Our Customer Sales & Support Executive, Charlotte, recently experienced her first trip with Explore! Discover her trip from the beautiful coasts to the historic moutains of Albainia..
The Highlights of Albania tour was my first trip with Explore; I was apprehensive but tried to start the tour with an open mind and few pre-conceived expectations.
This tour was an fantastic introduction to the coast and mountains of Albania. The pace was full on to incorporate so many different sides to the country and the contrast of the coastal areas against more remote mountainous places was fascinating. Starting in the colourful and buzzy capital city Tirana, the city is a fantastic mix of old and new, communist architecture and its mountain backdrop scenery. Although Albania geographically is so close to Italy, Greece and Croatia, it’s a world away for neighbouring, other close European countries, and such a contrast to those, but their influences are definitely seen throughout, making for a real interesting mix of history, religion, culture and cuisine.
Albania as a country, far surpassed any expectations that I did had, it was just so beautiful in a real jaw dropping way, and the Albanian people were so welcoming and grateful that we were visiting, in a responsible way. Our Tour Leader Ed was fantastic and showed me how great (and well trained!) Tour Leaders are crucial for our tours; I and the other passengers were very impressed with his upbeat nature and endless knowledge.
The scenery and opportunities to interact with the locals were key memories for me, such as the Turkish coffee and Raki with a local family and their young family, followed by swimming in the hot springs, locals giving us some of their fresh watermelon in between visiting churches around Voskopoja, and the stunning Lake Ohrid. I also really enjoyed the setting of the Llogara Park and the walk we did there. The drive too along the Albanian Riveria towards Llogora on day 8 was simply stunning. Other fascinating points for me also were the Unesco historic centre of Gijrokastra, and the Blue Eye.
Another highlight for myself, and a lot of my group was the food! It’s a real mix of Turkish, Greek and Italian influences, in particular their Byrek (spinach and feta filo pie), the more rural, mountainous areas offered amazing meats and ‘earthy’ vegetables such as griddled aubergines and mushrooms, barbequed lamb, Wild Boar stew, and a yoghurt dip similar to the Greek Tzatziki. The seafood on the coast was by far the best I’ve ever tasted around the world. Their local Albanian red wine too was surprisingly lovely, along with the local Birra Korca!
Accommodation wise the hotels aren’t usually a selling point for us, it’s more about the tour and the experience, however, those that we stayed at were far more luxurious, well equipped and well positioned than I assumed they would be, especially in Llogara, Berat and Kruja.
All in all, this trip really is a fantastic tour of the main Highlights in Albania and I thoroughly recommend it.