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Lands of the Geg and Tosk (North & South Albania) - Wild Ways Travel

Lands of the Geg and Tosk (North & South Albania)

Lands of the Geg and Tosk (North & South Albania)

from €999.0 per person, 1-10 people

Description

LAND OF THE GEG & LAND OF THE TOSK – 13 DAYS IN ALBANIA (& A BIT OF KOSOVO)

This all-encompassing tour is designed for travelers who love culture, history, food and experiencing nature and stunning landscapes!  It is our most popular tour for a reason.

Fully escorted, a fun and knowledgeable guide will be with you for the duration of the trip to impart the story of this fascinating country and will be your personal driver as you move from one destination to the next. Focusing mainly in Albania (with a brief sojourn into Kosovo), this two week tour is the most in-depth one we offer on purely Albanian heritage, geography and history. Get off the beaten path to discover some parts rarely visited by outsiders! Encompassing Albania’s two distinctive regions (the northern Geg and southern Tosk areas, which you can do as individual trips rather than a whole – see itinerary below), it will surely be an amazing experience.

We’ve designed this tour for English-speaking travelers with an itinerary that offers a pleasant lack of super-early starts – most departure times are around 9:00 in the morning.  We have managed to avoid long drives – most days you will end up at the next destination with plenty of daylight hours left to explore, relax and eat. The tour allows a lot of flexibility (a good balance of guidance and freedom) and provides opportunities to experience and learn as much as possible from this surprising region of the Balkans!

We would recommend that visitors arrange to arrive in Albania the day before the tour – we will collect you at the airport and can assist you in making arrangements at a suitable hotel for that night. The tour arrangements on the final day are designed to get you back to Tirana in time to catch a late flight home. If you prefer, we can arrange for you to spend an extra night in Tirana and we will take you to the airport the next day. We can also arrange for you to stay longer should you wish to have more time to explore.

Itinerary

Northern Albania – Geg Itinerary

Day 1

  • Meet your Albanian Trip representative and transfer to the Northern town of Shkodra (approx. 1 hour 30’ drive) close to the border of mountainous Montenegro.
  • Visit the castle and central part of the town.
  • Welcome meal at a traditional restaurant.
  • Overnight in Shkodra at a beautiful hotel with a lovely courtyard.

Shkodra is one of the oldest and most populated cities in Albania’s north.  With gorgeous panoramas on the way there and a surprisingly cosmopolitan and compact downtown core, unwinding after your journey to get here couldn’t be easier.  Dinner is a great time to get to know your fellow travelers – the food is delicious and the conversation lively! This is a great destination from which to begin your Albanian adventure.

Day 2

  • Transfer to Koman Lake (approx. 2 hour drive) to ferry across possibly one of the best lake rides in the world! (approx. 2.5-3 hours through mountain passes)
  • Arrive on the other side of the lake and transfer to Valbona (approx. 1h drive) through the northern town of Bajram Curri.
  • Free time to visit the beautiful surrounding area and to relax and enjoy the atmosphere.
  • Dinner and overnight in a family guesthouse in Valbona.

Valbona is a small village sandwiched between stunning mountains, a craggy landscape and endless trees.  The flora and fauna, homes, people, food, traditions and animals all add to the mystique of this place that is seemingly lost in time. Jaw-dropingly beautiful, the stark isolation and sense of community here will, for many, be the highlight of life in the Albanian mountains.  And bring an extra battery for your camera – the ferry and village will have you snapping shots all day long!

Day 3 

  • Visit the village of Valbona and the surrounding area.
  • We’ll organize a lunch in one of the local stans (shepherd’s hut) -this will involve a fairly easy walk uphill. We’ll be able to drive you there in case you prefer not to walk.
  • For those interested, we could organize a more serious walk on this day (approximately 600 meters of change in altitude) with a nice stroll through a mainly covered forested area. Those that prefer to relax will be accompanied back to the hotel at the end of lunch.
  • Free time to enjoy the afternoon and dinner time.
  • Overnight in Valbona to breathe in all the fresh mountain air.

Day 4

  • Transfer from the Valley of Valbona to the Kosovo border (approx. 1 hour drive.)
  • Visit the Kosovar town of Gjakova. Its bazaar has been recently restored and offers a nice atmosphere and a couple of really interesting places to visit. Lunch time in the bazaar of Gjakova.
  • Visit of the Serbian Monastery of Decan. It has amazing frescoes and its history may be told to us by one of the many monks that still live on site.
  • Transfer to Prizren (approx. 1 hour drive.) Visit the historical town and talk about the old and recent history of Kosovo.
  • Overnight in a comfortable and very modern central hotel in the historical part of Prizren.

Kosovo has a unique and complicated history – get a chance to learn some of it and be pleasantly surprised at the hospitality and friendliness you encounter here!  A country-in-flux, there has never been a more exciting time to visit.  Prizren, a town of shops, mosques, churches and old bridges, compares to many Western European cities in culture and beauty.

Southern Albania – Tosk Itinerary

Day 5 

(Day 1 for those who join us on this day. Although you can start from here, we definitely suggest starting with the first day of the Geg Itinerary! )

For those already on the tour:

  • Breakfast and transfer back to the Albanian border.
  • Drive through the town of Kukes along the spectacular Highway of the Nation which offers amazing views of the Albanian mountains (approx. 3 hour drive.)
  • Arrival in Tirana
  • Walking tour of Tirana (Ethem Bey Mosque, Skanderbeg Square, New Bazaar)
  • Tour of the Albanian National History Museum
  • Dinner with any new friends who might join us for the second portion of the tour.
  • Overnight at a charming central hotel in Tirana.

The Historical Museum will help make sense of much of the trip, from pre-history to the impact of King Zog. There’s also a hall dedicated to Albania’s struggle against fascism, when Enver Hoxha was aided by Britain’s Special Operations Executive (he never said “thank you”, oddly.)

For those joining us today:

  • Meet Albanian Trip representative at airport or in Tirana, transfer to hotel.
  • Welcome meal at traditional restaurant.
  • Overnight Tirana.

If no one new joins those who’ve been traveling from the north, we will continue accordingly! Tirana is Albania’s small and chaotic capital and there are plenty of things to do -you can easily walk around the central area of Skanderbeg Square and Bllok without needing to get a taxi. Just take care crossing the road – Albanians didn’t have cars until the 1990s and still haven’t gotten a grip on driving…

Day 6

  • Transfer to Kruja (approx. 45 minute drive.)
  • Tour the Skanderbeg and Ethnographic museums, visit the citadel, Bektashi (very special Sufi-inspired version of Islam) Teqe and bazaar.
  • Transfer to Durrës (approx. 45 minute drive.)
  • Free time for lunch at one of the many beach-side seafood restaurants.
  • Guided tour of the Durrës archaeological museum. Visit the Roman Amphitheater.
  • Transfer to Tirana (approx. 30 minute drive.)
  • Free evening, overnight Tirana.

The ancient city of Kruja was the stronghold of Albania’s national hero, Skanderbeg, who successfully fought off the Ottomans for 25 years in the 15th century. A museum dedicated to Skanderbeg, designed by Enver Hoxha’s daughter, sits within the citadel walls. The small bazaar is probably the best place to go souvenir hunting in Albania.

Durrës is a port and resort town, popular with Albanians in the summer. Although an ancient city, little remains of its archaeological heritage (it does have great seafood, though!) The archaeological museum has a refined collection of objects and monuments that you will love.

Day 7

  • Tour of Bunk’Art and National Gallery of Arts
  • Transfer to Korça at (approx. 3 hour drive, with coffee stop at Lake Ohrid en route.)
  • Short walking tour of Korça’s bazaar and, if time allows, the Martyrs’ Cemetery.
  • Free evening, overnight Korça.

The National Art Gallery is one of Tirana’s highlights, with a floor dedicated to Albania’s own unique brand of socialist-realist art. It’s inspired from a time when your career could be cut short if Hoxha’s wife thought your work had hidden capitalist meaning. The very recently opened Bunk’Art 2 is a chain of former Nomenclature shelters to protect the high officials from an eventual enemy attack (some of us think it’s unfortunate this never happened).

The drive to Korça is extremely scenic, taking us down (generally!) good roads, and along the shore of Lake Ohrid, which shares a border with Macedonia. Korça itself is a charming, atmospheric town, with cobbled back streets and crumbling villas from King Zog’s era.

Day 8 

  • Tour of Korça’s museum of Medieval Art (mainly Byzantine fine art and elegant icons.)
  • Return to hotel for check-out.
  • Transfer to Përmet (approx. 3 hour drive with stop for lunch).
  • Transfer to Gjirokastra (approx. 1hour 30’ drive)
  • Check-in to hotel; free evening.

Korça’s museum of medieval art is deservedly famous and not many group tour itineraries take travelers to Korça – we think you’ll be pleased you came! This is one of the few longer drives, but we’ve made sure it’s a special one. The road from Korça to Përmet is one of the most beautiful in Albania, or even Europe -keep your eyes peeled for eagles! Përmet has an unhappy war story, having been burned on several occasions by the Italians and Germans.

Day 9

  • Visit citadel and a traditional house. Option of a free  walking tour of town.
  • Transfer to Blue Eye (aprox 1 hour drive)
  • Transfer to Butrint (approx. 1 hour drive) for tour of site (around 2 hours.)
  • Transfer to Qeparo Village( aprox 1.30  hour drive) .Overnight in Qeparo

Gjirokastra is one of Albania’s two UNESCO World Heritage ‘cities’ (by normal standards, it’s better described as a medium-sized town.) It’s a lovely place, with cobbled streets and beautiful old stone houses, many of true Ottoman style. It’s the very proud birthplace of both Enver Hoxha (infamous) and the (famous) writer Ismail Kadare.

Butrint is deservedly one of the Mediterranean’s most famous archaeological sites. At this time of year we’re likely to have it almost to ourselves, and the temperatures should be pleasant, too.

Day 10 

  • Walking tour of Old Qeparo Village
  • Transfer to Porto Palermo(approx 15 min drive)
  • Lunch, followed by a brief tour of Ali Pasha’s fortress.
  • Free time at the beach
  • Transfer to our hotel, overnight in Qeparo

Porto Palermo is a beautiful bay, with a small fortress in which Ali Pasha (of Byron fame) used to get up to all sorts of disgraceful shenanigans. It’s a lovely setting for our lunch stop.

Day 11

Transfer to Llogara(approx. 1 hour 20’ drive.)

  • Option of free time or walking in the national park with a visit to the nearby camping ground of Julius Caesar.
  • Transfer to Apollonia (approx. 1h 30’ drive.)
  • Transfer to Berat with a short stop at the Monastery of St. Mary of Ardenica (the only one still hosting 2-3 active Orthodox monks.)
  • Meal in traditional restaurant
  • Overnight in Berat

The Llogara Pass is always a high point (literally) on any tour of Albania. We’ll climb up from sea level to an altitude of 1,000 meters in about 20 minutes, enjoying magnificent views of the coast along the way (yes, we’ll stop for a photo.)  Apollonia that we’ll visit next has the reputation of being the “Oxford” of antiquity and a beautiful setting between a valley and the Adriatic Sea. It hosts a really fine archeological museums with original artefacts from the site itself.

The Church of St. Mary at Ardenica is well worth a stop – under communism it was used as a military storeroom, which perhaps explains how its wood carvings and icons are so well preserved.

Day 12

  • Walking tour of the citadel, visit the 13th-century Cathedral for the Assumption of the Holy Mother and iconography museum.
  • Visit of Mangalem and Gorica neighborhood
  • The rest of the day will be left at your own leisure to enjoy and relax.
  • Farewell supper at Tomi’s restaurant.
  • Overnight Berat.

Berat is Albania’s second UNESCO World Heritage City, with white-washed Ottoman villas clinging to the side of a rocky hill on which sits a small citadel and eight hidden medieval churches.

Day 13

  • Drive to the Natural Park of Divjaka and visit its Karavasta Lagoon with a beautiful sand beach resort and a great colony of migratory and sedentary birds (a large population of the the very impressive Dalmatian Pelican has decided to nest here.)
  • Lunch in the lagoon.
  • Transfer to airport for flight back home. (We’ll be glad to organize a longer stay, a transfer within Albania or transfers to any of the surrounding countries.)
Price and information

We will price the tour according to the number of guests and conditions.

Payment Options: We accept bank transfers, PayPal and we have a debit terminal/POS available at our  office in order to accept Debit, VISA and Mastercard payments (please keep in mind that 5% of the total will be added for the latter option.)  We can also accept cash payments where applicable.

The tour price includes:

  • Transfer in AC vehicle with professional driver.
  • Character boutique family-run 3-4 star hotels with breakfasts (we can send you more details on accommodation before you book the tour.) Accommodation in twin or matrimonial.
  • All breakfasts, welcome and goodbye meals. (This doesn’t mean we’ll be indifferent in recommending dishes, wines, rakis and restaurants where you can partake in a delicious Albanian culinary experience!)
  • All entrance fees to museums and visited areas.
  • English speaking tour guide for the whole trip.
  • Local taxes. (VAT Tax – 20%)

The tour price does not include:

  • Airfare.
  • Travel Insurance.
  • Tips for the guide and driver.
  • Anything which is not mentioned in the above section.

from €999.0 per person, 1-10 people

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