Albania & Macedonia | Via Egnatia

One of many elaborate Byzantine churches on the shores of beautiful Lake Ohrid
One of many elaborate Byzantine churches on the shores of beautiful Lake Ohrid
Roman amphitheatre of Durres
Roman amphitheatre of Durres
Edessa Waterfalls, Greece
Edessa Waterfalls, Greece
Lake Prespa, Macedonia
Lake Prespa, Macedonia
Ruins of ancient Apollonia
Ruins of ancient Apollonia
The Rotunda of Galerius, Thessaloniki
The Rotunda of Galerius, Thessaloniki
Reconstructed Bronze Age lake village at the Bay of Bones, Ohrid, Macedonia
Reconstructed Bronze Age lake village at the Bay of Bones, Ohrid, Macedonia
Beautiful gold-in-glass mosaic which covers the ceiling of the Rotunda of Galerius
Beautiful gold-in-glass mosaic which covers the ceiling of the Rotunda of Galerius
Emperor Galerius vanquishes his Macedonian foes- detail from the arch of Galerius
Emperor Galerius vanquishes his Macedonian foes- detail from the arch of Galerius
Roman milestone recording road-builder proconsul Gnaeus Egnatius
Roman milestone recording road-builder proconsul Gnaeus Egnatius

This is a journey through time and civilisations across the dramatic landscapes of southeast Europe. Albania, Macedonia and the Balkans represent a vast patchwork of cultures and civilisations. Our tour takes in the tombs and treasures of Philip of Macedon, the late Imperial glories of Thessaloniki, and the beautiful Medieval churches on the shores of Lake Ohrid.

Divided by mountains, the Balkans are united by ancient roads, which kept the disparate states and Empires in contact and conflict. The greatest of these was the Via Egnatia, a series of tracks used by the Romans to expedite their conquest of Illyria and Macedonia.

  • Explore the ancient ruins of Apollonia
  • View the thundering waterfalls in Edessa
  • Experience Albania’s lively capital, Tirana
  • Visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Ohrid
  • Discover the palace complex of Galerius

Themes

  • Romans
  • Medieval
  • Historic Churches
  • Ancient Greek

Practicalities

  • Special Access
  • Low Single Supplement
  • All Inclusive

Itinerary 2018

Day 1

We fly to Albania and transfer to our hotel.

Day 2

We begin our journey at Durrës, the principal terminus of the Via Egnatia, Albania’s largest and most bustling seaport with substantial monuments. We visit the circular Forum of Anastasius where the northern branch of the Via Egnatia began. We continue to Apollonia, a great Corinthian Greek colony which was vital for the Roman conquest of the Balkans. It was the starting point of the Via Egnatia’s southern branch.

Day 3

We travel to Tirana, capital of Albania. We explore the National Historical Museum, which gives a particular view of Albanian history. We continue via the new road tunnel below the Krabbe Pass to Elbasan, ancient Scampis. After walking through the castrum, with its fine late Roman and Ottoman walls, onto the line of the Via Egnatia, we continue to Macedonia.

Day 4

We enjoy a day in wonderful Ohrid. The ancient city boasts a Macedonian, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman past with impressive monuments from each era. We explore the late Byzantine shrine of St. Clement, the churches of St. Panteleimon and St. Sofia and the 9th century fortress of Tsar Samuel which dominates the city. We stroll to St. Jovan Kaneo, romantically overlooking the beautfiul Lake Ohrid.

Day 5

We make our way to the Museum on the Water at ‘the Bay of Bones’ - a partial reconstruction of a prehistoric village. We continue to Lake Prespa and St. Naum, before travelling over the spectacular mountains to Kurbinovo by Lake Ohrid. We walk through the wooded landscape to the church of St George, with its fresco cycle of the time of the Commeni emperors and a resurgent Byzantium.

Day 6

We start the day in Heraklea Lyncestis. A city built by Philip II of Macedon Tthe remains of fine Roman and Byzantine buildings can be found throughout. We explore Bitola, which still retains much of its late Ottoman atmosphere, with very fine 15th century mosques. We also visit the fine Bitola museum, established in an old Turkish military college, where Kemal Ataturk studied.

Later, we cross the border into Greece.

Day 7

We visit the ancient site and thundering waterfalls in Edessa, which made the city famous in antiquity. We also find the Ottoman bridge that carried the Via Egnatia over the river. In ancient Aigai, the traditional Macedonian capital, we discover the great burial mound which covered the tombs of Macedonian royalty. This was one of the richest finds of grave goods in Europe.

Day 8

We explore Thessaloniki, the original terminus of the Via Egnatia. We visit the Agora and church of St. Demetrius and the remains of the palace complex of Galerius, the Rotonda, his intended mausoleum, and the great arch over the Via Egnatia. We visit the recently redisplayed and very fine Archaeological Museum and the adjacent Byzantine Museum.

Day 9

We return home from Thessaloniki.

Itinerary 2019

Day 1

We fly from London to Albania and transfer to our hotel.

Day 2

We begin our journey at Durrës, the principal terminus of the Via Egnatia, Albania’s largest and most bustling seaport. This was ancient Dyracchium and substantial monuments are to be seen here. We visit the circular Forum of Anastasius where the northern branch of the Via Egnatia began. We continue south to Apollonia which was the starting point for the Via Egnatia’s older, southern branch. The city was a great Corinthian Greek colony which facilitated the Roman conquest of the Balkans. The young Octavian attended the schools of rhetoric here and we explore the city centre he would have known with its stoas and public spaces.

Day 3

We travel to Tirana, capital of Albania. A pastiche of a city with Ottoman, fascist, communist and modern elements mixed together. A visit to the National Historical Museum gives a particular view of Albanian history and its associated artefacts. We continue via the new road tunnel below the Krabbe Pass to Elbasan, ancient Scampis. After walking through the castrum, with its fine late Roman and Ottoman walls, onto the line of the Via Egnatia, we follow the route of the road up the scenic gorge of the river Shkumbini to the pass into Macedonia.

Day 4

We enjoy a day in wonderful Ohrid. Ancient Lychnidos, the ‘city of light’, was traditionally founded by Cadmus the Theban, but in reality by Philip of Macedon. It now boasts a Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman past with impressive monuments from each era. The many Byzantine churches, with icons and paintings traces the wax and wane of Byzantine ambitions in the Balkans. We explore the late Byzantine shrine of St. Clement, the churches of St. Panteleimon and St. Sofia and the 9th century fortress of Tsar Samuel which dominates the city. We stroll past St. Jovan Kaneo, romantically overlooking the beautiful Lake Ohrid.

Day 5

Drive along the shore of Lake Ohrid to the Museum on the Water at ‘the Bay of Bones’. Underwater excavations here have revealed one of the typical lake-shore settlements that are typical for this area in the period of 1200-700 BC. The village has been partly reconstructed with a museum. We continue to Lake Prespa and St. Naum, a monastery founded by one of the disciples of Sts. Cyril and Methodius, before travelling over the spectacular mountains to Kurbinovo by Lake Ohrid. We walk through the wooded landscape to the church of St George, with its fresco cycle of the time of the Commeni emperors and a resurgent Byzantium. On to Bitola.

Day 6

We start the day in Heraklea Lyncestis. A city built by Philip II of Macedon to guard the passes along the line of the Via Egnatia leading into the heart of Macedonia. The remains of fine Roman and Byzantine buildings can be found throughout and an impressive theatre/amphitheatre. We explore Bitola, which was the hub of Ottoman Macedonia, a military garrison and market centre. The town still retains much of its late Ottoman atmosphere, with very fine 15th century mosques. We also visit the fine Bitola museum, established in an old Turkish military college, where Kemal Ataturk studied.

Later, we cross the border into Greece.

Day 7

Edessa is a surprise. Its tree lined streets and numerous streams of fresh water formed by the river Edessaios create a cool atmosphere. It was not always so and the thundering waterfalls which descend form the crag where the modern city lies, once powered tobacco and textile mills. We visit the falls and the ancient city below which made the city famous in antiquity. We also find the Ottoman bridge that carried the Via Egnatia over the river. On to ancient Aigai, the traditional Macedonian capital. The city is still being excavated but we will visit the excavations of the Great Tumulus. Here, in the 1980s, a series of royal tombs were uncovered, among which was the tomb now associated with the father of Alexander the Great, Philip II. This was one of the richest finds of grave goods in Europe. On to Thessaloniki.

Day 8

We explore Thessaloniki, the original terminus of the Via Egnatia and a Roman imperial capital. Founded by King Cassander of Macedonia, the emperor Galerius, made it his Balkan capital for the renewed late Roman world. He elaborated the city with massive new buildings. We visit the recently displayed Agora and Forum, the centre of the ancient city, and the church of St. Demetrius, the most famous Byzantine basilica in northern Greece. Explore the palace complex of Galerius, the Rotonda, Galerius’ intended mausoleum, and the great arch over the Via Egnatia, carved with scenes from his triumph over the Persians. We visit the recently redisplayed and very fine Archaeological Museum.

Day 9

Today we transfer to the airport for our return flight back to London. 

What's Included

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

Travel Information

For full information about Passport validity and Visa requirements as well as Health and Vaccination information please click here.

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2018 Tour Details

Sun 14th October - Mon 22nd October

Call for availability

£2,595

inc.

sgl supp: £215

VIE18A

Led By: Oliver Gilkes

2019 Tour Details

Mon 7th October - Tue 15th October

Available

£2,495

inc.

sgl supp: £235

VIE19A

Led By: Oliver Gilkes

Guide Lecturer

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