Planes, Tiranë, and Automobiles

Trip Region: Eastern Europe
Country(ies): Albania
Partners Trek? No
Cost: $1835
Airfare Estimate: $1400
Structure: 4   •   Lodging: 3   •   Nightlife: 3   •   Activity: 3

Mirë se vini në Shqipëri — welcome to Albania!  Probably the most isolated country in Europe due to its insular communist government that fell in 1992, Albania offers untouched natural beauty — from its rocky undeveloped beaches to its rugged mountainous terrain — and a culture unlike anywhere in the world.

Your leaders come from around the world and a variety of backgrounds and are excited to show you Albania — from its natural beauty to its lively urban culture to its impressive history.  We are also excited initiate you into the most important organization you will ever be a part of — the University of Michigan family.  We will rage. We will explore. And we will have a bonding experience that will send you back to Ann Arbor with 15 brand new friends.

Day 1 — Friday, Aug 18

Wake up in the morning (feeling like P. Diddy) after celebrating the end of Impact Challenge. This day will be your flight to Albania. Make sure to book together to get adjoining seats and some group bonding in before hitting the ground in Albania.

Day 2 — Saturday, Aug 19

You will land in Tirana in the late afternoon or early evening, and we will celebrate the start of our trek with a fancy dinner to meet each other and your leaders. After dinner, we are going to rage into the evening at Tirana’s finest bars to get adjusted to Albania time and kick off our journey.

Day 3 — Sunday, Aug 20

We will spend the day exploring Tirana, Albania’s capital and largest city. In the morning, we will start off with a tour of the Blloku district. Once the “Block” of housing and government buildings for the communist regime, this neighborhood is now the cultural center of Albania with the best bars, restaurants, and shopping Albania has to offer. You might even have the opportunity to eat at Kolonat or AFC (look them up). Our tour will take us out of Blloku to Skanderbeg Square, the beating heart of Tirana. We will tour Et'hem Bey Mosque, one of the oldest buildings in Tirana. Closed under communist rule, the mosque resumed operation as a place of worship in 1991 and is seen as a monument to religious freedom in the country. After the tour, we will head up to Mount Dajti, which lies east of Tirana, and take the Dajti Ekspres Cable Car up the mountain to Ballkoni, a resort and restaurant. After exploring the area around the Ballkoni, we will have a dinner at the restaurant and watch the sun set over Tirana before heading back to the city to rest before our next adventure.

Day 4 — Monday, Aug 21

We will rise early to take a leisurely 19 mile bike ride through the Albanian countryside to Durrës, a historical port city dating back to Ancient Greece. On the way, we will see the architecture of old villages and rural areas. We will arrive in Durrës in the late morning and stay at a beachfront hotel where we will have lunch. The rest of the afternoon belongs to you to explore the beaches, take a rest, or grab coffee in the numerous coffeehouses of the city. In the evening we will go to Durrës Castle and watch the sunset over the Adriatic on the Volga promenade. After dinner we will hit up Durrës’ boisterous nightlife and rage into the night.

Day 5 — Tuesday, Aug 22

On our fifth day, we will have a leisurely morning before leaving to visit the historical ruins of old Dyrrhachium, the ancient Greek/Roman city upon which modern Durrës is built. After lunch, we will head to Berat, known as the Town of a Thousand Windows, which is one of the few towns of Albania that escaped being razed to the ground to make way for communist-styled apartment blocks. The old city, known as the Mangalemi District, has recently been added to UNESCO's world heritage list. We will tour the town and its fortress, the kala, built during the 13th century and is still inhabited. The views from the top across Berat and the Osum River Valley are some of the best in the whole country.

Day 6 — Wednesday, Aug 23

We will wake up in the morning to hike through the Osum Gorge with a local tour guide to explore Albania’s natural beauty. The gorge is one of the most spectacular natural attractions of Albania with waterfalls, rafting, and great hiking. Upon reaching the main waterfall, we will take time to swim in the ancient rock-formed pool lying underneath the falls. We will return to Berat in the evening before heading to dinner and exploring the town one last time.

Day 7 — Thursday, Aug 24

Let’s go to the beach, beach, let’s go get away. Today, we head to the Albanian Riviera, the largest set of untouched Mediterranean beaches in all of Europe. We will wake up early to head to Sarandë and stop in Gjirokastra for lunch. Afterwards, we will head over the Llogara Pass, the gateway to the Albanian Riveria, more than 1,000 meters above sea level. Then we continue past Sarandë to the ancient city of Butrint, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the most important archaeological discovery in Albania. Legend associates this city with Trojan settlers who fled Troy under the leadership of Aeneas. The city was first settled by Greek colonists and was continuously inhabited for centuries, forming archaeological layers of several eras of civilization. Apart from the ancient ruins it is situated on a beautiful peninsula, rich in flora and fauna. After the visits, we return to Sarandë to enjoy a quick dinner before turning in for the evening.

Day 8 — Friday, Aug 25

We’re on a boat, we’re on a boat -- for the whole day! After breakfast, we will take the bus to beautiful Ksamil beach where we will take guided speed boats to explore the beaches around the island and fish in the open Ionian Sea. If you have luck catching fish, we will head to a restaurant where you can cook your own lunch. Afterwards, we will sunbathe, explore, and sightsee across the greater Sarandë area. We will return to town to rage in style at the hopping clubs and bars of the city.

Day 9 — Saturday, Aug 26

This day is completely open-ended. Get your new Mtrek buddies and explore whatever piques your interests.

Day 10 — Sunday, Aug 27

It’s our last day at the beach before heading back to Tirana. Make sure to get in your final sunbathing, swimming, and other beach needs. We will leave around noon, continue up to Llogara Pass and drive up the scenic coast drive to Vlorë and Durrës. But first, we will have lunch at Llogara National Park at a restaurant situated in a pine forest. We will get to Tirana for dinner and late night drinks.

Day 11 — Monday, Aug 28

Today, we will take a half-day trip to the mountain village and former Albanian capital of Kruja. Kruja was the last stronghold of Skanderbeg's (the national hero of Albania) army until the Ottomans took over the entire country. There is plenty of time to explore the citadel, the famous bazaar area, and the excellent ethnographic museum housed inside the fortress. In the afternoon, we will return to Tirana after lunch for time to explore and visit places we missed earlier in the trek. We will have a farewell dinner as a group to reminisce over trek before hitting the town for the rage of a lifetime (which will only half prepare you for the BUS on game days).

Day 12 — Tuesday, Aug 29

All good things must come to an end, and it’s time to return to Michigan for the bustle of classes, football, Skeeps, and late night BTB. But it’s ok, we will have plenty of reunions to relive our 10 days in Albanian paradise.