Tracking Bears & Friends

We're lucky to share our lakes and mountains with bears, wolves, boar, wildcat and otter. A few chamois remain, and maybe the Balkan lynx.

 

Join our expert trackers and guides as we hike each morning through the region, checking trail cameras and learning about the prints, marks and paths of our mammals.

 

We stop for a long lunch in the hills, accompanied by a local whose path crosses with large carnivores. Park wardens, stockbreeders, hunters, farmers, ecologists - each have a story to tell.

 

In the late afternoon, we'll watch the sun go down across the valleys and hope to see mammals, from afar, venture out in the dusk.

 

This is a tour to follow in the footsteps of wild animals and understand their ecology, movements and problems. We are serious about Responsible Tourism and do not risk disturbing the animals to promise you a sighting. And we most certainly do not bait hides for photographs.

Group:

3 - 6

Walking:

Relaxed

Cost:

£995 (1.250€)

Days*:

7

Day One:

Kastoria

City on the Lake

Day Two:

Into the mountains

 

Day Four:

Bears &

Humans

Day Five:

Abandoned villages

Day Six:

Prespa

National Park

Day Seven:

Kleines &

Home

When:

All Year

Day Three:

Pindos

National Park

Following the footprints of rare mammals

Find out more

Day One - Kastoria, the City on the Lake

Arrive in Thessaloniki (Salonica).

Drive to Kastoria.

Presentation about tracking and the week ahead.

Day Two - Into the mountains

Leaving Kastoria early, we drive west, towards the high peaks, to start our first hike. 

Lunch in a mountain village and a meeting with a local hunter.

Accommodation in a local guesthouse.

Day Three - Mount Grammos

An early morning hike, through the incredible forests and landscapes of Mt. Grammos, on the border with Greece and Albania. We head towards our lunch spot at the museum of the Greek Civil War, where we will also stay the night.

Day Four - Bears, humans and highways

We leave the mountains for the plains, dissected from the opposing mountains by a fenced highway. A fence that protects road users from crossing animals, but the bears have had their territory cut in half. A local farmer explains what happens next...

Day Five - Abandoned villages of Korestia

Our morning hike is amongst the largely abandoned villages of Korestia, an after-effect of the Civil War and modern life. We'll lunch in a still inhabited town with a local stockbreeder, before heading into the Prespa National Park to stay the night. 

Day Six - Prespa National Park

We'll hike above the gorgeous Prespa lakes, accompanied by a shepherd who's spent his life on these mountains. We'll finish the day in a traditional livestock village, where the locals will talk about the conflict with bears & wolves, around a campfire and spit.

Day Seven - The Kleines valley & Thessaloniki

Our last morning involves a drive over the mountains and out of Prespa. We'll have lunch with our final protagonist, a beekeeper in the forgotten valley of Kleines. Then it's back on the road to Thessaloniki for evening flights home. Sad times.

 
 

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

Day One - Cultural Capital of Thessaloniki

 

Visitors are asked to arrange their flights to Thessaloniki, Greece, where we'll meet you at the airport (see Flexibility in the Question section below, for those who wish to fly to another airport). As a major port city, Thessaloniki has been at the heart of the region for centuries. Founded in 315 BC by Cassander of Macedon, it became the second largest and wealthiest city of the Byzantine Empire after Constantinople (modern day Istanbul). It was conquered by the Ottomans in 1430 and passed from the Ottoman Empire to modern Greece on 8 November 1912. Remains from throughout history survive today amongst the modern buildings.

 

 

Today's itinerary depends on your arrival time. Either way, we will stay in a hotel in Thessaloniki overnight - it's good to relax after a flight, rather than get into another bus to drive to Prespa.

 

 

We will collect you at the airport, and then, depending on time, we'll visit the important sites. And we'd be very happy to recommend places to go near the city if you wish to arrive in Thessaloniki a day or two early, or spend some time in the city after the tour.

Click to enlarge photos

 

Day Two - Wetlands, homemade pie and deserted villages

 

Morning - short walks, never more than a kilometre

We'll take the scenic route from Thessaloniki to Prespa, via unknown nature and heritage spots along the way. The first stop is for a drink at a little-visited wetland where we should get good views of Ferruginous duck, as well as cormorants, pochards, Tufted ducks and Mallards. It'd be great to see Montagu's harrier, Lanner falcon and Lesser kestrel too, but that needs some luck. We'll then get back into the minibus, leave the mountains, and cross the Pelagonia plain. At the other side, at the foot of the Prespa mountains, lives Haris, and organic beekeeper. He'll show us his demonstration hives and explain about honey, propolis and Royal jelly. He makes some mean liqueurs from local plants too!

 

Lunch

The second stop before Prespa is for lunch in the forgotten village of Buf, which means Eagle owl in English!. A local chef will make us homemade Greek pies for lunch ('spanakopita' in Greek, but can be made with cheeses, peppers, leeks, you name it). 

 

Afternoon

We'll continue on our way to Prespa, but stop off to meet a young man who's trying to reignite interest in his forgotten village, called Buf, which would be Eagle owl in English! His village was home to 4,000 people before the Greek Civil War. It's now home to 50 and the ruins of all the other houses remain. It's quite an image, and a powerful introduction to the recent history of the area; a history known to pretty much no one outside Greece.

 

Evening

Before the sun goes down we'll drive over the mountain pass into Prespa, to catch a view of the lakes from up high, before driving on to our hotel for the next three nights in the village of Laimos. It is a traditional farmhouse and mill, restored and converted into a 10 room guesthouse. As with all accommodation on the trip, it has breakfast, heating, hot water, wi-fi and en-suite rooms. 

 

Click to enlarge photos

  

Day Three - Pelicans, tracking and an evening with shepherds

 

 

Morning - A collection of short walks from the minibus, never more than a kilometre

This morning we're joined by Greece's "Dr Otter", an expert in otters and tracking in general, who'll show us about the footprints and other signs left by the region's mammals. With the exception of deep winter, bears are on the move and their footprints and characteristic faeces can be found all around the lakes and mountains. But it's just as fun learning to spot badger and wildcat, or distinguishing between wolf or dog, goat or roe deer. We may also pass by a trail camera (camera trap) and see what walked past the days before us.

 

Next, to Prespa's birding highlight - the vantage point over the pelican colonies. We bring along a telescope, but you'll get great views just with binoculars. Lesser Prespa is home to the world's largest breeding colony of Dalmatian pelicans (≈1,200 breeding pairs) and ≈350 pairs of Great white pelican. Visitors should also be on the lookout for Pygmy cormorants, Glossy ibis, Grey and Squacco herons, Great white and Little egret and Marsh harriers.

 

Lunch

The island of Saint Achillios has been inhabited for centuries, but until 2000 was only accessible by boat. For the millennium a footbridge was built, which we cross to have lunch on the island.

 

Afternoon - 5km / 3 miles

After lunch we'll stay on the island and do a circular route. It's a beautiful place, giving commanding views of the mountains all around the Prespa lake basin. The island itself is surrounded by wet meadows and reed beds, kept in control by a herd of Prespa dwarf cows, an indigenous breed found only in Greek and Albanian Prespa. The island is famous for being a short-lived capital of Tsar Samuel in the 10th century and his now ruined, but still magnificent basilica.

 

Note: for anyone who would prefer not to walk the 5km, a shorter circuit can be designed, or the group can split and some spend relax for two hours on the taverna's veranda, birdwatching over the lake shore and enjoying a bit more food and drink!

 

Evening

Today's dinner is quite special. Some shepherd friends will organise a traditional "gledi" on the hillside overlooking their village. Lambs will be grilled on the spit, served with roasted potatoes and fresh salads. Better still, before dinner, we have the chance to walk around the village accompanied by one of the shepherds and visit his herd of adorable mules. As with many residents in Greek Prespa, the villagers belong to the Aromanian ethnicity (often referred to as "Vlach" in the Balkans). The Aromanian's were a semi-nomadic people, moving great distances throughout the Byzantine and Ottoman empires as they moved their herds from summer to winter pasture. After dinner, we'll be serenaded with their traditional music by a young clarinet player from the village, and maybe a spot of singing and dancing too.

 

Click to enlarge photos

 

Day Four - Junipers, butterflies and bird watching by boat

 

Early Morning (optional extra - cost per person depends on how many participants are interested)

Bird watching with a local ornithologist as the sun comes up on the isthmus between the lakes.

 

Morning - 5km / 3 miles

The day begins with a walk amongst ancient juniper stands, some a thousand years old. The soil and climate make these stands unique in Europe and they are host to a range of important plants, dozens of butterfly species and good chances of seeing Hoopoe, Treecreeper, Ortolan bunting, Woodlark and Short-toed eagle. Half of Greek Prespa's plants can be found here, including the rare soapwort (Saponaria bellidifolia), Orchis mascula, Orchis quadripunctata, Platanthere cholrantha and Ophrys sphegodes. The mountain was also a frontline during the Greek Civil War of 1945-1949 and many ruined military buildings are found along the footpath. For the whole walk, you'll want to be on the lookout for signs of bear, wolf, wild boar and roe deer. They love these forests. Eyes open for Stag beetle (Lucanus cervus) too. Ideally, we'll be joined by a local forester, ranger or logger to tell us about the balance between man and nature in the forest. If the group aren't keen walkers, we'll cut this down and do some by a road with the minibus.

 

Lunch

We'll drop down the mountain for a quick walk around a fishing village before a light lunch.

 

Afternoon

During the 14th and 15th century the Ottoman Empire grew and grew. Monks and hermits were drawn to the caves in the cliffs along the Great Prespa Lake; caves that could only be accessed by boat.  The ruins of these hermitages, with their well-preserved wall paintings, can still only be reached by boat. We take a 90 minute tour with local fishermen, who tell us about the caves, hermits and also the lives of fishermen. On top of this, we get great views of the boats of pelicans and other waterbirds fishing in the lake. As it's a boat trip, it's a very relaxed way to spend the afternoon, with weight taken of feet!

 

Evening

Dinner, drinks and maybe even some dancing in a traditional coffee shop, 'To Kazani tou Pappou', in Lefkonas ('Grandad's Distillery', in English). Since the 1920s the village has largely been inhabited by Pondic Greeks, who originate from the area around the Pondus river delta in what is now northern Turkey. Little known outside Greece and Turkey are the devasting Population Exchanges of the 1920s. Following the break-up of the Ottoman Empire and re-drawing of maps after the Balkan Wars, the two countries 'exchanged' some 2 million Christians and Muslims against their will. Some of these Anatolian Greeks settled in Prespa, and we'll hear about their history from a local beekeeper and mushroom collector, who'll also bring his organic produce to sample.

 

(Read more: an introduction on Wikipedia or try two brilliant Bernieres's brilliant book on the exchanges, Louis de Bernieres's historical fiction, Birds Without Wings and a non-fiction account by Bruce Clark, Twice a Stranger.

Click to enlarge photos

 

Day Four - Watermills, Bats and Dwarf cows

Morning - 5km / 3 miles

We're travelling to Albania in the afternoon, so we'll have an optional early morning start and walk around the "new" forest and secluded lakeshore beaches.  Surrounded by the agricultural plains, these forests and rivers provide the only corridors for mammals between the mountains and lake. Here we can find tracks of every one of them, from wolves to doe deer, wild boar to wildcat. The forest habitats are also Natura 2000 priority habitats, full of bird, butterfly and plant life.

 

By 10.30am we'll be ready to pick up other guests from the hotel and to the next village, one that was recently listed to protect its vernacular architecture. A village resident and park warden will give us a guided tour, finishing at a recently refurbished and award winning watermill from the 1930s, which is now being used again for milling flour and washing rugs.

 

Lunch

We'll have a packed lunch outdoors, on a hill overlooking the lakes, before driving over the border to Albanian Prespa.

 

Afternoon

Albanian Prespa is divided in two by a large mountain without an asphalt road. Today we visit the villages and shoreline of the tiny sliver of Lesser Prespa Lake that falls in Albania.  It's a world apart from Greek Prespa and was described by one resident to local author, Julian Hoffman as a place "that even God has forgotten. You can read Julian's blog post about it here.  

 

Our local guide for the afternoon is Florian, a shepherd who has worked with the SAVE Foundation and Society for the Protection of Prespa to breed and conserve the unique Prespa dwarf cows. Together they have a built a new stable for his herd, fitted out with huge roosts for the equally important bats of Prespa. We'll learn about the work from Florian as we wander through the fields and reedbeds. There'll possibly be a stop for a late lunch of home-cooked pies if his wife is free that day, so it's a relaxed afternoon.

 

Evening

We leave Lesser Prespa for a short drive around the mountain to the Great Prespa Lake, where we stay the night in the village of Zaroshka, with the dinner table overlooking the small island of Mali Grad.

 

Click to enlarge photos

 

Day Six - The time machine

 

Early Morning (optional)

Bird watching by the lake. It's a very short walk from the hotel to the lakeshore and reedbed, so you won't get lost if you fancy a quick spot of birdwatching before breakfast.

 

Morning

Visitors quickly realise that the landscape in Albania looks similar, but also very different. There is no intensive farming here; to a large extent the residents just farm for their own need, and few have machines. The history behind this and current socio-economic issues are

part of a longer discussion, but from Nature's perspective, this creates a healthy mosaic of different fields and crops - perfect for birds and insects. It's also how a lot of Europe would have looked before the Industrial Age. After a stroll around the village, we'll visit a tiny folklore museum for a culture break and drink stop.  Then it's a short drive to the village of Gollomboc, where we'll walk along the lakeshore, examining the cliffs for Crag martins (Ptyonoprogne rupestris).

 

Lunch

Packed lunches in Gollomboc by the lake.

 

Afternoon - 2km / 1.5 miles

We journey next to the village of Gorice e Vogel, where we meet Valentina, a local teacher and eco-guide. Profits from the trip go towards helping Valentina offer environmental education activities to her school children. The school is small and all age groups are taught together in one class. It's also underfunded and lacks basic writing and sports equipment, nevermind materials for environmental games and activities. Bit by bit we're funding the basics and then moving on to environmental education. With some French colleagues, we've also started building education packs for children visiting the region, which in 2017 will be uploaded on to our website. Valentina translates these for us and we work with her school children to test them. Which they love!

 

So we'll meet Valentina, see the school, maybe meet some of the kids, and then she will show us her home and explain about life for the people of Albanian Prespa, as well as introduce us to the National Park and their projects. We'll finish the afternoon walking around the characteristic juniper habitats opposite Gorice, with a walk down to another hidden hermitage.

 

Evening

As night falls we'll cross the border and stay in Oteshevo for two nights, by the beach in a hotel constructed for Tito and other senior Communist Party members. Dinner will be regional cuisine with the local firewater, aged in oak barrels.

 

Click to enlarge photos

 

Day Seven - Mt. Galicica, Ohrid and Natural Springs

 

Morning - 2km/ 1.5 miles

The huge mountain range of Galicica National Park (IUCN Level 2) separates the Prespa lakes from the even larger and older Lake Ohrid. After breakfast we'll drive up and over the mountain, but will stop at the top to enjoy views over both lakes and enjoy a plant and butterfly hotspot, looking out for Clouded yellow, Queen of Spain and the Apollo butterflies, and from plants: the local endemic Mayeri’s milkvetch; Galicica houseleek; and Daphne oleoides

 

Lunch

Lunch is quite spectacular today. The waters of the Prespa basin are not connected to the outside of the basin by rivers and streams. Underneath Galicica, a mountain of limestone, the waters trickle through the rock and bubble up in a small lagoon on the shores of Lake Ohrid. Surrounded by churches and a gorgeous monastery, the lagoon also has a good restaurant. Fantastic for bird watching whilst you eat and drink.

 

Afternoon

After a gentle stroll to walk off lunch in the grounds of an adjacent monastery, we drive around the lake to the UNESCO protected city of Ohrid. An amazing city, it looks like something out of a fairytale. Tsar Samuel's fortress looks down on a Roman amphitheatre, 10th century churches, winding streets with overhanging upper floors, with the towering mountains of Galicica National Park around it. And then there's Lake Ohrid itself, double the size of Prespa and four times as deep.

 

Evening

Dinner will be by the lake, on the edge of the Old Town. We'll then return to the same hotel as the previous evening.

 

Click to enlarge photos

 

Day Eight - An Uninhabited Island and the Holy Water Trail

 

Morning

From the hotel, we'll drive round to the other side of Prespa for a boat ride to Golem Grad, known locally as Snake Island (weather permitting, as always. If the wind's up we'll switch morning and afternoon activities). Worry not! It's not full of pythons. Its name comes from it being a home to a large number of harmless water snakes, but it's also great for all manner of reptile, plus Pygmy cormorants. It's a Strictly Protected part of Galicica National Park, but we'll be guided by a warden from the park, who will also show us the archaeological remains from the 4th century and churches from the 15th century. It's a really special place.

 

Some of the region's most well preserved and splendid traditional houses and villas are in the villages on this side of the lake, so we'll have a walk around, looking out for Golden eagles (Aquila chrysaetos) above. This is another relaxed afternoon and people can stay in local tavernas if they fancy resting their feet whilst others potter around the village.

 

Also of note, the high forests of Pelister are the only place in Prespa that the critically endangered Balkan lynx (Lynx lynx balcanicus) has been recorded on a trail camera, back in September 2013.

 

Afternoon

Next, we'll take a drive to the former monastery of the Virgin Mary, where its water fountain gives the Holy Water Trail its name. The views of the lake and the walking up here are quite something. There is a relatively easy, marked trail that crosses the mountain between this monastery and St George, with little ascent or descent as it stays more or less at 1.500m, and takes about 2 hours. If a group wants to do it we can discuss how to shorten some of the morning activities. This can be dropped out and we visit the monasteries by minibus. Either way, incredible views. We hope a warden from the reserve and/or the park will be able to join us at some stage during the day.

 

Evening

We'll have dinner in a local village and then drive back to the same hotel as yesterday.

 

Click to enlarge photos

 

Day Nine - Pines, Stone Rivers and Ancient Heraclea

 

Morning

The Pelister mountain range (which continues through the Greek side) has an obvious difference to the Galicica side. Its granite rock is covered in forests, with the eastern side overlooking Prespa, and the western side overlooking the Pelagonia plain and the historic city of Bitola. The information centre for the park is on the eastern side, and it’s there that we’ll start our day. Rangers from the park will show us the fantastic Molika pines (Pinus peuce), enormous stone rivers and we’ll follow part of the World War One trail. The mountain was a front line in WWI, with French troops spending three exceptionally harsh winters at altitude. It can be minus 15 in the mountain villages at 1,000m, so it’s hard to imagine life in 1915 at over 1,500m in a trench.

 

 

Be on the lookout for a pair of Hen harriers, a bird that should only be seen here in winter, but they've been recorded in the summers of 2003, 2011 and 2015. From the world of plants: Dianthus myrtinervius, a local endemic; Campanula albanica, a Balkan endemic; and the rare Viola orphanidis. Butterflies: Balkan clouded yellow, Eastern rock grayling, and Marbled fritillary.

 

 

Lunch

A packed lunch up on the mountain

 

 

Afternoon

We’ll continue our explorations of Pelister National Park before descending for the ancient city of Heraclea. Founded by Philip II of Macedon in the 4th century BC, it was named in honour of the mythological Greek hero Heracles, or Hercules as the Romans called him. Hadrian built a theatre here, which exists today in a fairly good state. By the 4th century the whole region had become an important episcopal centre, and Heraclea was near the centre of that. Two basilica were built on the site, who’s columns and fine floor mosaics remain.

 

After Heraclea, we’ll return to Thessaloniki for dinner and our hotel for the evening.

 

 

Evening

Dinner in Bitola, with an overnight stay just outside the city.

 

Click to enlarge photos

 

Day Ten - Thessaloniki

 

Today will depend on your flight home. Regardless of when you need to fly back, all your meals are included in the price.

 

 

Flights during the day

We will ensure that you are at the airport 2 hours before your flight. If there is time, we can visit the old castle district above the city.

 

 

Flights after 5pm

If you have later flights then we could actually stay overnight near Heraclea on Day Nine. And then break up the journey back to Thessaloniki with one of the two options below. 

 

Option One

The bear and wolf sanctuary of Arcturos, which is based in the picturesque town of Nymfaio, itself protected by the Greek state because of its unique architecture. No terracotta tiles here; the roofs are all lead. And the houses are quite impressive; its former residents were wealthy merchants.

 

Just outside the village is the bear sanctuary. The organisation has for many years rescued captive bears, as well as orphaned bears found roaming. They nurse them back to health at a local veterinary centre and then transfer them to huge enclosed sections of forest where, hopefully, some can be released back into the wild. Outside the enclosure is a viewing area where you can wait to see the bears.

 

Option Two

Visit one of Greece's premier vineyards for lunch and wine-tasting.  The north of Greece is home to its own grape, the xino-mavro. Learn more about it whilst tasting it.

 

 

 

We'd like to stay in Greece a few more days!

Not a problem, and we'd be pleased to advise you on that too.  More details on this can be found in the Questions section below.

 
 

Terms and Conditions

You can find our full legal terms and conditions here. Below are the answers to Frequently Asked Questions.

 

 

What's included in the price

 

- Breakfast, lunch and dinner (plus we'll sort tips where applicable, so you needn't worry about this)

- Juice, coffee or tea at breakfast (sometimes hotels provide one glass of alcohol with lunch and dinner, but it is not the norm)

- Accommodation (3 star equivalent. There's no star system in AL and MK - every hotel is warm, clean, cosy and with Wi-Fi)

- Transport to and from the airport

- Transport during the full itinerary

- Financial Failure Insurance (see section on Package Tour Regulations)

- All expert and local guides

- Water and fruit in the minibus

- Trip report and video

 

What's not included in the price

 

- Flights (further information on flights below)

- Travel insurance (do not forget this!)

- Drinks in hotels, or at lunch and dinner

- Snacks

 

 

Flights

You will be able to find cheaper and more convenient flights than us. But we will also know the best flights and connections from most parts of Europe, so we can advise you when and where to fly to.

 

This flexibility also means that your group could fly into Athens, Skopje or Tirana and meet us in Thessaloniki. Alternatively, you could fly to Thessaloniki, have ten days with us, and then head to the beach after!  We know the wider region very well - the Albanian coast, wine tours, Meteora, Halkidiki, Athens, the Peloponnese - so if you'd like to travel somewhere before or after our tour, we can help you arrange something.

 

 

Group size

For us, responsible tourism doesn't work with large or even medium sized groups. We run exclusive tours where you get as much access as possible to the people we meet and the sites we visit. Our preference is for small groups of friends, from 3 to 8 people, but we would discuss tours for couples or slightly larger groups.

 

 

Dates & Flexibility

We don't fix dates for our tours. We think it's best for you to come as a group of friends, and we can customise the above itinerary.

 

Nature is best in spring, which is more or less April to June. Dalmatian pelicans start coming back in February, and early plants start coming up. In July you'll enjoy hot weather and you can still see Bee-eaters and a good selection of butterflies, but not like in the core months of April to June. Spring here, like northern and central Europe, can bring rain.

 

So the itinerary above is our suggestion, based on our experience and trying to balance "seeing everything", with still being relaxed and having a holiday. But we're equally happy to do more or fewer days, or focus on your favourite species.

 

 

Travel Insurance

Insurance is not just about losing your luggage. You must, must, must take out travel insurance before coming on this tour. Do not just rely on the E111, which isn't valid in Albania and fYR* of Macedonia anyway. If you did have an accident, the health care services in the Balkans may not match what you are used to at home. Anyone can slip and fall, whether walking in the city or in a mountain.

 

 

Language

The tours are in English, which allows us to translate between the various Balkan languages. But don't worry, you won't need a high level of English yourselves. Before you arrive we will translate names of common species into your language, print them out on laminated paper, and you can have them with you in the field.  The many local guides that we use are not native English speakers, so they won't be using complicated words or speaking fast. They will be happy to speak slowly and repeat when necessary. We can also provide printed materials every morning that give detailed information of what you will hear during the day.

 

For Dutch speakers

The one exception to English is Dutch. We have a colleague from the Netherlands who can join tours in Dutch. Contact us for more information.

 

 

Responsible Tourism - how you give back to the region

 

You can read about this in 'Our Philosophy' section or watch our two minute video about this here

 

 

Weather

People read Greece and think sun, lemons and olive trees. The Prespa/ Ohrid region is where the Mediterranean climate meets Central European. So summers are still warm, but in the mountains, at altitude, we have snowy winters and similar springs and autumns to those in northern Europe. Nature in the region is best seen in spring, before the sun scorches the land and birds begin to migrate back.  There's still a lot to see and enjoy in July, especially birds and butterflies, but it can reach 30-35C in mid-July, so you need to consider if that's too hot for you to be walking around.

 

Spring in any mountains can be wet, and any eco-tour in Europe runs the risk of rain. There's nothing we can do about it, although it would be extremely unfortunate to have 7 days of continuous rain. April is the wettest month, May is fairly mild, June is warm and can see showers, and July is quite hot.

 

 

What to Bring

  • Good walking boots. When it's wet, walking shoes won't be enough. We also walk on sand near the lake. Boots are best

  • Plenty of good walking socks

  • Waterproof coat and trousers (in really bad rain we will alter the itinerary, but bring them just in case)

  • Hats and gloves.  Even in June and July, if we are above 1,000m, it can get cold very quickly. Not icy cold, but you'll appreciate some light hats and gloves.

  • Phone chargers

  • Plug adapters for UK guests (all three countries have the same plugs and voltage)

 

 

Accommodation

If you're interested in eco-tourism in the Balkans you probably don't expect 5 star accommodation, golf clubs or Spa Hotels. The guest houses in our region are small, cosy and family run, and, where possible, we use traditional stone houses converted to accommodation. We have stayed as guests ourselves in all the places on this tour, and we know that they are clean, warm, with hot water and WI-FI. In accordance with the Package Tour Regulations, we include locations of the various hotels on this page, together with the category, degree of comfort, main features and, for Greece, it's star rating (Greece being an EU member state and required to do this). We also include photos. If you would like further information on any accommodation used on the tour, please do contact us.

 

 

Meals

Breakfast, lunch and dinner are included in the cost.

Breakfast is Continental, with the occasional, regional addition of pastry pies (cheese pie, spinach pie etc.).

Lunches alternate between packed lunches from the hotel or a local tavern.

Dinners are in the hotel or a local tavern.

We try our best to use small, family-run hotels and restaurants, but even when we can't, we agree on the menu in advance and ensure it's local recipes. You won't be served spaghetti bolognese and hamburgers.

Meals are "Balkan style". This means that all the food is in the middle of the table and we share.  So, if you have any requests or allergies, or prefer to have your own plate, you must advise us at least 4 weeks in advance so that we can arrange different menus with each venue.

Vegetarians can be catered for, as the region is rich in meze and salads. Vegan is a touch more difficult, but can be arranged and we'll contact you to get some ideas for what you'd like to eat each day. It's a more limited menu, as even without meat the regional food revolves around dairy products. But it's possible.

 

 

Transport & Self-drive

The cost includes a 9 seater minibus (1 driver plus 8 visitors), which is used exclusively throughout the tour. If there will be more than 8 visitors we will either hire a bigger minibus and driver, or consider bring a second car with us. This will impact a touch on the cost, to be spread of course by all participants. Unfortunately, at present we do not know of a Greek rental car company that will give insurance to travel to Albania and fYR* of Macedonia. This prevents us from offering self-drive holidays if you fly to Thessaloniki.

 

 

Visas and Passports

The UK Foreign Office recommends that no one travels without at least 6 months remaining on their passports. Citizens of other countries should speak to their government department for specific advice. All citizens, UK and otherwise, are responsible for having the correct travel documents to enter Albania, Greece and fYR* of Macedonia. It is especially important that EU citizens check whether they are able to cross all three borders with their ID cards. Either way, we strongly recommend that you bring passports. Old identity cards, especially some Greek ones which used to be handwritten, have been rejected on certain borders.

Please note: Greece is a member of the EU and the Schengen Zone. Albania and fYR* of Macedonia are not.

 

 

BALKAN TRACKS

CONTACT

FOLLOW US

info@balkantracks.com

0044 (0)7506 381757

 

 

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

UK

 

 

  • Facebook Social Icon
  • Vimeo Social Icon
  • Twitter Social Icon

Subscribe to the Blog for new post updates