10 Days Incredible Cycling Holiday in Albania

Fantastic Cycling Tour Albania

This diverse tour will lead you from the tranquil beauty of Lake Ohrid, via picturesque mountains and sparkling rivers, to the inviting beaches of the Albanian Riviera, providing a taste of all the very best that the south has to offer. This incorporates visits to UNESCO heritage sites, as well as fascinating glimpses into an untouched subsistence culture.

Key information

  • Trip type: Guided
  • Terrain: Mostly hilly or unpaved
  • Difficulty level: Moderate (Cyclist needs to have a good level of fitness, terrain is mostly hilly or unpaved but they will ride on flat terrain sometime, 31-45 miles per day)
  • Total Distance : 475 kilometers / 295.2 miles
  • E-bike: Available to rent / 160 EUR

Highlights

  • Daily guided bike tours
  • Starts in Pogradec and ends in Vlore
  • Tours to UNESCO World Heritage sites
  • Multilingual and knowledgeable tour guide
  • Daily breakfast, lunch, and dinner
  • 9 nights accommodation
  • Support van

Skill level

  • Intermediate

Styles


8 days with instruction in English
Spoken languages: English
The maximum participants in the group is 16
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Accommodation

The cost of the package includes nine nights of accommodation. On the first night, you will stay in Hotel Austria, and on the second night, you will stay in Hotel Millennium. The third night will be spent in Hotel Grand, while the fourth night will be spent in Farma Sotira.

On the fifth night, you will be staying at the Guesthouse Coli, the sixth night at the Hotel Çajup, and the seventh night at the Hotel Porto Eda. You will spend the eighth night at the Hotel Rondos and the ninth night at the Hotel Picaso or Cora. The wonderful variety of the tour extends to accommodation along the way, which includes top hotels in prime locations and log cabins on a remote mountain trout farm.

You will be provided with the best accommodation standard that exist here at the moment. When something better opens, Cycling Tour Albania will use that. So fa,r the Albania infrastructure allows the use of four-star hotels in big cities and three-star in small ones, or family owed guesthouses at remote locations.

Accommodation will be in three to four-star hotels of the Albanian Tourist Board grading system having en-suite facilities. Rooms are shared two people per room.

Cycling Tour Albania Program

Experience a challenging cycling route, providing a feast for the senses and plenty of opportunity to experience the hospitality of the friendly Albanian people. Independent just since 1912, Albania is rising as one of Europe’s hottest and least expensive destinations.

As it approaches a century of freedom from communist rule, its unspoiled beaches, snowcapped mountains, traditional cuisine, Cold War era artifacts, unique traditions, unrivalled hospitality, and wild countryside are ripe for discovery by mass tourism. Some say that visiting Albania is as close as you will get to traveling back in time. This tour includes visit to three UNESCO world heritage sites.

Bikes

All the bikes are giant, lightweight hybrid with disk brakes and 30sp gears and waterproof Ortliebe panniers. Bikes come in five sizes: extra small, small, medium, large and extra large.

Daily itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Tirana

After checking in at the hotel in Tirana, you will go on a tour of this mystery-shrouded capital. Rendezvous at Tirana International Airport Nënë Tereza (TIA) and transfer to hotel in Tirana City center. You will meet the rest of the tour group over a relaxing dinner.

After check-in in at the hotel depending on the arriving flights, you will have the chance to do a tour of Tirana and visit the nuclear bunker of Enver Hoxha, the fruit and vegetable market, and the national museum of history next to the newly build city center of Tirana. Before the welcome dinner, your tour guide will go with you through all the tour details and tell you everything you need to know about the amazing tour you are about to journey.

Panniers will be given to you at this point that you will use for the duration of the tour, as well as a set of maps with details about each riding day. Lively and colorful Tirana is the beating heart of Albania, and it is where this tiny nation's hopes and dreams coalesce into a vibrant whirl of traffic, brash consumerism, and unfettered fun.

Having undergone a transformation of extraordinary proportions since awaking from its communist slumber in the early 1990s, Tirana's center is now unrecognizable, with buildings painted in primary colors and public squares and pedestrianized streets that are a pleasure to wander.

Trendy Blloku buzzes with the well-heeled and flush hanging out in bars and cafes, while the city's grand boulevards are lined with fascinating relics of its Ottoman, Italian, and communist past, from delicate minarets to loud socialist murals. Add to this some excellent museums and you have a compelling list of reasons to arrive a day earlier here.

Day 2: Qafe Thane to Pogradec

You will get transferred to the Albanian-Macedonian border, and then you will start cycling around the lake, stopping for lunch in Pogradec. After lunch, you will continue along the shore all the way to Tushemisht and have the possibility to visit the monastery of St. Naum in Macedonia. You will start the morning with a two-hour transfer to the northern side of Lake Ohrid.

From where, after you have unloaded the bicycles and fitted them to everyone’s comfort, you will start cycling along the scenic shore of lake Ohrid towards Pogradec. After reaching the hotel in the town of Tushemisht, just four kilometers east of Pogreadec, lunch will be served at a waterfront restaurant at Drilon National Park. After checking in at the hotel, you will continue cycling in the afternoon, crossing over into Macedonia, and visiting the monastery of St. Naum.

Lake Ohrid, one of the oldest lakes in the world, came into existence during a remote geological age as a result of tectonic shifts, and with its unique flora and fauna, the lake is one of the largest biological reserves in Europe, and with 212 known endemic species and a surface area of 358 square kilometers, it is probably the most diverse lake in the world. This lake has preserved primeval life forms which no longer exist.

  • Distance: 40 kilometers/24.8 miles
  • Average speed: 21 kilometers/13 miles per hour
  • Elevation gain: 174 meters
  • Time in saddle: 2 hours and 15 minutes

Day 3: Pogradec to Korce

This day’s ride begins with a climb out of the lake valley to the mountain-flanked plateau above. After pulling yourself away from the gorgeous views of the valley below, the ride continues through a colorful patchwork of lost-in-time farmland on wonderfully empty rural roads. After a day on the road, make sure not to miss the bustling markets of the mountain city of Korcë.

Leaving Lake Ohrid, you will climb to a high plateau bounded by mountains and then continue following the gorge for a while until the hills open up, leading to a vast plain and a colourful patchwork of individual farms. Depending on our arrival at the city, you will have the time to visit the old market and its quaint cobblestown streets run between and behind the main streets. Day ends with a short walking tour of Korcë, the Paris of Albania.

Korcë became an important trading and handicraft center in the 18th century due to the development of trade with neighboring regions. It has been an important religious center for Orthodox Christians and Muslims for centuries. During the Ottoman period, it became one of the centers of the growing Albanian identity.

The first school teaching in the Albanian language was established there in 1887, followed by Albania's first school for girls in 1891.

  • Distance: 51 kilometers/31.7 miles
  • Average speed: 18 kilometers/11.2 miles per hour
  • Elevation gain: 412 meters
  • Time in saddle: 3 hours and 15 minutes

Day 4: Korce to Sotire

As you leave behind the agricultural plateau of Korcë, you will ascend 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 Grammoz Mountains and over the Barmash Pass at 1,159 meters.

You will stop for lunch in the town of Ersekë, the highest city in Albania at about 1000m above sea level. Overnight at Sotirë farm, nestled in its own tranquil valley with all kinds of animals a family farm can have. After checking in one of the wooded bungalows, you can relax by the fish ponds with a glass of families special red wine made from grapes growing at 1,000 meters of elevation.

  • Distance: 72 kilometers/44.7 miles
  • Average speed: 15 kilometers/9.3 miles per hour
  • Elevation gain: 1170 meters
  • Time in saddle: 4 hours and 30 minutes

Day 5: Sotire to Benje (Permet)

You will climb out from Sotire 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.

You will be descending to Çarshove and then following the corniche route high above the river to Benje, situated on a bluff above the river. After lunch, you will take a short ride to the thermal springs for a swim at the end of the Langarica canyons. The climb out from Sotirë to a high pine forest plateau is surrounded by soaring peaks before reaching the source of the River Vjosa and descending through its spectacular gorge to Leskovik.

The 17-kilometer long descend to Çarshovë is both a pleasure and a thrill to cycle in one of the most scenic rides of the tour. You will follow the corniche route high above the river to Përmet, famed for its cuisine and strong raki. After arriving at the guesthouse for lunch, in the village of Bënjë, you will stay there and continue cycling for another four kilometers to the thermal pools of Langarica and its canyon and a 16th century ancient ottoman bridge marks the spot and the end of the road.

If you feel adventurous, you can swim alone in one of the more secluded pools, visit every spring by the locals, and hike upriver through one of the most magnificent canyons in Europe.

  • Distance: 66 kilometers/41 miles
  • Average speed: 17 kilometers/10.6 miles per hour
  • Elevation gain: 661 meters
  • Time in saddle: 4 hours

Day 6: Benje to Gjirokaster

You will continue along the valley towards Kelcyra, the distant shark’s tooth peaks which guard a further gorge. You will ride between them to the confluence of the Drinos following yet another gorge.

This opens out into a wide plain with the town of Gjirokastra (city of 1,000 steps) high above on the right. You will continue along the valley towards Këlcyrë, the distant shark's tooth peaks, which guard a further gorge. Gjirokastër, a museum town, is perhaps the most beautiful in Albania.

After checking in at the hotel, you will go on exploring on a guided tour, the charming cobbled alleyways between the white-walled buildings and the fascinating traditional houses of Skenduli and Zekateve. Last but not least, you will visit the citydel of Gjirokaster nesceled on the cliff, with its abound history and amazing view of the city from above.

With a little bit of luck and good timing, you might witness one of many cultural festivals organized by the city. The most famous of which is Gjirokastër National Folklore Festival, held since 1968, and regarded as the most important event in Albanian culture.

  • Distance: 70 kilometers/43.5 miles
  • Average speed: 24 kilometers/14.9 per hour
  • Elevation gain: 427 meters
  • Time in saddle: 3 hours and 15 minutes

Day 7: Gjirokaster to Sarande (via Butrint)

Saranda lies along the Ionian coast, sandwiched between the high mountains and the sea and close to the ancient remains of Butrint. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Butrint is one of the county’s most important archaeological sites, tracing its origins back to the Greeks and the Romans.

You will start the day with a brief transfer, skipping some road and starting to cycle at the top of Muzina pass towards Sarandë. A short ride on a rustic ferry will bring you to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Butrint, one of the country's most important archaeological treasures, where the influences of various ancient people are clearly visible.

After a guided tour in Butrint, you will be making your way along the coast heading north with the island of Corfu always at your site. Inhabited since prehistoric times, Butrint has been the site of a Greek colony, a Roman city, and a bishopric.

Following a period of prosperity under Byzantine administration, then a brief occupation by the Venetians, the city was abandoned in the late Middle Ages after marshes formed in the area. The present archaeological site is a repository of ruins representing each period in the city’s development.

  • Distance: 70 kilometers/43.5 miles
  • Average speed: 17 kilometers/10.6 miles per hour
  • Elevation gain: 525 meters
  • Time in saddle: 4 hours and 15 minutes

Day 8: Sarande to Himara

You will experience a roller coaster of a ride, leaving as the mist is burnt off by the sun, climbing steeply out of Saranda to a rocky plateau. And then it is 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 the bay of Himarë where there’s plenty of time for a swim in the clear blue waters of the Albanian Riviera.

Along the way, you will pay a visit to Porto Palermo Castle, a Venetian castle, wrongly asserted as being build by Ali Pasha of Tepelena in the 19th century that is shrouded in many mysteries.

  • Distance: 52 kilometers/32.3 miles
  • Average speed: 18 kilometers per hour
  • Elevation gain: 1064 meters
  • Time in saddle: 3 hours and 15 minutes

Day 9: Himara to Vlore

This day’s ride is not only the most challenging but also the most spectacular. You will gradually climb from sea level up to 1,000 meters through forests, gorges, and hairpin bends. After lunch in the beautiful national park of Llogara, you will descend towards Vlorë for an afternoon’s relaxation by the Ionian coast.

In 48 BC during Roman Civil War, Julius Caesar landed with his legions at the nearby beach of Palase. He soon crossed the mountains over at Llogara Pass in a place later named as Caesar’s Pass to chase his adversary Pompey. For centuries, this spectacular mountain range has almost completely isolated this part of the coast from the rest of the country.

That is why the local inhabitants had easier connections by sea with Corfu and Greece than by land with inland Albania.

  • Distance: 64 kilometers/39.8 miles
  • Average speed: 16 kilometers/9.9 miles per hour
  • Elevation gain: 1590 meters
  • Time in saddle: 4 hours and 30 minutes

Day 10: Departure

On this day, you will be transferred from Vlore to Tirana International Airport Nënë Tereza (TIA).

Included excursions

  • A short ride on a rustic ferry to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Butrint
  • A short ride to the thermal springs for a swim at the end of the Langarica Canyons
  • Explore the charming cobbled alleyways between the white-walled buildings and the fascinating traditional houses of Skenduli and Zekateve
  • Visit the citydel of Gjirokaster nestled on the cliff
  • Visit to Porto Palermo Castle, a Venetian castle

Location

This cycling holiday starts in Pogradec and ends in Vlore in Albania. It will cover the places Tirana, Qafe Thane, Pogradec, Korce, Sotire, Benje (Permet), Gjirokaster, Sarande, Himara, and Vlore.

Food

Daily breakfast, lunch, and dinner is included. Organic food is still the standard in the Albanian cuisine. All the farmers grow their own heirloom varieties and because of the cost of chemicals used in developed countries, they have followed more natural methods of agriculture. Combine the good flavor with the rich variety of traditional dishes and low prices and you landed on food paradise.

Because of the cheap prices of meals, it is decided that everyone should have the abundant option of choosing their own dish. Nonetheless, your guide will suggest the best places and dishes and make reservations beforehand. If it is favorable to you, you can let the guide choose and order the best at each destination.

The following meals are included:

  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner

The following dietary requirement(s) are served and/or catered for:

  • Regular (typically includes meat and fish)
If you have special dietary requirements it's a good idea to communicate it to the organiser when making a reservation

Things to do (optional)

  • Hike upriver through one of the most magnificent canyons in Europe
  • Swim in one of the more secluded pools
  • Swim in the clear blue waters of the Albanian Riviera
  • Tour of Tirana
  • Visit every spring by the locals
  • Visit the old market and its quaint cobblestown streets run between and behind the main streets
  • Visit to the monastery of St. Naum in Macedonia
  • Visit to the nuclear bunker of Enver Hoxha, the fruit and vegetable market, and the national museum of history

What's included

  • 9 nights accommodation
  • 9 breakfasts
  • 8 lunches
  • 9 dinners
  • Services of an English-speaking tour leader
  • Bike rental with water proof panniers
  • All transfers described in the itinerary
  • Support van to carry up to seven riders

What's not included

  • Flights to and from Albania
  • Attraction site fees
  • Single supplement charge
  • Lunch on the arrival day
  • Lunch and dinner on the departure day
  • Drinks with meals

Cancellation Policy

  • A reservation requires a deposit of 100% of the total price.
  • The deposit is fully refundable if the booking is cancelled up to 31 days before the arrival date.
10 days / 9 nights
from --
Thursday September 6, 2018
(10 days / 9 nights)

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