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Transfer to Korce; steady climb through a landscape of barren rock interspersed with wild flowers; cycle through Grammoz Mountains and over the Barmash Pass (1159m) to Germenj.
Today is one of the most demanding days of the tour. After a quick transfer to Korce we begin cycling and leave behind the agricultural plateau, climbing steadily into the border mountains through a landscape of barren rock interspersed with wild flowers. Numerous cols and valleys lie ahead, climbing towards Grammoz Mountain and over the Barmash Pass (1159m) to Germenj, lying in its own tranquil valley. Here we relax at a guesthouse that is also a working trout farm. Cycle approx. 72km, total ascent approx. 1150m, total descent approx. 1050m.
Cycle through high grassy plateaus surrounded by soaring peaks before descending to Carshove and on to Benje; ride to thermal springs for a swim.
In the morning there is a climb out from Germenj to a high grassy plateau close to the Greek border, surrounded by soaring peaks before reaching the source of the River Vjosa and descending through its spectacular gorge to Leskovik. We continue descending to Çarshove and then follow the corniche route high above the river to Benje situated on a ridge above the river. After lunch at the guesthouse we take a short ride to the thermal springs to relax and sooth aching muscles. Both lunch and dinner will be served on the peaceful terrace. Cycle approx. 60km, total ascent approx. 687m, total descent approx. 1352m.
Valley ride towards Kelcyra; after lunch at Tepele Waterfalls transfer to Gjirokastra for afternoon city tour.
Today is one of the easiest days. We continue along the valley towards Kelcyra with its distant shark-tooth peaks, which guard a further gorge. We ride between these gorges until the two rivers meet. After lunch at the waterfalls of Tepelene we drive (approx. 30 mins) through the wide plain toward the town of Gjirokaster (city of 1000 steps). The well-preserved town is perched on the steep side of the Drino Valley, overlooking snow-capped mountains. In the afternoon we take a cultural tour through the city and explore its narrow cobbled alleys and 18th Century Ottoman houses. We also visit the 13th Century castle and learn about the fascinating history of this town, which has seen many rulers and has inspired poets, authors and artists. Cycle approx. 46km, total ascent approx. 350m, total descent approx. 520m.
Transfer up the Muzina Pass, long descent to Saranda via coast and the UNESCO site of Butrint.
After breakfast we load the bikes on to the support vehicle and transfer up to Muzina Pass (approx. 45 minutes), the gateway to southern Albania, for a spectacular downhill ride to Sarande. Located on the Ionian Coast, Sarande is sandwiched between the high mountains and the sea and is close to the ancient remains of Butrint, which we visit on the way. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Butrint is located very close to the Greek border and is one of the country’s most important archaeological sites, tracing its origins back to the Greeks and the Romans. We have lunch at the site and continue along the coast to Sarande. Cycle approx. 70km, total ascent approx. 725m, total descent approx. 1285m.
Spectacular coastal ride to the long beach of Himare Bay.
Climbing steeply out of Sarande to a rocky plateau we enjoy a spectacular coastal ride over cols into bays and around headlands. Always with the stunning mountain scenery to the right and sea to the left we continue along before descending to Himarë, a small communist era fishing village with a small promenade filled with cafes, restaurants and ice cream stands. There is plenty of time for a swim in the Ionian Sea; our hotel is a short walk to Potam Beach. Cycle approx. 54km, total ascent approx. 1064m, total descent approx. 1064m.
Ride towards Vlore; optional 1000m climb to the Llogara Pass; long descent through Llogara N.P. finishing by the coast.
Today’s route is as challenging as it is spectacular. This day is the most demanding ride of the tour and will show you how strong you have become. In the morning there is climb out of Himarë which naturally is rewarded with an enjoyable downhill. We then have another climb before our coffee break. Our break is followed with a nice downhill, but we must climb again before we regroup. We then come face to face with the long steady climb to the Llogara pass. At 1000m above sea level, this climb is completely optional, so if you think it is too much then you can jump in the support vehicle. However if you are looking for an extra challenge this climb comes with a real sense of achievement, and the views are fantastic. At the pass itself (which you will also see if you take the van) it is possible to see across to Italy on a clear day. We recommend taking a warmer layer for reaching the top of the pass. From the top you enter Llogara National Park, home to black pine, Eurasian otter and golden eagles. The park is a scenic expanse of protected woodland that encompasses the forests on the northern side of the Llogora Pass. We begin to descend and have lunch in the National Park. We then continue descending toward Vlore to the hotel just before the city. Here we can relax and take a dip in the sea, the perfect reward for a hard days cycle. Cycle approx. 65km, total ascent approx. 1630m (including the optional climb), total descent approx. 1630m.
End Vlore. If the group flight is departing in the evening, we will have time to explore the colourful streets of Tirana, which was made the capital of Albania in just 1920.