After having left Tirana we drove on to Gjipe beach. You can read more about Gjipe beach and get an impression of the very tough road here.. So we left Gjipe beach and found a good spot at the beach of Borsh. Now early October the beach was deserted. The temperatures were still in the mid twenties so I had a nice “swim” on the first day. Swim is not exactly the right words because of the very strong and high waves, but I got wet and had fun just the same.
After two days on the beach we slowly travelled inlands to Kuç. We visited this area in 2018 as well when we drove through the riverbed, as there was no road, which was fun. I remembered the beautiful area and wanted to spend a few days there. But just like with Theth there were now roadworks going on! So there was almost no riverbed to drive through and the beautiful area was visible but no longer reachable due to the road works. So the 2nd disappointment in a short time and it left us feeling a bit grumpy and not knowing what to do next. We drove, quite randomly, to the left, to the village Nivice, where the narrow road ended. For the next few days we explored the canyon, you can read about that here.
We drove on to Gjirokaster; a town with a lot of typical Ottoman houses and visited the castle, which is huge. Gjirokaster is also a good place to do some shopping, so we stocked up on supplies.
We visited the Blue eye near Dhrovan. A well that is filled with water coming up out of the earth and that for some reason is really blue. The area is covered in lush green. There is another blue eye in Albania, near Theth, which is created by a waterfall, we went there in 2018.
We drove on to Permët, the city of roses. It is supposedly the cleanest city in Albania. It was indeed very clean and there were a lot of roses. The main tourist attraction is a very big rock in the town center. My outdoor sandals were in need of some repair. After asking around and simple showing my shoes, I found a shoemaker. It was closed but a kind woman made a phone call and the shoemaker came and opened up his shop and fixed my shoes on an old but working sowing machine. And it only costed €0,81!
We decided to go to Lengarica canyon (yes another canyon) and visit the thermal springs which supposedly are very good against several illnesses. There where 5 different springs, all of them with warm water coming from the ground. The river Lengarica runs through the canyon. I really liked baths and since we obviously don’t have one in the van, I took full opportunity of all 5 “baths”.
We also hiked through the canyon. It was nice but not as beautiful as Nivice canyon. It was also harder to walk as the bottom of the river is made of mud instead of stones.
We camped at a large meadow above the canyon for two days. We had great weather, another bbq and Kilian went for a bike ride, around the canyon. We also met Viktorka. A young woman from Czech. She had hiked up the mountain and asked for some water and we got talking. It turned out she had been hiking for several months now and started in the South of Croatia! She has done this kind of hiking tours before. Amazing! She has a website. After talking some more she went on her way again.
Later that day we also met a German couple who also travel in a small camper van. We also stayed a night near the springs where we met a young couple who rode their bikes here all the way from Germany! Kilian wouldn’t mind doing something like that, but it is not for me. We spend a nice evening by a campfire that had been started by a Danish couple who have been living in their camper for a couple of years now, travelling through Europe. So the hot springs are definitely a well know tourist attraction and it was nice to meet up with some people who think alike and who all speak English. While on his bike ride Kilian saw another great place to camp, on a small cliff directly above the canyon. The view was really stunning.
From there on we drove to Frasher. The road was quite dangerous. We went to Frasher because it was the middle of the national park and had a pine forest. Driving through it we felt a bit like being in Schwarzwald, Germany. While driving down the SH-72 we saw a collection of buildings that looked like an observatory, but in reality it was the the Bektashi center near Alipostivan. This religious order has it’s headquarters in Tirana and have much in common with the Islam. All the buildings were well kept but there was no information available, which was a bit of a shame as it all seemed very interesting.
We drove past Permet again (only road) to Korçe. A nice and lively city with a lot of facilities. It has an area known as little Paris which is lively and full of restaurants and bars. Very different from the rest of the city.
We drove up the mountains to an artificial lake near Leshnje, where we spend two days relaxing in a meadow that had it all.
Well out of sight so very peaceful and quiet, grass and trees for Binkie, water for laundry, lots of space and luckily a lot of sun as well. From there on we visited Voskopoje an ancient town, once the 2nd largest city in the Balkan . After several wars however there are now only about a 1000 people living. It has lots of churches left with beautiful, colourful and well preserved murals.
The next day we went to Pogradec which is situated on the lake of Ohrid, near the border with North Macedonia. Pogradec is not exactly a great or pretty city so we quickly left after some grocery shopping. However we now had to stay in the area because we were expecting two parcels from the Netherlands to arrive at the main post office in Pogradec. So we decided to visit the national park Shebenik-Jabilanice.
A very mountainous area with very steep hillsides and a rough dirt road. We had some trouble finding a campsite. Every more or less flat area was used as farmland. We finally found a place in a meadow near Borovë, alongside the road. It was a small and quiet road however. Only a few cars a day, with friendly waving or honking Albanians. And of course the ever present herds of goats, sheep or cows, accompanied by a few dogs (meaning Binkie goes in the van and is distracted with some food) and a shepherd. Most shepherds only speak Albanian. We know roughly 20 Albanian words so there’s not much opportunity for a good conversation. That however doesn’t stop the shepherds from talking to us for 10 minutes easily, while we have no clue what it is about 🙂 We’ve tried using Google Translate but most shepherds cant read so it’s no use. We just nod, smile and when he leaves wish him a good day in Albanian: mirupafshim. We also had a nice walk near one of the glacier lakes. We drove to Elbasan. I visited the city for some shopping while Kilian and Binkie relaxed at the edge of a small town nearby. Elbasan has a medieval wall and some remains of a castle. And plenty of shops to browse. I finally managed to replace my broken headlight. Despite all the outdoor opportunities, there are no actual outdoor stores. We found one in Tirana, but it only sold clothes.
After Elbasan we drove more inland to Gramhs. We visited the Holtës Canyon. Which is very narrow and has high stone walls. We went up to the point were we would have to swim to go any further. As it was now late October and there was no sun in the canyon and being outvoted by Binkie, we turned around. The fact that a large stone suddenly came came down, very near us might have something to do with it as well….
So far the canyon near Nivice was the most beautiful. We drove across the mountain and spent two nights in a small field near Poroçan which is on the other side of the Holtës canyon. Due to the hydro power plant the canyon can’t be accessed from this side. Kilian went for a nice bike ride. By now we are just hanging around, waiting for our parcels. We really love Albania but after roughly 6 weeks it’s time to move on. By the time our November blog is available we hope to be in North Macedonia or maybe Bulgaria.