Balkan Explorer: from the Adriatic to the Black Sea

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Mesi Bridge, Shkodra, AlbaniaExplore the Balkans from the shores of the Adriatic Sea in Albania, through the landscapes of Macedonia, and on to Bulgaria a country on the shores of the Black Sea. A perfect combination of 3 countries covering an array of cultural and natural sites considered UNESCO patrimony of humanity. Explore them with us in a comprehensive tour.

Duration: 13 days -12 nights
Location: Albania, Macedonia, Bulgaria

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tirana tours, visit Albania Day 1: Tirana
Meet at airport and transfer to Tirana for a visit at the National Museum of History which is a great introduction to the history of the country and its people. Afterwards take a driven tour of the major sites of Tirana, including the colourful buildings for which the Albanian capital is now known. The dull grey communist architecture buildings have been transformed into modern art canvases through splashes of bright colours and abstract shapes. An ingenious way of uplifting the facades and the moods of the inhabitants. Overnight in Tirana.
rozafa-castle-shkodra-tours Day 2: Tirana - Kruja – Shkodra- Tirana (3.5 hours driving time)
After breakfast drive to Kruja the centre of Albanian resistance against the Ottomans under our national hero Scanderbeg who defeated them in 22 battles including one of the most warrior like sultans Mehmet the Conqueror and resisted the Ottoman occupation for 25 years. We visit the Castle with two great Museums and the Old Ottoman style bazaar. After lunch proceed to Shkodra centre of Roman Catholicism in Albania and a town with long historic routes. It is the only mentioned capital of the Illyrian Kingdom in the 3rd century B.C. Visit the pedestrian area with Italian influences. Afterwards return to Tirana for overnight.
SMary-church-Berat-Albania Day 3: Tirana – Berat (UNESCO) – Apollonia –Vlora (4.5 hours driving time)
Drive to Berat another wonderful Museum town and UNESCO site: visit the Castle, Onufri Museum and several churches and mosques. Onufri was an Albanian master painter of the 16th century who had a weakness for a particular red colour he used so much that it is known today as the Onufrian Red. Many of his wonderfully painted Icons still remain in the museum while others can be found in churches in Albania and Greece where he worked. After breakfast depart to Apollonia one of the most important ancient learning centers in Roman times on the famous Via Egnatia. Due to its fame and importance Caesar chose to send his nephew Octavian who later became Augustus Octavian, to study oratory in Apollonia. We will visit the ruins and the archeological museum adjacent to the site in an old monastery. After the visits continue on to Vlora where we check in at the hotel.
Gjirokastra, Albania Day 4: Vlora – Butrint (UNESCO) – Saranda(4 hours driving time)
After breakfast drive through the spectacular Albanian Riviera with its traditional villages, we stop at Llogara pass which is impressive climbing to a height of over 2000 metres at its peak, the mountain of Cika, while we pas at around 1100 metres where spectacular views of the Ionian Sea can be admired. Afterwards we visit the castle of Ali Pasha at Porto Palermo. Continue on to Butrint a UNESCO world heritage site. The city was first settled by Greek colonists and was continuously inhabited for centuries forming archaeological layers of different civilizations, making it an important discovery in the Mediterranean. It is situated in a beautiful peninsula among dense vegetation offering visitors more than just old ruins. Afterwards we return to Saranda where we will have a tasty dinner of fresh seafood in a local restaurant. Overnight in Saranda.
gjirokastra-unesco-albania Day 5: Saranda - Blue Eye – Gjirokastra (UNESCO) – Permet (2.5 hours driving time)
In the morning we depart for Gjirokastra a museum town under the protection of UNESCO as a World Heritage Site with beautifuland very distinct architecture. On the way we stop at the beautiful Blue Eye spring shaped like an eye with beautiful blue and turquoise green colors among old maple trees, gives us the opportunity for a relaxing walk. Drive to Gjirokastra where we will visit we visit the fortress of Gjirokastra, part of which was turned into a political prison for dissidents of the regime and an Arms Museum. Visit to the Ethnographic Museum, which is also the house the Albanian dictator was born in, as well as a 300 year old house next to it, where the grandeur of Gjirokastra’s master builders can be observed. Continue on through the gorge of the Vjosa river at Kelcyre and overnight at the traditional town of Permet.
travel-to-kelcyre-permet Day 6: Permet – Korca – Pogradec(4.5 hours driving time)
After breakfast depart for Pogradec through one of the most breathtaking roads of Albania. A combination of gorges, mountains colorful fields, river canyons and forests accompanies us in this long but with amazing natural beauty. Visit the Museum of Medieval Art in Korca and the Mirahori mosque. After the visits continue for Pogradec on the shores of Lake Ohrid and the village of Tushemisht where the old fishing villa of the dictator is situated. Overnight in Pogradec.
Ohrid-lake-pogradec-Albania Day 7: Pogradec - Ohrid (UNESCO) (1 hour driving time)
After breakfast visit St. Naum Monastery, the Cathedral of St. Sofia built between the 11th and 14th century, which was the seat of the Archbishop. St. Clement, a classic Orthodox Byzantine church, dominating the Old Town, demonstrates the link between Byzantine and Italian Renaissance art, the Icon Gallery, and old Bazaar. Overnight in Ohrid.
bitola-tours-to-Macedonia Day 8: Ohrid –– Bitola – Stobi - Skopje (4.5 hours driving time)
After the breakfast, drive to the city of consuls, Bitola and the ancient site of Heraclea situated on its outskirts. After visits we proceed to the capital of Macedonia, Skopje. On the way we will stop at Stobi - one of the most important archaeological sites in Macedonia. Lying in a fertile valley just a few minutes off the central north-south highway that connects Macedonia with Greece, the ancient city of Stobi was a vital trade route in its days. Visit the excavation sites with beautiful remains such as a 2nd century amphitheatre, the Theodosia palace and early Christian ruins with extensive and ornate mosaic floors. Depart for Skopje capital of Macedonia on the Vardar River where we take a guided tour of the main sites. Visit the old bazaar and Mahmut Pasha Hammam, the memorial house of Mother Teresa, the stone bridge and the Macedonia Plaza. Overnight in Skopje.

skopje-bazaar-and-castle-tours-to-Macedonia Day 9: Skopje – Sofia(4 hours driving time)
After breakfast drive to Sofia - the capital of Bulgaria. Meet and greet by Bulgarian guide. In the afternoon join our short break tour and discover why Sofia makes the perfect combination - the wisdom of the past and the verve of the present. You will see part of the city walls, churches and streets from the antiquity side by side with edifices built during the Byzantine period. You will visit inside the 4th c. AD St. George Rotunda, the 6th c. AD church of St. Sophia and The Cathedral of St. Alexander Nevski. The beautiful building of the University, the National Art Gallery, the National Theater, numerous monuments and open spaces in the city will make the tour a pleasant one. Overnight in 3* hotel in Sofia.
Sofia-Parliament-tours-Bulgaria Day 10: Sofia - Veliko Turnovo (3.5 hours driving time)
Morning departure from Sofia to Veliko Turnovo – the medieval capital of Bulgaria, situated amphitheatrically on 4 hills. The old capital welcomes its visitors with impressive views - the medieval fortress of Tsarevets and numerous churches and monasteries on the nearby hills. Visit the fortress and see the modern frescoes in the church, feel the spirit of traditions in the old church “St. Peter & Paul”. Take a walk along Samovodene market with its original workshops from the National Revival. Follow the route to the old museum town Arbanassi - a monument architecture from the 17th-18th century. Visit the Nativity Church (16-17th c. AD) with amazing frescoes showing scenes from the New and Old Testament and the ethnographic house of Konstantsaliev. Overnight in 4* hotel in Veliko Turnovo or Arbanassi.
Veliko-Tarnovo-tours-Bulgaria Day 11: Veliko Turnovo - Etara - Kazanlak(UNESCO)-Plovdiv (3.5 hours driving time)
Departure to Plovdiv – the second largest city of Bulgaria. En route visit Etara architectural and ethnographic open air museum, which presents the architecture and the style of life in Gabrovo and the region during the Bulgarian Revival period - 18th-19th century. On the crafts street the visitors can watch in real time the work of the craftsmen and can purchase the articles made before their eyes. Visit the nearby Assumption Sokolski monastery with a famous stone fountain. En route see the golden domes of Shipka Monastery. Continue to the town of Kazanluk known as the capital of the Valley of the Roses. After lunch, visit the Kazanlak Thracian Tomb (4th century BC, UNESCO) and Kulata ethnographic complex in Kazanlak. Continue to Plovdiv. Sightseeing of The Old Town of Plovdiv, which is one of the most remarkable places in Bulgaria with its steep cobble-stoned streets, unique houses and romantic atmosphere. A similarity with Ohrid in Macedonia and especially Berat and Gjirokastra in Albania can be noticed. See 4th century BC Thracian wall paintings, the Roman amphitheater, Byzantine and medieval fortifications and 15th century Ottoman mosque. Overnight 4* hotel in Plovdid.
Plovdiv-theater-bulgaria-tours Day 12: Plovdiv – Rila monastery(UNESCO)- Sofia(2 hours driving time)
Early morning departure for Rila monastery for visit and lunch. This is the most significant and impressive monument of Bulgarian National Revival period. The monastery's most treasured historic and artistic monuments include the 14th century Hrelyo Tower, the five-domed Birth of the Blessed Virgin Church and the original monastery kitchen from the 19th century. The monastery also houses a rich museum collection of valuable old manuscripts and documents, charters and icons, an ethnographic exhibition of fabrics, jewelry, carpets and wrought iron objects, and a library containing more than 16,000 books. Return back to Sofia for overnight in 3* hotel.
  Day 13: Departure
Transfer from the hotel to Sofia airport for your flight back home


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