Balkans off the Beaten Track
Discover Albania & North Macedonia12 days from £1,779 per person
Unlock the beauty of the Balkans as you make your way through the dramatic landscapes and culture-rich communities of Albania and North Macedonia. Relatively undiscovered by UK visitors, you’ll be veering off the well-worn tourist trail - and your reward will be spectacular national parks, World Heritage Sites and centuries-old mosques, churches and monasteries. We’ll tick off the two capital cities and meander through unspoilt countryside. In North Macedonia, we’ll base ourselves in Ohrid - a lakeside resort with a church-filled old town.
15 included excursions and visits
- Guided tours of Tirana; Shkodra (including Rozafa Fortress); Berat; Ohrid; Skopje; and Bitola
- Visits to Lezha and memorial grave of Skanderbeg; Kruja History & Ethnographic Museum; Durres amphitheatre and archaeology museum; St Georgi Pobedonosec Monastery; and St Jovan Bigorski Monastery
- Wine tasting at Cobo Winery
- Boat trip to St Naum Monastery
- Lake Prespa, Galicica National Park
- Entry to Movrovo National Park
- 11 nights in hotels (accommodation as specified or similar)
- 22 meals: 11 breakfasts (days 2-12) 11 dinners (days 1-11)
- VOX portable audio headset system on excursions
Plus all these benefits
- Titan’s VIP door-to-door travel service
- Services of a Titan tour manager
- International flights (prices are based on return flights with British Airways from London Gatwick. Supplements may apply from other airports)
- Best available coaches with experienced drivers
- All airport taxes and duties
UK - Tirana
Titan’s VIP door-to-door travel service collects you from home, for your flight to Tirana. On arrival our coach transfers you to the Tirana International Hotel (4T), our base for five nights. Dinner is included each evening.
Tirana International Hotel (4T)
We begin with a guided tour of Tirana, Albania’s vibrant capital and a destination just emerging on the city-break scene. Ambling along the main boulevard, we pass the Presidential Palace and National Arts Gallery, before continuing to Skanderbeg Square, home to the 18th century Et’hem Bey Mosque, the Palace of Culture and the National History Museum. You’ve got the afternoon to explore on your own - perhaps take the cable car up to Mount Dajti National Park for forest walks and spectacular city views.
Today we’ll make our way to Shkodra, stopping off in the city of Lezha for a visit to the Memorial Museum of Skanderbeg, a national hero. Settled on the shores of its namesake lake, Shkodra has history and culture in spades - founded in the 4th century BC, it’s one of the oldest cities in Albania and the country’s centre of Catholicism. After calling in at the cathedral and a photography museum, we stop by the lake, before touring the hilltop Rozafa Fortress.
The riverside city of Berat is on the agenda today. It has a fairly chequered history, with everyone from the Ancient Greeks to the Byzantines to the Romans leaving their cultural stamp. But it’s the Ottoman architecture that you’ll notice the most these days - and it’s what helped the city win UNESCO World Heritage Status back in 2008. We’ll explore the hillside houses and grand mosques, and tour the Byzantine churches hidden inside the walls of Berat’s castle. We make our way back to Tirana via a local winery, for the chance to sample Albanian whites and reds.
Kruja - Durres
The medieval town of Kruja is our first destination. We get a great insight into Albanian culture at the History and Ethnographic Museum (housed in a 5th century castle), before ducking into the old bazaar to browse traditional crafts, silver filigree and colourful kilim rugs. Souvenirs sorted, we make a beeline for the Adriatic coast. After an opportunity to obtain lunch by the waterfront in the port city of Durres, we’ll head over to the city’s standout attraction - the 15,000-capacity Roman amphitheatre. After exploring the amphitheatre and admiring its 2nd century wall mosaic, we conclude at Durres’ archaeological museum.
Tirana - Ohrid
Bid farewell to Albania as we journey east into North Macedonia, making our way to the lakeside town of Ohrid, where we stay for six nights at the Hotel Inex Gorica (5T). Ohrid is one of the country’s prettiest places. The old town is a jumble of frescoed churches and basilicas, with narrow, cobbled streets winding down a hillside to the lake. We spend today visiting a number of these churches, including the photogenic Church of St Jovan Kaneo, perched on a clifftop overlooking the lake’s glassy waters. We’ll also get a glimpse at the Icon Gallery - Ohrid’s collection of Byzantine icons is one of the most important in the world, and one of the reasons the area holds World Heritage Site status.
Hotel Inex Gorica, Ohrid (5T)
St Naum Monastery
A scenic boat ride will take us south along the forest-edged shores of Lake Ohrid to the Byzantine monastery of St Naum. We’ll pass the villages of Pestani, Trpejca and Ljubanista, and stop off at the ‘Bay of the Bones’, a reconstruction of an ancient pile-dwelling settlement. After a visit to the monastery - which houses frescoes and iconostases dating back to the 16th century - you’ll have some time at leisure. Perhaps enjoy lunch with a lake view or wander down to one of the two beaches beside the monastery for a paddle or swim.
Today is devoted to North Macedonia’s capital, Skopje. A guided tour in the morning will lead us around some of the city’s highlights, including the Memorial House of Mother Teresa, the Old Skopje Bazaar and the Church of St Spas (look out for its beautiful carved-wood iconostasis). Once the tour wraps up, there will be time to explore Skopje on your own. Perhaps take the opportunity to visit one of the many galleries or museums, or find a café for a strong, thick Turkish coffee and a feta-stuffed burek pastry.
This morning’s drive is a scenic one. After skirting the edges of Lake Ohrid and winding our way through the verdant mountains of Galicica National Park, we then emerge on the wildly beautiful shores of Lake Prespa. After a brief stop in Podmocani to tour the ethnological museum, we arrive in Bitola. Our guide will show us around the ruined theatres and mosaicked Roman villas of Heraclea Lyncestis, an ancient city just south of Bitola, as well as leading us through the covered bazaar and down Shirok Sokak, a pedestrianised boulevard lined with neo-classical buildings.
More stunning scenery is on the cards today as we travel around Mavrovo National Park. It’s home to the country’s highest mountains, as well as winding rivers, herb-scented meadows and dramatic gorges. Our route takes us past a trio of artificial lakes, including the spectacular Movrovo Lake - surrounded by forested hills and snow-dusted peaks, with a little church half-submerged in its waters. We’ll also stop off for a peek inside the monasteries of St Jovan Bigorski and St Georgi Pobedonosec.
Today is free for you to explore Ohrid at your own pace. Go for a wander through the small bazaar, watch a demonstration at a traditional paper-making workshop, or browse the exhibitions at Cultura 365 gallery and cultural centre.
Day 12 Ohrid - Tirana - UK
Transfer to the airport for your return flight to the UK. Upon arrival, your Titan vehicle will be waiting for the journey home.