Albanian Northern and Southern Holiday – Dates for 2017

We first launched this escorted cultural tour for English-speaking visitors in 2014, managed to convince a few people to go  with us and they loved it! Not very huge but still 2015 was a success. The tour started off in Tirana and took in Korça, Përmet, Gjirokastra, Butrint, Llogara and finally Berat. Albanian Trip’s very own Elton Caushi and Gjergj Mihali led the itinerary to avoid marathon drives and ridiculously early starts. The tour took to the amazing and unusual North as well and brought to some of the cream of its regions. Even the British Airways flight times were civilized! We had no big crowds on the tour but the ones that decided to go with us, loved it!

You can read more about it here.

2 Comments on “Albanian Northern and Southern Holiday – Dates for 2017

  1. If anybody has any doubts about whether Albania is worth visiting, I can assure you that it is. I have just come back from a most wonderful tour of the whole country, provided by Gjergji and Elton, who are two of the nicest and most knowledgeable guides I have ever been with.

    It is a beautiful country, and no longer looks poor. It has excellent roads. The countryside is green and is filled with agriculture, much of it traditional. Attractive new houses are being built. The older buildings in many towns are being restored to a very high standard, involving traditional craftsmen in recreating their interiors, so crafts such as woodcarving etc. can stay alive.

    There is a great variety of scenery with mountains and rivers and lakes and coastline all of which are accessible and are visually stunning.

    The people are friendly. The food is fresh and healthy and is amongst the best I have had anywhere. Standards of cleanliness and hygeine are high. Portions are large.

    Tirana is a fine, modern capital that is well worth visiting for a weekend break. It is an attractive city that is walkable in safety with parks and shops and excellent restaurants. It has a long history with much to see from before and during Communism. It is not just like any other city. It has a history and a character of its own. It is still half the price of most cities, and is a good place to buy cheap clothing.

    The country has many historical sites, Ottoman castles, Roman ruins, national heroes (ancient and modern), museums.

    Albania went through hell in the twentieth century. Now it is recovering remarkably quickly. It really deserves to be on the map of countries to visit and Albanian Trip deserves to be successful in putting it there. I cannot praise them highly enough for the quality or variety of the tour that they provided. Their knowledge and dedication are exceptional. They provided excellent hotels in different styles and went to places and introduced people that no ordinary tour company would know about. Their tour is built around a love and knowledge of Albania and a sensitivity to its history and to their customers, not a list of standard tourist sites and profit margins. I am really glad that I chose to go with this company.

    Communism has gone. The eagles are free in the land of the eagles. They are flying and are almost ready to soar. I wish Albania and Albanian Trip well. They deserve it.

  2. We had originally intended to travel around Albania under our own steam, but after a bit of research decided that as this was our first visit, we should enlist some local help. We are so glad we did, and even happier that it was Albanian Trip in the form of Gjergji Mihali who showed us the southern part of the country. This small, personally managed travel company is one of the most well-established in Albania and deserves its good reputation. Its organisation, the local knowledge, professionalism and charm of its personnel, all make for a highly enjoyable experience.
    Realising that Albania was too big to see the whole of in the time we had at our disposal, we asked for a ‘mini-tour’ setting out from Tirana on a Saturday morning and arriving in Saranda, a delightful sea-side town in the very south, on the Monday afternoon. Places we knew we wanted to visit were Lake Ohrid, Korça, Gjirokastra and Permet, but in general we wanted to get a feel for the mountains (We had read a lot about SOE activity in the area and this had fired our enthusiasm to see some of the terrain in which the fighting, trudging and squabbling had taken place.)
    During our few days in Tirana, we discovered that Albanians were very hospitable and delighted to show off their country. We had gone to see Kruja, Durres and Berat on day trips and found the experience more akin to being with friends than with professional guides. When Gjergji took us under his wing, this impression grew stronger, but was backed up by his extensive knowledge and experience of what he was showing us. Also his extensive knowledge of (it seemed) half the people in the places we stopped at. At least part of Albanian Trip’s efficiency and success seems to come from the excellent relations it has with relevant local businesses.
    Gjergji quizzed us to find out if we had any special interests, and took the trouble to weave into the tour things that he thought would particularly appeal: the memorial to the dead of Borova for instance (the entire village was shot by the Germans in a reprisal in 1943), and the once-great city of Voskopoja with its church of St Nicholas. He was also very flexible about any suggestions we had, such as the church of St Risto in the village of Mborja near Korça, where he managed to raise the restorer from his Sunday rest to come and open up so that we could see the spectacular frescoes. And all this with a sore throat and (probably) throbbing head: we were right at the end of a long season which had taken its toll on his health, though not on his humour and professionalism.
    Our long day’s drive through the mountains from Korça to Gjirocastra was a high point of our visit. Their rugged Alpine emptiness and silence made our spirits soar. Gjergji is an outstanding mountain driver, not once making us queasy or even anxious in a day of continuous hair-pin bends, and being unfailingly patient and courteous when we wanted to stop and admire the view.
    All our guides found us delicious Albanian food, similar in many ways to Greek and Turkish, excellently prepared from very fresh ingredients. The only mediocre meals we had (only a couple) were when we found our own places to eat. One really delightful discovery we made on our own though, was Korça beer, from the oldest extant brewery in Albania, founded in 1929. The other great discovery was the rich (potent) red Albanian wines, currently kept out of the EU by a thicket of red tape. On the road with Gjergji and his colleague Julian we found we had to resort to subterfuges to pay for our libations, as the hospitable Albanians vie for settling the bill.
    We were fortunate enough to have photographer and webmaster Julian on the trip. He was taking pictures for Albanian Trip’s new website. We are hoping he will at some point get round to sendingus them as his camera was much more sophisticated than ours.
    We are already talking about our next visit. To avoid the frustration and hassle of returning via Gatwick we are thinking of a train to Venice, and then on to the Montenegro/Albania boarder, where we hope Albanian Trip will be ready to help us explore the mountainous northern part of their country.
    Sarah Drury and Charmian Martin

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