Byzantine & Ottoman Treasures
Starting with picturesque Lake Ohrid in Macedonia, this tour makes its way across the mysterious Albanian countryside, before encountering lesser known towns and villages of Northern Greece. We discover Byzantine and Ottoman sites of rare beauty, visit impressive Greek and Roman monuments, while soaking up authentic South-East European cultures - notably characterised by their traditions and history. Enjoy magnificent lakes, unspoilt mountains and stunning coastlines in balmy Mediterranean climate, with each stop presenting an opportunity for well-paced sightseeing and exploring of cultural and historic delights.
Day 1: OHRID - ARRIVAL
Fly to Ohrid where you will be met by your Tour Manager and transferred to your arrival hotel for first overnight. Soak up the atmosphere of Ohrid's buzzing centre and watch the world go by from one of the lakeside cafes
DAY 2: OHRID - ST.NAUM – ELBASAN – TIRANA
After breakfast, we board the ship for a short cruise to St. Naum Monastery, enjoying unique views of Ohrid town from the lake. After visiting picturesque hilltop church, we cross into Albania heading for the city of Elbasan, visiting the castle and admiring fine examples of pristine Ottoman architecture of the Old Town. Upon arrival to Albania's capital Tirana we briefly stop at Skenderbeg Square, which proudly displays national hero's statue, before reaching the Opera house, National Historic Museum and famous Et’hem Beg Mosque. Southbound carries on along Martyrs of the National Boulevard, passing other landmarks, up to final point of our journey at Mother Theresa's Square.
DAY 3: TIRANA – BERAT – GIROKASTER - SARANDA
Today our adventure starts at Berat, a beautifully preserved 2400-year old settlement , also known as “The City of 1001 Windows”. We explore the old town starting with hilltop citadel, before descending to Onufri museum and browsing a unique collection of gilded icon paintings. We continue towards Gjirokaster, birthplace of the communist-era dictator Enver Hoxha, but more significant for its authentic Ottoman face - cobblestone streets, slate-roofed houses and oriental bazaars. After lunch we head for Saranda, seaside resort with a distinct tropical feel, and lesser known former playground for Mussolini and his cronies. Here, a scenic horseshoe bay with surrounding islands and mountain backdrop overlooking the island of Corfu, blends with the contemporary city.
DAY 4: SARANDA – BUTRINT – IONNINA - KALAMBAKA
We continue touring towards the village of Ksamil with a brief stop, then straight to Butrint, for the main site visit of the day. Here, we find ancient ruins of a Greek colony and remain stunned at every turn after seeing a new mansion, a religious spot, a rampart wall and yet another piece of history. The site of Butrint' Greek amphitheatre is likely to remain one of the views you will always retain and pleasantly recall. After visiting this magnificent archaeological site, we cross into Greece for a penultimate leg of our journey. There is a pleasant detour to the walled lakeside town of Ionnina, for a leisurely stroll in the centre, before we reach our overnight stop at the city of Kalambaka.
DAY 5: KALAMBAKA (METEORA MONASTERY) – VERGINA - THESSALONIKA
The anticipation grows as we approach UNESCO protectorate and 'columns of the sky' where 24 monasteries were built on almost inaccessible sandstone peaks from the 11th century onwards. We make our way up walking trails to explore fully operational monasteries, enjoying breathtaking panoramas and treasured collection of 16th-century post-Byzantine frescoes. We then head for Vergina, formerly an ancient city of Aigai and seat of the Macedonian kings, but discovered only in 1977! After a brief history talk and time at leisure in the Archaeological Museum, our day ends at Greece's second largest metropolis and significant Byzantine site, the city of Thessalonika.
DAY 6 : THESSALONIKA – PELLA – BITOLA
After breakfast, we enjoy Thessalonika's prime sites with a help of local guide. Steep stone-paved streets with whitewashed houses and overhanging balconies, sandwiched between original Byzantine city-walls, lead to a viewpoint with magnificent views across the city and its main port. After the tour, we travel eastbound reaching the town of Pella, birthplace of Alexander the Great, which nowadays attracts visitors with its glorious display of multicoloured mosaics depicting mythology scenes. We re-enter Macedonia and visit the ancient site of Heraclea, once an important trading site for the Romans, before its fall into decay after a huge earthquake in the 6th century. Evening arrival to Bitola, Ottoman Empire's famous “City of the Counsels”.
DAY 7: BITOLA – PRESPA – GALICICA NATIONAL PARK – OHRID
After breakfast we tour the shores of picturesque Lake Prespa and the sleepy village of Podmocani just above the lake, with a visit to a private folk-art museum offering an impressive display of over 700 traditional costumes. We learn an amazing story how the museum's present owners turned their own residence into a visitor attraction, thus preserving rich traditions of Macedonia's folklore. We continue with a scenic drive through Galicica National Park dazzled by stunning views of Lake Ohrid on descent to the resort, ending the our tour with last overnight.
DAY 8: OHRID - Departure
Transfer to Ohrid Airport for your homeward journey or hotel of your choice for extended stay.