Archaeological research shows that Albania has been populated since the Palaeolithic Age (Stone Age). The first areas settled were those with favourable climatic and geographic conditions.
In Albania, the earliest settlements have been discovered in the Gajtan cavern (Shkodra), in Konispol, at Mount Dajti, and at Saranda. Fragments of Cyclopean structures were discovered at Kretsunitsa, Arinishta, and other sites in the district of Gjirokastra.
The walls, partly Cyclopean, of an ancient city (perhaps Byllis) are visible at Gradishti on the picturesque Viosa River.
Few traces remain of the once celebrated Dyrrhachium (today Durrës).
Day 1 - Tirana– Kruja – Tirana
Meet at Mother Tereza Airport in Tirana and depart for Kruja. On the way we stop at the Albanopoli, only 10 km from the airport. After this we proceed to Kruja, where visit the Scanderbeg Museum, Ethnographic Museum and the Old Bazaar.
Archeological site: Albanopoli
On a hill side near the village of Zgerdhesh (Kruje) are the ruins of the ancient city of “Albanopolis”, the capital of the Illyrian tribe “Alban” which flourished from the end of the 3rd century A.D.
Its name is mentioned for the first time by Ptolemy in the 2nd century A.D. It is from the “Alban” Illyrian tribe that the country started to be called “Albania” and the people “Albanians”.
Transfer to the hotel in Tirana, where spend the overnight.
Day 2 - Tirana – Durres – Berat
We start the day with a visit in the Archaeological Museum in Tirana. It was the first museum created after the World War II. Tirana Archaeological Museum has displayed about 2000 objects and it has a fund support of 17000, which is increased annually by the systematic archaeological finds. The museum gives full information on the earliest ancient dwellings in Albania, especially on the periods when the process of Illyrian tribes’ formation takes place. It also provides summarized information on Late Antiquity and early Middle Age when the transition from Illyrians to Arbers takes place. Afterwards enjoy a delicious lunch in Durres and then visit the Site of Epidamnus. The city of Durres dates to the 7th century B.C., according to traditional reports from ancient sources in the year 627. The modern city is built on top of the ruins of ancient Epidamnos or Dyrrachium, the latter transformed into Dyrrachium in the Roman period. Depart for Berat where spend the overnight.
Day 3 - Berat
This morning we start exploring the ancient city of Berat. It is called the Town of a Thousand Windows. More than 2000 years old town, it is one of the most visited and characteristic cities in Albania. Since 2008 Mangalem District is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Visits in Berat:
• The Ancient city of Dimal
• The Saint Triad Church
• The Gorica Quarter
• The Gorica Bridge
The architecture of the old houses, with large windows that overlook the town, is the first think that impresses the visitors. First stop: the Citadel. It overlooks the river and the modern city as well as the old Christian quarter across the river.
The citadel can be reached by a steep road and is still inhabited.
Inside the walls, you can visit ruined mosques and several medieval Orthodox churches, all intact and with restored frescoes and icons. Onufri National Museum is located in the inner part of “Saint Mary Church” in Castle of Berat.
This Museum offers a collection of 173 belonging to the found of Albanian Churches and Monasteries. Afterwards you can visit the Ethnographic Museum, a two storied residence, with a lobby on one side. This residence is equipped with non-moveable furniture that serve for the preservation of the household objects, wooden case, wall-closets, chimneys, wells, etc.
After exploring the city we drive back to Tirana. A quick stop in The Monastery of Ardenica can be arranged.
Archeological site: Mbjeshovë
Mbjeshova Castle is situated near the village of Mbjeshova, in the northern part of Shpiragu mountain and it covers a surface of about 1,5 – 2 ha.
The surrounding wall is well maintained along the length of the hill. The fortification is double, formed by an inner wall serving at the same time as a staging ground for soldiers and a lookout. At the east side are situated three towers and an entrance.
Archeological site: The fortress of Vokopola
The castle of Vokopola known as Ali Pashë Tepelena’s castle, is located on a hill at northern-west part of Vokopola village near the city of Berat. The fortification is situated on a hill 765m above sea level. The castle’s technique construction shows that the structure may have served as a military garrison.
Day 4 – Berat – Gjirokastra
After breakfast we depart for Gjirokastra, a UNESCO site and museum town with beautiful and very distinct architecture. On the way, stop at the ancient city of Bylis to visit the ancient remains. It was the centre of Illyrian tribe and one of the most important and largest Illyrian cities, which developed during 4th century B.C. During the 3rd century B.C. were build the theatre (8000 seats), the stadium, the gymnasium etc. By the 1st century A.D. Bylis became a Roman colony. During 5th and 6th centuries, it became an important diocesan centre, which is proved by the discoveries of 6 basilicas whose floors are laid with mosaics of early Christian motifs.
Before arriving in Gjirokastra, we visit the ancient site of Antigonea; a city founded in the 3rd century B.C. Arrive in Gjirokastra in the afternoon. Visit Ethnographic Museum, which is also the house where the Albanian dictator was born
Archeological site: Sofratika Theatre
Located in Drino valley in Gjirokastra region by a village bearing the same name, this is Roman Adrianopolis of the second century A.D. The theatre was excavated in 1984 and has a capacity of 4,000 seats in 27 steps.
Day 5 – Gjirokastra –Saranda
In the morning we depart for the coastal town of Saranda. On the way we stop to visit the beautiful Blue Eye spring, a natural spring shaped like an eye of beautiful blue and turquoise green colours among old maple trees. Then visit the archaeological site of the fortified hill of Peshtan. Stop for lunch at the Lekuresi Fortress in Saranda, with beautiful views of the bay of Saranda and the Island of Corfu situated only 7 km away. After lunch we proceed to visit the ancient city of Butrint.
A pleasant narrow road overlooking the sea and marshes leads to Butrint through a landscape of olive and orange tree plantations. Butrint is situated 15km south of Saranda. The ancient city of Butrint, which is declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was first inhabited by Illyrians. The archaeological excavations show that Butrint has been an important centre of the Kaonian Illyrians, one of the big tribes of southern Illyria. According to discoveries made in the area, it has been proved that the site was inhabited as early as Palaeolithic period. Butrint was captured by the Normans in eleventh century and passed to Venice from 1690 to 1797, when Ali Pasha Tepelena captured it. With the fall of the Pashallek of Janina, in 1822, Butrint passed under Ottoman rule until 1913. Several excavations dating from the 1st and 4th centuries AD can now be visited, among them the Old Amphitheatre, the Temple of Asklepios or Aesculapius, the Baptistery, Nymphaeum and the ancient city walls. Do not miss the Baptistery, with a floor of colourful mosaics.
An old fortress house a small museum watches over the whole site.
Archeological site: The fortified hill of Peshtan – Tepelene
The hill of Peshtan is located near the homonymous village. The settlement has been localized on top of the hill, covering an area of about 2 ha, and several narrow terraces at the east, south and west sides.
These sides of the hill are relatively smooth, while the northern side, which is the narrowest one, constitutes the natural defence of the hill.
Late afternoon return to Saranda where we spend the night
Day 6 – Saranda – Vlora
After breakfast we depart for Vlora driving through Albanian Riviera. Stop at the town of Himara for Have Lunch at the “Llogara Tourist Village”; 1000 m above sea level. Very close by is a field where Julius Caesar camped his troops for a battle during the war against Pompeii. After lunch we continue to Vlora. We stop at the town of Orikum thought to have been founded by Greek colonists from Euboea Island. Orikum was used as a base by roman armies in their wars again Illyria and Macedonia.
Here we can see some remains of walls and roads visible under water in the lagoon as well as part of mini-theatre of around 400 seats in the nearby hill of Palokastra. Most of the remains are from the 1st century B.C. and later. Afterwards we visit the original house where the independence document was signed in 1912 turned into “Independence Museum”. The house was the first seed of an Independent Albanian Government. Overnight in Vlora
Day 7 – Vlora – Apollonia- Ardenica – Durr
After breakfast we depart for the ancient city of Apollonia. Apollonia was named after the god Apollo. It was founded in 588 B.C., also by Greeks of Corfu, and it prospered because of its role as a link between Brundisium (now Brindisi) in Italy and southern Albania.
Many smaller Greek settlements were established around Albania during this time, but Epidamnus, Butrint, and Apollonia were the most important. Visit the city and an Orthodox monastery turned into archaeological museum. (Entrance fees) Afterwards we proceed to the Monastery of Ardenica. Ardenica Abbey (church) it was in the Middle age argued by a stone in entrance dating back to the 1417, but the first building belongs at the beginning of XVIII century. Today inside the church you can admire pictures of 1743-1745 years, by Albanian artists. Afterwards we depart for Durres another important ancient town founded in 657 B.C. by Corinthians. Sightseeing tour of the Amphitheatre situated in the middle of the modern town.
Overnight in Durres.
Day 8 – Durres – Tirana Airport
After breakfast we visit the Archaeological museum rich in artifacts found in and around the city. Drive to the Airport where our service ends.