This tour is designed for people who visit Albania’s South for the first time and favour to combine scenic hikes for average fitness levels with most of the cultural highlights in an 8 day itinerary. The itinerary covers Albania from Tirana to the southern tip at the border with Greece. It takes in both the Adriatic and Ionian shore, a whole lot of national parks and two of the most remarkable cities of the Balkans: Gjirokaster and Berat, both dominated by castles and very distinct Ottoman houses.
We will start by exploring the Karavasta Lagoon, a Ramsar listed habitat, home to many aquatic bird species and famous for its pelican population, before we continue our travels south to the archaeological site of Apollonia, an ancient Greek city located at the Via Egnatia, the main connection between the Western and Eastern Roman Empire.
Leaving the Adriatic coast behind, we cross Llogora Pass to enjoy spectacular views from the mountains that plunge from 1400m height right into the turquoise waters of the Ionian Sea.
On the onwards journey we visit Qeparo Fshat, an old hilltop settlement and our favorite village along the coast, as well as discover how fast sandy beaches can transform into rugged cliffs. We will end the day at the tranquil hidden beach of Gjipe where we spend an easy afternoon.
An obstacle that we will overcome on the next day is the Gjere mountain range, at about 1600m views of Corfu, the coastline and several other ranges are breathtaking. From the top we descend into the Drinos Valley and explore the truly unique city of Gjirokaster.
Following this already well-known destination, our tour goes off the beaten track into the Zagoria Valley. Only one road goes in and instead of traveling over 100km out of it and on to Permet, we cross the 1450m high pass by foot on an ancient but still used trail to the Vjosa Valley. In the early evening we can reward ourselves for our effort with a plunge into the hot sulfuric springs at Benje.
After having travelled Albania for a couple of days you might have noticed the absence of proper thick forests, your impression will change when we pass through the Bredhi i Hotoves national park and journey over a less traveled road along the wild Osumi River Canyon towards Mount Tomorr. On top of one of the peaks one finds to his surprise a Bektashi shrine at nearly 2400m, from here we descend to Polican, former home of Enver Hoxha’s secret arms factories.
The visit to the so called “city of thousand windows”, or simply Berat, will be the last highlight of the tour before we will have to say farewell at Tirana’s Rinas Airport.
* Arrival at Rinas airport & transfer to the city
* Walking tour of Tirana, possibility to visit the colorful neighborhoods, the national history museum, central bazar or headquarters of the Bektashi sect
* Cable car trip to Mount Dajti with brilliant views of town
* Easy hike back to Tirana
* Dinner depending on timing either at Mt. Dajti plateau or in the city center
* Optional nightlife in “Blloku” district, the formerly closed off communist quarter
The schedule of the first day depends very much on the time of your arrival.
Effective walking: 2 h
Distance: 4.5 km
Ascending: 0 m
Descending: 775 m
* Transfer from Tirana to Divjake, the Karavasta lagoon is the biggest in the Balkans
* Relaxing stroll along the bank of the main lagoon, many aquatic birds nest here
* Boating to Pelican Island, the best opportunity to watch these amazing birds
* Lunch at a waterside restaurant where the boat drops us
* Afternoon walk in the northern forest leads us to the oldest tree of the park and the Terbufi channel where we can meet the local fishermen, on our way there are many opportunities to watch wildlife
* Boat transfer on the channel that continues with a walk on a narrow strip between the Godulles e Pishes and Spiaxho lagoon and further along the beach to the hotel
* Leisure time at the beach or another optional hike
Effective walking: 4.5 h
Distance: 12 km
Altitude difference: 0 m
* Scenic drive over a dyke separating the Godulla & Karavasta lagoons
* Transfer to and tour of the ancient ruined town of Apollonia, the monastery and museum
* Lunch at a restaurant overlooking Vlora, Sazani Island and the Karakorum Peninsula
* Transfer to Llogora and summit circle hike above the turquoise Ionian Sea with breathtaking views
* Dinner at a panoramic restaurant high above the sea
* Transfer to the hotel in the Greek influenced city of Himare
Effective walking: 4 h
Distance: 10 km
Ascending: 625 m
Descending: 450 m
* Transfer to Kudhes, a village perched on a hillside full of olive trees
* Hike across the hills to the old town of Qeparo, the only village where buildings remain unchanged in the traditional style
* Lunch in the old hilltop part of Himare
* Transfer to Jal Beach and hike over cliffs to the secluded oasis of Gjipe
* Time to explore the adjacent Vuno Canyon with 70m high walls or to be spend relaxed at the wonderful beach
* Possibility to watch the sunset from St. Thodre Monastery with views of the sea, Llogora and the coastal mountain range
* Transfer to and stay at the previous night’s hotel in Himare
Effective walking: 5.5 h
Distance: 12 km
Ascending: 600 m
Descending: 600 m
* Scenic transfer on the windy coastal road passes Porto Palermo and the Ali Pasha castle before entering the Delvine plain
* Hike from the top of Sopot Mountain with distant views in every direction towards a wonderful forgotten monastery of St. Mary over Goranxi
* Lunch at the green meadows of the monastery
* Short transfer to Gjirokaster and check in at the hotel housed in a traditional building
* Choose to join us on a guided city tour or explore the cobblestone streets and ottoman houses on your own
Effective walking: 4.5 h
Distance: 11 km
Ascending: 150 m
Descending: 1400 m
* Drive through the Drinos Valley with a stop at Lavoba e Kryqit, one of the most beautiful churches in Albania
* Arrival in the Zagoria Valley after a scenic drive through the Suha Canyon
* Hike from the village of Sheper on an ancient trail, passing shepherd summer huts, to Leuse
* Exploration of the village and its church with amazing mural paintings
* Lunch at a restaurant near Permet
* Transfer to Lengarica Canyon, the village of Benje is located at its entrance as well as a finely crafted ottoman bridge
* Relaxation at the hot springs of Benje
Effective walking: 6 h
Distance: 13 km
Ascending: 650 m
Descending: 1300 m
* Scenic ride that passes the thick forests of Bredhi I Hotoves National Park and the wild Osumi river canyon on the way to Corovoda
* Stop at the Bogova waterfall for lunch before our arrival at the Bektashi Shrine
* Hike from Mount Tomorr to Polican
* Transfer to Berat and dinner at the castle or by the river
* Optional evening stroll of the illuminated city of Berat by night
Effective walking: 6 h
Distance: 15 km
Ascending: 100 m
* City tour of the traditional neighborhoods of Berat, the castle and mosque. The length of this tour very much depends on the time of your departure from the airport.
* Transfer from Berat to Rinas Airport
* Farewell coffee
The local infrastructure (in particular road conditions) might not be up to Western European standards in all places. Please come with adequate expectations, and respect and enjoy the local circumstances.
Visitors are expected to respect the wildlife, leave what they find, dispose of their waste properly and to be considerate with locals.