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9 Days in Albania & Macedonia

This sample 9-day (8 nights) itinerary covers Tirana, Gjirokastra, Ohrid and Skopje. Travelling between these alluring cities will take you through some of the most beautiful countryside in Albania and Macedonia, and at each stop you'll be amazed by the warmth of the welcome. It's affordable to travel in style here, so you'll enjoy a vacation that's tailored to you. From natural beauty to ancient architecture and hearty regional cuisine, you'll really enjoy exploring this relatively undiscovered region. The services we provide as part of our comprehensive packages include accommodations, private transfers and city tours. In addition to the tours included we can arrange a number of excursions based on your own interests. Our Destination Manager in the region will provide assistance before and during your travels. They will be available to you leading up to the trip to answer any questions and arrange local services. You will be provided with information on the best these destinations have to offer, including things to see and do, restaurants, entertainment and other insider tips. Upon arrival we will provide you with a local cell phone that you can use to contact our Destination Manager throughout your trip. In all of our destinations we offer a variety of accommodation options, including boutique-style hotels, charming B&Bs and spacious apartments ranging from a three to five-star level. From our first-hand experience we can ensure they are all clean, comfortable and centrally located. We generally discourage chain hotels but provide accommodations with unique features or an authentic feel.

Itinerary


2 Nights in Tirana

Day 1

Welcome to Albania! You will be met at the airport by our driver and taken directly to your accommodation in the center of Tirana.

Included : Tirana Airport transfer

Day 2

Optional: Meet Tirana

If you'd like to get properly acquainted with Tirana, the best way is spending a day with a local, starting with a brief walking tour of the city covering all the main sights, including the Mosque of Ethem Bey, the Clock Tower, Skanderbeg square, The Martyr's Cemetery, Grand Park and various government buildings. The tour concludes in the former Communist Party elite’s residential area, Blokku, where the abandoned villa of Albania’s dictator Enver Hoxha still stands and is now a buzzing district packed with modern bars, restaurants and pubs. From there you'll hop in a taxi to the base of Mt Dajti, on the edge of the city to take the Dajti Express cable car.

There's time for lunch, when your guide will advise you on which dishes to pick to get a good taste of Albanian cuisine, and a stroll around before descending to visit the recently opened Bunk'art. This is a nuclear shelter built into the mountain, which houses an exhibition that mixes art installations and artefacts from the Communist era including the offices of the Communist leaders, which were never used.


Best of Tirana Private Tour
Best of Tirana Private Tour
Duration : 6-7 hours
Activity level : Light
Suggestion to explore on your own: Hiking Mount Dajti
For nature lovers, Dajti Mountain is your best bet near Tirana. There are numerous well-marked hiking trails for all levels, and the mountain also affords lovely views over the city. Hiking is a family activity here, so you’ll find numerous restaurants and snack bars along the way. You can hike or drive up or even take a bus, but the best way to get to the top of the mountain is by the express cable car. Once you’re up there, you’ll have plenty to see, and more than enough twists and turns along the trails to keep you busy.

Suggestion to explore on your own: Eat your way around the Blokku
Tirana has a wealth of tasty restaurants and cool cafes where you can taste local delicacies and cosmopolitan cuisine from around the world. If you’re looking for a unique place to enjoy a hearty meal or a drink, check out the Blokku neighborhood. Here you’ll find the city’s most interesting places, where young in-the-know locals congregate and you’re always sure to find something interesting. It’s hard to go wrong here, and it’s not a huge neighborhood, so you’d do well to wander around a bit and see the local selection of where you’d like to enjoy your afternoon or evening.

Day 3

Today you will be wowed by the impressive vistas along the Albania Riviera from Tirana to Gjirokastra, and will make a few stops along the way. It’s quite a journey, with breathtaking views and mountainous areas winding through national parks. The scenic drive offers potential stops along the way in Vlore, Dhermi, Palermo Castle, Muzine Pass and Buret Mountain, or make a foodie day of it and stop for a seafood lunch close to Vlore and some delicious organic goat milk yogurt with honey, walnuts and fabulous views in the Llogara National Park. As an alternative to staying Gjirokastra, or for anyone interested in extending their trip with some beach time, Ksamil, in the very south of the country, is a quaint coastal town ideal for swimming and sunbathing with the added advantage of being just a few minutes from the UNESCO listed Butrint archaeological site.
Included : Tirana - Gjirokastra Private Transfer (drive the coast)
Tirana

A little about Tirana

Tirana is a unique destination that combines opposites. It feels ancient and modern, quaint and cosmopolitan, fast-paced yet laidback. There are wonderful restaurants here, beautiful nature in the surrounding countryside, and a rich cultural life that will keep you entertained all day and night. The Blokku neighborhood is one of the city’s most vibrant, with excellent bars, restaurants and cafes. The Old Town, meanwhile, has an eclectic mix of historic architecture. This is a lovely destination that still feels untouched, so you’ll really be able to make the city yours. Besides exploring the unique urban atmosphere, there are several fantastic day trips to enjoy. Driving to the city of Berat is always fun, as you can stop at a winery along the way to sample some of the tasty local vintages, then check out an impressive castle. The Albanian Riviera is also relatively close by, and here you can relax along the shore and get in touch with the life of local fishermen. The nearby Dajti Mountain is also an impressive destination, with incredible views over the city and beyond. From outdoor adventures to delectable gastronomy and historic architecture, Tirana really has something for everyone.

1 Night in Gjirokastra

Day 1

After the journey, your driver will bring you directly to your accommodation in the historic heart of Gjirokastra.

Optional: Get familiar with Gjirokastra
Gjirokastra was a citadel town and this is symbolized by the fortress which still stands watch. We suggest taking a private walking tour with an expert local guide to get yourself acquinted with this interesting UNESCO-listed city. The tour commences with a visit to the fortres. Next to it you can also see the remains of the world’s largest aqueduct, built by Ali Pasha. During communist times the fortress was used as a prison for political prisoners. From the fortress there are fabulous views over the Drinos Valley between Albania and Greece. You can also visit the Ethnographic Museum, which is the family home of the notorious former ruler and dictator Enver Hoxha, whose home town was Gjirokastra. It’s known as the “city of 1,000 steps,” so be prepared for a little climbing as you make your way around.

Gjirokastra Private Walking Tour
Gjirokastra Private Walking Tour
Duration : 3 Hours
Activity level : Light

Day 2

Today you’ll spend a few hours on the road with your private driver, but the relaxed lakeside city of Ohrid in neighboring Macedonia at the end of the journey makes it all worthwhile.
Included : Gjirokastra - Ohrid Private Transfer with stops along the way (Permet, Korca, Pogradec)
Gjirokastra

A little about Gjirokastra

Gjirokastra is one of Albania’s most scenic cities, with an authentic atmosphere that has earned it UNESCO World Heritage status. Here you can revel amid the lovely landscape of mountains and plains while taking in the impressive historic architecture. Strolling through the city feels like entering a fairytale, with narrow winding streets that will charm you immediately. But the gastronomy here is anything but old fashioned, as you’ll find classic Albanian recipes jazzed up with a few modern twists at Gjirokastra’s many excellent restaurants and cafes. You’ll definitely want to explore the incredible Old Town with the help of a local guide who can show you all the city’s secrets. The distinctive white buildings here are pretty incredible. A short drive outside the city will impress you with the views of the landscape. Two other destinations, Butrint and Ksamil, are perfect for day trip. At these UNESCO World Heritage sites you can explore ancient architecture dating all the way back to the 5th century. Gjirokastra is the perfect place to get away from the faster pace of Albania’s larger cities while exploring the unique past this incredible country has to offer.

3 Nights in Ohrid

Day 1

Your driver will bring you directly to your accommodation in Ohrid.

Day 2

Optional: Learn all about Ohrid
Today is the perfect opportunity to be learn all about Ohrid, a city that traces its origins back to before the Hellenistic period. We can arrange for a guide to meet you at your accommodation and show you that there’s more to Ohrid than just a pretty lakeside getaway. Starting from the main square, you’ll proceed through the Lower Gate to the Church of St. Sophia, one of the country’s most important monuments, built between the 4th and 11th centuries. Next up is the ancient theater dating from around 200 BC and rediscovered in the 1980s. Beyond the theater stands the thousand-year-old Samuel’s Fortress from the time when Ohrid was the capital of the First Bulgarian Empire. More antiquity awaits below the fortress at Plaosnik, where you’ll see the excavations of the first Slav university in the Balkans and the church of St. Clement from the 9th century before finishing your tour at the 13th century Church of St. John, one of our favorite photo spots.

Ohrid Private Walking Tour
Ohrid Private Walking Tour
Duration : 3 hours
Activity level : Moderate
Optional: Cruise Lake Ohrid
Lake Ohrid is certainly a beautiful destination, and today we suggest seeing a bit more of it from the comfort of your own private skippered boat. You’ll be able to sit back and relax as you enjoy a slow cruise along the water, enjoying excellent views of the stunning coastline and the surrounding mountains. If the weather is warm you’ll want to take a dip too. This is a truly relaxing afternoon soaking up the marvelous Macedonian scenery.

Private Boat Lake Cruise
Private Boat Lake Cruise
Duration : 6 hours
Activity level : Easy

Day 3

Optional: St Naum Monastery Tour
One of the most interesting day trips outside of Ohrid is to the Saint Naum Monastery. Located in Galicica National Park, this is one of the most beautiful monasteries in the country set amidst stunning natural beauty. Originally founded in 910 by St. Naum, the monastery we can see today was built in the 16th century. The frescoes, some of which depict the saint’s life, were painted in 1806. The icon screen was made in 1711 and it is the oldest completely preserved wooden high icon screen in Macedonia. The private day trip we can arrange for you includes both transport to take you to and from the monastery and a guide to show you around once there.

St. Naum Private Tour
St. Naum Private Tour
Duration : 5 hours
Activity level : Moderate
Optional: VIllage Cooking Class
Maybe you didn’t know that Ohrid is home to some fantastic local cuisine. Enjoying it in one of the city’s nice restaurants it great, but it’s even more fun to learn how to make some special regional recipes with a talented local. This gastronomic excursion is one of our most popular day trips from the city and it’s easy to see why. You’ll be picked up from your accommodation and be driven to a small village called Elsani. Situated in the mountains overlooking Lake Ohrid, this is a gorgeous place to get hands on with local cuisine. Led by woman who lives in the village as well as an English-speaking cook, you’ll learn how to make several traditional Macedonian dishes. And after you’ve created your cuisine you’ll sit down to enjoy it was a glass of excellent Macedonian wine.

Private Village Cooking Class
Private Village Cooking Class
Duration : 3 hours
Activity level : Easy

Day 4

It’s time to leave Ohrid behind and head to the Macedonian capital, Skopje. You’ll be taking the scenic route through Mavrovo National Park, a natural paradise of mountains and forests as well as a large lake. You can make a stop for lunch at a small town or village and taste more local specialties. Another must-see along the route is the monastery of St. John Bigorski, a still-functioning Macedonian Orthodox monastery dedicated to John the Baptist. It somehow manages to combine a tourist attraction with a place of peace and quiet reflection.
Included : Ohrid - Skopje Private Transfer
Ohrid

A little about Ohrid

A city on a beautiful lake, Ohrid combines a rich history and outdoor activities with the serenity of this lovely, laid back region, inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List over 35 years ago for its natural and cultural value. The Old Town is set on a hill with a wealth of sites to explore, from monasteries to an ancient Greek outdoor theater and an imposing fortress. And since Ohrid is right on the lake, everywhere you go you’ll have breathtaking views of the water and all the surrounding natural beauty. One of the most incredible things to see is the view of the Old Town jutting out into the lake, especially when lit up at night. It’s an image that seems to sum up the unique charm of the entire lake region. If you’re visiting in the summer, you’ll find a rich cultural atmosphere, with concerts and many outdoor events. The lake gives the region its unique charm and also offers many excellent outdoor activities. It’s the perfect place to take a dip, kick back and relax at one of the beachfront bars, or even climb aboard a boat. The water is very clean and is consistently warm, since it’s fed by hot springs spread across the lake. One of the activities our guests love best here is a trip to the St. Naum monastery at the other end of the lake. But that’s just one of the boating options that will give you a chance to enjoy the lake from the center of it, and to get a new point of view on the city. Ohrid is reasonably priced so you can really live it up while you’re here. The city remains relatively untouched, but it does seem poised at the edge of a tourist boom. That’s why now is the perfect time to see it before the crowds arrive.

2 Nights in Skopje

Day 1

Your driver will bring you directly to your accommodation in the center of Skopje.

Optional: Scoping out Skopje
The best way to start your time in Skopje is with a walking tour of central Skopje and we can arrange for an expert local guide to show you around. On the surface it might look like a Las Vegas architect and a maverick town planner conspired to see just what they could get away with, but among the musical fountains and bombastic buildings there is authenticity to be found and that’s what your guide will concentrate on. Mother Teresa, although of Albanian descent, was born in Skopje and the House Of Mother Teresa is one of the early stops on your tour. You’ll cross the recently reconstructed 15th century Stone Bridge and enter the oldest part of Skopje, walking through the bazaar to admire the Daut Pashin Hammam, a monument of Islamic architecture from the 15th century. Then you will visit the Macedonian Orthodox Church of the Ascension of Jesus, built at the end of the 17th century. The final stop before lunch is the Kale Fortress, which stands watch over the city.

Skopje Private Walking Tour
Skopje Private Walking Tour
Duration : 3 hours
Activity level : Light

Day 2

Optional: Matka Canyon
If you’re looking for some outdoor adventure while you’re in Skopje, we’d highly recommend Matka Canyon, the region’s most popular tourist destination. If you opt for this excursion you’ll be driven to this scenic canyon with a beautiful lake, where you’ll take a boat trip into the incredible Vrelo Cave. Along the way you’ll stop at historic monasteries and churches. There are numerous hiking trails if you’d like to get more exercise. There’s also a tasty local restaurant that specializes in traditional cuisine. At the end of the day you’ll be driven back to your accommodation in Skopje.

Matka Canyon Private Tour
Matka Canyon Private Tour
Duration : 4-5 hours
Activity level : Moderate
Suggestion to explore on your own: Taste Macedonia
While you’re in Skopje you’ll certainly want to taste some of the delectable local cuisine. There are numerous restaurants in Skopje, and we’ll be providing you a list of our favorites, with different selections from street food to fine dining. Wherever you go, you’ll want to try at least one of the most famous dishes in Macedonian cuisine. Tavche Gravche is beans cooked with special spices in a delicious sauce. Ajvar is a tangy spread made from red bell peppers, eggplant, garlic and chilli. Kashkaval is a yellow sheep’s milk cheese made locally. All three dishes are uniquely flavorful comfort food.

Suggestion to explore on your own: How Bazaar!
Skopje’s Old Bazaar is the oldest part of the city, and also one of its most atmospheric. You’ll find it on the eastern bank of the Vadar River, from Stone Bridge to the Bit-Pazar, and from Skopje Fortress to the Serava River. A merchant’s quarter since the 12th century, the Old Bazaar is packed with local shops and salesmen with a little of everything. The government has recently committed to preserving the area, which attests to its cultural significance. This is a unique place where you can really see the local culture and also find everything from crafts to curios, local produce and baked goods. Don’t forget to haggle!

Day 3

Today, a driver will pick you up at your accommodation and bring you to the Skopje airport for your departing flight.
Included : Skopje Airport Transfer
Skopje

A little about Skopje

The birthplace of Mother Teresa, Skopje is a city that reveres its past. You’ll find numerous landmarks and tributes to Mother Teresa here, but the statues in Skopje aren’t like those you’ve seen elsewhere. Over the last several years, the government has put significant funding into building monuments to various historical figures who were important to Macedonia. As a result the city is like a living museum, where the nation’s culture and history come alive before your eyes. Skopje's atmosphere is unique, as it seems to combine a little of the energy of Las Vegas with Eastern European charm. It’s really like nothing you’ve ever experienced before. Some of the decorations are a little over the top, but the city is a must for visitors to the region. As you explore the sites you should try the excellent local wine and food, which combines flavors from Balkan and Greek cuisines. Skopje’s Old Town is reserved for pedestrians, so its traditional atmosphere has been preserved. This is the best place to explore the Muslim influence on the region, as the city center features various bazaars and cozy alleyways. You’ll definitely feel like you’ve stepped back into a more traditional age, in contrast to the modern monuments throughout Skopje. But the city isn’t all there is to explore. The fortress on the hill is impressive and well worth the hike. About 20 minutes away you’ll find the Matka Canyon, which offers spectacular outdoor activities including boating, kayaking and hiking. For another point of view on Skopje, take the funicular up to the famous cross that overlooks the city. This is an ever-changing and exciting destination that always offers visitors something new and never disappoints.

Reviews from past guests

Overall rating:
(5.0/5 based on 4 reviews)

Reviews from guests who have traveled with us to at least half the destinations in this itinerary


Albania and Macedonia were exotic and fascinating and the people were very welcoming to me.  Without the localized JayWay Travel staff to assist me I do not think this trip would have been so satisfying.

I highly endorse the services of all these people and intend to plan future travels to other parts of Central and Eastern Europe.

- Traveled to Tirana, Gjirokastra, Ohrid, Skopje in September 2018 - rating:
(5/5)

"Great all-around service, from initial planning through the last day of our trip. Cheerful delivery of prompt and comprehensive answers to all questions posed. Our drivers were careful at all times.  We felt extremely safe. Our guides, especially to and in Albania, were exceptional."

- Traveled to Skopje, Ohrid, Tirana & Dubrovnik in October 2017 - rating:
(5/5)

"We have recommended JayWay to several friends.  It was one of the best trips we have experienced and between us, Alan and I have seen a lot of the world.  In 2017 traveled 30,000 miles."

- Traveled to Budapest, Pecs, Zagreb, Ljubljiana, Rovinj, Plitvice, Split, Dubrovnik, Ulcinj, Ohrid, Skopje, Sofia in August 2017 - rating:
(5/5)

"Completely boutique, set up to your wishes, inexpensive, assistance always available, wonderful selection of hotels and English speaking guides. We were absolutely pleased by our mussel tour, our vineyard tour and especially the cooking tour. Everything went off like clockwork. We were able to add our extra side trips without difficulty.  Antonia did a fabulous job and enjoyed meeting her in Dubrovnik."

- Traveled to Dubrovnik, Kotor, Ulcinj, Tirana, Gjirokastra, Ohrid, Skopje, Sofia in September 2016 - rating:
(5/5)

What's Included

The services included in this package are as follows:


  • 2 Nights Accommodation in Tirana
  • Tirana Airport transfer
  • Tirana - Gjirokastra Private Transfer (drive the coast)
  • 1 Night Accommodation in Gjirokastra
  • Gjirokastra - Ohrid Private Transfer with stops along the way (Permet, Korca, Pogradec)
  • 3 Nights Accommodation in Ohrid
  • Ohrid - Skopje Private Transfer
  • 2 Nights Accommodation in Skopje
  • Skopje Airport Transfer
  • Pre-trip assistance of the JayWay Destination Manager
  • On-trip assistance from local JayWay Representatives
  • A pre-paid local cell phone for all destinations
  • Excursion booking advice and assistance
  • Access to your personalized Guest Page, with detailed destination information and tips on the best these cities can offer


- Flights to and from Europe.
- Tips for Tour Guides, Drivers and Local Reps.
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Meals (other than breakfast if included in room rate and meals listed as included in food tours and excursions (unless explicitly stated otherwise)).
- Parking fees unless otherwise indicated.
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