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AL1 Land of the Eagles TOUR

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'Land of the Eagles'

TOUR HIGHLIGHTS:

Albania: little visited & unknown; Roman sites of Butrint and Appolonia; Rugged mountain scenery; Distinct culture, history; Ohrid, Macedonia - World Heritage Site

  • DATES & PRICES
  • FULL ITINERARY
  • MAP & HOTELS
  • TRIP INFORMATION

Dates & Prices

To book this tour, please refer to the sidebar ►

Prices are in US Dollars (USD), before taxes (if applicable) - All pricing reflects per-person Land Only expenses, however, we can book flights from virtually every city. Please call us for an air quote.


Start DateEnd DatePriceMore Info
Sun 11 Oct 2015Sat 24 Oct 2015 $3460
Sun 05 Jun 2016Sat 18 Jun 2016 $3460
Sun 09 Oct 2016Sat 22 Oct 2016 $3460

Optional Single Supplement: $640 (number of singles limited).


Tour Overview


Setting down in the heart and capital of Albania, Tirana, we spend the initial stages of our tour exploring this city that lies halfway between Rome and Istanbul and which displays an unmistakable architectural influence from both. As we broaden our area of exploration, we enjoy the sights of a restored castle used by Albanian resistance fighters as defense against the Ottoman Turks in the 15th century, the city walls at Elbasan that date from the 4th century and the ancient Illyrian fortress and numerous art galleries in Korca, before heading into the countryside to admire grand mountains and picturesque panoramas. We stop in Saranda, a city so renowned for its archaeological bounties that it can be described without hyperbole as a microcosm of almost 3,000 years of history, and continue on through the Albanian Riviera to check out the multitude of chapels, mosques, and Roman and Illyrian historical monuments that we come across as we pass through quaint, scenic towns. We cross into Macedonia to check out the World Heritage Site of Ohrid, the Samuil fortress -- once the most formidable fortress in the Balkans -- the monastery at Sveti Naum and the multi-blue hued Lake Ohrid.

Regions visited: Central And Eastern Europe
Countries visited: Albania and Macedonia


Testimonials


We enjoyed all the excursions. Our new bus was excellent and very comfortable. The meal plan exceeded our expectations. Elton was an excellent tour leader and had a very personable manner. His knowledge of his country was exceptional and information was conveyed to us in a fluent manner. Elton was one of the best Tour Leaders that we have encountered for a long time. We loved this tour and found the hotels, food and facilities better than expected. Having such a good tour leader also contributed to our enjoyment. We can highly recommend this tour to well-travelled people.

All the excursions were quite good. Fabulous Mercedes bus - comfortable, good sound equipment, excellent moveable seats, foot rests, etc. Local guides were excellent. Elton, our tour leader, was up there with the best of the tour guides we have ever had. He told us at the start that he was going to try to make this trip a memorable experience rather than just making it a tourist holiday.....and he exceeded our expectations.

Albania is untouched by tourism and it is a country full of centuries of history that really came alive with our local guide.

Full Itinerary

To book this tour, please refer to the sidebar ►

Day 1 Arrival in Tirana
Today we arrive in Tirana, capital of Albania. Tirana is located on a plain on the site of a Byzantine fortress and has been the capital since 1920.

Once infamous for its isolation, Albania is one of the smallest as well as the poorest countries of Europe. Today this is a country that is slowly making the transition to open-market economy and moving on the road to progress. In the heart of the Mediterranean, on the Adriatic and Ionian Seas, Albania is soon to become one of Europe's most interesting getaways. Still relatively unspoiled by globalization, you will notice an inspiring mixture of civilizations and cultures, making this country truly unique.

Overnight in Tirana.

Meal plan: dinner

Day 2 Tirana - Kruja - Tirana
This morning we travel to Kruja, a small town perched high on the face of a hill and the centre of the Albanian resistance against the Ottoman Turks under the leadership of national hero, Scanderbeg. We visit the fortress of Kruja, the Scanderbeg Museum, Ethnographic Museum, and the old bazaar full of souvenirs, including hand-made articles.

Afterwards we depart for Tirana. We take a tour of the capital including Ethem Bey Mosque, and Clock Tower.

Late afternoon we return to our hotel in Tirana.

Overnight in Tirana.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 3 Tirana - Durres - Berat
Today we will drive to Berat via Durres (formerly Durrazzo), Albania's second largest city and one of its oldest towns. Legend has it that Durrazzo was founded by the Illyrian King, Epidamnos, who called it by his own name and named the port after his grandson, Dyrrah. It was for centuries the largest port on the Adriatic and got back into world highlights when in 1939, the Italian troops met brief but fierce resistance, and those killed defending it are now regarded as the first martyrs of the War of National Liberation.

Our visit to Durres will include the archaeological museum (maybe closed for renovation) and the Roman amphitheatre. The amphitheatre is the largest in the Balkans and located in the city close to the harbour. This 1st century construction is currently under consideration for inscription as a UNESCO World Heritage site. We will also walk from the amphitheatre over to the ruins of the Roman Baths located behind the Aleksander Moisiu Theatre on the central square.

Our final destination for today is Berat, known as a "city of one thousand windows", and declared a "museum city" and UNESCO protected site. A highlight of any trip to Albania, Berat is one of the country's most beautiful towns. The old name of the city was Antipatrea, built on the slopes of mountain Timori, with a castle dominating over the city. Within the city walls there are houses and the Onufri Museum, where we see paintings by this outstanding painter from the 16th century, as well as paintings from his son Nikolla.

We will spend most of our time touring in the old part of the town. This is perhaps one of the best-preserved Ottoman cities in the Balkans, with a lively lower town and a beautiful medieval citadel district on top of the hill. One of Berat's highlights is a visit to the inhabited citadel. Once inside the walls, we can visit ruined mosques and several medieval Orthodox churches, all intact and with restored frescoes and icons. The famous Onufri museum is housed in a wonderful church and holds the best collection of Albanian icons. In the lower town we will see the Leaded Mosque, so named for the roofing material, the Bachelor's Mosque, the Sultan's Mosque and the Ottoman han (inn).

Overnight in Berat.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 4 Berat - Bylis - Apollonia - Vlora
Today we travel to Bylis, an ancient centre of the Illyrian tribe, Bylins, and one of the most important and largest Illyrian cities during 4th century BC. By the 1st century AD, Bylis became a Roman colony. During 5th and 6th centuries, it became an important diocesan centre, which is reflected by the six basilicas whose floors are laid with mosaics of early Christian motifs.

We continue to Apollonia, founded in 558 BC by settlers from Corfu and Corinth. After a tour of the Roman site's library and beautiful Odeon, we proceed to the nearby town of Vlora.

Overnight in Vlora.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 5 Vlora - Zvernec Monastery - Vlora - Saranda
Our journey continues to Vlora, the town of Albanian Independence, to visit the Independence Museum. Our journey continues through the wonderful Albanian Riviera to Saranda.

Saranda is the southernmost town on the Albanian coast. It became important in Roman times as a strategic point along the sea route between Italy and Greece. On the way we pay a quick visit to the 'Blue Eye", a fresh water spring in the shape of an eye, amongst dense vegetation. It is a beautiful and relaxing natural site with spectacular turquoise colour.

We visit Porto Palermo and the Vasiliqia Castle, situated on a bay with the same name with the remainings of a Soviet submarine base and the beautiful fortress that Albanian Ali Pasha built for his young wife Vasiliqia. The real aim of the project was to construct a fortification near Corfu which could help the ambitious project of the famous Pasha of Ioannina to invade and control the very strategic island.

Overnight in Saranda.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 6 Saranda - Butrint - Saranda
Today we have a morning visit to the Greek and Roman ruins of Butrint, Albania's most important archaeological site. Butrint dates from the 7th century BC, later becoming a Roman colony, then falling under the sway of the Venetians and Turks. Virgil claimed that the Trojans settled Butrint, but no evidence of this has yet been found. Within a century of the Greeks arriving, Butrint had become a fortified trading city with its own acropolis, the ruins of which we can still visit. The rediscovered city is a microcosm of almost 3,000 years of Mediterranean history -- its 6th century BC fortification evokes the city's military power and symbolizes the rich culture of the once thriving ancient city.

After a leisurely lunch overlooking the Ionian Sea we return to Saranda with the balance of the day free.

Overnight in Saranda.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 7 Saranda - Gjirokastra
After breakfast we drive to Gjirokastra, the birthplace of iron-fisted former dictator of Albania, Enver Hoxha. Gjirokastra is a picturesque town, perched on the side of a mountain above the Drino River. Above the Bazaar Mosque in the centre of town is the Memedheu ABC Monument, commemorating the Renaissance of Albanian education around the turn of the 20th century. We will visit the district museum housed in the building in which Enver Hoxha was born. We also visit the pre-Ottoman citadel with a weapons museum and former political prison.

Overnight in Gjirokastra.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 8 Gjirokastra - Voskopoja - Korca
After breakfast we depart for the town of Voskopoja which became one of the most developed and prosperous cities in the European part of the Ottoman Empire between the 17 and 18th centuries. Testament to this are the first Printing House in the Balkans in 1720, the Academia of Voskopoja founded in 1744, the famous Basilicas, the painted house walls by the famous Albanian painters including David Selenica and the Zeografi brothers.

We continue to Korca (pronounced: 'Korchah') through Kelcyra and the spectacular Vjosa canyons
stretching to Permet, the mountains of Leskovik and the colourful fields of Erseka. Korca is a historic place with rich cultural traditions and some interesting buildings from the Ottoman period, including one of the most important mosques in Albania.

Overnight in Korca.

Overnight in Korca

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 9 Korca - Pogradec, Albania - Ohrid, Macedonia
This morning we visit the Bazaar of Korca, Medieval Museum and the downtown before proceeding to Pogradec next to Lake Ohrid, the deepest in the Balkans. We stop at Tushemisht village for a visit of the villa of the former Albanian dictator, Enver Hoxha.

We cross into Macedonia, a landlocked and mostly mountainous country in southeastern Europe,
Macedonia proclaimed independence from Yugoslavia in September 1991. Its mountainous landscape is right at the heart of the Balkans, sprinkled with beautiful valleys and lakes, with
a rich Hellenic heritage. Its churches and mosques contain many fine examples of art and architecture from the Byzantine and Ottoman periods.

Our final destination today is the city of Ohrid, a beautiful little town on the Balkan Peninsula and is the pride of Macedonia. With its historic town centre and stunning Lake vistas, this place really is a gem. For Orthodox Macedonians it is the spiritual heart of their country and a focus of national pride. It was here that Sts Clement and Naum in the 9th century founded the first Slavic university.

Overnight in Ohrid.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 10 Ohrid: Area Tour
Today we start our sightseeing with a boat tour on the lake. Our journey will take us along the eastern shores of the lake and down to the southern tip. We will disembark for a tour of the 10th century Monastery of Saint Naum before returning to the town of Ohrid on the northern shores. Upon our return we continue with a walking tour around the old 'town-museum' of Ohrid, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The old part of the town was known in ancient times as Lychnidos, the City of Lights. Slavs gave it the name of Arida in the 10th century, and it became a major center of culture and art for this area. It is the cradle of Slavic written language and literature, from where the alphabet called Cyrillic was created by the two brothers Cyril and Methody.

Ohrid is also known as the "City of 365 churches" and we visit a few of the most important ones. St. Panteleimon Monastery from the 9th century is the oldest Slav monastery in the world. Ohrid abounds with ancient archaeological sites, including an amphitheatre and fortress. During our tour of Ohrid we will also walk through the local bazaar.

There may be some free time this afternoon for you to further explore Ohrid on your own.

Overnight in Ohrid.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 11 Ohrid - Galcica National Park & Bitola - Ohrid
Today we we proceed to Prespa Lake for a drive through the National Park of Galcica, bordered on two sides by lakes Prespa and Ohrid. The views the park afforded of both lakes is impressive. The waters of Ohrid Lake are breathtaking -- variegated with different blues as if home to large reefs of rock beneath the surface. The shores are also punctuated with lovely villages of whitewashed houses with red tiled roofs.

Afterwards we proceed to Bitola for a walk along the old and well known Sirok Sokak (Broad Street), where the Consulates of European countries were located at the time of the Ottoman Empire.

After free time for lunch and refreshment, we continue to Gazi Haydar Kadi Mosque, dating from 1561. This mosque, with perfect proportions and two minarets, is one of the most beautiful examples of classical Turkish style of architecture. We also include Yeni Mosque, built in 1558 and well-known for its exquisite decorative ornaments and stalactites. Finally, St. Dimitrija, built in 1830, a cathedral well-known for its wood carved iconostasis and ecclesiastical furniture.

Overnight in Ohrid.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 12 Lake Ohrid - Tetovo - Skopje
Today's route will take us past Lake Matka and Tetovo. We will also cross the National Park of Mavrovo with its majestic lake, river, gorges and waterfalls. In Tetovo we will stop to visit the Painted Mosque located by the Pena River, constructed in 1459 on the foundation of an older edifice. An example of early Constantinople style, this mosque is adorned with an elaborate painted facade and interior, making it unique in Macedonia. In the turbe next to the mosque is the body of the two women who provided money for the mosque to be built in 1459.

We finish in Skopje, once located at the far north reaches of the Byzantine Empire. The name of the city itself reflects its geographic location and role within the empire, as the word Skopia translates to watch-tower / lookout / observation point.

Overnight in Skopje.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 13 Skopje: City Tour
Skopje is not only the capital but also the largest city in the Republic of Macedonia. Located in a valley on both sides of River Vardar, Skopje traces its ancient history back over 2000 years to when it was known as Skupi. This region has been ruled at various times by ancient Rome, Byzantium, the First Bulgarion Empire and the Ottoman Turks. The Skopje Old Bazaar emerged and developed in an area between the Stone Bridge and the Bazaar, and between the Kale fortress and the Serava River. As early as in late middle age, all economic activity of the town took place here. In the period between the 16th and 17th century, the Old Bazaar reached its urban and economic zenith, developing into one of the largest and most significant oriental old bazaars in the Balkans. Today the Old Bazaar abounds in cultural and historic monuments. During our walk we will be sure to visit the Museum of the Old Skopje Bazaar. Located on the 1st floor of a 15th century inn, this small museum is an essential stop for insight into Skopje’s historical importance.

A walk through the old part of the town allows us to explore this historical city. We will see the Stone Bridge -- a symbol of Skopje built by Turks in 15th century. This is a landmark of the city and an important link between the bazaar area and the modern part of town. The Kale Fortress, with walls dating back from the 6th century, is where a town was first started. This was the great town of Justinia Prima, founded by emperor Justinian, and later used as military barracks by the Ottomans from the 14th to 20th centuries.

Other notable Ottoman monuments we will see today include the Mustapha Pasha Mosque, a marvel of Ottoman architecture towering above the old bazaar area, and the Daut Pasha Hamam (bath) considered a masterpiece of 15th century Islamic civil architecture.

Overnight in Skopje.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 14 Departure
Departure from Skopje.

BON VOYAGE!

Meal plan: breakfast

Tour Map

To book this tour, please refer to the sidebar ►

*The red tour trail on the map does not represent the actual travel path.


Hotel List


The following is a list of sample hotels at some locations included on this tour. The hotels shown here are meant to provide a general sense of the standard of hotel we usually aim for; they are not necessarily confirmed for your chosen departure.


Tirana International Hotel

Rating: 4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation
Location: Tirana
Country: Albania

One of the most prestigious and largest hotels in Albania, located at the heart of the city, on Scanderbeg Square,
... International has always been considered the symbol of the capital. Built during Albania's isolation years with an imposing socialist architectural style, it used to be the tallest building in the country.


Read More.

Hotel Butrinti

Rating: 5 Star Accommodation5 Star Accommodation5 Star Accommodation5 Star Accommodation5 Star Accommodation
Location: Sarande
Country: Albania

The hotel offers excellent quality and comfort with rooms equipped with TV-SAT, telephone, safe, fridge-bar, air conditioner, high-speed Internet access,
... Room Service, hair dryers. At guests’ disposal: restaurant, bar, congress hall, swimming pool, and fitness center.
Read More.

Millenium Palace

Rating: 4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation
Location: Ohrid
Country: Macedonia

The Millenium Palace is a deluxe hotel located on the shores of the famous Lake Ohrid, offering picturesque panoramic
views
... the lake, the old town and the famous Samoil's fortress. The hotel has total capacity of 50 rooms equipped with: Air conditioning & heating, wireless internet access, direct telephone line, TV, hairdryer.



Read More.

Hotel Arka

Rating: 3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation
Location: Skopje
Country: Macedonia

Arka Hotel is modern, luxurious and comfortable hotel situated in the historic centre of Old Skopje Town. Only 5 minutes
... distance from the business and shopping area and 15 minutes walking from the Parliament and Government of R. Macedonia.

Read More.


Trip Information

To book this tour, please refer to the sidebar ►

Inclusions

Breakfast and dinner (hotels & local restaurants) daily. All transport, accommodation, sightseeing and entrance fees for sites noted as 'visited' in the detailed itinerary. Gratuities for local guides, drivers, restaurant staff, porters. Airport transfers for land & air customers and for early arriving / late departing land & air customers who book their extra hotel nights through us.

Exclusions

Tour Leader gratuities, lunches, drinks, personal items (phone, laundry, etc), international air taxes (if applicable), excursions referenced as 'optional'. Airport transfers for Land Only customers. Our post-reservation trip notes offer further guidance on optional meal costs and shopping.

Seasonality and Weather

This tour is offered in spring and fall when temperatures are relatively mild. Showers can occur any time though are less likely in fall.

Transport and Travel Conditions

Land transport throughout by private air-conditioned motor coach, 24-36 seats depending on ultimate group size (see 'group size'). We will have some full bus days on poor, winding roads, though the scenery is often spectacular.

Accommodation

Simple yet clean hotels (3-star in major towns and cities); many are smaller properties (3-4 story) that may not have elevators. All hotels have en suite toilet and bath, though most have shower only. Tourism is in its infancy in Albania and one cannot expect everything to work perfectly. Porter service is sometimes available; you MUST be independent with your luggage. Single rooms are limited and likely smaller than twins.

Staff and Support

Tour Leader, driver, local step-on guides in various locales.

Group Size

10-21 (plus Tour Leader)