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 Hidden Europe Tour (Albania, Kosovo, North Macedonia:
Airport pick-up. Depending on your arrival time you may want to enjoy a stroll around the city of Tirana. Overnight in Tirana.
After breakfast we start the day exploring Albania’s capital. We visit Scanderbeg Square dedicated to Albania’s national hero (Scanderbeg), the Mosque of Ethem Bey, one of the oldest buildings in Tirana. Then we drive to Kruja, one of Albania’s most important towns due to the part it played in resistance against the Ottomans. Visit the Scanderbeg Museum and castle as well as the old bazaar. Later 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 journey from Shkoder to Koman Lake. The 2 hour trip on Lake Komani was 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, probably the most attractive town in Kosovo with superbly preserved buildings from the Ottoman era. We visit the castle which is one of the oldest in the Balkans (almost 3 millenniums), built to protect the city from attacks, the ornate Bajrakli Mosque and the old Turkish Hammam among other sights. Prizren is an absolute highlight of any visit to Kosovo and to see the old houses of the old town in low light as the sun sets is a delight. Overnight in Prizren.
After breakfast we continue to the Monastery of Decan (UNESCO). The medieval church houses some of the most preserved fresco decoration in the Balkans and the grounds are also a delight. 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 Macedonia. We cross the border and head to its capital Skopje. Upon arrival we visit some of the most important parts of the town, including the old Ottoman market, the monastery of Sveti Spas and the ancient Kale Fortress which dates back to Illyrian and Roman times. Overnight in Skopje.
After breakfast continue to Mavrovo National Park, the biggest in Macedonia covering 73,000 hectares. We follow the Radika River along the way and stop at monasteries and churches en route. Then drive to the beautiful town of Ohrid, designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Explore its mixture of western and oriental architecture including the Orthodox Cathedral, the 11th century church of St Sofia as well as the Roman amphitheater. Overnight in Ohrid.
Free day in Ohrid. (Optional boat tour in Ohrid lake). Overnight in Ohrid.
After breakfast we will cross back into Albania but before we visit the Sveti Naum Monastery, a beautiful site with impressive views of Lake Ohrid. 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 lunch continue to the historic town of Korce. Visit to the Museum of Medieval Art with the richest icon archive in all Europe; The First Albanian School; Traditional Old Bazaar; Cathedral(1992); Mosque of Ilyaz Bey Mirahori (1484), and The Old Bazaar. Overnight in Korca.
After breakfast we will visit the historic town of Korce. We then take an amazing drive though spectacular scenery to Gjirokastra. At Gjirokastra we visit the local museum, housed in the building in which the former communist dictator Enver Hoxha was born, as well as the pre-Ottoman era citadel which affords spectacular views and houses an impressive range of artillery and also bizarrely a reconnaissance US Air Force plane that was forced to land after losing its way in the 1950’s. Gjirokastra is a pretty town with traditional houses and cobbled streets spilling down the sides of the mountain. Overnight in Gjirokaster.
After breakfast we drive to Saranda but first we shall enjoy a short stop at Syri i Kalter (Blue Eye, Water Spring). Then we will drive to the ancient city of Butrint, Albania’s most important archaeological site and given special status by UNESCO. Spend time exploring this impressive site with the added bonus of it being situated in a beautiful natural setting. The walls, basilica, acropolis and theatre at Butrint are truly impressive. We then drive to Saranda. Overnight in Saranda.
After breakfast we drive along a stunning coastline, stopping at Porto Palermo to visit the castle of Ali Pasha on the way. Drive through mountains over the Llogara Pass (1020m above sea level) and continue to Vlora, on the ‘Albanian Riviera’. Tonight you will enjoy a delicious fish dinner at a restaurant on the beach. Overnight in Vlora.
After breakfast we visit the ancient city of Apollonia, dating back to the 6th century BC. 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. We visit its citadel which contains old churches, mosques and museums. Overnight in Berat.
After breakfast drive to Durres. This port city has the largest Roman amphitheater (20,000 seats) in the Balkan region, dating back to the beginning of 2nd century which we will visit and Archaeological museum. 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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