Camp Nivica + South Albania Self Drive Tour

09 Nights / 10 Days

In Brief

A unique 10 day Albania self drive tour, including two nights at the incredible Camp Nivica, and two nights on the Albanian Riviera.

This is one of our favourite Albania tours, with a perfect mix of spectacular scenery and cultural sites. You’ll get to stay in the charming cities of Korça, Berat and Gjirokastra, as well as enjoy a couple of nights in more rural destinations, too. 

This tour includes a night on the Albanian side of Lake Ohrid, though you might prefer to cross the border into North Macedonia to spend the night at the city of Ohrid (there are additional costs if you choose this option; and we wouldn’t recommend it in July or August).

All the driving is on good asphalt roads, and the tour is achievable in a normal road car. Even the rural back-route options we give have fresh surfaces, put down in the past few years. Some roads are not on Google Maps, so please be sure to follow the route PDFs we provide!

We’ll deliver the car to your hotel in central Tirana, and collect it from you at Rinas Airport (Tirana International) when you depart. Of course, you are welcome to return the car to Tirana if you prefer.

Please be aware, if you have an early departure flight on the final day, you may want to replace Berat and spend the last night closer to the airport.   

From €890* Per Person

Based on 02 sharing 01 double or twin bed
For travel between early May and late June; and mid September to late October
Prices for high season will depend on your choice of Riviera accommodation, and vehicle availability 
*2024 prices

R

Includes

  • 09 nights’ accommodation as agreed on final itinerary – 3* equivalent hotels with a guesthouse stay at Përmet
  • 2022 Kia Stonic or similar vehicle delivered to your hotel in Tirana and collected from Rinas Airport (Tirana International)  
  • Full vehicle insurance 
  • Route planning, PDF road books to download to your phone 
  • All breakfasts*; home-cooked evening meals at Përmet & Camp Nivica   
  • Guided hike at Camp Nivica
  • 24-hour support

* Unless your departure flight is extremely early and you have to leave the hotel before breakfast is served 

Q

Excludes

  • Flights 
  • Fuel 
  • Parking fees & road tolls
  • Any vehicle / driving fines incurred 
  • Any vehicle damage not covered by insurance (such as damage to the underside of the car due to driving on unsuitable roads) 
  • Cross-border insurance (Green Card) 
  • Personal expenses 
  • Personal travel insurance 
  • Meals unless specified 
  • Alcohol unless specified 
  • Museum & attraction entrance tickets 
  • Unscheduled activities & excursions
  • Local guides
  • Tips
Visit the Protected Trust Services website to find out how the system works

Protected Trust Services

As a UK tour operator offering holiday packages, we have to comply with strict consumer protection legislation. We are proud to be members of Protected Trust Services (member number 5101). When you pay for your tour, your money will be held in a British HSBC trust account. It will be released to us only after your tour is completed, giving you full peace of mind. You can read more about how the Protected Trust Services system works here.   

A photograph of a man with horses in the mountains above Camp Nivica, Kurvelesh, Albania

Route Notes

We don’t share specific route details till we have received your deposit. The reason for this is Albania’s road network is changing rapidly, and a good proportion of the value we provide is knowing where there are good roads, and where there are not. For instance, most of our tours use perfect asphalt roads which do not exist on Google Maps. Conversely, Google Maps will usually send unwitting travellers along roads that are completely impossible for normal road cars.

Overnight Stays

You’ll spend at least one night in each of the following locations. If you want to adapt the tour to include a different destination, let us know and if it’s possible we’ll make it happen

Përmet

Sleepy little Përmet was off the radar till recently. But the creation of the River Vjosa National Park in 2023 has raised its profile, and now it's one of Albania's "hot" destinations. We love the place - it has a unique 1970s charm and is the perfect location for exploring this beautiful region. It also famous for producing the best raki in the country…

You can stay in the "city" itself (a small town by normal standards) or in a village guesthouse close by. We recommend the latter, but room availability can be tricky these days.

Gjirokastra

No tour of south Albania is complete without a night (or better two) in this fascinating UNESCO World Heritage City, famed for its huge old stone houses, many of which date back to the 18th century and the time of Ali Pasha. If you're looking for a "day off" on your tour, this is our recommendation - you won't get bored here.

It even makes a great base for day trips - Butrint and Përmet are within easy reach, the Albanian part of the famous Zagoria valley is a few kilometres away, or you might like to make a guided hike along the Greek border to the south.

You'll stay up in the cobbled Old Town, close to just about everything, and you can explore easily on foot. Be sure to wear sensible shoes, though the local young ladies seem able to negotiate the steep cobbled alleyways in stilettos.

Riviera

The Riviera (the Ionain coastline from the Greek border to Bay of Vlorë) is beautiful, even spectacular in places, but tricky to negotiate. As a one or two night stop on a tour of Albania we think it works brilliantly. If you want a beach-focused holiday, perhaps less so.

Don't believe the "influencers" - Ksamil is not the place to go and is very far from being the "Maldives of Europe". Saranda is OK in the off-season but impossible in summertime, and ugly all year round. Generally we'd only recommend going there if you're catching the ferry to Corfu. The city of Vlorë is also just concrete apartments, though there are some nice spots on Bay of Vlorë to the south.

Better to head to a family owned place in one of the smaller villages, which is where we'll generally try to put you if you're making a tour with us. However, room availability in the reliable hotels is extremely limited in high season. If you're looking to travel in July and August and you contact us after January, we're unlikely to find anywhere we'd want to stay ourselves. If this is the case, we'll respectfully ask you to book your Riviera accommodation independently as we regard it as a guaranteed complaint and do not want to deal with 90 per cent of Riviera hoteliers, who are a law unto themselves.

Finally, the Albanian Riviera is not a cheap destination. You're about five years too late, sadly. In fact, Greece provides better value - and much better standards and service and food - in high season. If you want a few days on the beach at the end of your tour and are exiting via Corfu, you might like to book your beach time there.

 

Camp Nivica

Obviously, this tour includes two nights at Camp Nivica.

Berat

Albania's second UNESCO World Heritage City has a charming Ottoman atmosphere and lots of history. If you're travelling on a self drive tour, we'd even suggest booking a local guide to help bring it to life.

Berat is very small and can be explored in just a few hours, so we generally recommend it as a one-night stop, though if you are rafting the Osumi Canyon or hiking Mt Tomorr, then two is necessary.  

You happen to be in the heart of Albania's southern wine region, so you might like to arrange a tasting. You could even sleep at one of the local wineries, which are a short drive from the city itself. Berat is generally dead as a door nail after 10.00pm so don't feel that you'd be missing out on any action! 

 

Korça

Korça is a wonderful little city. In fact, it competes with Gjirokastra as our favourite in the whole of Albania.

Poor road connections kept it off the international tourist radar till a few years ago, although it has always been a popular winter destination among Albanians and is completely full each Christmas and New Year.

Wandering its cobbled streets is a delight for architecture lovers - there are countless quirky little villas from the first half of the 20th century, and a few older Ottoman-era buildings too.

In the evening be sure to head to the lively little bazaar for a beer or mulled wine. And if you're a night owl you should be able to fine a bar or two open till the early hours…

Lake Ohrid

Lake Ohrid is divided neatly between Albania and North Macedonia. The most famous place to stay is, naturally, Ohrid on the North Macedonian side. We don't recommend it in summertime as it is far too busy and the border crossing can be a mess. But in spring or autumn it's a great option, though you'll have to pay extra to take the car across the border (approx €40) and accommodation is pricier (and don't ask about parking…).

On the Albanian side is the much less attractive and less interesting town of Pogradec. We'd advise you to give it a miss, and stay instead at one of the cute little villages on the lake shore. In fact, this is where you'll stay on this tour unless you specify that you're happy to pay a little extra and cross over to Ohrid.

 

En Route / Optional Activities - South Albania Self Drive

This tour takes you past plenty of fascinating sites and attractions. You won’t be able to include them all, but if you let us know what appeals we can adjust routes around your interests. Please note, these additional stops and activities are not included in the cost of the tour

Rafting

On this tour it's possible to take a rafting adventure on the Vjosa - one of Europe's last "wild rivers". There is enough water through the year, even in high summer, to provide thrills. If you're travelling from January to May, you might prefer to raft the Osumi Canyon, though this will require a two-night stay in or around Berat.

Sulphur Springs

When you're in Përmet it's practically compulsorary to make the small detour to the sulphur springs at nearby Benjë (you might like to hire a bike in Përmet and ride rather than drive). If it's summertime, you might like to visit early in the morning or around sundown to avoid the crowds. In winter you might be lucky enough to have the place to yourselves.

Byllis Archaeological Park

Until 2023 Bylis was a real pain to reach, requiring a long, tedious and very twisty detour. Now it is connected with a brand-new asphalt road, so is a logical stop when you're travelling south to Gjirokastra. We actually prefer Byllis to the more famous Butrint - the views down to the Vjosa river are incredible, and the site is much less crowded (though we guess the new road means the days of being the only visitors are gone...).

Wild Swimming

Your route notes will include lakes and rivers where you can take a dip. Always a hit is a karst lake which happens to be close to two of our favourite restaurants (which one you eat at will have to be your decision...). Obviously, you swim at your own risk - please don't expect lifeguards.

Butrint Archaeological Park

Tucked away in the southwestern corner of Albania is the UNESCO-protected Butrint archaeological park. If you visit in spring, autumn or winter it's a great stop, with atmospheric ruins in a beautiful setting - if you come in summer you have to expect to share the site with day-trippers from Corfu (we suggest timing your visit for the late afternoon, when the coaches have mostly departed).

Paragliding

Depending on the time of year, it might be possible to include paragliding on your tour. The most famous spot is of course Llogora Pass, but it should soon (we are told) be possible to fly from Mt Çajup, opposite Gjirokastra. Ask us for the most up-to-date information.

Karavasta National Park

A completely different landscape from anything else you'll see in south Albania. This is perhaps the country's most famous bird-watching destination, and is home to plenty of flamingos and the endangered Dalmatian pelican. There are also plenty of excellent and reasonably priced fish restaurants.

Borovë WWII Cemetery

When you're driving from Ersekë to Leskovik we urge you to stop at the village of Borovë to visit its moving World War II cemetery. In August 1943 a German unit destroyed the village with flame-throwers, killing many women, children and old folk.

Soviet Winery

On this tour you'll pass our favourite Albanian winery. Most of the infrastructure was shipped over from the Soviet Union before the split (so late 1950s). It has barely changed since, and its owners seem content to keep it that way. The raki room is something to behold… We suggest stopping for lunch at the excellent restaurant after a tour of the facilities. With advance notice they'll find an English-speaker to translate and explain how everything works.

Syri i Kaltër (the Blue Eye, Saranda)

This isn't a recommendation - we suggest you ignore the guide books and drive right on by. However, nobody ever takes our advice so join the crowds and make the long, sweaty walk to see what would have been a beautiful spot before it got trashed. Be sure to buy a fridge magnet at the giftshop the Minstry of Culture put up just five metres from the spring itself.

Orthodox Churches

South Albania is home to some of the Balkans' most beautiful Orthodox churches. We'll include a few recommendations in your route notes, including our personal favourite, St Mary's, which we feel is a must on any cultural tour of the region.

Hiking

Please ask us about hiking opportunities on our tours. But keep in mind that Albania is an extremely mountainous country and almost any hike here will include very steep ascents and descents, and the paths will be rough and often badly maintained. If you ask for a "gentle" hike we probably won't be able to help.

Antigonea Archaeological Park

Perhaps not the most impressive of Albania's archaeological parks in terms of ruins, but hard to beat for its atmospheric location, and an easy drive from Gjirokastra too. It's named, by the way, after the wife of King Pyrrhus, of Pyrrhic victory fame, who was once a big noise in the region.

Wine Tastings

As you travel through south Albania you'll pass some of Albania's best wineries. If you'd like to arrange a tasting (or two), please let us know and we'll design your route accordingly. There is also the opportunity to stay the night in a winery at a beautiful village close to Berat if you choose.

Cookery Classes

If you're a keen cook, you might like to include a cookery class in your tour of south Albania. Probably the best place would be Gjirokastra, where you can lean to cook the city's famous qifqi (herb-and-rice balls) in the garden of the ever-charming Marjeta.

Apollonia Archaeological Park

It's a long and dull drive from the Riviera to Tirana, so you might like to break the journey at Apollonia for an hour or so. Only a small percentage of the site has been excavated, but what is visible is pretty impressive, including the much-photographed Monument to Agonothetes.

Village Lunches

If you like to meet locals and get a taste of village life, we're happy to arrange more off-beat lunches for you as you travel. A particular favourite is lunch at a mountaintop village along the Albanian Riviera - a far cry from the glitz and fake glamour of the beach resorts below…

Lake Prespa

A recommended detour from your route is to Lake Prespa, where Greece, Albania and North Macedonia meet. This is much wilder than nearby Lake Ohrid, and has an "end-of-the-world" feel to it. In summer you can swim in the clear water; if it's cold you might simply want to take lunch of krap (carp), cooked in herb sauce, and enjoy the views. You can also make a boat trip to visit one of the lake's islands, where you'll find a lonely church hidden away in a cave, but not a lot else.

Museum of Medieval Art Korça

This fantastic art gallery / museum is worth a trip to Korça in itself. It is home to some incredible icons by the master Onufri. You need to see them to appreciate his genius - he appears to have had a 20th-century European artistic sensibility in 16th-century Albania. Must have been tough for the poor chap.