritage site and the most important archaeological discovery in Albania. Legend associates this city with Trojan settlers who fled Troy under the leadership of Aeneas. In fact the city was first settled by Greek colonists and was continuously inhabited for centuries forming archaeological layers of several eras of civilization. Apart the beautiful antique ruins it has the added benefit of being situated in a beautiful peninsula, rich in flora and fauna. After the visits we return to Saranda for dinner and overnight. Hotel 4*
Saranda – Mesopotam Monastery – Blue Eye – Gjirokastra (UNESCO)
After early breakfast we drive to Gjirokastra, a UNESCO site and museum town with beautiful and very distinctive architecture. On the way we will stop to visit the Mesopotam church with carvings of mythological beasts in the outside walls. Afterwards visit the fresh water spring of Blue Eye named such due to its eye shape and deep blue colour. Afterwards drive to Gjirokastra where we will visit the fortress of Gjirokastra, part of which was turned into a political prison for dissidents of the regime and the Arms Museum. Visit to the Ethnographic Museum, which is also the house the Albanian dictator was born in, as well as a 300 year old house next to it, where the grandeur of Gjirokastra’s master builders can be observed. Overnight in Gjirokastra. Hotel 4*
Day 7: Gjirokastra (UNESCO) – Voskopoja – Korca
After breakfast we drive to Korca through the wonderful Kelcyra gorge following the magnificent valley of Vjosa river and the lush forests of Leskovik. Several photo opportunities stops to take in the spectacular nature. Lunch will be at Erseka at a bio farm establishment if you prefer.
Then we depart for Voskopoja one of the most important towns in the Balkans during the beginning of the 18th century. We visit a number Churches with frescoes from the Zeografi brothers. Afterwards drive to Korca where we overnight. Hotel 4*
Day 8: Korca – Pogradec – Elbasan – Tirana
After breakfast in the morning more visits in Korca starting with the well-stocked Museum of Medieval Art, the Mirahori mosque one of the oldest in Albania, the reconstructed old bazaar and the Church at Mborje, built in the 14th century also one of the oldest in Albania.
Continue onto Pogradec on the shores of Lake Ohrid. Visit to the Park of Drilon and Villa Art that used to be the old fishing villa of the dictator. Take a walk through beautiful scenery and lunch. After lunch on the way to Tirana stop at Elbasani Castle for a quick visit. Continue on to Tirana for overnight . Hotel 4*
Day 9: Tirana – Airport
After breakfast, free to explore until time of transfer to Airport. End of our services.