Cycling in Albania

8 days
from
$2,105 AUD
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4.8 / 5 from 66 reviews >
Trip code: 
MVA
Way to Travel:
Guided Group
Activity:
Cycling
Group size:
4–16
Min age:
16

Discover the beauty of this previously isolated country by bike

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. We cycle through the very best of Europe's beautiful unknown, beginning our tour on the border of Macedonia, biking towards the ancient town of Gjirokastra passing soaring peaks and lush green valleys. From here we begin our descent to the Albanian Riviera passing the UNESCO site of Butrint and Llogara National Park, before relaxing by the sea at our hotel in Vlorë.

Highlights

  • Immerse yourself in a previously isolated country
  • Cycle from mountain plateaux to the Albanian Riviera
  • Visit the UNESCO World Heritage site of Butrint

Key information

  • 5 nights hotels, 2 nights guesthouses
  • 6 days cycling with full vehicle support
  • Group normally 4 to 16, plus local cycling leader and driver. Min age 16 yrs
  • Trip can be combined with Cycle Macedonia & Northern Albania
  • E-bike hire available on request
  • Countries visited: Albania

What's included

  • All breakfasts and 2 dinners included
  • All accommodation
  • Transfer for group flights
  • Local bike hire

What's not included

  • Travel insurance
  • Visas and vaccinations
  • Single supplement
Call for general departures:
1300 131 564
Call for tailormade trips:
1300 131 564
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

6

Days of Cycling
Pace:

Moderate to challenging: 13-16km/8-10miles an hour

Terrain:

100% tarmac, where some sections are in poor condition.

Day by day breakdown
Day 272.0km/45.0miles
Day 360.0km/37.0miles
Day 446.0km/28.0miles
Day 570.0km/43.0miles
Day 654.0km/33.0miles
Day 765.0km/40.0miles

Responsible Travel

At Exodus we believe in the power of Responsible Travel.

Every time we travel, we are part of a global movement that creates jobs, builds more sustainable societies, encourages cultural understanding and safeguards common natural and cultural heritage. To learn more about what Responsible Travel means to Exodus click here… 

Itinerary

Pogradec
to
Vlore
  • 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.
    Comfortable Hotel

  • Day 2

    Transfer to Korçë; steady climb through a landscape of barren rock interspersed with wild flowers; cycle towards Grammoz Mountain and over the Barmash Pass (1159m) to Gërmenj.

    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. Meals here consist of organic produce that is reared or sourced from the farm itself. Once you’ve finished eating your hearty dinner, you can sit and relax by the open roaring fire in the dining area with a glass of homemade wine or a bottle of Korçë beer (Albania’s most popular).

    Cycle approx. 72km, total ascent approx. 1150m, total descent approx. 1050m.
    Standard Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast Dinner
  • Day 3

    Cycle through high grassy plateaux surrounded by soaring peaks before descending to Carshove and on to Benje; ride to thermal springs for a swim.

    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.

    Cycle approx. 60km, total ascent approx. 687m, total descent approx. 1352m.
    Standard Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast Dinner
  • Day 4

    Valley ride towards Kelcyra; after lunch at Tepele Waterfalls transfer to Gjirokastra for afternoon city tour.

    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). The well-preserved town is perched on the steep side of the Drino Valley, overlooking snow-capped mountains. In the afternoon we take a cultural tour through the city and explore its narrow cobbled alleys and 18th Century Ottoman houses. We also visit the 13th Century castle and learn about the fascinating history of this town, which has seen many rulers and has inspired poets, authors and artists.

    Cycle approx. 46km, total ascent approx. 350m, total descent approx. 520m.
    Comfortable Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 5

    Transfer up the Muzina Pass, long descent to Sarandë via the coast and the UNESCO site of Butrint.

    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.

    Cycle approx. 70km, total ascent approx. 725m, total descent approx. 1285m.
    Comfortable Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 6

    Spectacular coastal ride to the long beach of 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.

    Cycle approx. 54km, total ascent approx. 1064m, total descent approx. 1064m.
    Comfortable Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 7

    Ride towards Vlorë; optional 1043m climb to the Llogara Pass; long descent through Llogara N.P. finishing by the coast.

    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. At 1043m above sea level, this climb is completely optional, so if you think it is too much then you can jump in the support vehicle. However, if you are looking for an extra challenge, this climb comes with a real sense of achievement, and the views are fantastic. At the pass itself (which you will also see if you take the van) it is possible to see across to Italy on a clear day. We recommend taking a warmer layer for reaching the top of the pass. From here you enter Llogara National Park, home to black pine, Eurasian otter and golden eagles. The park is a scenic expanse of protected woodland that encompasses the forests on the northern side of the Llogora Pass. We begin to descend and have lunch in the National Park. In the afternoon we continue descending towards our hotel, which is located by the sea just outside of the city. Here we can relax and take a dip in the sea, the perfect reward for a hard day's cycle.

     Cycle approx. 65km, total ascent approx. 1630m (including the optional climb), total descent approx. 1630m.

    Comfortable Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 8

    End Vlorë.

    End Vlorë. Those on the group flight will be transferred to Tirana airport in the morning (approx. 2.5hr drive).

    Meals included: Breakfast
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Combine this trip with

Essential Info

Visas

Albania

No visa required for most nationalities, including UK passport holders, most other EU nationalities, US, Canadian, Australian and New Zealand.

Vaccinations

Albania

There are no specific health risks.

Eating and Drinking

All breakfasts and 2 dinners included.

Food in Albania is quite varied thanks to the many influences on the country and particularly Mediterranean combining Turkish, Greek and Italian tastes. Dairy products, especially milk and yoghurt are present in almost every meal, usually locally sourced.

Under the leadership of Enver Hoxha (the communist leader of Albania from 1944-1985), Albania became a self-sustaining country due to its isolation to the world. However due to the lush fertile valleys, fresh mountain springs and Mediterranean climate, they are still very much a subsistence culture and show very little signs of changing. In the countryside expect your food to have been reared/grown not too far from your plate.

Breakfasts are typically eggs, fresh bread, jam, honey and coffee or tea. For lunch and dinner, meat dishes are often goat or lamb, with fish dishes ranging from trout to whitebait. Courses often come in mezze form complimented with a variety of succulent vegetables, salad, freshly baked bread, homemade cheeses, local wines and of course, raki. Your guide will recommend the best options when in the towns.

Weather

Albania has a temperate, Mediterranean climate. March 15th is officially the first day of spring and things really start to hot up toward the end of the month when clear skies and balmy temperatures provide a nice way to ease into the heat of summer. Summer brings sunshine and maximum temperatures of between 20-35 degrees Celsius. Summer days are long with sunrise before 6:00am and sunset after 8:30pm.

Tirana, Albania

Is this trip for you?

This trip is classified Road

Activity Level: 4 (Moderate/Challenging)

Average daily distance 60km (37 miles)

No. of days cycling: 6

Vehicle support (with limited seats)

Terrain and route: 100% tarmac, where some sections are in a poor condition with potholes and some unsurfaced areas. The terrain is undulating with some long, but gradual climbs. The optional climb on day 7 (1043m) is the most challenging, although there is always the option of the support vehicle to get you up to the pass. We aim to use quiet roads where possible, although on one occasion we need to pass busy sections in order to reach the quiet roads beyond.

Following a review of all our trips we have categorised this trip as generally not suitable for persons of reduced mobility. However if you are a regular traveller on such trips, please contact customer services to discuss the trip and your personal condition.

Call for general departures:
1300 131 564
Call for tailormade trips:
1300 131 564
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Accommodation

Hotels & Guesthouses

On Days 2 and 3, we are deep in the Albanian countryside and we stay in comfortable guesthouses. In Germenj we stay in Sotira Farm that is nestled in a tranquil valley, with fresh water running down from the mountains. It is also a trout farm, so you may find dinner to be fresh from the stream. Here we stay in wooden cabins that contain two rooms with twin beds in each room. Each cabin of two rooms will share their own communal bathroom. In Benje we stay in a guesthouse that is only a few kilometres from the thermal springs and Ottoman bridge. Run by a local family, dinner will often be taken out on the veranda where you will be served their own homegrown produce. Again, rooms here are a little more basic than hotels, each with an ensuite bathroom.

For the remaining nights, we use hotels that are of a comfortable 3 and 4-star standard, all with ensuite rooms.

Single accommodation available on request from £120. Please note, single rooms may not be available in the guesthouses in Germenj and Benje due to a limited number of rooms.

Call for general departures:
1300 131 564
Call for tailormade trips:
1300 131 564
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Experts

Contact a member of staff who has done this trip

Call for general departures:
1300 131 564
Call for tailormade trips:
1300 131 564
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

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  • Reviewed May 2019

    Amazing Adventure

    This trip more than satisfied my curiosity and interest in Albania. We cycled in lots of different regions facing different countries and seeing Albania in all its beauty. Each day offered a different type of ride, the scenery forever changing and the views always spectacular and breath-taking.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Seeing just how beautiful Albania is on so many levels. I felt honoured to have been able to get a glimpse of a country that has just opened its doors to the outside world. Everything from my perspective looked unspoilt and natural. People were really friendly and cheered us on along our journey.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Erlis was an amazing group leader and had a lot of work to do making sure we were all OK. I loved the way he spent time explaining things and helped me to understand the history of Albania from his own perspective and how it had affected his upbringing. Both him and our driver were really supportive and helpful at all times making sure we were OK, had enough to drink and kept us entertained especially when we or rather I struggled up some of those continuous hills that never seemed to end.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Go as soon as you get the opportunity. Make sure you have a good pair(s) of shorts as you will be in the saddle for a long time. I brought a pair for each day of cycling and was happy they were well padded as I really needed them to be for the sake of my sanity!!!

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    The food was lovely and varied. I don't eat meat or fish but found that each meal we ate was cooked differently and there was not a lack of variety. Lots of meals were shared so we all just dug in and ate what we wanted from what was on offer. The plates kept coming out laden with tasty dishes. The chips I think were the best I have tasted even better than our UK ones!
  • Reviewed October 2018
    Nick A

    Fantastic

    A fabulous trip that surprised us from day one. Great food, wonderful people and fantastic scenery. Albania was the winner and we will all recommend going there as soon as you can.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Riding the pass on the last day.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Erlis(the leader) and Tani(driver) were fabulous, taking care of every detail for us before we even knew it had to be taken care of. They even managed a complete bike change one night for one member of the group without them noticing.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Go now. Don't hesitate.
  • Reviewed October 2018
    Sarah Wichman

    Best Ever

    Every part of this trip was wonderful, from the people, to the rides, to the organization, to the food, etc. I loved it.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    It's hard to choose one, but maybe getting to the top of that looong climb on the last day. I also really appreciated the history and cultural info that Erlis imparted to us throughout the trip.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Erlis was an amazing group leader! I had put in place a lot of structures that made our trip as easy and smooth as it could have been. He shared a lot of history and cultural information that really enhanced our travels and understanding of Albania. He was kind and patient and funny, and the trip would not have been as incredible without him at the helm. Tani, our driver/mechanic/snack procurer/hydrator was also an integral part of the group. He was incredibly thoughtful and accommodating, and anticipated needs we didn't even know we'd have.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Go on this trip! The trip notes and packing list covered everything very thoroughly.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    The trip was very well run, and truly excellent. I cannot say enough about how great Erlis and Tani are - they really made this trip this wonderful. I would highly recommend this trip to anyone who can handle some challenging cycling.
  • Reviewed October 2018
    Francesca Wiseman

    Cycle Albania

    Albania is incredibly beautiful. It has some of the most spectacular mountain scenery that will forever be etched in my memory. Cycling is a fantastic way to see a country and visit lesser touristy places and this trip was certainly no exception. The people are very hospitable and the Cycle Albania team were simply amazing. The food was a fusion of Mediterranean and Turkish meze style and every meal was a feast in itself!

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Reaching the top of Llogara pass was one of the most powerful moments of the trip. The climb itself is not too hard - it is long and steady - but the hills on the way to the pass make the climb more challenging.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Our leader was Erlis Rizvanolli. Erlis was incredibly trusting towards us from the word go: Every day we got a map with a description as part of our briefing which was a nice detail which I have not seen on other cycling tours. Erlis let us ride at our own pace and we would re-group at regular intervals and he did not feel the need to control us and always be in the lead - I really appreciated the freedom to ride how I chose, this is not something I have experienced on other Exodus cycling tours and it made this trip stand out from the others. Due to the meze (sharing) approach to eating, Erlis would pay for every meal and trusted us to record the cost of our food and drink and did not take any money from us until the end of the holiday. Erlis was well organized and the tour ran slick. Erlis went the extra mile to ensure we had a fantastic holiday and even got in the kitchen on the final morning to make our breakfast because the chef was hospitalized in a vehicle accident on his way to work.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Albania is not flat - be prepared to cycle up some hills. The Albanians also love cheese, there is usually one cheese dish per meal (sometimes two) but there was an abundance of food so if you are lactose intolerant do not worry!

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Our support driver, Tani Kurti, was instrumental to the smooth operation of the cycle tour. Tani is a kind and patient soul, who looked after the back of the group and ensured no-one was left behind. Not only was Tani a careful and considerate driver, but he did whatever was needed to look after the group: he was our bike mechanic, driver, first-aider, waiter, group photographer and he always made sure we were well fed and hydrated whilst cycling.
  • Reviewed October 2018
    Vicky Green

    Fabulous trip

    Beautiful country with a mixture of forest, coast and mountains. Our group bonded really well; we had lots of laughs and lots of encouragement for each other up the hills. Food was good; mezze style shared between the group which worked really well. Lots of snack stops to keep us fuelled.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Making it up the Llogara Pass which was hot, very hilly but well worth it!

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Erlis was fantastic. Very easy going, knowledgeable about the history of Albania and nothing was too much trouble for him.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Do some hill practice before coming, as the first day starts with some tough hills. Visit now before word gets out about how fabulous Albania and its people are.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Brilliant holiday - book it now and make sure you try the raki when you get there!
  • Reviewed October 2018
    paul cullen

    Cycling Albania

    A fantastic way to see this wonderful country. The first part of the trip is mainly inland in more rural mountainous areas and the second part along the Albanian riviera. Great hospitality and food, considerate drivers on the roads and friendly people as we passed through the smaller places. The cycling has some challenging climbs on the first and final days but is as described on the trip notes and classification. Nice to have some shorter cycling days to be able to do the tours in Gjirokaster and the Roman site at Butrint.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Roman city of Butrint.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Great service by our group leader Dimitri especially in managing and organising the coffee stops, lunches and evening meals.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Make sure you try the Iced coffee in cans. Lunches were lovely but maybe too much for lunchtime whilst cycling, show self restraint!

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Exodus and Cycling Albania (local company) delivered another excellent cycling trip.
  • Reviewed October 2018
    Dinah Gibbs

    Great opportunity to see, hear, taste and truly experience Albania

    A week in which you will challenge your fitness, enjoy delicious and healthful food, meet welcoming communities and see the beauty of unspoilt countryside.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The Alberian people were kind and generous. All interactions we had were totally positive. We felt welcomed everywhere we went. Both mountain and coastal areas were wonderful, very different in architecture, scenery and culture.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Dmitry was totally professional. Nothing was overlooked. He was very well prepared, kind, humerous and tireless. Our driver was on the ball with roadside bike adjustments, helping with baggage and a fabulous in- vehicle Playlist. His energy level was impressive.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Train,train, train. You will be glad you did. If in doubt of your desire to cycle like a fiend for a week; consider an ebike. Don't underestimate the hills. There is good reason that your guides supply snacks at every turn!

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    The first and last days are hard. However the bikes are perfect for the job, the roads surprisingly good and the guides know how to support you. Some of the middle days are less demanding, so it's nicely paced. The experience IA worth the tired legs.
  • Reviewed September 2018
    Susie Giles

    Fantastic Trip

    It says it's challenging and it is - but the effort is worth it. The scenery is fantastic - at times it felt like "cycling through a postcard"... hard climbs and fun descents. The food is great - really fresh and vibrant; lots of good fish, local vegetables, cheese and meat - delicious and plenty of it! An interesting and beautiful country - I'd definitely recommend it - if you are up for some long steady climbing!

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Getting to the top of the long climb on the last day (even tho I wimped out of the first part of it...) it was still long and amazing views.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    The leader was organised, efficient and friendly.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    get some hill practice in before you go.
  • Reviewed September 2018
    Carl Blaney

    Cycle Albania, if in any doubt...do it...

    Excellent week, great guide & support, great group of people, lovely country, well maintained bikes. Food was very good at all of the stops and the although some of the accommodation was a little basic it's all you need as you are only there for the night and there isn't much time spent around the hotels / guesthouses as we were always busy with activities. There seems to be a lot of money being spent on new roads and the 14km descent on a brand new road was fun :) , I do wonder if these roads will become busy in time, but at the moment we saw very few other vehicles on a large percentage of the rides.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The stunning scenery of the mountains and coastline. The feeling at the end of the week went you look back at all of the days achievements.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Erlis was FANTASTIC... He did everything he could to make the trip enjoyable and informative while leaving the group to do things at their own pace.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Many other reviewers are saying do this trip sooner rather than later, before Albania becomes like any other European country and I can only agree.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    The difficulty of this trip was just right, any more difficult and it would have become more of a challenge than a holiday. The last day I'd recommend doing your best to do the big hill, it's really worth it when you finally get to the top.
  • Reviewed September 2018

    Cycling Albania

    A really good trip, ticked all the boxes - good cycling, stunning scenary, great weather, good food, great group to travel with and an excellent trip leader

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    For me, it was seeing the group cycle up the Llogora pass, closely followed by the way the way group bonded.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    He did a really good job, logistics were superb, route descriptions spot on, very clear on what we could expect, and where the tough bits were! Gave us some good background on the history and politics of Albania. -Thanks Erlis

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Be prepared for some hard cycling in places, read up about Albania and you'll enjoy it more

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Thoroughly recommend this trip

Dates & Prices

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