Day 1: Arrival Tirana - Shkodër
After breakfast there is time to explore Shkodër. Although the city has a rich past, there is little to be found today. The more than 2000 years old Rozafa Fort is the most important sight and already worth a visit because of the beautiful view of the surroundings. After visiting the fort you drive north into the Albanian Alps, a rugged nature reserve where time seems to have stood still for centuries. Small villages and beautiful views alternate.
Today you fly to Tirana, the capital of Albania. In the course of the evening you land at the Mother Teresa International Airport . From the airport you drive in less than 2 hours to the northern city of Shkodër, one of the oldest cities of Albania. The city lies strategically between the Adriatic Sea and the Albanian Alpsand was already mentioned on Greek coins from 2000 BC. and in the inscriptions of Darius I in Bisotun and Naqs-e Rostam in Iran.
Day 2: Shkodër - Theth
The village of Theth is located in a remote area in the Albanian Alps. Although the village consists of no more than a few houses, it is still known in the Netherlands by the book "The Inn with the Horseshoe" by A. den Doolaard from 1933. The story tells about the blood feud that used to be used here (and apparently even now). However bloody history may be, the village has a beautiful location with the impressive, often snow-covered peaks in the background. The church is perhaps the most photographed building of the village. The defense towers also fall into the Theth area . Many of these towers have been dilapidated or even collapsed, a single one has been restored. In the past, families hid here in times of war or blood feud for the enemy. In Theth you can optionally take a nice walk through the area.
You spend the night in an attractive inn . Dinner at the inn is included.
Day 3: Theth - Krujë - Tirana
Krujë was the capital of the short-lived, 13th-century Albanian kingdom. An impressive castle towers above the old village. The lower bazaar in the old village is a good place to look for Albanian souvenirs such as rugs, sheets, copper and pottery. The castle of Krujë is beautifully situated and the adjacent Skanderbeg museum gives a good introduction to the father of the fatherland. Skanderbeg (1405-1468)It was actually called Gjergj Kastrioti, but was nicknamed Skanderbeg, which is an amalgamation of Iskander (as in Alexander the Great) and Beg (the Turkish title of governor). After making a career in the Ottoman Empire, he rebelled against the Ottoman rulers and withstood 3 invasions in the castle of Krujë. The Ethnographic Museum, located in a 19th-century house opposite the Skanderbeg Museum , is also worth a visit.
From Krujë we drive back to Tirana, a short drive of only 20 km. In the evening you can already get acquainted with the city. Your hotel is located near the central square and the main attractions are within walking distance.
Day 4: Tirana - Durrës - Berat
After breakfast you have time to explore Tirana. The center of the city is the Skanderbeg square surrounded by the National Museum and the Et'hem Bey mosque. At the end of the 1960s, an Albanian Cultural Revolution raged under the policies of Enver Hoxha in Albania . Religious buildings in particular suffered severely and were closed or even destroyed. The 18th-century Et'hem Bey mosque was fortunately spared. In Tirana you can also see various relics from the time of Enver Hoxha. Most striking is the so-called 'Pyramid' , a building of marble and glass designed by the daughter and son-in-law of the dictator. The building would originally serve as Enver Hoxha museum and mausoleum, but it never came that far. It is now mainly used as a slide for children.
After exploring Tirana, we drive through the port city of Durrës to Berat. Durrës is a former Albanian capital and is situated on the Adriatic coast. The archaeological museum of Durrës has a very nice collection of Greek and Roman objects. That the city played a prominent role in ancient Rome is still clearly visible on the street. In the center of the city there is an amphitheater with room for 15,000 people. It was therefore the largest amphitheater in the Balkans .
Berat is one of the most beautiful cities in Albaniaand is seen as an open-air museum. That Albania was part of the Ottoman Empire until 1912 is clearly visible here. The old districts of the Berat are full of beautiful Ottoman houses built against the hills . Because of all the Ottoman houses, Berat is also called the city of the thousand windows. The UNESCO World Heritage area Mangalam is one of the most beautiful to experience this for yourself. During the Albanian Cultural Revolution, the city was virtually spared, allowing mosques, orthodox and catholic churches to be admired at a short distance from each other. From the higher citadel you have a beautiful view of Berat and its surroundings. A wonderful city so to wander around.
Day 5: Berat - Apollonia - Saranda
Our first stop today is the ancient Greek settlement Apollonia , located between the olive groves . After the city was founded by the Greeks in 588 BC. it really came to development under Romans (from 229 BC). A short walk takes you past the most important remains such as the Byzantine church.
The Ionian coast is one of the many beautiful areas that Albania is rich. Albanian and ethnic Greek villages are scattered along the coast and the mountains. The most spectacular part of the trip to the south is the Llongaraja pass . From the wooded mountain area you look out onto the deeper situated Ionian Sea. Our destination is Saranda, near the Greek island of Corfu. Saranda has no less than 290 days of sunshine a year , which makes it an ideal place to enjoy the afternoon sun.
Day 6: Saranda / Optional Butrint
Day off. Optionally you can choose to visit the UNESCO World Heritage ruins of Butrint . Butrint is seen as a very important archaeological site in the Balkans. The city was founded in the 6th century BC. by Greeks from Corfu and located in the eponymous, wooded national park, not far from the sea. Among the large number of ruins found in Butrint, are especially the theater from the 4th century BC. and the basilica. The museum has a beautiful collection of excavations on display, despite the fact that the most important excavations in Tirana are exhibited.
If you prefer to be more relaxed today, you do not have to get bored. In the area of Butrint you can enjoy the beautiful beachessuch as the nearby Ksamili . Or walk along the promenade and past the many bars and restaurants that Saranda has.
Day 7: Saranda - Syri i Kaltër - Gjirokastër
After breakfast you will head for the Syri i Kaltër (Blue Eye) nature reserve . In Syri i Kaltër there are several freshwater sources with different colors of blue water. The most famous is more than 50 meters deep and has the shape of a blue eye.
The old town of Gjirokaster is your next stop on the way to Korçë and, like Berat, was spared during the Cultural Revolution in the late 1960s. Gjirokaster is the birthplace of Enver Hoxha and has been awarded the museum city label during Hoxha's reign. Fortunately, because Gjirokaster is also very worth exploring. Around the old bazaar you will find small narrow streets with beautiful houses and a castle towering above the city. Where Berat is called the city of 1000 windows, Gjirokaster is known as the city of 1000 steps . You will soon discover the reason for the nickname as you walk through the streets.
Day 8: Gjirokastër - Tirana
After breakfast you start the journey back to Tirana where you will arrive around noon. On the way we drive through the Drino valley and along the Vjosa river. In the afternoon you can participate in a special optional excursion. In the days of communism, the elite had an underground system of bunkers built. These bunkers are now a museum and give a good idea of how life in Hoxha's Albania must have been. After the visit to the bunkers it is time for fresh air and where is that better than in Dajti Bergen. With a cable car you are driven from just outside the center up into the mountains. Once at the top you have a beautiful view of Tirana and the rugged Albanian landscape.
Day 9: Departure Tirana / Arrival
Depending on your flight schedule, you fly back home in the course of the early morning or afternoon. A short, but very surprising journey through an undiscovered part of Europe is over.