April 17 – May 1, 2020
About This Tour
In Greek mythology, the name Illyria is traced to emperor Illyrius, who ruled along the southeastern coast of the Adriatic Sea and became the eponymous ancestor of all tribes dispersed throughout the Balkan states of Europe. For the ancient Romans, Albania was the gateway to Asia, while the Turks and Ottomans saw its neighbors, Macedonia and Kosovo, as the doorway into Europe. Today, these three neighboring countries retain evidences of Oriental, Turkish, Ottoman, Roman, Greek and even Slavic influences in their monuments, ruins, mosques, churches and castles. Their historical importance is equally matched by their rugged beauty––a glittering blue Adriatic coastline, dramatic mountains, deep green forests and shimmering lakes and rivers. Come with us to experience the treasures of Illyria!
- Tirana, capital of Albania
- Kruja, 15th century Ottoman town
- Roman ruins in Durres
- Apollonia Archaeological Park
- Coastal town of Vlora
- Butrinti Archaeological Park *
- Saranda on the Albanian Riviera
- Gjirokaster’s castle and Ottomon Old Town *
- Berat’s historic Mangalem District *
- Diocletian fortress in Elbasan
- Ohrid and Lake Ohrid, “Jerusalem” of the Balkans *
- Bitola, “city of consuls”
- Heraclea archaeological site
- Skopje, capital of Macedonia
- Prizren Old Town
- Our Lady of Ljevis *
- Historic Gjakova
- Decami Monastery *
- Medieval Pec
- Pristina * UNESCO World Heritage Sites
Arrive in Tirana / Welcome Dinner
Arrive this morning at Tirana’s Mother Tereza Airport (TIA airport code). You will be transferred to our hotel in the center of Tirana. In the afternoon, our group will meet for the first time in the hotel lobby and embark on a walking tour of the city, giving you an overview of the main sites. If you cannot arrive in time for a 3pm tour, or if you just want to spend more time getting acquainted with Tirana, we recommend that you consider arriving one day early. Please indicate this on your reservation form. This evening, Toto Tours hosts a Welcome Dinner. Overnight in Tirana. (Dinner included)
After breakfast at the hotel, we depart for the town of Kruja, just a short one-hour drive north of Tirana. Our walking tour of Kruja will take you through the cobblestone pathways of the Ottoman bazaar, with wooden shops and displays of various gifts and antique household items. Our visit within the walls of the castle includes the historic museum dedicated to Scanderbeg and his resistance against the Ottoman invasion. An old house is now an ethnographic museum providing a glimpse in northern Albania’s cultural life. We have lunch in Kruja before returning to Tirana for another overnight stay. Enjoy dinner at a local restaurant. Overnight in Tirana. (All Meals)
Durres / Apollonia / Vlora
After breakfast at the hotel, we make the one-hour drive to Durres along the Adriatic coast. Explore the ruins of the forum, roman baths, city center, town hall, Roman amphitheatre, Byzantine walls, Venetian tower and archeological museum of this once-important ancient city. Continue to Apollonia Archaeological Park, located near to the town of Fier. After making time for lunch, we take a walking tour of Apollonia, which includes the encircling wall, the monuments of Agonothetes, the Library, the Odeon, the Portico, the house with mosaics, Archeological museum and the Church of St. Mary. We continue to the coastal town of Vlora, our home for the evening. Dinner is provided at our hotel. Overnight in Vlora. (All Meals)
Butrinti / Saranda
After breakfast, we depart Vlora and spend the morning driving south along the winding Adriatic coast. Around mid-day, we stop for lunch in the town of Saranda, before continuing 10 miles further south to the Butrinti Archaeological Park, an ancient Greek and later Roman city that is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. We spend the afternoon exploring this fascinating site on a walking tour that takes us to the Asclepius temple, amphitheatre, Roman portico and baths, early Christian baptistery, Byzantine basilica, defensive walls and their impressive gates. In late afternoon, we drive back to Saranda for a free evening. Overnight in Saranda. (All Meals)
Gjirokaster / Berat
This morning we depart Saranda and head away from the coast into the interior of the country. We arrive in Gjirokaster, a small city situated in a valley between the Gjerë mountains and the Drino River. Known for its unique architecture, Gjirokaster’s Old Town is inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List as “a rare example of a well-preserved Ottoman town, built by farmers of large estate.” The highlights of the Old Town include the castle, its weapons museum and breathtaking views, the bazaar area, and an ethnographic museum. After lunch, we continue north to the city of Berat. The evening is free. Overnight in Berat. (All Meals)
This morning we take a full-day sightseeing tour of Berat. In the morning, our walking tour will explore the ancient fortress, main gates, towers, orthodox churches, and the Onufri Museum, located within St. Mary’s church. After a break for lunch, we tour the Mangalem Quarter, which achieved designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its 2,500 years of Greek, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman heritage. Known as “city of windows one over another,” the old town still preserves some elements of the Ottoman architecture in the old homes and narrow cobblestone pathways. Visit the unique mosques, monastery and the newly built Orthodox Church. The evening is free. Overnight in Berat. (Breakfast / Lunch)
Elbasan / Ohrid
After breakfast, we depart for Ohrid, Macedonia, stopping along the way in Elbasan. Arriving in late morning, we take a sightseeing tour of Elbasan. Scampis's fortress was built in the reign of Emperor Diocletian (284-305) in the Roman “opus mixtum” technique, with walls up to three meters thick in the lower level of the castle. The Church of St. Mary is located within the fortress of Elbasan and was rebuilt in 1833. The Royal Mosque is one of the earliest shrines in Albania, dating to 1492. A Hammam within the fortress, also known as the Women’s Hammam, dates to the 16th century. During the 20th century, the Hammam was used for food storage. Today, the building has been transformed into a bar. The Clock Tower first arose in Elbasan in the seventeenth century. After a break for lunch, we continue on our way, crossing the border and skirting the north shore of Lake Ohrid. After arrival and hotel check-in, the remainder of the day is at leisure. Overnight in Ohrid. (Breakfast / Lunch)
This morning we embark on a half-day sightseeing tour of Ohrid. Notable for once having had 365 churches, one for each day of the year, Ohrid earned the nickname “Jerusalem of the Balkans.” The city is also rich in picturesque houses and historical monuments. In 1980, Ohrid and Lake Ohrid were accepted as Cultural and Natural World Heritage Sites by UNESCO. In fact, Ohrid is one of only 28 sites that are part of UNESCO's World Heritage that are both Cultural and Natural sites. Our tour includes several important churches, the Old Bazaar, the Hellenistic Ancient Theatre (a Roman style amphitheater) Mesokastro Settlement, Kaneo Settlement, King Samoil Fortress, Ohrid Fortifications, the Icon Museum, and the restored Monastery at Plaošnik, which was actually one of the oldest Universities in the western world, dating before the 10th century. After a lunch break, we enjoy a boat trip on Lake Ohrid. The evening is free. Overnight in Ohrid. (Breakfast / Lunch)
Bitola / Heraclea / Skopje
This morning, we depart Ohrid and drive southeast to the city of Bitola. Known since the Ottoman era as “the city of consuls”, Bitola is one of the oldest cities on the territory of the Republic of Macedonia. It was founded by King Phillip II as Heraclea Lyncestis in the middle of the 4th century BC. Only a small section of the old city has been unearthed so far by archaeologists, including a theater, two water fountains, a courthouse, baths, the bishop's palace and two basilicas. The site is best known for the 5th century mosaics in the big basilica. After a lunch break, we drive to Skopje, the capital of Macedonia. After checking-in to our rooms, we have the evening free. Overnight in Skopje. (Breakfast / Lunch)
The territory of Skopje has been inhabited since at least 4000 BC, with remains of Neolithic settlements found within the old Kale Fortress overlooking the modern city. Around the first century AD, Romans seized the settlement and established it as one of their military camps. When the Roman Empire split into two halves in 395 AD, the city fell under Byzantine rule and eventually fell to the Ottomans in the 14th century, who ruled it for the next 500 years. All these various cultural influences can be felt in the city today. This morning we take a half-day sightseeing excursion, which includes the 6th century fortress, the Old Town, the bezistan (covered bazaar), and the ancient Roman aqueduct. The afternoon and evening are free. Overnight in Skopje. (Breakfast)
After breakfast we drive north across the border into Kosovo. In the late morning enjoy a two-hour walking tour of Prizren’s Shadervan, or Old Town, the cradle of cultural wealth for the people of Kosovo. The walking tour explores the Ottoman stone bridge, the ancient water fountain, unique mosques and orthodox churches including the 14th century Serbian orthodox monastery of Our Lady of Ljevis, part of a joint UNESCO World Heritage Site called the Medieval Monuments of Kosovo. The city is known for its rich culinary tradition, mainly home-made goat cheese, minced meat sausages with herbs and other traditional grilled dishes. During our lunch break you can sample these local dishes. In the afternoon, we continue touring the city, visiting the hilltop fortress, the Bajrakli Mosque, Turkish Bathhouse, the rebuilt Clock Tower which now serves as an archaeological museum, and the ethnic protective agency in the House of Prizren League. The evening is free. Overnight in Prizren. (Breakfast / Dinner)
Gjakova / Pec / Pristina
This morning we make a one-hour drive to the town of Gjakove for a walking tour of the city’s historic old town, including the Hadumi Mosque, Clock Tower and Bazaar. We continue a short distance to the north, stopping to see the Decami Monastery, another one of the Medieval Monuments of Kosovo joint UNESCO Site. We arrive in Pec, also known as Pej, where we begin with a lunch in a local restaurant. In the afternoon we visit the Old House Of Tahir Beu, Old Bazaar, Bajrakli Mosque, Hammam, and Sheremet Tower. Continue to Pristina for overnight. (All meals)
Enjoy a sightseeing tour of the main highlights of the city, including the National Museum, Statue of Skanderbeg (15th century Albanian leader), the Statue of Mother Teresa (who was born here), the Orthodox Church and Carshija (bazaar), and mosque. The remainder of the day is at your leisure. Overnight in Pristina. (Breakfast)
Gracanica Monastery / Farewell Dinner
After breakfast we make the short drive to the 13th century Gracanica Monastery to the southwest of the city. Built on the ruins of a 6th century basilica, this Serbian Orthodox monastery was built in 1321 and has received UNESCO World Heritage status. After touring the site, we drive back to Pristina for a free afternoon. This evening, Toto Tours hosts a Farewell Dinner. Overnight in Pristina. (Breakfast / Dinner)
The tour officially ends after breakfast this morning. Arrange your return flights home for any convenient time today (the airport code is PRN). Your airport transfer is included, and we will organize it to meet your flight requirements. Let us know on your reservation form if you wish to stay over another day in Pristina. (Breakfast)
Entry Requirements-- For entry into Albania, Macedonia and Kosovo, U.S. and Canadian citizens only need to present a passport which is valid for at least 3 months beyond your departure date.
Immunizations & Health— No vaccinations are required, but we encourage you to review the recommendations from the Center for Disease Control. It is recommended that you have all your routine vaccinations current. Please check with your health professional or a local travel clinic and follow recommended protections. Is your tetanus booster current?Exit Requirements - There is currently no separate departure tax required of visitors leaving Kosovo other than that included with the cost of your airline ticket.
Making Travel Arrangements to Albania, Macedonia & KosovoOn this tour, international airfare is NOT included. You will need to get your international air to Tirana, Albania (airport code TIA), and from Pristina, Kosovo (airport code PRN), back to the U.S.A. We encourage you to work with Steven Goldberg at Frosch Travel in Chicago, who can help you find the best flights to meet your needs.
You need to arrive in Tirana, Albania by 2:00pm on Friday, April 17, 2020. Early morning departure is from Pristina, Kosovo on Friday, May 1, 2020.
Steven Goldberg / Frosch TravelToll-Free in USA: 1-800-323-1276
International guests, please call +1-312-371-9686
When calling, please identify yourself as a Toto Tours participant. If you leave a message on Steven’s voice mail, he will return your call promptly. He will be happy to discuss your travel plans and help you decide when to purchase your ticket for the best rate.
NOTE: The recent trend in travel is for travelers to finalize their plans much closer to departure time than was customary in the past. While we try to be as flexible as possible we often must turn away last minute registrants because we relinquish hotel space and air reservations 8 – 12 weeks prior to departure! Please keep this in mind when making your travel plans.
WHAT TO BRINGEarly spring means cool temperatures in the three countries we visit on this tour. Low to high temps will range from 45 – 65 throughout Albania with slightly warmer nighttime temperatures along the coast in Vlora and Saranda. It will be a little cooler in both Macedonia and Kosovo, ranging from 45 – 60 in all the locations we will be visiting. Pack light and bring mix-and-match clothes that can be layered for warmth. Pack medications in a carry-on just in case your bags don’t arrive when you do. We suggest leaving expensive jewelry at home.
Suggested Packing List:
- Proof of citizenship. Passport required.
- Comfortable walking shoes with good tread for city sightseeing.
- 3-pair long pants (jeans plus khakis or chinos).
- Shorts (1 pair in case we have a warm day).
- T-shirts for layering (4 - 5).
- Casual long-sleeved shirts (4 - 5).
- Sweater and jacket for cool evenings.
- Raincoat / compact umbrella for possible rainy days.
- Socks and underwear for 13 days.
- Daypack, backpack or man-purse.
- Sunscreen / lip balm / sunglasses / sun hat.
- Personal toiletries, and bug repellant
- Camera, lots of digital memory, extra batteries.
- Ziploc Bags (sandwich size for documents, gallon size for wet items or toiletries).
- Electrical Adapter. In Albania the power plugs and sockets are of type C and F. The standard voltage is 230 V and the standard frequency is 50 Hz. In Macedonia and Kosovo, the power plugs and sockets are of type F. The standard voltage is 230 V and the standard frequency is 50 Hz. Click here to see the adapters needed for Albania. The type F adapter will work in Macedonia and Kosovo.
- A good book for your flights and leisure time.
MONEY MATTERSAlbania monetary unit is the Lek (code ALL), which is nominally divided into coins of Lek1, Lek5, Lek10, Lek20, Lek50, Lek100, and banknotes of Lek200, Lek500, Lek1000, Lek2000, Lek5000. The exchange rate as of May 13, 2019 is about 107 Lek per US Dollar.
Macedonia currency is the Denar (code MKD), in denominations of 10, 50, 100, 500, 1000 and 5000, and there are coins of one, two and five denar. The denar isn’t convertible outside Macedonia. Restaurants, hotels and some shops will accept payment in euro (usually) and US dollars (sometimes). The exchange rate as of May 13, 2019 is about 53 Denar per US Dollar.
Kosovo currency is the standardized Euro (code EUR), although the territory is not yet a member of the E.U. The exchange rate as of May 13, 2019 is about .87 Euro per US Dollar.
ATMs are widely available throughout the countries we visit. It is wise to carry some cash with you, however, in case you get caught in a situation where an ATM is not available. ATMS were unheard of in this region until recently, but most of the cities and larger towns now have them. All international hotels and most restaurants and shops accept major credit cards. Make sure your ATM card is linked to one of the worldwide networks (like Plus, Novus or Cirrus), and call your banks before departure to let them know you will be traveling abroad. Click here to find the most up-to-date exchange rates for each of the currencies.
Tipping Guidelines: In restaurants menu prices often reflect an added service charge, and tipping is a matter of personal choice. Most people leave some small change if they’re satisfied and 5% is usually plenty. It’s common to leave small change at tables in bars and cafés. Tips for group meals and other services are included in your tour price. You will only need to tip for housekeeping and other personal services.
THE TOTO SPIRITToto Tours provides Adventure Travel Experiences as differentiated from tours in the traditional sense. Adventure Travel allows (even encourages) you to be an active participant. Adventurers can be identified by certain traits. They are:
- fun-loving optimists who have a sense of humor and accentuate the positive;
- good natured realists who are willing to accept situations as they exist;
- undaunted by the unexpected, like occasional delays or bad weather;
- willing to forego some of the amenities we normally take for granted;
- eager to try new things & test limits;
- not whiners!
Travel InsuranceWe recommend you purchase travel insurance with Travel Guard to cover for unforeseen events prior to and during your trip. Please follow the link below or call us for more information.
(tour prices per person)Price: $3,500 in double occupancy hotel accommodations.
Private Room: $800 additional, for a total tour price of $4,300.
(Paying a single supplement is not required. Toto Tours will try to match you with a roommate if you are traveling alone and prefer to share a room. If this is not possible, a single supplement will be applied to your reservation before the final payment date.)
(Due at time of registration for the tour. May be paid with a credit card.)
Remaining Balance (main tour): $2,900 double / $3,700 single
Remaining Balance Due: January 28, 2020 (80 days prior to departure)
(Full payment required with reservation form if enrolling after this date.)
Note: The tour price does not include bank service charges for processing credit card payments, and assumes that the balance of the tour price will be paid by check. If you would like to pay the final balance with a credit card, a 4% service charge will be applied. Let us know if you wish to pay by credit card, and we will adjust your invoice accordingly.
Included: 13 nights hotel accommodations; airport transfers; hotel breakfasts daily plus Welcome & Farewell Dinners; other meals as listed in the itinerary; ground transportation in climate controlled motorcoach; sightseeing activities and entrances as listed in the itinerary; water aboard our motorcoach; tips to drivers, guides, porters and waiters at included meals. This is a fully guided and escorted tour.
Not Included: International airfare to Tirana, Albania (TIA) and returning from Pristina, Kosovo (PRN); ground transportation for sightseeing on your own (taxis, local guides, etc.); meals and optional activities not specifically listed in the itinerary; camera fees; alcoholic beverages; insurance; laundry, telephone calls, faxes, or any other expenses of a personal nature.