North & South Albania Tour

An epic 17-day Albania tour, including nights in Montenegro, Kosovo and North Macedonia

Overview - North & South Albania Tour

This unique Albania tour is a combination of our North Albania & Kosovo Tour and South Albania Cultural Tour. When put together they form an epic circuit that encompasses most of ethnic Albania’s key cultural cities and sites, as well as the awe-inspiring landscape of the famous Albanian Alps, otherwise known as the Accursed Mountains.

Although this is a comprehensive Albania tour, we’ve been sure to pace it sensibly, with two-night breaks in the UNESCO World Heritage City of Gjirokastra, Albania’s chaotic little capital Tirana, and the previously hard-to-access village of Theth (in 2020 much easier to reach thanks to an almost-finished asphalt road).

We’ve designed our North & South Albania tour to maximise flight options – if you’re travelling from the UK you can fly into either Tirana (multiple options) or Ohrid (from London Luton with Wizz Air), and you can fly back from either Tirana or Podgorica (to London Stansted with Ryanair).

Please note, we haven’t included the Thursday night on arrival in Tirana as there is also the option to fly in on Friday morning from London Gatwick with British Airways, or Friday evening from London Luton to Ohrid with Wizz Air. However, if you do fly into Tirana on the Thursday we’ll be delighted to pick you up from the airport and recommend a hotel.

 

Itinerary

Day 01 Tirana to Ohrid

Day 02 Ohrid to Korça via Prespa

Day 03 Korça to Përmet

Day 04 Përmet to Gjirokastra

Day 05 Gjirokastra

Day 06 Gjirokastra to Qeparo via Butrint

Day 07 Qeparo to Berat via Apollonia

Day 08 Berat to Tirana

Day 09 Tirana

Day 10 Tirana to Shkodër

Day 11 Shkodër to Theth

Day 12 Theth

Day 13 Theth to Gusinje

Day 14 Gusinje to Gjakova

Day 15 Gjakova to Prizren

Day 16 Prizren to Shkodër

Day 17 Shkodër to Tirana or Podgorica – Tour Ends

 

Key Information

Group size – 4-12

Minimum age – 16

Accommodation – 3-4* en suite 

Transport – air-conditioned minivan 

2020 Tour Dates

Friday 24 April to Saturday 02 May 2020

Friday 18 to Saturday 26 September 2020

2020 Prices (Euro & GBP)

Euros €2,380 per person (GBP £1,990) based on two sharing a Twin or Double room

Single room supplement euros €300 (GBP £255)

Prices exclude international flights

Tour Gallery

A picture says a thousand words, goes the cliché. See more images from our North & South Albania Tour by pressing the button below.

“We chose to do Drive Albania’s Southern and Northern tours back-to-back and were rewarded with as rich and varied an experience any traveller could hope to have. Most tourists in larger groups do not see this part of Albania and we wouldn’t have wanted to miss it. We recommend that you visit this wonderful country before others find out about it.”

Graham & Elaine McNeilly, September 2019

Day-to-Day

Day 01, Friday - Tirana to Ohrid

We’ll gather this morning in a relaxed fashion, then begin our tour by exploring the centre of Tirana on foot. After a quick lunch, we’ll make a move, departing Tirana via the bizarre and impressive secret nuclear bunker on the outskirts of town, Bunk’Art. It’s not far to Ohrid in terms of kilometres (about 130), but stretches of the road are twisty and slow-going, and we’ll want to stop for coffee en route. In Ohrid you’ll be staying at a comfortable hotel very close to the Old Town – we’ll save the cultural stuff for tomorrow morning, so we can simply relax and enjoy a welcome meal tonight.   

  • Hotel Tino Ohrid 
  • Evening meal (set menu) 

Day 02, Saturday - Ohrid to Korça via Prespa

This morning you’ll explore Ohrid on foot with a local guide (Macedonian law forbids us from guiding here!). We’ll be flexible about our departure time, as there are numerous lunch options along our route today. It’s a scenic drive along the eastern shore of Lake Ohrid, probably not with a stop at the Monastery of St Naum as it’s kind of dull. Instead we’ll climb up and over Galicica Pass and descend down to Lake Prespa – the views are stupendous. After crossing back into Albania at a very sleepy border post, we’ll make our way to the charming city of Korça. Expect cobbled streets, countless pre-WWI villas in urgent need of restoration, and a lively bazaar.  

  • Bujtina e Bardhë Korça 
  • Breakfast

Day 03, Sunday - Korça to Përmet

There’ll be time to explore Korça on foot this morning, then around 11.00 we’ll hit the road. And what a road – kilometre for kilometre this has to be one of the most beautiful in the Balkans. Yes, there are a lot of bends, and a lot of bumps, but the pay-off are simply incredible views across the Pindus mountains to Greece. It’s too far to reach Gjirokastra in one day, so we’ll break the journey in Përmet, perhaps the sleepiest city in Albania (it recorded a grand total of zero crimes in 2015). Shortly before we reach Përmet, we’ll detour for a late afternoon soak in the sulphur springs at Benjë. In the evening, after showering away the sulphur, we can relax with a glass or raki in the main square before eating at one of Pëmet’s excellent restaurants. 

  • Hotel Alvero Përmet 
  • Breakfast

Day 04, Monday - Përmet to Gjirokastra

After yesterday’s sometimes bumpy drive, a much easier day! It’s only about an hour and a half to Gjirokastra, on blissfully smooth asphalt, so we’ll arrive in the early afternoon even with a couple of stops, including the atmospheric remains of Antigonea, built by King Pyrrhus of Pyrrhic Victory fame, and then soon trashed by the Romans… In the evening we’ll enjoy a sunset drink before eating together at one of our favourite restaurants, Kujtimi’s, which seemingly hasn’t changed since the fall of Communism.   

  • Hotel Kastro Gjirokastra
  • Breakfast; evening meal (set menu) 

Day 05, Tuesday - Gjirokastra

A car-free day! We’ll explore this fascinating UNESCO city in leisurely fashion, and on foot (though be aware, Gjirokastra is built on the side of a hill and there are some steep ascents and descents!). 

  • Hotel Kastro Gjirokastra
  • Breakfast

Day 06, Wednesday - Gjirokastra to Qeparo via Butrint

Back on the road, today. We’ll leave at 09.00 sharp as we have a lot of ground to cover. We’ll cross the coastal mountains, and (after a coffee stop at the Blue Eye Spring), make a stop at the UNESCO-protected archaeological park of Butrint. After a couple of hours exploring the ruins, we’ll break for lunch, then continue north along the extremely scenic coastal road to our overnight stop, the village of Qeparo. Here we’ll stay at a hotel right on the beach, so can enjoy a beer as the sun sinks into the Ionian Sea. 

  • Hotel Te Stefi Qeparo 
  • Breakfast

Day 07, Thursday - Qeparo to Berat via Apollonia

It’s hard to drag people away from a beach, so we’ll make a 10.00 start today. Our route this morning takes us up and over the famous Llogora Pass, then down to Bay of Vlorë – at which point the scenery plunges in quality (sorry). We’ll break at the archaeological park of Apollonia, near Fier, then continue to our final stop, Berat. After checking into our hotel, we’ll head to the main pedestrianised boulevard in order to catch the evening xhiro (or promenade). Seemingly the entire city turns up to doff their cap. After sundown, it’s up to the Citadel to eat at one of our favourite restaurants, Koço’s. Koço himself is usually drunk but his wife and daughter are the brains of the operation and hold things together – and the food is excellent. 

  • Hotel Onufri Berat 
  • Breakfast; evening meal (set menu)

Day 08, Friday - Berat to Tirana

There’s time to explore Berat this morning, then we’ll hit the road. It’s an easy run to Tirana, so we’ll get you there in time for lunch. (If you have to catch the 13.00 British Airways service to Gatwick today, we can arrange a private transfer direct from Berat to the airport.) In the afternoon you can explore more of Tirana with your guide, or if you prefer you can enjoy some downtime to do your own thing. In the evening we’ll gather again to enjoy a farewell meal at Restaurant Mullixhiu – chef Bledar Kola is winning an international reputation for his innovative take on traditional Albanian cuisine.  

  • Sarajevo Art Hotel Tirana
  • Breakfast; evening meal (set menu)

Day 09, Saturday - Tirana

A well-earned day off. We’ll be happy to show you more of Tirana if you are full of beans still…

  • Sarajevo Art Hotel Tirana
  • Breakfast

Day 10, Sunday - Tirana to Shkodër

We’ll pick you up from your hotel in Tirana at 09.00 this morning, and begin the journey north to Shkodër. We’ll detour into historic little Kruja for a look-round (it’s tiny and can be explored easily in a couple of hours), and a quick lunch, then push on. The aim is to arrive in Shkodër by about 15.30, giving us time to check into our hotel, meet any arrivals from Podgorica, then make the short walk to the fascinating Marubi Photographic Museum, which houses photos taken by the Marubi family from 1858 right through to the early 1990s. Afterwards, we can take a beer on Shkodër’s Pedonale and catch the well-attended evening xhiro (promenade) before heading back to our hotel for a welcome supper of traditional northern Albanian dishes.  

  • Hotel Tradita Shkodër 
  • Evening meal (set menu)  

Day 11, Monday - Shkodër to Theth

This morning we’ll have more time to explore Shkodër, and we can check out Mesi Bridge, Rozafa Castle and the Venice Art Mask Factory, which creates papier-maché masks for the Venice Biennial and other glamorous events. After breaking for lunch on the shores of Lake Skadar we’ll hit the road to Theth. In theory, we’ll be able to drive all the way there, but this depends on whether the government keeps its promise to complete the asphalt road. If conditions dictate, we’ll arrange local transport to get us up and down the final stretch. We’ll arrive at our very simple guesthouse in the early evening – in time for a beer and to enjoy the dramatic scenery before sitting down to a communal supper prepared by our hosts.  

  • Shpella Guesthouse Theth  
  • Breakfast; evening meal (set menu)  

Day 12, Tuesday - Theth

A day to explore the village. There are numerous trails of varying levels of ability, but anyone of reasonable fitness can make it to the famous waterfalls a little to the south.   

  • Shpella Guesthouse Theth 
  • Breakfast; evening meal  

Day 13, Wednesday - Theth to Gusinje

We’ll make a bright and early start this morning, and be on the road for 09.00. We’ll be looping our way north through some of the most spectacular scenery in the Albanian Alps, winding our way down the Rrapshë Serpentine pass and then on to the southeastern corner of Montenegro (crossing at a very sleepy border post). We’ll end the day in the small town of Gusinje, hidden away deep in the Prokletije mountains.   

  • Hotel TBC (depending on group size)  
  • Breakfast; lunch  

Day 14, Thursday - Gusinje to Gjakova

Into Kosovo today! The logical border crossing, a little to the east of Vusanje, has been closed since the 1990s, so rather annoyingly we have to drive up to the forgotten little city of Rozaje, then pass through about 10km of no-man’s-land till we reach Kosovo! We’ll be rewarded with a wonderful view when we finally cross the border, and then lunch at an excellent restaurant within easy walking distance of the White Drin Waterfalls. From here it’s a straightforward run to our next stop, the extraordinary 14th-century Serbian Orthodox monastery of Visoki Decani – in our view the finest religious monument in the region. We’ll end the day at nearby Gjakova, a historic little city that suffered hugely in the conflict of the 1990s – not that you’d realise today when you sit in one of the lively bars in its buzzing bazaar.

  • Hotel Çarshia e Jupave 
  • Breakfast

Day 15, Friday - Gjakova to Prizren

It’s under an hour’s drive to Prizren, so we’ve a very relaxed day ahead of us. We’ll begin with a walking tour around Gjakova, them aim to hit the road at 11ish. We’ll be passing by Kosovo’s wine region at Rahovec, so it seems logical to stop for a tasting at one of the wineries. From Rahovec it’s a short cruise into Prizren, which is one of our favourite Balkan cities, with an atmosphere all its own. There’ll be plenty of time to explore on foot before taking a beer at one of the bars by the river.
• Hotel Centrum Prizren
• Breakfast

Day 16, Saturday - Prizren to Shkodër

An 09.00 start today – we have to retrace our route to Gjakova, then push on back into Albania. Once we’re through the border we’ll be able to stop for a coffee before we reach Fierze, and the Lake Koman ferry. This 2h 30m ride through the Albanian Alps is widely considered one of the most scenic inland ferry journeys in the world – and who are we to disagree? After disembarking at Koman we’ve a sometimes bumpy road to Shkodër, which we should reach around 17.00-17.30. Perfect timing for a well-earned drink before we sit down to a farewell meal on the Pedonale.
• Hotel Tradita Shkodër
• Breakfast; picnic lunch on ferry; evening meal (set menu)

Day 17, Sunday - Tour Ends

This morning our North & South Albania tour ends, and we’ll be driving back south to Tirana. If you’re flying from Podgorica, a taxi to the airport is easily arranged – please see the flight info box below

  • Breakast 

Includes

English-speaking driver-guide

Minivan with Green Card border insurance

Fuel

Eight nights accommodation as indicated on itinerary, or near equivalents 

Meals as indicated on itinerary (7 x breakfasts; 4 x evening meals)

Airport transfer on arrival in Tirana on Thursday or Ohrid on Friday

 

Excludes

Flights

Personal expenses

Personal travel insurance 

Museum & attraction entrance fees

Meals not indicated on itinerary 

Alcohol  

Tips

 

Join our North & South Albania Tour - Flights From the UK

We’ve designed our North & South Albania Tour to maximise flight options from the UK – you can fly either into Tirana or alternatively Ohrid and join the tour there. If you fly into Tirana on the Thursday we’ll gladly pick you up from the airport as a courtesy and take you to your hotel.

Thursday 
Luton to Tirana with Wizz Air 06.50 / 10.50
Gatwick to Tirana with British Airways 16.15 / 20.20
Stansted to Tirana with Albawings / blu-express 20.15 / 00.15 (+1)

Friday – Tirana  
Luton to Tirana with Wizz Air 06.50 / 10.50
Gatwick to Tirana with British Airways 07.45 / 11.50

Friday – Ohrid
Luton to Ohrid with Wizz Air 15.10 / 19.20

Depart the Tour - Flights From Tirana & Podgorica to the UK

We’ve ended our North & South Albania tour in Shkodër, to make it possible to fly home from either Podgorica or Tirana airports. You could of course extend your adventure into Montenegro if you like.

We’ll make an early 07.30 start from Shkodër to get to the airport in time for the Luton flight (though of course if no one is catching this, we won’t need to).

If you’re catching the Ryanair service from Podgorica we’ll arrange a taxi transfer.

Sunday – From Podgorica   
Podgorica to Stansted with Ryanair 11.00 / 12.55

Sunday – From Tirana    
Tirana to Luton with Wizz Air 11.35 / 13.50
Tirana to Gatwick with easyJet 13.45 / 15.55
Tirana to Stansted with Albawings / blu-express 17.30 / 19.30

Monday   
Tirana to Luton with Wizz Air 11.35 / 13.50
Tirana to Gatwick with British Airways 20.30 / 22.35

Book With Confidence – We Offer Full Financial Protection

As a UK-registered company, we have to comply with tough consumer-protection legislation. That’s why we’re proud to be members of Protected Trust Services. When you pay for your holiday, your money will be held in a British HSBC trust account administered by the independent PTS trustees. We only receive payment once the tour is run, so in the unlikely event of our going bust or your not being satisfied with the tour, your money is safe. To read more about how the process works, please visit the PTS website

Book Our North & South Albania Tour

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