Explore the Ancient Balkans in Albania

by , SmarterTravel Staff
Ottoman ruin in Albania (Photo: Libbe Terpstra/iStockphoto)
Editor's Note: This story was originally published on December 8, 2008. To see the most recent SmarterTravel articles on related topics, please click on any of the following links: adventure travel, Alaska, Albania, arts and culture, Benin, British Columbia, Chihuahua, Colombia, diving, eco travel, family travel, hiking, India, Laos, Molly Feltner, mountain, Philippines, Scotland, sports, Togo, trekking, wildlife.

Provider: Mountain Travel Sobek
Length: 12 days
Price: $3,595

One of the best ways to feel like an explorer on vacation is to tag along with a real one. In celebration of its 40th anniversary, longtime pioneer of new adventure destinations Mountain Travel Sobek asked its top guides to create new trips exploring destinations they found intriguing. For his trip, company cofounder and trip leader John Yost chose the newly emerging Balkan destination of Albania."Tourism in this remote corner of the Mediterranean is in its infancy," says Yost. "It will inevitably grow and transform this raw gemstone into a finely polished jewel. I want to be there before that happens, to be on the cutting edge of adventure travel …."

Those willing to join Yost will discover little-known ancient ruins, ornate mosques and Orthodox churches, villages where day-to-day life has remained almost unchanged for centuries, and isolated mountains ripe for adventure.

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After arriving in Saranda, Albania, via a ferry from the Greek island of Corfu, you'll explore Butrint National Park, which protects an ancient city that dates back to the 4th century B.C. You'll visit excavations on site which show the remains of Greek, Roman, and Byzantine societies. In the city of Gjirokastra, which is perched 1,000 feet above sea level between the Gjere Mountains and Drinos River, you'll see an Ottoman fortress and a 17th-century Sufi monastery still in operation, among other sites. Then, you'll spend five days walking in the Albanian countryside, following a footpath hiked by the English poet Lord Byron for part of the way. You'll pass through Fausta Antigonese (where a battle between King Philip of Macedonia and the Romans took place), tour Byzantine churches, witness life in rural villages, and even stop for a dip in natural hot springs along the way.

Trip Planning

Departures are scheduled for June 8 and September 20. Prices include accommodations, all meals, ground and boat transportation, sightseeing and activities, guides, and basic travel medical insurance. Airfare is extra. Round-trip June airfare from New York to the trip start point in Corfu, Greece, starts at $1,454, including taxes, on Olympic Airlines.

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