Albania, Montenegro & Kosovo
Travel from the shores of the Adriatic high up into the Albanian mountains, and into Montenegro, ‘the pearl of the Mediterranean’. This is a tour that veers very much away from the mainstream tourist trail. There is a wonderful sense of discovery about Albanian archaeology: pristine ruins stand untouched amid beautiful and dramatic landscapes. Journey through the ancient coastal cities, visit attractive Medieval towns, and discover Ottoman mosques jostling for space along narrow streets. Join us as we trace the many civilisations who have left their mark on these lands: Greeks, Romans, Bulgars, Byzantines, Ottomans and more.
- Travel alongside an expert of Albanian archaeology
- Explore the excavations of the Roman city of Ulpiana
- Discover the towering mountains of northern Albania and Montenegro
- Visit the former stronghold of the Bushatli Pashas – Shkodra
- Admire the beautiful Adriatic coast and the sublime Bay of Kotor
- Enjoy a spectacular voyage along the valley of the Black Drin
- Historic Churches
- Ancient Greek
- Special Access
- Low Single Supplement
- All Inclusive
Upon arrival to the Albanian capital Tirana, we transfer north up the Adriatic coast to Shkodra, where the first of our comfortable hotels is based. Welcome to the Balkans!
This morning we wake to explore Shkodra, one of Europe’s oldest and most historic cities, with roots dating back to the Bronze Age.
We begin at the Historical Museum before continuing onto the Marubi Museum, which houses one of the greatest collections of historic photographs in the Balkans, dating back to the 1860s. Our morning ends at the library of the Franciscan Order and the birthplace of Albanian archaeology.
After lunch, we visit the legendary Rozafa Castle, a once Illyrian fortress which was captured by the Romans in 167 BC, and later became the site of many a notable siege. From its imposing position upon a rocky hill, we are treated to stunning views of the Albanian Alps and the shimmering Lake Shkodra, the largest lake in Southern Europe.
Once we are finished exploring the sights and stories of this wonderful city – including the streets of its recently renovated Old Town – we make our way across the border, driving to Budva in Montenegro.
We leave our hotel and drive to Cetinje, the old royal capital of King Nicola, cradled by limestone mountains. Founded in the 15th century, it soon became a hub of Montenegrin culture, as well as a centre for the country's Orthodox faith. Here we shall visit the Monastery, the Archaeological Museum, Nikola's palace and the collection of miniature embassies opened in the new kingdom by the Great Powers.
Next, we have the chance to explore Kotor, which lies on the shores of its own beautiful bay: a Medieval warren of cobbled streets, Venetian fortifications, and ancient walls. Magnificently preserved, it's clear to see why the town has been awarded UNESCO World Heritage status, and why so many curious travellers flock here, year after year.
We return to Budva for dinner this evening.
Today is a day of discovery. After breakfast we have a morning visit to Budva and its Archaeological Museum before heading onto Doclea. One of Montenegro's foremost archaeological sites, where classical columns, carved facades and rugged figures appear to sprout up from the grassy fields. Once the old Roman capital of Prevalitana, Doclea is now a UNESCO World Heritage site, and offers a romantic glimpse of ancient Montenegrin life.
Into the mountains next, as we head to the rugged landscape of Moraca, with its world-renowned Serbian Orthodox monastery. One of the best known medieval monuments of Montenegro, it was founded by Stefan Vukanović, of the Nemanjić dynasty, in 1252. Despite being burned by the Ottomans in the 16th century, and then abandoned, the monastery was eventually restored and re-inhabited. Somehow, its significant 13th century frescoes still remain and are remarkably well preserved.
Our fascinating tour of the region continues as we descend into the plains of Kosovo this morning. This land-locked state has witnessed much over the centuries, and various factions disputing the territory have left their mark on the Kosovan landscape and culture.
Along our journey we stop at Peja, the centre of the Serbian Orthodox Patriarchate and a breathtakingly beautiful 13th century church, known for its vibrant red walls and ornate chapels. Our next destination is Decan, Kosovo's biggest and best preserved Medieval monastery, home to superb Byzantine frescoes and the shrine of King Stefan Uros III.
Lastly we travel to Prizren, Kosovo's second largest city; one of the most ethnically and culturally diverse settlements in the country.
We visit the Shiroku tumulus group this morning, where we find numerous burial sites of Iron Age Illyrians and their Bronze Age predecessors.
On towards Prishtina and Ulpiana, which has designated an Archaeological Site of Exceptional Importance by Serbian law. The focus of the Roman province of Dardania, this ancient city sits near both a mine and the Gracanica river, features that made it a once thriving hub of commerce and culture. According to the chronicle and writings of Marcelino, a devastating earthquake destroyed several towns in Dardania in 518 AD. The city of Ulpiana was said to have suffered extensive damage, but was successfully rebuilt by Emperor Justinian. Remnants of its stone, brick and marble architecture are visible to this day.
We have a final stop at the Garanica Monastery before we return to Prizren.
We have the option to start our day by taking a stiff early morning walk up to the Turkish citadel of Prizren for a view of the city in the morning light. The Roman incarnation of this town was known as Theranda and receives a mention in Ptolemy’s Geography, which was written in the 2nd century AD. Located on a significant crossroad of the Balkan peninsula, today Prizren is an attractive blend of bridges, mosques, handicrafts, cuisine and exhibitions.
Later we drive on to tranquil Koman, where we catch a ferry to take us along the spectacular gorge of the Black Drin river to the dam at Fierze. This is our chance to take in the scenery at an entirely different pace. Refreshed and revived, this afternoon we make our way back to Shkodra.
Our final full day in the Balkans begins with a drive south to Lezhe. Originally an Illyrian city, it was a suprisingly colony of the tyrant Dionysius or Syracuse and later became the administrative capital of the Illyrian King Gentius. In the later Middle Ages it was the nerve centre of Skanderberg, the Albanian hero who was buried in the cathedral. Here we visit the remains of the ancient city, Skanderberg's grave and his castle.
The afternoon takes us to Skanderbeg's birth town, Kruja, where we spend our final night here, in the shadow of Kruja Mountain.
We transfer to Tirana airport for our return flight home.
- Expert Guide Lecturer
- Tour Manager
- Local Travel - Private a/c coach
- Meals - All meals included with wine at dinner
- Entries & Tips - Entry to all sites in programme; tips included
2 nights in a traditionally designed hotel in Shkodra
2 nights in a luxurious hotel set on the seaside in Budva
2 nights in a hotel overlooking the Lumbardhi river in Prizren
1 night in a beautifully designed spa hotel in Kolašin
1 night in a scenically situated hotel in Kruja
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