Albania, Kosovo and North Macedonia are three charming and delightful countries. For years Albania was a closed society, ruled by the iron fist of Communism but since the end of the Cold War it has been showing curious travelers its many charms, while as Europe’s newest nation, Kosovo is known for its terrible war in the last years of the 20th century. This part of Europe is also blessed with incredible scenery with imposing mountains, pristine lakes and traditional villages tucked away in pretty valleys but as with many countries it is the people who leave perhaps the most lasting impression, having come through recent strife there is an overwhelming sense of optimism about the people that cannot fail to raise your spirits. Albania, Kosovo and North Macedonia are some of the last frontiers of Europe, complex and fascinating destinations imbued with history.
Itinerary and prices for Explore Albania, Kosovo, North Macedonia:
Airport pick-up. We will transfer to the hotel for a short break and then we will visit Tirana. The tour start from Skanderbeg Square and National Museum, 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, Bunk’Art , 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 continue to Lezha in the north west of the country where we visit the mausoleum of Scanderbeg and the castle before heading to Shkoder. Shkoder is one of the oldest cities in the Balkans and was once a capital of the Illyrian state. We visit its old bazaar, cathedral and mosque before heading to Rozafa castle for spectacular views of the city, lake and the surrounding mountains. Then we will visit the famous Viennese mask factory which is located near the city of Shkodra. The Venetian masks made in Shkodra are all crafted by hand. They combine traditional techniques with new contemporary decoration. The masks have intricate details, bright colors, fancy feathers, gold leaf, and crystals that make them unique pieces of art. The masks are exported all over the world. Overnight in Shkodra.
After breakfast we drive from Shkoder to Koman Lake. The 2 hours trip on Lake Komani is called “One of the Great Boat Trips of the World”. The Drin River was flooded along part of its most mountainous passage to create the lakes in this region. The journey takes you along glassy clear water, twisting and turning through narrow passes and past silent mountain peaks. We cross the border into Kosovo and drive to Junik where we visit the famous Kullat e Junikut (Junik Tower). The towers are castle-like houses with a special architecture built in white rock, where Albanians have for centuries sheltered to survive wars and conflicts. Then continue to Gjakova which lies on the banks of the River Erenik. Visit its main sites including the old bazaar, clock tower and then continue to the city of Prizren. After we arrive in Prizren, we visit the Fortress over the town hill. Next, we visit the Museum of the League of Prizren and pass by another important landmark for the locals and in the same time a touristic destination, the Mehmet Pasha Hamam, an old Turkish bath. Next, we will take a walk through Carshia e Vjeter, and admire old architectural buildings such as Sinan Pasha Mosque, St George Orthodox Cathedral, and many traditional small shops. Later, we pass through Prizren’s stone bridge, between 15th and 16th centuries, Overnight in Prizren.
After breakfast we continue to the Monastery of Decan (UNESCO). Decani Monastry, dating from the 14th century is listed as a UNESCO heritage. You can admire these frescoes which constitute one of the summits of Serbian art, powerfully inspired by Byzantine art, in particular by the Church of the Savior of Constantinople. Then drive tp Peja. After arrival in to Peje we explore the Ottoman Empire time sites of the town including the Haxhi Beut Mosque and the old house of Jashar Pasha as well as the Sheremet Tower and the old bazaar. We continue to Boge, where we have a short stop at Patriarchana of Peja (13th Century) part of (UNESCO) sites in the Rugova Valley, one of the most beautiful valleys in the region. Back to Peja. Overnight in Peja.
After breakfast we drive to Pristina. Explore the city visiting its main sites such as the Orthodox Church and the Carshi Mosque, dating back to the early 15th century. Later we visit the spectacular Gracanica Monastery, one of Kosovo’s most beautiful sites and containing some impressive frescoes. Overnight in Prishtina.
After breakfast we continue to North Macedonia. We cross the border and head to its capital Skopje. Upon arrival we visit some of the most important parts of the town. The town with the beautiful quay of the Macedonian river “Vardar”, the narrow streets in the Old Bazaar which is the biggest bazaar preserved in the Balkans today, the town is internationally famous for being the birthplace of Mother Teresa. He has blossomed into a thriving, stimulating city to explore, defining itself as an exciting tourist destination with the 1500 years old fortress Kale and monastery St. Pantelejmon with the fresco ”Lamentation of Christ”, with the first signs of the Renaissance, the Islamic monuments Sultan Murat’s- Hjunkar Mosque, the Daut Pasha’s bath. Overnight in Skopje.
After breakfast continue to Mavrovo National Park, the biggest in Macedonia covering 73,000 hectares. The trademark of the region is the submerged church “St. Nikola” in the artificial Mavrovo Lake, which hides it to the roof with every rising of the water. Nearby is the archaeological site St. Nikola. The site is a necropolis from the late Middle Ages. During the summer period, when the water level in the Mavrovo lake is smaller, you can see the stone plates from graves and archaic crosses from the limestone. The Mavrovo Lake, on the other hand, is suitable for visitors all year round – in the summertime for bathing, and in the winter, when it freezes, for skating. Then drive to the beautiful town of Ohrid, designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Free afternoon in Ohrid Overnight in Ohrid.
After breakfast we will start our walking tour around the city of Ohrid. What follows is a tour of the church of St Sophia which dates from the 11th century and then go up to the Roman amphitheater which dates back to the 3rd century BC. Then we continue walking to the Icon Gallery, which shows a range of some of the most famous and valuable icons in the world right after the ones on Athos and in Russia. In the vicinity of the gallery is the church of Sveta Bogorodica Perivleptos (St Clement’s Church of the Holy Mother of God Most Glorious) which dates from the 13th century and possesses some of the most beautiful and valuable frescoes from the 13th century not only in our country but in the Balkans as well. After that, carry on walking to Tsar Samoil’s Fortress which was named after the first tsar of the Macedonian Slavs, who having conquered Byzantium, brought most of Macedonia under his rule. Then walk to Plaoshnik, the place where we visit the newly built St Clement’s Monastery Church which is dedicated to St Clement (the patron of Ohrid) and St Pantelejmon, and which stands beside the original site of St Clement’s University, the first university of the Macedonian Slavs started in the 9th century AD. Inside the church you can also see the tomb with St Clement’s relics. Beside the church you can see the foundations of the 5th-century basilica with beautifully preserved mosaic floors and some swastikas also discovered on the floors. From here head towards the Church of St Jovan at Kaneo, which was built at the end of the 13th century, and is one of the most frequently visited churches in Ohrid because of its beautiful location on the cliffs directly above the lake. Overnight in Ohrid.
After breakfast we will cross back into Albania but before we visit the Saint Naum Monastery, a beautiful site with impressive views of Lake Ohrid. The Monastery of St. Naum is a magnificently massive complex, located 29 kilometers south of Ohrid, on a plateau close to the Albanian border. The original monastery was built on this very same plateau, in 905 by Saint Naum of Ohrid himself. Taken down between the 11th and 13th century, the monastery was then rebuilt in the 16th century as the multidomed byzantine structure that you see today. Then continue to the ancient village of Voskopoja very famous for its monasteries, and sits 1,150 meters above sea-level and is a perfect place for hiking and walking. Visit to original 18th century Orthodox churches, complete with frescoes (to include: St. Nicholas, St. Thanasius, and St. Maria) Visit the Monastery of St. John the Baptist (Shen Prodhom), with an original structure from the 15th century. After the visit we will continue to the historic town of Korce. Free afternoon in Korca. Overnight in Korca.
After breakfast we will visit the historic town of Korce. Korça is southern Albania’s intellectual center and a town with a proud cultural heritage. It’s an exceptionally pleasant and well-cared-for place by Albanian standards; recent efforts at urban renewal have made this even more so, with a showcase pedestrian avenue linking the town’s main square to its rebuilt Orthodox cathedral. The main reason to come here is to visit the town’s excellent Museum of Medieval Art, but even though there’s little to keep you here for much longer, many visitors are charmed by this characterful, green place, with a friendly population and some gorgeous countryside nearby. After we will take an amazing drive though spectacular scenery to Gjirokastra. Gjirokastra is known as “The Stone City”, part of UNESCO World heritage. The origin of the city starts with the castle of Gjirokastra, built in IV century AD. The city was named Argyrokastro, in 1336. In 1417, it was conquered by the Ottoman army. The city reached its peak over 1800-1830, when monumental assembly houses were built. The first neighborhoods are those of Bazaar and Hazmurate. The main characteristic of Gjirokastra is the intensive use of stone in building the houses, which look like small fortresses, the streets of cobblestone, which all lead to Bazaar. We can also visit the Mosque of Bazaar, built in 1557. The most important structure of the city is the castle, which is the biggest castle in Albania. Inside the castle, you can visit the Museum of Weapons, opened in 1971. Weapons from the prehistoric times up to the World War II are exhibited on here. The National Folk Festival has taken place in this castle during the years. Then will also visit the Skenduli House. The house was built around the year 1700 and has many fascinating features. Overnight in Gjirokaster.
After breakfast we drive to Saranda but first we shall enjoy a short stop at (Blue Eye, Water Spring). Albania’s famous Blue Eye is a water spring and natural phenomenon that each visitor should witness. A popular tourist attraction, the beautiful light turquoise river stuns with its beauty. Then we will drive to the ancient city of Butrint, Albania’s most important archaeological site and given special status by UNESCO. The most ancient objects found at the archeological site in Butrint are a stone hammer and a shaft belonging to the second half of the second millennium B.C. Hekateus made first mention of the city at the end of the sixth century B.C., affirming that the city was built according to Troy and that the origin of the name refers to the sacrifice of a bull, Buthrotos, provided by the Trojan prince Aeneas on his way to Dodona. During its early period, Butrint was the center of the Kaonic tribes, later to become part of the kingdom of Epirus. In the years 1926-1936 the Italian archeologist Luigi Ugolini led excavations in southern Albania, focusing his work in Butrint, where he discovered the baptistery, the theater, the basilica, the public baths, the gymnasium , the temple to Minerva, Skea gate and Lion gate of the ancient walls and castle, many houses, and a great number of objects and sand statues of inestimable value. The most extraordinary objects discovered in the theater of Butrint are the statue of Apollo, the goddess of Butrint, the marble heads of Zeus, the portrait of Agrippina, the head of Livia and many Latin and Greek epigraphs. Parts of the city were rebuilt during the fifth century B.C. Other monuments of Butrint are the castle of Vivari channel constructed during Ali Pashe Tepelena time , the triangle castle also constructed by him and the Venetian tower constructed in the time when Venetians controlled the access to this area. We then drive to Saranda. Free afternoon in Saranda. Overnight in Saranda.
After breakfast we drive along a stunning coastline. The Albanian Riviera is a place where the sun stretches across the deep sea, where there are splendid configurations of rocky and isolated small beaches, and the mountains and hillsides are covered in Mediterranean vegetation with charming villages constructed between the mountains and sea. The Albanian Riviera is blessed with 300 days of sun. The average temperature in January is 10 degrees C. and the average temperature in July is 35 degrees C. The Ionian coastline is known for having fascinating beaches with deep and very clean waters. Some of the most exotic and interesting beaches in the south of Albania are Dhërmi, Jal, Himara, Qeparo, Borsh and Ali Pasha Castle. From the Llogara Pass, which is 1,057 meters above sea level, the breathtaking coast can be seen from the top. Then we will drive to Vlora. Vlora is an old city founded in the sixth century B.C., originally known by the name Aulona. 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. Overnight in Vlora.
After breakfast we visit the ancient city of Apollonia, dating back to the 6th century BC. Beautifully located on the top of the hill, with infinity panoramic view to the Fier city and Adriatic coastline is Apollonia Archaeological Park. The city of Apollonia was founded at the beginning of the 6th century BC by Greek colonist from Corfu and Corinth, later came under the Roman Republic control. In ancient Illyria (Albania today) the city of Apollonia, was broadly known as Apollonia of Illyria, with about 60.000 inhabitants, was very important trade center of Albania and for all Mediterranean with its products, ceramics, decorations, work tools, vineyards, olives, fruits and more. In that time, Apollonia had it’s coins, which has circulated until around the years 30-25 BC, while in its Academy has studied the future Roman emperor Octavian Augustus. The Albanian and French archaeologists, often compare Apollonia with the Roman city of Pompei in Italy, because much of the ancient city is still buried and needs to be further excavated, only ten per cent of the city has been excavated. Apollonia is so romantic, magical, is an absolutely fascinating place, perfect combination of nature and history, is a place you can fall in love. We then drive to Berat, “the city of one thousand window”, one of the oldest region of Albania and with a superbly preserved historic center that has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Berat is one of the oldest cities and the pride of Albanian architecture. The three major neighborhoods of the old city are Mangalemi, Gorica, and the Kala where the castle itself is located. We will start our tour with the castle area. Visiting the ‘Castle’ involves a steep walk up a cobbled path, but those who make it to the top will be rewarded with a fine view of the surrounding area. You will visit the Museum of Iconography ‘Onufri’ which bears the name of the renowned fresco and icon-painter Onufri, who has left a rich inheritance. This museum is located within the cathedral of St. Mary’s Assumption. We will also visit the Red Mosque. Overnight in Berat.
After breakfast we will drive to Durres. Durrësi, the biggest seaport of the country. It is the most ancient city in Albania or the eternal city over Adriatic sea, with almost 3,000 years of history. Its foundation dates back to 627 B.C. when the Corinthians and settlers from Corcyra invaded the Illyrian territory of the Taulants. The city is home to many ancient archaeological sites and finds. The most notable tourist attraction in Durrës is the amphitheater of the Roman Emperor Hadrian with 15,000 seats, the second biggest amphitheater in the Balkans. During the 9th century, a small church with mosaic-covered walls was built nearby. We will also see the bathhouses of the 2nd century A.D. and the nearby Byzantine forum of the 5th-6th century with marble columns. One-third of the original wall of the city castle is still standing, and you can even walk along the same road that Caesar himself once strolled. The Archeological Museum located in a new building on Taulantia road, one of the most important of its kind and of great interest to visitors. The most renowned archaeological structure found in Durrës is “Bukuroshja e Durrësit,” a mosaic from the 4thcentury B.C. Today, it is exhibited in the National Historic Museum in Tirana. Drive back to Tirana for our final night where you will enjoy a farewell dinner with traditional food. Overnight in Tirana.
Transfer to the airport for your flight home. End of our service.
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