The Beauty of Cycling Holidays in Albania
Typically, there are two sorts of people who book cycling holidays in Albania. Firstly, there are those who have been before and are keen to see more of this exciting, picturesque country, and then there are those who are bored of the tried and tested routes, not to mention overpopulated itineraries of other countries. In recent years Crete, Corsica, Croatia and Slovenia have become just as popular as Spain, France and Germany for cycling holidays, but having to wait your turn to marvel at a view can become very wearing. This is certainly not yet the case with any of Exoduss Albanian cycling tours.
Relatively fresh from the restrictive regime of The Peoples Socialist Republic of Albania, this is a cultural crossroads of a county. It has a Byzantium legacy, and a recent dictatorship hangover, yet it manages to retain a modern Mediterranean outlook. Bordered by Greece and Macedonia, with Italy just across the water, theres no denying that Albania is geographically diverse. Packed with stunning mountains, deep lakes, and hillside towns, its a truly beautiful country; where you can expect a warm welcome.
The rural areas here are rugged and wild. Youll cycle through valleys, gorges and plateaus, past waterfalls, thermal springs and stunning wildlife. You might see wolves, brown bears and wild horses, while goats and sheep adorning the mountain slopes are a given. The urban areas on the other hand are either new, shiny, colourful, loud and fun like, capital city Tirana, or theyre still quite old-fashioned with donkeys in the street and a grey, soviet edge to the functional buildings.
The ethos to the country can perhaps be best summed up in a typical Albanian breakfast, which is a mish-mash of sausages, feta, fruit and cake, all washed down with plenty of coffee! Feeling excited about getting to know Albania; particularly the stunning vistas which are really only available to you when you take a bike to them? Today were going to look at where youll visit on a typical Exodus cycling tour itinerary, as well as answer any questions you might have about what cycling holidays might involve.
Tips for first time cycling holidays
Preparation for a cycling holiday will help you get more out of it, but were not just talking about building up strength. (Although raising your fitness level, particularly if youre aware its lacking, will certainly help make the trip more enjoyable.)
For peace of mind, make sure your travel insurance is relevant for a cycling holiday. Its no good omitting details on your insurance form, only to find youve invalidated your claim before you even make it. If your insurance company asks for the specific details, make sure you provide a good idea of the amount of miles youre expecting to cover during the holiday, as well as the sort of terrain and support youll be given. As Exodus will give you a support vehicle and experienced guide for the duration of your trip, you should get a lower premium than simply hiring bikes in an informal capacity.
Retaining strength is important to enable you to enjoy the whole week without injury or psychological strain. To do that you need to bear nutrition in mind. Youll be fed well whilst on holiday, but in the weeks leading up to the holiday, why not consider eating healthily so you know you can deliver a satisfyingly peak performance?
To build muscles for the miles youre expecting to cover, you could up your exercise regime. If youre not already doing 3 x 30 minute cardio sessions a week, making sure you do this could benefit you greatly. Dont forget to stretch following exercise, as this will help tired muscles. Some athletes swear by cold baths too! Make sure you stretch following each bike ride, whilst on holiday. Itll make it easier for you to get back on the saddle the next day.
The cycling tour company you book with might offer you some advice on what to pack, but its good to have an idea of expectations. What time of year are you travelling? Although you might not need a jacket in Autumn, the evenings might be cool, and gloves are a must have item at any time for helping you grip the handlebars when you start to sweat. Layers and breathable fabrics are also key. This will allow you to regulate your body temperature better, resulting in a more comfortable ride each day.
Other must-have items to pack include sunscreen, sunglasses, a small backpack to take on your daily ride, worn in trainers that arent going to rub your heels, and if you are worried about tight muscles, small, handheld foam rollers can be a game-changer. You can get these from any sports shop.
Itinerary for Exodus Cycling Holidays in Albania
Most tours will start and end in Tirana, the capital of Albania. If you get the chance to explore the city before you begin your first day of cycling, make sure you check out Skanderberg Square, the art collections in Petrala Castle, and the National History Museum; all well worth a visit.
Your next stop is likely to be Pogradec, on the shores of Lake Ohrid. This was a popular resort town during the Soviet era and you can still find plenty of traditional restaurants adorning the lakeside walk. If you have leisure time here, some exciting places to visit nearby are the Springs of Drilon, with its ornamental gardens and decorative trees, as well as Saint Panteleimon; a Byzantine church.
Then, inevitably, youll head for the mountains. The barren wilderness of the Kor region is stunning. During a cycle ride that includes a 1150m ascent and a 1050 steep descent, youll see the Grammos Mountain and cross the Barmash Pass. When you then bike along the high, grassy plateau, which is Germanj, near the Greek border, youll see high peaks above you and the Leshovik Gorge below. This route will take you onto the Corniche Route, where youll be a few hundred metres above the River Benje.
In the Kelayra Valley, with its backdrop of sharp, jagged peaks, youll cycle between the gorges, until you get to the point where two rivers meet on you way past the Waterfalls of Tepelene. The water falls down a narrow opening into a turquoise lagoon below. Its a spectacular sight.
In Gjirokastra, which is an Ottoman city that has been well preserved because Albanias former dictator was born here, youll get a chance to discover some stunning architecture. There are said to be over 600 traditional Ottoman-style homes here. Skendulaj House is a particularly popular attraction, as is the 13th century castle.
No cycling holiday in Albania is complete without also visiting the Ionian cost. Youll take the support vehicle to the Murzina Pass, which is commonly referred to as the gateway to southern Albania. Itll be a downhill ride to Sarand from here; a town that sits neatly between the mountains and the sea.
Youll also take a trip to Himer; an authentic communist era fishing village, and to Butrint; which is Albanias most important archeological site. It is believed to have been inhabited since prehistoric times. Here youll find ruins depicting each period of the citys history; Greek, Roman, Byzantine and modern day.
As with every cycling holiday, there will be one day that stands out in your memory as being particularly challenging, and this day will usually fall towards the end of the week, as itll give you a chance to put your new-found strength to the test. The Llogara Pass is 1043m above sea level. It is very steep and demanding, but the views from the top are worth the extra effort. On a clear day, you can see across the sea to Italy and in the protected woodland of the National Park, you might get the opportunity to spot golden eagles and Eurasian otters. It will be a great climax to an exciting week!
Booking your Exodus Cycling Holiday in Albania
Aspen Travel has partnered with Exodus for many years to take care of their bookings. We have a team in place who will be able to advise you on the cycling holiday that best suits your budget and travel preferences. If youd like a combination cycling tour of Albania and Macedonia, thats entirely possible. If youd like to visit Albania, but leave the bikes at home, we can help. Or, if youre a keen cyclist, but youd rather explore somewhere else, our advisors can provide you with a wide range of options.
To find out more about whats possible, please get in touch on 0845 528 0180 or contact our team firstname.lastname@example.org. We are experts in luxury, all-inclusive travel and we can certainly help you achieve a holiday that has the potential to massively exceed your expectations.