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Balkan Tangle Tour

Rating
Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia

UNESCO Cities • Lakes • Mountains • Beaches • Wild Swimming • Nightlife

This 18-day small group tour is aimed at active, sociable travellers aged 25-40 who enjoy a mix of cultural discovery, great scenery and a maybe a little bit of nightlife… Ends close to the Albanian Riviera so you can chill out on some of Europe’s best beaches afterwards (at a fraction of the price you’d pay elsewhere in Europe).

From
GBP
1,990
pp

Day 1 (Thursday): Arrive Belgrade

We’ll convene at our hotel in the centre of town today. Assuming you arrive at a reasonable time, we’ll head out for an introductory meal and a drink.

Day 2 (Friday): Belgrade

A relaxed start to the day - we’ll meet in reception at 10.00 then head out for a walking tour of this fascinating Balkan city. With a stop for lunch, we should wind up in the late afternoon or early evening. After a bit of downtime, we’ll head out for a meal and a few drinks, and see if we can discover why Belgrade is considered one of Europe’s best cities for nightlife.

Day 3 (Saturday): Belgrade to Novi Sad

Again, a relaxed start - and we might need it if we had a late night. The morning will be free time. We’ll check out at midday, then catch the train to Novi Sad. On arrival, we’ll check into our hotel then meet for a walking tour - we should finish around 18.00. Just in time for a beer in this famously beautiful little city.

Day 4 (Sunday): Novi Sad to…

A morning at leisure. In the afternoon we’ll hop on the train back to Belgrade, arriving around 18.00. We’ll grab a meal near the station, then head to our “hotel” - the overnight train to Podgorica in Montenegro. It leaves at 21.05 - don’t worry about missing any scenery as the Serbian stretch ain’t all that. The views that make this one of the most famous train journeys in Europe will be waiting for you in Montenegro tomorrow.

Day 5 (Monday): Podgorica to Shkodër

We’ll be woken before 06.00 for passport control, and can then enjoy the best of the scenery as we descend down Podgorica, arriving around 09.00. We won’t hang around - it’s not the most enthralling place. Instead we’ll make a beeline for Shkodër in Albania. We’ll check straight into our hotel and have some downtime as we’ll all appreciate a shower. Then we’ll reconvene after lunch and explore the city with a local guide. Shkodër on a Monday night won’t be wild, but we’ll start the evening with a beer on Pedonale and see what happens.

Day 6 (Tuesday): Shkodër to Gjakova via Lake Koman

Our destination today is Kosovo - which we’ll reach by taking one of Europe’s most spectacular ferry rides. We’ll grab a local bus to Koman, then jump on the 12.00 ferry and relax as it passes through a magical landscape somewhere between Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones. The journey takes three hours or so - at the other side we’ll transfer by minibus to Gjakova, a lively little city just across the border in Kosovo - stopping en route at the extraordinary UNESCO protected Serbian monastery of Decani. Gjakova itself is a mixed Muslim-Catholic city, with a bazaar crammed with bars. After call to prayer finishes, it will quickly get very busy indeed - it’s one of our favourite spots in the Balkans for a beer.

Day 7 (Wednesday): Gjakova to Prizren

An easy day, today. Prizren is just an hour from Gjakova, so we’ll make our way there via Kosovo’s wine region. Prizren itself is a great little city, with lots of history, bustle and life and cool little bars, and in summertime it’s jam-packed with Kosovars who live abroad, returning to reconnect with their friends and families.

Day 8 (Thursday): Prizren to Tirana via Cape Rodonit

We’ll leave Prizren at 09.00 and nail it down the highway back to Albania. Instead of going straight to Tirana we’ll make a detour to what has to be one of the most beautiful beaches on the Adriatic coast at Cape Rodonit. There’s not much here apart from fine white sand, crystal-clear water and fish for lunch. Then it’s on to Tirana, where we’ll be staying in the centre of town - Blloku district, famed for its lively nightlife.

Day 9 (Friday): Tirana

No time pressure today, so we’ll meet at 10.00 then take a walking tour of Albania’s chaotic and bizarre little capital with a local guide, including visits to the surprisingly good Museum of National History, the National Gallery (fantastic Communist-era works) and the incredible “secret” nuclear bunker. With a lunch stop, we’ll be wrapped up by 16.00 or thereabouts.

Day 10 (Saturday): Tirana to Berat

An easy drive down the main highway to Ottoman Berat - a UNESCO city with a character all its own. We’ll check into our hotel, grab some lunch and then take a walking tour with a local guide. In the evening we’ll take a beer on the main boulevard and watch the famous xhiro (basically the whole town comes out and walks up and down repeatedly). Then it’s up to the Citadel that dominates the city (and has been continuously occupied for over 2,500 years) for a feast of local dishes courtesy of Koço, owner of Restaurant Onufri. We’re afraid it’s impossible to leave sober - you will get Koço’d whether you like it or not...

Day 11 (Sunday): Berat to Lin

We take the scenic road north to the city of Elbasan, where we’ll stop for a coffee and a wander, before pressing on east along the Roman Via Egnatia to Lake Ohrid. We won’t cross the border today - instead we’ll head for the tiny village of Lin on the Albanian shore. The swimming here is just magical - the lake’s waters are extraordinarily clear, and wonderfully warm. In the evening we’ll enjoy a meal at a small restaurant on the water’s edge.

Day 12 (Monday): Lin to Ohrid

We’ll have a relaxed morning and leave when we feel like it - we can even see our destination over the water from Lin. We’ll circle around the lake and cross the border into Macedonia (which could take an hour), then drive on for 20 minutes or so to UNESCO recognised Ohrid (the city). We’ll check in, then take a walking tour with a local guide, followed by a sunset boat trip. The food in Ohrid is no great shakes, but the bars in summer will more than compensate.

Day 13 (Tuesday): Ohrid to Korça

We’ll take the scenic route today - up and over the mountains that separate Lake Ohrid from its sister lake, Greater Prespa (there’s a little Prespa too). The views are mind-blowing. We’ll cross back into Albania at a tiny border post, and stop for lunch of krap (fish) at a village on the lakeshore. Then it’s an easy drive into Korça, one of the most civilised cities in Albania (drivers even stop to let you cross the road). Korça has cool bars but we’ll probably start the evening at the uncool grill attached to the Birra Korça brewery. Appalling service, but fun.

Day 14 (Wednesday): Korça to Leskovik

In the morning we’ll take a coffee and soak up the atmosphere at Korça’s busy bazaar area, then we’ll tick off the key cultural sites including the new Museum of Medieval Art. We should hit the road around midday or so, and will drive west along one of the most beautiful roads in Albania (we’ll stop for a picnic lunch). At around 16.00 we’ll arrive at our overnight stop, a small farm and eco-lodge (shared WC and shower facilities) in the middle of nowhere. It has a pool, fantastic food, and is the perfect place to chill out.

Day 15 (Thursday): Leskovik to Gjirokastra

One of the most scenic days of the tour. We’ll try to leave by 09.30, and will stop after about an hour at a little beach on the Vjosa river for a swim and some sunbathing. There’s no need to change out of your swimming costume - our next stop will be the hot sulphur springs at Benjë, which are famed for their healing properties. After a soak, and a bite to eat, we’ll push on through the Kelcyre Pass till we emerge a few kilometres north of UNESCO-listed Gjirokastra. All things being equal we’ll arrive around 16.30 - in time for a shower followed by a meal of southern Albanian specialities at our favourite restaurant, Kujtimi’s

Day 16 (Friday): Gjirokastra

Our final full day will be spent in Gjirokastra. We’ll explore the city on foot, including visits to the Cold War Tunnels, Ali Pasha’s Castle, and the fascinating Skenduli House. With a break for lunch, we should wind up around 16.00 or so

Day 17 (Saturday): Gjirokastra to Saranda

Our last day! We’ll leave Gjirokastra around 10.00, and climb up and over the coastal mountains to the UNESCO site of Butrint, stopping along the way for coffee at the incredible Blue Eye Spring (you can swim, but it will be icy cold even in summer). Butrint itself will take about two hours to tour, then we’ll spend the rest of the afternoon on one of the most beautiful beaches on the Albanian Riviera, Pul-Bardhë. Then it’s on to Saranda, our final destination, where we’ll check into our hotel before enjoying a farewell meal on the waterfront.

Day 18 (Saturday): Tour Ends

From Saranda there are two ferries daily to Corfu (€19), from where you can fly back to almost any UK airport - Corfu’s own airport is just 3km from the ferry terminal. Saranda is also the gateway to the still (mostly) unspoiled Albanian Riviera, so if you want to have some beach time you’re in the right place. In summer there will be plenty of buses whizzing up and down the coast, and food and accommodation prices will be a fraction of what you’d pay in Corfu or the Ionian islands.

This 18-day small group tour is aimed at active, sociable travellers aged 25-40 who enjoy a mix of cultural discovery, great scenery and a maybe a little bit of nightlife… Ends close to the Albanian Riviera so you can chill out on some of Europe’s best beaches afterwards (at a fraction of the price you’d pay elsewhere in Europe). 

Small Group Tours With Balkan Secrets

Expect a highly informal experience. We don’t herd you like sheep. For TNT and Tournado
we’ve created some special tours aimed at the 25-40 age range, combining the best of Balkan
culture, scenery and nightlife. If you’re teetotal, you might want to look elsewhere - the Balkans
has a strong drinking culture and it’s not a region that celebrates sobriety. But if you’re a
sociable type who enjoys a beer and the good things in life, you’ll have a great time.
And we should mention, most Balkan countries, particularly Albania, are ridiculously cheap
compared with the UK and Euroland.

Trekking With Balkan Secrets

On our Albanian walking tours, we take you well away from the more established trekking areas
like the Accursed Mountains in the north, where if you throw a brick you’ll knock out a German
pensioner. Instead we’ll take you east, to the mountains of Çermenika, Dibër and Martanesh.
Never heard of them? We’re not surprised. There are very few asphalt roads, next to no
guesthouses, and you’re more likely to meet a bear or a commando than a westerner (seriously
- NATO uses Çermenika for special forces training).

For most or our trekking tours here we have to be self-sufficient, so load up a donkey or two
(mules, technically) with camping kit and everything we need to survive, and strike out into the
mountains. Our treks are not going to be fun if you need spa facilities beyond a river, but if you
 enjoy wild camping and chatting to shepherds or wood-cutters over a glass of raki, they’ll be
right up your street. And if you like to take photos, Your. Mind. Will. Be. Blown.

Bed and Breakfast based on two people sharing

All transport excluding flights

Not Included: 

Additional activities; tips. When paying for drinks and meals, 10% is considered a reasonable tip. Please remember you are in one of the poorest regions of Europe! 

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