Albania holidays, small group tour

“UNESCO sites and local communities come to the fore in this whistle-stop tour of Albania which presents the country's highlights and a tourist industry still in its infancy.”

Highlights

UNESCO sites, including Berat, Butrint and Gjirokastra | Beach time in Dhermi | Blue Eye natural springs | tour of Tirana including the natural history museum | Elbasan Fortress | Korka | Dhoksat and Voskopoja villages | Erseke mountain village | Apollonia | Permet |

Description of Albania holidays, small group tour

This Albania is a ten day cultural tour around this highly underrated Mediterranean country which is packed with Byzantine and Roman history, just as its neighbouring Greece is, and yet so much further off the cultural tourist’s radar. As well as its ancient civilisations, architecture and UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Albania also has its own Alps, known as the Accursed Mountains, with remote villages bearing little change since times when blood feuds were the norm and small family farms tucked into exquisite valleys still are.

During this Albania holiday we travel in a circuit, starting in the culture clash capital city of Tirana where Italian architecture, Ottoman minarets, mosques and crumbling communist remnants sit side by side. You can see all of its history just walking down one street. From here, we head south taking in a mixture of military heritage, such as the ancient fortress at Elbasan or the National Museum of Weapons located in Gjirokaster fort which was not to be argued with, located ominously on a remote mountain slope. Most impressively of all things militia, however, is the mediaeval citadel of Krujë the site of the resistance made to the omnipotent Ottomans.

It is not all battle scars on this trip, however, with some extraordinary natural heritage to explore as well. We spend some time at Pogradec on the shores of the great Lake Ohrid, surrounded by mountains. We enjoy mountain villages such as Ersekë, enveloped by the luscious green slopes of the Gramos Mountains and also visit the ‘Blue Eye’, famous for its seven natural springs that come to the surface here. And we also take time to enjoy the Mediterranean climes by sauntering and swimming at Porto Palermo Bay.

Every day is different on this trip, and along the way we not only stay in small locally owned guesthouses that are still unchanged by the modern face of tourism, but also enjoy local food and wine, this aspect of Albanian culture another of Europe’s well kept secrets. In fact, Albania is still one big hidden secret when it comes to tourism, and so the feeling is generally one of ‘get in quick’, before the word gets out.

Hello. If you'd like to chat about this holiday or need help finding one we're very happy to help. Rosy & team.

01273 823 700

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03 Sep 2017
£ 999
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17 Sep 2017
£ 999
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24 Sep 2017
£ 1029
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01 Oct 2017
£ 999
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25 Mar 2018
£ 919
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15 Apr 2018
£ 1019
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Our top tip:
This is a concentrated tour and as such you will be on the go in order to take in as many experiences as possible. Pack light to facilitate changing hotels on a daily basis.
Trip type:
Small group. Avg size 12. Min age 16.
Activity level:
Leisurely. Sightseeing, hot springs and a couple of windy, bumpy roads via private bus (max 5hrs on day 4).
Accomm:
3-star hotels and pensions, all en-suite.
Included:
Accommodation, transport, listed activities, tour leader throughout.
Meals:
All breakfasts and 1 lunch.
Solos:
Solo travellers welcome. Single room supplements available.
Vouchers
Accepted
Holiday type

Small group holiday

Small group travel is not large group travel scaled down. It is modelled on independent travel – but with the advantage of a group leader to take care of the itinerary, accommodation and tickets, and dealing with the language. It’s easy to tick off the big sights independently – but finding those one-off experiences, local festivals, travelling markets and secret viewpoints is almost impossible for someone without the insider knowledge gained from years in the field. If you’re heading off on a gap year your, perhaps – but for those with a two-week holiday, a small group tour will save valuable planning time.

The leaders are not guides – they’re not there to shepherd you around. Instead, they’ll let you know which local restaurant serves great value food – without running the risk of travellers’ tummy. They’ll allow you to avoid hour-long queues at train stations and attractions.

We like to think of small group travel as the Goldilocks option. It is independent travel without the fuss, worry and bunk beds – and organised travel without the coaches. And it’s cheaper than a tailor made tour. It’s sits somewhere in the middle – and we think it’s just about right.

What are the main benefits?
Big experiences
Have big, life-enriching experiences that would be impossible to organise without lots of time and insider knowledge.

Simplicity
Make the most of your holiday time by letting someone else do the hard work and boring logistics!

Peace of mind
Small group tours take care of the security aspects – and provide a safety net should anything unexpected happen.
Who is it ideal for?
Travellers who are short of time
If you don’t have three months to spend exploring, small groups trips let you cover more ground in less time. Your days are not spent queuing for tickets or finding hotels – so you can squeeze more into your holiday.

Solo travellers who’d like company
Likeminded travel companions plus peace of mind for those travelling alone. Single supplements are usually available – providing privacy if you want it.

Less confident travellers
Stray from the tourist trail without worrying about getting lost, and meet local people without dealing with the language barrier.
Mythbuster
“I won’t get any privacy!”
Couples and friends have private rooms, and you can choose to eat alone or not. Single supplements give solo travellers their own room.

“There won’t be any free time”
Free mornings or afternoons let you explore on your own, or just relax.

“The accommodation will be basic”
Trips are as high or low end as you like. Though off the beaten track destinations won’t have luxury hotels, this is all part of the adventure.

“I won’t like the other travellers!”
Tour operators try to create groups with a similar demographic – age, families, activity levels... Chances are, you’ll even make new friends.

“Will we be following an umbrella?”
No.
Valerie Parkinson
Meet a group Leader
Name: Valerie Parkinson

Story: The first British woman to climb Manaslu, Valerie climbed Everest for her 50th birthday. She’s spent fourteen Christmas Days trekking to Everest Base Camp, and is involved insetting up Responsible Tourism initiatives in the Himalayas.
Roshan Fernando
Meet a local guide
Name: Roshan Fernando

Story: Roshan has led over 130 trips – he adores showing travellers around Sri Lanka. He won the company Leader Award in 2010, but his career highlight was working on their Tsunami Project – which earned him a responsible tourism award.

Responsible tourism

Responsible tourism: Albania holidays, small group tour

Accommodation & Meals:
The vast majority of the pensions on this trip are small, family run businesses and even the larger hotels in the capital are locally owned so that the economic benefit goes to local communities. In many cases, the hotels in several locations offer fresh, organic produce such as eggs, honey, local cheeses and homemade jams. However, we have a company policy that with very few exceptions all meals should be planned at local restaurants. This because we believe that not only is the experience of dinning outside the hotel more authentic but it helps distribute the income. For example, we take every group for a meal with a family from a village close to Gjirokastra. This home cooked meal is one of the most popular parts of the trip and offers a great insight into rural, domestic life in Albania whilst also showcasing and encouraging traditional methods of cooking.

Local Crafts and Culture:
In terms of supporting culture, our local guides are very enthusiastic about their national arts, history and ways of life. There will be several opportunities to visit cultural landmarks such as the Natural History Museum with its socialist mosaic façade, the 15th Century Elbasan Fortress and the artists' village of Voskopoja, just to name a few. Here we encourage donations and purchasing of local crafts which help to sustain and celebrate the lesser known, yet highly rich culture of Albania. There is also space in the itinerary dedicated to exploring local markets (Gjirokastra bazaar, Korca Bazaar, Kruja Bazaar) which is a great way of supporting the economy and giving visitors a real taste of life here.

Charity:
We always try to operate with the local and wider communities in mind and are conscious of our ability to help disadvantaged groups. We have fundraised within our company and with our partners to help children with learning disabilities in Albania. This has been really successful in providing school materials for a day care centre in the outskirts of the capital Tirana. This year we have also been involved in the organisation of Albanian Paralympic activities. By providing vehicles for the events, we helped people from around the country with different disabilities to participate in several Tirana schools.

UK Office:
It all starts at home so we have first worked at reducing our carbon footprint in our UK Offices. Through energy conservation measures and recycling policies, we are proud to be actively reducing the waste produced and our impact on the environment. We support various projects all over the world to try and give something back to the places we visit.

Group Size:
This small group tour has a maximum of 16 participants, meaning that we have a low impact on the environments and communities we visit and are able to ensure that we do not disrupt or lead to the displacement of local people. The small number also allows us to stay in unique, family-run hotels that cannot benefit from coach tours and other mass tourism due to their limited sizes.

4 Reviews of Albania holidays, small group tour

3.5 out of 5 stars
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Reviewed on 25 Apr 2017 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


We loved Albania so it is hard to think of one memorable part but the visits to the Blue eye, Gjirokaster, Butrint & Berat stand out.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


There is a fair amount of driving each day, sometimes very windy roads so take precautions if you need to.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Definitely benefited local people, particularly in villages and small towns

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


Very good

Reviewed on 19 Apr 2017 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


Being priviledged to see the real Albania as its beginning to open up to tourists.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Be flexible. The itinerary might change, just go with it. You never know the guide might just know best and add something
unexpected and exciting!
Be prepared for quite a bit of walking. Take good shoes as most of the paths are cobbled and can be slippery when wet.
Take a swimming costume. The beaches are really good for swimming.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Staying in family owned hotels and eating in local restaurants contributed directly to the local economy. However, Albania has a problem recycling plastic so being given a bottle of water a day felt like we were creating an environmental impact, rather than reducing them.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


A brilliant experience. Fun, educational and eye-opening.

Read the operator's response here:

Thanks for your comments Kay and we are delighted that overall you had a great trip. Regarding the provision of plastic bottles we absolutely agree with you here re this creating a negative environmental impact. We will be investigating the provision of bottles as it is directly at odds with our 2017 'Plastic Purge' campaign where we are working on eradicating all single use plastic from our trips. Please be assured that this is no standard practice and we will do all we can to avoid this in the future.

Reviewed on 16 Sep 2015 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


Visiting some of the art museums and archaeological sites

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Inqire about local resturants

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


In a sense, I feel that it supported local conservations in terms of restricting
visitor numbers to archaeological sites, local museums.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


Quite enjoyable-in terms of good hotel accomodation

Reviewed on 04 Jul 2015 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


Seeing all Albania had to offer and the historical sights

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


How busy all the days were, with not time to have to ones self. The first day was very tiring after getting up early for the flights then having a half an hour, on arriving at the hotel, before going out sight seeing. Another day needs to be added to the holiday.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Benefited local people by money spent at each place.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


Very enjoyable with some lovely memories

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