- The Palace of Culture, Tirana
The Palace of Culture includes the national library, national opera and national ballet.
- The resort city of Saranda
Sandwiched between the Ionian Sea and hills covered with olive groves.
- Kiteboarding off Ksamil Village
Stretched along the Ionian Sea Albania boasts stunning white sand beaches with few crowds.
- Overview of Kruja
Kruja is the birthplace of Albanian national hero Skanderbeg and a site of great historical importance.
- Holy Trinity Church in Berat
Berat is one of the world’s oldest most continually inhabited cities, with its glistening white Ottoman dwellings earning it the moniker of ‘city of a thousand windows’.
- All breakfasts and more
Be among the first to discover the historical sites and natural wonders of Albania on this ground-breaking Saga tour.
This comprehensive tour of Albania is brand new and exclusive to Saga. You have the opportunity to explore the length and breadth of the country from the crystal-clear waters of the Ionian coast to the national parks of the Cika Mountains and even across the border into Macedonia on an unmissable optional excursion. On the way you will discover unspoilt areas of outstanding natural beauty, ancient cities and their sights as well as relics of the Cold War. And you will come away with the feeling that you are trail-blazing a new frontier in European tourism as Albania truly feels like an eagle rising from the ashes.
- Optional travel insurance underwritten by Great Lakes Insurance SE, UK Branch and additional cancellation rights on overseas holidays for over 50s, or a price reduction if not required (cover is subject to medical questions)
- Return flights and transfers
- Saga tour manager
- Welcome drink reception
- Porterage at all hotels
- City tour of Tirana, including a visit to Bunk’ Art I
- Tour of UNESCO World Heritage Site Gjirokastra
- Explore UNESCO World Heritage Site of Butrint
- Visit Llogara National Park
- Dinner in a restaurant overlooking the city of Sarande
- Tour of UNESCO World Heritage Site Berat - ‘city of a thousand windows’
- Sightseeing tour of Elbasan
Day 1 UK to Durrës
Fly to Tirana. Transfer to Durrës and spend the night at the locally rated 4-star Sandy Beach Resort Golem beach, Durres area. Enjoy dinner and a welcome drink. D
Day 2 Durrës
After breakfast hop on a coach for a scenic tour of Albania’s capital, Tirana, providing incredible panoramas of the city. Tirana has a beautiful aspect, situated as it is at the foot of Mount Dajti and is comprised of a jigsaw of contrasting architectural styles, from colourful Ottoman facades and classically inspired fascist architecture to brutalist Soviet-era modernism. Explore the Block area independently, formerly inaccessible except for Head of State Enver Hoxha and the communist elite but now the nucleus of Tirana’s trendy cafe culture. Trust your guide to direct you to the best restaurant in town, before you visit the cultural hub of Block’ Art 1. This vast bunker was built to house the communist leadership if there were an attack by the West but is now a museum of the history of Albania as well as a centre for the arts. In the afternoon take tea in the 5th century house and gallery of one of Albania’s most famous living artists, before indulging in a specially prepared Albanian dinner at a local restaurant. B, D
Day 3 Durrës
At leisure. Relax by the hotel pool or enjoy a day on the private beach, with cooling dips in the inviting Adriatic. Alternatively, join an optional tour of the historic sites of Durrës and a wine and local produce tasting at the oldest winery in Albania. B
Day 4 Durrës
At leisure. However, if you’re feeling adventurous, set out on an optional excursion to see the little-viewed historical sites of Kruja and Fishte. B
Day 5 Durrës to Gjirokastër to Saranda
After breakfast transfer to the locally rated 5-star Hotel Santa Quaranta, in Saranda, stopping en-route in Gjirokastër. Listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO for its perfectly preserved Ottoman old town, Gjirokastër was also the birthplace of the old communist dictator, Enver Hoxha, whose former home is now a museum. Enjoy an authentic Greek coffee in the bazaar before rummaging through the traditional craft shops and exploring the military museum in the Fortress of Gjirokastër and the Castle of Argjiro. Perhaps the most bizarre relic in the grounds of the fortress is an American Air Force jet which was forced to land in Albania in 1957 and is displayed to represent Communism’s struggle with Western imperialism. After experiencing Gjirokastër pause at the Blue Eye natural springs, a popular local tourist attraction where crystal clear water bubbles up from a 50-metre-deep sinkhole. Continue to your beach-front hotel where you’ll stay for the next three nights. B
Day 6 Saranda
After breakfast set out on a adventure tour of Butrint, where Albania’s most important archaeological site is found. Set in beautiful Mediterranean scenery the site features evidence of settlement dating back to prehistoric times. However the most outstanding ruins are that of a Greek theatre and paleo-Christian baptistry, which features a beautifully preserved mosaic floor adapted from a Roman ruin and paleo-Christian basilica that was rebuilt in the 9th century. Visiting the site is to experience a bygone age of tourism, leaving you with the feeling that you are among the first visitors to set eyes on these historical relics. Perhaps enjoy a traditional lunch on a local farm, using fresh, locally-grown produce, before returning to Saranda and your hotel. B
Day 7 Saranda
At leisure. Enjoy free time in the comfortable surroundings of your hotel, with its pool and private beach on the Ionian Sea. Alternatively, join an optional excursion to Mesopotam. This evening you will be treated to dinner and ‘isopolifonia’ serenade in a castle above Saranda. Soak up the Mediterranean sunset and panoramic views of the city and Ionian Sea, with Corfu visible in the near distance, while you tuck into included delicious dinner and wine. B, D
Day 8 Saranda to Berat
After breakfast wind your way along Albania’s southern coast towards Berat, stopping to admire seaside beauty spots where the petticoats of the Çika Mountain range meet the Ionian Sea. Your route then takes you into the mountains where you take lunch at a restaurant in the Llogara National Park, looking down to the ocean below. A national park since 1966, and benefiting from a moratorium on logging and hunting, Llogara is a haven for over 100 species of animals and birds, including deer and wild cats, so keep your eyes peeled. After you’ve had some time for lunch, continue your scenic drive to the harbour city of Vlore, where Albanian independence was declared in 1912. Enjoy a panoramic tour of the city’s most significant sites before travelling on to the locally rated 4-star Hotel Grand White City in Berat, for an overnight stay. B
Day 9 Berat
After breakfast, set off on a walking tour of Berat, one of the world’s oldest continually inhabited cities. Rising up from the waters of the river Osum, on terraces of limestone, Berat’s glistening white Ottoman dwellings have earned it the moniker of ‘city of a thousand windows’. As you climb the foot-worn, cobbled streets to the castle, you pass umpteen buildings of architectural and historical importance and slip into the cool cloisters of Onufri Museum, hidden in the Church of the Dormition of St Mary. Here you’ll find spectacular 16th-century paintings and the faded frescos of the chapel. Leave Berat and drive through stunning scenery to Pogradec, stopping for lunch at an Albanian home for a traditional meal, Rakia and Turkish coffee. Continue on to Pogradec and the lakeside locally rated 3-star Hotel Pogradec, where you stay for two nights. B, L
Day 10 Pogradec
At leisure. Enjoy the hotel facilities or relax on the lake beach. Alternatively, join a scenic optional tour to Macedonia. B
Day 11 Pogradec to Tirana
After breakfast depart on a scenic drive back to Tirana, stopping en-route for a sightseeing tour of Elbasan. Originally a trading post on one of the most important routes of the Roman Empire, Elbasan was established as a military stronghold in 1466 by the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II in his fight against the Albanian nationalist Skanderberg. Explore the remains of the Sultan’s castle with its mix of eastern and medieval architecture, including the ruins of a Basilica, the oldest active mosque in Albania, King Mosque, and 15th-century St Mary’s church and monastery. As with many of the sights you visit on this trip the lack of tourists and accessibility leaves you with the impression that you are blazing a new trail on the map of European tourism. You have time to enjoy local cuisine within the old city walls before you continue your scenic drive to Tirana for your overnight stay at the locally rated 4-star Hotel Colosseo. Either relax in the hotel gardens or wander down to the Block, once a restricted compound for Hoxha and the communist elite but now the city’s trendy hub of cafe culture. B
Day 12 Tirana to UK
After breakfast enjoy a free morning before you travel to the airport for your return flight to the UK. B
Albanian eating experience
For a truly immersive experience of Albanian hospitality and cuisine join an optional excursion to the restaurant of a famous Albanian chef for dinner. Pick and prepare organically grow produce for your meal, then relax on the restaurant terrace overlooking the city while enjoying delicious food and local wines. It is an ideal opportunity to reflect on your trail-blazing tour of Albania. Return to your hotel with sample of local wine and a signed menu from your esteemed chef.
Optional on 11 nights itinerary
Durres city tour
Enjoy a thrilling city tour of Durrës, visiting sites of global historical importance and outstanding beauty. There are none of the crowds you’d find at equivalent sites in mainland Europe, giving you the feeling that you are among the first to discover these hidden historical gems. Established in 627 BC, by Greek colonialists, Durrës boasts world-class heritage, including the largest Roman amphitheatre on the Balkan peninsula, a Roman forum and baths, Venetian tower and Byzantine city walls. In the afternoon you can also visit Albania’s oldest winery to sample delicious local produce, wines and Skanderbeg Brandy.
Optional on 11 nights itinerary
Kruja and Fishte
Join an incredible opportunity to discover the outstanding historical sites of Kruja and Fishte. Climb the cobbled streets that lead to Kruja Castle and pass through the bazaar selling traditional wares, including handmade carpets, treen and silver and copper objets d’art. Kruja was the birthplace of national hero Skanderbeg and town’s castle played a pivotal roll in his opposition and eventual victory over the Ottoman Empire. Inside you’ll find a museum dedicated to Skanderbeg, as well as the remains of an ancient mosque, Turkish baths and National Ethnographic Museum, occupying a 19th-century residence that belonged to a wealthy Ottoman dynasty. Transfer to Fishte for lunch at a farm where Albania’s first ‘slow food’ experience blossomed. Return to the hotel in the evening.
Optional on 11 nights itinerary
Stray across the Albanian border to explore the wonders of neighbouring Macedonia. Set out by coach for Sveti Naum to discover a 1st-century lakeside monastery and take a trip on an eco boat on the spring waters of Black Drin. After lunch at a local restaurant travel on to the ancient town of Ohrid to explore its Roman and medieval relics, including a stunning amphitheatre and the beautiful faded frescos of Albania’s largest medieval cathedral, St Sophia. Here, you also visit the artisan workshop of a paper maker and watch as paper is made and printed in a traditional fashion. A sundowner drink in Struga completes the excursion.
Optional on 11 nights itinerary
Join an optional excursion to Mesopotam. to explore the monastery and is unique double apse 13th century church, hypothesised to have been used by Catholic and orthodox sects simultaneously. Return to Saranda city centre and explore the ruins of a 5th-century synagogue, evidence of one of the earliest Balkan-Jewish communities.
Optional on 11 nights itinerary
You could choose to upgrade for your two-day stay at the Sandy Beach Resort Golem Beach Durres area to benefit from all-inclusive meals, access to the exclusive beach club and watersports.
October 1, 2018 departures stay at the the locally rated 4-star Hotel Opera in Tirana on day 11.