|Aktivitets nivå :||Aktivitetsferie - Fotturer - Kultur & Tema reiser (standard) - Vinter aktiviteter|
The tour starts at our city centre hotel in Tirana. The group flight usually lands at approx. 20:30 so you may wish to have a substantial snack or dinner beforehand. The drive from the airport to the hotel is approx. 30 minutes. A welcome dinner is included this evening for those who wish to eat upon arrival, however it will be quite late so feel free to opt out, or to join for some welcome drinks instead. *Standard Hotel*
We have a fairly early start today as we have a quite a lot of ground to cover to reach our alpine hotel in Valbonë village - located in the heart of the spectacularly wild and rugged Albanian Alps. We break up the journey with stops along the way, having lunch in the city of Gjakova and taking a break in Bajram Curri in the foothills of the Alps. The name of the city comes from the national war hero and freedom fighter 'Bajram Curri', who fought against the Ottoman Empire and later against the new Albanian government. A seven metre high statue stands in the town centre in honour of him. After this we wind our way through pretty villages until we reach Valbonë. The Valbonë Valley was declared a National Park in 1996 and is renowned for its outstanding natural beauty and age-old agricultural traditions. We will be based here for the next four nights and have plenty of time to soak up rural life and mountain vistas as we follow a variety of snowshoe routes. Approx. 300km driving, 6.5 hours (with stops). *Standard Hotel*
After breakfast, we put on our snowshoes and begin snowshoeing to the village of Kukaj. We follow the Valbonë River and take a break near some old bunkers, where we learn about the fortification of Albania during the 1970s and 80s. We then continue along an uphill road track until we reach the village, where we then continue snowshoeing to view the highest peak in the Albanian Alps, Jezerce (2694m above sea level). Making our way back to Kukaj village for lunch, we receive a warm welcome from our local host, Tahir, who serves delicious hot mountain tea, homemade cheese and local raki. In the afternoon we make our way back to Valbonë, passing through wild open meadows and farmland. Approx. 6-7 hours walking, distance 10km, max. altitude 1300m. *Standard Hotel*
Today is one of the more demanding snowshoe walks of the week. We snowshoe from our hotel and then climb the slopes of Grykat e Hapta Mountain, reaching an elevation of about 1300m. From our highest point, we can enjoy amazing views over the Valbonë Valley and extending as far as Jezerca. We descend back to Valbonë after our picnic lunch. This evening will be rife with music and culture as we enjoy a special folklore performance performed by a family who live in a village nearby. Please note that if the snow conditions are poor, we will take an alternative route and go snowshoeing in Gropa e Rragamit. Approx. 6-7 hours walking, distance 8km, max. altitude 1300m. *Standard Hotel*
We begin our morning with an explanatory session about snowshoes for first timers. We then set off in the direction of Valbonë Pass (1815m), gently walking along the riverbed of the Valbonë River as we test our snowshoes. We may pass the occasional shepherd hut en route but besides this we find ourselves among an almost pristine wilderness. From our highest point (1200m) we can look down upon the beautiful alpine village of Rrogam, the last village in the Valbonë Valley and therefore one of the most remote and picturesque. We can enjoy the serenity as we descend through snow-clad pastures to Rrogam, where we enjoy our picnic lunch in a local's house. We then make our way back to Valbonë. Approx. 6 hours walking, distance 10km, max. altitude 1200m. *Standard Hotel*
Our final destination for tonight is the village of Tropojë, the former administrative centre of the district. After breakfast we walk along the valley for 30 minutes until we reach the house of our local guide, where we stop for a coffee or raki. After another hour of snowshoeing, we take off our snowshoes and boots and take our minibus to the city of Bajram Curri for lunch. In the afternoon we visit a typical North Albanian turret type house, which belonged to an important Albanian hero called Mic Sokoli, who died as he was fighting against the Ottoman Army. In the afternoon we reach the village of Tropoje, where we stay for the evening. We will take a walk through the village and have coffee with the locals. Approx. 3 hours walking, distance 4km, max. altitude 800m. Approx.2 hours driving, distance 40km. *Basic Hotel*
After a short (20 minute) transfer to the village of Buçaj, we follow a snowshoe route uphill for around 2.5 hours until we reach Padesh village (1450m). Set amidst dense beech and pine forest, this village is particularly beautiful in winter time when the trees are dusted with snow. On a clear day, we are rewarded with views over Tropojë Valley and toward the Dukagjini Plains in Kosovo. After lunch we continue on our snowshoe walk, crossing the border into Kosovo and pass a number of small hamlets until we reach Koshare village where our walk ends. We then drive to Gjakovë (approx. 30-45 minutes drive). Gjakovë is famous for its Ottoman bazaar, which with over 500 stalls is one of the largest in the Balkans. We also have the option to visit the Monastery of Decani en route; a beautiful 14th Century Serbian Orthodox Church where approximately 15 monks are serving there. This is a good opportunity to learn more about the dichotomous view of Kosovo by both the Serbs and Albanian population who live there. The entrance fee is €5 per person. Approx. 5 hours walking, max. altitude 1200m, Approx. 1-1.5 hours driving, distance 20km. *Comfortable Hotel*
Our destination for our last night of the holiday is Tirana. We first explore the town of Gjakovë and then we cannot leave Kosovo without visiting Prizren. Prizren is one of the best preserved Ottoman cities in Kosovo and has a rich cultural, historical and religious heritage with its 17th century Sinan Pasha Mosque, the Orthodox Church and memorial to the former political ‘Albanian League of Prizren’. In Prizren you are free for lunch. From Prizren it is approximately a 3.5 hour drive to reach Tirana, where your leader will recommend some restaurants for a farewell dinner, and for those who wish there are plenty of bars to frequent. The main centre of Tirana's night life is in the Blloku neighbourhood, where villas were once occupied by members of The Politburo (former leading sect of the Party of Labour of Albania) but which is now a lively centre full of trendy bars, cafés and fashionable clubs. Approx. 5 hours driving, distance 235km. *Standard Hotel*
For those not travelling on the group flights, the tour ends at our hotel in Tirana after breakfast. If you have time before you fly home you may wish to take a look around Skanderbeg Square (located approx. 300 metres walk from our hotel). The square is dominated by the façade of the National History Museum, which is adorned with a gigantic mosaic known as, ‘The Albanians’. This is one of the finest examples of late Albanian Socialist Realism in the country, depicting the resilience of the people in their fight against invasion and occupation throughout the centuries. The airport is just a 30 minute drive away from the city of Tirana. **
* 7 nights hotel, 1 night guesthouse * Group normally 5 to 16, plus leaders. Min. age 16 years * Travel by private bus * 5 days guided snowshoeing * Snowshoes and poles provided
All breakfasts, 5 lunches and 7 dinners are included. Under the leadership of Enver Hoxha (the communist leader of Albania from 1944-1985), Albania became a self-sustaining country due to its isolation to the world. However, due to the lush fertile valleys, fresh mountain springs and Mediterranean climate, they are still very much a subsistence culture and show very little signs of changing. In the countryside, expect your food to have been reared/grown not too far from your plate. Food in Albania is quite varied thanks to the many influences on the country and particularly Mediterranean combining both Turkish and European tastes. Dairy products, especially milk and yogurt are present in almost every meal, usually locally sourced. Meals are reasonably priced at around GB£3-5 per dish for traditional dishes such as baked rice, casseroles, stuffed aubergine and Jani Meat (beef or lamb sautéed with onions, garlic and spices). Fresh fish is also plentiful, from the sea or lakes and is an important ingredient in many dishes. Dishes that must be sampled are Tirana stew, Elbasani yogurt and baked phyllo pie. For dessert, there are the classic cookies and puddings but most importantly the Baklava is very popular. Drinks are reasonably priced with a bottle of beer costing around GB£2.20 yet traditional drinks need to be tried as well, Raki and 'Scanderbeg' Cognac, (noted for its unique flavour and aroma). Your leader will recommend restaurants where meals are not included.
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