Hidden Europe Tour (AEB10)

Tucked away in a little visited corner of Europe lie Albania, Kosovo and Macedonia, three charming and delightful countries that few people know much about. For years Albania was a closed society, ruled by the iron fist of Communism, but since the end of the Cold War it has been showing curious travelers its many charms, while as Europe’s newest nation, Kosovo is best known for its terrible war in the last years of the 20th century – not the best image for outsiders to have of it. The location of these countries between some of Europe’s most important empires has left them well endowed with a wealth of attractions from the Illyrian (Albanian ancestors), Greek, Roman and Ottoman eras. The region is home to a wealth of old Turkish architecture which sits side by side with elaborately decorated Orthodox churches and from more recent times the civic buildings of Communist Yugoslavia, as well as impressive Roman ruins and well preserved historic towns. This part of Europe is also blessed with incredible scenery with imposing mountains, pristine lakes and traditional villages tucked away in pretty valleys. But as with many countries it is the people who leave perhaps the most lasting impression – having come through recent strife there is an overwhelming sense of optimism about the people that cannot fail to raise your spirits. Albania, Kosovo and Macedonia are some of the last frontiers of Europe, complex and fascinating destinations imbued with history. Discover them for yourself on a tour which takes in the highlights of each.

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Tour Name: Explore the Hidden Europe

Code: AEB10 

Type: General, nature, history, archeology, culinary, walking, etc.  

Duration: 16 days

Dates: Available every 1st Monday of each month, all year around.


Day by Day Itinerary


 Day 1 – Tirana – Airport transfer.  

Arrive in Tirana and transfer to your hotel. Depending on when you arrive there may be time to explore the city. Overnight Hotel Te Stela 4*, or similar. 


Day 2 –Tirana - Kruja – Lezha – Shkoder .  

Start the day exploring Albania’s capital. We visit Skanderbeg Square, dedicated to Albania’s national hero, the Mosque of Ethem Bey, one of the oldest buildings in Tirana, and the Archaeological Museum among other sites. We then head to Kruja, one of Albania’s most important towns due to the part it played in resistance against the Ottomans. Visit the Skanderbeg Museum and castle as well as the old bazaar. Today lunch will be included and the opportunity to eat some traditional food in Kruja. Later we continue to Lezha in the north west of the country where we visit the mausoleum of Skanderbeg and the castle before heading to Shkoder. Shkoder is one of the oldest cities in the Balkans and was once a capital of the Illyrian state. We visit its old bazaar, cathedral and mosque before heading to Rozafa castle for spectacular views of the city, lake and the surrounding mountains. Overnight Hotel Colossea 4*, or similar. (BL)   

Day 3 – Koman Lake –Junik - Gjakova – Rahovec Vinery - Prizren  

Today we journey from Shkoder to Koman Lake. The 2 hour trip on Lake Komani was called “One of the Great Boat Trips of the World” by the Bradt Guide, and certainly the scenery is stunning. The Drin River was flooded along part of its most mountainous passage to create the lakes in this region. The journey takes you along glassy clear water, twisting and turning through narrow passes and past silent mountain peaks.

We cross the border into Kosovo and drive to Junik where we visit the famous Kullat e Junikut (Junik Tower). The towers are castle-like houses with a special architecture built in white rock, where Albanians have for centuries sheltered to survive wars and conflicts. Then continue to Gjakova which lies on the banks of the River Erenik. Visit its main sites including the old bazaar and clock tower, and then continue Rahovec Vinery where you will have the option to taste some wine. Afterward continue to the city of Prizren, probably the most attractive town in Kosovo with superbly preserved buildings from the Ottoman era. We visit the castle which is one of the oldest in the Balkans (almost 3 millenniums), built to protect the city from attacks, the ornate Bajrakli Mosque and the old Turkish Hammam among other sights. Prizren is an absolute highlight of any visit to Kosovo and to see the old houses of the old town in low light as the sun sets is a delight. Overnight at Hotel Centrum 4*, or similar. (B)  


Day 4  Monastery of Decan (UNESCO) - Peja - Boge.


We then continue to the Monastery of Decan (UNESCO). The medieval church houses some of the most preserved fresco decoration in the Balkans and the grounds are also a delight. After arrival in to Peje we explore the Ottoman Empire time sites of the town including the Haxhi Beut Mosque and the old house of Jashar Pasha as well as the Sheremet Tower and the old bazaar. We continue to Boge, where we have a short stop at Patriarchana of Peja (13th Century) part of (UNESCO) sites in the Rugova Valley, one of the most beautiful valleys in the region. On arrival at the hotel you will have the chance to take a walk amidst impressive scenery, and possibility for walking. Overnight at Magra Austria Hotel , or similar. (B).  


Day 5 – Pristina


Drive to Pristina. Explore the city visiting its main sites such as the Orthodox Church and the Carshi Mosque, dating back to the early 15th century. We then head to the ruins of Ulpiana, an ancient Roman city that was once one of the most powerful in the Balkans. Later we visit the spectacular Gracanica Monastery, one of Kosovo’s most beautiful sites and containing some impressive frescoes. Overnight Begolli Hotel 4*, or similar. (B)  


Day 6 – Skopje


We continue to Macedonia stopping first at Gadime Cave. We cross the border and head to its capital Skopje. Upon arrival we visit some of the most important parts of the town, including the old Ottoman market, the monastery of Sveti Spas and the ancient Kale Fortress which dates back to Illyrian and Roman times. Overnight Hotel Opera House 4*, or similar. (B) 


Day 7 – Tetova -  Ohrid (UNESCO)


After breakfast continue to Mavrovo National Park, the biggest in Macedonia covering 73,000 hectares. We follow the Radika River along the way and stop at monasteries and churches en route. Then drive to the beautiful town of Ohrid, designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Explore its mixture of western and oriental architecture including the Orthodox Cathedral, the 11th century church of St Sofia as well as the Roman amphitheater. Overnight at Vila Sofia 4*, or similar. (B)  


Day 8 – Ohrid. (Bitola - optional)


Leisure day in Ohrid. (Optional boat tour in Horid lake, or day trip to Bitola city, and visit Eraklea ancient site. Return to Ohrid and overnight.  


Day 9 – Voskopoje - Korce  


Before we cross back into Albania, we visit the Sveti Naum Monastery, a beautiful site with impressive views of Lake Ohrid across to Albania. Then continue to the ancient village of Voskopoja very famous for its monasteries, and sits 1,150 meters above sea-level and is a perfect place for hiking and walking. Visit to original 18th century Orthodox churches, complete with frescos (to include: St. Nicholas, St. Thanasius, and St. Maria) Visit the Monastery of St. John the Baptist (Shen Prodhom), with an original structure from the 15th centaury. After lunch continue to the historic town of Korce. Visit to the Museum of Medieval Art with the richest icon archive in all Europe; The First Albanian School; Traditional Old Bazaar; Cathedral(1992); Mosque of Ilyaz Bey Mirahori (1484), and The Old Bazaar. Overnight Hotel Life Gallery 4*, or similar (BD). 


Day 10 – Gjirokastra (UNESCO)


Cross back into Albania, visiting the historic town of Korce. We then take an amazing drive though spectacular scenery to Gjirokastra. The road is bumpy in parts but the views of this remote part of Albania are incredible. At Gjirokastra we visit the local museum, housed in the building in which the former communist dictator Enver Hoxha was born, as well as the pre-Ottoman era citadel which affords spectacular views and houses an impressive range of artillery and also bizarrely a reconnaissance US Air Force plane that was forced to land after losing its way in the 1950’s. Gjirokastra is a pretty town with traditional houses and cobbled streets spilling down the sides of the mountain. Overnight Hotel Gjirokastra or similar (B).


Day 11 – Butrint (UNESCO) – Saranda.


On the way to Saranda we shall enjoy a short stop at Syri i Kalter (Blue Eye National park). Visit the ancient city of Butrint, Albania’s most important archaeological site and given special status by UNESCO. Spend time exploring this impressive site with the added bonus of it being situated in a beautiful natural setting. The walls, basilica, acropolis and theatre at Butrint are truly impressive. We then drive to Saranda on the coast. Overnight Brilan Hotel 4* or similar. (B)


Day 12 – Himara – Vlora


Head north along a stunning coastline, stopping at Porto Palermo to visit the castle of Ali Pasha on the way. Drive through mountains over the Llogara Pass (1020m above sea level) and continue to Vlora, on the ‘Albanian Riviera’. Tonight you will enjoy a delicious fish dinner at a restaurant on the beach. Overnight Hotel Partner 4* or similar. (BD).


Day 13 – Apollonia (UNESCO candidate) – Berat (UNESCO)


Visit the ancient city of Apollonia, dating back to the 6th century BC. We then drive to Berat, one of the oldest inhabited regions of Albania and with a superbly preserved historic centre that has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We visit its citadel which contains old churches, mosques and museums. Overnight Hotel White City 4* or similar. (B)


Day 14 – Durres – Tirana.


After breakfast drive to Durres. This port city has the largest Roman amphitheater (20,000 seats) in the Balkan region, dating back to the beginning of 2nd century which we will visit and Archeological museum. Drive back to Tirana for our final night where you will enjoy a farewell dinner with traditional food. Overnight Hotel Te Stela 4* or similar. (B)  


Day 15 – Departure –Tirana Airport.


Transfer to the airport for your flight home. (B)



Single room supplement: €437 




Arrival and departure transfers, and all other transfers as per itinerary


All accommodation on twin share basis


Services of English speaking guide / tour leader, and local guides


Meals as listed (B – Breakfast, L – Lunch, D – Dinner)


Entrance fees for sites listed as part of the itinerary





International flights


Any airport taxes


Travel Insurance






Please note that you should also read the Country Notes in association with this itinerary for practical information about your trip and the destination you will be visiting.


The itinerary and supplementary information has been compiled with care and provided in good faith. However it may be subject to change, and does not form part of a contract between the client and our company.