Kosovo, Albania & Macedonia Explorer
from $3205
Duration: 15 Days
It’s hard to find a patch of Europe that as secluded as this one. Hard, but not impossible. Among the rugged mountains and green fields of Albania, Kosovo and North Macedonia there are plenty of shepherds, monasteries, lakes, valleys and Byzantine churches – what’s lacking is crowds. It’s taken decades for the Balkans to wipe away memories of conflict and communism, but (amazingly) they’ve emerged strong and smiling. From hip cafes in Skopje and the soft shores of Lake Ohrid to the mosques of picture-perfect Prizren, this 15-day adventure showcases Balkan beauty at its very best.
  • Explore the remote northern reaches of Albania and take one of the world’s best boat trips with a cruise through the mountainous corridors of Lake Koman
  • Experience daily life in the Valbona Valley with a stay at a local guesthouse. Clink glasses with the locals in the village and hike the rugged valley passes.
  • Sail across the blue waters of Lake Ohrid, one of Europe's oldest lakes. No wonder North Macedonia and Albania share this beautiful attraction – nobody would want to let it go.
  • Kososvo is rich in history and contrasts. Step back in time and learn about the infamous Battle of Kosovo on a day trip to the Field of Blackbirds, before embracing the modern culture thriving in Prishtina, Europe’s youngest capital.
  • Lose yourself in Tirana, the Albanian capital full of a revitalised urban energy, and partake in the local's favourite pastime: drinking coffee and people-watching.
  • Lake Koman - Ferry Ride
  • Valbona Valley - Village Tour
  • Valbona Valley - Tea House
  • Dečani Monastery - UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • Rugova Valley - Hike including Lunch
  • Gjakova - Sufi Tekke of the Halveti Order
  • Gjakova - Hadumi Mosque
  • Prizren - Kalaja Fortress Visit
  • Kosovo Polje - Field of the Battle of Blackbirds & Tomb of Sultan Murat
  • Prishtina - Day Trip
  • Gracanica - Gracanica Monastery
  • Prishtina - Bear Sanctuary
  • Matka Canyon - Day Trip
  • Ohrid - Lake Ohrid Boat Cruise
  • Day 1 Location: Tirana
    Mire se vini – welcome to Tirana, Albania. If you arrive early, perhaps get your bearings of the city with a walk around town. Tirana is filled with activity, from its traffic to its nightlife, but on its doorstep are mosques, citadels, Ottoman architecture and museums. This is a truly progressive city that's working hard to alleviate the Soviet bloc feeling that pervaded it for so long. In the evening, perhaps head out for dinner with your new crew.
    Day 2 Location: Tirana / Shkoder
    This morning head out on a leader-led orientation walk of central Tirana. It’s the capital of Albania and its biggest city, but it's still small and compact, with architectural influences from Italy and Turkey. Visit the Skanderbeg Monument, the mosaic on the National History Museum and the Palace of Culture, which are all located on Skanderbeg Square. The main sight in Tirana is the Et'hem Bey Mosque, which sits right on the city's main square. The mosque is currently closed for extensive renovation works, but you can still take a look at the frescoes outside and in the portico that depict trees, waterfalls and bridges. After lunch, take a local bus to Shkoder, one of the oldest cities in Europe (approximately 2 hours). Upon arrival, head out on a short walk with your leader along the Pjaca – the main pedestrian street – lined with 19th-century architecture and dominated by Ebu Beker Mosque. Later in the afternoon, why not head north of the city to visit the Venetian era Rozafa Castle, set high on a mountain with panoramic views of the Albanian countryside.
    Day 3 Location: Lake Koman / Valbona Valley
    Take an early morning transfer to Lake Koman (approximately 1.5 hours), where you'll board a ferry between Koman and Fierza, in the remote north eastern corner of the country (approximately 3 hours). Locals use the boats here when returning from shopping trips or school in the cities, with the boat drifting to the sides to drop off or pick up passengers waiting on the banks, waving for attention. Along the way, you'll have the opportunity to take in the scenery of cliff walls on both sides of the narrow lake. The mountains that surround the lake and can reach over 1700 metres in height are almost uninhabited, except for the occasional settlement. This is one of the most beautiful boat rides you will ever take – emerald water merging with the green vegetation dotting the bright white cliffs. Upon arrival to Fierza, you'll be transferred to your guesthouse in Valbona Valley, where a delicious home cooked meal awaits.
    Day 4 Location: Valbona Valley
    Take an excursion deeper into the remote Valbona Valley – complete with green meadows of traditional houses, farmland, and alpine trees. Due to the remoteness of the region and the lack of tourist infrastructure, today's activities will come as a surprise to all of us, including the leader! You may go for a hike in the surrounding mountains, walking through wide valleys and thick forests, or you might simply hang out in the village with the locals. One of the best things about Albania is the people – their warmth to strangers is infectious and you're bound to find yourself having a chat and swapping stories over a glass of raki or two. This is a great place to discover the history of Albania from the people who have lived through it, and to learn about the local way of life. Perhaps discover more about the stories of bloody feuds, said to be carried out in the name of the Kanun code: the customs that governed all aspects of life in the mountains.
    Day 5 Location: Peja
    Today you'll cross the border into Kosovo by private vehicle (approximately 2 hours). Tiny Kosovo is Europe’s newest (official) country: a handful of landlocked mountains, poppy-dotted meadows and oak forests smack bang in the middle of the Balkans. The shadow of conflict in the late 90s has kept Kosovo off traveller's radars but go there today and you can feel that shadow lifting, and Europe’s youngest member is definitely making up for lost time. The first stop in this newly independent country will be the Decani Monastery. Time stands still here – a place of stunning art heritage, but whose symbolic significance as a Serbian Orthodox cultural monument unfortunately makes it vulnerable to destruction. Continue on to Peja (Pec in Serbian) – the gateway to the Rugova Mountains and a major agricultural centre (approximately 30 minutes). Visit the beautifully restored Peja Bazaar, dating back to Ottoman times, and Bajrakli Mosque. Having been destroyed twice in the last 80 years, the bazaar has been fully rebuilt after the Kosovo War, according to historical Ottoman architecture, and is one of the many protected monuments in Kosovo.
    Day 6 Location: Rugova Valley / Peja
    After breakfast, you'll be transferred to the village of Drelaj, which is deep in the Rugova Valley and close to the Montenegrin border (approximately 30 minutes). The Rugova Mountains rise to over 2400 metres and were declared a national park in 2013. Drelaj will be your base to explore the surrounding area on a 3 to 4-hour guided hike. The Rugova Valley is often compared to Switzerland in its landscape, and here at the foot of Hjala mountain, be surrounded by tall grass pastures dotted with wildflowers, the sound of cow bells drifting through the valley, and simple wooden shacks and stone houses with smoke drifting up to the granite cliffs above. Afterwards, you'll be able to rest your weary bones with lunch at a local family home. Head back to the hotel in the early evening, with your night then free – perhaps try the local Birra Peja, brewed here in town.
    Day 7 Location: Gjakova / Prizren
    Journey to the south of the country today, to Kosovo's second biggest, and arguably its most beautiful, city – Prizren (approximately 1.5 hours). Along the way, you’ll stop by Gjakova to walk to the Sufi Tekke of the Halveti Order (one of the Dervish sects). It is very interesting as we get to talk often to the Sheh of the order. Inside of the tekke, there are graves of all the previous sheh's since 1600 when the order was established. Afterwards, walking along the Carshia (main street), and stop at the Mosque of Hadumi. If you’re lucky, the main Imam of Gjakova will speak to you and give an Albanian interpretation of Islamic dogmas (principles), with plenty of time for questions. Later on, head to Prizren, with a stop at a restaurant on the Drini River. On arrival, head out an orientation walk, strolling alongside the Bistrica river, taking in the cobbled Shadervan square and the Old Stone Bridge. Explore the city’s famous mosques contrasted with abandoned Serbian Orthodox churches. Wander the streets and do some people watching in in Shadervan square, before another memorable Balkan sunset.
    Day 8 Location: Prizren
    Today is free to explore the city's sights, after venturing out on an included visit to Prizren's sixth century Kalaja Fortress. This fortress sits proudly on a hilltop above the town and has a 43-step staircase hidden in a tunnel that connects to the river, and gives you views over the city. Make sure you visit the House of the Albanian League of Prizren, where in 1878 the Assembly of Prizren gathered to consolidate Albanian leaders to unite and protect the country against foreign threats. If you feel energetic, you may want to consider walking upstream along the Bistrica River, where you might meet locals tending to their flocks of sheep among mountainous scenery. Otherwise, if your group is up for it, get together to hire a minibus and drive for about an hour for lunch and wine tasting in the vineyards of Rahovec. The owners of wineries and cultivators of grapes are there to talk about the production technologies and approaches. After this, you could go for a walk along the vineyards just outside the town. This region in Kosovo is picturesque and has been a highlight for many travellers. Afterwards, spend another night in Prizren, where there’s a lot of great eateries. Prizren is commonly known as the gastronomic heart of Kosovo.
    Day 9 Location: Prishtina / Prizren
    Take a day trip to Prishtina and surrounds. The capital of Kosovo is currently reinventing itself as a major commercial centre in the region, and its historical importance makes it an essential highlight. First head to Kosovo Polje (Field of Blackbirds), which the country is named after. There is a memorial here that commemorates the important 1389 battle of Kosovo – a skirmish that led to the Ottoman Empire finally taking control of this area of the Balkans. Nearby is the tomb of Sultan Murat, leader of the Ottoman Empire in the 14th century. You'll then get to visit the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Gracanica Monastery – one of King Milutin's last monumental endowments. The afternoon is free to explore the vibrant city of Prishtina, perhaps visiting the Ethnographic Museum, the Sultan Fatih Mosque or the Kosovo Museum. Check out the Newborn Monument, which was unveiled on the day Kosovo declared its independence in 2008. Nearby is a brass statue of Bill Clinton – thanks for the President’s role in ending the war. After exploring the city, head to the nearby Bear Sanctuary – a 16-hectare area of woodland providing a home for rescued dancing bears.
    Day 10 Location: Skopje
    Craggy mountain backdrops, time-weathered monasteries, stunning lake panoramas, hearty national cuisine – North Macedonia is jam-packed full of the good stuff. Excellent hiking can be had in the mountain forests, Lake Ohrid’s waters rival the clarity of Croatia’s, and 500 years of Ottoman rule can be acutely felt in the capital’s bazaars. And to round it all out, the locals will be delighted to have you. This morning head out early and travel to Skopje, North Macedonia's capital city. Upon arrival, take an orientation walk past Byzantine domes, Turkish baths, and also newly built neo-classical buildings and grand monuments. In the afternoon, wander past the mosques, caravanserais and hamams that fill its winding streets – a testament to Skopje’s Ottoman past. Perhaps take a step back to those times with a visit to the Daut Pasha Hamam, or journey through the humbling Holocaust Museum to learn how Macedonia suffered during this tragic chapter of history.
    Day 11 Location: Matka Canyon / Skopje
    Venture out to Matka Canyon – a deep ravine cut into the Suva mountains by the Treska River, 15 kilometres southwest of the city. This area is home to several medieval monasteries, caves, and over 70 species of endemic butterflies. There is the option to explore the canyon's sights by boat. Alternatively, you can take one of the many nature walks in the canyon, or up to tracks that hug the ridge high above the valley. Return back to Skopje, with the remaining part of the day free for you to continue exploring this exciting city. Perhaps take the Mount Vodno cable car to Millennium Cross, and for the views back down across the city. Get lost in the narrow lanes of Carsija – Skopje's most atmospheric neighbourhood or take in the stone bridge over the river Vardar – an iconic sight that acts as a handy connection between Macedonia Square and the Old Bazaar. Perhaps visit the Museum of the City of Skopje, housed in the old Railway Station, which is itself a unique piece of history. For dinner this evening you could head to the Old Bazaar or the restaurants in the Debar Maalo area.
    Day 12 Location: Lake Ohrid
    Travel by local bus from Skopje to Ohrid, situated on a lake with the same name (approximately 3 hours). Europe’s oldest lake, and one of the oldest human settlements in the world, Lake Ohrid has a wealth of historic sites and religious monuments to discover. Ohrid is an eternal town, a magical hill whose primordial pulsation links ancient and modern times forever. The town is said to have once been home to 365 churches, one for each day of the year, earning it the nickname ‘the Macedonian Jerusalem’, while historical excavations date back to Neolithic times. Despite being a World Heritage site for over 30 years, the town remains under the radar of visitors. Get your bearings on an orientation walk around Ohrid, maybe picking up a bargain or two in the vibrant Old Bazaar.
    Day 13 Location: Lake Ohrid
    Take to the lake on a morning cruise on the turquoise waters of Lake Ohrid. The rest of the day is free for you to discover the area. There are many churches and monasteries to visit, but one of the most popular is the Macedonian Orthodox Church of Sveti Jovana Kaneo, situated on a rocky outcrop above the town, overlooking the lake. Past the church you can wander around to the back of town, exploring the old walls and fortress, and admiring the views of the lake. The Sveti Naum Monastery is also a great option, lying on the shores of the lake south of town, with well-kept grounds that are home to peacocks. The ancient Tsar Samoil’s fortress stands on the top of Ohrid Hill and looks across the town, while a 2000-year-old Roman theatre was uncovered near the Upper Gate – in summer it’s again being used for concerts and performances.
    Day 14 Location: Tirana
    Say goodbye to the endless, merging blues of lake and sky as you board your private transfer across the border into Albania for your journey back to Tirana (approximately 3 hours). On arrival, your day is then free to explore. Feel the urban energy of this transforming city, where colour splashes enliven drab communist architecture, and if there’s time perhaps take a cable car ride up Dajti Mountain for a breathtaking overview of the city below. If you stay in town longer consider heading out to Kruja, the old capital of Albania. Tonight, perhaps gather together the group for dinner. You could head to Blloku (the Block) – once the domain of the Communist party’s inner circle and now home to designer cafes, glizy restaurants, and boutique bars. For something a little more traditional maybe head to an old house restaurant, where the menus are filled with Albanian recipes. Raise a raki to this adventure!
    Day 15 Location: Tirana
    There are no activities planned for the final day and you're able to depart the accommodation at any time. If you wish to stay on in Tirana we are able to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability).
    Dates
    Prices
    Availability
    Departure Date:
    16MAY2020
    Return Date:
    30MAY2020
    3525NZD
    available
    Departure Date:
    23MAY2020
    Return Date:
    06JUN2020
    3395NZD
    available
    Departure Date:
    30MAY2020
    Return Date:
    13JUN2020
    3610NZD
    available
    Departure Date:
    13JUN2020
    Return Date:
    27JUN2020
    3290NZD
    available
    Departure Date:
    20JUN2020
    Return Date:
    04JUL2020
    3420NZD
    available
    Departure Date:
    27JUN2020
    Return Date:
    11JUL2020
    3420NZD
    available
    Departure Date:
    04JUL2020
    Return Date:
    18JUL2020
    3420NZD
    available
    Departure Date:
    18JUL2020
    Return Date:
    01AUG2020
    3420NZD
    available
    Departure Date:
    15AUG2020
    Return Date:
    29AUG2020
    3420NZD
    available
    Departure Date:
    29AUG2020
    Return Date:
    12SEP2020
    3420NZD
    available
    Last modified (date)

    26 Feb 2020

    Trip title

    Kosovo, Albania & Macedonia Explorer

    Trip code

    ZMSX

    Validity

    Validity: 01 Jan 2020 to 31 Dec 2020

    Introduction

    It’s hard to find a patch of Europe that as secluded as this one. Hard, but not impossible. Among the rugged mountains and green fields of Albania, Kosovo and North Macedonia there are plenty of shepherds, monasteries, lakes, valleys and Byzantine churches – what’s lacking is crowds. It’s taken decades for the Balkans to wipe away memories of conflict and communism, but (amazingly) they’ve emerged strong and smiling. From hip cafes in Skopje and the soft shores of Lake Ohrid to the mosques of picture-perfect Prizren, this 15-day adventure showcases Balkan beauty at its very best.

    Style

    Original

    Themes

    Explorer

    Transport

    Public bus,Private vehicle,Boat,Taxi

    Physical Rating

    2

    Physical preparation

    This trip can be enjoyed by just about anyone with a reasonable level of fitness. Please note that some of the hikes may be of a higher physical rating compared to the overall trip rating. Your leader will be able to provide you with more details on the included hikes. Please feel free to opt out of the hikes should you prefer to enjoy a more leisurely day.

    Joining point

    Hotel Kruja

    Rruga Mine Peza Perballe Komisariatit Nr 3 te Policise

    Tirana

    ALBANIA

    Phone: +355 42238106

    Joining point description

    Hotel Kruja is situated in the centre of Tirana, a short walk from Skanderbeg Square in the centre of the city. It features air-conditioned rooms, each with ensuite bathrooms, TV and a minibar, and free Wi-Fi throughout the property.

    Joining point instructions

    At Tirana Nene Tereza International Airport (airport code TIA) taxis are readily available. The drive into the city should take between 30 and 45 minutes, depending on traffic. Agree on a price before getting in. Addresses in Tirana don't have house numbers. Instead landmarks are being used to describe the location. In case of Hotel Kruja the address is Rruga Mine Peza perballe Komisariatit Nr 3 te Policise. This translates to Mine Peza Street, opposite Police Station No 3. Please have this description handy when using a taxi. Alternatively the Rinas Express airport bus operates from 6 am to 6 pm as an hourly bus service between the airport and the National Museum on Skanderbeg Square in the centre of Tirana. From Skanderbeg Square it takes about 10 minutes to walk to the hotel. Head west along Rruga e Durrësit, then turn slightly right at Rruga Mine Peza and follow this road. The hotel is on the left hand side after about 500m. Pre booked arrival transfer from Tirana Airport (TIA): If you have pre booked an arrival transfer your transfer driver will be waiting in the arrivals hall, holding a board with the Intrepid Logo or your name on it. In case of flight cancellations, changes, if you experience severe delays at immigration, baggage collection or customs, or if you are not able to find the driver, please contact the transfer operator directly: +355 69 20 81113.

    Alternate Joining point

    For trips departing on the following dates, use this joining point.

    19 Sep 2020 (ZMSX200919)

    AS Tirana Hotel

    Rruga Reshit Petrela Zona Stacioni Trenit

    Tirana

    ALBANIA

    Phone: +355 44520

    Alternate Joining point description

    AS Tirana Hotel is a 4-star hotel about a 10 minute walk from Skanderbeg Square. The hotel provides modern rooms with free Wi-Fi and private bathrooms. It features a restaurant, a bar, a garden and terrace, 24-hour front desk, room service and currency exchange for guests. A continental buffet breakfast is offered each morning.

    Finish point

    Hotel Kruja

    Rruga Mine Peza Perballe Komisariatit Nr 3 te Policise

    Tirana

    ALBANIA

    Phone: +355 42238106

    Finish point instructions

    If you are making your own way to Tirana Airport (TIA) the hotel will be able to help book you an airport shuttle or taxi. Please ask at reception. Alternatively the Rinas Express airport bus has hourly departures from behind the National Museum on Skanderbeg Square. If you have pre booked a departure transfer, you will be collected at the hotel reception 3 hours before your flight departure time. In case of flight cancellations, changes or if you are not able to find the driver, please contact the transfer operator directly: +355 69 20 81113.

    Alternate Finish point

    For trips departing on the following dates, use this finish point.

    19 Sep 2020 (ZMSX200919)

    AS Tirana Hotel

    Rruga Reshit Petrela Zona Stacioni Trenit

    Tirana

    ALBANIA

    Phone: +355 44520

    Important information

    SINGLE SUPPLEMENT A Single Supplement is bookable on this trip, subject to availability at the time of booking. The price of the single supplement does not include the following nights, where a single room does not form part of the package. In this case you will be matched up with another traveller of the same gender. If a single room becomes available at check-in for these nights, there may be the option for you to upgrade to a single room and pay the surcharge locally for that night: - Days 3-4: Valbona Valley Please also note that due to the small properties we use in Europe there is only a limited amount of single supplements available per trip departure. If you would like to book a single supplement and enquire about availability please speak to your booking agent.

    Group leader

    All Intrepid group trips in Europe are accompanied by one of our local European group leaders. ’Local’ in this context means a leader who is European or lives in Europe. The aim of the group leader is to take the hassle out of your travels and to help you have the best trip possible. Intrepid endeavours to provide the services of an experienced leader however, due to the seasonality of travel, rare situations may arise where your leader is new to a particular region or training other group leaders. Your leader takes care of logistics, will provide information on the places you are travelling through, offer suggestions for things to do and see, recommend great local eating venues and introduce you to our local friends. While not being guides in the traditional sense you can expect them to have a broad general knowledge of the places visited on the trip, including historical, cultural, religious and social aspects. At Intrepid we also aim to support local guides in the individual cities or locations we travel to. If you are interested in delving deeper into the local culture at a specific site or location then your leader can recommend an optional local guide service in most of the main destinations of your trip.

    Safety

    Many national governments provide a regularly updated advice service on safety issues involved with international travel. We recommend that you check your government's advice for their latest travel information before departure and ensure that your travel insurance covers you for all areas your itinerary covers. Please refer to our website's safety page for links to major travel advisories and updates on safety issues affecting our trips. We strongly recommend the use of a neck wallet or money belt while travelling, for the safe-keeping of your passport, flight tickets, cash and other valuable items. Leave your valuable jewellery at home - you won't need it while travelling. Many of our hotels have safety deposit boxes, which is the most secure way of storing your valuables. A lock is recommended for securing your luggage. Your leader will accompany you on all included activities, however during your trip you'll have some free time to pursue your own interests or relax and take it easy. While your leader will assist you with the available options in a given location, please note that any optional activities you undertake are not part of your Intrepid itinerary, and Intrepid makes no representations about the safety of the activity or the standard of the operators running them. Please use your own good judgement when selecting an activity in your free time. Please also note that your Leader has the authority to amend or cancel any part of the trip itinerary if it's deemed necessary due to safety concerns. For more details on the type of conditions and safety standards you can expect on your trip, please refer to Intrepid's operational safety policy on our website. We recommend that you take a moment to read through this information before travelling, and would appreciate any feedback on how well it's being implemented in the field:

    https://www.intrepidtravel.com/au/safety-guidelines

    FIRE PRECAUTIONS: Please be aware that local laws governing tourism facilities in this region differ from those in your home country and not all the accommodation which we use has a fire exit, fire extinguishers or smoke alarms.

    TRAFFIC AND DRIVING ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE ROAD: Depending on where you come from please note that drivers in this part of the world may drive on the opposite side of the road from what you are used to. Look both ways before crossing any road. Traffic can be a little more chaotic than you might be used to at home. Be aware!

    PETTY THEFT AND PERSONAL SAFETY: While travelling there is always the risk of pick-pocketing and petty theft, particularly in the more touristy cities. We recommend that you exercise caution when walking alone at night and encourage you to walk together and only on main, well-lit thoroughfares. Be particularly vigilant on public transport. Simple measures like carrying your day pack on your front, not hanging your bag over the back of your chair or on the floor and wearing a money belt will reduce any chance that your valuables should go missing.

    SEAT BELTS: Please be aware that local laws governing transportation safety may differ from those in your home country and not all the transport which we use is able to provide seat belts.

    Visas

    Visas are the responsibility of the individual traveller. Entry requirements can change at any time, so it's important that you check for the latest information. Please visit the relevant consular website of the country or countries you’re visiting for detailed and up-to-date visa information specific to your nationality. Your consultant will also be happy to point you in the right direction with acquiring visas. Visas can take several weeks to process, so familiarise yourself with any requirements as soon as you have booked your trip to allow for processing time. Your passport details are required to complete your booking. Please ensure the name on your passport matches the name on your booking Visas for Albania, Kosovo and North Macedonia are not required for passport holders of the European Union, Australia, New Zealand, USA and Canada. All other nationalities should check with the relevant authorities.

    Why we love it

    Explore the remote northern reaches of Albania and take one of the world’s best boat trips with a cruise through the mountainous corridors of Lake Koman

    Experience daily life in the Valbona Valley with a stay at a local guesthouse. Clink glasses with the locals in the village and hike the rugged valley passes.

    Sail across the blue waters of Lake Ohrid, one of Europe's oldest lakes. No wonder North Macedonia and Albania share this beautiful attraction – nobody would want to let it go.

    Kososvo is rich in history and contrasts. Step back in time and learn about the infamous Battle of Kosovo on a day trip to the Field of Blackbirds, before embracing the modern culture thriving in Prishtina, Europe’s youngest capital.

    Lose yourself in Tirana, the Albanian capital full of a revitalised urban energy, and partake in the local's favourite pastime: drinking coffee and people-watching.

    Is this trip right for you

    Weather in this part of Europe can be unpredictable. Summer temperatures can be extreme in many of the regions visited (over 40°C), which can be uncomfortable. It’s important to use sun protection, wear layers to combat the heat and drink plenty of water. On the other hand, the weather in the mountains can be cold and wet throughout the year. Please carefully consider the time of the year you wish to travel and your suitability to that season. As accommodation on this trip is twin-share, single travellers will share a room with another traveller of the same sex. This trip is a great opportunity to get to know other like-minded people, so embrace it while you can. However, if you’d prefer not to share, a single room supplement is available at an additional charge. Please ask your travel consultant for more details. Also, hotels in Europe often don't have double beds, but rather two single beds that can be pushed together.

    Health

    All travellers need to be in good physical health in order to participate fully on this trip. When selecting your trip please make sure you have read through the itinerary carefully and assess your ability to cope with our style of travel. Please note that if, in the opinion of our group leader or local guide, any traveller is unable to complete the itinerary without undue risk to themselves and/or the rest of the group, Intrepid Travel reserves the right to exclude them from all or part of a trip without refund. You should consult your doctor for up-to-date medical travel information or for any necessary vaccinations before departure. We recommend that you carry a first aid kit as well as any personal medical requirements as they may not easily be obtained at the locations on this trip. Please ensure that you are adequately prepared.

    Food and dietary requirements

    While travelling with us you'll experience the vast array of wonderful food available in the world. Your group leader will be able to suggest restaurants to try during your trip. To give you maximum flexibility in deciding where, what and with whom to eat, generally not all meals are included in the trip price. This also gives you more budgeting flexibility. As a rule our groups tend to eat together to enable you to taste a larger variety of dishes and enjoy each other's company. There's no obligation to do this though. VEGETARIANS Vegetarians might find the menu selection in Europe less varied than they would see at home. Vegetarianism is not as common in this region and generally the choices are basic, involving vegetables, soups, salads, bread, cheese, fruit, yoghurt, eggs etc. Vegans and those on gluten-free diets may find this region very challenging and may need to supplement meals with their own supplies from supermarkets and markets. Wherever possible we will cater for dietary needs for any included meals, but there may be times when those with special requirements may need to provide their own. BREAKFASTS There are some continental breakfasts included on this trip which may simply include bread/toast or pastries, butter, jam, coffee/tea/juice (or similar).

    Money matters

    CURRENCY The official currency of Albania is the Albanian Lek (ALL) and North Macedonia uses the Macedonian Dinar (MKD). After independence Kosovo has adopted the common currency of the European Union, the Euro (EUR), even though they are not a member of the EU. The northern part of the country and Serbian enclaves also use the Serbian Dinar as legal tender. CASH The most convenient and cheapest way to acquire money in Europe is via an Automated Teller Machine (ATM) or Bancomat as they are often referred to. Check with your bank in advance concerning the suitability of your account / card overseas and any international fees that will be applied. You can withdraw local currencies easily at airports, major train stations and most city centres, but be sure to bring some extra emergency cash in a major currency that can be exchanged if the ATMs are not functioning. When leaving home don't forget your PIN and make sure you know the telephone number for cancelling your card if it is stolen. Keep this in a safe place. Credit cards are not always accepted in stores and restaurants. We recommend you carry some cash to pay for restaurant bills and other services. SPENDING MONEY When it comes to spending money on the trip, every traveller is a little different. You know your spending habits better than we do, so please budget a sensible amount for things like meals not included, drinks, shopping, optional activities and laundry. It's always better to bring a little more than you think you'll need. Also make sure you've read your trip details thoroughly so you know what's included in the trip price and what isn't. This should make budgeting a little easier. You'll find this info in the Inclusions section of your Essential Trip Information (that's this document). BUDGET Please budget for additional meals and expenses while on your trip. We suggest EUR 500.00 for meals not included on this trip. Our suggestion is based on past traveller feedback but you may choose to spend more or less. TIPPING If you're happy with the services provided a tip - though not compulsory - is appropriate. While it may not be customary to you, it's of great significance to the people who will take care of you during your travels, inspires excellent service, and is an entrenched feature of the tourism industry across many Intrepid destinations. The following amounts are per person suggestions based on local considerations and feedback from our past travellers: In local markets and basic restaurants and cafes - round your bill up to the nearest €1. In more up-market restaurants we suggest 5% to 10% of your bill. Throughout your trip you may at times have a local guide in addition to your tour leader. We suggest €2-€3 per day for local guides. You may also have a range of drivers on your trip. Some may be with you for a short journey while others may be with you for several days. We would suggest a higher tip for those more involved with the group, however we suggest €1-€2 per day for drivers. You may also consider tipping your tour leader for outstanding service throughout your trip. The amount is entirely a personal preference, however as a guideline €4-€5 per person, per day can be used. Of course you are free to tip more or less as you see fit, depending on your perception of service quality and the length of your trip. Remember, a tip is not compulsory and should only be given when you receive excellent service. In total, we recommend you budget approx €5-€10 per day of your trip to cover tipping. CONTINGENCY FUNDS We try to plan for every eventuality, but there are still some things beyond our control. Please make sure you have access to an extra US$500 for emergencies (e.g. severe weather, natural disasters, civil unrest) or other events that result in unavoidable changes to the itinerary (e.g. transport strikes or cancellations, airport closures). Sometimes these things necessitate last minute changes to enable our trips to continue to run, and as a result there may be some extra costs involved. The recommended amount is listed in USD for the relatability of universal travellers, however the local currency is needed in the countries you are visiting.

    What to take

    PACKING On this trip you must pack as lightly as possible because you will be expected to carry your own bag and although you won't be required to walk long distances with your luggage (max 30 minutes), we strongly recommend keeping the weight under 10kg / 22lb. Most travellers carry their luggage in a backpack, although an overnight bag with a shoulder strap would suffice if you travel lightly. Smaller bags or backpacks with wheels are convenient although we recommend your bag has carry straps to accommodate the cobbled streets, uneven surfaces, stairs and steps you are lightly to encounter while carrying your luggage. You'll also need a day pack/bag to carry water and a camera etc for day trips. You can find Intrepid's Ultimate Packing List on our website. It should be used as a guide only and isn't intended to be a complete packing list.

    https://www.intrepidtravel.com/packing-list

    TRAVELLING ON LOCAL TRANSPORT It's important that your bags can be locked, as on local transport it may be necessary that your luggage gets stowed separately (and unattended). The smaller your bag the better for you and other passengers. To ensure maximum comfort, try to pack small and light.

    WATER BOTTLE Consider bringing your own water bottle to refill along the way. The sale of bottled water contributes to an enormous environmental problem around the world. In addition to the water in bottles, the production of a 1 litre plastic bottle takes 2 litres of water and 200ml of oil. A large proportion ends up in limited landfill or discarded in waterways and natural environments. Although it can be difficult to avoid bottled water when travelling, please use the water dispensers which are provided at some of our accommodation or simply refill with tap water (your leader will advise whether tap water is safe to drink in your destination). When unable to avoid bottled water it is better to buy the largest available and distribute into your smaller bottle for the day.

    IMAGES FROM HOME: During our trip there will be many opportunities for you to meet and talk with locals. One way to start any conversation is with pictures. We recommend that you bring some photos / postcards of your family, home, city or country where you live, animals peculiar to your country etc.

    Climate and seasonal

    SUMMER Summer temperatures can be extreme in many of the regions visited (over 40°C), which can be uncomfortable. It’s important to use sun protection and drink plenty of water. Please carefully consider the time of the year you wish to travel and your suitability to that season. SHOULDER SEASON In contrast, weather in shoulder season can be unpredictable, and snow is not unheard of at higher altitudes. If you travel at the start or towards the end of the European season please pack accordingly with warm and/or waterproof clothes (preferably layers). The advantage of travelling during this time is that there are less tourists around.

    A couple of rules

    Everyone has the right to feel safe when they travel. We don’t tolerate any form of violence (verbal or physical) or sexual harassment, either between customers or involving our leaders, partners or local people. Sexual relationships between a tour leader and a customer are strictly forbidden. Use or possession of illegal drugs will not be tolerated on our trips. If you choose to consume alcohol while travelling, we encourage responsible drinking, and expect that you’ll abide by the local laws regarding alcohol consumption. The sex tourism industry is known to exploit vulnerable people and have negative consequences on communities, including undermining the development of sustainable tourism. For this reason, patronising sex workers will not be tolerated on our trips. By travelling with us you are agreeing to adhere to these rules. Your group leader has the right to remove any member of the group for breaking any of these rules, with no right of refund. If you feel that someone is behaving inappropriately while travelling with us, please inform your tour leader or local guide immediately. Alternatively, contact us on the emergency contact number detailed in the Problems and Emergency Contact section of this Essential Trip Information.

    Feedback

    Can’t stop thinking about your adventure? Tell us all about it! We read each piece of feedback carefully and use it to make improvements for travellers like you. Share your experience with us at: http://www.intrepidtravel.com/feedback/

    Emergency contact

    While we always endeavour to provide the best possible holiday experience, due to the nature of travel and the areas we visit sometimes things can and do go wrong. Should any issue occur while you are on your trip, it is imperative that you discuss this with your group leader or our local representative straight away so that they can do their best to rectify the problem and save any potential negative impact on the rest of your trip. We recognise that there may be times when your group leader/local partner may not be able to resolve a situation to your satisfaction - if this is the case, please ask the leader to speak to their direct manager. You may also choose to provide details in your online feedback, which we ask you to complete within 30 days of the end of your trip. But we do ask you to be aware that it is very difficult for us to provide any practical help after the trip is complete. For general contact details please use the following page: http://www.intrepidtravel.com/ourtrips/contact/ If you have booked an arrival transfer, and you experience severe delays at immigration, baggage collection or customs, or if you are not able to find to the driver, please contact the transfer operator directly on the number listed in the joining point instructions in the section above. In the case of a genuine crisis or emergency, Intrepid's Europe Operations Team can be reached on the number listed below: Intrepid's Local Operator: +49 8677 9186 657

    Responsible travel

    Our Responsible Travel Policy outlines our commitment to preserving the environment, supporting local communities, protecting the vulnerable and giving back to the places we travel. All our trip leaders, suppliers and staff are trained on these principles, and are core to us delivering sustainable, experience-rich travel. Explore the different parts of our Responsible Travel Policy by visiting: https://www.intrepidtravel.com/responsible-travel DRESS CODE In general, there are few dress restrictions in Europe. Note when visiting churches, monasteries or other religious sites modest dress is required - shorts or skimpy tops may not be permitted, for both men and women.

    The Intrepid Foundation

    Help us change thousands of lives by creating meaningful work and supporting skills training in communities around the world. The Intrepid Foundation is the not-for-profit for Intrepid Group. We work with local organisations around the world to improve the livelihoods of vulnerable individuals and communities through sustainable travel experiences. With our travellers’ help, we’ve contributed more than AU $6 million to over 100 community organisations since 2002. Did you know that tourism is one of the biggest contributors to the global economy, making up 1 out of every 10 jobs? That’s why we support local projects that create meaningful jobs and give people the skills they need to work in the destinations we take you to. And it’s why we exist – to make it easy for travellers to give back to the communities and places they’ve been in an effective and meaningful way. All donations to The Intrepid Foundation are matched by Intrepid Group dollar for dollar (up to AU$10,000 per donor and AU$500,000 in total each financial year, excluding emergency appeals). And because Intrepid Group covers all administration costs, every cent goes directly to the projects. Donating is simple and secure. Please ask your leader for information about the projects we support through The Intrepid Foundation or visit our website: http://www.theintrepidfoundation.org/

    Accommodation notes

    OCCASIONAL ALTERNATIVE ACCOMMODATION The style of accommodation indicated in the day-to-day itinerary is a guideline. On rare occasions, alternative arrangements may need to be made due to the lack of availability of rooms in our usual accommodation. A similar standard of accommodation will be used in these instances. TWIN SHARE BASIS Accommodation on this trip is on a twin share basis (unless noted otherwise in the day-to-day itinerary). Please note there may be times where facilities will be shared rather than ensuite. CHECK-IN TIME Throughout the trip we request that our hotels prepare rooms in time for our arrival, especially if we're arriving prior to normal check-in time. However this isn't always possible which means we won't be able to check-in immediately on arrival at some hotels. Instead, we can store our luggage and explore our new destination. PRE/POST TRIP ACCOMMODATION If you've purchased pre-trip or post-trip accommodation (if available), you may be required to change rooms from your trip accommodation for these extra nights. FACILITIES Your accommodation may not always have private en suite facilities or air-conditioning. European hotels generally don't provide kettles or fridges.

    Transport notes

    TRANSPORT IN EUROPE Half the fun of travel is the travelling itself, that's why we like to travel the local way – whether that means mingling with commuters on a train in Spain, cycling past a historic chateau in France, or encountering the world's most extravagant public transport system on the Moscow Metro. In Europe, you are guaranteed to travel by genuine local public transport wherever possible, which puts you right in the centre of the action.

    Travel insurance

    Travel insurance is compulsory for all our trips. We require that, at a minimum, you are covered for medical expenses including emergency repatriation. We strongly recommend that the policy also covers personal liability, cancellation, curtailment and loss of luggage and personal effects. When travelling on a trip, you won't be permitted to join the group until evidence of travel insurance and the insurance company's 24 hour emergency contact number has been seen by your leader. If you have credit card insurance your group leader will require details of the participating insurer/underwriter, the level of coverage, policy number and emergency contact number rather than the bank's name and credit card details. Please contact your bank for these details prior to arriving in-country. http://www.intrepidtravel.com/insurance.php

    Your fellow travellers

    As you travel on a group trip you will be exposed to all the pleasures and maybe some of the frustrations of travelling in a group. Your fellow travellers will probably come from all corners of the world and likely a range of age groups too. We ask you to be understanding of the various needs and preferences of your group - patience with your fellow travellers is sometimes required for the benefit of everyone's travel experience. Remember too that you have responsibilities to the group. If you are requested to be at a place at a certain time, ensure that you don't keep the rest of the group waiting. We have found time and time again that the very best trips we operate are those where the dynamics within the group work well - this takes just a little effort on your part. Due to privacy reasons we are unable to provide you with contact details and any personal information about your fellow travellers booked on your trip prior to departure. SINGLE TRAVELLERS: Our group trips are designed for shared accommodation and don't involve a compulsory single supplement. Single travellers share with people of the same gender in accommodation ranging from twin to multishare. Some of our itineraries have accommodation booked on a mixed gender share basis and where applicable this will be specified in our Essential Trip Information. On a selection of our trips, you have the option to pay a single supplement to ensure that you have your own accommodation (where available). Please note that this only applies to accommodation during the tour - pre-trip and post-trip accommodation will be booked on a single room basis.

    Itinerary disclaimer

    ITINERARY CHANGES: Our itineraries are updated regularly throughout the year based on customer feedback and to reflect the current situation in each destination. The information included in this Essential Trip Information may therefore differ from when you first booked your trip. It is important that you print and review a final copy prior to travel so that you have the latest updates. Due to weather, local conditions, transport schedules, public holidays or other factors, further changes may be necessary to your itinerary once in country. The order and timing of included activities in each location may also vary seasonally to ensure our travellers have the best experience. Your tour leader will keep you up to date with any changes once on tour. OPTIONAL ACTIVITIES: A selection of optional activities that have been popular with past travellers are listed in the day-to-day itinerary. This isn't an exhaustive list and should be used as a guide only for some of what might be available. Prices are approximate, are for entrance only, and don’t include transport to and from the sites or local guides unless indicated. All activities are subject to availability, and may be on a join-in basis. It may not be possible to do all the activities listed in the time available at each destination, so some pre-planning for what you are most interested in is advised. When it's recommended that travellers pre-book these activities, look for a note in the Special Information section of the day-to-day itinerary. For most, they can either be organised independently on the day, or let your leader know you are interested and they can assist. Where activities are considered medium or high risk, we work with operators whose safety and credentials we have sighted and assessed. Although it is possible that you may find the same activity cheaper with another operator on the ground, we cannot vouch for the safety or quality of that operator. Medium and high risk activities not listed above have not been assessed by us and as such our staff and leaders are unable to assist you with organising these activities. Activities that contravene our Responsible Travel policies are also not listed. Please remember that the decision to partake in any activity not listed is at your own discretion and risk.

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