Cycling in Albania
Some say that visiting Albania is as close as you’ll get to travelling back in time. It wasn’t until the collapse of the People’s Socialist Republic of Albania in 1991 that the world got its first glimpse of the country within. Huge snow-capped mountains, inviting beaches, pretty rural villages, a genuine subsistence culture and an exceptionally friendly welcome is what you will find here. Cycle through the very best of Europe’s beautiful unknown, beginning your tour on the border of Macedonia, biking towards the ancient town of Gjirokastra passing soaring peaks and lush green valleys. From here you begin your descent to the Albanian Riviera passing the UNESCO site of Butrint and Llogara National Park, before relaxing by the sea at your hotel in Vlorë.
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Day 1: Start Pogradec
Start Pogradec. Those on the group flight will be met at the airport and transferred to our hotel in Pogradec, situated on the shore of Lake Ohrid (approx. 3hr drive). The afternoon is free to relax and enjoy this lakeside location.
Days 2: Korçë
We begin with one of the most demanding days of the tour. After a quick transfer to Korçë, we begin cycling and leave behind the agricultural plateau, climbing steadily into the border mountains through a landscape of barren rock interspersed with wild flowers. Numerous cols and valleys lie ahead, climbing towards Grammoz Mountain and over the Barmash Pass (1159m) to Gërmenj, lying in its own tranquil valley. Here we relax at our accommodation, Farma Sotira, which is also a working trout farm.
Day 3: Carshove and on to Benje
In the morning there is a climb out from Germenj to a high grassy plateau close to the Greek border, surrounded by soaring peaks before reaching the source of the River Vjosa and descending through its spectacular gorge to Leskovik. We continue descending to Çarshove and then follow the corniche route high above the river to Benje situated on a ridge above the river. After lunch at the guesthouse, we take a short ride to the thermal springs to relax and soothe aching muscles. Both lunch and dinner will be served on the peaceful terrace.
Day 4: Kelcyra & Gjirokastra
Today is one of the easiest days. We continue along the valley towards Kelcyra with its distant shark-tooth peaks, which guard a further gorge. We ride between these gorges until the two rivers meet. After lunch at the waterfalls of Tepelene we drive (approx. 30 mins) through the wide plain toward the town of Gjirokastra (city of 1000 steps).
Day 5: Muzina Pass & Sarandë
After breakfast we load the bikes on to the support vehicle and transfer up to Muzina Pass (approx. 45 minutes), the gateway to southern Albania, for a spectacular downhill ride to Sarandë. Located on the Ionian Coast, Sarandë is sandwiched between the high mountains and the sea and is close to the ancient remains of Butrint, which we visit on the way. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Butrint is located very close to the Greek border and is one of the country’s most important archaeological sites, tracing its origins back to the Greeks and the Romans. We have lunch at the site and continue along the coast to Sarandë.
Day 6: Himarë Bay
Climbing steeply out of Sarande to a rocky plateau, we enjoy a spectacular coastal ride over cols into bays and around headlands. Always with the stunning mountain scenery to the right and sea to the left, we continue along before descending to Himarë, a small communist-era fishing village with a small promenade filled with cafes, restaurants and ice cream stands. There is plenty of time for a swim in the Ionian Sea, and our hotel is a short walk to Potam Beach.
Day 7: Vlorë
Today’s route is as challenging as it is spectacular as we cycle the most demanding ride of the tour; it will show you how strong you have become. In the morning there is a climb out of Himarë, which naturally is rewarded with an enjoyable downhill. We then have another climb before our coffee break. Our break is followed with a nice downhill, but we must climb yet again before we regroup. We then come face to face with the long steady ascent to the Llogara pass.
Day 8: End Vlorë
Operated by Exodus Travels. *Valid on active tours only and applicable only to new bookings. Discount applies to land only price. Must be booked from April 30 to June 1, 2018 with date of first travel no later than December 31, 2020. Cannot be used in conjunction with any other discount or offer. Prices may vary based on departure date. Trip prices will be quoted in CAD. Regular booking conditions apply. Other conditions may apply. Please contact us for further details. Trip style: Self-Guided Walking with Moderate Activity Level.
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