Muslim Balkans

THE LEAST KNOWN BALKAN REPUBLICS IN ONE SINGLE EPIC TRIP 

Skopje – Tetovo – Prizren – Pristina – Mitrovica – Valbona – Shkodër – Tirana – Ohrid


Tour dates

Regular monthly departures: this tour is offered regularly once a month from May to October. Let us know your desired departure month by clicking on the ask-us button below and we will match your preferences with the relevant scheduled group departure. If you are unsure about the month you wish to travel in, then simply tell us a period or a season of the year and we will give you a wide range of scheduled group departures: just pick up yours! 

Our scheduled group departures don't suit your plans? If you are travelling with friends and there are 5 or more of you, you can set your own dates and we will organise a tour just for you without charging any additional fee. If you are travelling solo or with less than 4 companions we will organise a slightly more expensive tailored tour according to your time schedule and specific geographical preferences.


ITINERARY

Day 1 - Skopje

  • In the morning you will meet your tour guide in the lobby of the designated hotel (exact hotel address and meeting time will be communicated well in advance per email; private airport pickup and shuttle service available for a small additional fee).
  • Introductory briefing about the region and the route.
  • We'll spend the entire day touring Skopje, the capital of Macedonia or FYROM, as the Greeks like to say.
  • Skopje is a fascinating Balkan capital full of ancient history, socialism heritage, brave-new-world pomp and ethnic diversity. 
  • We'll have a taste of it all: the invisible lines separating the Muslim Albanian community from the Orthodox Macedonians, the stone bridges, whitewashed mosques and gold-filled churches of the old town, the extremely pretentious and helplessly tacky monuments and façades of the new downtown, the melancholic concrete shapes from Tito's era, the colourful bazaars of Shutka, the biggest gypsy town in the world, and - above all - the hearty and large portions of local delicacies (veggies beware). 
  • Lunch, dinner and overnight in Skopje

Day 2 - Prizren

  • We'll leave Skopje early in the morning and head north to the de-facto independent but yet not fully recognised Republic of Kosovo, also known as Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohija
  • After completing the usual border formalities at the dusty frontier town of Elez Han, we'll head to Prizren, locally known as little Sarajevo and arguably the prettiest and liveliest city in Kosovo
  • We'll have a traditional Kosovar lunch in one of the many cafés built along the Bistrica River and enjoy a walking tour around the churches and mosques of Prizren old town.
  • We'll then pay a visit to the medieval Kalaja Fortress overlooking then town and admire the sunset over Prizren and the plains. 
  • Dinner and overnight in Prizren

Day 3 - Pristina

  • Today we'll move further north to Pristina, the gritty Kosovar capital. 
  • We'll spend the day touring this aesthetically ugly but culturally compelling Balkan city of raw socialist concrete apartment blocks, whitewashed Ottoman mosques and fancy capitalist steal-and-glass skyscrapers.  
  • An architectonic highlight of our visit will definitely be the National Library: the current building was designed by the Croatian architect Andrija Mutnjaković and inaugurated in 1982, it is made with zenith windows, with a total 99 domes of different sizes and is entirely covered in a metal fishing net, which have their own particular architectural symbolism.
  • Pristina is also the political and economic centre of a newborn country and thus extremely interesting from a sociological and historical point of view to observe the complex and often controversial process of nation building. 
  • Lunch, dinner and overnight in Pristina

Day 4 - Bajram Curri

  • We'll depart from Pristina and slowly head to Albania, Kosovo's big brother.
  • Before leaving the country, we'll make a morally obliged detour to the culturally and politically besieged town of Mitrovica, home to the largest Serbian community in the country, and short visit-cum-lunch in the traditional Kosovar towns of Desan and Gjakova, where you'll also be able to do some proper souvenir shopping.  
  • After entering Albania, we'll head straight to the rough-and-ready town of Bajram Curri, a place of slightly edgy atmospheres and notorious for its dark past as smuggling hub during the latest conflict in Kosovo
  • Dinner and overnight in Bajram Curri

Day 5 - Theth

  • Today will be memorable as we'll hike the Albanian Alps, aka the Accursed Mountains, from the idyllic mountain hamlet of Valbonë to the remote traditional settlement of Theth
  • The hike will take anywhere between five and eight ours depending on the slowest participant's pace, but, hey, we are here to enjoy the pristine nature and the stunning views of the area and to meet the odd shepherd along the way, no need to race!  
  • Please note: for those not fit enough and/or not willing to undertake the hike, we'll arrange transport from Bajram Curri to Shkodër via the scenic Komani Lake
  • Dinner and overnight in Theth.  

Day 6 - Shkodër

  • After a lazy and deservingly restoring morning in Theth, we'll move down to the northern plains, heading for the once seedy and scruffy frontier town of Shkodër, near the Montenegrin border.   
  • Shkodër has recently witnessed an economic and cultural rebirth and is slowly getting rid of its shanty towns and crumbling buildings, even if its peculiar run-down and slightly anarchic atmosphere still lives on.
  • We'll devote the afternoon to the town, visiting its historical sights (read Italian architecture and Ottoman fortresses) and sampling the scents and the flavours of its colourful markets and tacky street restaurants. 
  • Lunch, dinner and overnight in Shkodër

Day 7/8 - Tirana

  • In the morning we'll depart from Shkodër and driving along one of the country's best roads we'll quickly reach Tirana, the booming capital of a new Albania, a resurged country that broke many unjust stereotypes associated with its name.
  • We'll spend two days in Tirana, exploring its many facets from dawn to dusk.
  • Highlights of our stay in town will be: the intriguing architectonic mixture of fascist rationalism (Italian colonial era), socialist blocks (Hoxha's time), Turkish eclecticism (Ottoman period) and post-modernist experiments; the symbolic Skanderbeg Square with its glorious hoxhaist mosaic; the crowded chaos of the street markets; the many and diverse religious sights, representing the tolerant multiculturalism of this tiny country, from ancient Sunni mosques to brand new Catholic churches and - most peculiarly - the Headquarter of the Bektashi, a revolutionarily open-minded dervish order founded in the XVI century; the large and fresh city parks, where the locals hide from the summer heat; the lively food and night scene in Blloku, formerly home to the Communist Party's elite and now the hippest neighboured around town.
  • Lunch, dinner and overnight in Tirana

Day 9 - Ohrid

  • After a last cappuccino in Tirana we'll head back to Macedonia and precisely to the resort lake town of Ohrid
  • On our way to the border we'll pass through a landscape of gentle hills, run-down villages and concrete bunkers, a poignant remnant from the good old times of Enver Hoxha, who spent millions of dollars and tons of construction material to build almost 700000 of these mushroom-shaped defensive structures. 
  • Once passed the border formalities we'll head straight to Ohrid for a day of culture and relax in this little Yugoslav town of ancient monasteries, gorgeous nature and kitschy beach bars. 
  • Lunch, dinner and overnight in Ohrid

Day 10 - Tetovo

  • On our last tour day we'll explore Macedonia's Wild West: a region of ethnic diversity (and tensions as well), beautiful mountains, isolated villages and pretty old little towns. 
  • We'll first head to the city of Debar on the namesake lake and then enter the wilderness of the Mavrovo National Park to enjoy a picnic lunch on the shore of the alpine Mavrovo Lake.
  • We'll then reach Tetovo, an hotspot of one of Europe's many forgotten frozen conflicts: the interethnic, interreligious tensions between Muslim Albanians and Orthodox Macedonians.  
  • In Tetovo, theatre of bloody clashes as recently as in 2001, we'll have the chance to delve deeper into the complex conflictual dynamics characterising the region, while visiting truly beautiful Christian and Islamic places of worship, such as the Painted Mosque and the Leshok Monastery, the peaceful and serene atmosphere of which strikingly jars with the violent nationalistic propaganda on both sides of the barricade. 
  • Dinner and overnight in Tetovo

DAY 11 - Flight back home or transfer to further destinations  

  • After enjoying a last Macedonian-style breakfast together we'll take care of your transfer to the airport/train station of choice.  
  • For those flying out: we will arrange transfer to any of the following transportation hubs: Skopje International Airport International Airport, Tirana International Airport, Pristina International Airport
  • For those wishing to take the train/bus to reach further destinations: we will arrange transport to the central train/bus station.
  • End of the tour. 

PRICE

4 to 9 participants: 1200 € 


The price includes: double/twin room accommodation (breakfast included; single supplement: 25 euro/night), private transport in the region (car or minivan), entrance fees to the attractions listed in the itinerary, guiding and translation service.

The price does not include: international flights and any other flight not explicitly included in the tour price and itinerary, meals, drinks and tips, transport to and from the airport of arrival/departure (35 euros/ride), visas if required, entrance fees to attractions not listed in the itinerary, insurance.

The route of this tour has been carefully designed after several research trips in the region. It is, however, always possible to slightly modify the itinerary according to the needs and the suggestions of the participants. Our motto is flexibility.

Please note: It’s advisable to arrive in Skopje one day before the actual tour begins. You should notice, however, that you’ll have to take care of your accommodation for any day and night preceding the actual start date of the tour. Without any additional charge we will readily and gladly reserve a room for you at our hotel of choice and you’ll be able to pay for it by cash or credit card once you check-in. If your flight lands on the same day as the tour begins and you prefer to rest a bit before going out sightseeing, you will then meet your tour guide and the rest of the group at the designated hotel in the late afternoon. 

Airport transfer/pickup in Skopje and Tirana is available for just 35 euros per ride.

Disclaimer: the designations employed and the presentation of the material on this website do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of our company concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries. The territory of the Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohija is internationally recognised as integral part of Serbia. Regardless of your/our position on the issue and for all travel-related intents and purposes, however, the territory of the Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohija is no longer under the control of Serbian authorities.


WHERE THE HECK AM I TRAVELLING TO?  

BELOW YOU CAN SEE THE DIFFERENT TOUR STAGES MARKED ON A MAP OF THE REGION YOU ARE GOING TO EXPLORE WITH US

CLICK HERE FOR SOME NICE PICTURES AND MORE INFO ABOUT THIS DESTINATION

POSSIBLE TOUR COMBINATIONS FOR THIS ITINERARY INCLUDE

Communist Bulgaria and/or Ceausescu's Romania