Durrësi is the second largest city in Albania, the biggest port and the hub of the railroad system. It is one of the most ancient cities in Albania. Known by name of Epidamnus, it was established in the year 627 B.C. by colons coming from Corinth and Corcyra. Later on, the name changed to Durrahium (according to mythology the nephew of Epidamnus). During this period, the city flourished and became the main port of the Eastern Adriatic. Between the 1st and the 3rd centuries, it played a major role as a trading centre along the ancient Egnatia road, which connected Rome with Byzantium. Everyone has lot of things to see in Durrës, considering it a getaway to another world.
Berat – 2400 year old town located in southcentral Albania is known as “the town of a thousand windows, also the Museum City”. It is one of the oldest and most beautiful towns of Albania, with a settlement having existed there since at least the 6th century BC, when it was a fortress-settlement of the Greek Dassaretae tribe on the old border between Illyria and Epirus. The old town was inscribed on the Unesco World Heritage List in July 2008. Berat lies on the right bank of the river Osum, a short distance from the point where it is joined by the Molisht river. The Osumi river has cut a 915-metre deep gorge through the limestone rock on the west side of the valley to form a precipitous natural fortress, around which the town was built on several river terraces. It is remarkable Ottoman town, with a wealth of beautiful buildings of the highest architectural and historical interest. According to legend, the Tomorr mountain was originally a giant, who fought with another giant, called Shpirag over a young woman. They killed each other and the girl drowned in her tears, which then became the Osum river.
Fieri (Albanian: Fier or Fieri) is a city in southwest Albania, in the district and county of the same name. Fier is 8 km (5 mi) from the ruins of the ancient city of Apollonia. This district is also rich in other archaeological sites and post Byzantine monuments.
Apollonia was an ancient city in Illyria, located on the right bank of the Aous River (the modern-day Vjosë River). It was founded in 588 BCE by Greek colonists from Corfu and Corinth, on a site initially occupied by Illyrian tribes. Apollonia flourished during the period of Roman rule in the area and was home to a renowned school of philosophy. The city began to decline in the 3rd century CE when its harbor began silting up as a result of an earthquake. Cicero, the famed Roman Orator, was captivated by the beauty of Apollonia and in his Philippics, referred to it as “magna urbs et gravis,” or “great and important city.” Archaeological excavations have shown that Apollonia achieved its zenith around the 4th-3rd centuries BC. Sources depict a flourishing culture, with a busy harbor along this active trading route. Apollonia, like Dyrrachium further north, was an important port on the Illyrian coast as the most convenient link between Brundusium and northern Greece, and as one of the western starting points of the Via Egnatia leading east to Thessaloniki and Byzantium in Thrace. It had its own mint, stamping coins that have been found as far away as the basin of the Danube.
Vlora (alb. Vlorë), known also as Valona, is located in south-western Albania where the two seas, Adriatic and Ionian, meet. Vlora enjoys a beautiful position beacause it is the gatway to the Albanian Riviera , which is the gem of Albanian Tourist places. The town with its wide boulevards decorated by huge palm trees has a real southern Mediterranean feel to it. It is located in front of Karaburuni peninsula and Sazani Island, close to various sandy and rocky beaches and the scenic nearby mountains. Vlora is Albania’s second largest port, having regular ferry boat connections with Italian ports of Bari and Brindisi. The oldest traces of civilization in the area of Vlora date back to the 6th century B.C. In ancient times the city started as a port, and was known under the name of Aulona, famous for its olive groves and vineyards. During the 4th century AD was frequently mentioned as a landing port for ships of goods from the ports of Otranto and Brindisi, as well as an important stop over between the prosperous ancient cities of Apollonia and Butrint. After the fall of Apollonia and Orichum, it became the principal port of Illyria. In the fifth century Aulona was the centre of diocese. The emigrations of barbarians damaged it badly and brought the withdrawal of the city deeper in land. During the Middle Ages the city was fused into one with the fortress of Kanina, which is situated a few kilometres to the south-east. At the fourteenth century, Vlora became an important trading and handicraft centre noted apart from wines and salt, for its swords, its ships and its silk. The Turks invasion took place in 1417. In 1531 Sultan Sulejmani built a fortress, which is believed to have been designed by the architect Sinani. By the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Vlora had again become an important economic centre and port it was taken by Ali Pasha Tepelena in 1812. Although an important town throughout history its claim to fame came on November 28th, 1912, when the National Assembly of Albania declared the independence of Albania in Vlora, to end a five century Ottoman rule. The town was the first capital of independent Albania.
Saranda (alb. Sarandë) the gateway to the southern Albania, is a small town of about 22.000 inhabitants (2008 est.), situated on a beautiful horseshoe bay between a mountains and the Ionian Sea. The name Saranda derives from an early Christian monastery dedicated to Agioi Saranta (Forty Saints). Situated opposite of Corfu island, Saranda is often visited by day trippers who come to enjoy this previously inaccessible resort. There are daily ferry services to and from Corfu available. The sea panorama, the variety of flora, favored by the soft climate and warm sea waters, make Saranda the preferred center for rest and recreation and an important tourist town. Honeymooners traditionally spend their holidays here. Saranda has an excellent climate, averaging 290 sunny days a year. In the summer temperatures rarely exceed 30 degrees during the day, while the sea breeze at night is quite refreshing. Saranda is an old town, first settled by the Illyrian tribe of Chaonians who named it Onchesmus. Cicero mentions it as convenient harbor with favorable winds. The bay on which town is build gives Saranda its charming look, that can be better appreciated if approached from the sea. Many mosaics found in the town confirm that the town must have seen some above average development around 2nd and 3rd century AD. The town is a good base for exploring the most beautiful part of the Albanian coast – a strip also known as the Albanian riviera. Tthe coastal road to Vlore is also wonderful. Near Saranda there are the ruins of the ancient city of Butrint and the Springs of “Blue Eye”. You can also visit the museum city, Gjirokastra. It is about 1.5 hours by bus.
Butrint – one of the most important archeological finds in Albania, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Butrint was an ancient city throughout Greek, Roman, bishopric and Byzantine periods. The city was finally abandoned during the Middle Ages perhaps due to the marsh surrounding and subsequent malaria epidemic. Despite being one of the greatest classical cities of the Mediterranean, Butrint remains largely unknown. The current archaeological site includes an impressive Greek amphitheatre, a Byzantine Basilica (the largest in the world after Hagia Sophia in Istanbul), a Roman temple with mosaic floor, a beautifully carved Lion’s gate as well numerous constructions built throughout the periods. Furthermore, what you see is just 15% of what lies beneath.
Gjirokastra (alb. Gjirokastër) – situated in southern Albania, Gjirokastra perches on the steep side of the Drino valley overlooking an historic landscape framed by snow-capped mountains.This ‘city of a thousand steps’ comprises hundreds of Ottoman-style tower houses with distinctive stone roofs, wooden balconies and whitewashed stone walls. Dominated by the sheer flanks of its vast castle, Gjirokastra is a magical city with a tumultuous past. From feudal stronghold to Ottoman jewel to Italian colony, the city has known many rulers and has inspired poets, authors and artists. Its old town is inscribed on the World Heritage List as “a rare example of a well-preserved Ottoman town, built by farmers of large estate.” Known by many as the City of Stone, Gjirokastra is a developing centre for cultural heritage tourism. A walk around the network of cobbled streets that climb steeply out of the bazaar will transport you back in time. A visit to the vast 13th-century castle brings the adventurous tales of medieval rulers and communist atrocities alive. There is much to see in Gjirokastra and the surrounding areas, and a stay in bed and breakfast accommodation in one of the converted Ottoman houses can make an excellent base for exploring the region. Gjirokastra is an ancient city with traces of human habitation dating back to the 1st century BC. It is located on the slopes of the Wide Mountain (Mali i Gjer), overlooking the Drinos river. The city was probably founded some time in the 12th century AD around a fortress on the hillside. Under the rule of the Byzantine Empire, it developed into a major commercial centre known as Argyropolis (Silver City). The city was part of the Byzantine Despotate of Epirus in the 14th century before passing to the Ottoman Empire in 1417. It was captured in 1811 by the Albanian-born Ali Pasha, who carved out his own semi-autonomous fiefdom in the southwestern Balkans. In the late 19th century, when the city was the capital of the sandjak of Ergiri in the Yanya vilayet, it became a centre of resistance to Turkish rule. The Assembly of Gjirokastra, a key event in the history of the Albanian liberation movement, was held there in 1880.
Përmet is a town in Albania, capital of Përmet District. The population is 7,717. It is flanked by the Vjosë river, which runs along the Trebeshinë-Dhëmbel-Nemërçkë mountain chain, between Trebeshinë and Dhëmbel mountains, and through the Këlcyra gorge. The greenest and the cleanest town in Albania, also known as the “city of roses.” The small town of Përmet is famous for its folk music and renown clarinetist Laver Bariu, literature personalities, and the good cooking, especially sweets, the so called ‘gliko’, or preserves. You will be served good wine and raki in Përmet and around. The thing to do in Përmet is to climb a big rock , it’s very near to the center of the town, it’s called the rock of town looking over the town and Vjosa river. Let’s say this is the point of observation of the town.There is a famous Spa very near to Përmet, in Bënja, you may take a taxi or even walk if you want. Ask around for directions, the location is south of Përmet. The hot spring is situated in a scenic route. They are found in the village of Benje. There are outdoor hot waters.
The alpine town of Ersekë is the perfect place to explore all that Albania has to offer! You will experience the hospitality and generosity of the Albanian people in a breath-taking mountain setting. Ersekë is located on the national road between Gjirokaster and Korce. It is at the foot of the Gramozi Mountains that separate Albania and Greece. Mount Gramozi is the third-highest peak in Albania, and you can climb to the top in one afternoon. In addition to hiking in the Gramozi Mountains, there are a variety of other natural and cultural experiences that Ersekë offers. You can navigate your way through The Gorge, or visit the Ersekë Cultural Museum. Ersekë is proud of its rich history, and has been the birthplace and home to many Albanian patriots and educators.
Korce (alb. Korçë or Korça) is the largest city of south eastern part of Albania. It is situated at the foot of Morava Mountain on a plateau 800 m above sea level, near the border with Greece. It has a population of around 62,900 people (2008 estimate), making it the seventh largest city in Albania. Korce is said to be the cleanest town in Albania. It has old buildings in various states of repair surrounding the Cathedral which was built in 1992. Quaint cobblestown streets run between and behind the main streets. Korce became an important trading and handicraft centre in the 18th century due to the development of trade with neighboring regions. It has been an important religious center for Orthodox Christians and Muslims for centuries. During the Ottoman period it became one of the centres of the growing Albanian identity. The first school teaching in the Albanian language was established there in 1887, followed by Albania’s first school for girls in 1891.
The city of Pogradec and its surrounding area, as one of the Albanian beauty pearls, provides much to discover for its visitors. The region dominated by the fantastic Ohrid Lake, surrounded by fields nestled before picturesque mountains, will be your panorama throughout your holidays in Pogradec. The harmony of nature, and the friendliness of the inhabitants, will bring you back again and again. The sunny days at the beaches along the lake, the strolls along the promenade, as well as the various specialty dishes and local wine enjoyed in the restaurants will provide unforgettable moments for you. Pogradeci is one of the most charming tourist resorts in Albania because of its position near the Ohrid Lake, which distinguishes itself for clear water. Fish Koran, which is similar to the trout, is reared in this lake. Besides the beautiful beach, your staying in Pogradec is made more interesting by the excursion to the tourist center of Drilon (5 km eastward) with crystal clear fountains that fill the beautiful channels surrounded with trees and by ornamental plants. Lake Ohrid and its surrounding area shines as a splendidly unique ecosystem. Due to its historic culture and its unique flora and fauna, in 1980, Pogradec was declared by UNESCO as a place of worldwide natural and cultural heritage. For everybody, during all four seasons, this city offers opportunities to relax and have fun. This may be the reason why more and more people return again and again to Pogradec.
Elbasan is a city in central Albania. It is located on the Shkumbin River in the District of Elbasan and the County of Elbasan. Elbasan was – until the beginning of the Second World War – one of the most pleasant and unspoiled Ottoman cities in Albania, with a mixture of eastern and medieval buildings, narrow cobbled streets and a large bazaar where Turkish could still be heard. There was a clearly defined Christian settlement within the castle walls, a Vlach district on the outskirts of the city and several fine mosques and Islamic buildings. At the time the population was about 15,000 people. Elbasan came into prominenece in the Roman period when it was known as Masio Scampa. The word Scampa means rocks or peaks in the ancient Illyrian language. The Romans built a substantial fortress here, about 300 meters square, protected by towers. In the 3rd and 4th centuries it became known as Hiskampis. It had developed as an important trade and transport centre near the junction of two branches of the Via Egnatia coming from Apollonia and Dyrrachium, a main road artery in the land communications and trade and commercial interchanges between the Apennine Peninsula, on one side and the Balkan Peninsula and the East on the other. The surrounding walls of the town were built in the 4th century, having 3 entrances and 26 towers. Its fortress was built during the reign of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I (483-565) by which time Skampa had become the seat of a Bishopic with a Cathedral and a Basilica outside its surrounding walls. After the failure of the second Turkish siege of Kruja, Sultan Muhamet II rebuilt the fortress in 1466 and renamed the town Elbasan (El-basan is turkish for Fortress).
Highlights of the tour
- Durres Amphitheatre.
- Berat Castle.
- Apollonia Archaeological Park.
- Kuzum Baba Vlore. Llogora National Park.
- Lekursi Castle, Butrint, 3 Islands, Blue Eye Spring.
- Gjirokastra Castle. Viroi Lake.
- Tepelena Cold Water Spring.
- Rock of Permeti. Benja Hot Springs.
- Vjosa River Canyons.
- Erseke, Leskovik, Shelegur Lake.
- Korca Old Quarter, Birra Korca Brewery.
- Ohri Lake. Drilon Park
- Elbasan Castle.
Meet and greet with the group at hotel lobby. We’ll start the tour with Durres where we will visit The Amphitheatre, The Roman Baths, The Forum and the Old City Walls. After a short stop for coffee we will depart to Berat, about an hour away. Lunch in Berat and then we start exploring the old quarters and the castle. Overnight in Berat. The second day morning starts with a visit at Apollonia Archaeological Park in Fier, approximately 1.5 hours away from Berat. Then we continue to Vlore where we will have lunch by the seaside. In the afternoon we will visit the Murad Mosque, The Jewish Quarter, The Kuzum Baba Holy Shrine and Vlora’s boulevard, famous for its long walks in the afternoon. Overnight in Orikum. The thir day morning we start driving up the Llogora mountain, to explore one of the most beautiful parts of the Albanian coast. After a short break for coffee in Llogora National Park, we start descending from the other side of the mountain, where old villages stuck in time make up the Albanian Riviera. We will pass through them and stop in Himara for lunch by the seaside. Then we proceed to Saranda where we will visit the Lekursi Castle and have a coffee in one of the most picturesque parts of Albania. Free time to enjoy the sea breeze and overnight in Saranda. The fourth day starts with a visit at Butrint Archaeological Park, some 30 minutes away. Return to Ksamil for lunch by the seaside, in the famous 3 Islands beach. After lunch we continue to Blue Eye Spring, famous for its surreal bluish colours. Then we drive up the Muzina pass to reach Gjirokaster. Free time to stroll around the old part of the city. The fifth day starts with a visit at the castle and then a short stop at Viroi lake. Then we proceed to Tepelena Cold Water spring, where we will stop for lunch. Then we proceed to Permet, some 45 minutes away. We will visit the Rock of Permet and then we will proceed to Benja Hot Springs. Then we proceed to Farma Sotira Hotel where we will pass the night. The 6th day morning starts with a drive to Erseke and then to Korce, approx. 2 hours away. We will visit the old quarter of Korca and its famous boulevard. Lunch in Korce, next to Birra Korca Brewery. Free time in the afternoon. Overnight in Korce. The 7th day we drive to Pogradec where we will visit Drilon Park and then we take the road to Elbasan. Lunch before leaving the Ohri Lake, by its side. After one hour we reach Elbasan where we will stop inside the old castle for a coffee break. Then we will visit the old quarter. Then we take the road to Tirane, approx. 45 minutes away. End of the program.