Kosovo and Albania are independent nations linked with a strong ethnic identity. Despite having a wealth of natural beauty, hospitable locals and an abundance of history from ancient to modern, these two countries are less travelled and very underrated. The modern history of the countries has been far from pleasant. Albania was locked in the grip of a tyrannical Communist dictatorship for over 40 years and descended into civil war soon after breaking free of the regime in the 1990’s. Neighbouring Kosovo underwent a gruelling civil war to gain independence during the same era. Since then, both countries have become safe for travel with a lot to offer and are progressing towards a brighter future and trying to shake off the stigma left from their dark pasts.
YPT’s quintessential Kosovo and Albania tour is part of our wider Eurasian tour and is designed for people with less time or on a smaller budget to take in some of the most fascinating stops on our tour. Beginning in the capital of Kosovo which has a well-connected international airport, we explore the country in depth from the isolated villages deep in the mountains to the cities cut in two by fierce ethnic tensions Serbian and Kosovans. We then traverse through the mountains, passing villages infamous for vendettas and blood feuds, before reaching Tirana, the capital of Albania. Here we’ll explore the shocking history of a Communist regime that was one of the most brutal, secretive and isolationist during the Cold War era.
Arrival at your own leisure into Pristina, the capital city of one of the youngest countries in the world: Kosovo!
Check into our very comfortable private apartments at in Pristina. The apartments are run by a very hospitable Kosovan family who kept this business going even through the darkest days of the Kosovo war.
Meet with your YPT guide and the rest of the group arriving as part of the wider Eurasian tour in the afternoon. We’ll then head downtown and check out the fascinating ethnographic museum detailing life in a traditional Kosovar home in centuries gone by.
We’ll then visit the museum of Kosovo with discarded artillery and weapons left over from the war. Usually devoid of visitors, this museum details the ancient history of this land and covers their brutal fight for independence.
We’ll then head to a local Kosovan restaurant for delicious food and to warm ourselves up with their homemade rakija!
Overnight in private apartment in Pristina.
Thursday 18th November
We get up early to board our private bus for the extremely scenic four hour drive to Brod.
Brod is populated by the Gorani people. The Gorani have a total population of roughly 50,000 people. They are primarily sheep and cattle herders, but also have a cartel network of dessert/sweet shops. They live in a very geographically small mountainous area of the most southern part of Kosovo, in and near the city of Dragash just south of Prizren. The Gorani have their own language, which is a Torlakian Slavic language, related to Serbian and Macedonian, with Albanian and Turkish loanwords.
We will stop for lunch at the new hotel that has been built just on the outskirts of Brod.
We take our time walking around the old village, where there are numerous chances for some great photos and some wonderful hiking routes.
The village was heavily damaged during the Kosovo war as both Serbian troops and Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) militias operated in the area. Many homes are still ruined by artillery and NATO strikes and some of the walls of buildings are still daubed with ‘Allah hu akbar’’, faded graffiti left by the KLA.
A chance for dinner and drinks with Brod’s very famous “Borat,” a somewhat local celebrity that usually comes to meet our groups and is very happy to have a drink and have photos taken.
Leisurely drive back to Pristina.
Overnight at private apartment.
Friday 19th November
We wake up early and grab breakfast before heading to the bus station for the short bus journey to Mitrovica.
This tense and divided city has been the scene of numerous bloody fights and international incidents. Divided into two parts by a river, Kosovar and Serbian, each side is like crossing into a different nation.
We will arrive on the Kosovar side and grab lunch in a local restaurant, before exploring the sights on this side of the river.
We then cross the tense bridge, guarded by international peacekeepers, and enter the Serbian side. We will see huge political murals honouring Serb commanders, generals, and paramilitaries as well as visit a bizarre souvenir shop that sells every pro-Russian, pro-Putin and pro-Serbian thing you can imagine.
We then take a leisurely walk to the top of the town, where there is an awesome Communist monument and incredible views over this divided city, you will likely see some international Black Hawk helicopters patrolling the city from here.
We cross back into the Kosovar side and catch the bus back to Pristina.
On arrival we start our city tour of Pristina, taking in things like the Bill Clinton statue, and stroll past the university to the Grand Hotel and UNMIK, the Skenderberg monument and the new Government Building, then the historic mosques and the tight lanes of the Old Quarter. You will see cafes, street market stalls, kids hawking cigarettes and phone cards, plus the vibrant community life of Kosovo’s biggest city.
Free time back at the hotel before we head out for a group dinner in an awesome local restaurant, where you will be brought numerous local dishes until you can take no more!
Overnight in Pristina.
Saturday 20th November
A free morning in Kosovo before we meet up at midday to head to Albania, we’ll enjoy a scenic drive through the Albanian mountains stopping for photo opportunities and lunch on the way.
Evening arrival in Tirana and check into the centrally located hotel.
Head out in the evening for some awesome Albanian food, followed by Rakia in a spinning sky bar in downtown Tirana. Doesn’t drinking grape-based moonshine while spinning in a circle at the top of one of Tirana’s tallest buildings sound like a great idea?
Overnight in Tirana.
Sunday 21st November
Breakfast at the hotel before an extensive city tour of Albania, we will see many relics of the Communist regime, including a bizarre and foreboding pyramid that is perfect for climbing up for those who are brave enough!
Lunch at one of Tirana’s many great restaurants, with the option to eat in the ironic KFC that now overlooks the former home of Enver Hoxha.
We then head to the infamous house of leaves, this was the surveillance centre that the communist authorities used to spy on the population of Albania, foreign embassies and the rare foreign tourists that dared to enter the country back then.
We then pay a visit to one of Tirana’s best kept secrets: a collection of hulking Soviet statues hidden beneath an alleyway. While it is not allowed to enter, as always, your YPT guide can get around it and allow you to get some great shots of Tirana’s former Lenin and Stalin monuments!
We then head to one of the vast former government bunkers of the Hoxha regime, this is where the running of the country would have been coordinated from in the event of an expected nuclear war and is a great insight into the advanced paranoia of the regime.
Dinner and overnight in Tirana as the Eurasian tour group members depart for Montenegro in the late afternoon.
Monday 22nd November:
End of tour
Transport to the airport and onward destinations can be arranged