Albania - Land of the Eagles
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.
Oliver Gilkes has directed excavations in Albania for over 20 years. He offers his encyclopedic knowledge of Albanian archaeology and culture - and is able to secure privileged access to sites. Discover Albania’s past and present, from Illyrian strongholds and Greek colonies to communist bunkers.
- 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
- Historic Churches
- Ancient Greek
- Special Access
- Low Single Supplement
- All Inclusive
We arrive in Tirana and drive to our hotel in the heart of the city.
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.
We drive to Apollonia, founded by the Corinthians in 588 BC, one of the largest ancient cities on the Adriatic. Today the excavations lie romantically surrounded by olive and oak trees with grassy banks hinting at what is still buried. This afternoon we drive along the beautiful Ionian coast, skirting the ‘Mountains of Thunder’ en route to our Saranda hotel.
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.
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 the Zekate House, one of the grandest examples of its kind.
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, theater and fortifications. We continue to Berat this evening.
Today, we shift from Classical to Medieval times in the attractive town of Berat. The lower city along the riverside belonged to the Islamic population, while the Christians held the citadel. There are both Byzantine churches and Ottoman mosques to visit, as well as the Onufri Museum.
We drive to Durres, Albania’s chief port and the starting point of the Via Egnatia. Here, we visit the 2nd century amphitheater, the largest in the Balkans, as well as sections of the mighty 5th century walls. This afternoon we continue to Kruja, once 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.
We transfer to the airport for US flights or onward travel.
- Expert Guide Lecturer - Oliver Gilkes
- Tour Manager
- Local Travel - Private a/c coach
- Meals - All meals included - dinners with wine
- Entries & Tips - Entry to all sites in program; tips included
- Field Notes
- Hotels - 3 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
3 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