Introduction of the tour:
The Albanians first appear in the historical record in Byzantine sources of the late 11th century. At this point, they are full Christianized. From the 15th century until the year 1912, Albania is in the hands of the Ottoman Turks where the Islam overshadowed Christianity. In 1969, religions were officially banned in Albania, making the country the first and only constitutionally atheist state ever. Knowing this, would you believe that one of the most devoted Christian “Mother Teresa” was originally Albanian?
After the fall of Communism in 1991, there are three major religions in Albania, namely Islam, Catholic and Orthodox. Nowadays, religion doesn’t play a large role in Albania, making it the thirteenth least religious country in the world.
Knowing this, Albania is an interesting destination to visit if you are interested in the history of religion in Albania, churches and mosques.
This tour last 6/7/8 days (tailor-made up to your wishes) and the visits may include:
Tirana (Bektashi) – Ardenica – Apollonia – Berat (mount Tomorri) – Korca – Voskopoja – Ohrid – Tushemisht – Tirana – Kruja (monastery up the mountain) – Saint Anthony Church
Day 1: Tirana
Arrival at “Mother Teresa” Airport, meet & greet by our representative and transfer to hotel. Visit the National Historic Museum in Tirana offering an in depth introduction to Albanian history from prehistoric times to present day. Welcome dinner at a traditional Albanian restaurant with live music. Overnight in Tirana.
Day 2: Tirana – Ardenica – Apollonia – Berat
After breakfast we depart for Berat. On the way to this UNESCO World Heritage Site, we visit Ardenica and Apollonia. Ardenica is an Orthodox monastery built in the 13th century. It is thought that it was in this idyllic place that the marriage of the Albanian national hero Scanderbeg was celebrated in the 15th century. After Ardenica we proceed to Apollonia, situated on the famous Via Egnatia. Apollonia was founded at the beginning of the 7th century BC by the Greek colonists and in Roman times, it was a large and flourishing city (with 50.000 residents in the second century BC) near Aos river (today Vjosa). The monastery (which houses the museum) courtyard enclosed a Byzantine church dating back to the 14th century. We will have lunch in Apollonia. After lunch we continue our trip to Berat,which is also known as “the city of thousand windows”. After the check in into the hotel, we will have a walk in the neighborhood called “Mangalem” and visit the ethnographic museum. Overnight in Berat.
Day 3: Berat
After breakfast we visit the Castle and the Onufri museum. People are still living within the walls of the castle, just like their ancestors did. Onufri was an Albanian Icon master painter of the 16th century who painted many orthodox churches in Albania and Greece. In the afternoon we go to Mount Tomorri, which is of great spiritual importance to the local people. On the summit of the mountain, Bektashi shrine to the brothers of Imam Husain and Abbas Ibn Ali can be found. Each August, thousands of people make a pilgrimage to this shrine. Overnight in Berat.
Day 4: Berat – Voskopoja
After an early breakfast we depart for Voskopoja, one of the most important towns in the Balkans during the beginning of the 18th century. On the way we stop at the castle and the old church of Elbasan. After arriving in Voskopoja in the afternoon, we visit the town with its most important church with frescoes from the Zeografi brothers. Overnight in Voskopoja.
Day 5: Voskopoja – Korca – Ohrid – Tushemisht
On this day, we cross the border with Macedonia to the beautiful town of Ohrid. But before arriving in Ohrid, we will make a quick stop in Korca where we will see the first school of Albania, The Mosque of Mirahori (one of the oldest in the country) and the Orthodox Cathedral. After these visits we go into Macedonia where we will visit St. Naum Monastery. In the monastery we follow the path of St. Naum, meeting the legends of all the miracles he made before and after he built his church on the top of the rock. Visit of the monastery and the springs of Black (Crni) Drim River. After this stop we continue our trip to Ohrid where we will visit the following places: the Church “St. Sofia”, built between the 11th and 14th century, which was the seat of the Archbishop. “St. Clement”, a classic Orthodox Byzantine church, dominating the Old Town, demonstrates the link between Byzantine and Italian Renaissance art. At “Plaoshnik”, in the 9 the century, St. Clement of Ohrid founded the first University of Europe and educated 3.500 students, St. John at Kaneo, which is built on the shore of the Lake at the western end of the Old Town, and provides spectacular panoramic views of the Lake and surrounding mountains, Samuil fortress, etc.
other visits include– Saint Sophia Cathedral, Saint Painteleimon Church, The Holy Virgin of Peribleptos Church, Icon Galery,-and old Bazaar. After this full day tour, we proceed to the small, traditional village of Tushemisht (Albania) where we will spend the night.
Day 6: Tushemisht – Tirana
After breakfast we visit the park of Drilon and Villa Art that used to be the old fishing villa of the dictator. When we arrive in Tirana we will visit the Bektashi Order World Headquarters and speak to the Baba. The Bektashi are a liberal sect of Islam founded in Turkey who spread quite vastly in the southern Albania regions due to their tolerance and romanticism. During the coming into power of the so-called John Turks they were prosecuted and the leaders found refuge and the conditions to thrive among the already established community in Albania. This led to the World Headquarters to be moved to Albania where they remain today. The afternoon is free to explore. Overnight in Tirana.
Day 7: Tirana – Kruja (up the mountain) – Church of St. Anthony (Lacit) – Tirana
Known to Albanians as "Kisha e Lacit" or "Kisha e Shna Ndout", this church is dedicated to St Anthony of Padua. It is a place for pilgrims. The pilgrimage starts on the 13th of June and thousands of Albanians from all different cities become part of this pilgrimage hoping that by lighting a candle inside the church, praying inside the cave, walking three times around the church, or sleeping one night close to the church will transmit them a piece of holiness and alleviate their problems.
Day 8: Tirana - Airport
Free time to explore Tirana, followed by the airport transfer and departure.