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Historical Background Via Egnatia was the most important historical route connecting East with the West. It was built sometime between 148 – 120 B.C., by the Roman Governor of Macedonia Gnaeus Egnatius following an ancient road that, connected the Adriatic Coast through to Macedonia, Thracia, Greece and what is now Turkey.
The construction of Via Egnatia The road was between 4 and 8 meters wide, based on the condition of the terrain and the local traffic needs. In cities, the road was as wide as 20 meters to cope with increased traffic.
Roman Period Rome built its roads in order to control its conquered territories. Through the Via Egnatia, the Romans traveled easily through the Balkan peninsula in record times. One Roman soldier could travel up to 35-40 km a day. The Via Egnatia was the most important artery in the Roman army’s travel network, especially during the civil war between Pompey the Great and Julius Caesar. Some of the most important battles between these two legendary figures of Ancient Rome unfolded on this road. Almost every great Roman figure has traveled through the Via Egnatia, including Cicero, Mark Antony, Brutus, Ahenobarbus, the Roman emperor Trajan, Marcus Aurelius and so on…
The period of Christianity In the first century A.D., some strange preachers began to appear along the Via Egnatia, who spoke of unknown man named Jesus. The first Christians that walked along this road were of the apostles Peter, Silvan, John Mark and Timothy in the year 42 B.C.. Later, Paul the Apostle and his followers traveled along this road at least three times. Believers from the city Filippi and Thessaloniki used the road to spread the Bible. The Via Egnatia was called “the beautiful feet” of the Christians.
Barbarians As the power of the Roman Empire felt, a host of tribes that crossed the border of the Empire traveled through the Via Egnatia. With the fall of Rome and the increasing strength of the Byzantine Empire, the Via Egnatia continued to be the key artery of the road system through Europe, taken over primarily by the barbarians and the Byzantine Empire. It was the Via Egnatia and its branches that, during the lack of government power in the Western Balkans, created the opportunity for the penetration of the Slavs toward Greece and the strengthening of Slavic-Bulgarian relations. However after the dark period of the Middle Ages, the Via Egnatia came completely under the rule of the Byzantine Empire which started the process of restoration and fortification of the road.
The Crusades The Via Egnatia was the main road that crusaders traveled to the imperial Constantinople. From the port of Durres, where the ships of the Crusaders arrived, some of the most renowned Christian figures traveled along the Via Egnatia, such as prince Bohemond I of Antioch, Hugh Magnus De Orleans brother of the King of France Godfrey of Bouillon, Raymond IV, Count of Toulouse and Robert II Count of Flanders.
The Ottoman Period With the end of the Crusades and the rise of the Ottoman Empire, the Via Egnatia experienced a surge of new armies and merchants, but this time from the East. The Ottoman armies, traveling along the Via Egnatia, arrived in the Balkans and began their long rule. During this period, the Via Egnatia was repaired and extended work was done including a number of bridges. Ottomans also rebuilt one of the largest roman stations in Via Egnatia, the Scampis, under the command of Mehmet the Conqueror, it was called Ilbasan modern-day Elbasan.
Travelers of the Romantic Era in the 19th Century Via Egnatia was an important road for travelers of the romantic era. Inspired by the rebirth of the romantic travels toward the East, a lot of important figures of the time troded along this road. One of them was Edward Lear, Queen Victorias former teacher, who painted some of the most beautiful landscapes of Via Egnatia. However, the most important person of this period to travel along the Via Egnatia was the Prince of Wales and the future King of England, Edward II, who arrived at the Port of Durres on February 1862.
Day 1 Arrive at Rinas airport of Tirana. Transfer to our accommodation. A short tour of the town center including the Archaeology museum and National gallery.
Day 2 We begin our journey at with a visit of the once famous Durrachium present day Durres, the principal terminus of the Via Egnatia, Cicero named Durrachium as “Adriatic’s Taverna” given the fact that it was Illiricum’s largest and most bustling seaport with substantial public monuments. We will visit the roman amphitheater and other ancient monuments still visible in the town. A special presentation will be made on the crusaders period where Durres was the main port for the crusading army journey to Constantinople. From here we start our journey towards Via Egnatia.
Day 3 We travel to Tirana, capital of Albania. We see the Tirana mosaic, all that remains of late Roman villa in the suburbs of the city. We then explore the National Historical Museum. We continue via the new road below the Krabbe Pass to Elbasan, ancient Scampis. We walk through the castrum, with its fine late Roman and Ottoman walls onto the line of the Via Egnatia.
Day 4 We enjoy a day in wonderful Ohrid. The ancient city boasts a Macedonian, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman past with impressive monuments from each era. We explore the 9th century fortress of Tsar Samuel and its unparalleled collection of churches, from the late Roman and 9th century churches of St. Panteleimon and St. Sofia, to the late Byzantine shrines of St. Clement. We stroll to St. Jovan Kaneo, romantically overlooking the lake.
Day 5 We make our way to the Museum on the water at ‘The Bay of Bones’ – a partial reconstruction of a prehistoric village. We continue to Lake Prespa and St. Naum, before travelling over the spectacular mountains to Korbinovo by Lake Ohrid. We walk through the wooded landscape to the church of St. George, with its fresco cycle of the time of the Commeni emperors and a resurgent Byzantium.
Day 6 We start the day in Heraklea Lyncestis. The remains of fine Roman and Byzantine buildings with impressive mosaics can be found throughout. We explore Bitola, which still retains much if its late Ottoman atmosphere, with very fine 15th century mosques. We also visit the fine Bitola museum, established in an old Turkish military college, where Kemal Ataturk studied.
Day 7 We visit the ancient site and thundering waterfalls in Edessa, which made the city famous in antiquity. We also find the Ottoman bridge that carried the Via Egnatia over the river. In ancient Aigai, the traditional Macedonian capital, we discover the great burial mound which covered the tombs of Macedonian royalty. This was one of the richest finds the grave goods in Europe.
Day 8 We explore Thessaloniki, the original terminus of the Via Egnatia. We visit the Agora and church of St. Demetrius and the remains of the palace complex of Galerius, the Rotunda, his intended mausoleum, and the great arch over the Via Egnatia. We visit the recently redisplayed and very fine Archaeological Museum and the adjacent Byzantine Museum.
Day 9 Group Transfer out of Thessaloniki Airport.
Activity Level Walking, Driving International Airport Tirana International (TIA) Price To be advised
Included in price:
- Hotel and Transfer, based on Double Occupancy
- All meals, beverages, coffee breaks, 2 bottle of water per day
- Entrance Tickets to all venues
- Full guided tour
- Alcohol, Tips
- Travel Insurance