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Day 1: Arrival in Tirana, Albania
You will be met on arrival at the airport in Tirana and transferred to the hotel. In the evening we meet for our welcome dinner and orientation. Overnight in Tirana.
Day 2: Tirana Sightseeing
Today is a full day of city sightseeing in Tirana, the capital of Albania. Modern Tirana was founded as an Ottoman town in 1614. Tirana became Albania's capital city in 1920 and has a population of over 600,000 including the new quarters around the city. The Tirana River runs through the city which also has four artificial lakes. In the distance, it is possible to see the Adriatic Sea.
Day 3: Kruja, Lezha, Shkodra
After breakfast, we drive to Kruja, where we visit the Old Castle and the Museum of Skanderbeg. After visiting the Ethnographic Museum and the Old Bazaar, we continue on to Lezha where we see the memorial of Skanderbeg. We will make our way to Shkodra, stopping enroute to explore Mother Teresa's Memorial statue. Shkodra is located on the southernmost shore of beautiful Lake Shkoder in northwestern Albania, and it is one of the oldest and most historic towns in Albania. It is a vibrant and important cultural and economic center and has a pulsating oriental street life. Many visitors feel that Shkodra is the soul of Albania. The most attractive quarters of the city are commonly called the Pjaca. Before dinner, we will have an opportunity to take some pictures around the Mesi bridge and to visit the Shkodra Cathedral to learn about the religions within Albania. Overnight in Shkodra.
Day 4: To Budva and Kotor (Montenegro)
We enjoy a scenic drive to a very secluded part of the Gulf of Kotar. Enroute to Budva, we stop at Sveti Stefan Island. In Budva we will explore the Medieval Castle. In Kotor, we will visit the Old Town which has a great number of monuments of medieval architecture: churches, cathedrals, palaces, and museums. Its beauty is complemented by the multitude of narrow streets, squares, and markets. The old town of Kotor stands out by the great number of stylish gates, palaces and its many stairs. Today, old Kotor is considered to be the best-preserved medieval urban entity in the Mediterranean. After an early dinner, we enjoy a bus tour along the bay of Boka Kotar. We will see Iirian ruins in Risan Town and have an opportunity to take pictures from a distance of the Church on the island. Overnight in Kotor.
Day 5: Kotor - Cetinje - Podgorica - Koplik - Durres
We enjoy a scenic drive inland, through beautiful mountain landscape. We stop in Cetinje where we will visit the Kings court museum, then return to Albania through Podgorica and the Bozaj/ Hani Hotit border. We arrive at the second largest city in Albania, Durres, which sits on the Adriatic Sea. Durres is the most important link to Western Europe due to its port and its proximity to the Italian port cities, notably Bari, to which daily ferries run. The city is located on the central Albanian coast where time permitting, we will visit the Roman amphitheater and archaeological museum. Overnight in Durres.
Day 6: Durres - Berat (Albania)
This morning, we drive to Berat, en-route visiting a famous local winery. Berat lies on the right bank of the river Osum, a short distance from the point where it is joined by the Molisht (Velabisht) river. It has a wealth of beautiful buildings of high architectural and historical interest. Berat is known to Albanians as "The City of a Thousand Windows" or The City of Two Thousand Steps. It was proclaimed a 'Museum City' by the dictator Enver Hoxha in June 1961. During the afternoon, we will have the option of a stroll across the 16th Century bridge, enjoy a visit to either the Ethnographic museum, the King's Mosque, the Bachelor Mosque or the Helvetian Tekke, which was built in 1782. Overnight in Berati.
Day 7: Berat - Apolonia - Vlora - Albanian Riviera - Saranda
After breakfast we drive to Fieri, a city known for the nearby oil, gas and bitumen deposits. The presence of asphalt and burning emmisions of natural gas in the vicinity was recorded as early as the 1st century AD. Enroute, we visit the Ardenica Monastery, an Eastern Orthodox monument, which was started in 1282. The monastery has Byzantine-orthodox architecture and includes the Saint Mary Church, the chapel of the Saint Trinity, a mill, and a barn. Next we visit the ancient Apolonia Archaeological site, an important port along the route between Rome and Byzantium. We continue on to Vlora, where we visit Independence House and Muradie Mosque. This is the second largest port city of Albania, where the Albanian Declaration of Independence was proclaimed on November 28, 1912. The city was for a short time the capital of Albania. After lunch at a local restaurant, we proceed to Saranda along the mountain roads of the Albanian Riviera, enjoying the beautiful scenery and fantastic landscapes of Llogara National park and Ionian Coastline. On the way we visit the fortress of Ali Pasha of Ioanina at Porto Palermo bay. We arrive in Saranda late in the evening. Overnight in Saranda.
Day 8: Saranda- Corfu (Greece)
After a leisurely morning, we take a ferry to the island of Corfu. After arriving on Corfu, we drive to Paleokastris to see the local monastery, with commanding views of the area. We drive to historic Corfu city through the scenic Ropa Valley. Our drive will take us along the city walls towards the sea, with a stop on the way at the New Fortress. Overnight in Corfu.
Day 9: Day 9: Corfu- Back to Albania
In the morning, we take a return ferry to Albania, where we will enjoy a relaxing afternoon at your leisure. Overnight in Saranda.
Day 10: Butrinti - Phoenice-Saranda
In the morning, we drive to the ancient city of Butrint (UNESCO World Heritage site), Albania's most important archaeological site. Butrint was an ancient Greek city and later, a Roman city in Epirus, located on a hill overlooking the Vivari Channel and Butrint National Park.
Day 11: Saranda - Gjirokastra
After breakfast, we drive along the mountain road to Gjirokastra (UNESCO World Heritage site), the birthplace of former iron-fisted dictator of Albania, Enver Hoxha Its old town is inscribed on the World Heritage List as "a rare example of a well-preserved Ottoman town, built by farmers of large estate..." Gjirokastra is situated in a valley between the Gjere mountains and the Drino River. The city is overlooked by the Gjirokastra Castle - where we will visit the Ethnographic museum, housed in the building in which Enver Hoxha was born. It includes a pre-Ottoman citadel with a weapons museum and former political prison.
Day 12: Gjirokastra - Korca
We drive to Korca with a stop at the Kamenica museum. Korca has been an important religious center for Orthodox Christians for centuries. It has a large Orthodox community and it is the seat of an Orthodox metropolitan bishop. There is also a large Sunni community in and around the city. Islam entered the city in the 15th century through Iljaz Hoxha, a famous Albanian jannissary, who actively participated in the Fall of Constantinople. One of the oldest mosques, the Ilias Mirahori was built in Albania by Iljaz Hoxha in 1484. A Bektashi community is present in the city. Depending on time, we may have a chance to visit the Bratko Museum (contains a collection of mostly Asian art), which has rich archives of 6500 icons and 500 other objects in textile, stone and metal. Overnight in Korca.
Day 13: Sightseeing in and around Korca
After breakfast we drive to Voskopoja Village, famous for its old Churches with religious paintings. At its peak in the mid 18th century, it hosted the first printing press in the Balkans outside Istanbul. We visit the St. Nicola Church, erected in 1721 and famous for its incredible murals. Later we visit the Birra Korca factory to taste one of most famous beers in Albania. After lunch we drive to the village Liqenas near Prespa Lake, enjoying the beautiful landscapes of this region. Lake Prespa is shared between Greece, Macedonia and Albania. In 1999 the Society for the Protection of Prespa received the Ramsar Wetland Conservation Award for its conservation efforts, primarily to protect a breeding colony of one of the most endangered waterbirds of the World, the Dalmatian Pelican. The area contains four National Parks located in Albania, Greece, and Republic of Macedonia. Overnight in Korca.
Day 14: Korca - Pogradec - Ohrid (Macedonia)
After completing our sightseeing in Korca, we visit the Medieval Arts Museum and also the Museum ABC, the first school in Albania, For lunch, we can try famous Koran fish (Lake Ohrid Brown Trout) which is only found in Lake Ohrid and its tributaries.
Day 15: Exploring Ohrid
We begin our day with a 3-mile walk along Lake Ohrid, located near the Albanian border, to Galicica National Park. Designated as a national park in 1958 it is situated between the two lakes of Ohrid and Prespa and offers splendid views of the countryside. This park has a wealth of endemic flora and fauna and we have the opportunity to see eagles, vultures, Balkan butterflies and even land turtles. After lunch, we visit the Icon Gallery, the archeological site of Ploeshnik, the Church of St.Bogorodica Perivleptos and the Tcar Samoil fortress. Overnight in Ohrid.
Day 16: Ohrid - Bitola
This morning we drive to Bitola where we visit the ancient Macedonian city of Heraclea founded in the 4th century BC. Marvel at the pristine condition of ancient buildings such as the palaces with their well preserved mosaics. After lunch, we return to Ohrid where we enjoy free time in the afternoon. Overnight in Ohrid.
Day 17: Ohrid - Skopje
Our morning drive to Skopje takes us along the banks of the black Drini river, through Struga, Debar and Gostivar. Here we visit the Monastery of Jovan Bigorski and Tetova. We then stop at the Arabati Baba Tekke, and the Motley Mosque (Sarena Xhamija). After lunch in a local restaurant, we continue on to Skopje with visits to the Stone bridge, the St. Spas Church, Mustafa Pasha Mosque and the Church of St.Pantelejmon in Nerezi. Overnight in Skopje.
Day 18: Skopje - Sofia (Bulgaria)
After breakfast, we visit the oldest train station in the Balkans and stop at Matka, with it's monastery on the lake and it's beautiful scenery near Skopje. We drive to Sofia, Bulgaria, arriving just in time for lunch. In the afternoon we visit Alexander Nevski Cathedral - one of the largest Eastern Orthodox cathedrals in Europe. We also visit the church of St. Sophia, built by the Roman emperor Justinian in the 6th century as well as the former Royal Palace. Overnight in Sofia.
Day 19: Sofia - Plovdiv - Asenovgrad Castle
This morning we travel to the greatest Bulgarian city, Plovdiv. As one of Europe's oldest cities, Plovdiv will amaze you with its history and sights. Here we visit the ancient amphitheater, the Roman odeon and the Roman stadium. After lunch, we go to Asenovgrad Castle, a medieval fortress in the Bulgarian Rhodope Mountains. This is one of the best-preserved castles in Bulgaria. Set on the edge of a high, rocky ridge, this medieval fortress dates back to the Thracians. Overnight in Plovdiv.
Day 20: Plovdiv - Devin - Goce Delcev
Today we travel to Devin. Enroute, we visit the Cudnite Mostove - followed by the Devin Eco Trail, Trigrad Gorge with The Wonderful Bridges. It is a unique sight of naturally bridged rocks, which have eroded over many years to form the shapes we see today. After a relaxing picnic lunch in a lush meadow, a short drive will bring us to Trigrad Gorge, the bottom of which is swept by the Trigradska River. We will enjoy walking a portion of the eco trail (3-miles) to see the various plants and animals of the Rodopi Mountains. With more than 250 caves, we will briefly tour the famous "ËœDevil's Throat' where it is said Orpheus descended to the underworld in hopes of finding his deceased wife. We return to our hotel for a special Bulgarian dinner. Overnight in Goce Delcev.
Day 21: Goce Delcev - Sofia
We return to Sofia after driving through the Rila National Park and ski center of Bansko. We will also pass by the villages of Blagoevgrad and Rila. Upon our arrival in Sofia, we have lunch and then you will have the rest of your afternoon in Sofia to explore on your own. Overnight in Sofia.
Day 22: Departure Sofia
Today we say good bye to our new friends and the wonderful adventure we had as we transfer to the airport for our onward journey.
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