Albania - Land of the Eagles
Albania is like no other country in Europe – still very much off the mainstream tourist trail. Caught between Greece and Rome, it was once home to classical cities which vied for splendor with those of her mighty neighbors. There is a wonderful sense of discovery about Albanian archaeology: this is a place where pristine ruins really do still stand untouched, in splendid isolation, often amid beautiful and dramatic landscapes.
Our varied, expertly-planned itinerary introduces sites from throughout Albania’s history. Travelling from the shores of the Adriatic to high up in the mountains, we trace the many civilizations who have made their mark on these lands: Ilyrian tribes, Greeks, Romans, Bulgars, Byzantines, Ottomans and, most recently, communists.
A wonderful journey: highlights include the ancient coastal city of Butrint, said to have been founded by refugees from the Trojan wars; and the attractive medieval town of Berat – where Byzantine churches and Ottoman mosques jostle for space along the narrow streets.
- Historic Churches
- Ancient Greek
- Special Access
- Low Single Supplement
- All Inclusive
Fly from your US airport of choice to Tirana and drive to our hotel in the heart of the city.
We spend our first day in Tirana, Albania's bustling capital. Once austere, the city is reinventing itself as a post-modern fantasy, with brightly painted tenement blocks next to modern skyscrapers. We shall visit the National Historical Museum built as a communist showcase, Etham Bey Mosque, one of the few old Ottoman buildings surviving in the centre, and the National Gallery where we can see the country’s recent history through tis art. We shall take a walk past other elements of Tirana’s complicated Italian and communist past and some of its other archaeological monuments.
Drive to Apollonia, founded by the Corinthians in 588 BC, one of the largest cities on the Adriatic. Today the city lies romantically covered by waving corn with grassy banks hinting at what is still buried. Continue along the beautiful Ionian coast to our hotel at Saranda.
Picturesque drive to Butrint where we spend the day. Probably Albania’s best-known site and the first World Heritage Site in the country. Guide Lecturer Oliver Gilkes has directed excavations at Butrint for many years, and describes it as: “One of the most striking archaeological sites in the Mediterranean: splendid ruins in a breathtaking setting - a thickly wooded hill by Lake Butrint on the shores of the Ionian Sea, all within sight of the island of Corfu. Modern research has made it possible to chart Butrint’s rise and fall through the centuries.”
Take a scenic drive over the mountains from Saranda to the Drinos valley and the town of Gjirokastra. A mountain stronghold, the city
is dramatically set amid the limestone peaks, the city is another World Heritage site. We visit the great medieval fortress that dominates the city as well as several historic Ottoman mansions including Zekate House, one of the grandest examples, which we have special permission to visit.
Continue north through the rugged and changing landscape to visit the remote excavated Illyrian city of Byllis, sited on a mountaintop overlooking the Vjosa River valley. Continue onwards to Berat.
A day exploring the attractive medieval town of Berat, situated on a hill dominating the River Osum and its gorge. The lower city along the riversides was the preserve of the Muslim inhabitants, while by agreement the Christians held the citadel, so there are both Byzantine
churches and mosques to visit, as well as the Onufri Museum.
Drive to Tirana stopping at Durres (ancient Epidamnos), Albania’s chief port. We visit the 2nd century amphitheater, the largest in the Balkans, as well as sections of the mighty 5th century walls. Leaving Durres we continue to nearby excavations, where archaeologists have uncovered a large circular colonnaded piazza, paved with marble. This extraordinary monument had shops and booths behind the colonnade.
We spend our final day in 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 in the castle and have time to wander through the Ottoman bazaar. Continue to airport for flights to the US or onward journeys.
NB Order of visits on Days 8 and 9 will vary according to flight times.
- Expert Guide Lecturer
- Andante Tour Manager
- Local Travel - Private a/c coach
- Meals - All meals included with water (wine with dinners)
- Entries & Tips - Entry to all sites in program; tips included
- Field Notes
- 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
- 2 + 1 nights in a modern 4* hotel in Tirana: its central position, on Skanderbeg Square, allows for wonderful views of the city centre. It has a spa centre with an indoor underground pool.
- 2 nights in a 4* hotel by the sea in Saranda: near the sea and within easy walking distance of the bars and restaurants along the promenade.
- 1 night in Gjirokastra: with wonderful panoramic views from the restaurant and bar.
- 2 nights in a small comfortable hotel in Berat: situated in the cobbled streets of the historic, Ottoman Mangalem district of Berat.