THE 4 TOURS OF ALBANIA
AN ITINERARY DESIGNED TO DISCOVER THE LAND OF THE EAGLES
1. FOOD & WINE
Tave Kosi - A traditional Albanian dish
Albania is famous for its refined cuisine. From Durrës to Vlorë, there are plenty of places for you to stop and enjoy the celebrated Albanian gastronomic delights. Hotel Plaza Tirana Starting in Tirana, which is just 30 minutes from Durrës, you cannot fail to stop and admire the elegant Hotel Plaza Tirana, a 5-star hotel right in the city centre. The 23-storey high Plaza Hotel Tirana has stylish rooms, a relaxing wellness centre and a state-of-the-art gym. It is also the ideal place to stay for foodies, with three restaurants (Panevino, Convivium and Savor) offering excellent choices for even the most demanding palates.
Fish restaurant If you are looking for pure freshness, we recommend the Xha Barka, one of the best fish restaurants in the city. Quality, freshness and variety are hallmarks of this restaurant.
Farmhouse restaurant We highly recommend the Mrizi i Zanave farmhouse restaurant opened by the world-renowned chef, Altin Prenga. This splendid location, in the village of Fishtë, has become the top place for slow food in Albania. The farmhouse restaurant is immersed in naturally beautiful surroundings, equalled only by the delicious food at zero miles, and offers the chance to taste traditional dishes.
Mrizi i Zanave Restaurant
Things to see The Bunk’art Memorial Museum offers new generations and foreign visitors the opportunity to learn about the bunkers built during the dark years of the communist regime. The first Bunk’Art, located five minutes from the central Skanderbeg square, is connected via an underground tunnel to the Ministry of the Interior. The rooms used by the interrogators have been reconstructed inside the structure and the rudimentary tools used by spies are on display. The second Bunk’Art is located on the outskirts of the city. This nuclear bunker extends over 2680 square metres and was intended to house the dictator, Enver Hoxha, whose private study, bedroom and even the spartan toilet can be visited, and the other exponents of the regime. The next stop on the ideal itinerary is Berat, where you can stop and taste the typical dishes of Albanian cuisine.
Wine tour The Cobo Winery is the perfect wine cellar for a pleasant pit stop. Vineyards lie at the foot of Mount Tomorri and, inside a spacious kulla (a traditional Albanian form of architecture), the wine cellar has its elegant wine presentation area.
The Cobo Winery tour includes a chance to see the entire wine making process and a visit to the park. Guests are then invited to enjoy a glass of wine and chat with a member of the Cobo family, together with a chance to taste a range of home-made Albanian cheeses. The tours are only available by appointment and usually last between two and four hours.
The city of a thousand windows. Continuing on the journey, around 90 km from Tirana is the city of Berat, crossed by the Osum river and one of Albania’s oldest cities. This historical city dates to the Ottoman period and is a Unesco World Heritage site. It is known as the city of a thousand windows, due to the vast number of glass windows reflecting the sunlight in the Mangalem and Gorica districts. The high walls of the Castle tower over the numerous white houses.
An amazing place The Hotel Castle Park in Berat is a truly fascinating destination, in a spectacular location at the heart of an enchanting oasis. A magical place created through a close attention to detail, with a restaurant boasting the very best traditional recipes using hand-selected organic produce. Fresh and natural ingredients are the key to every recipe.
The city of two seas. An ancient city and natural harbour in the Strait of Otranto, Vlorë lies at the point where the Adriatic Sea gives way to the Ionian Sea and is certainly not to be missed. In addition to the renovated area of the seafront alongside the harbour, Vlorë also has numerous historical monuments, such as the Muradie Mosque dating to 1500 and the ancient city walls from the sixth century BC.
Vlorë is certainly well worth a visit. As you stroll through its streets, you will come across a monument, a church, a historical building or simply a table at a bar in the shade of a tree.
Fish restaurant The Joni Vlore Restaurant should not be missed when you come to Vlorë. The restaurant will refresh your palate with the true flavour and pleasure of seafood. It offers Mediterranean and Italian cuisine. The location is characterised by a meticulous attention to every detail and designed to ensure you have a comfortable and relaxing experience. The staff is highly qualified and a delicious meal is guaranteed.
Hotel on the beach. The Coral Hotel Resort is a delightful structure just a short stroll from the beach. With a perfect balance between comfort, quality and convenience, the hotel welcomes its guests in a youthful and dynamic setting, ideal for families.
2. ALBANIA ADVENTURE
The Albania Adventure Tour offers our guests an unforgettable trip through the hinterland and along the coast of Albania. The first few days are spent enjoying the numerous attractions of the central-northern part of the region. At Durrës, home to one of the major ports in the Balkans, it is possible to visit the Roman Amphitheatre and the Archaeological Museum. Another attraction is unquestionably the Skënderbeu Winery, a historical wine cellar standing on a beautiful hill close to the city. The city of Berat, a UNESCO World Heritage site, also has three famous residential areas: Mangalem (Muslim district), Gorica (Christian district) and the majestic Citadel, as well as the Onufri Museum with its collection of Albanian icons. The second day will be dedicated to activities ‘in the wild’, including rafting on the waterfalls of the Osumi Canyons. Lunch under the crystal-clear waterfalls is an experience not to be missed. The tour will then take you to Lake Ohrid, Pogradec, where there will be a chance to taste the typical specialities of the small local producers and traders, before heading to the city of Korçë. For the most daring, the tour will continue to the Langarica Canyons, along a road that is slightly jagged, but well worth the trip. The last stop along the Adriatic coast is Përmet, where visitors can start by taking an unforgettable stroll along the rivers, surrounded by nature, to reach the basins of the natural springs. After Gjirokastra, where it is possible to visit the celebrated home of the Skënduli family, the tour moves to the Ionian coastline. Well worth a visit along the way is the Blue Eye spring in the village of Muzine, after which we leave the mountains and head towards the splendid beaches and clear waters of Saranda. It is possible to take a stroll along the Borsh cliffs, as far as the village of Qeparo. We then head towards Porto Palermo, close to Dhërmi. A day will be spent in Dhërmi enjoying a boat trip to visit the most hidden and uncontaminated bays. For the more adventurous among you, before returning to Durrës, there is the chance for a pleasant walk through Gjipe Canyon.
3. CLASSIC ALBANIA
After the ferry docks in the port of Durrës, there will be a chance to visit the ancient Medieval city walls, the Roman Amphitheatre and the Ardenica Monastery, built in the thirteenth century on the ruins of an ancient Pagan temple dedicated to the Greek goddess Artemis. The tour then heads towards Albania’s capital, Tirana. Here, it will be possible to visit the eighteenth-century Et'hem Bey Mosque and the Bunk’Art and admire the Italian-style architecture of the ministries, as well as the middle-class district of Blloku, where the communist elite lived for over forty years. Nearby, there is the Kruja, the medieval city with a heavy Ottoman influence lying at the foot of the mountain. There will also be the chance to stroll through the bazaar, the citadel and the Skanderbeg Museum, dedicated to the fifteenth-century national hero of Albania. The following days will be dedicated to southern Albania, in the direction of Gjirokastra, a UNESCO World Heritage site. After a visit to the houses with their characteristic tower shape, the tour heads to the famous Blue Eye spring. The night will be spent near Butrint, which has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1992. The stop includes a visit to the ancient Greek-Roman city, which was inhabited up to the end of the Middle Ages. The following days will be dedicated to the sea and the enchanting beaches of Saranda, a coastal city off the coast of the island of Corfu. The return journey includes Berat, known as the "city of a thousand windows" and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Here, it will be possible to visit the residential districts of Mangalemi and Gorica, on the banks of the river, and there will also be plenty of time for a visit to the Onufri Museum.
4. ALBANIA & THE METEORA MONASTERIES
After docking in Durrës and a brief visit of the city, the tour heads towards Elbasan. The heavily Ottoman influenced city here is well worth a visit. The tour than continues on to Pogradec, a city on Lake Ohrid, the deepest lake in the Balkans and one of the oldest in the world. We then continue on the road towards Korça, a major cultural centre in the south-east of the country, surrounded by mountains. Here, there will be a chance to visit the city and its ancient Ottoman bazaar, the Orthodox Cathedral and the old town with its early twentieth century houses. The following day we will head to Greece. The first Greek city on the itinerary is Kastoria, famous for the leather and fur trading. Kastoria is followed by the city of Meteora, where it will be possible to visit two important monasteries reaching a height of 600 metres and inhabited since the fourteenth century. After leaving Meteora behind us, the tour continues along mountain roads to Metsovo, an attractive Greek village known for the production of a typical smoked cheese. Continuing along the road, there will be a chance to visit Ioaninna, the cultural and historical capital of the Epirus region located on the banks of Lake Pamvotida. The city is home to the majestic Aslan Pasha Mosque and the Byzantine Museum, both located inside the ancient city walls. There will be the chance for a boat trip on Lake Pamvotida and a visit to the island. At the end of the Greek part of the tour, we will return to Albania and head for Gjirokastra, a UNESCO World heritage site, with its imposing citadel and characteristic, Turkish-period houses. After a visit to the typical houses of Gjirokastra, the tour heads to Butrint. A stop at the Blue Eye spring along the way is an absolute must. Butrint is an ancient city with a splendid archaeological site that has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. The day ends at the white beaches and crystal-clear waters of Saranda. The return towards the central-northern part of the Land of the Eagle cannot fail to include Berat. Before stopping in Berat, the city of a thousand windows, there will be a chance to visit the bay of Porto Palermo and its nineteenth century fortress, but also the Ardenica Monastery, built in the thirteenth century on the ruins of an ancient Pagan temple dedicated to the Greek goddess Artemis. On the following day, before heading towards the port of Durrës, the enormous citadel of Berat and the Onufri Museum are well worth a visit. The tour then heads to Kruja, one of Albania’s most attractive cities, with its typical Ottoman bazaar and the paved streets heading towards the Museum dedicated to the national hero, Gjergj Kastrioti Skanderbeg. The tour continues on to Durrës in the afternoon, for the journey back to Italy.
ALBANIA: IMPORTANT INFORMATION FOR YOUR JOURNEY!
VALID DOCUMENTS FOR FOREIGN TRAVEL
Identify card valid for foreign travel or passport.
Same time zone as Italy.
Albanian is an Indo-European language with many words of Greek, Latin and ancient Slavic origin. Italian is widely spoken among both the old and the young.
CLIMATE AND CLOTHING
Albania has a Mediterranean climate, extremely mild, particularly along the Ionian coast, with cold winters and sub-zero temperatures during the night. Rain showers in late autumn and spring alternate with a large number of sunny days throughout the year. The summer is extremely hot, particularly in the cities, where temperatures reach 40°C in July. Spring and autumn are excellent periods for the tours, but beach lovers can also enjoy a holiday in September and October along the southern coast.
The Albanian currency is the Lek (ALL), which has a fairly stable exchange rate against the Euro (currently 130 Lek to 1 Euro). Local currency can be obtained from cash-point machines and other ATMs. The major credit cards can be used in the cities. Many shops and hotels accept payment in Euro.
Standard 220 V. sockets.
The country code is 00355 to call Albania from Italy. Mobile telephone charges vary according to the provider.
Albania can be reached by land and by sea and has a fairly good and rapidly improving transport network. Private or public minibuses and coaches offer frequent connections between the major cities.
VACCINES AND MEDICINAL PRODUCTSI
No vaccines are necessary to visit Albania. As always, it is a good idea to bring any personal medicinal products with you, as they might not be available locally. It is recommended to drink bottled water.
Tips are always well-received during the tour and should be divided between the driver and the tour guide, at the discretion of the participants.
The country is 70% Sunni Muslim, with 20% Orthodox Christians and 10% Catholics.
Albania was officially an atheist country between 1967 and 1990, but has now entered a new phase in which the number of churches and mosques are multiplying.
Albanian cuisine combines various traditions, similar to Turkish cuisine, with fish and a large quantity of meat, in the form of meat skewers and meatballs (shishquyebap, gofte), various stews, roasts and sour cream and yoghurt based sauces. The local beer is good and the red and white wines are not bad. The traditional local spirits are raki and Greek ouzo.
TAKING YOUR VEHICLE TO ALBANIA
You must take out a mandatory insurance policy when you cross the border into Albania. The cost varies according to vehicle type and the length of your stay.
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