SOUTH ALBANIA ADVENTURE TOUR 2019

A unique Albania group tour for active, sociable travellers with a sense of adventure

South Albania Adventure Tour 2019

Gjirokastra / Përmet / Korça / Shebenik-Jabllanice / Tirana / Berat / Nivica / Riviera

When to go

April to October

Price

€1,690  

Length

12 Days

 

 

2019 Departures

Sunday 07 to Thursday 18 April
Sunday 12 to Thursday 22 May
Sunday 11 to Thursday 22 August
Sunday 29 September to Thursday 10 October
Group Size: 04-08 

Our 2019 South Albania Adventure Tour is designed for sociable, physically active travellers who love getting off the beaten track. It includes a mixture of hiking, rafting, wild camping*, village homestays, off-road adventure, great food and even some crazy nightlife (a Saturday night in Tirana’s lively Blokku district). 

We’ve designed this tour to start and end in Saranda, at the southern tip of Albania, to take advantage of the huge number of budget airlines which fly in and out of Corfu, a short ferry ride away. However, you could easily fly in and out of Tirana, too, if that’s better for you. 

This is a unique trip, and will take you to some seriously remote regions – it is an Albania Adventure Tour, after all. You’ll have to be happy with shared bathroom facilities at a couple of overnight stops – though we’ll factor in some nice hotels, too! 

*The April departure will be a bit early for the night wild camping in Shebenik, as it’s very high, so we’ll replace this with warm village homestay accommodation! 

 

GJIROKASTRA

DAY 01 / SUNDAY

We’ll be waiting at the ferry terminal in Saranda to meet you off the morning ferry from Corfu (or can pick you up from your hotel if you’re already in Saranda). After a coffee we’ll hit the road – we’re taking it easy today, and heading straight to our overnight stop, the UNESCO World Heritage City of Gjirokastra, via the Blue Eye Spring. 

There’ll be plenty of time to explore Gjirokastra, which is one of our favourite Albanian cities, including a visit to the fascinating Skenduli House and Ali Pasha’s castle, which dominates the area. In the evening we’ll eat together at a traditional restaurant, where we’ll sample local specialities, including Gjirokastra’s famous qifqi rice balls.  

Included: light lunch; evening meal.

 

 

PËRMET 

DAY 02  / MONDAY 

Our second stop is Përmet, but we’re not going to drive there… Instead we’ll make our way to beautiful Zagoria valley opposite Gjirokastra, then walk up and over the mountain range, arriving in Përmet in the early evening.

After a well-earned soak in the hot sulphur springs just outside the city*, we’ll check into our hotel, take a shower, then head to one of Përmet’s excellent restaurants for a meal – and possibly a glass or two of raki.  

*In August we’ll probably skip the springs as they are packed with coach groups. 

Included: breakfast; picnic lunch; evening meal.

 

REHOVË

DAY 03 / TUESDAY

Përmet is right by the Vjosa river, which for the next couple of years at least remains Europe’s last “wild river” (a controversial damming project will end that soon). Our day will begin, then, with a rafting experience – spring is the best season, of course, but even in summer and autumn the rapids will provide an adrenaline hit.

In the afternoon we’ll move on, and take a spectacular road east to the village of Rehovë, where we’ll spend the night in a family homestay.    

Included: breakfast; picnic lunch; evening meal at homestay.

 

KORÇA

DAY 04 / WEDNESDAY

We push on east today, and for the first time in the tour head off-road. The scenery is very special, and there’s always the chance we might get a little bit stuck (prepare to help out if so!). 

In the afternoon we’ll arrive at the charming city of Korça, which has a distinctly Greek feel. We’re staying in a comfortable hotel tonight, so after checking in and perhaps taking a shower, we’ll take a drink in the recently restored bazaar. Korça’s surprisingly lively, and has some nice bars, so it should be a fun evening. 

Included: breakfast; picnic lunch. 

 

SHEBENIK-JABLLANICE NATIONAL PARK 

DAYS 05 & 06 / THURSDAY & FRIDAY 

After the civilisation of Korça, back into the wild today. Our route will take us along the Albanian shore of Lake Ohrid, where we’ll stop for a swim and lunch, if the weather’s good.

In the afternoon we’ll be heading into the little-known Shebenik-Jabllanice National Park, which in 2017 was declared a protected UNESCO Biosphere. There are very few villages here, and the area is home to bears, wolves, balkan lynx and lots of bird life. Here we’ll be staying in a small village (dorm beds and shared bathrooms), and will eat together tonight in the local restaurant – it’s a very Albanian experience, but the food is great.   

An early start for Friday – we’re going to go on a day hike through the beech forests of Shebenik – we promise not to get lost!  

In the late afternoon we’ll make a move, and take a small track west in the direction of Tirana. We won’t travel down it too far, though – just till we reach an amazing wild camping spot we know, where we’ll set up our tents, build a fire, and spend a night under the stars (please note, for our April departure we’ll be staying in a village house, as it’s a bit early in the season to camp at altitude). 

Included: all meals.

 

TIRANA

DAY 07 / SATURDAY

Another wild day, as we make our way west through the mountains to Tirana. All things being equal, we’ll arrive in the early afternoon. Before checking into our hotel we’ll stop to pay a visit to the impressive “secret” nuclear bunker on the outskirts of town. This huge complex was built in the 1970s with Chinese cash and expertise, and is unmissable. 

We’ll save exploring the city for tomorrow, and instead check into our hotel where a long shower will be in order! Afterwards we’ll congregate and hit the bars of Blloku – it’s a Saturday night so Tirana should be very lively. 

Included: breakfast; village restaurant lunch.

 

TIRANA 

DAY 08 / SUNDAY

A day to explore Tirana, on foot! 

We’ll leave the evening free, but for those who fancy it we’ll book a table at Restaurant Mullixhiu. Chef Bledar Kola is rapidly gaining an international reputation for his innovative take on northern Albanian cuisine, and a tasting menu is only about €20. Recommended! 

Included: breakfast.

 

BERAT

DAY 09 / MONDAY

Back on the road! The standard route to our second UNESCO World Heritage City, Berat, is extremely ugly and dull, so of course we’ll take the scenic option, with a picnic lunch stop high up in the mountains above the city!

We should arrive around 15.30 – Berat is very small so this gives us plenty of time to explore on foot and see the key sites. In the evening we’ll head to our favourite restaurant, Koço’s in the ancient castle above the main city. Koço himself is usually drunk, but his wife and daughter hold things together and the food is excellent! 

Included: breakfast; picnic lunch, evening meal.

 

NIVICA 

DAY 10 / TUESDAY

A very special day! We’ll leave Berat bright and early, then head south along the course of the Osumi river. After a coffee stop in Çorrovodë we’ll continue south, back in the direction of Përmet. The asphalt doesn’t continue, though, so we’ll have to take a very scenic dirt road till rejoining asphalt close to the Kelçyrë Pass.

Our journey’s not over, though. Instead of turning east for Përmet we head west, driving high up into the mountains of Kurvelesh, where we’ll stay in an incredible village guesthouse perched right on the edge of the huge Nivica Canyon system. Here we can unwind after today’s adventures, and enjoy an fantastic meal prepared by our hosts.  

Included: breakfast; picnic lunch; home-cooked supper.

 

RIVIERA

DAY 11 / WEDNESDAY

There’s time this morning to explore the canyons below Nivica (a bit of scrambling might be required). Then we take a small track through the mountains to a village on the Albanian Riviera, right by the Ionian Sea. There’ll be time for a swim, and then we’ll enjoy a farewell supper together, and maybe a glass or two of wine. 

Included: breakfast; lunch; farewell supper.

 

TOUR ENDS

DAY 12 / THURSDAY

We’re working on the assumption that you’ll be catching the afternoon ferry from Saranda, so will make a 09.00 start, in order to visit the UNESCO archaeological park at Butrint. However, if you’re spending more time in Albania you’re welcome to stay on the Riviera, or come back to Tirana with us. Just let us know what your plans are!

Included: breakfast.

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 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! 

Our 2019 South Albania Adventure Tour costs €1,690 per person.

Includes
English-speaking driver guide
4×4 minivan 
Fuel
Hotels, guesthouses and camping 
Local guide Zagoria to Përmet 
Meals as indicated on itinerary 

Excludes
International flights
Corfu-Saranda ferry
Personal expenses
Personal travel insurance
Meals unless indicated on itinerary 
Activities not indicated on itinerary 
Alcohol 
Tips

You can join our 2019 South Albania Adventure Tour by flying into Corfu, then hopping on the ferry to Saranda (the ferry terminal is just 3km from the airport and tickets cost under €20). We’ll be waiting to meet you off the Sunday morning ferry, or can pick you up from your hotel if you’re already in Saranda.  

If you fly into Tirana, you can of course hitch a lift (gratis) with us south on the Saturday afternoon, and spend the Saturday evening in Saranda. 

The tour ends on Thursday afternoon, again at the ferry port in Saranda. You can catch the afternoon service back to Corfu, or spend more time on the Albanian Riviera if you prefer. Alternatively, you can get a lift north back to Tirana with us (though we might be driving back on the Friday morning, so please don’t depend on this!). 

There are far too many flight options to list for Corfu, but from April to the end of October it is served by a multitude of carriers including easyJet, Ryanair, BA, Transavia and so on. Check out Skyscanner for options.  

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

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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