Closed to outsiders for much of the 20th century, Albania has long been Mediterranean Europe's enigma. Until fairly recently its rumpled mountains, fortress towns and sparkling beaches were merely a rumour on most travel maps. But, with the end of a particularly brutal strain of communism in 1991, Albania tentatively swung open its gates. The first curious tourists to arrive discovered a land where ancient codes of conduct still held sway and where the wind whistled through the shattered remnants of half-forgotten Ancient Greek and Roman sites. Quarter of a century after throwing off the shackles of communism, Albania's stunning mountain scenery, crumbling castles, boisterous capital and dreamy beaches rivalling any in the Mediterranean continue to enchant, but hurry here because as word gets out to what Albania is hiding, the still tiny trickle of tourists threatens to become a flood.
ItineraryDay 1: DurresStop At: Durres Amphitheatre, Durres, Durres CountyThe weathered Roman-era Amphitheatre of Durrës was built on the hillside inside the city walls in the early 2nd century AD.In its prime it had the capacity to seat 15,000 to 18,000 spectators, but these days a few inhabited houses occupy the stage, a reminder of its recent rediscovery (in 1966) and excavation. The Byzantine chapel in the amphitheatre has several beautiful mosaics. Duration: 40 minutesPass By: Durres Castle, Durres, Durres CountyThe Venetian Castle is an extension of the Byzantine Fortress of Durrës. Built in the sixth century, it was considered as one of the most powerful fortresses along the western coast of the Adriatic. Architectonic elements of the structure and historic records show that the fortress was rebuild in the first half of the fifteenth century, when Durrës was ruled by the Republic of Venice.Stop At: Durres Archaeological Museum, Durres, Durres CountyThe bulk of the museum consists of artifacts found in the nearby ancient site of Dyrrhachium and includes an extensive collection from the Ancient Greek, Hellenistic and Roman periods Items of major note include Roman funeral steles and stone sarcophagi, an elliptical colourful mosaic measuring 17 by 10 feet, referred to as The Beauty of Durrës, and a collection of miniature busts of Venus, testament to the time when Durrës was a centre of worship of the goddess.Duration: 40 minutesPass By: Royal Villa of Durres, Durres, Durres CountyRoyal Villa of Durrës, also known as Zog's Villa of Durrës (Albanian: Vila mbretërore e Durrësit) was the summer villa of King Zog in Durrës, Albania.It was used as the summer palace by the Albanian Royal family during the reign of the Monarchy and still remains a symbol of the Monarchy in the City.Pass By: Fatih Mosque, Durres, Durres CountyThe Fatih Mosque is a Cultural Monument of Albania, located in Durrës. It was built in 1502 and named after the Ottoman Turkish Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror. Closed by the Communist authorities, it became a cultural monument in 1973.Meals included: • Breakfast • DinnerAccommodation included: Adriatik HotelDay 2: GjirokasterStop At: Gjirokaster Castle, Gjirokaster, Gjirokaster CountyThe castle of Gjirokastra, entitled Cultural Monument of first category in 1948, is situated in the city of Gjirokastra which is part of Worldwide Cultural Heritage UNESCO. The castle is built on a rock that has the shape of a herringbone and prevails the city with its heightDuration: 2 hoursPass By: Gjirokaster Mosque, Gjirokaster, Gjirokaster CountyBuilt in 1757, the Gjirokastër Mosque (Xhamia e Gjirokastrës) is one of the most notable landmarks in the Old Bazaar area of Gjirokastër. Pass By: Gjirokastra Bazaar, Gjirokaster, Gjirokaster CountyUntil the mid 20th century Gjirokastra was an important market centre for agricultural products from the region, leather working and woodworking.Pass By: The Blue Eye - Syri i Kalter, AlbaniaIn this peaceful forest we will walk to the crystal clear spring called Blue Eye, where 900 m3 water per minute is coming from deep down the earth. Meals included: • BreakfastAccommodation included: Overnight in Gjirokastra Day 3: Saranda– Three Island of Kasmil – Butrint Archaeological Park – Monastery of Forty Saints – Lëkurësi CastleStop At: Butrint National Park, Butrint, Vlore CountyInhabited since prehistoric times, Butrint has been the site of a Greek colony, a Roman city and a bishopric. Following a period of prosperity under Byzantine administration, then a brief occupation by the Venetians, the city was abandoned in the late Middle Ages after marshes formed in the area. The present archaeological site is a repository of ruins representing each period in the city’s developmentDuration: 2 hoursPass By: Ksamil Islands, Ksamil, Vlore CountyExplore three Island of Ksamil are also called “the Ionian pearl” because of its beauty.Stop At: Monastery of 40 Saints, Saranda, Vlore CountyThe Fourty Saints Monastery (Rrënojat e Manastirit të 40 Shenjtorëve) was built in the 6th Century in dedication to the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste and was thought to be an important pilgrimage site in the region but now remains in ruins following bombings in WWII and years of neglect. It is however, the only monument of its kind still semi-preserved in Albania and the Balkans.Duration: 30 minutesStop At: Lekuresi Castle, Saranda, Vlore CountyPerched above the Albanian tourist capital of Saranda is Lekuresi Castle. It was built in the early sixteenth century by Sultan Suleyman when Albania was part of the Ottoman Empire. The castle was built to protect the coastline of Saranda from invasions by sea. A rough, unmade road leads up to the castle which is now a restaurant where you can sip a coffee while appreciating the wonderful views of Corfu and the Ksamil Islands. In the summer the castle is also used as a concert venue.Duration: 1 hourNo meals included on this day.Accommodation included: Overnight in SarandaDay 4: Free Relaxing massage at tour SPA and Wellness “Queen Teuta- DurresPass By: Deluxe Spa & Massage, Tirana, Tirana CountyTake Free Relaxing massage at tour SPA and Wellness “Queen Teuta” Meals included: • Breakfast • DinnerAccommodation included: Overnight at Adriatik Hotel Day 5: TiranaStop At: Mount Dajti, Tirana, Tirana CountyTake the cable car to (almost) the top of Dajti Mountain and enjoy the fantastic views. The longest cableway in the Balkans at 4.7 kilometres, the 15 minute scenic journey takes visitors over forest, farms, hilltops and even bunkers!Duration: 2 hoursPass By: Clock Tower, Tirana, Tirana Countyhe Clock Tower of Tirana, or Kulla e Sahatit in Albanian, was built in 1822 by Haxhi Et`hem Bey, who also oversaw the construction of the Et'hem Bey Mosque. The tower has a spiral staircase with 90 steps. The structure is 35 meters high, and until 1970 it was the tallest building in Tirana. The clock tower originally had a bell from Venice that marked the time every hour. In 1928 the Municipality of Tirana purchased a new German clock to replace the Venetian one. The clock was destroyed by bombs during World War II and was replaced in 1946 with a Roman numeral clock from a church in Shkoder, Albania. In 1970 the Roman numeral clock was replaced by a Chinese clock. The tower underwent renovation in 1981 and again in 1999. Access to the top of the tower has been available free of charge since 1996.Stop At: BunKart 2, Tirana, Tirana CountyBunk'Art 2 contain an Anti-Atomic bunker of Interior Ministry of Communist era that was projected for the governance of Tirana in case of war . The museum contain more information about the Albanian Police of the time but also for the Prisons , Working camps and the victims of communism .Duration: 1 hourPass By: Et`hem Bey Mosque, Tirana, Tirana CountyThe Et’hem Bey Mosque is located in the center of the Albanian capital Tirana. Construction was started in 1789 by Molla Bey and it was finished in 1823 by his son Ethem Pasha (Haxhi Ethem Bey), great-grandson of Sulejman Pasha.During the totalitarianism of the Socialist People’s Republic of Albania, the mosque was closed. In January 18, 1991, despite opposition from communist authorities, 10,000 people entered carrying flags. This was at the onset of the fall of communism in Albania. The frescoes of the mosque depict trees, waterfalls and bridges; still life paintings are a rarity in Islamic art. Pass By: Blloku, Tirana, Tirana CountyIsh-Blloku (the former Block) known as Blloku is the most famous and expensive area in Tirana. It became very attractive after the fall of communism in Albania because during communism it used to be the area where only the communist elites lived. Pass By: Tanners' Bridge, Tirana, Tirana CountyTabak Bridge (Ura e Tabakëve), also known as Tanners’ Bridge, is a famous stone footbridge dating from the 18th century.Pass By: Tanners' Bridge, Tirana, Tirana CountyThe Tanners' Bridge (Albanian: Ura e Tabakëve) is an 18th-century Ottoman period stone footbridge located in Tirana, Albania. The bridge was once part of the Shëngjergj Road that linked Tirana with the eastern highlands. The Shëngjergj Road furnished the city with agricultural produce and livestock. The bridge went across the Lanë stream and was adjacent to the area of butchers and leather workers. The Lanë was rerouted in the 1930s and the bridge was neglected. In the 1990s the bridge was restored to its former glory and is now used by pedestrians only.Meals included: • Breakfast • DinnerAccommodation included: Overnight At Adriatik Hotel