Albania - Land of the Eagles

The mighty River Vjosa viewed from the mountaintop ruins of the Illyrian city of Byllis
The mighty River Vjosa viewed from the mountaintop ruins of the Illyrian city of Byllis
Oliver Gilkes in action demonstrating late antique dining practice in Butrint
Oliver Gilkes in action demonstrating late antique dining practice in Butrint
Baptistery at Butrint; the lovely mosaic floor
Baptistery at Butrint; the lovely mosaic floor
Monument of the Agonothetes
Monument of the Agonothetes
Ottoman houses on the hillside above the River Osum at Berat
Ottoman houses on the hillside above the River Osum at Berat
Ali Pasha of Tepelena, reclining in his boat amongst the reeds...
Ali Pasha of Tepelena, reclining in his boat amongst the reeds...
  • Two thousand years of untouched archaeological heritage – from Classical cities to Byzantine churches and Ottoman mosques.
  • Special access to the Tirana Archaeological Museum and Zekate House, Ottoman Mansion in Gjirokastra, high in the mountains.
  • Includes a full day at the World Heritage Site of Butrint, where Guide Lecturer Oliver Gilkes directed excavations for many years.

Albania is like no other country in Europe – still very much off the mainstream tourist trail. This is a place where pristine ruins still stand in splendid isolation. In Classical times, the Greeks and Romans built cities overlooking the sparkling waters of the Ionian sea. Centuries later, Byzantine Christians and Ottoman Turks fought over dramatic mountain strongholds.

Our tour is led by Oliver Gilkes who directed excavations in Albania for over 20 years. Oliver has an encyclopedic knowledge of Albanian archaeology and culture and is able to secure privileged access to sites and museums all over the country. From Greek and Roman sites to communist bunkers, this is a fascinating tale of civilisations past and present on the shores of Illyria.

Themes

  • Romans
  • Medieval
  • Historic Churches
  • Ancient Greek

Practicalities

  • Special Access
  • Low Single Supplement
  • All Inclusive

Itinerary

Day 1

We arrive in Tirana and drive to our hotel in the heart of the city.

Day 2

We begin with a full day in Albania’s lively capital, Tirana. We visit the National Historical Museum, the early 19th century Ethem Bey Mosque, and the National Gallery. After lunch, we continue to the Archaeological Museum, home to a vast collection and opened especially for our group. 

Day 3

We drive to Apollonia, founded by the Corinthians in 588 BC, one of the largest ancient cities on the Adriatic. Today the ruins lie romantically covered by olive trees with grassy banks hinting at what is still buried. This afternoon we drive along the beautiful Ionian coast, skirting the ‘Mountains of Thunder’ before we reach our hotel at Saranda this evening.

Day 4

We spend the day at Butrint, Albania’s best-known site. Guide Lecturer Oliver Gilkes has directed excavations at Butrint for many years. It is one of the most striking archaeological sites in the Mediterranean: a breathtaking setting on the shores of the Ionian Sea, within sight of the island of Corfu. Walking the site, we chart Butrint’s rise and fall through the centuries - from the Bronze Age to the Napoleonic Wars.

Day 5

We travel over the mountains to the town of Gjirokastra, a mountain stronghold, dramatically set amidst the limestone peaks. Here we visit the medieval fortress. We enjoy special access to the late Ottoman mansion of Zekate House, one of the grandest examples of its kind.

Day 6

We continue north through the rugged and changing landscape to the ruins of the remote city of Byllis. According to legend the city was founded by warriors led by the son of Achilles, returning from the Trojan wars. Archaeologists have yet to find evidence of Homeric heroes but have uncovered a Hellenistic era stadium, theatre and fortifications. We continue to Berat this evening.

Day 7

Today, we travel from Classical to Medieval times in the attractive town of Berat. The lower city along the riversides was the preserve of the Muslim inhabitants, while by agreement the Christians held the citadel. There are both Byzantine churches and mosques to visit, as well as the Onufri Museum. After lunch, those who wish can visit the Ethnographic Museum.

Day 8

We drive to Durres, Albania’s chief port and the starting point of the Via Egnatia. Here, we visit the 2nd century amphitheatre, the largest in the Balkans, as well as sections of the mighty 5th century walls. This afternoon we continue to Kruja, the last bastion of Christianity against the Ottoman Turks and now an interesting town set in beautiful countryside. We will visit the Skanderbeg Museum and wander through the Ottoman bazaar.

Day 9

We transfer to Tirana airport for our morning flight home or onward journeys.

What's Included

  1. Expert Guide Lecturer - Oliver Gilkes
  2. Tour Manager
  3. Local Travel - Private a/c coach
  4. Meals - All meals included - dinners with wine
  5. Entries & Tips - Entry to all sites in program; tips included
  6. Field Notes
  7. Hotels - 2 + 1 nights in a modern 4* hotel in Tirana; 2 nights in a 4* hotel by the sea in Saranda; 1 night in Gjirokastra with wonderful panoramic views from the restaurant and bar; 2 nights in a small comfortable hotel in Berat

Hotel Info

  • 2 + 1 nights in a 4* hotel in Tirana
  • 2 nights in a comfortable hotel in the seaside town of Saranda
  • 1 night in Gjirokastra with panoramic views from the restaurant and bar
  • 2 nights in 2 charming hotels in Berat

Book now

2015 Tour Details

Fri 9th October - Sat 17th October

Available

$3,325

sgl supp: $350

ALB15B

with: Oliver Gilkes

2016 Tour Details

Fri 22nd April - Sat 30th April

Available
Accepting $500 deposits

$ TBC

without flights

sgl supp: $315

ALB16a

with: Oliver Gilkes

Fri 7th October - Sat 15th October

Available
Accepting $500 deposits

$ TBC

without flights

sgl supp: $195

ALB16b

with: Oliver Gilkes

Guide Lecturer

Tour Manager

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