Albania & Macedonia | Via Egnatia

One of many elaborate Byzantine churches on the shores of beautiful Lake Ohrid
One of many elaborate Byzantine churches on the shores of beautiful Lake Ohrid
Roman amphitheatre of Durres
Roman amphitheatre of Durres
Edessa Waterfalls, Greece
Edessa Waterfalls, Greece
Lake Prespa, Macedonia
Lake Prespa, Macedonia
Ruins of ancient Apollonia
Ruins of ancient Apollonia
The Rotunda of Galerius, Thessaloniki
The Rotunda of Galerius, Thessaloniki
Reconstructed Bronze Age lake village at the Bay of Bones, Ohrid, Macedonia
Reconstructed Bronze Age lake village at the Bay of Bones, Ohrid, Macedonia
Beautiful gold-in-glass mosaic which covers the ceiling of the Rotunda of Galerius
Beautiful gold-in-glass mosaic which covers the ceiling of the Rotunda of Galerius
Emperor Galerius vanquishes his Macedonian foes- detail from the arch of Galerius
Emperor Galerius vanquishes his Macedonian foes- detail from the arch of Galerius
Roman milestone recording road-builder proconsul Gnaeus Egnatius
Roman milestone recording road-builder proconsul Gnaeus Egnatius

This is a journey through time and civilisations across the dramatic landscapes of southeast Europe. Albania, Macedonia and the Balkans represent a vast patchwork of cultures and civilisations. Our tour takes in the tombs and treasures of Philip of Macedon, the late Imperial glories of Thessaloniki, and the beautiful Medieval churches on the shores of Lake Ohrid.

Divided by mountains, the Balkans are united by ancient roads, which kept the disparate states and Empires in contact and conflict. The greatest of these was the Via Egnatia, a series of tracks used by the Romans to expedite their conquest of Illyria and Macedonia.

  • Explore the ancient ruins of Apollonia, one of the starting points of the Via Egnatia
  • View the thundering waterfalls in Edessa
  • Experience Albania’s lively capital, Tirana
  • Visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Ohrid, the ‘city of light’ on one of the oldest lakes in Europe
  • Discover the palace complex of Galerius

Themes

  • Romans
  • Medieval
  • Historic Churches
  • Ancient Greek

Practicalities

  • Special Access
  • Low Single Supplement
  • All Inclusive

Itinerary 2019

Day 1

Upon arrival Albania we transfer to our hotel.
Hotel: Hotel Premium Beach
Meals: Dinner included

Day 2

We begin our journey at Durrës, the principal terminus of the Via Egnatia, Albania’s largest and most bustling seaport. This was ancient Dyracchium and substantial monuments are to be seen here. We visit the circular Forum of Anastasius where the northern branch of the Via Egnatia began. We continue south to Apollonia which was the starting point for the Via Egnatia’s older, southern branch. The city was a great Corinthian Greek colony which facilitated the Roman conquest of the Balkans. The young Octavian attended the schools of rhetoric here and we explore the city centre he would have known with its stoas and public spaces.
Hotel: Hotel Premium Beach
Meals: All meals included

Day 3

We travel to Tirana, capital of Albania. A pastiche of a city with Ottoman, fascist, communist and modern elements mixed together. A visit to the National Historical Museum gives a particular view of Albanian history and its associated artefacts. We continue via the new road tunnel below the Krabbe Pass to Elbasan, ancient Scampis. After walking through the castrum, with its fine late Roman and Ottoman walls, onto the line of the Via Egnatia, we follow the route of the road up the scenic gorge of the river Shkumbini to the pass into Macedonia.
Hotel: Millennium Palace
Meals: All meals included

Day 4

We enjoy a day in wonderful Ohrid. Ancient Lychnidos, the ‘city of light’, was traditionally founded by Cadmus the Theban, but in reality by Philip of Macedon. It now boasts a Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman past with impressive monuments from each era. The many Byzantine churches, with icons and paintings traces the wax and wane of Byzantine ambitions in the Balkans. We explore the late Byzantine shrine of St. Clement, the churches of St. Panteleimon and St. Sofia and the 9th century fortress of Tsar Samuel which dominates the city. We stroll past St. Jovan Kaneo, romantically overlooking the beautiful Lake Ohrid.
Hotel: Millennium Palace
Meals: All meals included

Day 5

Drive along the shore of Lake Ohrid to the Museum on the Water at ‘the Bay of Bones’. Underwater excavations here have revealed one of the typical lake-shore settlements that are typical for this area in the period of 1200-700 BC. The village has been partly reconstructed with a museum. We continue to Lake Prespa and St. Naum, a monastery founded by one of the disciples of Sts. Cyril and Methodius, before travelling over the spectacular mountains to Kurbinovo by Lake Ohrid. We walk through the wooded landscape to the Church of St George, with its fresco cycle of the time of the Commeni emperors and a resurgent Byzantium. On to Bitola.
Hotel: Hotel Epinal
Meals: All meals included

Day 6

We start the day in Heraklea Lyncestis. A city built by Philip II of Macedon to guard the passes along the line of the Via Egnatia leading into the heart of Macedonia. The remains of fine Roman and Byzantine buildings can be found throughout and an impressive theatre/amphitheatre. We explore Bitola, which was the hub of Ottoman Macedonia, a military garrison and market centre. The town still retains much of its late Ottoman atmosphere, with very fine 15th century mosques. We also visit the fine Bitola museum, established in an old Turkish military college, where Kemal Ataturk studied. We then explore the city center, including the Jeni Mosque.
Hotel: Hotel Aigai
Meals: All meals included

Day 7

Edessa is a surprise. Its tree lined streets and numerous streams of fresh water formed by the river Edessaios create a cool atmosphere. It was not always so and the thundering waterfalls which descend form the crag where the modern city lies, once powered tobacco and textile mills. We visit the falls and the ancient city below which made the city famous in antiquity. We also find the Ottoman bridge that carried the Via Egnatia over the river. On to ancient Aigai, the traditional Macedonian capital. The city is still being excavated but we will visit the excavations of the Great Tumulus. Here, in the 1980s, a series of royal tombs were uncovered, among which was the tomb now associated with the father of Alexander the Great, Philip II. This was one of the richest finds of grave goods in Europe. On to Thessaloniki.
Hotel: Elektra Palace
Meals: All meals included

Day 8

We explore Thessaloniki, the original terminus of the Via Egnatia and a Roman imperial capital. Founded by King Cassander of Macedonia, the emperor Galerius, made it his Balkan capital for the renewed late Roman world. He elaborated the city with massive new buildings. We visit the recently displayed Agora and Forum, the centre of the ancient city, and the church of St. Demetrius, the most famous Byzantine basilica in northern Greece. Explore the palace complex of Galerius, the Rotonda, Galerius’ intended mausoleum, and the great arch over the Via Egnatia, carved with scenes from his triumph over the Persians. We visit the recently redisplayed and very fine Archaeological Museum.
Hotel: Elektra Palace
Meals: All meals included

Day 9

After breakfast, we transfer to the airport for our individual flights home or onward travel.
Meals: Breakfast included

Itinerary 2020

Day 1

On arrival in Albania we transfer to our hotel at Durrës.

Hotel: Hotel Premium Beach
Meals: Dinner included

Day 2

We begin at Durrës, ancient Dyracchium, the principal terminus of the Via Egnatia. Visit the circular Forum of Anastasius where the road began. We continue south to Apollonia, starting point for the older, southern branch and a great Corinthian Greek colony which facilitated the Roman conquest of the Balkans. The young Octavian attended the schools of rhetoric here.

Hotel: Hotel Premium Beach
Meals: All meals included

Day 3

Visit Tirana, capital of Albania. A pastiche of a city with Ottoman, fascist, communist and modern elements mixed together. A visit to the National Historical Museum gives a particular view of Albanian history. We continue to Elbasan, ancient Scampis. After walking through the castrum, we follow the route of the road up the gorge of the river Shkumbini into Macedonia.

Hotel: Millennium Palace
Meals: All meals included

Day 4

A day in wonderful Ohrid, ancient Lychnidos, founded by Philip of Macedon. It boasts a Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman past. The many Byzantine churches, trace the waxing and waning of Byzantine ambitions in the Balkans. We explore St. Clement’s, the churches of St. Panteleimon and St. Sofia and the 9th century fortress of Tsar Samuel and stroll past St. Jovan Kaneo.

Hotel: Millennium Palace
Meals: All meals included

Day 5

Along the shore of Lake Ohrid to the ‘Bay of Bones’. Underwater excavations here revealed typical Bronze Age lake-shore settlements. We continue to Lake Prespa and St. Naum, a monastery founded by one of the disciples of Saints Cyril and Methodius. Next, we journey to Bitola.

Hotel: Hotel Epinal
Meals: All meals included

Day 6

Begin in Heraklea Lyncestis, built by Philip II of Macedon to guard Macedonia’s northern border. Next, we explore Bitola, which was the hub of Ottoman Macedonia, a military garrison and market centre. The town still retains very fine 15th century mosques.

Hotel: Hotel Aigai
Meals: All meals included

Day 7

Cool and fresh Edessa has tree-lined streets and numerous streams. We visit the waterfalls and the ancient city below. On to ancient Aigai, Here, in the 1980s, a series of tombs were uncovered, including the tomb of the father of Alexander the Great, Philip II. On to Thessaloniki.

Hotel: Overnight in Thessaloniki
Meals: All meals included

Day 8

Today we visit the Agora, the ancient city’s centre, and church of St. Demetrius. See the palace complex, Rotonda of Galerius and the triumphal arch over the Via Egnatia. Visit the Archaeological Museum and Byzantine Museum.

Hotel: Overnight in Thessaloniki
Meals: All meals included

Day 9

Today we transfer to the airport and catch our return flights.

Meals: Breakfast included

What's Included

  1. Expert Guide Lecturer
  2. Tour Manager
  3. Local Travel - Private a/c coach
  4. Meals - Most meals included with wine at dinner
  5. Entries & Tips - Entry to all sites in program; tips included
  6. Field Notes
  7. Hotels

Travel Information

Joining the Tour

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2020 Tour Details

Tue 26th May - Wed 3rd Jun

Available

$3,180

without flights

sgl supp: $465

VIE20A

Led By: Oliver Gilkes

Mon 19th Oct - Tue 27th Oct

Available

$3,180

without flights

sgl supp: $465

VIE20B

Led By: Oliver Gilkes

Guide Lecturer

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