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Albania - Classic Cycling Holiday

One Of Europe's Secret Treasures

Day 1: Tirana

redspokes Albania classic cycling tour begins in Tirana. You will be met on arrival and transferred to your joining hotel. Tirana's small centre is easy to navigate. There are free walking tours that you can join if you'd like to be guided around.  Sites of interest include Skanderbeg Square's 1789 Et'hem Bey Mosque, the 1830 Sahat-Kulla (Clock Tower), the Puppet Theatre, once home to King Zog's puppet parliament and the Peace Bell made from old cartridge shells, remembering Tirana's tempestuous history. There are many restaurants and bars in "The Block" (Bloku) the area where communist leaders once lived under strict protection. This evening we will have a group meeting and tour briefing.

Accommodation: Hotel (D)

Day 2: Tirana - Pogradec - Korçë

This morning we will transfer by vehicle to Pogradec. In 1980, the town was declared a UNESCO world heritage site. Located on the shores of Lake Ohrid, in the past the town has compared less favourably to its Macedonian neighbours on the far side of the water. Lately Pogradec has been enjoying a renaissance. The surrounding area is rich in historic culture and unique flora and fauna.

We set out on the bikes cycling northward along the shores of Lake Ohrid. The first 10km are relatively flat, followed by 15km cycling uphill as we head away from the water up to the mountain plateau. Heavily wooded and populated by many species this is a beautiful area and we'll enjoy stunning views. We head downhill through a gorge for the next 15km towards Lake Prespa. From here we follow wide open road cutting a path through farmland and small holdings south west to Korcë. The route gently undulates for 20km before a final flat stretch. Korçë has Illyrian and Ottoman historical roots, close to the border with Greece this is Albania's cultural capital, with a traditional bazaar and a museum of medieval art.

Cycling Distance: 90km (56 miles)

Total Climb: 1,575m (5,167ft)
Total Descent: 1,398m (4,586ft)
Accommodation: Hotel (B,L,D) 

Day 3: Korçë to Farma Sotira

Heading into the mountains the landscape changes from an agricultural collage of fields into rocky mountainside scattered with forget me nots and other wildflowers and the odd shepherd's hut here and there. We climb the Gramoz Mountains, with a view of snow-capped peaks in the distance, cycling over the Bramash pass. We then ride down into the valley beyond to reach the remote and beautiful Farma Sotira. Located on the edge of Tomorre mountain national park, our stop for the night is an organic farm hotel where we will sample the produce at dinner this evening.

Cycling Distance: 72.5km (48 miles)
Total Climb: 1,273m (4,176ft)
Total Descent: 1,147m (3,763ft)
Accommodation: Cabins (B,L,D) 

Day 4: Farma Sotira to Përmet

The day begins with an uphill cycle away from Farma Sotira as our cycle tour continues through dramatic mountain scenery onto the verdant plateau. We then descend on a steep ravine road to the River Vjosa; the pathway, which was originally created by waterfalls, bends and curves extravagantly down into wide open valley where animals graze. The Vjosa is one of Europe's last existing wild rivers. Along its entire course, it is free flowing and in some areas the riverbed expands over more than 2 km. Sadly, it is under threat from hydropower development although protest groups are campaigning for the area to be given national park status.

We continue cycling uphill on a tiny road cut into the mountainside up to Përmet, a town perched on the cliff high above the river. Përmet is famed for its cuisine, especially sweets, 'gliko' (preserves) and its wine and strong raki. Named the "city of roses" it is said to be the greenest and the cleanest town in Albania. Përmet is also famous for folk music. We cycle on a little further to nearby Benje where there are popular thermal springs - a perfect antidote for tired cyclists' legs.

Cycling Distance: 59km (37 miles)
Total Climb: 675m (2,215ft)
Total Descent: 1,425 (4,675ft)
Accommodation: Hotel (B,L,D) 

Day 5: Përmet to Gjirokaster

Today we continue along Kelcyra valley through scenery of peaks and gorges, cutting westward through a gap in the mountains. We reach a wide plain; high above us sits the majestic Gjirokaster (known as the Stone City because of the many roofs covered with flat stones). Built by wealthy landowners, Gjirokaster is a beautifully preserved Ottoman town with steep cobbled streets. The town has UNESCO world heritage status. Gjirokaster Castle, at the heart of the town, dates all the way back to the 4th century. The fortress overlooks the plateau, and route along the river valley with an imposing presence. The town is the birthplace of Albania's former communist leader: Enver Hoxha.

Cycling Distance: 71.2km (38miles)
Total Climb: 409m (1,341ft)
Total Descent: 454m (1,489ft)
Accommodation: Hotel (B,L,D) 

Day 6: Gjirokaster to Sarande

We head west today up over a 700m pass in the mountains followed by a twisting descent down onto the coastal plain. We pass villages, farms and roadside fruit vendors. There are more concrete bunkers dotted in the hillsides. Sarande is described as the gateway to southern Albania, nestled between the mountains and the Ionian coast. The city is close to the ancient remains of Butrint, another UNESCO World Heritage Site. Butrint is one of the county's most important archaeological sites, tracing its origins back to the Greeks and the Romans.

We can relax this evening and enjoy panoramic Mediterranean views in this lovely coastal resort

Cycling Distance: 96.5km (60miles)
Total Climb: 1,035m (3,396ft)
Total Descent: 1,315m (4,314ft)
Accommodation: Hotel (B,L) 

Day 7: Sarande to Himarë

Our tour continues with a coastal cycling route northward towards the resort of Himarë.  The day begins with a steep climb we continue cycling a series of climbs and descents with views of mountains and stunning sea views. Himarë is a popular beach side town stretching along white sanded shore line. Terraced hills where olives and citrus trees grow reach down to the sea.

Cycling Distance: 52km (32 miles)
Total Climb: 1,075m (3,527ft)
Total Descent: 1,080m (3,543ft)
Accommodation: Hotel (B,L,D) 

Day 8: Himarë to Orikum to Tirana

Our final day's cycling takes further north to Orikum. We climb up to the famous Llogara Pass (Qafa e Llogarasë), a spectacular winding road, rising up to 1,043m with spectacular views of the Albanian Riviera and pine forested hillsides. This is the highest point on the main coastal road between Vlore and Sarande. Down over the pass we cycle one hairpin bend after another in the Dukatit valley. Towards the end of today's ride we re-join coastal road with views of gravel beaches and lovely clear blue seas. Late this afternoon we will transfer to Tirana and this evening we will celebrate the end of our Albanian cycling tour with a farewell meal.

Cycling Distance: 55.4km (34 miles)
Total Climb: 1,603m (5,259ft)
Total Descent: 1,574m (5,164ft)
Accommodation: Hotel (B,L,D)

Day 9

The tour ends this morning. We will arrange a transfer to Tirana Airport for your journey home.

If you need assistance or wish to discuss the tour, please feel free to call us on +44 (0) 1463 417707.

Alternatively, you can email us on office@redspokes.co.uk for more information on this adventure holiday.