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With its beautiful and diverse landscapes of rolling hills, rugged mountains, spectacular winding coastlines, golden beaches and turquoise seas, Albania has so much to offer active families looking for a new Mediterranean holiday destination. Discover a warm welcome and surprisingly tasty local cuisine in its quirky towns and cities.
Explore Tour Leader
7 nights comfortable hotel
10 - 16
Itineraries on some departure dates may differ, please select the itinerary that you wish to explore.
Arrive in Tirana. The Albanian capital is one of the most dynamic of the Western Balkans and surprises many first-time travellers with its lively restaurant, bar, and cafe scene worth discovering by both day and night. The warm welcome shown by the locals is something that will mark your journey not only in Tirana but throughout your holiday.
For those arriving on time our Leader plans to meet you in the hotel reception at 6pm for the welcome meeting and for those that wish, there is the chance to go out for dinner afterwards.
There are no other activities planned today, so you are free to arrive in Tirana at any time. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you'll need to arrive into Tirana International Airport (airport code TIA) which is around thirty minutes drive from the hotel. Should you miss the welcome meeting, your Tour Leader will inform you of any essential information as soon as you catch up.
If your flight arrives earlier in the day, perhaps you might choose to head out to explore the city which is easy to navigate on foot. One of the most popular places for local families to head for great food is the Blloku district near the Grand Park of Tirana. Also worth a visit, The Grand Park is one of the most frequented spots of the capital by locals. In the valleys surrounding its artificial lake you can see the remains of the Church of St. Procopius, a great spot to enjoy a stunning view of the water. You can also visit the park's beautiful Botanical Gardens. If you're into markets, check out Pazari i Ri, an open-air market where you can buy everything from fresh produce to local specialties such as byreks, baklavas and honey. The National Museum is also well worth a visit to learn about the fascinating history of Albania.
Hotel Boka (or similar)
After breakfast, we leave Tirana and drive south towards Gjirokaster, often referred to as 'the pearl of Albania' and undoubtedly one of the most beautiful and enchanting towns on the Balkan Peninsula. The journey to Gjirokaster is approximately three hours, passing through amazing landscapes and countryside villages.
En route, we stop by a river for lunch and a refreshing wild swim in the crystalline blue water. The rivers in Albania are relatively untouched by human development so you can experience the waters in their natural state, surrounded by pristine forests and rugged terrain.
We arrive in Gjirokaster in the afternoon. The city stretches uphill on sloping cobblestoned streets with unique stone houses, which look like small fortresses. For this reason, the town is known as 'The City of Stone'. Today, this magnificent city holds centuries of history and has a modern and delicious food scene.
Traditional Albanian cuisine is a blend of Mediterranean and Balkan dishes with seafood, feta cheese, a wide variety of vegetables, and the herbs of the Mediterranean all featuring. Don't forget to try byrek, an Albanian pie made with filo pastry which comes in a variety of fillings such as cheese, vegetables, or meat.
After settling in at our hotel, we take a walking tour through the city and discover the Old Bazaar where artisans still carry out their crafts in the traditional way, passing their skills on to the next generation. From there, we climb to the upper parts of the town to visit the impressive castle which sits at a height of 336 metres and is one of the most magnificent structures in the city with great views over the surrounding hills, river valley and city.
Hotel Rose Garden (or similar)
Today, we travel to the Vjosa river valley passing through the spectacular gorge of Kelcyra. We'll stop to take a short hike along the banks of the river Benja for views of its fantastic limestone canyon. On our way back, there's the chance to have a dip in the natural thermal pools the area is well known for, by the Ottoman bridge of Katiu.
After a picnic lunch, we drive towards the Vjosa River which carves out a course by the majestic north face of Nemerçka Mountain. Environmentalists and scientists alike have called the Vjosa the last 'wild' river in Europe, as it flows uninterrupted for 270 km from Greece across southern Albania to the Adriatic Sea, without any dams or power stations.
Driving to our activity base right next to the river, we don our wet suits and lifejackets and after a quick safety briefing, we get ready to experience an adrenaline rush while rafting the wild streams and canyons. The course of the Vjosa river is wild and untamed and adorned with beautiful canyons, turquoise waters, islands, and oxbows. Graded between 2 and 3, this river is not difficult to raft, but provides a lot of rapids in a short stretch of water, providing the perfect mix of adventure and fun for both the novice rafter and experienced paddler alike. Rafting can take place year-round, but is of course subject to weather and river conditions.
Later in the afternoon, we return to Gjirokaster, for another pleasant evening in this charming town.
After breakfast, we say goodbye to Gjirokaster and start heading towards the Ionian Sea, driving along panoramic roads across the Laberia region. The main coastal highway is one of the most scenic coastal roads in Europe offering some truly spectacular views of the sea and surrounding mountain ranges.
Our journey takes us along the coast to Porto Parlermo, a beautiful and unspoiled bay on the Albanian Riviera. It's a great place to relax and jump into the crystal-clear waters while watching the fishermen at work. We'll also visit Ali Pasha fortress, a tiny, fortified island surrounded by clear blue waters. Explore the different rooms and tunnels of the fortress before admiring the breathtaking views from its terrace.
We continue travelling through coastal villages such as the popular beaches of Himara and Dhermi. The most iconic point along the road is the Llogara Pass, the highest in the National Park of the same name. A winding road climbs up to the Pass at over a thousand meters overlooking the Ionian Sea, from which you can enjoy a breathtaking view. From here, the road continues through mountainous landscapes, olive and citrus plantations before finally descending into the Bay of Vlora where we will spend the next three nights at our beachside hotel.
Hotel New York (or similar)
Today, we headout on our own private boat across the turquoise waters of the Karaburun and Sazan Island Maritime Park. We'll spend our time exploring pristine bays and there'll be plenty of chances to swim. Along the way, we'll learn about the regions' glorious history of sailors and pirates and discover the unique hidden gems of the island and peninsula.
Our first stop is at Sazan Island, a mysterious island with a legacy that goes back to Albania's communist period. It was only reopened to the general public in 2010. The island today is still a military base with around 3600 bunkers and many miles of tunnels. It has always been isolated and because of this it has a particularly rich flora and fauna. We'll learn about about its uninhabited Old Town before cooling off in the incredibly clear waters that surround the island.
Next, we sail to the Karaburan Peninsula and discover a cathedral-sized cave that was once a hideout used by the famous 17th century pirate Haxhi Ali. We plan to have lunch at one of the most beautiful beaches of the peninsula, with time for a swim before finally returning to our hotel for an evening at leisure.
Today is left free to relax by the pool or on the beach. Your Tour Leader will be on hand to organise optional activities.
In the morning, there is the opportunity to take a short hike and visit Kanina Castle. The ruins of the castle sit on the outskirts of Vlora and offer spectacular views over the coast. The castle has a fascinating history that dates back to antiquity.
In the late afternoon, an optional bike ride will be organised that follows the coastal route to Vlora city centre.
Alternatively, you may choose to take a short taxi ride into Vlora centre and spend time exploring the city. One of the most popular attractions is its beautiful Old Town which has recently been totally renovated and offers a picture-perfect setting with some great cafes and restaurants. As well as the Old Town, you can also visit the Muradie Mosque, Independence Monument, and the Museum of Independence where you can learn about the country's struggle for freedom and the prominent figures that played a vital role in its liberation.
For dinner, head to the promenade for its lively atmosphere and multitude of restaurants to choose from.
Early this morning, we leave Vlora behind and drive back to Tirana. On the way, we stop to visit the UNESCO-listed archaeological site of Apollonia. Set on rolling hills among olive groves, with impressive views all around, Apollonia (named after the god Apollo) is a reminder of the ancient Greeks in Albania. Stroll amongst ancient ruins within a peaceful park surrounded by beautiful nature.
After our dive into history, we will enjoy lunch in a local restaurant before continuing our drive to Tirana.
On the outskirts of Tirana, we take a fifteen-minute journey by cable car to Mt Djati, crossing over treetops, little farmhouses and passing by mountain cliffs. From the top, you will have an impressive view of the entire city of Tirana and on a clear day, you will be able to see the Adriatic Sea and the Port of Durres.
Then, get ready for some fun at the Djati Adventure Park where we tackle a range of obstacle courses including nets, suspension bridges, swinging beams and zip lines. There are a variety of courses which suit both adults and children. On arrival, you will be kitted out with all the necessary safety equipment with trained instructors on hand to supervise your enjoyment.
Towards the end of afternoon, we take the cable car back down the mountain and transfer to our hotel in Tirana where there is the opportunity to go as a group for our last dinner in the city.
The trip ends after breakfast at our hotel in Tirana.
There are no activities planned today, so you are free to depart from Tirana at any time. If your flight is departing later in the day luggage storage facilities are available at our hotel. If you would like an airport transfer today, you need to depart from Tirana airport (airport code TIA), which is around 30 minutes from our hotel.
If you want more time in Tirana, why not book some extra nights before or after the tour? The capital is an extremely safe and friendly city, easy to navigate and has plenty to offer for families.
Albania has a mediterranean climate with hot, dry summers (ranging from 9 - 11 hours of sunshine a day in Tirana). Temperatures can reach up to 40°C in July. October to April is much cooler and can be wet. Albania is a mountainous country and the high peaks are snow-capped all year with seasonal weather patterns in the mountains that can be unpredictable.
2 Pin Round
Islam, Albanian Orthodox, Roman Catholic
Albanian, Greek, Vlach, Romani, Slavic dialects
Raincoat is essential at all times of year in case of the odd shower. You should dress with respect in the rural villages so bring some long trousers and ensure your shoulders are covered when entering churches. Don't forget your swimming costume and a towel for taking a dip in the sea, river or hot springs.
We recommend taking lightweight walking shoes and comfortable shoes or sandals for visiting the sites and towns. You could also bring some water shoes to swim in the rivers.
One main piece of baggage and a daypack. Remember you are expected to carry your own luggage so don't overload yourself. Please bear in mind there are lots of stairs in Albania and porterage isn't normally available in the hotels.
Take a water bottle, insect repellent, sun hat, sun glasses and sun cream. A torch will be useful for the evenings as some areas are not well lit and also for viewing the frescoes in dimly lit churches. Most importantly don't forget your camera.
In Tirana, we stay at a hotel right in the city centre of Tirana, conveniently close to the market and Skanderberg Square. Featuring a garden, Hotel Boka offers all the amenities needed with free Wi-Fi, air-conditionned rooms, exchange bureau and on-site restaurant. The Rose Garden Hotel is a newly renovated hotel, made of old stone with stunning views of Gjirokaster and the surroundings mountains. It is perfectly located next to the castle and walking distance to the old bazaar. It also features a very serene siwmming pool, a great place to cool off after adventuring. In Vlora, we are staying in the family friendly, Hotel New York. Situated near a private pebble beach on the Adriatic Sea, this hotel is 5 km away from the centre of Vlore. It features an outdoor pool, a garden with terrace and a hot tub. All rooms come with a balcony with views of the sea or the Shushica Mountain. They have TV, air conditioning and free Wi-Fi available throughout the property.
Can you drink the water?
The water quality is poor and therefore it is recommended to avoid drinking tap water during your trip.
We strongly recommend that you check your government's travel advisory for up-to-date information and advice about your destination: safety and security, entry requirements, health, local laws and customs. For UK citizens, check the latest Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office advice.
Please refer to our COVID-19 entry requirements page for any country-specific conditions of entry. Whilst we strive to update this on a regular basis we recommend you also check the FCDO website for the latest advice on entry requirements in this fast-evolving situation. Information can change at any time.
Please note that some countries require proof of parental consent when travelling overseas with under 18s. Please check requirements with the relevant embassy or consular office well in advance of travel if this applies to your party.
Once your booking has been confirmed we guarantee the price will not increase, whatever the circumstances. However, please note that if you voluntarily make any changes to your booking including changing your trip or departure date, any additional costs or charges incurred will not be covered. Before booking please ensure you have read our important tour pricing information.Booking Conditions
Albania Visas are not required by UK, Australian, New Zealand, US and Canadian citizens. Macedonia: Visas are not required by UK, Australian, New Zealand, US and Canadian citizens. Other nationalities should consult their local embassy or consular office.
If you do require assistance in obtaining a visa then you may be able to apply through Explore's recommended visa service in the UK, Travcour. See www.travcour.com to download the relevant visa application for your trip, if applicable (UK citizens only), along with details of how to apply for your visa through Travcour. The Team at Travcour will be happy to answer specific questions relating to visa applications, please call them directly on 0208 5431846.
It is your responsibility to ensure that you are in possession of a full passport, with the correct validity for your chosen destination.
Before booking your Explore trip, please ensure that you read both our Essential Information and Booking Conditions.
Customers who have chosen to book on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements of our tour, please ensure that you have checked your tour specific ‘Joining Instructions’ prior to booking your own travel arrangements. Your joining instructions can be found below in the dates and prices information.
You may also be eligible for the Free Explore Transfer.
Customers booked on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements will receive a Free Transfer, provided you arrive and depart on the tour only itinerary start and end dates. The complimentary transfers will be arranged from the Explore designated airport or train station to your trips joining point, and then back from the ending point to the designated airport or train station. Generally the airport or station that Explore have selected will be the one that is closest to the town or city where the trip starts, or the one nearest to the joining point. It will be either an airport or train station but not both.
The exception to this rule is customers who are booked on a tour where the joining and ending point is at the designated airport or train station.
Free transfers are not available for Polar customers.
If you are not eligible for the Free Transfer then you will need to make your own way through to the joining and ending point. On a majority of our tours Explore will be able to provide a private transfer at an additional cost. Please ask for a quote at the time of booking.
For more information regarding the Explore Free Transfer click here
It is a condition of booking with Explore that you have adequate valid travel insurance. It is your responsibility to arrange appropriate travel insurance and ensure you have read and understood the full terms and conditions of your travel insurance policy to ensure that you are covered for all activities you intend to undertake whilst on the tour, including all optional activities. Your Insurance Policy must fully cover you for medical expenses and emergency repatriation to your home country. Please ensure your policy includes medical emergency helicopter evacuation in the event of illness or injury and covers the entire duration of your holiday. If you are trekking at altitude please ensure that there is no upper altitude limit which may limit or exclude cover for your trip. The cost of many of our Polar Voyages will exceed the capped amount covered by standard insurance premiums and you will be required to pay an additional premium to cover the full value of your trip. Please ensure that you are covered for the full amount of your holiday cost, as insufficient cover could invalidate a claim under the policy. Medical and repatriation insurance cover is not mandatory for UK residents who are travelling on trips within the United Kingdom.
Read more information about what travel insurance is required.
Explore offers a wide range of flexible flying options to make joining and leaving our trips easy. Read more about them here.
You are able to book this tour on a 'land only' basis or as a ‘flight inclusive’ package. Your flight inclusive package will be fully protected by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) ATOL protection scheme.
We have a good selection of flights not only from London but from many regional airports around the UK allowing us to compare fares between scheduled carriers as well as low cost and charter airlines. Our dedicated flights team will match the best flight options to your arrival and departure airport.
On our website we display a UK flight inclusive package guide price which is generally based on a London departure. To avoid paying supplements or to secure your preferred flight option, we recommend booking as early as possible, especially for peak travel dates.
An ability to swim is essential for your safe enjoyment of this water based activity trip. If you wish to participate in any of these activities then we insist that you are able to swim.
We recommend protection against hepatitis A, typhoid, polio and tetanus. Rabies vaccination is recommended by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office due to the large number of stray dogs in Albania. You should seek further advice from your travel clinic. Tick-borne encephalitis is recommended by some medical sources if travelling in certain areas of Eastern Europe, at specific times of the year. Please check the latest requirements with your travel clinic or doctor prior to departure. The above is not an exhaustive list. Further information regarding vaccinations and travel health advice can be found by following the NHS and NaTHNaC links at Explore Travel Health and from your local healthcare provider. Visa and vaccination requirements are subject to change and should be confirmed by you before travelling.