NORTH ALBANIA & KOSOVO 2019
Our North Albania & Kosovo Tour is a cultural adventure combining key cities and historic sites with untouched landscapes and village experiences
ALBANIA / KOSOVO / MONTENEGRO
Lake Skadar / Prokletije / Theth / Shkodër / Lake Koman / Gjakova / Prizren / Dibër / Mati / Ulqin
When to go
May to October
Sunday 26 May to Thursday 06 June
Sunday 07 to Thursday 18 July
Sunday 01 to Thursday 12 September +
Sunday 29 September to Thursday 10 October +
Group Size: 02-09
+ Combine with our
South Albania Tour
Sunday 15 to Thursday 26 September
Our unique North Albania & Kosovo Tour combines some of the most beautiful landscapes in the western Balkans with key cultural cities and historical sites. Over the course of 12 days we’ll slowly wind our way through Montenegro, northern Albania and eastern Kosovo. As our journey progresses we’ll discover more about this fascinating region, and also gain an insight into rural life in some of the most remote and hard-to-acccess areas of Albania. Due to the nature of the terrain, we use air-conditioned 4×4 minivans on this tour, with an experienced driver and a maximum of six clients per vehicle. Although we do sometimes travel on unpaved roads, this is not an off-road tour. Most meals are included, and we make a point of eating well (or as well as is possible in Kosovo – they don’t cook so well there…). There is also the option to climb Albania and Macedonia’s highest peak, Korabi, by special arrangement (means losing one night in Prizren).
ARRIVE MONTENEGRO / LAKE SKADAR
DAY 01 / SUNDAY
A relaxed start to our 2019 North Albania & Kosovo Tour. We’ll congregate in the village of Virpazar, on the northwestern shore of Lake Skadar. After settling into our accommodation we’ll take a late afternoon cruise out onto the lake, then enjoy a welcome meal together at a nearby wine-makers. Virpazar is famous for the quality of its reds, and the wine flows easily, so expect a jolly evening.
Included Transfer from Tirana via Podgorica; or transfer from Bar, Budva or Tivat. Lake cruise. Wine tasting & welcome supper. 3* hotel accommodation.
LAKE SKADAR TO PROKLETIJE VIA KOLASIN
DAY 02 / MONDAY
We stay in Montenegro today, and will make a day of our journey to its forgetten southeastern corner. After passing through Podgorica as quickly as possible (there really is no reason to stop there!) we’ll drive high up to Kolasin, where we’ll break for a little bit of exploring and a light lunch. Afterwards, we’ll continue on to Gusinje, on the edge of Prokletije National Park. There’ll be time for a stroll and to take in the mountain scenery before tackling a hearty meal of local specialities.
Included Breakfast. Lunch. Supper. 3* hotel accommodation.
PROKLETIJE TO THETH VIA KELMEND
DAY 03 / TUESDAY
Into Albania today! A gentle introduction, too – we’ll enter Albania at a tiny border crossing, then drive west towards Lake Skadar, through simply incredible scenery. We have a couple of stops to make en route, and will also break for a lunch of the famed Cem trout – found only in Kelmend province and distinguised by its red dots. All things being equal we’ll arrive in Theth around 17.00 – we’ll save the exploring for tomorrow, and instead enjoy a drink and home-cooked meal at our guesthouse.
Included Breakfast. Trout lunch. Supper. Guesthouse accommodation (en suite).
DAY 04 / WEDNESDAY
A day to discover the village, with a visit to the famous Blue Eye spring (it’s possible to walk all the way from the guesthouse, or drive part of the way and do the final hour on foot).
Included Breakfast. Supper. Guesthouse accommodation (en suite).
THETH TO SHKODËR VIA ROZAFA CASTLE
DAY 05 / THURSDAY
A reasonably early start today – we’ll leave Theth at 09.00 and continue on to Shkodër, the major city of north Albania. We’ll spend the afternoon exploring, including visits to impressive Rozafa Castle (which broke the heart of Sultan Mehmet II, who failed to take it in a bloody seige), Mes Bridge, Marubi Photographic Museum and more. In the evening we’ll take a drink on the lively Pedonale, before a meal at our hotel’s restaurant (the food is first-rate).
Included Breakfast. Supper. 3* hotel accommodation.
If you’re a keen walker, from June onwards it is possible to walk from Theth to Valbona. You’d have to miss the night in Shkodër and the Lake Koman ferry ride, and meet us tomorrow at Bajram Çurri, near the ferry terminal at Fierze.
SHKODËR TO GJAKOVA VIA LAKE KOMAN & DECANI MONASTERY
DAY 06 / FRIDAY
It’s a twisty ride to Koman, where we catch the ferry to Fierze, so we’ll leave around 09.00 (which gives us the time to make a coffee stop en route) in order to catch the midday service. The ride through the gorges along the dammed Drin river is regarded by most guide books as one of the most spectacular inland ferry journeys in the world, and who are we to disagree? After dismbarking at Fierze, we’ll make the short drive to Kosovo, and head to the historic Ottoman town of Gjakova via the UNESCO-protected 13th-century Serbian Orthodox monastery at Decani. We should arrive at our hotel around 18.00, so after a short break we’ll congregate in reception and take a well-earned drink in the busy bazaar. We can take pot luck on food, and either eat casually in the bazaar or head to a restaurant in one of Gjakova’s surviving han coaching inns.
Included Breakfast. Ferry. Picnic lunch. 3* hotel accommodation.
GJAKOVA TO PRIZREN VIA RAHOVEC
DAY 07 / SATURDAY
A relaxed day. We’ll begin with a stroll around Gjakova – it’s a Saturday morning so it should be pretty lively. We’ll be sure to visit some of the traditional (and non-touristy) shops, including what has to be the World’s Worst Taxidermist. We’ll then push on to Prizren, which is under an hour if you drive direct but of course we’ll make a detour – to the wine region of Rahovec, where we’ll stop for lunch and a tasting. Depending on how thirsty we are, we should reach Prizren between 16.00 and 17.00.
Included Breakfast. 3* Hotel Accommodation.
DAY 08 / SUNDAY
After eight days on the road, time for a well-earned day off. There’s plenty to see and do in Prizren, and we’re happy to arrange a local guide, or take you for a walk or lunch at a Serbian enclave in the Sharr mountains to the east. Or you might prefer to kick back and do nothing!
Included Breakfast. 3* Hotel Accommodation.
PRIZREN TO DIBËR VIA THE BLACK DRIN
DAY 09 / MONDAY
We return to Albania again today, to the rarely visited Dibër region that borders Kosovo and Macedonia. The roads here are bumpy and twisty, so coach parties don’t make it! They’re missing out – the scenery is completely incredible. Our route will take us down to the Black Drin river, where we can swim and take a picnic lunch, before continuing on to the tiny city of Peshkopi – a real throwback to the Communist era. We’ll even stay in the (almost) unreformed old Albturizm hotel for the full Peshkopi experience.
Included Breakfast. Picnic lunch. 2* hotel accommodation.
It is possible to climb Mt Korabi, Albania’s highest peak (2,764m) today. You’ll have to swap the night in Prizren for a night in the village of Radomire, in the foothills below Korabi, and rejoin the main group in Peshkopi.
DIBËR TO MAT VIA LUZNI-BULAÇ
DAY 10 / TUESDAY
Perhaps the most spectacular day of the tour. We’ll cut east through the mountains to the city of Burrel, home to a notorious prison under the dictatorship. Our route will take us on little-used rural tracks through simply sublime countryside. Expect untouched villages with traditional stone houses and a big welcome from the locals. Burrel itself is a bizarre little place – we’ll take a drink in the square, and then eat a fantastic meal at our hotel (which happens to have the best restaurant, and a great view).
Included Breakfast. Picnic lunch. 3* hotel accommodation.
MAT TO ULQIN VIA LEZHË
DAY 11 / WEDNESDAY
Our last day! We’ll drive west to the Adriatic along the Mat river, stopping en route for a wine tasting and then lunch at a restaurant renowned throughout Albania. From here it’s a quick drive to Montenegro, and the ethnic Albanian city of Ulqin, where we’ll spend our final night. It’s a busy little place, and will come as quite a shock to the system after Albania.
Included Breakfast. Wine tasting. Lunch (set menu). Farewell supper (set menu). 3* hotel accommodation.
DAY 12 / THURSDAY
We’ll be driving down to Tirana today via Bar and Podgorica, and will be happy to give you a lift, and can even make the easy detour to Budva too! There are frequent bus services to Croatia from here.
Included Breakfast. Transfer to Tirana via Bar and Podgorica (and Budva if requested).
Albanian rural roads are famously bad, and often impassable for normal cars. Many of the most beautiful and interesting regions are unreachable without a good 4×4 vehicle, which is why since we started operating in 2014 we have used Land Rovers for our tours.
For 2019 we’re entering a new era – we have taken delivery of two brand-new UAZ-452 4×4 minivans, which we’ll be using for our Albania group tours. These iconic vehicles, nicknamed “Buhanka” (“loaf” in English), will be instantly recognisable to anyone who’s travelled in the wilder parts of the former Soviet Union.
Like the Land Rover Defender, the basic design of the Buhanka is ancient. However, the cars have been heavily updated over the years.
Our Buhankas are the Jubilee special edition, built to celebrate the line’s 60th anniversary (with a production run of just 452). As well as the fancy paint job, the interior is upgraded over the standard Buhanka, and most of the drivetrain components (axles and locking differential) have been brought from the renowned American manufacturer DANA.
The Buhankas are delivered from the factory with eight individual passenger seats, but we’ve removed two to create extra interior space. We’ve also fitted air-conditioning and added an LPG fuel system to the 2.7-litre petrol engine, so on highways the car is supernaturally quiet and more eco-friendly.
On dirt roads, the Buhanka excels, with an off-road ride quality far superior to that of our old Land Rovers. And when the going gets seriously rough, the Buhankas just keep on going – their huge ground clearance and legendary traction prove unstoppable.
All in all, we think the Buhanka is the perfect vehicle for Albanian conditions.
And they look really cool, too!
Two passengers sharing a Double or Twin room, euros €1,890. Single room supplement, euros €150.
Price Includes Transport by 4×4 minivan; fluent English–speaking driver; fuel; private Single, Double or Twin en suite room in standard 3* accommodation; Lake Skadar boat trip; Lake Koman ferry; all breakfasts; 6 x lunches; 6 x suppers; 2 x wine tastings; itinerary as described.
Price Excludes International flights; personal travel insurance, museum entrance fees; optional excursions; alcoholic beverages unless otherwise indicated; driver and guide tips; any taxes or government charges introduced after booking. Please read our booking conditions!
Spending Money Prices in Albania, Kosovo are great; in Montenegro less so! We’d estimate that a budget of around €200 per person for the 12 days will be more than enough.
Getting There: North Albania & Kosovo Tour 2019
Best Airports Tirana; Podgorica; Tivat.
Our North Albania & Kosovo Tour starts on Sundays in Virpazar, Montenegro, on the shores of Lake Skadar. On the Sunday morning, we will drive up from Tirana, so you can hitch a lift with us. We can also pick you up gratis from Podgorica, and anywhere along the Montenegro coastline from Bar to Tivat. There are also frequent and scenic trains from Bar and Podgorica to Virpazar.
Another possibility to join this tour is by flying to Belgrade, Serbia, and then catching the overnight train to Virpazar. The best scenery starts in the early morning, after you get woken up by the border guards for passport control. You can read about this option at the excellent Man in Seat Sixty-One website.
Getting Home: North Albania & Kosovo Tour 2019
Best Airports Podgorica, Tivat, Tirana; Dubrovnik.
Our North Albania & Kosovo Tour ends in Ulqin, Montenegro, on Fridays. You can hitch a lift with us down to Tirana (approx 2h 30m; via Bar, Podgorica and Shkodër), but most clients prefer to relax on the Montenegro coast for a day or two before flying home from Podgorica, Tivat or even Dubrovnik.
There are numerous bus services to destinations across Montenegro from Ulqin, and you can connect to Croatia easily too. It is also possible to catch the train to Belgrade from Bar, but the journey is gruelling and much better done in the other direction (the sleeper service).
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 the 2019 North Albania & Kosovo Tour, 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.
Want To Find Out More?
If you want more information about our 2019 North Albania & Kosovo Tour then please don’t hesitate to get in touch.