Macedonia & Albania Explorer
- 9 Days
- 9 Days
- Prices From:
- US$ 2,932
FIRST-CLASS | TAILOR-MADE: This affordable tour introduces you to two Balkan destinations that are emerging European hotspots: Macedonia and Albania. As you venture through the countries, and connect into neighbouring Kosovo and Greece, you’ll explore the historical centres and natural landscapes that make this region so mesmerizing.
This 9-day Balkan vacation takes you through Macedonia, Kosovo, Albania, and Greece. It features first-class accommodations, escorted tours, and is perfect for travellers wanting to explore lesser-visited countries in Southeastern Europe.
Your journey begins in Skopje, the capital of Macedonia. After meeting your guide, you’ll connect into Kosovo and the lovely town of Prizren. A two-hour sightseeing tour will showcase the Ottoman-style mansions, mosques, and churches of this city known as the “museum under the open sky.” Close out the tour in Shadervan Square, where you can spend some time at a café admiring the marble fountain. Cross the border into Albania and reach Kukes, the first town in the world nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize when it took in 450,000 refugees during the Kosovo War in 1998. Continue to the medieval town of Kruja, where you’ll explore the old Ottoman-style market street and admire the surrounding mountain peaks. You’ll reach Tirana in the afternoon, where you’ll head on a walking tour to see the sights, including Tirana Castle and the Presidential Palace.
Spend the next couple days exploring Albania. First stop is Berat, known as the “Town of a Thousand Windows” for its lovely buildings and preserved Ottoman architecture. Climb to Berat Castle and enjoy views over the city and the Osum River. Explore the nearby ancient city of Apollonia, founded in the 7th century BC, before arriving in Vlore, where a brief city tour will take you to Muradie Mosque and introduce you to the Albanian Riviera. Continue along the Ionian Sea and visit Ali Pasha Castle, the UNESCO-listed archaeological site of Butrint, supposedly founded by the Trojans after the sack of Troy, with its series of ruins. After exploring the history of the region, connected to Saranda.
Cross the border into the Epirus region of Greece and visit Bitola, on Lake Pamvotida. After seeing a few historical buildings, take a boat ride on the lake to visit the Monastery of St. Panteleimon. Return to the mainland and cross the border into Macedonia, passing through a mountainous landscape on route to Bitola, the second-largest city in the country. This city dates back to the 4th century and is known as the City of Consuls. A walking tour will showcase the city’s cultural diversity. Continue through Pelister National Park, one of the first protected national parks in the Balkans. Enjoy mountain views on route to Ohrid, where you’ll head on a walking tour to see some of the 365 churches that define the city. Spend a full day in Ohrid exploring its history and heading on a morning boat ride across Lake Ohrid to the Monastery of St. Naum. Afterwards, connect to Mavrovo National Park and reach Mavrovo Lake before arriving in Skopje.
On your final day in Macedonia, you’ll head on a walking tour of the capital, discovering the Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman, and Yugoslav influences that have shaped it over 2,500 years. During your tour, you’ll visit the memorial house of Mother Teresa, where she was baptized, cross the old Stone Bridge, and explore the Old Skopje Bazaar, which is one of the largest Ottoman-style bazaars in Europe. At the end of your stay, your guide will connect you to the airport, where you’ll board your flight back home or to your onward destination.
- 9 Days
- 9 Days
- Prices From:
- US$ 2,932
Itinerary View Trip Map
Upon arrival at Macedonia's Skopje airport, meet your English-speaking driver-guide for a 'Meet and Greet' before you start your journey to the wonderfully intriguing city of Prizren in Kosovo. If the border crossing is busy, the drive can take up to three hours and once you arrive in Prizren, you'll check into your hotel and have some free time for lunch (not included). Following lunch, and after you freshened up, meet your guide and enjoy a 2-hour sightseeing tour of Prizren. The city, nestled in a valley of the Sharr Mountains at the banks of the fast-flowing Bistrica River, is simply beautiful. The ruins of a hilltop citadel overlook the river, streaming underneath several bridges that criss-cross the city, as well as the historical part of town with its cobblestoned Shadervan Square below. As you wander around the streets, you'll see buildings that still carry scars from the Balkan wars and, almost opulent, Ottoman-styled mansions. Throughout history, Prizren enjoyed a reputation as a melting pot of cultures and religious tolerance, and you still see Mosques next to Catholic and Orthodox churches, with their respective minarets, domes and towers reaching up into the sky. You'll stroll past many of the city's highlights, including the Church of Our Lady of Ljevis, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Sinan Pasha Mosque and the Prizren League House museum. No wonder, the city is also known as the 'The Museum under the Open Sky'. Shadervan Square is a bustling place, packed with tables from its many cafes and a lovely marble fountain in the center. After a pleasurable walk around the city, your guide will take you back to your hotel and the rest of your day is at leisure.
Hotel Kacinari is a modern property and enjoys a central location in Prizren, with marvelous historical sites such as Sinan Pasha Mosque and Mahmet Pasha Hamam and the Albanian League of Prizren Museum all within an easy ten-minute walk. Meanwhile, the impressive Kalaja Fortress Prizren …
Hotel Kacinari is a modern property and enjoys a central location in Prizren, with marvelous historical sites such as Sinan Pasha Mosque and Mahmet Pasha Hamam and the Albanian League of Prizren Museum all within an easy ten-minute walk. Meanwhile, the impressive Kalaja Fortress Prizren can be reached on foot in about a quarter of an hour. The hotel offers non-smoking rooms, all of which are well appointed and offer all modern amenities expected by today's travelers.
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Prizren - Tirana
After breakfast, it's a 40-minute drive across the border into Albania to Kukës, famous for being the first ever town to be nominated for the Nobel Peace prize after taking in 450,000 refugees from Kosovo, which was then part of Serbia, during the Kosovo War in 1998 and 1999. It combines urban qualities, such as its tower-like traditional buildings, with the alpine splendour of the surrounding Valbona National Park. The dramatic Gjallica Mountains are a local landmark and can be seen from almost anywhere in town. Continuing your journey, your driver-guide will stop at Mic Sokoli Tower and Bajram Curri Mill, 18th century towers of historical and cultural significance. Just admiring the stunning natural area surrounding it is worth the trip. From here, it is less than two hours before you reach the medieval town of Kruja, beautifully set among mountainous peaks with its green valley stretching all the way to the Adriatic coast. The old market street in the tiny old center of town is fascinating, filled with delightful Ottoman-era architecture. You'll visit the bazaar and then go up to the Kruja fortress, built in the 15th century, which is now called the Skanderbeg Museum after a national hero of Albania. After lunch (not included) you are on your way to Tirana, just 45 minutes away. You'll have some time to refresh after checking into your hotel before you meet your guide to embark on a 2-hour walking tour of the city. Despite a somewhat harsh past, Tirana is a city on the verge of big changes, moving forward in a very positive spirit. Your tour includes highlights such as the Skanderbeg Monument outside the National Museum on Skanderbeg Square, the Palace of Culture, the Et'hem Bey Mosque, the Clock Tower and Tirana Castle. Walking past Catholic and Orthodox cathedrals, you'll see the Presidential Palace, Mother Teresa Square and the delightfully bourgeois district of Blloku where the communist elite use to live but is quite an upmarket area today with boutiques, shops, restaurants, pubs, trendy bars and cafes. After this enjoyable introduction to Albania's capital, your guide walks you back to your hotel and the rest of your day is at leisure.
Metro Hotel Tirana
Metro Hotel Tirana
A modern and comfortable property, located in the heart of Tirana, inside the well- known area of Blloku, the affluent part of the city that was once the address of choice by the communist elite. You are close to great shopping, restaurants, bars, cafes, and …
A modern and comfortable property, located in the heart of Tirana, inside the well- known area of Blloku, the affluent part of the city that was once the address of choice by the communist elite. You are close to great shopping, restaurants, bars, cafes, and artsy places. Historical places such as the National Theatre, the Opera and Skanderbeg Square are within 15-20 minutes walking distance. The rooms are spacious and feature many thoughtful amenities, including those typically expected by today's travelers.
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Tirana - Vlore
Your first stop on today's journey is Berat. Looking at the beautiful houses, climbing up the steep hill around the old town, the most fascinating part is the seemingly endless number of windows, the reason why it is called 'Town of a Thousand Windows'. The views are truly stunning, and many consider Berat the best-preserved Ottoman city in the Balkans. It was declared a Museum City in 1961, followed by its designation as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2008. Walking from your hotel you'll pass a little curio, the Bachelors' Mosque built for unmarried shop assistants, which is perched between some fine Ottoman-era shopfronts along the Osumi river. This area is the traditionally Muslim Mangalem quarter, a prime spot for the famous view up towards the cascading facades of houses. Enjoy and explore the maze of narrow, tiny cobbled streets, dotted with cafes and restaurants. Although the climb to Berat Castle, at the very top is quite steep, the breathtaking view over the entire city and the old Gorica bride across the Osum River, is worth the effort. Inside, the castle reveals a town of its own with houses, bars and restaurants, churches, bazaars, museums and monuments, surrounded by an extraordinary lush landscape. Finish your tour on the pedestrian street by Gorica Bridge, before you have some free time for lunch (not included). After lunch, your journey continues to the ancient city of Apollonia, founded by Greek colonists in the 7th century BC. It's a magical place, located on top of a hill offering a panoramic view over the city of Fier and your first sight of Albania's coastline. Apart from the ancient ruins you can also visit the Holy Mary Monastery which today serves as a museum. After this stop, it's just an hour before you arrive at Vlorë. Check into your hotel and meet your guide again for a brief tour of the city. Vlorë was founded as an ancient Greek colony in the 6th century BC in the name of Aulón. Continuously inhabited for about 26 centuries it was, for a short time, even the capital of Albania. Temptingly situated on the Bay of Vlorë, with a fabulous backdrop of mountains, it is the starting point of the 'Albanian Riviera'. The city carries historical importance hosting the First National Assembly that declared the country's independence from Ottoman rule in 1912. As part of your brief sightseeing tour you'll visit the Muradie Mosque, one of the most beautiful buildings in town which became the Museum of Architecture in 1967 when all mosques and churches were banned by the communist regime. Today Vlorë boasts a wide beach boulevard with tree-lined walkways and pretty sitting areas. Shiny apartment buildings and hotels line up all along the promenade, as do a great number of restaurants, cafes and pubs.
Regina City Hotel
Regina City Hotel
The Regina City Hotel is one of the newest hotels in Vlore, located a one minute walk across from a beach on the Adriatic Sea. Numerous restaurants, bars and cafes are just steps away from the property while the historically significant Muradie Mosque is an …
The Regina City Hotel is one of the newest hotels in Vlore, located a one minute walk across from a beach on the Adriatic Sea. Numerous restaurants, bars and cafes are just steps away from the property while the historically significant Muradie Mosque is an easy 4 km drive into the heart of Vlore's old section. Among the public spaces are a beautiful rooftop pool and restaurant with great views over the sea and the city. Rooms feature floral-inspired wall murals, are nicely furnished and offer all the amenities you would expect from a contemporary hotel.
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Vlore - Sarande
After an early breakfast at your hotel, you can look forward to a day exploring Albanian castles of historical significance while never losing sight of the shimmering Ionian Sea. The Ali Pasha Castle at Porto Palermo, your first stop, is often referred to as the crown jewel of the Albanian Riviera. Sitting atop a hill it offers fantastic views. Contrary to what is commonly claimed it was, most probably, built by the Venetians as opposed to Ali Pashë Tepelena, a ruthless and cruel tyrant who carved out his own area of influence by exploiting the internal weaknesses of the Ottoman Empire. He ultimately came to a gruesome end, as you will find out later during this trip. You might also notice several abandoned buildings on the beach area nearby. They were used by the country's communist dictatorship as prisons until government reform happened in the early 90s. From Porto Palermo, you travel further south to Sarandë, where you'll arrive in time for lunch (not included) and to check into your hotel. The afternoon is set aside to visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Butrint, one of the most remarkable archaeological sites in the Adriatic Sea region. Legend has it that the city was founded by fleeing Trojans after the burning of Troy in the 12th Century B.C. and it certainly provides a glimpse into Mediterranean civilization from the Bronze Age through the Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Venetian and Ottoman periods. Your tour starts at the mouth of the Vivari Channel, hiding another Ali Pasha castle, often missed by visitors. Continue to the Monumental Center with the Asclepius Temple, the Theater, the Roman Baths, the Roman Forum, the Baptistery, and the Cross Basilica. Passing the defensive walls along the coast, you ultimately enter the city by the Lion's Gate and walk up to the Acropolis. The views from Butrint's location atop a cliff, overlooking Corfu, are magnificent. An illuminating day of exploring incredible sites, your driver-guide takes you back to Sarandë where the rest of your day is at leisure. Time does not permit a full sightseeing tour of Sarandë, but you might consider a little walk about on your own. The town itself is built in a kind of amphitheater style with three parallel roads and four sections of stairs leading from the top of the hill down to each of the town's promenades.
Overnight for 1 night at Hotel Brilant Saranda 4*
Sarande - Bitola
It's an early start from Albania today, as you'll be visiting an amazing place in Greece before continuing to Macedonia. Ioannina, the cultural and historical capital of the Epirus region in Greece, around beautiful Lake Pamvotida, is your first port of call. A walk through the city has the feel of a bygone era, full of secret places and living legends. Buildings like the House Matei Hussein, Aslan Pasha Mosque and the Byzantine Museum as well as the entire historic centre of town are unique attractions. Here the coexistence of cultural influences is evident and suggests that Ioannina was always multicultural, with Christian, Islamic and Jewish influences. After sightseeing around town, enjoy a boat trip on the incredibly calm Lake Pamvotida and visit the island with the Monastery of St Panteleimon. It was inside the monastery that the tyrant Ali Pasha died, shot through the floor of his room in 1822 before his head was cut off and presented to the Sultan, who had tired of his machinations. Returning to the mainland, you have free time for lunch (not included) before you continue travelling to Bitola in Macedonia. The drive takes about three hours passing through captivating natural landscapes, until you reach the base of Pelister Mountain, not far from the Greek border. Bitola is the second largest city in Macedonia and one of its oldest, dating back to the 4th century B.C. Once a strategic and diplomatically important trading point, it is still known as the 'city of consuls'. After you have checked into your hotel, meet your guide in the lobby for a walking tour. Like most cities in Macedonia, Bitola's architecture is a cultural mix, featuring monuments and styles of the many cultures that were present in ancient times. The Ottoman-era left the biggest mark, such as its fabulous bazaars, mosques and Turkish baths. You'll also see the modern side of town when you stroll down Sirok Sokak, with elegant houses and a plethora of shops, bars, restaurants, the theater, city museum, galleries, and cafes. This is the place where you can enjoy a coffee while admiring the oldest architectural works and buildings in the Balkans. After your tour of town, your guide walks you back to your hotel and the rest of your day is at leisure.
Overnight for 1 night at Hotel Treff Bitola 3*
Bitola - Ohrid
Today's journey starts, after breakfast, with an elating drive through one of the Balkan's first protected national parks. You'll reach Pelister National Park, stretching alongside Macedonia's southern borderline with Greece, in about an hour. Macedonia's third-highest mountain range, the quartz-filled Baba massif will be in full view and eight of its peaks reach heights of over 6,500 ft, crowned by Mt Pelister itself at an impressive 8,500 ft. The entire area is a mosaic of lush, well-watered forests, unique geological formations, springs, streams and rivers with two glacial lakes, called 'Pelister's Eyes' at the very top. The Pelister National Park's climate is incredibly diverse. On and around the peaks, there is snow even in July, which means that hiking is in most parts best left to travellers with a lot of time on their hands as trail conditions are difficult to predict. Instead, relax and enjoy the captivating views of the surrounding mountains as your driver-guide leaves the park behind and continues towards the serene lakeside setting of Ohrid, 80 km away. It will be time for lunch (not included) when you get close to the lake and before you check into your hotel. You'll meet your guide afterwards for walking tour of the city. At three million years old, Lake Ohrid ranks as one of Europe's oldest and deepest lakes, giving it the prestige of being named as both a cultural and natural UNESCO World Heritage site. Your walking tour starts at St. Sophia Square, the heart of the old town. It seems that there's a medieval church at every corner which explains its sobriquet as the Balkan Jerusalem for its 365 churches; one for each day of the year. There's not enough time to visit all 365, but you are going to see some of the most important ones. Other significant stops include the only Hellenic-styled theatre in Macedonia, the fortress of Car Samuil, the exceptional archeological complex of Plaosnik and, finally, back in the area where you, probably, had lunch, the Church of St. John the Theologian at Kaneo. Your guide will walk you back to your hotel and the rest of your day is at leisure.
Overnight for 1 night at Golden View Ohrid 4*
Your morning starts with a boat ride on Lake Ohrid to the Monastery of St. Naum, a wonderful 90-minute excursion, offering some of the most alluring panoramic views available in Macedonia. Saint Naum of Ohrid, a Bulgarian medieval scholar and writer, who together with Saint Clement arrived here in the 9th century, founded this Eastern Orthodox monastery, a massive complex located just 1 km from the Albanian border. Known as a living saint for the many miracles he performed, he died in 910 at the age of 80 and is buried in the church at the monastery. Legends suggest that if you bring your ear very close to the stone coffin you can hear his heartbeat. Others might tell you that it's the water of Lake Ohrid crushing against the rock formation down below. The views from the monastery's walls are breathtaking and you can enjoy an hour to admire the interior spaces of today's multi-domed byzantine structure, or simply take in the serene surroundings. After lunch (not included) you'll return by car to Ohrid with your driver-guide.
Overnight for 1 night at Golden View Ohrid 4*
Ohrid - Skopje
Leaving the serene lakeside setting of Ohrid, today's journey takes you towards Mavrovo National Park, a region of stunning natural beauty with deep canyons, dramatic peaks and blue lakes that combine with dense forests full of diverse wildlife. The three major mountain ranges reach heights of 9,000 ft. and are an awesome sight, especially when seen from the shores of Mavrovo Lake below. En route, you'll have an opportunity to visit the Monastery St. Jovan Bigorski, built over the remains of an older church dating back to 1021. Set on a steep slope surrounded by dense woods and rocky hills above the banks of the River Radika, St. Jovan reminds some people of the cliff top monasteries of Mt. Athos in Greece. The picturesque canyon valley created by the Radika River adds a special, colourful beauty to this part of the national park. From the monastery your journey continues to Mavrovo Lake, the largest artificial lake in Macedonia and famous for its abundance of trout. Enjoy a leisurely drive around the lake and, at some stage, you'll spot the Church of Saint Nikolas, which was partially submerged when the Radika Dam was built in 1953. The church has been abandoned for a long time and, usually, appears to float on top of the waves. At times, however, water levels can get quite low and the entire structure might be visible, simply stuck in the mud. Importantly, though, it still makes for a great picture. Following your exploration of the lake, your time is free for lunch and your driver-guide will have some appropriate suggestions for you. From the lake, Skopje and your overnight hotel are just 90 minutes away and the rest of your day is at leisure.
Overnight for 1 night at Hotel Panoramika Skopje 4*
Meet your guide, after breakfast, for a fascinating walking tour of Skopje. During its 2,500 years of existence, Macedonia's welcoming capital city has been under Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman and Yugoslav rule, leaving permanent traces that can still be seen in its architecture and mix of cultures. It was rebuilt after a catastrophic earthquake in 1963 and is, today, a forward-looking city that has not abandoned its past. Sleek modern hotels rise above the cobblestoned Ottoman streets and beautiful neoclassical homes are right around the corner from grand old Yugoslav-era buildings, red-bricked Byzantine churches or rounded Turkish mosques, chic cafés and shopping malls. As you walk towards Macedonia Square, a bustling and dynamic place with lots of cafes, you also find the memorial house of Mother Teresa. This is the place where she was baptized as Agneza Gonxha Bojaxhiu and where she used to sing in the church choir as a girl. On your way to the Old Town, you cross the Stone Bridge over the river Vardar that connects Macedonia Square and the Old Skopje Bazaar, neatly dividing the city into two different parts. While the part you just came from looks like a Western European city, once you cross the bridge and set foot into the Old Town it will resemble a Middle Eastern one. Home to one of the largest and best-preserved bazars in Europe it offers an intriguing insight of what it might have looked like during Ottoman times. About thirty mosques, numerous caravanserais, remains of Byzantine architecture, two churches and a clock tower provide the evidence. A short walk to the Fortress Kale, located on a hill, is an opportunity to appreciate the, perhaps, finest view across both parts of the city. From here your driver-guide takes you back to your hotel to refresh and check-out before driving you to Skopje airport for your departure flight.
- Private arrival and departure airport transfers
- Transportation in vehicle with an experienced driver guide
- 1 night first-class accommodation in Prizren, Kosovo
- 1 night first-class accommodation in Tirana, Albania
- 1 night first-class accommodation in Vlore, Albania
- 1 night first-class accommodation in Sarande, Albania
- 1 night first-class accommodation in Bitola, North Macedonia
- 2 nights first-class accommodations in Ohrid, North Macedonia
- 1 night first-class accommodations in Skopje
- Entrance fees and visits including a Boat Trip on Ohrid Lake (shared), Monastery of St. Johan Bigorski, Monastery of St. Naum Ohrid, Church of Saint Spas, Daut Pasha Art Gallery, Museum of National History Tirana, Castle Porto Palermo Vlore, Butrini Archeological park
- Breakfast daily (excluding day 1)
- Travel insurance
- International and domestic airfare & airfare taxes
- Visa fees if applicable
- Meals and beverages not mentioned
- Items of a personal nature
TERMS AND CONDITIONS:
Prices are "from" per person based on twin/double share accommodation and for travel in low season. Seasonal surcharges and blackout dates may apply. Limited seat/spaces and all pricing is subject to change and availability. Rates for single or triple travellers are available on request - please inquire.
16 Dec 2023