ENVIE D'ALBANIE
The land of the Vultures

8 Days 7 Nights

Group: 6 - 12 People

Albania

9.5 Superb

Description

The Egyptian vulture is a globally endangered species, listed on the IUCN Red List as "endangered". Its global population is estimated between 21,000 and 67,000 individuals with a constant negative trend. It is strictly protected by the Bern and Bonn international conventions, as well as by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). In the past, the Egyptian vulture was widespread from Bulgaria to Greece with a high population. Today, the Balkan Peninsula is home to less than 90 pairs. 

The cultural value of the Egyptian vulture is a key issue related to both the motivation and the challenges for the conservation of the species. It is one of the few iconic species of great cultural value in the world - a true living legend in Europe, and in most of Asia and Africa. This vulture has lived alongside mankind since the beginning of recorded history. It is celebrated in multiple tales and legends and is considered sacred in many cultures which contributes to the positive attitude of local communities and therefore more effective conservation opportunities. The bird is considered sacred, the bearer of spring, symbol of wisdom, of purity and of motherhood, etc. On the other hand, vultures are used in traditional medicine, magic and witchcraft in some parts of Africa. 

Albania is fortunate to offer a favorable habitat for the Egyptian vulture and is now home to around ten pairs, which represents around 10% of the Balkan population. 

This program offers its participants the opportunity to participate in the monitoring and protection of this emblematic and wonderful raptor alongside the Albanian Ornithological Society, national coordinator of the European Bird Census Council (EBCC) and which contributes to the collection and data processing bird populations in the country. 

2 to 2+

Difficulty

Guide

Experienced English-speaking guide

Treks

No

Outdoor activity

No

Cultural Visits

0 visit

Luggage

Backpack or equivalent 15 to 20 kg max

Hotel

4 ☆

Departure

Tirana International airport

Porting

A small backpack is required for your daily equipment

Transfer of luggage

Vans from one accommodation to the next one

Price Includes
  • Hotels: See list below

  • 7* Breakfasts

  • 4* Lunches

  • 7* Dinners

  • English-speaking guide throughout the stay

  • Birdwatching guide in Narta

  • Transportation

  • All visits mentioned in this program.

Price Excludes
  • All personal expenses of participants

  • Beverages not mentioned above, such as spirits

  • Tips

  • Travel insurance

  • Transportation by air

  • Travel insurance

Hotels

Description

Tour Plan
  • Day 1. Tirana International Airport – Tirana

    Reception by an English-speaking guide at Tirana's "Mother Theresa" airport. Depart for Tirana. 

    The metropolitan capital of Tirana has undergone lightning-fast modernization while much of its Ottoman, Italian and Communist architecture recalls its history and spirit of yesteryear. There are plenty of churches, mosques, museums, galleries and shopping malls to visit, but Tirana is more generous when the visitor is carried away by the city's vibe. The best way to discover this city is to take a leisurely stroll through its various neighborhoods and streets to discover its authenticity. 

    Visit of Skanderberg Square and the city center with its famous "Block" and free time until dinner. 

    Dinner in a traditional restaurant and overnight at the hotel. 

  • Day 2. Tirana – Durres – Gjirokastra

    Yesterday Epidamnos, then Dyrrachium and today Durrës, the portal city was founded around the 7th century BC by ancient Greek colonists in cooperation with the local Ilirian community. During the Roman and Byzantine empires, Dyrrachium acquired a prominent commercial position and was the start of the Via Egnatia which led merchants to Constantinople. The city's long history, location and interest have made Durres a preferred destination for those wishing to immerse themselves in over 3,000 years of evolution and progress. 

    Walk along the remains of the well-preserved and beautifully restored Byzantine castle walls. The castle was reinforced with several guard towers by the Republic of Venice. The Ottomans consolidated the structures of the walls. 

    Visit of the Amphitheater. Despite its size, one of the largest in the Balkans, the amphitheater was not discovered until 1966. It was able to accommodate almost 20,000 spectators invited to watch the deadly games of gladiator fights and other events . Walk through its tunnels and stand in the middle of the amphitheater to feel all the emotions that the place can evoke in your soul. 

    Visit and lunch in an agro farm. The "Tree of Life" farm (Pema e Jetës) has many fruit and olive trees, a vineyard and vegetables of all kinds are grown. Cattle, pigs, geese, ducks, hens, pigeons can also be found. All farm produce can be processed and transformed into daily fresh meals served directly at the restaurant. 

    Direction Gjirokastra. Birthplace of Ismail Kadaré, Albanian writer often considered for the Nobel Prize for Literature, Gjirokaster is on the UNESCO heritage list. Its winding and cobbled streets, its typical houses in the shape of clusters and with particular roofs have given it the nickname of "stone city". It is the exceptional testimony of a society and a way of life that have almost disappeared. Night tour of the Old Bazaar in downtown Gjirokaster, where visitors can immerse themselves in Albanian culture and discover a wide variety of local products. 

    Visit of the citadel of Gjirokaster and its museum which offers vestiges of the Second World War and various. Custodian of the symbols of Albanian tradition and culture, the citadel has hosted the festival of polyphonic groups since 1986. Their interpretation is classified as cultural heritage by UNESCO. Visit of its city center and free time in the bazaar. 

    Dinner in a traditional restaurant and overnight at the hotel. 

  • Day 3. Gjirokastra – Gjirokastra

    Morning departure to a vulture observation site. the Egyptian vulture is a small raptor whose dominant colors are black and white in adulthood. Male and female are similar. The body is white, more or less tinged with reddish. White and also tinged with reddish the tail is wedge-shaped. The appearance of the wings differs above and below. The underside is very contrasting, white in front with black flight feathers behind. The top is more complex, less two-tone. In the front, the coverts are white, tinged with russet brown. The primary coverts are black. The flight feathers each have a large pale area which contributes to the pallor above. The head has a bare yellow face where the eyes and ear holes show well. The long hooked bill is blackish with a yellow cere pierced from the nostrils. The legs are pink. 

    The juvenile is very different in appearance. Its plumage is chocolate-brown. The front of its head is very pale, whitish, and its legs are light pink. The plumage will gradually fade with advancing age until sexual maturity at 4-6 years. 

    Lunch in a traditional restaurant. 

    In the afternoon, visit of the archaeological park of Antigone, a jump in the ancient times. Antigonea was built in the year 295 BC by order of Pyrrhus, king of Molloses, in honor of his wife Antigonea. The site is relatively flat and intense archaeological excavations in the 1970s exposed much of the inhabited area and road network. Like most ancient cities, the network is "hypodamic", with north-south parallels intersecting east-west roads. The ruins of a medieval church (IX-Xth century) were discovered at the main crossroads. It is a small church which was built after the destruction of the old city and the old urban system. Archaeological discoveries on the spot have provided elements on the economic activities carried out by the inhabitants. For this reason, some dwellings have received conventional names such as the currier's house, the weaver's house or the coachman's house, in which an iron chariot wheel was discovered, a very rare archaeological find in itself. The archaeological excavations of Antigone revealed many interesting objects, in particular in bronze. The sphinx figurine is probably the most interesting. Other important finds are keys with the name of the city engraved on them. According to archaeologists, these were used by citizens to vote. 

    Return to Gjirokastra and free time. 

    Dinner in a traditional restaurant and overnight at the hotel. 

  • Day 4. Gjirokastra – Gjirokastra

    Morning departure to a vulture observation site. Many other species may be encountered on these sites such as filigules, plovers, sandpipers, and also owls. Eagles are also very present as well as many birds of the raptor family. 

    Lunch in a traditional restaurant. 

    In the afternoon, head to the hamlet of Labovë e Sipërme for a very interesting visit of the oldest Byzantine church in Albania, dedicated to Saint Mary. The church was built in 554 during the time of Emperor Justinian. According to a legend, a man from Labova, named Konstandin Laboviti, was a high commander in Justinian's army. He was so brave and courageous that one day Justinian offered to reward him with whatever he wanted. He replied, "I want you to build a church in my hometown." Justinian agreed and sent his best craftsmen to build the church. Four years later, Justinian ordered that a golden cross, made from pieces of wood from Jesus' cross, be dedicated in the church. The cross was covered with 600 gr of gold. Because of the importance of the Cross, the village took the name of “Labova de la Croix”. 

    The church remained in excellent condition for centuries, but was unfortunately deteriorated and looted in 1989 during the civil unrest in Albania. Magnificently restored, it offers its visitors a very pretty structure and an interior harmoniously covered with frescoes, some of which date from the 13th century. 

    Return to Gjirokastra and free time. 

    Dinner in a traditional restaurant and overnight at the hotel. 

  • Day 5. Gjirokastra – Fir of Hotova – Korca

    "This is my place, there is no other place where I could be". Declared a national park in 1996, Fir of Hotova is an outdoor enthusiast's dream. The park is home to the best preserved forests in Albania. It is the lung of southern Albania. In addition to its fir trees, the park is also home to the thermal baths of Benja and the canyons of Lengarica. Hotova Park's rich biodiversity includes various species of native plants, ancient trees and animals such as bears, wolves, foxes, wild boars, rabbits and deer, which can be spotted in the grasslands and in the woods.  

    Fir of Hotova is a paradise for birds. The park is home to a wide variety of woodpeckers, sparrows and other birds that serve as prey for hawks, buzzards and golden eagles. It is also a favorite place for the Egyptian vulture. 

    When moving between Gjirokastra and Fir of Hotova Park, the route will follow the valley of the Vjosa River whose fragile environment hosts many migration areas. The Vjosa River is the last wild river in Europe outside of Russia. The river and its tributaries flow freely from the mountains of Greece to the Adriatic coast in Albania. This wild area is made up of a huge mosaic of different habitat types, from narrow gorges in the upper part to wide braided river sections in the middle part to the near-natural delta of the Adriatic Sea. The middle section alone is made up of at least 8 habitat types which are of the highest importance for conservation at EU level. 

    Stops are planned in these areas to devote time to birdwatching. 

    Lunch will take place in a traditional restaurant. At the end of the observation periods, direction Korca. 

    Korca is one of the most important cultural and economic lungs of Albania. The city hosted the first Albanian school in 1887 and houses the Museum of Education. When Korça was under French administration (1916), nearly 200 bilingual schools (Albanian - French) were opened in this "little Paris". The city center is home to the oldest mosque in the country, an Orthodox cathedral, streets lined with charming houses and a traditional market. Afternoon stroll inside the old town. Walk in the city center. 

    Dinner in a traditional restaurant and overnight at the hotel. 

  • Day 6. Korca – Prespa Lake – Pogradec

    Prespa National Park is an example of the harmonious coexistence of man and nature. As a protected area, the park is considered as an ecosystem of global importance and has been identified as one of the main cross-border “ecological brick sites” in Europe. It should be noted that in the Prespa National Park, which is a restricted geographical area, a variety of life forms are concentrated, including many rare, endangered and endemic species. Additionally, Lake Mikri Prespa is a Wetland of International Importance, thus falling under the umbrella of the International Ramsar Convention. The Prespa cross-border park between Greece, FYROM and Albania is the first cross-border protected area in the Balkans. The entire Prespa region is home to unique habitats and species that are important both from a European and global conservation perspective. 

    Stop on the banks of the lake to observe this unique habitat and its occupants such as mergansers, scaups, grebes, storks, herons, pelicans and many other species. The site is also home to a multitude of predators such as owls, but also golden eagles and raptors. 

    Direction Pogradec, a small seaside town located on the shores of Lake Ohrid. The Lake Ohrid region is home to one of the oldest lakes in the world and one of the most unique sources of biodiversity in Europe. The convergence of distinctive natural values with the quality and diversity of its cultural, material and spiritual heritage makes this region truly unique. Two-thirds of Lake Ohrid is located in North Macedonia and is inscribed on the World Heritage List as a property “Natural and Cultural Heritage of the Ohrid Region”. The integrity of this World Heritage property would be significantly enhanced by extending it to the remaining third of Lake Ohrid located in Albania. 

    An exceptional natural phenomenon, Lake Ohrid serves as a refuge for many endemic species of freshwater fauna and flora dating from the Tertiary. Its oligotrophic waters support over 200 species of plants and animals unique to the lake, including algae, turbellar flatworms, snails, crustaceans and 17 endemic fish species including two species of trout, as well as a rich avifauna. 

    Free time on the banks of the lake in the company of swans, herons, cormorants, etc. 

    Dinner in a traditional restaurant and overnight at the hotel. 

  • Day 7. Pogradec – Lin – Kruja 

    Direction Lin and visit this picturesque fishing village stretching on the shores of Lake Ohrid. The brave can climb to the top of the hill to admire the view that this high point offers, but also the remains of the ancient churches of Lin dating from the 6th century. 

    Lunch in Librazhd on the banks of the lumi Shkumbin 

    Road to Kruja, an ancient medieval city. Rich in history and tradition, Kruja is the homeland of patriots and the epicenter of Albania's independence from the Ottoman Empire. It was here that Gjergj Kastriot Skanderbeg, Albania's greatest national hero, defended the country from invading Ottomans. The national museum dedicated to the hero is housed in the famous castle of Kruja and shows both the story of the legendary hero and the traditional way of life of the town's population. The city's famous bazaar serves as a bridge between this glorious past and the present, offering a rich range of traditional products made by local artisans. Home to one of the spiritual centers of the country, that of Sarisalltik. Kruja is a crucial destination for every local and visitor. Free time in the bazaar. 

    Dinner in a traditional restaurant and overnight at the hotel. 

  • Day 8. Kruja – Tirana International Airport

    Free time until departure to the airport. 

Passport:

A valid passport or an ID (at least 6 months from the start of the stay) is required to enter in Albania

Insurance:

International travel insurance is strongly recommended to cover the consequences of incidents that may occur while travelling, travelling and staying abroad. It is the traveller's responsibility to check with his travel agent or insurer before departure.

Notes:

Participants must bring with them a pair of binoculars or a telescope. 

Depending on the season and/or the availability of restaurants, dinners may be taken in hotels.  

Due to overbooking situation, hotels and restaurants are indicative only. 

 For security reasons and in case of force majeure, the guide has all the authority to adapt or even cancel an itinerary. This is all the more valid depending on the evolution of the weather or for medical reasons. 

The guide being responsible for all the people in his charge and for the cohesion of the group, can at any time adapt the pace of the walk, the effort, the itinerary... in order to avoid the isolation of one or more participants. 

The guide has the duty to respect the environment in which the group evolves. 

The distances, elevations and walking times are given as an indication. 

Good to know: 

This discovery stay includes walks over significant distances and elevations in a natural environment. It is not recommended for children under 15 years old. 

It is advisable to have good walking experience and resistance. 

It is recommended to have good health and physical condition. 

Avoid drinking tap or spring water, unless your guide allows you to. 

Respect the environment in which you operate. He will give it back to you.