Albania - Land of the Eagles

Columns of the episcopal complex in the ancient city of Byllis, Albania
Columns of the episcopal complex in the ancient city of Byllis, Albania
The interior of the dome of the Ethem Bey Mosque, Tinara
The interior of the dome of the Ethem Bey Mosque, Tinara
Temple ruins in Ancient Apollonia
Temple ruins in Ancient Apollonia
The interior of the dome of the Ethem Bey Mosque, Tinara
The interior of the dome of the Ethem Bey Mosque, Tinara
Riverside district of the old city of Berat
Riverside district of the old city of Berat
The mighty River Vjosa viewed from the mountaintop ruins of the Illyrian city of Byllis
The mighty River Vjosa viewed from the mountaintop ruins of the Illyrian city of Byllis
Oliver Gilkes in action demonstrating late antique dining practice in Butrint
Oliver Gilkes in action demonstrating late antique dining practice in Butrint
The beautiful river valley - photo taken on our 2014 tour
The beautiful river valley - photo taken on our 2014 tour
Riverside district of the city of Berat
Riverside district of the city of Berat
Baptistery at Butrint; the lovely mosaic floor
Baptistery at Butrint; the lovely mosaic floor
Monument of the Agonothetes
Monument of the Agonothetes
Oliver introduces guests to the Berat Mosque in Butrint
Oliver introduces guests to the Berat Mosque in Butrint
Ottoman houses on the hillside above the River Osum at Berat
Ottoman houses on the hillside above the River Osum at Berat
Gjirokaster, viewed from the castle
Gjirokaster, viewed from the castle
Looking out over Gjirokaster
Looking out over Gjirokaster
Ottoman houses on the hillside above the River Osum at Berat
Ottoman houses on the hillside above the River Osum at Berat
Ali Pasha of Tepelena, reclining in his boat amongst the reeds...
Ali Pasha of Tepelena, reclining in his boat amongst the reeds...

Still very much an unknown and even hidden country unlike any other in Europe and still off the mainstream tourist trail, Albania is home to pristine ruins, a rich archaeological story and great museums. In Classical times, the Greeks and Romans built cities overlooking the sparkling waters of the Ionian Sea. Centuries later, Byzantines and Ottoman Turks fought over dramatic mountain strongholds. Famously visited by Lord Byron, and painted by Edward Lear, Albania is a country which has transformed itself into a modern European state from the secretive and backward Stalinist land of 30 years ago, with its archaeology and history at the forefront of its heritage.

Our expert guide lecturer, Oliver Gilkes, has directed excavations in Albania for over 22 years and his encyclopaedic knowledge of culture and archaeology enlightens us on this fantastic tour. Join us as we discover Albania’s fascinating past and present.

  • Uncover a story of the discovery of 2,000 years of untouched archaeological heritage
  • Spend a full day at the World Heritage Site of Butrint
  • Fantastic scenery, mountains, valleys and the dramatic Albanian Riviera
  • Explore Tirana, Albania’s bustling capital alongside an expert guide lecturer, Oliver Gilkes
  • The wonderful church of Saint Mary in Apollonia

Themes

  • Romans
  • Medieval
  • Historic Churches
  • Ancient Greek

Practicalities

  • Special Access
  • Low Single Supplement
  • All Inclusive

Itinerary 2019

Day 1

We arrive in Tirana and transfer to our hotel located in the heart of the city.
Hotel: Tirana International
Meals: Dinner included

Day 2

We begin with a full day in Albania’s lively capital, Tirana. We visit the National Historical Museum and the National Gallery, which houses over 5,000 works, including a permanent exhibition of Socialist Realist art.

After lunch, we have special access to the Archaeological Museum, located on the east of Mother Teresa Square. It was the first museum founded in this country after the Second World War and it houses exhibits from Classical times up to the Modern Period. The collections here are extensive and range from Roman Statues to jewellery and to ancient clay pots, each of which tells a different story.
Hotel: Tirana International
Meals: All meals included

Day 3

We drive to Apollonia Archaeological Park, site of the Greek colony founded by the Corinthians in 588BC, then on to one of the largest ancient cities of the Adriatic. Today the excavations are surrounded by olive and oak trees with grassy banks hinting at what may still lie buried beneath. This afternoon we drive along the beautiful Ionian coast, stopping for lunch in Vlora, before we reach our hotel at Saranda this evening.
Hotel: Hotel Brilant
Meals: All meals included

Day 4

Our entire day will be spent at Butrint, which achieved UNESCO World Heritage status in 1992 and remains Albania’s best known site. It is one of the most striking archaeological sites in the Mediterranean and our guide lecturer Oliver Gilkes has directed excavations here for many years.

After lunch at Butrint Castle, we explore the museum housed there, before walking down to catch the ferry across the Vivari Channel. Here we will explore the Venetian Triangular Fortress.
Hotel: Hotel Brilant
Meals: All meals included

Day 5

Today we arrive in Gjirokastra and have the chance to visit the Gjirokastra Museum, the Medieval Fortress and the National Museum of Armaments. This afternoon we enjoy special access to the late Ottoman mansion, Zekate House. Built in 1812, Zekate is widely considered to be one of the grandest examples of its kind, providing us with amazing an insight into the upper echelons of Ottoman life.
Hotel: Hotel Cajupi
Meals: All meals included

Day 6

We continue north through the rugged and changing landscapes to the ruins of Byllis. According to legend, the city was founded by warriors led by the son of Achilles returning from the Trojan wars. Archaeologists have yet to find evidence of Homeric heroes but have uncovered a Hellenistic era stadium, theatre and fortifications.

After lunch we will visit Byllis Cathedral, formerly known as Basilica B. Later we will drive to Berat.
Hotel: Hotel Belagrita
Meals: All meals included

Day 7

Today, we shift shift from Classical to Medieval times in the attractive town of Berat. The lower city along the riversides was the preserve of the Muslim inhabitants, while by agreement the Christians held the citadel. There are both Byzantine churches and Ottoman mosques to visit, as well as the Onufri Museum, with its spectacular collection of 16th Century religious artwork. 
Hotel: Hotel Belagrita, Berat
Meals: All meals included

Day 8

We visit Durrës, Albania’s chief port and the starting point of the Via Egnatia. Here we visit the 2nd century amphitheatre, the largest in the Balkans, as well as sections of the mighty walls.

This afternoon we continue to Kruja, the last bastion of Christianity against the Ottoman Turks and now an interesting town set in beautiful countryside. Here we visit the Skanderbeg Museum, to learn about Albania's national hero, and wander through the delightful Ottoman bazaar. An eclectic last day to truly represent the many ages and influences of Albania.
Hotel: Hotel Panorama
Meals: All meals included

Day 9

This morning we transfer to the airport for our flight home.
Meals: Breakfast included

Itinerary 2020

Day 1

We depart from London and fly to Tirana. Upon arrival we drive to our hotel, located in the heart of the city.

Hotel: Tirana International, Tirana
Meals: Dinner included

Day 2

We begin with a full day in Albania’s lively capital, Tirana. We visit the National Historical Museum and explore the city centre, a microcosm of Albania’s modern history. After lunch, we have private access to the Archaeological Museum, located on the east of Mother Teresa Square. It was the first museum founded in this country after the Second World War and it houses exhibits from Classical times up to the Modern Period. The collections here are extensive and range from Roman Statues to jewellery and to ancient clay pots, each of which tells a different story.

Hotel: Tirana International, Tirana
Meals: All meals included

Day 3

We drive to Apollonia Archaeological Park, site of the colony founded by the Corinthians in 588BC, and one of the most important Greek cities on the Adriatic. Today the excavated remains are surrounded by olive and oak trees with grassy banks hinting at what may still lie buried underneath, while the evocative Byzantine monastery is now a museum. This afternoon, we drive along the ‘Mountains of Thunder’ down the beautiful Ionian coast, stopping for lunch in Vlora. We arrive in Saranda early this evening.

Hotel: Overnight in Saranda
Meals: All meals included

Day 4

Our entire day will be spent at Butrint, which achieved UNESCO World Heritage status in 1992 and remains Albania’s best known site. It is one of the most striking in the Mediterranean and our guide lecturer Oliver Gilkes has directed excavations here for many years. The city lies in suggestive woodlands and contains remarkable monuments of all periods. After a picnic lunch at Butrint Castle, we visit the museum, before walking down to catch the ferry across the Vivari Channel. Here we will explore the Venetian Triangular Fortress.

Hotel: Overnight in Saranda
Meals: Breakfast and Picnic included, dinner independent

Day 5

Today we leave the Ionian and cross the mountains to arrive in Gjirokastra. This amazing Ottoman city is also a Unesco World Heritage Site and we shall have the chance to visit the Gjirokastra Museum, the medieval Fortress and the National Museum of Arms. This afternoon we enjoy a special visit to the late Ottoman mansion, Zekate House. Built in 1812, Zekate is widely considered to be one of the grandest examples of its kind, providing us with amazing an insight into the upper echelons of Ottoman life.

Hotel: Hotel Cajupi, Gjirokastra
Meals: All meals included

Day 6

We head northwards and long the valley of the mighty river Vjosa round to the ruins of Byllis. According to legend, the city was founded by warriors led by Neoptolemus, the son of Achilles returning from the Trojan wars. Archaeologists have yet to find evidence of Homeric heroes but have uncovered a Hellenistic era stadium, theatre and fortifications as well as numerous later Roman churches. After lunch, we will visit the excavated Byllis Cathedral, before continuing onwards to Berat and enjoy dinner at our hotel.

Hotel: Hotel Onufri, Berat
Meals: All meals included

Day 7

Today we shift from classical to medieval times in the attractive town of Berat, which is brimming with traditional architecture. The lower city along the riversides was the preserve of the Muslim inhabitants, while by agreement the Christians held the citadel. Here we will explore Byzantine churches, Ottoman mosques, and the Onufri Museum, home to a spectacular collection of 16th century religious artwork.

Hotel: Hotel Onufri, Berat
Meals: All meals included

Day 8

We visit Durrës, Albania’s chief port and the starting point of the Via Egnatia. This was ancient Dyrrachium a great imperial port on the Adriatic. Here we visit the 2nd century amphitheatre, the largest in the Balkans, as well as sections of the mighty walls. After lunch we continue to Kruja, the mountain fortress of the Kastrioti family, and home of the National hero George Kastrioti Skanderbeg. We visit the Skanderbeg Museum and wander through the Ottoman bazaar. An eclectic last day to truly represent the many ages and influences of Albania.

Hotel: Hotel Panorama, Kruja
Meals: All meals included

Day 9

This morning, we transfer from Kruja to the airport for our flight home.

Meals: Breakfast included

What's Included

  1. Expert Guide Lecturer
  2. Tour Manager
  3. Local Travel - Private a/c coach
  4. Meals - Most meals included with wine at dinner
  5. Entries & Tips - Entry to all sites in program; tips included
  6. Field Notes
  7. Hotels
  8. Flights

Travel Information

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2019 Tour Details

Fri 27th Sep - Sat 5th Oct

Available

Guaranteed Departure

£2,250

inc.

sgl supp: £235

ALB19B

Led By: Oliver Gilkes

2020 Tour Details

Fri 8th May - Sat 16th May

Available

£2,295

Full Price £2395 Save £100

inc.

sgl supp: £240

ALB20A

Led By: Oliver Gilkes

Fri 9th Oct - Sat 17th Oct

Available

£2,295

Full Price £2395 Save £100

inc.

sgl supp: £240

ALB20B

Led By: Oliver Gilkes

Guide Lecturer

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