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Albania and Macedonia: Cultural Crossroads on the Via Egnatia

10 - 21 Sep 2024
  • Cultural Tours

About the tour

Possessing pristine natural beauty, important archaeological sites and towns sited in stunning locations that have remained unchanged through the centuries, both Albania and Macedonia have begun to attract the attention of travellers, with good reason. They have been at the crossroads of culture, faith and trade for millennia and were connected by the Via Egnatia; a Roman road that ran as an eastern continuation of the Via Appia between Rome and Istanbul (Constantinople, Byzantium), built in the 2nd century BC to control Roman occupied territories. Via Egnatia was a very important communication artery, especially during the civil war between Julius Caesar and Pompey.

Although inhabited for at least ten millennia, Albania has been one of Europe's 'undiscovered' countries. Under communist rule from the end of World War II until 1990, Albania became isolated within Europe, yet its strategic position on the Adriatic Sea has attracted settlers and invaders since antiquity. Ancient Greeks founded colonies on its shore from the 7th century BC; the Romans made it a province, later becoming a Byzantine and Ottoman territory; and in the early 20th century, it was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and under the domination of Italy and Germany.

Part Balkan, part Mediterranean and rich in Greek, Roman and Ottoman heritage, Macedonia has a fascinating past and a complex national identity. From hip cafes in Skopje to the shimmering expanse of Lake Ohrid, this is a land rich in culture and magnificent landscapes, with much to offer to the many visitors experiencing its attractions for the first time.

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Albania and Macedonia: Cultural Crossroads on the Via Egnatia

Our online booking system is temporarily unable to accept payments. If you would like to book this tour please call our office on:(Toll Free) 1-8777-398-764.

Your tour leader

Picture of JBT tour leader, Very Reverend Dr Richard Marsh

Very Reverend Dr Richard Marsh

The Very Reverend Dr Richard Marsh has a long association with the Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox churches. He is the author of 'Black Angels: The Art and Spirituality of Ethiopia', 'Prayers from the Eas't and co-authored 'Millenium Challenges for Development and Faith Institutions'.

He is the Dean of Killaloe, Co Clare in the Church of Ireland, having worked in both the Church of England and in various capacities in the voluntary sector in the UK and Ireland. Richard has travelled extensively and is an experienced tour leader, having led many successful tours to a wide range of destinations.

He and his wife, Ros, divide their time between Co. Clare and their home in Co. Mayo, Ireland.

Need more information?

  • Tel: (Toll Free) 1-8777-398-764
  • Mon-Fri: 9am-5pm
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Itinerary at a glance

  • Day 1: Tirana, Albania (Tues, 10 Sept) Arrive in Tirana, the capital of Albania, and at leisure at the Greenhouse Hotel. Meet in the outdoor patio with the guide and tour leader for a tour briefing before a welcome dinner at local restaurant in the middle of Tirana Park.
  • Day 2: Tirana (Wed, 11 Sept) Explore Tirana and gain an introduction to the country and its history. Starting in its historic heart, Skanderberg Square, visit the Archaeological Museum, which houses a collection Albanian treasures from the country’s pre-history and classical, medieval and Ottoman periods. Continue to Bunkart2, a former top-secret nuclear bunker (now a museum) that reveals the history of a paranoid police state. Bunkhart was one of 175,000 bunkers built by the Hoxha regime.
  • Day 3: Tirana / Kruja / Shkodër (Thurs, 12 Sept) Depart Tirana and drive to the famous historical city of Kruja, once defended by Skanderbeg, the 15th century hero of Albania. Explore the Skanderbeg and Ethnographic Museums and spend time in the old bazaar. Visit the Tekke of the Bektashi Order, the mystical liberal Sufi Sect of Islam. Take part in a tour of Mrizi I Zanave farm and learn how this former political prison was converted to a distinguished culinary spot. Enjoy lunch at the farm, now a great culinary destination in Albania. Arrive at Shkodra, the capital and cultural cradle of northern Albania, and check into your hotel.
  • Day 4: Shkodër (Fri, 13 Sept) Visit the village of Zogaj and meet with a group of young Albanians who have created a birdwatching centre, alongside other initiatives, to encourage eco-tourism in the country. Cruise the on the beautiful lake, birdwatching and exploring the wetlands.
  • Day 5: Shkodër (Sat, 14 Sept) Shkodër is regarded as the traditional capital of northern Albania, also known for its art, culture, religious diversity and turbulent history. The city’s architecture has a great number of mosques and churches, reflecting Shkodër's diversity and tolerance. At the Marubi Museum of Photography see the first photographic collection in the Balkans. At the Fortress of Rozava hear a talk on the Veneto-Ottoman War. Private visit to a factory where Venetian masques for the Venice Carnival are made.
  • Day 6: Shkodër / Ohrid, Macedonia (Sun, 15 Sept) Drive to Elbasani to see St Mary’s Church and the King’s Mosque. Brief walk on the Via Egnatia and see the beautiful 6th century mosaics in the remains of a church situated on a promontory jutting out into Lake Ohrid and overlooking the picturesque village of Lin. The Via Egnatia was a significant Roman road built in the 2nd century BC, running through territory that is now part of modern Albania, North Macedonia, Greece and Turkey, as a continuation of the Via Appia, used by many from Julius Caesar to St Paul. Cross into Macedonia and check into the hotel on the shores of Lake Ohrid.
  • Day 7: Ohrid, Macedonia (Mon, 16 Sept) Take a boat trip on the lake to the Monastery of St Naum, established in 905 by Naum of Ohrid. Continue by boat to visit the Bay of Bones Museum, a reconstructed Bronze Age settlement built over the lake. Cruise around beautiful Lake Ohrid, seeing lovely lakeside towns, the Bridge of Poetry and the old bazaar at Struga (known for having one of the oldest poetry festivals in the world). Learn about the biodiversity around the lake, recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979.
  • Day 8: Ohrid, Macedonia (Tues, 17 Sept) Take a tour of the town of Ohrid. Learn how Edward Lear visited in 1851 and painted the landscapes in a series of paintings. Afternoon at leisure by the lake.
  • Day 9: Ohrid / Korçë/ Leskovik (Wed, 18 Sept) Cross the border back into Albania, visiting the city of Pogradec. Take a coffee break at the local gallery. Travel via the 6th century monastery complex, founded by Justinian. Travel to the city of Korçë and visit the Museum of Medieval Art and the Church of Mborje, a jewel of medieval art. Option to visit the gallery of Life photographer and photographic pioneer, Gjon Mili. Drive through the mountainous region of Korçë, known during WWII for its resistance by local partisans to the occupying military. Continue to the mountain village of Leskovik and visit its new restored gin distillery for a tasting of Albanian gin. Overnight in Leskovik.
  • Day 10: Leskovik / Gjirokastër (Thurs, 19 Sept) Visit the geothermal springs at Bënja. Continue along the Vjosa River to visit the Byzantine Church of Saint Mary of Kosina, with panoramic views of the Vjosa Valley. Arrive in the small city of Kelcyra at the entrance of the Kelçyra Gorge and enjoy lunch in a local restaurant. The location is famous as the site of the battle between King Philip of Macedonia and the Roman army. Meet up with the only remaining maker of handmade shoes in South Albania; this was once a flourishing trade but is now an almost vanished tradition. Continue to Gjirokastër. Meet up with a noted local writer, who will join us for dinner to talk about Gjirokastër and its history.
  • Day 11: Gjirokastër (Fri, 20 Sept) Drive to the World Heritage Site of Butrint, which has been called a 'Microcosm of Mediterranean History'. Butrint was an ancient Greek (and later Roman) city and the seat of an early Christian bishopric in Epirus. On a guided tour explore the ruins that feature the remains of many eras and cultures. From the Hellenistic period there are temples, the promenade and the 4th century BC theatre. From the Roman era are the public baths, gymnasium and fountains. From the Byzantine era we see chapels and the large Basilica of St Peter and St Paul, whilst the Venetians are represented by a watchtower and a small castle with commanding views over the Straits of Corfu. Return via the Monastery of Mesopotam and the natural wonder of the Blue Eye, a spring of crystal clear blue water over 50 metres deep. Enjoy a farewell dinner in the evening.
  • Day 12: Gjirokastër / Tirana (Sat, 21 Sept) Return to Tirana for your onward flight (one transfer included) or stay on in Gjirokaster, or extend in Corfu.

There is an optional 2 or 3-night post-tour extension in Corfu, examining the history, gardens, cuisine and culture of Corfu.

Tour cost

The cost of the tour sharing a room is USD $3,612. The cost of the tour with a room to yourself is USD $4,710 (excluding international flights and transfers).

Our online booking system is temporarily unable to accept payments. If you would like to book this tour please call our office on:(Toll Free) 1-8777-398-764.