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Good Housekeeping Black Friday
Walk Albania's stunning landscapes
It's hard to believe that, just 30 years ago, Albania, which is only a short-haul flight away, was entirely cut-off from the Western world. For three generations, the Balkan country was run by communist dictator Enver Hoxha and few outsiders could enter. Now, as it slowly opens up, you'll find beautiful rugged, snow-capped mountains towering above white sandy beaches on the Albanian Riviera, and a unique communist-era history and heritage to discover. This wonderful nine-day tour with specialists Wild Frontiers will show you some of Albania's many archeological highlights, including ancient burial mounds, castles, amphitheatres and Cold War bunkers, as well as incredible landscapes on wonderful coastal and inland walks.
You'll be introduced to the charms of the country's capital, Tirana, the pretty villages along the Albanian Riviera and famed Ottoman towns of Gjirokastër and Berat, plus the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Butrint National Park.
There will be opportunities to taste some of Albania's finest wines at the family-owned Cobo winery in the historic World Heritage region of Berat, southcentral Albania. You'll also dine in authentic local restaurants and take part in the making of a traditional Albanian meal.
Travelling in a small group of no more than 18 and with a very low single supplement of just £180pp, it's the perfect holiday to take on your own. Wild Frontiers is also happy to pair you with another traveller of the same sex if you don't mind sharing a room. Don't miss this wonderful opportunity to see the best of Albania before word spreads and the crowds finally arrive.
Roman, Ottoman and, for a short period, Italian rule have all left their mark on Albania, as has 45 of years of Communism. Most of the sights you'll see were off limits to Westerners for much of the last century, so exploring the Communist architecture of Tirana, and some of the 800,000 bunkers built to protect the country from attack, is fascinating.
You'll also get to visit the extraordinary Ottoman towns of Berat and Gjirokastër, as well as the evocative UNESCO-listed ruins of Butrint, one of the country's most important archaeological sites, situated on the Straits of Corfu and surrounded by a picturesque lagoon.
STUNNING SCENIC WALKS
Enjoying wonderful walks, along the coast and into the mountainous hinterlands through which Byron once walked, are part of the itinerary. Visit the breathtaking Llogara National Park, surrounded by mountain ranges, and take in panoramic views of the Adriatic and Ionian Seas on one side, and the dramatic 2,000-metre high mountains on the other.
THE ALBANIAN RIVIERA
With Wild Frontiers' expert local guides, you'll spend plenty of time exploring this stunning stretch of coastline - from the beautiful bays of Vlorë, viewed from the village of Kanin, and Porto Palermo, to the beach of Gjipe, one of the region's most beautiful, located at the opening of a limestone canyon. You'll also stay in the coastal towns of Himarë and Sarandë.
LOW, OR NO, SINGLE SUPPLEMENT
Readers who want to travel on their own can take advantage of a low single supplement of £180. Or solo travellers who don't mind sharing a room with a fellow traveller of the same sex can do so and waive the supplement.
Reasons to book
UNESCO World Heritage cities
Experience Albanian cuisine
The Albanian Riviera
Great for solo travellers
Hike through Llogara National Park
- Eight nights' accommodation in small, locally owned three-star hotels accommodation
- Eight breakfasts, seven lunches and six dinners
- All transport, excursions, tours and walks as outlined in the itinerary, plus entrance fees
- Full services of a Wild Frontiers tour leader with local guides and drivers
N.B.: Flights are NOT included, to give you maximum flexibility but can also be arranged through Wild Frontiers. If you do book one through them, a carbonoffsetting contribution will be made to Carbon Clear on your behalf.
The tour starts this evening at the hotel. Those on the suggested group flights will receive a complimentary arrival transfer from Tirana airport.
Day2Bay of VlorëVlor, Albania
Today will start with a walking tour of the centre of Tirana, taking in the recently renovated Skanderbeg square and the historic Et'hem Bey Mosque. You will also visit the Bunk'Art underground galleries to learn about the country's unique communist past, as well as seeing some of the buildings which date back to the 1930s Italian-influenced era.
Later, you drive to the nearby Uka Farm winery, to enjoy an introductory tour of this family-run business and a welcome lunch. From there, set off south through the plains of western Albania to make your way down to the beautiful bay of Vlorё. After checking into your hotel, you will then drive to the nearby village of Kaninё to take a leisurely walk and enjoy beautiful sunset views of the bay below, before returning to the waterfront for dinner.
Day3Llogara National ParkLlogara National Park, Albania
Continuing south, you'll head towards the magnificent mountains of the Llogara National Park to begin your day's walking. Following a beautiful forest trail, slowly make your way up and along the famous ridge running to the Karaburun Peninsula, taking in breathtaking panoramic views of the Adriatic and Ionian Seas on one side, and the dramatic 2000-metre-high mountains on the other.
You'll have time to enjoy these stunning vistas with a well-earned picnic lunch, before continuing on along the ridge and down onto the Llogara Pass via an old army dirt road. A short transfer will then take you back to the hotel in Llogara to relax for the rest of the afternoon, or take some time for another walk to the colourful 'Caesar Meadows' before dinner.
Approximately three hours walking (300m ascent, 300m descent. Total distance three kilometres)
Day4Coastline walk and HimarëHimare, Albania
After a short scenic drive between the majestic slopes of Mount Çika to the east, and the Ionian coast to the west, you will stop in the old village of Dhermi to start your walk today, which will take you up alongside semi-abandoned stone houses to reach the Church of St. Mary, known for its interesting frescoes and panoramic views.
You will then walk to the beach of Gjipe, located at the opening of a limestone canyon, which is considered to be one of the most beautiful along the entire coastline. Enjoy some time to relax and perhaps take a swim in the turquoise waters of the Adriatic, before returning to the minibus to drive to the nearby waterfront town of Himarё for the evening.
Approximately 1.5 hours walking (62m ascent, 300m descent. Total distance three kilometres)
Day5Albanian Riviera and SarandëSaranda, Albania
After breakfast you leave the lovely town of Himarё and drive along the celebrated bay of Porto Palermo to visit the castle of Ali Pasha, the 'Lion of Yannina', who ruled Albania during the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
Continuing your journey along the Albanian Riviera, you'll stop at the quaint hillside town of Qeparo, to hike to the hill that overlooks the old village and enjoy the views over the bay and the large island of Corfu in the horizon. You'll then descend to the village for lunch at the beach and possibly a swim in the sea.
In the afternoon, drive on to the UNESCO World Heritage Site at Butrint National Park, an ancient archaeological site that lies on the shores of the Mediterranean. Located on the Straits of Corfu and surrounded by a picturesque lagoon, the site has, at various stages of its development, been a Greek colony, a Roman city and a bishopric. Today it is a site of major historical significance and remains one of the most important archaeological finds in the country, with artefacts and monuments being unearthed that date back as far as the Bronze Age. Its setting, against the natural backdrop of native woodland and the fresh waters of Lake Butrint and the Vivari Channel, makes it a particularly attractive site to explore. After your visit youwill drive to the coastal town of Sarandё where you'll be staying tonight.
Approximately three hours walking (330m ascent, 330m descent. Total distance five kilometres)
Day6Sarandё to GjirokastërSaranda, Albania
This morning you head further inland to the UNESCO World Heritage City of Gjirokastër. Enjoy a scenic drive as you pass through the valley of Drinos, crossing the picturesque Muzinë Pass, and stopping along the way to pay a short visit to the magical Blue Eye Spring.
After about an hour you will reach the foothills of the mountains and set off from the village of Libohova and its fortress, along the trail which Lord Byron himself took centuries ago. Your walk will end in the village of Labovë, where you will visit the Labovë e Kryqit Church, one of the oldest churches in Albania. From here you will take a short transfer to eventually reach the historic town of Gjirokastër.
Approximately three hours' walking (200m ascent, 270m descent. Total distance seven kilometres)
A beautifully preserved example of an Ottoman town, dramatically situated between the Gjerë Mountains and the Drino River, Gjirokastër is still dominated by its Ottoman citadel, believed to be the second largest in the Balkans.
Originally built in the 12th century, the citadel has undergone a number of makeovers since its original construction, and now operates as a historical site with a selection of interesting post-War era weapons and memorabilia, including a US Air Force plane which was captured in Tirana during the 1950s. Filled with a lovely collection of charming 17th- and 18th-century buildings and palatial residences, the old part of the city still reflects something of Gjirokastër's once favoured status among the Ottoman elite of the 19th century.
Today you have a full day to enjoy its charms, including a visit to the Ethnographic Museum housed in the birthplace of the ex-dictator, Enver Hoxha and a traditional lunch in one of Gjirokastër's old houses, which will include the option to participate in preparing parts of the meal. There will also be ample time to discover this town's charm at your leisure.
Leave Gjirokastër behind today and follow the valleys of the rivers Drino and Vjosa towards Berat - the best preserved historic town of Albania, with a well-deserved UNESCO World Heritage Site listing. En route, you will stop for a wine-tasting at the Cobo Winery, known for making some of the best wines in Albania. Next, you'll visit the fortified citadel and the outstanding Onufri Icons Museum, enjoying incredible views over Mount Tomor and the Osumi Valley. Spend the afternoon exploring Berat's historic districts of Mangalemi and Gorica, where you will stay for your final night.
Day9Return homeTirana, Albania
After breakfast at the hotel, a two hour drive will take you north back to Tirana airport, where the tour ends.