Over the years we’ve assisted incredibly diverse guests with their trips in Albania and the Balkans! Scroll below to see what wonderful things they’ve had to say about our service, the beauty of the country and friendliness of the people who live here! And if you need further convincing, we have even more favourable reviews on Tripadvisor.
If you’d like to leave us a review please go ahead! Tell us of your experiences and give us your feedback! We always love hearing from our cherished guests and friends.
Elton was kind enough to show me through his collection recently and there are some very interesting and unique pieces to see! Highly recommended and a must see in Tirana – thanks again Elton.
Elton Caushi propose des circuits très variés tournés vers l’écotourisme.
Il est passionné par l’histoire et la culture de son pays. Il vous fera découvrir l Albanie d’une façon originale. Il parle très bien le français
In October 2018 we had our second experience with Albanian Trip for a 14-day shooting of a travel documentary film presented by a famous French TV host.
Albanian Trip had also collaborated to the research with our editorial team prior to the arrival of the shooting crew.
The shooting went very well and the subjects and characters found by Elton were great in the film.
We will not hesitate to work with Albanian Trip again for our next shooting in Albania !
“You are going to Albania” shrieked our friends in Australia …”why on earth would you go there?” Murmuring that it had always been on our bucket list we replied that we couldn’t wait to see the country that had been shrouded in mystery for so much of our lives.
Well now we’ve had a week in Albania we can tell our friends what we experienced and why they should come. It is a fantastic country to visit! The weather in late August was perfect: blue skies, hours of sunshine and beautiful fresh fruit and vegetables everywhere we went.
The history of Albania is fascinating and the remnants of these earlier civilisations are scattered around the country. We flew into Tirana where we picked up our rental 4×4 from Elton at Albanian Trip and then drove off to Vlore, Sarander, Gjirokaster, Berat and Kruja. We had to keep pinching ourselves – we just couldn’t believe we were actually driving around Albania.
Everyone we met was friendly and some went out of their way to help us to find our hotel or to to give us directions to a poorly signed archeological site. (And yes, the signage is often very sparse.)
We picnicked along the way buying bread, cheese, lovely red tomatoes and juicy, golden peaches and nectarines to eat in the pine groves or by the magnificent ruins we visited. We stayed in lovely (and inexpensive) hotels and everywhere we went we were welcomed with warmth and generosity.
It was a unique experience and we loved every moment that we were there.
Me and two friends were visiting Albania for the first time, and we decided we needed to see more than just Tirana, so we booked a one day trip to Berati and surrounding areas. We were met by Elton, who speaking perfect English, and took us to have a traditional breakfast including soup and pilafrice in the outskirts
From there on we drove to the seaside, and admired the lovely Adriatic sea, and then on to the castle monitoring Berati. Elton was very skillful and told us both about the previous history of Albania, and also how life was
growing these days. We had a perfect lunch down in the center of Berati with a lot of different traditional Albanian dishes which all tasted superb. After that we visited Cobo winery, and were given a tour before our
return to Tirana. We were hoping to be taken the non-tourist route and Elton gave us the perfect ride back home to Tirana.
As for anyone who is considering visiting Albania. Take one day out of the visit to Tirana and go on a day-trip with Albanian Trip. You’ll discover a whole new side to Albania, and for us it was the best day of our five day visit in Albania.
Our stay in Tirana was awesome, thanks to Albaniantrip.com. Elton and Vilma responded promptly to all my inquiries via email and FB messenger so convenient!! Ancients and Ottomans full day tour with Irvin as our guide was the BEST choice. We were picked up from the Lobby at our Hotel, the vehicle was very roomy and comfortable.
Irvin was local and had tons of information about Albania as well as connections with the local people everywhere we stopped. It was very interesting to learn about his experiences in Albania as well about the sites that we visited. He took care of entrances, local guide at the museum all details and more handled. We had a very special visit with a local resident in OLD Berrat, sweetest little lady who graciously cooked a meal from her local supplies, we purchased some of her hand knitted wool slippers 🙂 He even made a stop in Durres for a night view of the Roman amphitheater, which wasn’t part of our tour and a true delight. We left behind our thermos, the next day it had been delivered to the front desk at the hotel, they go above and beyond! I highly recommend Albaniantrip.com services and tours Irvin was an awesome guide!!
I have been privileged to experience two day-trips, one to Durres and one to see Albania’s amazing Dalmatian pelicans at Divjake – Karavasta National Park with Elton Ҫaushi of Albanian Trip.
In both instances, Mr. Ҫaushi graciously enlisted local experts to supplement his own expansive knowledge of each location’s culture and history.
For example, in Durres, Diana Rakipi (Lali), a Burrnesha or sworn virgin, joined us to supplement Mr. Ҫaushi’s expansive knowledge of Durres and to describe her life as a sworn virgin.
In Divjake – Karavasta, Mr. Ҫaushi invited photographer Julian Çaushi, also from Albanian Trip, Ardian Koçi, Director, Administration of Protected Areas, Fier and Mirjan Topi, an internationally recognized Albanian ornithologist, to provide our group with the most comprehensive learning experience regarding Dalmatian Pelicans in Albania.
I have traveled extensively in the USA and other countries where I have enjoyed some stellar tours of this beautiful earth.
Mr. Ҫaushi is one of the most candid, energetic, flexible, knowledgeable, optimistic and professional guides I have known.
Thank you, Albanian Trip!
We took the ‘bunkers and beaches’ tour with Albanian Trip and had an absolutely stupendous time. Our guide Elton speaks excellent English and is incredibly knowledgable about Balkan history and geopolitics but can certainly break it down for the uninitiated! He guided us in a safe, comfortable 4×4 and took exemplary care of us for the entirety of the trip. We would whole-heartedly recommend this excursion!
Had a fun day out with George in mid June Had a marvellous tour of the main bunker in Tirana followed by a lovely wine and food tasting session at a local farm .Countryside was beautiful as was the beach.
Great day out with a very informative and amusing guide .We saw a pregnant dog trotting in earnest by the side of the main road and George said ” she was off to Tirana for a better life”…still laughing about that
I’ve been attracted to the tours provided by Albanian Trip immediately I saw their website – the tours seemed very unusual and creative. So I booked two tours for me and my friends – Beaches and Bunkers and Ancients and Ottomans. We were absolutely amazed by these tours, our tour guides showed us beauty and hospitality of Albania, were very knowledgeable and very flexible in providing us what we wanted. Expect some nice and great surprises while doing these tours, not only because Albania is great country, but also because the Albanian Trip company will show you best sides of it. Highly recommended
We decided to have an extra day in Tirana and wanted something a bit different and Albanian Trip’s “Bunker and Beaches” one day tour looked enticing. A small band of five of us led by guide Ervin Budo set off in an air conditioned minibus big enough for twenty. The first stop was the bunker. This was the centre and command post for Albania’s infamous communist leader Enver Hoxha. The regime may have collapsed over 20 years ago but the bunkers survive. This was where the great leader would run the country in the event of a nuclear attack. He really believed it would happen, a paranoia born out of a complete distrust and hatred of the Soviet Union, China and the US. So mad, bad and obsessed with the belief nuclear annihilation was imminent the order went out to dig. With that thousands of prisoners, political dissidents, miners and army conscripts worked to the point of exhaustion to build over 170,000 bunkers across the whole of Albania. This one is the biggest, now renamed Bunk’Art (you can’t say the Albanians don’t have a sense of humour!). We were handed over to the bunker’s specialist guide, Artemisa, and entered the bunker through a hundred metre tunnel, then descended down four flights of stairs and entered a warren of corridors.
There is a maze of rooms, an underground city with accommodation for hundreds of people, (top dogs and friends only) a radio communication centre, even a cinema, and right in the centre of it all the great man’s sitting room and bedroom, complete with en suite bathroom with red lavatory! which he visited only three times, we were told. To add to the effect, you’re exposed to a simulated chemical attack and in a darkened room bombarded with the sound of a nuclear attack. It’s both amusing and chilling in equal parts. Artemisa’s English is excellent and she briefed us in detail on the full horrors of Enver Hoxha’s hardline communist regime. We were quite delighted to see the light of day when it was all over. Not to be missed, impress your friends with a tale of Enver Hoxha’s nuclear madness .A must-see visit if you’re going to Albania.
But the day had only just begun and we were off again in the mini-bus with Ervin back in charge . Next stop a farm where the Farmer had had his farm confiscated and collectivised under the regime and then returned to him, in part, when the regime fell. The farmer and his wife greeted us and soon had us round a large table by a lake on his farm, groaning under the weight of his home grown peaches, watermelon, bread, cheese and homemade wine, sumptuous.
Ervin came into his own, as an English teacher, his impressive linguistic skills provided an almost simultaneous translation as we bombarded are farmer host with questions about life under the regime, life afterwards and his family’s aspirations now.
It was really interesting, we started to get a direct account of what life was like for the small farmer under the regime and how he has recovered now. It was a shame to leave but there was a timetable to keep to and yet more food to be eaten. We drove for another 20 minutes or so to a beautiful peninsula and to the top of the headland where there was a small restaurant with stunning views over the Adriatic Sea. Lunch was served. Sensational barbecued fish and prawns with salad and wine; we were soon bloated. Then we were off to the beach part of the tour, a small local beach populated mostly by Albanian people where fortunately there were sunbrellas as by now the temperature was in the upper 30s. After a suitable time for digestion we took to the sea, a glorious 24° perfect for floating and basking.
Then sadly at 6 p.m. it was over and we drove back to Tirana. A really enjoyable, fulfilling day .
We probably haven’t said enough about Ervin’s skills as a guide. His English as said is excellent – no question fazed him – and with a prodigious knowledge of the Albania, he was funny and amusing and an all round good guy to hang out with. In fact we were so impressed we decided to book him for the following day to take us around Tirana to see the museums and meet another survivor of the old regime who told us stories of being both an artist and a loyal military officer to the regime and then seeing the light. We also visited the creepy House of Leaves, the spy centre for the regime where all the paraphernalia of spying is displayed including bugging and the confessions of the “enemies of the people” were extracted. Worth a visit in itself as a warning from history.
We wanted to do more than skim the surface as a tourist and these two days with Ervin really gave us some insight into the recent history of Albania and what’s going on now. We were certainly richer for the experience and we certainly got value for money. We strongly recommend these tours, prices depend on the number in the group but between 45 and €65 a day per person. The days start at 9 and finish around 7 including all meals and drinks, yes very good value, can’t recommend it strongly enough .
Elton led us on a wonderful customised day trip from Tirana to Kruja and Durres. He was knowledgeable and passionate about the history and culture of his country, and was also very entertaining. We had a very smooth experience organizing the trip, and ended up taking a couple of hour longer than stated as he accommodated some special requests very willingly. I felt like I had seldom learned so much in one day and had such a fascinating time doing it. Well done, Albanian trip!
Thank you for a fabulous day out birding at Narta. It was informative and a lot of fun, and the guide was not only expert but also an excellent host. We really couldn’t have asked for anything more.
Wow. Wow. wow. Albanian Trips shaped and highlighted our w 6 week trip in Albania. We started by booking an all day city a day tour – which was simply fantastic – but ended up booking a six day trip up north. My 3 kids and I have been around the globe and back and I don’t think we could recommend Albanian trips more highly and completely. We got off the beaten track and met so many amazing people in those six days. Thank you thank you thank you for being flexible and also suggesting the “must -sees”. We will be forever grateful for our trip to Albania and a special special thank you to you, Ervin (you are very intuitive and understood the needs of my family incredibly quickly) and Albania trips. We will be back!
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Linde und ich sind gut wieder in Wien angekommen. Der von Dir organisierte Abholdienst vom Hotel Sky hat geklappt und der Chauffeur hat uns gut am Flughafen abgeliefert.
Linde und ich moechten uns bedanken fuer eine toll organisierte, interessante Reise, die uns das reale Albanien sehr nahe gebracht hat. Dein Land hat jetzt fuer uns ein Gesicht. Dass Du uns als Draufgabe noch Alban mit auf den Weg gegeben hast, machte unsere Reise außer interessant, inhaltsreich und abwechslungsreich auch noch lustig und voller Spaß. DANKE.
Wir werden hier in Wien und Oesterreich Propaganda fuer Euch machen und allen, die es hoeren wollen und auch nicht, erzaehlen, wieviel Schoenes wir gesehen haben.
Alles Gute und liebe Grueße aus Wien
Ingrid und Linde
I was leading a group of Danes and planned a day with Elton guiding us to the “Bunker Wine” and the Rodoni beach north of Durres.
It was a marvelous day where we went to special places had to find. We started with coffee and raki at the Villa with Star, had a good introduction to life in Albania during and after Communism. On the tour we had a great lunch at the Bunker Wine farm.
Elton is a knowing and very pleasant guide. He also gave good advice for the rest of our tour.
Albanian Trip is highly recommended!
We booked a tour at Albaniantrip, we asked for a Sovjet architecture tour through Tirana. We had a wonderfull good tour with Elton our guide. He took us to unexpected exciting places which you would never find on your one. He is a very good guide and has great stories about Tirana, but also a fun person: smart, modest and creative. I talked about a project I wanted to work on (I am an artist) and spoke about a person I wanted to film. He suggested he could arrange that. And he did! Elton brought me in contact with the person in Durres, I even could borrow a stative from him. His translating work was very good! Heryby I highly recommand Albaniantrip!
I’ve been home in England for five days after the super trip from Bulgaria to Albania, taking things easy because I was quite tired!
One of our highlights has definitely been staying in the Villa with Star, especially having breakfast with you and talking to you about life in Albania. On behalf of all six of us, I want to thank you so much for that
Thank you again for the super nice day trip in Karavasta last week. We both enjoyed it very much and learned a lot about Albania. We would surely recommend it to our friends and family!
The trip was much more than I was expecting.
Olsi is a solid dude and seems very trustworthy — I’m sure he will be one of your key guys someday. Great kid, I really liked him a lot.
Ervin of course is the consumate professional and a walking encyclopedia of all things Albania, the Balkans, the National Hero, the Romans, the Illyrians, the Byzantines, the Ottomans, the Communists, American movies, etc., etc. Really an excellent, super knowledgeable tour guide.
I really liked all the people that I met and appreciated hearing their stories very much. I was somewhat surprised at how much your countrymen admire America and was not expecting to feel more patriotic by coming to Albania, but I am.
Honestly, having been a former “cold warrior”, it was intriguing to visit some of the communist museums and monuments. Especially chatting with your mom who at one point could break down an AK in 30 seconds blindfolded. 30 years later, she made me a nice lunch!
Yesterday was a great day, breakfast with Luca in Berat, wine tasting with the multigenerational winemakers, great dinner then a tour and drinks with Diana in Durres. How do you top that??
Thank you so much for putting this together, it was truly the trip of a lifetime and I will never forget it.
We had a fantastic time with Albanian Trip this summer. We used them for car hire for our two weeks in Albania but they actually helped us with much more. The cars we had were fantastic and fully insured but having Gjergji as an English speaking contact (who seemed to know everyone in Albania!) was wonderful as we knew that if we ever needed him, he was there to help. He also gave us lots of recommendations on where to stay in the North which was lovely. Thank you for making our trip so enjoyable and worry-free! We will definitely use Albanian Trip next time we are lucky enough to come to Albania!
Thanks for everything you arranged for us. We’re very lucky to have found your travel agency for our family of three generations travelling through Albania. From transfers over hotels till car rental: everything was very well taken care off. We only got good quality and met friendly staff. It was very easy to communicate with you. For those considering to travel to Albania: do so, it’s a stunningly beautiful country (and you HAVE to go to Teth and take the trail to Valbona!). We loved the variety in nature, ancient villages (Berat!) and friendly people.
I hadn’t thought of visiting Albania until talking to your friend at Destinations. I normally think quite hard about where to go, and research which company to go with but didn’t on this occasion, having made a spontaneous decision to go with AlbanianTrip. Since returning, I have looked at one or two other tours (there aren’t many) to see how they compare – and I feel even more pleased that I went with you.
I liked the fact that the itinerary went awry at times! This is because we did extra, spontaneous, things, such as visiting the history museum in Vlora and being shown round the Socialist Realist art exhibition in Korca. I doubt that these things could happen on a tour with a larger firm where guides would have less flexibility.
I did like the fact that we dined together. Apart from enjoying the company, we were able to benefit from your knowledge of where and what to eat. The hotels were all good, though some were better than others. I hadn’t known what to expect and, to be honest, thought that they might be less good than they were. The traditional ones in Girokastra and Korca were the best.
I thought that visiting Kruja on our first full day was a good idea as it combined spectacular scenery with diverse elements of Albanian history – specifically Skanderbeg, his fight against the Ottomans and the interpretation of this story in the communist period museum. Combining it with Durres brought in ancient history too, as well as being practical as they’re both near Tirana. I only mention this because I noticed that other tours go there last, on their way back to the airport – your way round is better. I very much enjoyed visiting the cobbler’s, baker’s and blacksmith’s shops and meeting the old man in Permet and even the sozzled general in the bar in Korca. People were very friendly and, clearly, tourists are still a novelty. I also enjoyed the tour of the National Art Gallery in Tirana with the local artist, as you wouldn’t normally meet such a person.
Finally, thank you for leading the tour so well. You have great knowledge about your own country as well as an obvious interest in the wider world and in other people. And a great sense of humor so we had a lot of fun. I particularly appreciated the fact that you were prepared to discuss some of the more negative things about Albania, such as corruption in the judiciary and petrol adulteration. I’m not sure that many tour guides would be as open as this. I felt I got an honest and well rounded view of the country, which might not have been the case with another leader. Absolutely finally, your friend at Destinations captured my attention by describing the countryside and the historical sites but I didn’t realize how good the hotels and food would be, or how friendly the people. Albania is also kind to the pocket as food and drinks are cheap compared with Britain and your single supplement was surprisingly low (good news for solo travelers who resent high supplements.)
We got home safely and the weather has been nice and sunny and not too cold!
We really did enjoy the holiday with you and Andrea. We had been thinking of visiting Albania for some time but couldn’t find a tour that inspired us from the large UK operators, so when we met Elton in London and talked with him and his obvious enthusiasm for his country we knew we had to book with you. We weren’t disappointed! Thank you very much for sharing your country with us.
To anyone thinking of joining one of Albanian Trip’s tours we can only say – do it! Albania has much to offer from stunning mountain scenery, to ruined castles and ancient history, to its more recent communist past. An adventurous trip but not uncomfortable – the hotels are, in the main, converted traditional houses, are all to a good standard and are family concerns. The restaurants chosen by Albanian Trip are excellent serving local dishes from local ingredients (and generous quantities – be warned!)
We were fortunate to have Gjergji as our driver/guide. We felt totally safe whether in the chaotic traffic in Tirana or negotiating hairpin bends through a mountain pass. An excellent guide, patiently answering all questions about the sites we visited or Albanian life in general. He also seems to know everyone in Albania!
If you want a genuine experience of Albania we are sure you won’t be disappointed with Albanian Trip
My impression of Albania, and also of Kosovo, was of beautifully varied landscapes and friendly people. I am happy that I made the choice to explore both countries, and even more happy that I chose to travel with an organization which not only knows the right places to go, but also the people within those places who can provide the best hotel services, the best food, and access to the most interesting galleries, museums, churches and mosques.
It was clear to me that both guides (for the Southern Cities and the North Albania extension) were known and respected in all the places we visited. As a result, many doors were opened to us which had not been accessible to the general public for a long period, due to refurbishment, etc. The small group arrangement also permitted flexibility in the itinerary to take advantage of such access, or to add extra options so that we could enjoy each location to the full. Every city, town or village was a new experience, each quite different to the rest in terms of historical heritage and even food. The only common factor was the friendliness of the people I met, and their wish to talk to me and to share whatever they could with me. This was particularly evident in the Albanian Alps where the few people are scattered over greater areas, but all are welcoming to those travelling through. It has truly been a wonderful experience and I would have been happy to extend my stay if that had been possible
Albanian Trip gives excellent tours to Albania indeed and really made our trip so memorable in ways we never imagined.
The feast luncheon at the farmhouse on the edge of a lake was extraordinary – outstanding food, amazingly fresh and talking with the woman of the farm who had prepared all of it, was priceless.
Jetmir was a wonderful guide and we had a fantastic tour with him on Saturday!
He was a real expert in all the places we visited and so patient in translating and explaining things for us in every place we visited.
We rate him the highest! And will recommend Albanian Trip to all our friends.
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.
Dear Elton and Vilma,
Now that we are home and settled in our daily routine again, I just wanted to take a moment to tell you how much we enjoyed this tour. Ervin was a wonderful tour guide and driver. He showed us your amazing country – explaining the history, introducing us to delicious food, taking us on nature and cultural walks, and always mindful of our needs. He took very good care of us. I have many photos and notes of this trip so that I can remember it fondly in the years to come.
Peggy & Cameron
Hello Albanian Trip Team!
As you know, yesterday we ended our “peaks of the Balkan”- tour.
We all want to thank you for the splendid organization: really
EVERYTHING was more than satisfying: the tour itself, the
accommodation, the warm welcoming hosts, the food, the timings, the
drivers, … and last but lot least guide Niko, who – despite of his
young age – proved his natural leadership skills, his sense of
responsibility, his punctuality, his patience and his sense of humor.
Congratulations and many many thanks for your perfect coaching and
You can count with our recommendation to friends and fellow travelers!!
Lieve, Patti, Marijke, Veerle, Skender, Ann, Myriam, Nele, Kerlijne
As a member of the botanist group that visited south Albania in April, I would like to give you my feedback …
Like Elton said “fortunately everything is not definitively tragic!” in this country under construction (literally and in the figurative) shuffled by so many historical stories between Orient and Occident, nevertheless with this unique language.
From the mountains to the see, fertile cultivated plains with fruits, vegetables and cereals look like a lost paradise … for botanists. The rivers are wild and free, but for how long? The hillsides are not covered with roads, and the sky is blue without airplanes and helicopters in every direction. Hardly any constructions at the edge of beaches, the olive trees and pasture are still undamaged, yeahhh!
The cuisine offers numerous simmered dishes, lamb, grilled vegetables. And raki of course! Elsewhere, some very good wine of Berat.
Elton puts all his heart so that we love his country. He chooses hotels carefully and with relevance. He knows how to tell stories to captivate his public thanks to his knowledge of the history and his personal testimony.
Thank you a lot for having widened our vision of Europe!
“Ikim”, see you soon Albania…
For anyone questioning whether or not to go on this tour, I tell you with utmost confidence to question it no further. The country and the people running this company are both fantastic. My mom and I did the cultural tour Land of the Geg & Land of the Tosk and experienced two weeks of eye-opening, jaw-dropping beauty. We loved it so much we went back again two years later for another trip.
First off, if you have extremely high expectations for luxury, this country may not be for you. While the hotels were all so unbelievably lovely that I felt grossly underwhelmed coming back to my own home with mix-matched decor and a bathroom that could surely use some updating (1970s purple bathtub, anyone?), the experience of going to Albania is not one filled with grandeur and opulence – thankfully, refreshingly so. It is a breath of fresh air.; a warm blanket on a cold day. You will regret not going.
Albania is honest, raw, sincere, naturally beautiful and has hospitality in places you’d least expect it. It is not perfect – and in some places it’s not even pretty -but the charms of this country-in-flux are ones that force you to love it. And you will love it in the purest way, not just on the surface. Albania creeps up on you. It moves its way into every pore of your body and starts imprinting itself on your mind and heart in ways you didn’t expect. It’s not like those touristy destinations where you feel removed and disengaged, shuffling from one in-your-face-beautiful attraction to the next like cattle and bothered by over-eager merchants to buy souvenirs in the interim. No, Albania just sits there and does its own thing while you become a part of it. It doesn’t tell you what to feel – you must feel for yourself. You are an observer but you are also a temporary inhabitant: how rare! (And there is indeed such unexpected beauty here that it just might move you to tears. Some of the mountain paths and small winding roads through towns lost in time are ones you are all too happy to get lost on.)
Albanian Trip is unequivocally the company with whom you should see Shqipëri. For one, the people running it are incredible. They offer a human side to the country and by no means do they partake in the “smiling guide who just wants your money” act. No, no. These people are genuine -they are everything missing from the world and from the ever-depersonalizing tourism industry.
Contact with Elton began in the winter and he was prompt and charming in his responses. Right away any trepidation I had with choosing an obscure online company was erased. I laughed out loud at some of our conversations and felt entirely sure that I should sign up. I wired my money off.
There were five of us on this particular tour. Although there may be more or less people when you might decide to go, the smaller size made for a unique and personal experience. Gjergji, another of the three owners, was our tour leader and we felt so thankful to have him. This is a growing company and not all will get to be directly with the owners but I can assure you that they carefully choose who works with them.
Gjergji is one of the sweetest, most sincere people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. He noticed how everyone was feeling, was able to gauge how to act in any stressful situations and he was careful to balance all of our needs (just imagine working with a group of people with varying personal preferences! It’s no easy task but he pulled it off with great skill.) The tour is designed to allow a good mix of guidance and freedom, and the behind-the-scenes work that goes into planning it makes it too easy to forget just how much they’ve done to make it so seamless. There were no terribly early starts and almost every day we got to the next destination by the afternoon in order to have time to rest and then explore. Gjergji’s driving was flawless and he handled the more strenuous mountain roads with care and expertise (as one who sometimes gets carsick, this was great!)
The choice of activities included on the itinerary is mixed and you will surely get something out of all it. It is designed to give you a well-rounded taste of the country – geographically, historically, gastronomically and culturally. I shall not provide too many details as I don’t want to spoil the surprise but in general, here is what you can expect:
1. Fresh, carefully crafted, mouth-wateringly delicious food.
Everything we ate was above standard. Albanian specialties and meals with either Turkish, Greek or Italian influence were all cooked with precision (and some, in my opinion, were in fact better renditions than their countries of origin due to the high standard of ingredients.) It is obvious that those at Albanian Trip are “foodies” because of the places they pick and suggest to eat at. Not one of them disappointed me. Don’t expect to only get served meat – while the meat dishes my travel partners ate were raved about (whether it was goat, wild boar, fish, veal, lamb, etc.) there are so many kinds of wholesome foods to indulge in like roasted vegetables, salads, cheese, bread, olives, yogurt, savoury pies (byrek), fried spinach, zucchini or rice balls, etc. Be prepared for surprises, too. If you are a vegetarian like me, you will not once be forced to settle nor will you ever have to be a pain to someone. There is so much to eat -so much that you end up rolling home in blissful agony. (And do try the desserts. And also the wine and raki if you like a drink!)
2. Excellent hotels, all with character and some with historical significance.
They had first-class amenities: beautiful decor, hot showers, wifi, TVs with fun satellite channels to browse, comfortable beds, high standards of cleanliness, extra blankets and many had balconies with great views. A couple had wifi reception that was quite finicky but when you see where you are it is completely understandable. In the end, if you check about availability the day before, it’s nothing that can’t be planned around.
3. Natural beauty that will astound you.
The mountains- oh, the mountains! I’ve been to places with rugged landscapes before but this country could top the rest due to the diversity in these tectonic phenomena and also, where the roads are constructed! Never have mountains had personalities. It sounds crazy, but you’ll see when you get there.
4. Lovely, kind people.
Sure, not every experience going into a store to buy a bottle of water will be life-changing. But in almost all cases the servers are extremely happy you are there and go out of their way to speak English and care for you properly. The real surprise is the warm welcome you get from average people going about their day-to-day lives. Be open and communication will happen, even with a hilariously obvious language barrier. Also, if you have a chance to stop at random food markets and the like, do so. I am still teeming with the warmth I experienced from people.
5. Ever-changing identities.
Each pocket of Albania feels different from the one you were at before. This is due to several things: the climate, the flatness or elevation resulting in differing agricultural practices, the language, the proximity to neighbouring countries and absorption of some of their cultural particularities and what body of water is near (whether it’s a river, a lake or a sea greatly changes who’s there and what they are doing.) You will get cosmopolitan stuff: cafe culture, shopping, high heels and energetic youth; and you will rewind and get the idyllic: elderly folk walking hand-in-hand in traditional clothing while cows and goats are herded by a man in a gorgeous field.
6. A great tour company with diverse activities.
Albanian Trip will show you ruins, churches, mosques (don’t underestimate Albania’s religious diversity), natural wonders, historic buildings and places from all periods of Albanian history (Illyrian, Roman, Greek, Ottoman, Communist, present.) You will learn about the people, languages, food, musical styles, national heroes, national symbols and a whole bunch more you can only know about if you sign up. Gjergji was great at teaching about what was around us and often shared personal stories to make it seem more intimate.
All in all, this could very well have been the best trip of my life. At the risk of sounding pretentious, I have traveled a fair bit for someone my age but the unexpected beauty in Albania (again, the pure kind) is something that made it very hard to leave. Also, Gjergji is the type of person you wish lived closer to so you could go catch a Football match together from time to time. He is a guide, yes, but he acts more like a caring friend. He is an exemplary human being and I am a better person for knowing him.
If I have one complaint it’s that Gjergji promised to find my mom an Albanian husband but failed, tragically. If you are looking for matchmaking services, perhaps there is a better choice out there. Albanian Trip was too busy providing an awesome tourist service to find my poor mother a suitable mate. Perhaps we’ll have to go back again to find him.
If you have any more questions regarding the experience I had and what you might expect, ask Elton, Gjergji or Vilma for my email address and I will gladly chat with you! I am a Canadian if that helps – perhaps you might be further interested in a Canadian’s expectations and experience in this little Balkan enigma.
Here is the best compliment two of us from Hong Kong can give to Albanian Trip and our superb guide Ardi: after eight days of seeing much of the country with him, the history, the mountains, the bunkers (!), the resort areas, wildlife, the food (!!), the trees, castles, UNESCO, and most of all talking with random people about their experiences now and under the old regime, we can both say we are almost persuaded to move to Albania and live there.
It was all an enormous surprise, as we had no idea what to expect, and Ardi handled us with good grace and professionalism. Special thanks as well to Elton for showing us his impressive collection of memorabilia, and basically for being so prompt, friendly, and seeing that everything went as it should have done.
We’re older, and this ranked without question as one of our top holidays ever. We never felt that we were trapped in a rigid plan, and with Ardi’s suggestions we saw far more than we could have hoped. Full recommendation to Albanian Trip!
Me and my brother did a 1-day visit to Berat with Albanian Trip. The online communication with the company was very good, and it was easy to arrange and customize our trip. We had an excellent driver and tour guide, Gjergji, who was really nice to spend the day with, and provided us with a lot of knowledge about the region. We drove up to the castle, visited the old town, and had excellent Albanian food together. We finished the day with a wine-tasting at one of the vineyards nearby. Gjergji even gave us a bottle of wine as a present. We can definitely recommend to book a tour with Albanian Trip!