Small group Albania vacation

“UNESCO sites and local communities come to the fore in this whistle-stop tour of Albania which presents the country's highlights and a tourist industry still in its infancy.”

Highlights

UNESCO sites, including Berat, Butrint and Gjirokastra | Beach time in Dhermi | Blue Eye natural springs | tour of Tirana including the natural history museum | Elbasan Fortress | Korka | Dhoksat and Voskopoja villages | Erseke mountain village | Apollonia | Permet |

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10 Mar 2019
US $ 1205
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24 Mar 2019
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07 Apr 2019
US $ 1205
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14 Apr 2019
US $ 1365
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05 May 2019
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19 May 2019
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16 Jun 2019
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30 Jun 2019
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21 Jul 2019
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11 Aug 2019
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01 Sep 2019
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08 Sep 2019
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15 Sep 2019
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22 Sep 2019
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06 Oct 2019
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20 Oct 2019
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Our top tip:
This is a concentrated tour and as such you will be on the go in order to take in as many experiences as possible. Pack light to facilitate changing hotels on a daily basis.
Trip type:
Small group. Avg size 12. Min age 16.
Activity level:
Leisurely. Sightseeing, hot springs and a couple of windy, bumpy roads via private bus (max 5hrs on day 4).
Accomm:
3-star hotels and pensions, all en-suite.
Included:
Accommodation, transport, listed activities, tour leader throughout.
Meals:
All breakfasts and 1 lunch.
Solos:
Solo travelers welcome. Single room supplements available.
Vouchers
Accepted
Vacation type

Small group vacation

Small group travel is not large group travel scaled down. It is modelled on independent travel – but with the advantage of a group leader to take care of the itinerary, accommodation and tickets, and dealing with the language. It’s easy to tick off the big sights independently – but finding those one-off experiences, local festivals, traveling markets and secret viewpoints is almost impossible for someone without the insider knowledge gained from years in the field. If you’re heading off on a gap year your, perhaps – but for those with a two-week vacation, a small group tour will save valuable planning time.

The leaders are not guides – they’re not there to shepherd you around. Instead, they’ll let you know which local restaurant serves great value food – without running the risk of travelers’ tummy. They’ll allow you to avoid hour-long queues at train stations and attractions.

We like to think of small group travel as the Goldilocks option. It is independent travel without the fuss, worry and bunk beds – and organised travel without the coaches. And it’s cheaper than a tailor made tour. It’s sits somewhere in the middle – and we think it’s just about right.

What are the main benefits?
Big experiences
Have big, life-enriching experiences that would be impossible to organise without lots of time and insider knowledge.

Simplicity
Make the most of your vacation time by letting someone else do the hard work and boring logistics!

Peace of mind
Small group tours take care of the security aspects – and provide a safety net should anything unexpected happen.
Who is it ideal for?
Travelers who are short of time
If you don’t have three months to spend exploring, small groups trips let you cover more ground in less time. Your days are not spent queuing for tickets or finding hotels – so you can squeeze more into your vacation.

Solo travelers who’d like company
Likeminded travel companions plus peace of mind for those traveling alone. Single supplements are usually available – providing privacy if you want it.

Less confident travelers
Stray from the tourist trail without worrying about getting lost, and meet local people without dealing with the language barrier.
Mythbuster
“I won’t get any privacy!”
Couples and friends have private rooms, and you can choose to eat alone or not. Single supplements give solo travelers their own room.

“There won’t be any free time”
Free mornings or afternoons let you explore on your own, or just relax.

“The accommodation will be basic”
Trips are as high or low end as you like. Though off the beaten track destinations won’t have luxury hotels, this is all part of the adventure.

“I won’t like the other travelers!”
Tour operators try to create groups with a similar demographic – age, families, activity levels... Chances are, you’ll even make new friends.

“Will we be following an umbrella?”
No.
Valerie Parkinson
Meet a group Leader
Name: Valerie Parkinson

Story: The first British woman to climb Manaslu, Valerie climbed Everest for her 50th birthday. She’s spent fourteen Christmas Days trekking to Everest Base Camp, and is involved insetting up Responsible Tourism initiatives in the Himalayas.
Roshan Fernando
Meet a local guide
Name: Roshan Fernando

Story: Roshan has led over 130 trips – he adores showing travelers around Sri Lanka. He won the company Leader Award in 2010, but his career highlight was working on their Tsunami Project – which earned him a responsible tourism award.

Responsible tourism

Responsible tourism: Small group Albania vacation

Accommodation & Meals:
The vast majority of the pensions on this trip are small, family run businesses and even the larger hotels in the capital are locally owned so that the economic benefit goes to local communities. In many cases, the hotels in several locations offer fresh, organic produce such as eggs, honey, local cheeses and homemade jams. However, we have a company policy that with very few exceptions all meals should be planned at local restaurants. This because we believe that not only is the experience of dinning outside the hotel more authentic but it helps distribute the income. For example, we take every group for a meal with a family from a village close to Gjirokastra. This home cooked meal is one of the most popular parts of the trip and offers a great insight into rural, domestic life in Albania whilst also showcasing and encouraging traditional methods of cooking.

Local Crafts and Culture:
In terms of supporting culture, our local guides are very enthusiastic about their national arts, history and ways of life. There will be several opportunities to visit cultural landmarks such as the Natural History Museum with its socialist mosaic façade, the 15th Century Elbasan Fortress and the artists' village of Voskopoja, just to name a few. Here we encourage donations and purchasing of local crafts which help to sustain and celebrate the lesser known, yet highly rich culture of Albania. There is also space in the itinerary dedicated to exploring local markets (Gjirokastra bazaar, Korca Bazaar, Kruja Bazaar) which is a great way of supporting the economy and giving visitors a real taste of life here.

Charity:
We always try to operate with the local and wider communities in mind and are conscious of our ability to help disadvantaged groups. We have fundraised within our company and with our partners to help children with learning disabilities in Albania. This has been really successful in providing school materials for a day care centre in the outskirts of the capital Tirana. This year we have also been involved in the organisation of Albanian Paralympic activities. By providing vehicles for the events, we helped people from around the country with different disabilities to participate in several Tirana schools.

UK Office:
It all starts at home so we have first worked at reducing our carbon footprint in our UK Offices. Through energy conservation measures and recycling policies, we are proud to be actively reducing the waste produced and our impact on the environment. We support various projects all over the world to try and give something back to the places we visit.

Group Size:
This small group tour has a maximum of 16 participants, meaning that we have a low impact on the environments and communities we visit and are able to ensure that we do not disrupt or lead to the displacement of local people. The small number also allows us to stay in unique, family-run hotels that cannot benefit from coach tours and other mass tourism due to their limited sizes.

10 Reviews of Small group Albania vacation

4 out of 5 stars
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In depth story review

“As well as the trip being well organised and doing what it set out to achieve, it was actually all supplemented by Ed, our guide and what he did. The vacation really conveyed history, culture and landscape.”

Reviewed on 14 Sep 2018 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


It's so hard to pick just one thing, so I'm going to choose two. Firstly - the stunning landscapes and wild mountain roads. Secondly - the friendly and open people (the generally negative image held in the UK of Albania and its people couldn't be any further from the truth).

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?




3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Yes, very much so.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


One of the best vacations we've ever had!

Reviewed on 09 Jul 2018 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


The whole trip was fascinating. Everywhere we went in Albania was amazing. Some highlights were the farmhouse luncheon in the mountains, Blue Eye
Spring, Archaeological sites, walking the cobbled village pathways in the old Town of Berat, the lake resort at Podredec, roaming around the cobbled Lanes in Gjirokaster... to name a few.
The restaurant in Berat and Permeti were beautiful for the setting and the food and service.
The fellow travelers made the whole trip extra special and enjoyable - I loved their company and made some good friends.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Be open minded about Albania and embrace the local culture and lifestyle. Treat the people with respect and dignity.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Yes

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


Excellent!

Reviewed on 17 Oct 2018 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


Overall the itinerary was fine but it could be enhanced. A night was spent in Vlores and a visit made to Durres. Neither town was inspiring and what we saw
there was incidental to the trip and would not have been missed if it had not been included. Cut Vlores and Durres out and spend more time in Gjirokaster
and / or Berat. Or reroute slightly and include other destinations not on the current itinerary. There was a feeling of being rushed around the Berat Castle
area in particular - a quick photo here then move on. No time to take in the scene. The photos have to be good as there's no time to retain a mental
impression.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


If you're interested in what life might have been like in Albania in the last century and during the communist period in particular, get to Tirana a few days
before the trip starts or stay on for a few days after. The trip itinerary allows for surprisingly little time in the capital and during that time the only exposure to information about Albania in the 20th century is a visit to the national museum. However, that museum is far from the best place in and around Tirana to learn about the conditions Albanians were subjected to during the communist dictatorship.

The minibus concept for transport has shortcomings when the bus is full. Anyone in an aisle seat has little chance of seeing mountainous countryside as
line of vision is directed downwards by the top of the window for a tall person sitting in the middle of the bus.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


If it did it was not made clear to us during the trip.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


Good.

Read the operator's response here:

We would like to thank Rod for his feedback, although we are sorry he did not fully enjoy his tour in Albania; this tour no longer visits Vlores and an extra night has been added in Berat. We are sorry that Rod was left feeling unsure about whether his trip was run in a manner that benefited the local communities and environment. On this trip, for example, there is the a home cooked lunch in a village close to Gjirokaster, offering a great insight into the life of Albanians and to witness the traditional methods of cooking.

Reviewed on 21 May 2018 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


Seeing a new country

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Expect it to be a fairly superficial tour of highlights rather than an in-depth visit

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Hotels seemed to be locally owned and managed, and all restaurants we visited were local ones. We were given small plastic bottles of water each day, which weren't necessary. I'd have been happy to refill my bottle myself from a larger bottle.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


Very good

Reviewed on 16 Sep 2017 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


Loved walking around the Spa town of Vrnjacka Banja in Serbia. Would liked to have stayed here overnight.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


If possible book a day earlier in Belgrade and if possible visit the Bunk Art 2. Some of the group said it was worth while, i did not have time to visit.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Yes, used local restaurants, with local guides and main guide and drivers from the area. Some of the city tours were on foot.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


Excellent guide and very careful drivers. learnt lots of history about the countries, although the more I learnt about Albania the more confused it became, as this country has had a very troubled past.

Reviewed on 12 Oct 2017 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


Berat--beautiful city

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


This trip is really geared toward older (60+) travelers. Had i realized this, i might chosen another operator.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Definitely.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?



Reviewed on 25 Apr 2017 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


We loved Albania so it is hard to think of one memorable part but the visits to the Blue eye, Gjirokaster, Butrint & Berat stand out.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


There is a fair amount of driving each day, sometimes very windy roads so take precautions if you need to.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Definitely benefited local people, particularly in villages and small towns

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


Very good

Reviewed on 19 Apr 2017 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


Being priviledged to see the real Albania as its beginning to open up to tourists.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Be flexible. The itinerary might change, just go with it. You never know the guide might just know best and add something
unexpected and exciting!
Be prepared for quite a bit of walking. Take good shoes as most of the paths are cobbled and can be slippery when wet.
Take a swimming costume. The beaches are really good for swimming.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Staying in family owned hotels and eating in local restaurants contributed directly to the local economy. However, Albania has a problem recycling plastic so being given a bottle of water a day felt like we were creating an environmental impact, rather than reducing them.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


A brilliant experience. Fun, educational and eye-opening.

Read the operator's response here:

Thanks for your comments Kay and we are delighted that overall you had a great trip. Regarding the provision of plastic bottles we absolutely agree with you here re this creating a negative environmental impact. We will be investigating the provision of bottles as it is directly at odds with our 2017 'Plastic Purge' campaign where we are working on eradicating all single use plastic from our trips. Please be assured that this is no standard practice and we will do all we can to avoid this in the future.

Reviewed on 16 Sep 2015 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


Visiting some of the art museums and archaeological sites

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Inqire about local resturants

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


In a sense, I feel that it supported local conservations in terms of restricting
visitor numbers to archaeological sites, local museums.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


Quite enjoyable-in terms of good hotel accomodation

Reviewed on 04 Jul 2015 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


Seeing all Albania had to offer and the historical sights

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


How busy all the days were, with not time to have to ones self. The first day was very tiring after getting up early for the flights then having a half an hour, on arriving at the hotel, before going out sight seeing. Another day needs to be added to the vacation.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Benefited local people by money spent at each place.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


Very enjoyable with some lovely memories

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