10 Days / 09 Nights

Kotor to Saranda Tour

Virpazar – Lepushë – Fishtë – Tirana – Berat – Nivica – Qeparo – Saranda  

In Brief

A 10-day private tour starting in Kotor, Montenegro, and ending in Saranda, south Albania, for the Corfu ferry.

Day 01 – Bay of Kotor to Virpazar (Hotel Pelikan)
Day 02 – Virpazar to Lepushë (Hotel Alpin; private cabin) 
Day 03 – Lepushë (Hotel Alpin) 
Day 04 – Lepushë to Fishtë (Mrizi i Zanave) 
Day 05 – Fishtë to Tirana (Hotel Boka) 
Day 06 – Tirana to Berat (Hotel Onufri) 
Day 07 – Berat to Nivica (Camp Nivica) 
Day 08 – Nivica (Camp Nivica)
Day 09 – Nivica to Qeparo (Hotel Riviera) 
Day 10 – Qeparo to Saranda (15.00 for the 16.00 ferry*)

*Please remember there is a one-hour time difference between Albania and Corfu, so you lose one hour in the crossing.

Created December 2022 for travel in May 2023.



This tiny little village is just half an hour from Montenegro's capital, Podgorica, but might as well be in a different world. It's set on the shores of Lake Skadar, and makes for a supremely relaxing stop. You're in the heart of Montenegro's finest wine region, so in the evening we strongly recommend a tasting at one of its charming family owned wineries. In the morning it's worth making an early start and making a trip out onto the lake, either by kayak or if you're feeling lazy, by boat.    



If we want to escape to the Albanian Alps for a few days, the village of Lepushë is our first choice. The views here are simply jaw-dropping, the hiking is amazing, and it feels blissfully undiscovered in comparison with the better-known and much more developed resorts of Theth and Valbona. We recommend staying at least two nights, to allow a full day's hike up into the mountains that separate Albania from Montenegro. 



If you're travelling from Montenegro to Tirana (or vice-versa), then you should break the journey in the village of Fishtë, more specifically at the acclaimed restaurant-with-rooms Mrizi i Zanave. Brothers Altin and Anton Prenga have created something very special here - a charming agrotourism built around the Italian Slow Food philosophy. Almost everything you see on your plate will have been sourced from neighbouring farms, or grown on-site. In 2020 they even opened their own small "factory", producing cheeses, dried meats and preserves, which was followed in short order by an impressive winery. Mrizi has an international reputation now, and has only eight rooms, so early booking is recommended. 



Albania’s chaotic capital is undergoing a mini-revolution, as decrepit Communist-era buildings and pre-War Italian villas are torn down, sometimes seemingly overnight, to be replaced with huge, modern tower blocks. Whether this is a good thing or not is a matter of personal taste - the government's plan seems to be to turn it into a Balkan version of Singapore. Amid the construction/destruction you'll find a friendly and fascinating city, with great bars and nightlife and without doubt the best food in the entire Balkan region. Be sure to visit the House of Leaves museum, which explores the role of the feared Sigurimi secret police under the dictatorship, and the "secret" nuclear bunker built with Chinese cash and expertise in the 1970s - Bunk'Art.   



The “City of a Thousand Windows” is a must-visit on any south Albania tour. Berat was an important strategic hub well before the Roman era, and its imposing Citadel has been inhabited continuously for at least 2,500 years. Berat owes its UNESCO World Heritage status to its three surviving historic neighbourhoods, Mangalemi, Gorica and Kalaja (castle). We recommend it for a one-night stay, which gives you plenty of time to explore its cobbled alleyways and take in the views from Kalaja.   


Camp Nivica

Until 2021, the village of Nivica had no asphalt road connections, and accordingly no entries in guidebooks. The asphalt has arrived now, but it's going to take a year or two for the guidebooks to be updated to include what is one of Albania's most enticing destinations. Undoubtedly the place to stay is Camp Nivica - six luxurious safari-style tents (with private en suite WC/shower) perched right on the edge of the huge Nivica Canyon system. The views are incredible, and the hospitality offered by Astrid, the camp's Swedish owner, is faultless. The camp has a two-night minimum stay policy, meaning you have a full day to hike down into the canyon, enjoy the extraordinary scenery, and generally disconnect from "civilisation". In 2022 the camp was featured in Condé Nast Traveller's feature on Albania - and deservedly so. 



The Albanian Riviera has a very short season - in July and August it is rammed with tourists; in the spring and autumn shoulder seasons, almost empty. At either time of year our favourite place to stay is the village of Qeparo, about 20 minutes' drive south of Himarë. Even in high summer it retains a chilled-out vibe in comparison with the party spots of Saranda and Dhërmi, and is the perfect spot to relax for a few days. If you get the chance, drive up to Old Qeparo, the most picturesque village of the Albanian Riviera (phone ahead if you want to take lunch in the tiny village shop / taverna).




English-speaking driver, his accommodation & expenses

Air-conditioned car with cross-border insurance, fuel

Accommodation as indicated, or near equivalents 

Guided hike at Lepushë

Guided hike at Camp Nivica

All breakfasts; 01 picnic lunch at Lepushë; 01 evening meal at Mrizi i Zanave; 02 evening meals at Camp Nivica

Pick-up from Tivat, Kotor or Perast, drop-off at Saranda’s ferry port 




Personal expenses

Personal travel insurance

Meals not indicated on itinerary

Museum & attraction entrance tickets

Local guides unless indicated (can be arranged on request)

Unscheduled excursions, taxis

Alcohol (unless indicated on itinerary)




Montenegro's old Royal Capital is a bizarre little place, hidden away high in the mountains between Podgorica and the Adriatic coast. Expect Ruritanian architecture and a very sleepy vibe... We generally recommend stopping for lunch, though don't expect haute cuisine - the royals have long gone and the locals seem content with the Balkan staple of meatballs. Be sure to check out the huge relief map of the region, created by the Austro-Hungarian army in WWI.


The largest city in northern Albania has a fascinating history and might just pre-date Lake Skadar, on whose shores it sits. Be sure to visit the impressive ruins of Rozafa Castle, which Sultan Mehmet II narrowly failed to take in the 1470s (if he had succeeded, Rome was his next target). Another fascinating spot is the Shkodër Art Mask Factory, which produces masks for the Venice Biennale, and is one of Albania's best shopping opportunities.  

Lakes of Belsh

If you're driving from Tirana to Berat, we always recommend taking the scenic backroads rather than the highway. Firstly because the highway route is so ugly you'll want to scratch your eyes out and secondly as taking the backroads allows a detour to a wonderful wild-swimming spot at a clean karst lake near the town of Belsh. On a hot day, you'll really appreciate the chance to cool down in the clear waters, and even sunbathe on the "beach" for an hour or two. 

Old Qeparo

The hilltop village of Qeparo (not to be confused with the more modern settlement on the beach) is one of the most scenic spots in Albania, and remains wonderfully undeveloped. We recommend heading up there to stroll its atmospheric alleyways, and ideally to take a meal at the tiny café / taverna (advance notice required). Most of our clients tell us this is one of their favourite meals of the tour. 

Porto Palermo Castle

Halfway between Qeparo and Himarë on the Albanian Riviera is the picture-postcard bay of Porto Palermo. It's obviously a strategic spot - the Soviets built a large submarine base there back in the 1950s, seemingly inspired by the infamous Ali Pasha, who built a small fortress close by in the Napoleonic era. The submarine base is off-limits, but you can visit the castle and learn a little about its fascinating Ali Pasha, who had total control of this region till the Sultan ordered his death from the safety of Istanbul. 

Lovcen National Park

A must-visit if you're driving from Cetinjë to Bay of Kotor is the Mausoleum of Njegos, which the Montenegrin tourist board claims is the world's highest mausoleum (it's at 1,660m altitude, so it might well be). The history is pretty obscure, but don't worry - you're here for the views and the uncanny sense of being on top of the world.   

Rrapshë Serpentine

The road from Hot (close to Albania's border with Montenegro) to the villages of Lepushë and Vermosh is, we reckon, one of the most spectacular in the region. Along the way you'll have to negotiate the infamous Rrapshë Serpentine - several kilometres of hairpin bends, with an epic view through the Accursed Mountains. 


You can make the easy detour to historic Kruja, about an hour north of Tirana. It was here that Albania's national hero, Skanderbeg, launched his 25-year rebellion against the Ottoman empire, and today there is a frankly bizarre museum dedicated to his memory (though don't expect to learn anything much about him unless you're with a guide), and a fun little bazaar where you can pick up detritus from the Communist days along with handicrafts, kilims (traditional rugs) and slightly comical Albanian felt hats.


There are several opportunities on this tour to stop for a wine-tasting. We try to focus on smaller family owned wineries rather than the larger more commercial places. If you've an interest in wines and gastronomy, be sure to let us know so we can plan accordingly! 

Ura e Bratit

You'll be passing one of the finest Ottoman bridges in the Balkan region on this tour - and as well as providing a great photo opportunity, it is also one of our favourite wild-swimming spots. Outside of the July/August high season you're likely to have the river to yourselves, though be aware, it is a steep 10-minute walk from the road along an uneven, rocky path. 

Ujëvara e Peshturës

Undoubtedly one of the most scenic waterfalls in Albania! So scenic, in fact, that one of our clients was shortlisted for a US Fujifilm competition for her photograph. You can expect plenty of water throughout the year, apart from in high summer and autumn, when the falls dry up. Visit in springtime and you'll certainly be tempted to take a "shower", but be warned - the water's icy cold!    


Albania Travel Guide Introduction

"About 20 per cent of Albanian drivers have the firm conviction that traffic on the roundabout has right of way. Another 20 per cent believe traffic entering the roundabout has right of way. Then a good 30 per cent believe they have right of way, in any circumstance whatsoever. The remainder seem to be under the impression that a roundabout is some kind of strange circular car park, with an ornamental garden in the middle. "