Discerning travellers will be thrilled with this, one of our more comprehensive Albania and Macedonia tours, featuring two UNESCO World Heritage sites (ancient remains of Butrint, and historic centres of Berat and Gjirorkastra), inspiring antiquities and dramatic nods to the area's rich history at every turn.
Less travelled and poorer than other parts of Europe, the region has, in recent years, seen an improvement in its fortunes and was named #4 global tourism destination by the New York Times in 2014.
Start our Albania and Macedonia tours with an overnight in Albania's capital Tirana, built on the site of a Byzantine fortress, followed with a trip to Kruja, whose imposing fortress was the centre of Albanian resistance to the Ottoman Turks and now houses the world-class Scanderbeg Museum. After, tour an ethnographic museum or find hand crafted souvenirs at the local bazaar.
On return to Tirana visit the re-purposed Bunk'Art 2. An imposing fortress built in the eighties to shelter elite officials from nuclear attack, it's now home to the "Pillar" museum dedicated to the persecution of Albanians that occurred from 1945 to 1991 under the former communist regime.
Up next is a drive to Berat, via the Adriatic port city of Durres, that features a 1st century construction, Roman amphitheatre.
In Berat the "museum city" plenty of time is allotted to take in the old centre of town. Among the best preserved Ottoman cities in the Balkans, visitors can meander among sights that include an inhabited citadel, medieval orthodox churches and the famous Onufri Museum that houses an astonishing collection of Albanian icons. Time in the Lower Town includes the opportunity to take in a number of mosques including the Leaded Mosque, named for its unique roofing material.
Day 4 begins with time at the magnificent (and rarely visited) Ardenica Monastery followed by a visit to Apollonia, founded in 558 BC, before an overnight in Saranda, the southernmost town on the Albanian coast.
Albania and Macedonia tours are not complete without time spent in Butrint, Albania's most significant archaeological site. An ancient Greek, and later Roman city, inhabited since prehistoric times, the fortified site had its own acropolis with ruins still available for viewing. It is truly a microcosm of nearly 3,000 years of Mediterranean history.
Itinerary continues with a drive to the picturesque mountain town of Gjirokastra, a UNESCO site with origins dating back to the fourth century. A unique feature here is the prevalence of stone as a building material with houses that look like small fortresses. Included also is a visit to Skenduli House with its inspiring marriage of Albanian and Ottoman architecture and time for viewing a pre-Ottoman citadel that features a weapons museum and once housed political prisoners.
Leaving Gjirokastra, the tour heads to Korca through a panorama of mountains and forest with probable stops in villages along the way. Also enroute, the Tumulus of Kamenica, a huge burial monument with onsite museum that explains its historical significance. Continue to Korca through the awe-inducing Vjosa canyons before an overnight in preparation for city touring the following day.
Colloquially known as The City of Serenades, Korca is home to Albania's largest carnival that takes place before Orthodox Easter. Rich in culture and tradition (and home to one of the most important mosques in the country) visit the National Museum of Medieval Art and a stellar bazaar with more than 1,000 shops.
In the afternoon tour the nearby village of Voskopoja, home to the Balkan's first printing house, famed basilicas and wall paintings by some of Albania's most revered painters that include David Selenica and the Zeographi brothers.
On day 9, after a stop at Lake Ohrid, our Albania and Macedonia tours cross into Macedonia, a country steeped in Hellenic heritage. First up is the city of Ohrid, with its historic town centre and lovely lake vistas. Included is a boat ride to a 10th century monastery, a walking tour of the old town, the cradle of Slavic written language, and visits to some of the most significant churches. Known in ancient times as the City of Lights and abounding with archaeological sites Ohrid will not disappoint.
Proceeding to Prespa Lake through scenic National Park of Galcica, the tour continues to Heraclea Lyncestis, perhaps Macedonia's best archaeological site. Roman baths, an amphitheatre and palace ruins with remarkably preserved floor mosaics are among the highlights here.
After time for a walk along Sirok Sokak (Broad Street) the tour continues to the mosque Gazi Haydar Kadi, a great example of classical Turkish architecture. Additionally, there are stops at Yeni Mosque and the cathedral St Dimitrija, known for its wood carved iconostasis.
Continuing across the National Park of Mavrovo to Tetovo, visit the Painted Mosque constructed in 1559 and adorned with an elaborated painted facade and interior. After, stop to see Arabati Baba Teqe, a unique blend of mosque, church and Sufi Muslim shrine.
Finish in Macedonia's capital Skopje, home to one of the oldest and largest oriental bazaars in the Balkans. Included are visits to the Museum of the Old Skopje Bazaar, located in a 15th century inn, a walk through the old town across an iconic Turkish-built stone bridge and other highlights including The Kale Fortress and Musapha Pasha Mosque.
Prices below are per person, twin-sharing costs in US Dollars (USD). Pricing does not include airfare to/from the tour and any applicable taxes. For single supplement rates and taxes (if any), please refer to below Prices & Dates table. For general information on flights to/from the tour, click here.
Select a date below to reserve your spot:
Optional Single Supplement: $750 USD (number of singles limited).
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.
International airfare to/from the tour. 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
Between April and June, weather in Albania is pleasant. The winter cold has faded away and the summer heat hasn't yet begun. The weather is pleasant in the coastal areas and in the mountains, especially in the western part of the country. This is a shoulder season, so there will be fewer crowds in the country compared to summer.
September and October are two of the best months to visit Albania. The summer heat starts wearing off and the fall colour can be stupendous. The weather is comfortable though evenings might be a little chilly. This is also a shoulder season, so you don’t have to worry about crowds.
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.
This trip is typical of most of our European tours, which are ambitious and involve full days of travel and sightseeing. While we don't have any actual strenuous activity (ie hiking) built into the program, you will do a lot of walking on this trip. These walks will mostly be in the form of walking tours of towns and cities and short walks to dinner. Being Europe, and a hilly/mountainous area, cobbles, uneven surfaces, and slopes/stairs are common. If you are accustomed to typical "bus tours" which heavily rely on vehicular transport for all sightseeing activities, you should be aware that this tour is considerably more active.
Am I suitable for this tour? Please refer to our self-assessment form.
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 (no tub). Porter service is sometimes available; you MUST be independent with your luggage. Single rooms are limited in number and likely smaller than twins.
Staff and Support
Tour Leader, driver, local step-on guides in various locales.
Maximum 18 plus Tour Leader
This tour is part of a series that can be upgraded to make for a longer trip. For more options, please refer to tour code/s:
Tour Overview Countries Visited: 5 Acivity Level: 2 Tour Style: Cultural
Our Adriatic, Albania & Macedonia Tour begins in Slovenia, past glacial lakes, lush green valleys and majestic mountain ranges, and venture through culturally fascinating small towns bustling cities and quaint hamlets brimming with historic sites of interest.
We enjoy a easy-paced walking tour of the capital, Ljubljana, a city that reminds one of Vienna and Prague, before heading into Croatia and exploring the Istrian Peninsula, a region rife with ancient Roman and Illyrian relics and monuments.
With the convergence of 16 lakes in a series of cascading waterfalls, the Plitvice Lakes is a destination of unique natural beauty and one that has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site and from here, we travel along the Dalmatian coast, taking in the centuries-old cathedrals, monasteries and fortresses that dot the Croatian countryside.
We venture into Bosnia and Herzegovina, where we bear witness to a blend of Mediterranean and Oriental architecturE.
After a memorable drive along the breathtaking Adriatic coast, we make for Tirana, Albania, and expose ourselves to the intriguing contemporary culture of this destination that lays claim to a fabulous collection of wondrous mosques as well as innumerable archaeological artifacts that detail almost 3,000 years of history.
We travel farther afield from the capital, stopping in at various towns and cities along the Albanian Riviera and beyond to appreciate Roman amphitheatres, ancient bridges, Franciscan churches and glorious panoramas.
*The red tour trail on the map does not represent the actual travel path.
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.
At Hotel Brilant, besides accommodation in comfortable rooms, you will be able to enjoy breakfast on the fifth floor as well as the fantastic sea view.
360 View The hotel is just a short, pleasant walk from the old town where one can discover the ancient monuments, exciting nightlife, breath taking lake view particularly at sunset, surrounded by natural and cultural beauties all around and nothing but the blue sky and sparkling waters of the Lake Ohrid for as far as the eye can see.