Small city in the northeast part of the country, Kukès doesn't honestly have much to offer. It otherwise did at the time of the Kosovo conflict, when some 450,000 refugees overwhelmed the normal population of 15,000 souls.
As small as it can be, it was the biggest place I've visited in this country on the occasion of the VT-sponsored 2008 Caucasian Challenge Rally. The main street is lined up with stores where we could at least buy food and water while our mighty VT-mobile was surrounded by a swarm of curious kids and several men checking out rarely seen foreign visitors.
Despite their extreme isolation (or maybe because of it) the northernmost villages of Albania are growing in popularity. This region is well worth the hours of rocky commute required to get there. The landscape is a three dimensional postcard of jagged alpine peaks, thickly vegetated valleys, and the idyllic wood-shingled dwellings of the scant population.
Because of the travel time involved in reaching this remote area, there’s no fast way to do it. Outdoor Albania’s five-day trek is great span of time to see enough of the region and even absorb some its local culture and flavor. The first day was dedicated to reaching Valbona via a furgon (minibus) to the ferry that passes through the dramatic Drin canyon. Accommodations were welcoming village guesthouses, where a local family cooked simple, traditional dishes using the fresh ingredients from the land.
The next three days were all strenuous days of mountain trekking. The group of 9 followed shepards’ paths through alpine meadows carpeted with wildflowers. Day three was the on-foot passage from Valbona to Thethi, with mountain horses to carry our packs. Day four was spent in and around Thethi, where a well-marked riverside path leads to a gushing waterfall.
Day five was spent in transit from Thethi back to Tirana via Shkoder, a northern city with a lunch stop at Tradita restaurant. Trip highlight: the hammock at the Carku guesthouse in Thethi, where the family’s kids thought it was fun for some reason to rock me as I relaxed after three days of serious hiking.
It is small village Voskopoje about 20 km from Korca ,I belive that when you will drive there new road will be finally paved,since us these 20 km took about 1 hour,with paved and unpaved parts of road . We visit here the church of Saint Nicolas,sought the old frescoes (their condition are not so good). Many people in summer came there and in Dharda from hot Tirana and Dures,on weekend to breath fresh mountain air.
On the way to Voskopoje we passed the cattle market ,and have there our lunch on small stall that grilled on place shish kebabs
Take a side road from Korcha -Girokaster main way and go to this small picturesque village,that situated on 1400 m above sea the road is good enough, wery nice view points, in village the streets paved with big cobblestones ,so drive carefully if you have a car low clearance.
We stay there in hotel-restaurant Shtephia e Pushimit. The have main building and two chalets we stayed in chalet , consider that it could be cold on night ,temperature difference between Korca and Dardha could be about 8-9 degrees.
when I get more pics from my
Razma is on the road from Shkodra to
the Montenegro Border Honi Hoti,
Yep thats right, it sounds like Honey Hotty..
but no wenches in sight..
about 10 kms shy of the boder? we took a right up
into the mountains and 30 mins later we arrived at
the former Communist big wig resting place..Razma.
WILL WRITE A BETTER ACCOUNT SOON
In the country, East to Fier, the landscape is sprinkled with dozens and dozens of small derricks (first photo).
On the second photo, I have made an enlargement that shows the tall structure, an electric pole and the small one, the oil pump. In 1988, the pumps looked very old but most were still working. I would be curious to know how many barrels each of them produced every day.
However, in 2007, the derricks were still there, together with the strong smell of fuel, but none were working.
most of the roadside houses or shops we saw on our drive through Albania were just small concrete flatroofed buildings about the size of a large shed or small garage.
We passed some small Albanian villages scattered about the hillsides where the road through them switched from tar to just dusty track.
It wasn't until I saw one with skinned goats hung up outside that I discovered that the word 'MISH' spray painted like bad grafitti on the side of the building meant that it sold meat and by that time I had already passed a dozen or so of them that day.
In the Mallakastra hills we passed 100's of creaking rusting but still pumping oil derricks. Then 100 metres further down the road we saw an open lake of black oil just like a flood pond in field. Beside it were rusted tanks that looked like they had been blown open. Please tell me this isn't just an inland oil slick! This year i stopped and took a walk down to the oil lake. The sulphurous smell was so overpowering I thought the fumes might be dangerous and overcome me. Then I spotted this old guy with his horse and cow so I guessed it was okay. Through sign language he told me it had been like this for 10 years or more. As I made my way back up to my van 4 guys arrived with walkie talkies and German shepherd dogs, they stood in front of my van talking to someone on their handsets but ignored me. I think the language barrier had them beat.
The road from Shkoder to Prirzen is definately not one of the best quality roads I've ever driven on. In fact it may well have been one of the worst. Nevertheless the scenery is stunning, so it is worth the effort. Just make sure you take your time and leave Shkoder early in the morning. The driving time to Prizren will be about 7 hours.
Driving along the Albanian coast the most beautiful stretch is from Vlora south towards Saranda. Coming from the north a new tarmac road is winding up the Cika Mountains towards the Llogaraja Pass. The whole area around the top of the pass is a national park with rich flora and fauna. The highest peak is Mount Athanasius which can be climbed on a good track that begins near the restaurant at the pass. The area is excellent for hiking or climbing.
About one kilometre north of the pass is the so called "Tourist Village" which makes a good base for a few hiking days. Accommodation can be arranged with the owner. (Tel: 0682128640)
Descending south the first village is called Palasa where Julius Caesar landed 49 BC together with 7 legions.
The view from Llagoraja Pass is amazing! The place is 1000 metres above sea level!
Two Kilometres off the main road between Gjirokastra and Saranda is a beautiful place called Syri i Kalter. Underneath old shady oak trees is this unusual "Blue Eye Spring" giving birth to a small river. The water bubbles up through a more than 50 metres deep pool and is creating a curious shape. The water is deep blue in the centre and lighter blue at the edges. With a bit of fantasy it looks like the an eye´s iris and pupil.
A couple of years ago a French expedition was trying to explore the cave. The divers didn´t reach the bottom of the spring but surveyed the first 45 metres. The temperature is constantly 10°Celsius. The waters spit out of the spring can be as much as 8,8 m³ / sec.
The blue Eye Spring is a pretty spot! During the days of communism it was reserved for the party elite which indicates how nice this place is. Nowadays its a bit run down but still worth a visit. There is a restaurant with some bungalows for visitor who intend to stay overnight.
About 10 km from the Blue Eye Spring on the road towards Saranda is the old monastery Mesopotam with the largest Byzantine church in Albania.
Syrri i Kalter is about 20 km from Saranda. Turn off the main road when you see the large brown sign saying “Tourist Attraction” towards the dam where all visitors have to pay a fee of 100 Leke. From there its about 2 km.
Everywhere in Albania are bunkers. Hundreds of thousands of concrete pill boxes were constructed throughout the country. Nowadays some of them are used as storerooms. It can be interesting to explore them. The Bradt guide gives a good explanation about the strategy.
In Albania I must recommend a trip along the road between Gjirokaster and Saranda. It is as slow and tortuous as any Albanian road, but the reward is the breathtaking mountainous landscape. You'll see the occasional tiny village along the road, just a few houses and maybe a church. I saw one little church perched precariously on the uphill side of the road, with it's Greek-style cemetery on the other side. You might also be lucky enough to see eagles on the journey, they are supposed to be plentiful in the Drinos valley - I caught a glimpse of a large bird of prey that might have been an eagle on the way down to the EU-built road from Ioannina.
As you drive or walk through villages or small towns like Ksamili, you will invariably be followed by a swarm of small children, all waving and saying 'hello' repeatedly. It seemed to be the only English they knew as any questions were met with blank looks, but they grin delightedly if you say hello back! On my last day in Ksamil, we were passed by a troop of children on their way to school, and one little boy looked up at me and said 'Mire Dita' (good day), which made me smile because it was the only time I'd heard a child say hello in Albanian!
The area surrounding Butrint National park is constituted by two Municipalities: Ksamil and Xarra. This last one includes 5 villages and takes the name from one of these: Xarra, Vrina, Shen Delli, Mursia and Shkalla.
The villages are located in the surrounding area of the Park. Vrina and Shen Delli are just on the Park south border; the other three are a bit faraway from the Park south border. All of them stand on the road that goes from Butrint to Konispol, the last little town in the south of Albania, close to Greek border.
Agriculture is the backbone of the local economy with a majority of the active population being engaged in farming activities and also fishing is an important income generating activity.
If you want to get off the beaten path, and see a little of the real, completely tourist-free Albania, I recommend a trip through these villages.
Having spent approximately 5 months in the Sheraton-Tirana, I know the "ins" and the "outs" of the...more
Rr. Veli Zaloshnja, Berati Lakes, Berat, 1233, Albania
Satisfaction: Very Good
Good for: Solo
Sheshi 2 Prilli, Shkoder, 1233, Albania
Satisfaction: Very Good
Good for: Solo
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