Secrets of Southern Albania

Vultures and Illyrians


A conservation tour with PPNEA & Balkan Tracks


Sat, 25 April - Sat, 02 May 2020

Few people know much about Albania. And fewer still have visited. Yet the Dalmatian pelicans on its Adriatic coastlines and the Mediterranean scrub awash with wildflowers are reminiscent of Croatia and Greece.

The home of the ancient Illyrians and a stone's throw from Italy, the region was on the crossroads of the ancient Greek, Roman and Ottoman worlds. Magnificent settlements flourished, both on the coast amongst the golden jackal, and in the mountains where Egyptian vulture circle overhead.


Join us on this intimate, small-group gallivant around the lakes, coastline and mountains of Southern Albania.


4 - 6







Full itinerary




  • Narta and Butrint lagoons home to flamingoes, pelicans & jackals

  • Towered over by snowcapped  mountains and their Egyptian vultures

  • Beaches and sub-alpine meadows

  • Early spring butterflies & dragonflies


  • Ancient cities of Apollonia, Byllis & 
    Buthroton (Butrint)
    , surrounded

    by nature, now in the middle of nowhere

  • Byzantine churches & wall paintings

  • Centuries-old mosques & tekkes

  • UNESCO protected town of Gjirokastra


  • Primary guide is a PPNEA ecologist

  • Meet park rangers, shepherds & other
    local folks that PPNEA
    work with

  • By visiting, you help PPNEA raise awareness amongst rural communities of their natural and cultural riches



Below are the main natural and cultural sites that we visit.

For a detailed itinerary click here

How best to describe the tour?

It’s a ramble through the landscapes and life of Southern Albania in a small group with two guides. This means that everyone sits together for meals and you have the opportunity to properly chat with our cast of locals along the way.


We don’t rush the walks or visits, and there isn’t a checklist of species that must be seen. Instead, whilst the professional and various local guides are not experts in all creatures great and small, we’ll allow time for a deep look at every animal, plant or mineral that comes across our path. No stone is left unturned; whether it’s possibly sheltering a Balkan green lizard from the sun or it’s part of a 4,000 year old ruin. 


Whether it's vultures or wall paintings, each day is packed full of new experiences, ready for friendly conversation over good food in the evenings.


With a PPNEA ecologist as your guide, this is a tour like no other through this unexplored country. A true tour of secrets.


You’ll see a range of landscapes, from the Adriatic coast to 2,000m peaks, in and amongst a mosaic of fields, Mediterranean maquis, rocky outcrops and sparsely grazed meadows. And whilst people have lived in the plains and valleys for millennia - in the fortified city of Butrint or amongst the vertiginous cobbled streets of Gjirokastra - the rugged landscape formed natural borders between ancient and medieval tribes. These are areas which still feel wild today and are full of birds, insects and plants.


In modern times, political events of the 20th century meant that Albania wasn’t cut-off solely by its mountainous terrain. And its isolation was a double-edged sword; horrific for its human populace, but in some ways, nature was spared the consequences of development. The 21st century has seen Albania truly open up though – to visitors and also a new economy – bringing with it another set of blessings and curses. No one is better placed than PPNEA to explain how all of these dynamics connect as you explore the natural and cultural wonders of this Balkan gem. 

Day 1 – Arrival in Tirana


  • Overnight on the Tirana outskirts, ready to leave first thing.

  • OPTIONAL - arrive a day early for a guided tour around Albania's capital; a real unknown gem. See ADD-ONs above


Days 2 & 3: Adriatic Lagoons & Apollonia


  • Walks around the beaches and forests of the Narta lagoon and saltpans. Flamingoes and Dalmatian Pelican

  • The ancient city of Apollonia with a resident archaeologist

  • An evening excursion for golden jackal

  • Walks & an outdoor, grilled lunch with local fishermen

  • Visit Vlora and discover the role it played in Albanian independence from the Ottoman Empire

  • Two nights outside Narta, by a beach on the Adriatic coast

Days 4 – 6: Home of Egyptian Vultures 


  • Leave the coast for the mountains of south-central Albania

  • Vulture feeding stations with PPNEA and park staff

  • 'Victorious' visit to Byllis, King Pyrrhus's city

  • Morning walks, with eyes in the skies for vultures & raptors

  • Raki with the caretakers of a white stork nest

  • Day in an unknown canyon with two 4x4s

  • Outdoor dinner with transhumance shepherds, on a plateau high above the plains, and hear about the loss of traditional farming, carnivore conflict and why we need vultures

  • Explore the UNESCO protected city of Gjirokastra, walking its cobbled streets, crowned by the 'Silver Castle'

  • Three nights in Gjirokastra Old Town

Day 7: Buthroton (today's Butrint)


  • The gem of all archaeological sites, wedged between the sea and lagoons, opposite Corfu.

  • Visit the open-air museum of the ancient city

  • Take in the hoopoes, spring flowers and butterflies​

  • Dinner by a ruined castle & overnight in Butrint

Day 8 – Departure - Tirana or Corfu



  • Drive the Adriatic coast, viaAli Pasha's castle, back to Tirana for evening flights, or you may choose to overnight in the city

  • ALTERNATIVELY, we could take you to the ferry terminal near Butrint and help you organise some days on Corfu before flying home. It's only half an hour away and an incredible island. 



Take a virtual tour of the itinerary, by scrolling through the photos & descriptions

If you click an image it will load the slideshow in full-screen mode.


Butrint - with the small lake in the foreground, the lagoon to the right, and the Ionian Sea and Corfu behind left

Balkan Tracks & PPNEA

a conservation tour

The director of Balkan Tracks has known the senior staff at PPNEA since 2011, when he was working near the Greek/Albanian border for the Society for the Protection of Prespa, one of PPNEA's regional partners.


Over time, an idea of a tour developed that would:


a) show foreign guests the areas of Albania in which PPNEA work, so that more people are aware of their importance;

b) allow guests to meet with local people, who then see PPNEA bringing guests to enjoy their national parks and rich nature, which enforces the work PPNEA are doing in these communities;

c) provide PPNEA with much-needed funds. Rather than paying guides like on a normal tour, Balkan Tracks donates this to PPNEA. Unlike project funding, which is very specific to that project's tasks, donations like this allow PPNEA to cover operational and ad hoc costs. We won't go into detail here (although by all means ask us), but finding funds for operational costs is a big issue for many NGOs around the globe.

So, who are PPNEA?​

​Protection and Preservation of Natural Environment in Albania (PPNEA) is a non-governmental environmental organisation that operates throughout Albania. Founded in 1991, PPNEA was the country's first environmental organisation. It emerged in a period of turmoil and socio-economic change in the country and the wider region - a time where environmental issues were looked down upon and given marginal priority in governing and policy issues.


PPNEA's work is mostly within Albanian territory, but it is expanding all the time into neighbouring countries due to long-lasting transboundary collaboration with the main environmental organisations in Greece, North Macedonia, Kosovo and Montenegro. Their major projects include work to protect the Balkan Lynx, Birds on the Adriatic Flyway, Monk Seals and Egyptian Vultures.

Read more about PPNEA and their projects here >





0044 (0)7506 381757



Unit 8A, Red Lane Mill, Sunny Bank Mills, Farsley, LS28 5UJ




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