Expert-Led Group Tour

Albania Group Tour - Origins of Illyria

Departing 15th - 23rd May 2020

9 days

from £1,995pp
  • For those of you who want to be ahead of the curve and go to a wonderful destination
  • Accompanied by Carolyn Perry, an expert in the art and architecture of Albania
  • Travel through the Albanian Alps and alongside spectacular turquoise seas
  • Try delicious Albanian food and drink and feel the warmth of the local hospitality

Journey through the 'Land of Eagles', known as Illyria throughout the classical era and discover a country with a fascinating past and present. Archaeological sites, such as Byllis, tell stories of everyday life in ancient times, whereas impressive ancient Butrint, described by Virgil as 'Troy in miniature', boasts links to the famous legend of Aeneas. Travel to Albania's coast and explore Durres, ancient Dyrrhachium, fought over by Caesar and Pompey. Travelling in Albania gives a window on an age that was rich with tales of empire, war, riches and rebellion.

Leave the history behind for a while and consider contemporary Albania; a country, until recently, deprived of many western privileges. Trapped by an isolationist regime and fortified against its surrounding enemies, Albania spent many years in the international wilderness. Now having opened up, the friendly people and rich variety of archaeological and historical sites, combined with stunning, wild mountainous scenery is a heady recipe.

The beauty of a holiday to Albania is the lack of crowds. Given the impressive historical sites, ancient towns and interesting cities, one would expect the main attractions to be busy with tourists. This is fortunately not the case so we urge you to travel to Albania now before the word gets out. 

WHY SHOULD I JOIN THIS GROUP TOUR?

For the expertise of Carolyn Perry, as well as the opportunity to travel with like-minded individuals to a country that is, as yet, undiscovered by the masses.

"I have taken many group tours in the last 10 years and this was one of the best. The credit goes first and foremost to Carolyn, whose knowledge, wealth of information and command of detail, from the historical to the anecdotal, added so much rich texture to my understanding. I would love the chance to tour with her again.", Greece Group Tour with Carolyn. 

IS THIS GROUP TOUR SUITABLE FOR SOLO TRAVELLERS?

Our group tours are perfect for solo travellers, as travelling as part of an organised group in faraway places does provide security and peace of mind. We handle all of the arrangements for you and there will be a local tour guide on hand throughout to provide advice and help if needed, as well as the expertise of a Tour Lecturer.

If you are willing to share, we will always do our best to match you up with another solo traveller of the same sex so that you do not have to pay for a single room.

If you would prefer the privacy of your own room and would like this guaranteed, then the single room price supplement will apply.

WHAT IS THE ACCOMMODATION IN ALBANIA LIKE?

Accommodation in Albania is a different standard to that of the UK as tourism has not long been a major industry there. There is still a variety of comfortable options and, in some places, very characterful guesthouses and hotels.

HOW FIT SHOULD I BE TO ENJOY THIS TOUR?

You do not need to be particularly fit to participate, there are no long walks involved but there will be a certain number of stone steps and uneven surfaces.

WHAT IS THE FOOD LIKE IN ALBANIA?

Albanian cuisine offers a unique blend of Mediterranean flavours. Representing a rich historical past, the food of modern Albania has been developed over a number of years and reflects a fusion of Greek, Italian and Turkish cooking.

From baked lamb with yoghurt to fresh, vibrant salads - the Albanians live for lunch. The main food in Albania is characterised by the use of spices such as black pepper and Mediterranean herbs including oregano, mint, basil and rosemary. In the cooking of meat and fish, chilli pepper and garlic is used to good effect. In true Albanian style take lunch at a local’s house to try homemade sheep's cheese (feta), made from traditional methods in the mountains and washed down with the local hooch, raki...not for the faint-hearted!

WHAT WILL THE WEATHER BE LIKE?

Not excessively hot but the days should be clear and sunny. When travelling in the mountainous areas the weather can vary. 



Departing on:
  • 15th May 2020
  • 4th June 2021

For a detailed itinerary or to book your place on this tour, please contact us.

STARTFINISHPrice Excluding Flights £Flight cost fromSingle SupplementTour ExpertStatus 
15th May 2020 23rd May 2020 £ 1,995 £ 250 £ 225 Carolyn Perry Limited
4th Jun 2021 12th Jun 2021 £ 2,095 £ 350 £ 225 Carolyn Perry Available
  Click here to see what is included/excluded

what is included

  • Entrance fees for sights mentioned
  • One night at Amfiteatri Boutique Hotel
  • One night at Hotel Alpin
  • One night at Hotel Kalemi 2
  • One night at Hotel Mangalemi
  • One night at Hotel Oxford
  • One night at Hotel Panorama Kruja
  • Transportation with modern tourist class a/c minibus
  • Two nights at Hotel Brilant

what is excluded

  • International Flights (can be arranged)
  • Items of a personal nature
  • Meals not mentioned on itinerary
  • Travel Insurance
  • Visas if applicable

TO ALLOW FLEXIBILITY, OUR GROUP TOURS DO NOT INCLUDE INTERNATIONAL FLIGHTS AS STANDARD. WE CAN ARRANGE INTERNATIONAL FLIGHTS ON YOUR BEHALF AND THE ABOVE IS AN INDICATION OF COST, BASED ON RETURN FLIGHTS DEPARTING FROM LONDON. ALL INTERNATIONAL FLIGHTS FROM THE UK ARE ATOL PROTECTED.

Itinerary at a glance

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Day 1

Arrival information
An arrival transfer will be provided to connect with your chosen flight. You will be met and transferred to Hotel Panorama in Kruja, a journey of around one hour from Tirana airport.

For those making their own way to Tirana, the starting point for the trip is Hotel Panorama in Kruja.

You will meet with the rest of the group for a short briefing at the hotel - meeting time to be confirmed in your final documentation, in advance of the welcome dinner.

Founded by the Ottomans in 1614, modern Tirana became Albania's capital in the early 20th century.

Now a city in transition, Tirana showcases a mix of new-found wealth contrasting with relics of the all too recent communist era. Skyscrapers have begun to fill the cityscape, but concrete utilitarian constructions still fill much of the city.

In recognition of this, a splash of colour has been added to many of the fast ageing apartment blocks, as is fitting for such a vibrant city. Completely transformed, Tirana is a pleasure to wander around.


Kruja
Depending on the arrival time of your flight there may be an opportunity for an afternoon visit to the almost impregnable Citadel of Kruja. Stronghold of Skanderbeg it is now the site of the Skanderbeg museum and the fascinating Ethnographic museum which is set in a traditional house. Stroll through the Ottoman bazaar with its wonderful selection of souvenirs.


lunch and dinner included.


You will be staying at Hotel Panorama Kruja, bed and breakfast

Day 2

Kruja - Lezhe - Durres
A morning drive down to the historic town of Lezhe, originally an Illyrian city. Remains of the Illyrian era are still visible, including walls and an extremely well-preserved gate of the ancient city. Lezhe played an important part in the Civil Wars between Caesar and Pompey, but is mainly famed for its connection with Skanderbeg, being both the place where he formed the League of Lezhe to fight the Ottomans and also his place of death and burial. The original walls of the Cathedral of Saint Nicholas are still preserved, and the cathedral now functions as a memorial to him.

Depart for Durres, one of the Greek colony cities of Albania. Known as Epidamnus, the city was founded in 627 BC by Greeks from Corcyra and Corinth. Its strategic location as a harbour is clear, but Greek and Roman authors also noted the city's temples and monuments. The city played a part in both the origins of the Peloponnesian War in the 5th century BC and also the Roman Civil War. Continuously inhabited since its foundation, the remains of the ancient city include the Amphitheatre, parts of the Via Egnatia, and various fortifications. The Archaeological Museum is well worth a visit.


breakfast at the hotel. Lunch and Dinner at local restaurants.


You will be staying at Amfiteatri Boutique Hotel, bed and breakfast

Day 3

Durres - Apollonia - Byllis - Berat

Depart for the ancient city of Apollonia, another 7th-century Greek colony on the famous Via Egnatia. 


On the way, pass the Rock of Kavaja where Caesar camped during the civil war against Pompey, near to the battle site of Asparagium.


The orator Cicero called Apollonia 'a great and important city'. Visit the extensive remains of the city, the Church of St Mary, and the Archaeological Museum now housed in the Monastery. 


At its height, Apollonia would have had a population of 35,000. It was an important trading and military port but also a seat of learning, the young Octavius studied here. However, a series of earthquakes shifted the course of the Vjosa River, leaving Apollonia both high and dry, literally and metaphorically. The ruined ancient city sits isolated on a hill-top with great views of the surrounding plains. The Bouleuterion is what draws the eye and crowds but there is also a little theatre, the Odeon, and the remains of a monumental arch. The busts and vases that once would have adorned Apollonia are now housed in the museum, itself housed in what was a monastery. Much of the stone, bricks and columns of the monastery and thirteenth-century church are repurposed from the ancient city of Apollonia. The beauty of the site is not just its remains but its setting and surrounds. Birds chirp gaily, there are rosemary and sage bushes, it is very peaceful and tranquil.


Continue along the Vjose river valley to Byllis which was the capital of the Illyrian tribe Bylliones in the 4th century BC. The ruins today consist of original city walls, a theatre which originally seated 7,500 and the remains of basilicas.


Journey on to Berat, a UNESCO World Heritage site, also known as the City of One Thousand Windows. 




Breakfast at the hotel. Lunch and Dinner at local restaurants.


You will be staying at Hotel Mangalemi, bed and breakfast

Day 4

Berat - Amantia - Oricum - Llogara
In Berat, explore the Castle and the Church of St Mary which now houses the Museum of Onufri, Albania's most renowned iconographer. The area within the castle walls is still inhabited. Wander through the traditional stone streets lined with stone houses.

On the south side of the river, lies the Christian Old Town (Gorica). The two sides are linked by a number of bridges, including an impressive 250-year-old, seven-arched footbridge.

Leave Berat for the ancient Illyrian city of Amantia founded in the 5th century BC. Amantia occupies a spectacular defensive position above the Vjosa river valley overlooking the road to the coast. The site has substantial remains of the fortification walls and a very well-preserved gate. Remains of dwellings are still visible within the Acropolis and, unusually for Albania, the foundations of a Greek temple to Aphrodite are preserved. The best-preserved monument is the stadium which could originally accommodate about 4,000 people.

Continue to Llogara National Park. The pass of Llogara reaches a height of 1,000 metres above sea level and is also the place where, according to tradition, Caesar led his troops over the pass after landing from Italy.

Lying on the banks of the Osum River, the town of Berat is famous for its Old Town, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Traditionally split in to two distinct halves, the Muslim Old Town (Mangalem) lies north of the river and its collection of white-washed houses climb up towards the town's citadel.

On the south side of the river, lies the Christian Old Town (Gorica). The two sides are linked by a number of bridges, including an impressive 250-year-old, seven-arched footbridge.


Breakfast at the hotel. Lunch and Dinner at local restaurants.


You will be staying at Hotel New York, bed and breakfast

Day 5

Llogara - Saranda
Depart along the 'Albanian Riviera' through spectacular scenery between the sea and the mountains.

Drive on to Oricum, a city which played an important role in both the Roman's defeat of Philip V of Macedon and the Roman civil war between Caesar and Pompey. Stepped stone streets can still be discerned, as well as the base of a monumental water fountain or Nymphaeum.

Travel on via the Greek village of Himare and then to Porto Palermo and the Fortress of Ali Pasha. Porto Palermo is also the site of an underground submarine base built by Enver Hoxha. After passing through the villages of Qeparo and Borsh arrive in Saranda.


Breakfast at the hotel. Lunch and Dinner at local restaurants.


You will be staying at Hotel Brilant, bed and breakfast

Day 6

Full day Saranda - Butrint - Malathrea- Ksamil- Saranda

Full day Saranda - Butrint - Ksamil- Saranda


Visit the extensive site of Butrint, a UNESCO World Heritage site. According to legend, the city was founded by Trojan exiles led by Aeneas, though the site was probably not inhabited until the 8th-century BC.


The site, on a peninsula in a verdant setting in the Lake of Butrint, has well-preserved remains from the Greek, Hellenistic, Roman, Christian and even Venetian periods. Finds from the site are on display in the small museum.


Whilst the busiest site in Albania with some several hundred thousand visitors a year, you are still able to get a sense of what Cicero meant when he wrote, "Let me tell you that Butrint is to Corfu what Antium is to Rome - the quietest, coolest, most pleasant place in the world."


Enjoy a seafood lunch in Ksamil and a refreshing dip in the Ionian Sea afterwards - bring your swimming costume.


Return to Saranda for dinner in one of the seafront restaurants and enjoy the cuisine, wine and glittering lights across the bay.


Named after a Byzantine monastery built to honour 40 martyrs, the city was briefly renamed after Mussolini's eldest daughter during the Italian occupation of Albania.


Although popular with beachgoers, and at the heart of the 'Albanian Riviera', it is the town's surrounding sights that draw the most attention. In particular, the remains of ancient Butrint.



Named after a Byzantine monastery built to honour 40 martyrs, the city was briefly renamed after Mussolini's eldest daughter during the Italian occupation of Albania.

The bombed remains of the town's monastery stand above Saranda, which looks out over the Ionian Sea. Although popular with beach goers, and at the heart of the 'Albanian Riviera', it is the town's surrounding sights that draw most attention.

In particular, the remains of ancient Butrint and the mesmerizingly beautiful Blue Eye Spring are close by, and highlights of any trip to Albania.


Breakfast at the hotel. Lunch and Dinner at local restaurants.


You will be staying at Hotel Brilant, bed and breakfast

Day 7

Saranda - Antigonea - Gjirokastra

Depart Saranda to Gjirokastra via the Muzina pass. En route visit Antigonea, a city founded by King Pyrrhus of Epirus in honour of his wife Antigone. Antigonea is a city built on the Hippodamian grid system but was destroyed by the Romans in 167 BC. Thus not much remains of the city except from its foundations but Carolyn, with her expertise and explanations, will bring it alive and give you historical context.

On to Gjirokastra, the 'City of Stone' and another UNESCO World Heritage Site. The castle has fabulous views above the valley of the river Drin, between Albania and Greece. Also visit the Ethnographic Museum, the former home of Albania's dictator Enver Hoxha, who was born in the city.


Breakfast at the hotel. Lunch and Dinner at local restaurants.


You will be staying at Hotel Kalemi 2, bed and breakfast

Day 8

Gjirokastra - Tepelene - Elbasan - Ad Quintum - Tirana
Depart Gjirokastra for Elbasan, via Tepelene the city of the infamous Ali Pasha. Elbasan was a Roman station along the Via Egnatia known as Mansio Scampa. Parts of the Via Egnatia are still visible, as are later fortification walls, and the remains of a Roman villa.

Afterwards continue to Petrela Castle, which dates to the 5th century AD. Pass by the Martyrs Cemetery and the 12-metre-high Monument of Mother Albania, which was inaugurated in 1971.


Breakfast at the hotel. Lunch and Dinner at local restaurants.


You will be staying at Hotel Oxford, bed and breakfast

Day 9

Tirana - London
Our city tour starts with a visit of the National Historical Museum followed by a stop at the Mosque of Et`hem Bey, built in 1793 and the Opera House (National Theatre of Opera and Ballet) on Skanderbeg Square. A walk on the main boulevard provides views of the City Hall and a number of governmental buildings on both sides.

Continue walking to the former Communist Residential area with its bars, restaurants and pubs.


Late check out has been arranged for you.


Breakfast at the hotel. Lunch and Dinner at local restaurants.

Destination Experts

Our experts have unrivalled firsthand knowledge of Albania

Joe Parkes, Travel Expert

"It was extremely helpful to work in conjunction with Joe and his much more up to date knowledge of India and arrive at an itinerary which we were happy with. We enjoyed the whole trip and probably what made it special for us was the fact that all the arrangements worked so well and we really didn’t have to worry about anything at all. Even when we decided to make a small change it was dealt with efficiently and promptly. We can't think of anything that would have made our trip more enjoyable."

"The service from start to finish has been excellent. Joe was very quick to respond to any queries and put together an excellent itinerary at short notice."

"A pleasure to deal with Joe. Efficient, helpful, knowledgeable and fun!"

Read More

Katie Benden, Travel Expert

"Katie was brilliant and very helpful. Helped to put together the itinerary I was dreaming of for my honeymoon and she was excellent with communication."

"Very happy with Katie Benden. Great service – always prompt reply to queries and always polite, attentive and informative. A wonderful holiday."

Read More

For a more detailed itinerary with great ideas on what to do and where to stay, please get in touch with our experts.

Tour expert

Carolyn Perry

Carolyn Perry
Following a degree in Classics and Archaeology, Carolyn lectured in Ancient History and Mythology in the Department of Mediterranean Studies at Queen Mary College, University of London before re-training to teach primary school children, eventually specialising in Special Education.

In 1997 she moved to the Education Department of The British Museum, where she set up and ran the Arab World Education Programme, a ground-breaking project which used the relevant collections of the British Museum to counteract negative images and stereotyping of the Arab world and related Islamic cultures The programme involved a range of events and activities for all audiences and had a strong focus on outreach.

In 2002, Carolyn left the British Museum to become the administrator of the newly formed MBI Al Jaber Foundation, a UK based charity which aims to promote better understanding between the peoples of the Middle East and the wider world through activities in the areas of education, cultural dialogue and good governance. She has been Director of the Foundation since 2006 and is now also responsible for all aspects of Sheikh Mohamed's philanthropy, within the Foundation and beyond.

From January 2008 to February 2009 Carolyn was Manager of the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, UCL. The Petrie Museum houses an estimated 80,000 objects, making it one of the greatest collections of Egyptian and Sudanese archaeology in the world and illustrates life in the Nile Valley. Carolyn also lectures on aspects of the ancient Mediterranean and Islamic world and is a regular speaker at the British Museum and elsewhere on Islamic Art and Architecture, Ancient Arabia and Ancient Mediterranean history and mythology.

Carolyn has led tours for Steppes Travel for over five years. We enjoy working with her, not only for her incredible knowledge and passion about the regions that she travels to. But, we find that she is great fun to travel with and our clients tend to travel with her again and again visiting different destinations with her. We currently offer tours to Albania, Greece and Iran which are accompanied Carolyn.
Enquire about this Expert Led tour:

Group Size:

Min 6 / Max 15

Tour Expert:

Carolyn Perry

Departure Date (S):

  • 15th May 2020 - Guaranteed to run
  • 4th June 2021

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