Discover the highlights of Albania while cycling through stunning scenery along peaceful, almost traffic-free roads in the mountains and along the turquoise coast. Albanian Riviera - Picturesque trails and villages Archaeological ruins and UNESCO sites - Gjirokaster, Butrint and Berat Food and drink - Mouth-watering local delicacies and great value beer.
Our trip begins at Tirana International Airport (TIA) at 7.15pm. The latest your flight can arrive is therefore 6.45pm. We will travel together as a group in a private bus to our hotel in Pogradec on the shores of Lake Ohrid. The journey will take approximately three and a half hours including a comfort break. Please note that there will be very limited food options with this late arrival so we advise you dine before the meeting time. If your flight arrives earlier in the day, you may have time to wait ahead of our group transfer to Pogradec. You can make the most of this time by taking the public bus to Tirana, which takes approximately 35 minutes and buses leave every hour, however, there are no left luggage facilities at the airport so you would need to take your bags with you. Alternatively, you may wish to change some money at the airport and wait in the restaurant outside the terminal opposite Arrivals.
Once equipped and fitted with our bikes we start cycling from lake Ohrid, climbing to an elevated plateau with some great views over the blue waters of this splendid lake surrounded by mountains. The road then continues towards Korça pedaling alongside vast fields and past small farms. We check into our hotel upon arrival into Korça. Our total cycling distance today is approximately 50 kilometres (Total 382 metres ascent and 217 meters descent)
This morning when we retake to our bikes we leave behind the agricultural plateau of Korça, climbing steadily into the border mountains through a landscape of barren rock interspersed with wild flowers. Numerous cols and valleys lie ahead, climbing into the heart of the Gramos Mountains and over the Barmash Pass (1159m) to Germenj lying in its own tranquil valley. We spend the night in wooden bungalows with shared bathrooms in Germenj and enjoy a traditional home cooked dinner. Our total cycling distance today is approximately 72 kilometres (Total 1160 metres ascent and 1041 meters descent) The Sotira Farm Guesthouse is a collection of two bedroom cabins located in the woods around a central farmhouse and salmon hatchery. Each cabin has a bathroom shared between the two bedrooms, in addition there is a communal washing block cabin. The main farmhouse house building where you have your dinner and breakfast is warm and welcoming with a log fire, and serves delicious local fare.
We climb out from Germenj on our bikes to a high grassy plateau surrounded by soaring peaks before reaching the source of the River Vjosa and descending through its spectacular gorge to Leskovik. The route continues with a 15km descent to Çarshove before following the cornice route high above the river to Permet situated on a bluff above the river. A short but dramatic drive of about one an a half hours will bring us to the historic town of Gjirokastër, another UNESCO Heritage site that is home to some truly stunning Ottoman architecture. Gjirokastër is magnificently set between the towering Gjerë Mountains and the Drino River, providing us with a beautifully scenic arrival by vehicle from Permet as we pass through the Drino Valley and the Kelcyra Gorge. After checking in to our hotel, we have a chance to explore its historic heart, taking in its beautiful 18th and 19th century buildings and the dominating presence of its Ottoman citadel, believed to be the second largest in the Balkans. If you are travelling in October, we may visit a traditional house instead of inside the citadel as it operates shorter opening hours at the end of the season. Our total cycling distance today is approximately 58 kilometres (Total 691 metres ascent and 1431 meters descent)
A short drive after breakfast will bring us to the beginning of the cycling section that starts with a downhill ride from Muzina Pass to the Blue Eye, source of the river Bistrica. The ride then encircles the lagoon of Butrint National Park where we will visit the archaeological site. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Butrint is one of the county's most important archaeological treasures, tracing its origins back to the Greeks and the Romans. In the afternoon we continue our ride onto Saranda and spend the evening at the waterfront. The gateway to southern Albania, Saranda lies along the Ionian coast, sandwiched between the high mountains and the sea and close to the ancient remains of Butrint. Our total cycling distance today is approximately 67 kilometres (Total 560 metres ascent and 1089 meters descent)
A roller coaster of a ride awaits us this morning as we make our way along the Albanian Riviera passing through the small villages of Piqeras and Lukova en route to Qeparo. Leaving as the mist is burnt off by the sun, climbing steeply out of Saranda to a rocky plateau. From here we pedal over cols into bays and around headlands, always with the stunning mountain scenery to the right and sea to the left before descending to the long beach and bay of Qeparo where we spend the night in the seaside village of Qeparo on the Albanian Riviera. The afternoon is left free to enjoy the beach and relax. Our total cycling distance today is approximately 40 kilometres (Total 965 metres ascent and 918 meters descent)
We continue our route into the valley heading north before climbing two short but steep cols, through woodlands, little gorges, forests and around hairpin bends. Along the way we pass the old fortress of Ali Pasha of Tepelena, Palermo Bay, the Monastery of St. Theodore and Gjipe Bay and the coastal town of Himara. Our cycling adventure ends with a descent to the picturesque village of Dhermi, nestling amongst the rocky slopes of the Ceraunian Mountains. After lunch we drive 120 km (about 2 and a half hours) to Berat, enjoying the great mountain and sea views of Llogora National Park enroute. Home to black pine, Eurasian otter and golden eagles, the park is a scenic expanse of protected woodland that encompasses the forests on the northern side of the Llogora Pass. Berat is perhaps the most beautiful town in Albania. Explore the cobbled alleys between the white walled houses and visit the citadel high above. Staying in a traditional hotel in the historic neighbourhood of Mangalemi, we should have some time to explore this World Heritage site before dinner. Time permitting, there is an optional visit to the Onufri Iconographic Museum, located in the sanctuary of St Mary's Church in the inhabited quarter of Berat Castle. Home to a remarkable collection of religious paintings, the museum is named after a famous 16th century icon painter whose works were characterised by post-Byzantine and Venetian influences. Our total cycling distance today is approximately 33 kilometres (Total 809 metres ascent and 812 meters descent)
There are no planned activities today. The complimentary airport transfer is timed to coincide with the Easyjet and BA evening flights to London. You will need to check out of the rooms in the morning but it will be possible to store your luggage at the hotel and spend the day enjoying Berat. Departing Berat this afternoon we drive (approx. 2.5 hours) to Tirana International Airport (TIA) where we will arrive at about 5.15pm and this is where our trip ends. The earliest your flight can depart is 7.15pm.
7 Break Fast(s) 3 Dinner(s)
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