Discover the country’s central and southern highlights on this private tailor-made tour which journeys from Tirana to Roman archaeological sites and UNESCO World Heritage cities, and along the Albanian Riviera where the landscape changes dramatically from Adriatic to Ionian. Stay at hand-picked boutique-style hotels, enjoy fresh, organic food and uncover a beautiful land of unspoiled countryside and off-the-beaten-track historical gems on this private journey through Albania. Perhaps opt to extend your holiday with a beach stay in one of the many small family-run hotels near Vlora, a wonderful coastal city where palm trees line the main road and the museums reflect on the city’s pivotal role in Albania’s history.
Fly to Tirana and transfer to Berat for an afternoon guided city tour. Berat is one of Albania’s oldest cities and arguably one of the best-preserved Ottoman settlements in the Balkans. Untouched by communist urban planning after being designated a Museum City in 1976, Berat’s attractive white houses wind their way up to the famous hilltop citadel, whose walls encircle a smattering of medieval Orthodox churches and ruined mosques as well as a superb ethnographic museum. Overnight in Berat.
After breakfast we will complete the tour of lower Berat before departing to Vlora. Stop at Ardenica Monastery, built by Byzantine Emperor Andronikos II Palaiologos in 1282 after the Siege of Berat victory. The monastery is also famous as being the place, where Skanderbeg, the national hero of Albania married Andronika Arianiti in 1451. Continue to the Archaeological Park of Apollonia, founded at the beginning of the 7th century BC by the Greeks and a prosperous trading city in Roman times. The Austrians began excavating during WWI and the French continued through the 1920s and 1930s. In more recent years Albanian archaeologists have made progress but much of the ancient city remains buried under a hill. You can see the remains of the fortified wall, the impressive monument of Agonothetes and Portico. The museum of Apollonia is located in the nearby monastery of the XIV century, which can also be visited. Continue to Vlora. Vlora is an old city founded in the sixth century B.C., originally known by the name Aulona. Vlora is situated in a beautiful location, in the front of the Karaburun peninsula and Sazan Island and surrounded by beaches and rocky sand. The city carries historical importance to Albania as it hosted the First National Assembly, which declared the country’s independence from Ottoman rule on November 28th, 1912. The Museum of Independence is dedicated to this historic event. Overnight in Vlora.
After breakfast we drive along the stunning Albanian Riviera towards Saranda with stops in the National Park of Llogara and Porto Palermo castle, built by Ali Pasha of Ioannina in the early 19th century. Located south of Himara on a small peninsula lies the castle of Porto Palermo, built by Ali Pasha of Ioannina in the early nineteenth century. In the afternoon visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Butrint. The Greek and Roman ruins of Butrinti are Albania’s most important archaeological site. This rediscovered city is a microcosm of almost 3,000 years of Mediterranean history. Its sixth century B.C. fortification evokes the city’s military power and the third century BC amphitheater symbolizes the rich culture of this once thriving ancient city. Continue the drive to coastal Saranda. Overnight in Saranda.
After breakfast we drive at Blue Eye, a deep forest spring where turtles, water lilies, dragonflies and kingfishers can be found. Continue to the church of Labovë e Kryqit, one of the oldest churches in Albania, and Libohovë, a small village located at the foot of Mount Bureto, dominated by a fortress. Stroll down its pleasant, leafy main street and admire the extensive views across the valley to the west of Drino River. In the afternoon visit the town of Gjirokastra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Known by many as the City of Stone, it comprises hundreds of Ottoman-style tower houses with distinctive stone roofs, wooden balconies and whitewashed stone walls. Dominated by the sheer flanks of its vast castle, Gjirokastra is a magical city with a tumultuous past. From feudal stronghold to Ottoman jewel to Italian colony, the city has known many rulers and has inspired poets, authors and artists. A visit to the vast 13th century castle brings the adventurous tales of medieval rulers and communist atrocities alive. Overnight in Gjirokastra.
After breakfast depart to Tirana with a stop en route at Durres, the country’s most ancient city which has been an important trading hub ever since the first ships docked in the 7th century BC. Though little of its rich history remains on display today, the Archaeological Museum houses a superb collection of Illyrian, Greek and Roman artifacts. Continue to Tirana. Overnight in Tirana
Tirana is located on the site of a Byzantine fortress and has been the capital of Albania since 1920. The tour start from Skanderbeg Square, (photo stop at Skanderbeg’s Monument), National Museum (the huge mosaic on front represent the Albanian history development and the stages of this development are presented on respective pavilions) then you continue to see other important buildings: Palace of Culture, Opera House, National Library, Mosque of Ethem Bey, the Clock Tower, Tirana Castle, Parliament, Ura e Tabakeve, National Art Gallery, mean government buildings, catholic and orthodox cathedrals, the Pyramid, Prime Minister building, Palace of congresses, Mother Teresa Square, Archaeological Museum (there are presented many archaeological discoveries since the Stone Age up to the Medieval), Presidential palace, Ex-Blloku (which used to be the most beautiful and protected zone were the ex-communist leaders families lived). Visit the Cold War corner (one Bunker, part of famous Spac Political Prison, and a piece from Berlin Wall). Overnight in Tirana.
After breakfast we drive to the cradle of northern Albanian culture – Shkodra. A highlight of this lakeside town are the the ruins of the Fortress of Rozafa, an ancient Illyrian castle built on a rock hill with spectacular panoramic views of the surrounding countryside, the lake and the Lead Mosque. Return to Tirana with a stop at Kruja, perched atop a hill and famous for its fortress, the Museum of Skanderbeg and the Ethnographic Museum. Spend some time wandering the Kruja Bazaar, an excellent place to purchase souvenirs. Back to Tirana. Overnight in Tirana.
After breakfast we drive to the Airport. End of our Service.
Tour Itinerary: Cultural Landscapes of Albania
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