“A carefully crafted itinerary that takes 17 days to explore both Kosovo and Albania, its myriad monasteries, mosques mountains and medieval magnificence
Prisina | Peja | Damned Mountains | Decani Monastery | Junik village | Gjakova | Winery visit | Prizren | Sharri Mountains | Brod | Visit Gorani community | Tirana | Kruja | Albanian Alps | Lake Koman | Valbona Valley | Rubiku | Fani Valley | Orosh | Durres | Ardenice | Gjirokastra UNESCO World Heritage Site | Butrint | Llogara Pass
Description of Kosovo and Albania small group tour
This Kosovo and Albania holiday, a small group tour, is an in depth exploration of these two neighbouring countries bursting with both ancient Christian European history and that of the Ottoman Empire. Spending pretty much equal amounts of time in both Kosovo and Albania, the trip begins in Pristina, Kosovo’s capital city, an ancient city now bursting with contemporary café culture. The old town is a mixture of both Christian and Muslim heritage and stretches as far back as Roman times, with preserved remains to be seen at Ulpiana.
There are so many towns and villages that exemplify Ottoman and Albanian architecture in Kosova, such as in Peja where, among many fascinating buildings, there are two UNESCO World Heritage protected Orthodox monasteries of Decani and Patriarchate of Pej. Peja is also surrounded by magnificent landscapes, such as the Rugova and Great Canyon as well as remote mountain trails where we pass through traditional villages very much untouched by time. More ancient wonders await in the city of Prizren, which dates back to Illyrians times or, in contrast, in the Sharri Mountains where the ethnic minority Gorani people share some of their cultural traditions.
The second half of the trip takes us over the border into Albania where ancient monuments and architecture abound. Such as in Kruja with a wonderful collection of buildings dating back to the Albanian-Ottoman wars, including its citadel which dominates the city up on a hill. Then Shkodra where another hilltop beauty, Rozafa castle, dates back to Illyrian times and has witnessed many different cultural influences passing through over the centuries. Mirdita is home to a very different collection of cultures, with remote villages scattered through this region that famously stayed independent during Ottoman Rule and maintained their Roman Catholic traditions. We visit the Greek and Roman archaeological sites In Durres and Apollonia, and in Berat and Gjirokastra the ancient streets are a haven for churches, citadels and cobbled streets.
Our trip through these fascinating countries and landscapes draws to a close on the coast with a fine archaeological finale at Butrint, a magnificent ancient Greek and later Roman city and now UNESCO World Heritage Site. Our final farewells are in Albania’s capital Tirana, a city that is a cultural mix of minarets, mosques and crumbling Communist murals. All fascinating in their own way, just like both of these countries, which are still very unknown to most tourists.
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Responsible tourism: Kosovo and Albania small group tour
Much of the time on this tour is spent in towns and cities, but we do spend time in the Albanian Alps in the north of the Albania and the Sharri Mountains in the south west of Kosovo, stunning areas of dramatic peaks and impressive landscapes. When exploring these areas on foot we take care to stick to the trails and not to damage any of the flora, as some parts of the regions are quite fragile environmenst.
We operate a strict no litter policy on our tours, which includes the drivers. Albania as a country has been isolated for a long time, as has Kosovo to a certain extent and western European norms regarding the environment are not so well entrenched, therefore it is quite common for local people to dispose of rubbish simply by throwing it out of the window. We work to educate our drivers and other service providers so as to avoid contributing to this problem.
Similarly, in conjunction with our local team we work with hotels and guesthouses to implement best practices when it comes to environmental matters – again in some places this is far behind what we might be used to in other parts of the world. This includes basic things like not replacing towels each day, as well as saving electricity and turning lights off – small things but as Albania and Kosovo are still really in the early stages of dealing with tourism we hope that they can become ingrained into the culture.
In Valbona we stay in a small guesthouse which makes a point of using local produce for the meals it provides – local in the sense of being from the village, not from elsewhere. Not only is this a great introduction to the culinary culture of northern Albania but it helps in a small way to cut down on food miles.
When visiting Gadime Cave travellers are briefed on how to avoid damaging the fragile ecosystem that exists here.
On all of tours we strive to include a strong focus on local communities and we are firm believers that tourism should have a positive impact on the places visited. On this tour we spend time in some of the region’s more traditional areas, that do not see as much tourism as other parts of the country. We stay at locally owned guesthouses and hotels and where appropriate employ the services of local people in order not only to gain a greater insight into the complex traditions here but to ensure that they gain financial benefit from our visit, rather than just being ‘exhibits’.
These are very traditional areas with certain codes of behaviour, and the people here are not that accustomed to outsiders. We ensure that our travellers are appropriately briefed in order so as not to offend local sensibilities.
We visit a number of sites and monuments on this tour that do not necessarily receive much funding from other sources; the entrance fees that we include help to maintain the heritage of this country for future generations – not just western travellers but more importantly to local people to whom they have far more cultural and historical significance. We use locally owned suppliers and our partners here are deeply involved with the preservation of the culture and heritage of the country.
Many of Albania’s sites have been poorly maintained in the past; this is especially the case with religious buildings, as religion was banned under the Communist regime. The same applies to Kosovo; a legacy of it occupying a rather impoverished position under Yugoslavian and then Serbian rule. Through carefully supervised tourism, greater worth is placed upon the region’s rich heritage and it is hoped that local authorities will not only have the funds but also recognise the value in restoring and preserving such places.
Where possible we encourage our travellers to spend their money with local businesses; for this reason we do not include meals where it is feasible to eat outside of the hotels, in order that local restaurants are able to benefit from the presence of tourism, rather than the income being channelled just to the hotel. On all of tours we strive to include a strong focus on local communities and we are firm believers that tourism should have a positive impact on the places visited.
We visit the isolated Sharri Mountains in the south of the Kosovo on this tour. Traditionally this area has seen much migration among the younger generation, who leave their homes to look for what they perceive to be better opportunities in the cities. By staying here and spending money within this community we help in a small way to provide income and employment opportunities which in turn give people a reason to stay, thus helping to ensure the survival of such communities.