This is a 2 weeks tour of the most important sites of the southeastern Balkans, including Albania, North Macedonia, Kosovo, and Montenegro. Being between the East and West these Balkan countries have a reach cultural, historical and archaeological, religious and culinary heritage all much different from the rest of Europe or Orient. This tour will be guided by an English speaking driver/guide, fun and knowledgeable about the places you will visit. The itinerary is designed to avoid the long driving hours and most of the days the transfers start by 9 am and arrive at the next destination by the midday/afternoon, leaving plenty of time to explore on your own. Accommodation will take place at boutique hotels very well located at each town and during the trip we will include visits to local restaurants and wineries where you enjoy the Balkans culinary based mostly on meat, pastry, seafood or fresh vegetables from farm to table.
- Accommodation in boutique hotels, very well located and excellent reviewed.
- Breakfasts, welcome and farewell dinner.
- Fun and knowledgeable English speaking driver/guide during the trip.
- All transport by comfortable A/C vehicle. Fuel included.
- All visited attractions in Albania entry fees.
- Border crossing and local taxes.
Welcome dinner at the capital Tirana
• Meet our representative at the Tirana International Airport and transfer to Albanian capital, Tirana. (20 min drive)
• Accommodate at a central hotel. Welcome dinner at a traditional restaurant. A chance to meet the rich Albanian cuisine.
• Overnight in Tirana.
Once a typical Ottoman small town, Tirana was declared the Capital of Albania in 1920. One can see the heritage of different cultures in this vibrant city that was home to the ottomans, independence fighters, Albanian Kingdom, communists and anti-communists, and now to the modern Albanians in the influence of the globalization. Tirana today is a vibrant busy city aspiring to join the EU. Even there is no McDonald’s, Tirana’s food pride is the organic dishes cooked by local chefs in cozy restaurants.
Skanderbeg Stronghold Castle
• Morning drive to Kruja (1h drive)
• Visit the historical center of the town. Go souvenirs hunting at the Old Bazaar then tour the Fortress and within Skanderbeg Museum. Learn about the Albanian Ottoman Resistance.
• Drive back to Tirana for the tour of the National Museum of History.
• Take a walk at Skanderbeg Square to New Bazaar and the Boulevard of the Martyrs of the Nation to Blloku Area.
• Overnight in Tirana.
Kruja is the historical capital of Albania. The birthplace of Albanian National Hero, Skanderbeg; this town resisted the ottoman armies for 25 years from 1443-1468, one of the sieges was led by Sultan Mehmet Fatih(the Conquer of Constantinople). The view from the castle goes over almost all the western Albania and the Adriatic Sea.
UNESCO World Heritage site
• Drive to Durres (1h drive). Visit of Roman Amphitheater.
• Continue to Berat (2h drive)
• Tour of the Castle and within Onufri Iconography Museum.
• Option for lunch at Berat countryside.
• Overnight in Berat.
Build during the rule of Emperor Trajan on 2nd C.AD. Durres Amphitheater is the largest in the Balkans at about 20.000seats. A large part of the Amphitheater is destroyed from the earthquakes during the times.
Protected by UNESCO as World Heritage, Berat is one of the most visited in Albania. Characterized by Ottoman architecture Berat lies in both sides of Osumi River and its citadel upon the hill. One of the 10th oldest settlements in Europe, Berat is a mosaic of byzantine churches, Ottoman mosques, and ruins left to explore.
Scenic Albanian Riviera
• Leave Berat and continue the itinerary to Apollonia Archaeological Park.
• Tour of the Park.
• Continue the drive to Llogara National Park and enjoy the views over the Riviera from Llogara Pass.
• Drive to Himara,(2h drive) accommodate at the hotel by the sea.
• Overnight in Himara
Apollonia is an ancient Greek city formed by the Corinthians in 6th C.BC. The city’s importance grew under the Roman Empire as in this city, Roman Emperor studied philosophy. French archaeologist Leon Rey, excavated the ruins as we see today while the foundings are exposed at the nearby Museum.
Himara is a small seaside town at the Albanian Riviera. The views of the Ceraunian Mountains and the Ionian Sea dominate the town’s horizon.
Albania-UNESCO World Heritage
• Continue the itinerary to Butrint in the southernmost point of Albania, with a short visit to Ali Pasha Castle at the Porto Palermo bay. (2h drive)
• Tour of the Butrint Archaeological site.
• Mussel tour at the Butrint Lake. Seafood lunch by the Ksamil beach.
• Overnight in Saranda
Butrint is the most important archaeological site of Albania, listed as UNESCO World Heritage since 1992. The city was found by the Epirote tribe of the Chaonians and reached its peak during Roman rule when Julius Caesar and Octavian Augustus designated the city as a Roman colony. The city lost its glory with the barbaric raids but continued to exist as a bishopric center under the Byzantines and later the Ottomans and Venetians. Nestled in heart of Butrint National Park the dense forest preserved the ruins perfectly until 1928 until Italian archaeologist Ugolini started the excavations to find the city as we see today. Many legends are hidden in the ruins, especially those of the lost city of Troy.
Amazing Ottoman Architecture
• Drive to Gjirokaster via Muzina Pass and the stunning views over the Drino Valley. (1h drive)
• A short visit on route to the Blue Eye natural spring. 18k l/s bubble from the karst hole forming a spectacular natural phenomenon.
• Reach the Gjirokaster historical center(listed as UNESCO World Heritage in 2005). Tour of the 13th-century castle, Old Bazaar, and Skenduli family ottoman house build in 1700.
• Dinner at a traditional restaurant with iso-polyphony folkloric performance.
• Overnight in Gjirokaster.
Gjirokaster began its life in the 12th century as a fortress of a local feudal family and due to its location in the crossroads of the trading routes, the city’s importance began to grow during the Ottoman rule. This UNESCO World Heritage town is known for its character architecture of its fortress-houses, rich folklore heritage mentioning iso-polyphony and birthplace to Nobel candidate Ismail Kadare and the evil communist dictator of Albania after WW2.
Off the beaten path to Korca
• Leave Gjirokaster and continue the itinerary to the southeastern part of Albania, Korca town. (4h drive)
• Drive past the stunning Vjosa river, the last wild river of Europe; unfortunately today under risk of the hydropower dams. Continue the trip to Kolonja mountainous region through a twisting road build by the Italians in the 30’. The landscape on the way is a great opportunity for taking photos.
• Accommodate at the boutique hotel in the historical center. Afternoon visit at the newest museum of photography Gjon Mili.
• Overnight in Korca.
Within the country, this town is known as ‘little Paris’. It is its cobblestone streets, promenade, and beautiful villas with rose gardens, restaurants and the welcoming locals who give this well-deserved status to Korca.
Gjon Mili Museum of Photography is the newest museum in Korca. Gjon, an Albanian origin photographer moved to the USA and devoted his life to photography and lighting. The museum shows a collection of 240 works. It’s a must-visit when in Korca.
North Republic of Macedonia
• Morning visit to the National Museum of Medieval Art, an exhibition of icons and artworks that represents the medieval heritage of our country.
• Continue the journey to the North Republic of Macedonia(2h drive). Visit the St. Naum Monastery of 10th cent. and the Bay of Bones.
• Drive to Ohrid town. Tour the historic center, listed as UNESCO World Heritage. Visit the attractions of Macedonian-Bulgarian heritage.
• Overnight in Ohrid
Ohrid is the pride town of North Macedonia. Once this town was referred to as the Jerusalem of the Balkans, having 365 chapels, one for each day. Being one of the oldest settlements in the Balkans, the footprints of many civilizations are found in this town(Illyrians, Greeks, Roman, Byzantine, Bulgar, Ottoman, Albanian). Take a walk in the old town to visit the Samoil’s Fortress, St. John church, St. Clement and Pantalimon church and many other sites.
The capital of Northern Macedonia
• Leave Ohrid town and continue the itinerary (2h drive) to another important city of Macedonian heritage, Tetovo. Visit the landmark of the town, The Painted Mosque.
• Continue to N.Macedonia capital Skopje. (1h drive)
• Visit the National Square and the town’s most important attractions.
• Overnight in Skopje.
Skopje is the biggest city and capital of North Macedonia. It the economic center of the country. The walk across the Vardar River and Macedonia Square is the usual itinerary of the visitors in this country. The large statues and monuments of the most important figures(including Alexander the Great) are the center of debate among the historians about this multicultural country origin; a typical Balkanic debate.
Newest Country in the world
• Enjoy the breakfast at your hotel before taking a tour at the historical center of the town. Visit of the fortress
• Leave Skopje to cross the border to Kosovo. Continue to Kosovo’s capital, Prishtina. (1.5h drive)
• Visit of Prishtina National Museum and Ethnological Museum.
• Continue the itinerary to another Kosovo important town, Prizren.
• Overnight in Prizren.
Kosovo is the newest country in the world. Inhabited b 92% of the population by Albanians, Kosovo was left outside the borders of Albania in 1912 when the Ottoman Empire ceased to exist. The native population lived under the repression of the Yugoslavs and suffered the genocide under Milosevic in the 90’. It was NATO’s intervention who ended the conflict and Kosovo declared its Independency in 2008. When traveling to Balkans, Kosovo is a must-visit. Being in the trade crossroads, Kosovo heritage
On the way to Albania
• Morning tour of the old town Prizren. Visit of the Sinan Pasha Mosque(1615), Shadervan Square and the 11th-century Fortress overlooking the old town.
• Leave Kosovo and drive to Albania via “Rruga e Kombit”(Nation’s Highway)(2.5h drive)
• Reach Shkodra by the afternoon. Accommodate at the hotel near the center.
• Overnight in Shkodra
Shkodra is the northern biggest city of Albania and is one of the oldest settlements of the Balkans. Its castle dates back to 9th C.BC. Surrounded by the high Albanian Alps, Shkodra Lake and 3 rivers (Kir, Drin, and Buna) Shkodra is blessed by nature. It has inherited a great ottoman and Venetian architecture that attract visitors. While walking through narrow pedestrian streets you will find shops, restaurants, artisans, villas and beautiful gardens.
Romantic Castle at Ulcinj
• Morning tour of the Shkodra historical town including the Marubi Museum of Photography. An exhibition of the photography collection of the famous Marubi dynasty.
• Tour of the legendary Rozafa castle. The 7th C.BC. Castle holds a legend buried in its walls. The views from the castle overlooking the Shkodra (Skadar) Lake, Buna River, and Drin River.
• Cross the border to Montenegro, continue the itinerary to Ulcinj.
• Tour of the Old Town Castle. Enjoy the sunset at restaurants above the Adriatic Sea.
• Overnight in Ulcinj.
Ulcinj is a port town in the south of Montenegro. Having a strategic position in the Adriatic, Ulcinj has faced almost all the rulers of history (Illyrians, Romans, Byzantines, Ottomans, Venetians, and Yugoslavian). An interesting fact of this town is that here Miguel de Cervantes was held as a prisoner when this town was ruled by the pirates. Maybe it is the sunset view over the Adriatic that inspired him for the character Dulcinea in his famous book Don Quixote.
Montenegro pride towns
• Leave Ulcinj and drive along the scenic route to Kotor Bay.
• Visit of the Old Town Kotor.
• Continue to Budva town.
• Accommodate at the hotel. Visit of the Budva Old Town.
• Overnight in Budva.
Kotor & Budva are the two main and most visited tourist attractions of Montenegro. It is not only for its architectural heritage but also for its natural beauty. The Kotor bay lies like a fjord for 28 km and is listed on UNESCO World Heritage in 1979. The beautiful old town fortified by Venetian walls starts from the slope of steep mountains ending in the sea. Budva is known for its red rooftops of the houses in the fortified peninsula.
Farewell and departure
Transfer to the airport in Dubrovnik for the rest of your trip or Podgorica for the flight back home.