This small group tour is a superb introduction to the wildlife and the culture of Albania. Albania is distinguished for its rich biological and landscape diversity. This diversity is attributable to the country’s geographic position as well as geological, hydrological, climatic, soil and relief characteristics. The mountainous terrain combined with steep cliffs creates ideal conditions for maintaining and protecting a large number of ancient species. The high diversity of ecosystems and habitats offers rich habitats for a variety of plants and animals. There are around 3,200 species of vascular plants and 756 vertebrate species. There are 27 endemic and 160 sub-endemic species of vascular plants.
Participants should be comfortable walking over sometimes rugged terrain, and a good level of fitness is required for this tour.
This tour will be led by conservationist and ornithologist Denik Ulqini, from the University of Shkoder, an environmental consultant with a special interest in birds and ecotourism.
Meet with the guide and the driver at Tirane International Airport and travel to Durres (~30mins) for an overnight stay at Hotel Arvi, a 4-star hotel close to the seaside and the main boulevard. Dinner at a restaurant by the seaside.
After breakfast, visit of the Durres amphitheater, the museum, and the old city walls. Durres is one of the ancient cities in Albania, founded by Greek colonists from Corinth and Corfu as Epidamnos in 627 BC. After the visit, leave for a visit at Divjake National Park (~1h drive): lagoons, sand dunes, pine forest, the colony of Dalmatian pelicans. After the visit, we have a picnic inside the pine forest, and continue the trip to Fier for the overnight stay at a 4-star hotel, in the center of the city. In the afternoon, free time around the city. Dinner at the hotel.
After breakfast, we continue our trip for a visit at Apollonia Archaeologic Site (an ancient Greek city and former bishopric in Illyria, founded in 588 BCE) (~20mins). After the visit and the picnic, we continue our trip to Vlore (1-hour drive), with a stop at Narta Lagoon: salt pans with a wide variety of avifauna including black-necked grebe, Mediterranean Gull, ferruginous duck. Check-in at a 4-star hotel in Vlore. Free time in the city, possible visit at the monument of Independence and Muradie Mosque (from 1537). Dinner at the hotel.
After breakfast, continue our trip to Butrint (~3h and 30mins), with a coffee stop at Llogara Pass (enjoy the panoramic view of the Albanian Riviera from about 1040m high) and a visit at Porto Palermo Castle (believed to been built from Venetians, and final form created by Ali Pasha). Lunch at a restaurant in Butrint and visit of the national park of Butrint and the well-conserved archaeological site (a UNESCO World Heritage site, which was founded by the Greeks in the 7th century BC). Continue our trip to Sarande (30mins), for the overnight stay at 4-star hotel close to the sea.
After breakfast, continue our trip to Gjirokaster, with stops at St. Nicholas Monastery Church in Mesopotam (built in 1224) and at Blue Eye (a water spring and natural phenomenon, a popular tourist attraction). Visit of Gjirokaster (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), with visits at old Bazaar, Castle. Lunch at a restaurant in Gjirokaster. Continue our trip to Korce through the valley of Shkumbin. Check-in at a 4-star hotel in Korce and dinner at the hotel.
Continue trip to Voskopoje (~30mins), for walks in the woodland (Scots pine, silver fir, Valonia oak) and exploration of the town (St Nicholas’ Church with wonderful frescoes, and other monasteries). Lunch in Voskopoje, and continue our trip to Pogradec (~1h 15min) for the overnight stay at a 4-star hotel near the shore. Free time for walks around the town and on the side of Lake Ohrid. Dinner at the hotel.
After breakfast, continue our trip to Elbasan (~1h 40min), with stops on the lakeside for birdwatching and photoshoots. Visit of the old castle (15th-century fortress), the Paleochristian basilica (built in the 5th or 6th century AD), Naziresha Mosque (from 1599), King Mosque (the oldest active mosque in Albania, built around 1482-1485) and the Turkish Baths (16th century). Lunch at the restaurant inside the castle of Elbasan. After lunch, continue our trip to Tirane (~1h) for the overnight stay at 4-5 star hotel. In the afternoon free time for visits around the city. Dinner at the hotel.
Depending on the air flight, we might visit the National Historical Museum and Et’hem Bey Mosque (from 18th-century). Departure for the airport.