Land of the Eagle

Overview

Be among the first to discover the historical sites and natural wonders of Albania on this ground-breaking Saga tour.

What's Included:

  • 11 nights in hotels
  • 15 meals: 11 breakfasts, 1 lunch and 3 dinners
  • Optional travel insurance underwritten by Great Lakes Insurance SE, UK Branch and additional cancellation rights on overseas holidays for over 50s, or a price reduction if not required (cover is subject to medical questions)
  • Return flights and transfers
  • Saga tour manager
  • Welcome drink reception
  • Porterage at all hotels

Full Itinerary

Day 1: Durrës

Fly to Tirana. Transfer to Durrës and spend the night at the locally rated 4-star Sandy Beach Resort Golem beach, Durres area. Enjoy dinner and a welcome drink. D

Day 2: Durrës

After breakfast hop on a coach for a scenic tour of Albania’s capital, Tirana, providing incredible panoramas of the city. Tirana has a beautiful aspect, situated as it is at the foot of Mount Dajti and is comprised of a jigsaw of contrasting architectural styles, from colourful Ottoman facades and classically inspired fascist architecture to brutalist Soviet-era modernism. Explore the Block area independently, formerly inaccessible except for Head of State Enver Hoxha and the communist elite but now the nucleus of Tirana’s trendy cafe culture. Trust your guide to direct you to the best restaurant in town, before you visit the cultural hub of Block’ Art 1. This vast bunker was built to house the communist leadership if there were an attack by the West but is now a museum of the history of Albania as well as a centre for the arts. In the afternoon take tea in the 5th century house and gallery of one of Albania’s most famous living artists, before indulging in a specially prepared Albanian dinner at a local restaurant. B, D

Day 3: Durrës

At leisure. Relax by the hotel pool or enjoy a day on the private beach, with cooling dips in the inviting Adriatic. Alternatively, join an optional tour of the historic sites of Durrës and a wine and local produce tasting at the oldest winery in Albania. B

Daya 4: Durrës

At leisure. However, if you’re feeling adventurous, set out on an optional excursion to see the little-viewed historical sites of Kruja and Fishte. B

Day 5: Durrës to Gjirokastër to Saranda

After breakfast transfer to the locally rated 5-star Hotel Santa Quaranta, in Saranda, stopping en-route in Gjirokastër. Listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO for its perfectly preserved Ottoman old town, Gjirokastër was also the birthplace of the old communist dictator, Enver Hoxha, whose former home is now a museum. Enjoy an authentic Greek coffee in the bazaar before rummaging through the traditional craft shops and exploring the military museum in the Fortress of Gjirokastër and the Castle of Argjiro. Perhaps the most bizarre relic in the grounds of the fortress is an American Air Force jet which was forced to land in Albania in 1957 and is displayed to represent Communism’s struggle with Western imperialism. After experiencing Gjirokastër pause at the Blue Eye natural springs, a popular local tourist attraction where crystal clear water bubbles up from a 50-metre-deep sinkhole. Continue to your beach-front hotel where you’ll stay for the next three nights. B

Day 6: Saranda

After breakfast set out on a adventure tour of Butrint, where Albania’s most important archaeological site is found. Set in beautiful Mediterranean scenery the site features evidence of settlement dating back to prehistoric times. However the most outstanding ruins are that of a Greek theatre and paleo-Christian baptistry, which features a beautifully preserved mosaic floor adapted from a Roman ruin and paleo-Christian basilica that was rebuilt in the 9th century. Visiting the site is to experience a bygone age of tourism, leaving you with the feeling that you are among the first visitors to set eyes on these historical relics. Perhaps enjoy a traditional lunch on a local farm, using fresh, locally-grown produce, before returning to Saranda and your hotel. B

Day 7: Saranda

At leisure. Enjoy free time in the comfortable surroundings of your hotel, with its pool and private beach on the Ionian Sea. Alternatively, join an optional excursion to Mesopotam. This evening you will be treated to dinner and ‘isopolifonia’ serenade in a castle above Saranda. Soak up the Mediterranean sunset and panoramic views of the city and Ionian Sea, with Corfu visible in the near distance, while you tuck into included delicious dinner and wine. B, D

Day 8: Saranda to Berat

After breakfast wind your way along Albania’s southern coast towards Berat, stopping to admire seaside beauty spots where the petticoats of the Çika Mountain range meet the Ionian Sea. Your route then takes you into the mountains where you take lunch at a restaurant in the Llogara National Park, looking down to the ocean below. A national park since 1966, and benefiting from a moratorium on logging and hunting, Llogara is a haven for over 100 species of animals and birds, including deer and wild cats, so keep your eyes peeled. After you’ve had some time for lunch, continue your scenic drive to the harbour city of Vlore, where Albanian independence was declared in 1912. Enjoy a panoramic tour of the city’s most significant sites before travelling on to the locally rated 4-star Hotel Grand White City in Berat, for an overnight stay. B

Day 9: Berat

After breakfast, set off on a walking tour of Berat, one of the world’s oldest continually inhabited cities. Rising up from the waters of the river Osum, on terraces of limestone, Berat’s glistening white Ottoman dwellings have earned it the moniker of ‘city of a thousand windows’. As you climb the foot-worn, cobbled streets to the castle, you pass umpteen buildings of architectural and historical importance and slip into the cool cloisters of Onufri Museum, hidden in the Church of the Dormition of St Mary. Here you’ll find spectacular 16th-century paintings and the faded frescos of the chapel. Leave Berat and drive through stunning scenery to Pogradec, stopping for lunch at an Albanian home for a traditional meal, Rakia and Turkish coffee. Continue on to Pogradec and the lakeside locally rated 3-star Hotel Pogradec, where you stay for two nights. B, L

Day 10: Pogradec

At leisure. Enjoy the hotel facilities or relax on the lake beach. Alternatively, join a scenic optional tour to Macedonia. B

Day 11: Pogradec to Tirana

After breakfast depart on a scenic drive back to Tirana, stopping en-route for a sightseeing tour of Elbasan. Originally a trading post on one of the most important routes of the Roman Empire, Elbasan was established as a military stronghold in 1466 by the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II in his fight against the Albanian nationalist Skanderberg. Explore the remains of the Sultan’s castle with its mix of eastern and medieval architecture, including the ruins of a Basilica, the oldest active mosque in Albania, King Mosque, and 15th-century St Mary’s church and monastery. As with many of the sights you visit on this trip the lack of tourists and accessibility leaves you with the impression that you are blazing a new trail on the map of European tourism. You have time to enjoy local cuisine within the old city walls before you continue your scenic drive to Tirana for your overnight stay at the locally rated 4-star Hotel Colosseo. Either relax in the hotel gardens or wander down to the Block, once a restricted compound for Hoxha and the communist elite but now the city’s trendy hub of cafe culture.

Day 12: Tirana to UK

After breakfast enjoy a free morning before you travel to the airport for your return flight to the UK. B

Hand Picked By

Margaret Moulton

Saga are so popular with our clients, with all those little details taken care of, like complimentary VIP door-to-door transfers on all long haul holidays and selected escorted tours and also optional included travel insurance. This makes Saga such great value for money.

Margaret Moulton

Additional Information

  • Date: Various departure dates
  • Board Basis: Mixed Meal Plan
  • Duration: 11 nights
  • Departure Airport: London
  • Guide Price: From £979pp
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