Albanian Alps

Cycle Macedonia & Northern Albania Trip Notes

Ways to Travel:
Guided Group, Private Group Adventures
Destinations:
Albania, Macedonia
Programmes:
Cycling
Trip Code:
MVO
Activity Rating - Challenging
Challenging

You have a good level of fitness and are looking for a physically challenging holiday.  Previous experience is essential for activity based trips.

8 Days Flight Inclusive
8 Days Land only
Ages: 16+

Trip Overview

The border lands of Northern Albania and Western Macedonia are truly one of the last hidden gems of Europe. Sweeping gorges are carved by crystal blue waters that flow into tranquil lakes, whilst rocky peaks and plateaux rise high above the lush green landscape. Ancient villages, rarely visited by tourists nestle themselves into the valleys, some of which retain a way of life that has been unchanged for centuries. Our carefully chosen route heads through some of the best scenery these fascinating countries have to offer, complimented with some really exciting cycling that equally challenges and rewards.

At a Glance

  • 5 nights hotels, 2 nights guesthouses
  • 6 days cycling with full vehicle support 
  • Group normally 6 to 16, plus local cycling leader and driver. Min age 16 yrs
  • Trip can be combined with Cycling in Albania
  • E-bike hire available on request

Trip Highlights

  • Cycle along the Black Drin Valley
  • Enjoy spectacular scenery at Komani Lake
  • Visit the UNESCO town of Ohrid

Is This Trip for You?

This trip is classified 'Road'

Activity Level: 5 (Challenging)

No. of days cycling: 6

Vehicle Support: 100% (with limited seats)

Terrain and route: 100% tarmac, where some sections are in poor condition. The terrain is undulating with some long, steep climbs and descents. We aim to use quiet roads where possible, but occasionally we need to pass busier sections. Distances per day vary from 40km to 93km (25 miles to 58 miles). Previous cycling experience is essential and a good level of fitness is required. The itinerary is physically challenging, particularly when it is a hot day.

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.

Group

Group normally 4 to 16, plus local cycling leader and driver. Min age 16 yrs

Adult min age:
16
Min group size:
6
Max group size:
16

Itinerary

Land Only

Start City:
Shkoder
End City:
Pogradec

Flight Inclusive

Start City:
London
End City:
London

Land Only Itinerary

  • Day 1

    Start Shkoder in Northern Albania

    Start Shkoder in Northern Albania. Those on the group flight will be met at the airport and transferred to Shkoder, one of the oldest and most historic cities in Albania, as well as an important cultural and economic center (approx. 1.5hrs drive). Please note that due to the remoteness of this tour, Shkoder is a good opportunity to make any last minute purchases, such as bike equipment or items you may have forgotten to bring with you.

    Hotel Tradita or Similar

  • Day 2

    Transfer to Komani Lake; ferry ride from Komani to Fierze (3hrs). Cycle through gorges, forests and lakes to Dardhe

    After an early transfer to Komani we take a ferry to Fierze across the beautiful Komani Lake (which takes about 3 hours). The ferry ride allows you to take in the spectacular scenery, winding its way between high cliffs and towering peaks. From here we get on our bikes and the climbing begins as we ascend from the lake up to a high plateau. Following the line of an ancient trade route, along which the Romans built one of their great arterial roads, the Via Publica, we cycle up through spectacular gorges, forests and lakes towards Dardhe.

    Cycle approx. 40km, ascent 1175m, descent 500m.

    Guesthouse Alpin or Similar

    Meals included:
    Breakfast,
    Lunch,
    Dinner
    Distance covered: 40 km / 25 miles
  • Day 3

    Cycle along spectacular mountain roads with high peaks on your left and Fierze lake 800m below on your right; continue to Kukes

    Today we will cycle one of the most spectacular roads in Albania with high mountain peaks on your left and Fierza Lake, 800m down on your right. We continue along Fierza Lake until we reach the dam, which is part of a huge hydro-electric system constructed in the 1970's.

    Cycle approx. 81km, ascent 1500m, descent 1950m.

    Hotel Gjallica or Similar

    Meals included:
    Breakfast,
    Lunch,
    Dinner
    Distance covered: 81 km / 50 miles
  • Day 4

    Ride to Peshkopi along the Black Drin Valley

    Today we cycle along the Black Drin Valley from Kukes to Peshkopi, following the river. The Black Drin River originates at Lake Ohrid and meets with the White Drin River at Kukes. This is the toughest day of the trip and includes a 12km climb.

    Cycle approx. 73km, ascent 2000m, descent 1700m.
    Comfortable Hotel

    Meals included:
    Breakfast,
    Lunch
    Distance covered: 73 km / 45 miles
  • Day 5

    Cross the border into Macedonia and on to the UNESCO town of Ohrid; afternoon city tour

    After riding past farms and villages our route passes over into Macedonia. We then continue through the Macedonian countryside until we reach the beautiful UNESCO town of Ohrid. After checking in to the hotel we will head out on a city tour through the town famed for its 365 churches, one for each day of the year. Ohrid itself is situated on the shores of Lake Ohrid, with winding cobbled streets and traditional Macedonian architecture that you will find in the old town. There is the option to take a city tour with a local guide for approximately €3 per person (price dependent on the size of the group).

    Cycle approx. 93km, ascent 900m, descent 900m.

    Villa Royal View Hotel or Similar

    Meals included:
    Breakfast,
    Lunch
    Distance covered: 93 km / 58 miles
  • Day 6

    Climb to rocky plateau above Ohrid; ride over passes before descending to Big Prespa Lake in Stenje

    In the morning we start cycling along the lake before another 12km climb to a rocky plateau with wonderful views of Lake Ohrid. We then have a long descent to the shores of Lake Prespa, where there’s time for a swim.

    Cycle approx. 52km, ascent 1350m, descent 1200m.
    Standard Hotel

    Meals included:
    Breakfast,
    Lunch
    Distance covered: 52 km / 32 miles
  • Day 7

    Cycle along the shores of the lake to Small Prespa Lake, bordering Albania, Greece and Macedonia; crossing the border back into Albania, pass Lake Ohrid en route to Pogradec

    Our route today follows the shores of the larger Prespa Lake and also the smaller Prespa Lake that borders three countries (Albania, Macedonia and Greece). Once past these lakes on the southern side we reach Lake Ohrid and eventually Pogradec in Albania. There is then a chance for a relaxing afternoon at the bay in front of the hotel.

    Cycle approx. 75km, ascent 900m, descent 1050m.

    Hotel Millenium or Similar

    Meals included:
    Breakfast,
    Lunch
    Distance covered: 75 km / 46 miles
  • Day 8

    End Pogradec

    End Pogradec. Those on the group flight will be transferred to Tirana Airport (approx. 3hrs drive).

    Meals included:
    Breakfast

Accommodation

Hotels & Guesthouses

Throughout the tour we stay in comfortable hotels and guesthouses which are in prime locations. All rooms have en suite facilities. We use locally run accommodation (some are family-run), serving locally sourced produce from the nearby farmers as much as possible. We are usually surrounded by nature. In Dardhe, we stay in the beautiful Hotel Alpin, high in the mountains amidst the forests. In Stenje we stay at Lake Prespa in a family-run hotel. Whilst in Ohrid and Pogradec, our hotels are located on the shores of Lake Ohrid.

Single rooms are available in the hotels for a supplement. Please note, single rooms may not be available in the guest houses.

Where a single supplement is available, paying for a single will only guarantee a room for single use. It does not necessarily mean a twin or double room will be provided for sole occupancy.

Please note that a member of the group may be allocated a single room by default if the make-up of the group means there isn’t anyone for them to share with. Paying the supplement in advance is the only way to guarantee a single room.

Single supplements cannot be refunded retrospectively.

Single supplement from £170.00

Food & Transport

Eating & Drinking

All breakfasts, 6 lunches and 2 dinners included.

Under 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. On some days lunches are picnic style eaten en route outside, whereas on other days we will eat in restaurants. Meat dishes are often goat or lamb, with fish dishes ranging from trout to endemic species from Lake Ohrid. Courses often come in mezze form complimented with a variety of vegetables and salad, freshly baked bread, homemade cheeses and local wines. In the cities there are a number of restaurants to choose from with an array of Mediterranean cuisine. In Macedonia you will find a similar Balkan cuisine that reflects its Mediterranean and Middle Eastern influences. A typical Macedonian dish is tavce gravce, a baked dish of beans, onions red peppers and parsley. It's a delicious dish worth trying.

Transportation

For the airport transfers and transfers to and from the activities we will use private minibuses.

Weather & Seasonality

When to go

Albania and Macedonia have 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. Cycling season starts on April 15th to end of June and beginning of September to end of October.

Weather Information

Albania and Macedonia have 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.

Weather Charts

Tirana, Albania

Joining Instructions

Travelling flight inclusive from London: 8 days

The group flight from London is a daytime flight departing on Day 1 of the itinerary.

Flights from London

We normally use the scheduled services of British Airways (depending on availability). As flight timings and schedules change regularly we recommend you call one of our specialist sales staff or your agent to confirm up‐to‐date timings. Please note timings may change at a later date and cannot be confirmed until approximately two weeks before departure.

Travelling land only: 8 days starting in Skoder and ending in Pogradec

Your trip normally starts at our accommodation in Skoder in the afternoon of Day 1 of the itinerary. Details of how to reach the start point are provided in the Final Joining Instructions ‐ sent approximately two weeks before departure.

Regional Flights

The Flight Inclusive price is based on a London departure, but we are happy to tailor this to your local or regional airport. Please ask about flights from local or regional airports.

If booking regional flights other than with Exodus, you must allow a minimum connecting time (in addition to the international check-in time) of 1 hour at Gatwick, and 1.5 hours at Heathrow; this is longer than the official minimum, but baggage handling is known to be subject to delays.

Full joining instructions including local emergency numbers will be sent to you as part of our Final Joining Instructions. If you do not receive these at least a week before departure, or require them earlier please contact our office or your travel agent.

Transfers Details

Airport transfers are included for those on the group flights. Please note that transfers are not included for clients arriving on any other flight, even if Exodus has booked it. 

If you require airport transfers, you may (by prior arrangement only) be able to join the group transfer. Transfers are arranged to coincide with the arrival time of the group flight ‐ please check the group flight details 2 weeks before departure. If you do not take this transfer, or miss it, you must make your own way to the joining point at your own expense.

Location start:
Skoder
Location end:
Pogradec

What to Take

Essential Equipment

Cycling helmet (compulsory on this trip)

Gloves and padded shorts

Waterproof jacket

Sun cream and lip salve

Sunglasses/eye protection

Small daysack

Favourite energy snacks

Water bottle

Mosquito repellent

Beach towel (optional)

Thin fleece or warmer layer for the evenings and the ferry

Swimming things

Optional Equipment

Panniers are provided with the bikes. If you want to carry more with you during the day we recommend a large bum-bag or small close-fitting daysack.

A first aid kit is carried on each trip, but we recommend that you bring your own painkillers, rehydration sachets, plasters and a blister treatment kit.

Equipment Hire

Local Bike Details: Giant Roam (men) and Giant  Rove (women) hybrid bikes with front suspension.

Discount for bringing your own bike: £90.

E-bikes available on request for a supplement. Electric bikes offer all the thrills and healthy exercise of a regular bike, but with one crucial difference - power! A tiny electric motor (capped at 25mph) assists your pedalling, allowing you to make molehills out of mountains. Cycle further, see more, have more fun. They are just perfect if you want to try a trip with companions of differing fitness level - or a trip at a slightly harder grade - and want to know there’s a bit of motor power available if you need it. 

A quality local hire bike is now included in the overall price of our cycling holidays. At the time of booking we will take your height in order to reserve equipment. There may on occasions be insufficient bikes available in the correct size; we will endeavour to find suitable alternative equipment but this cannot be guaranteed. We will tell you before you book whether suitably sized bikes are available.

Conditions

1. The equipment remains the property of the supplier and you may not sell, hire out or part possession with the equipment.

2. You must not misuse the equipment and must return it in the same condition as when received (ordinary wear and tear excepted). The supplier is entitled to charge for any damage caused to the equipment during the period of hire.

3. You must ensure that the equipment is adequately secured when not in use. In the event of the equipment being lost or stolen, you may be liable for the replacement value of the equipment

4. You must not use the equipment whilst under the influence of drink or drugs and should immediately notify the Supplier in the event of breakdown or loss.

Bringing Your Own Bike

If you prefer the familiarity of your own bike, you may, of course, bring it along. Please advise us at the time of booking and you will receive a discount on the price of the holiday, as specified above.  You will be responsible for any extra baggage charges, please speak to our Sales team for individual airline fees.

N.B This does not apply to trips within the UK, For which local bike hire is not included.

You will also be responsible for assembling and disassembling your bike as well as bringing along spare parts and any tools specific to it. It is also your responsibility to ensure your bike is roadworthy and suitable for the type of cycling to be undertaken. If in doubt, the model of local bike hire available should act as a guide and details of terrain, ascent and descent are available both in the itinerary and the ‘Is this trip for you’ sections. Our cycling team only carry the relevant spares for the hire fleet. Any clients bringing their own bike should ensure they have adequate cover for loss, damage or theft under their travel, home contents or a specialist insurance policy. If Exodus is confident that we have taken all reasonable care to ensure the safety of your bike, in the rare event of loss, damage or theft you will need to claim under your own insurance policy.

Extra Bike Bits

You may like to bring your own pedals and saddle (excluding the seat post) or gel saddle cover to fit to the hire bikes. We encourage this, if it is your preference. However, please note that you are responsible for your own equipment, and removing your saddle/pedals at the end of the trip. We cannot guarantee the return of any bike parts left behind.

Exodus Policy on Cycling Helmets

Wearing a helmet is mandatory for anyone taking part in any guided Exodus cycling holiday. Group members must bring their own helmets, as they are not available for hire, even if they are hiring a bike from Exodus.

For self-guided cycling holidays wearing a helmet is highly recommended. Customers who choose to ignore our advice do so entirely at their own risk and on the understanding that it may affect the validity of their travel insurance. It should also be noted that in some countries we travel to wearing a helmet is already a legal requirement.

Cycling of all kinds has its dangers and accidents can happen from time to time. Please ensure that you are properly prepared for the riding you are going to undertake.

Recommended Cycling Clothing

Padded cycling shorts (with loose 'over-shorts' where recommended), breathable clothing, and a lightweight waterproof/windproof top. Shoes with relatively stiff soles are better for biking, but are not essential unless you are cycling long distances. Most people want to carry certain items with them during the day while cycling, for this we recommend a large bum-bag or small close-fitting daysack.

Practical Information

Visa

Albania

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

Macedonia

No visa required for British Passport holders.

Visa regulations can change without notice: please check the current regulations in good time to obtain a visa if one is required.

There are no specific health risks on this trip.

Vaccination

Albania

There are no specific health risks.

Macedonia

There are no specific health risks.

Travel health can often be something people forget about before going away, but a little preparation and knowledge can go a long way to help you stay fit and healthy while abroad.

The Travel Health Pro website recommends to have a rabies vaccination on this trip, as cycling is considered a higher risk activity.

As we are not qualified to answer all your questions about travel health we strongly recommend you contact your Medical Professional or a Travel Health Clinic at least 8 weeks prior to departure for up-to-date information. Please note: vaccinations that are routinely recommended to residents of the UK, North America or Australasia are not considered to form part of the travel health advice, and you should ensure these are kept up to date where necessary.

For additional information please visit: https://travelhealthpro.org.uk/countries

Insurance - are you adequately covered?

It is a condition of joining any of our holidays that you must be fully insured against medical and personal accident risks (to include repatriation costs and air ambulance or helicopter rescue services where appropriate). On arrival in destination for your trip, you will be asked to present details to your leader or local representative of your policy.

If you are resident in the UK we strongly recommend the Exodus travel insurance policy, this is specifically designed to cover all activities on your trip. If arranging your own policy please ensure that you are covered for all activities that are part of the trip, optional activities that you intend to take part in and/or on high altitude itineraries, that you are covered up to the maximum altitude of the trip.

Local Time

Albania's Timezone:
Europe/Tirane CEST (GMT +02:00)
Macedonia's Timezone:
Europe/Skopje CEST (GMT +02:00)

Electricity

Albania's Electricity:

European plug ‐ 2 round pins. 230 Volts AC.

Macedonia's Electricity:

European plug ‐ 2 round pins. 230 Volts AC.

230V, European 2-pin.

Money

Albania's Currency

The national currency of Albania is the Albanian Lek (ALL), with an exchange rate at the time of publication (June 2020)  of approximately 136 to the GBP, 109 to the USD, 80 to the CAD, 123 to the EUR, 76 to the AUD and 71 to the NZD.

Macedonia's Currency

The national currency of Macedonia is the Macedonian Denar (MKD), with an exchange rate at the time of publication (August 2017) of approximately 68 to the GBP, 52 to the USD, 41 to the CAD, 61 to the EUR, 41 to the AUD and 38 to the NZD.

ATM Availability

Cash points are available in Tirana, Peshkopi and Ohrid. Major credit cards are accepted in Ohrid only so cash is usually easier. It is not possible to buy Albanian LEK outside of Albania so we would recommend the use of cash points or bureau de change at the airport. We would suggest starting with approximately £70. For Macedonian currency, the leader can help you with exchanging money at the border with Macedonia should you need to do this. Approximately £20 should be sufficient for Macedonia.

Extra Expenses & Spending Money

Approximately £7-10 should be enough for an evening meal including drinks. A bottle of water typically costs 50p, a soft drink or coffee 60p and beer £1. Your leader will collect a kitty at the start of the tour for the provision of daily snacks. Please allow approximately £10 per person for this. 

We highly recommend the afternoon city tour with a local guide in Ohrid. Please allow approximately €3 per person for this (price dependent on the size of the group).

Tipping

Our local leaders are paid well and fairly for their work with Exodus, however, if you wish to show your appreciation a tip of around £2-£3 (US$3-4.50) per person per day would be appreciated. By definition, gratuities are not something that can be included in the tour price.

Responsible Tourism

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… 

Exodus Community

Join the Exodus online community

Don't forget to visit the Community area on our website. You can view the range of Exodus videos and podcasts, read trip write-ups which have featured in the national media and take advantage of some special deals on travel gear and equipment.

In the Community Travel Forum you'll find the Departure Lounge where you can discuss your trip with fellow travellers before you depart. When you get back from your holiday remember to upload your images to the relevant trip page on our website. This helps other people see what our holidays are really like and you'll be entered automatically into our monthly photo competition.

To make full use of the Community you'll need to join My Exodus. It's free, registration is simple and easy, so what are you waiting for?

Important Information

On all guided trips

Although our leaders are well trained to deal with different capabilities, if they have any concerns about someone’s ability to safely partake in an activity, or their impact on other people’s enjoyment, we authorise them to take necessary action which, in some circumstances, may involve asking someone to miss that activity.

Although rarely enforced, by booking this trip you agree to section 14 of our Booking Conditions which clearly states that our leaders have the authority to do this. In these circumstances we will ensure anyone sitting out is safely provided for and offered alternative options where possible. Refunds will not be provided for activities missed and customers may be liable for additional costs incurred.

On all trips

In booking this trip you should be confident in your ability to participate in all activities described in these Trip Notes. If you have any doubt about your suitability you should call the Exodus office and ask to speak to one of the experts on this itinerary.

 

Every time that you travel abroad you should take the time to read the warnings in the essential information in the brochure.

Full joining instructions including local emergency numbers, and details of how to reach the start point, will be sent to you approximately 2 to 3 weeks prior to departure. If you do not receive these at least a week before departure, or require them earlier please contact our office or your travel agent.

The information in these Trip Notes is given in good faith. Where differences exist between the Trip Notes and our current brochure or website, the Trip Notes supersede the brochure and website. All holidays can be subject to unexpected changes; in order to enjoy them you should be prepared to be flexible where necessary. Occasionally, as stated in our brochure, it may not be possible to follow the itinerary as planned. This may be for a variety of reasons - climatic, political, physical or other. In these circumstances we will make the best possible alternative arrangements that maintain the integrity of the original itinerary.

As fuel prices, airport taxes and exchange rates fluctuate, and airlines manage their rates to match demand, it is proving harder than ever to guarantee our Flight Inclusive prices. Although we endeavour to keep our website as accurate as possible, daily fluctuations mean that our Flight Inclusive price may be out of date. For accurate prices we recommend that you contact one of our Travel Experts, or your Travel Agent.

This trip includes time by a lake, river or sea, where there may be opportunities to swim. Swimming results in more tourists deaths than any other activity. All customers should always seek local advice before deciding whether to swim, and are requested to treat the sea with extreme caution if they choose to enter the water. Details on how to keep yourself safe while swimming are shown here.

TRAVEL AWARE – STAY SAFE & HEALTHY ABROAD

 

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office and the NHS have up-to-date advice on staying safe and healthy abroad. For more on security, local laws, plus passport and visa information, see https://travelaware.campaign.gov.uk/

Keep informed of current travel health news by visiting https://travelhealthpro.org.uk/

Advice can change so check regularly for updates.

For all latest travel information about your holiday, please visit our Travel Safety Advice page.

How to Book

1. Check availability

Go online to check availability, or contact us by phone or email.

2. Secure your place

You can provisionally hold a place on this trip, usually for between three and seven days.

3. Complete your booking and payment

When you're ready to book, go to our website for online bookings, book over the phone or you can complete a booking form (available online or on request by calling us). We accept all major credit and debit cards, or you can pay be cheque. Book with confidence: Exodus is fully licensed and bonded as a tour operator. We hold Air Traffic Organisers Licence (ATOL) number 2582 issued and bonded with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). We are also bonded to the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and we are members of the Federation of Tour Operators (FTO) and ABTA ‐ The Travel Association. This means you can book your Exodus holiday with confidence, as all monies paid to us for your trip are fully protected.

TRIP NOTE VALIDITY

These Trip Notes are valid from the "Current as" date on page one. They will occasionally be updated post booking and pre-departure; if there are any updates that significantly impact the inclusions or itinerary bookers will be written to separately. All customers will also receive a link to the most up-to-date version of the Trip Notes with their Final Joining Instructions pre-travel.