THE ALBANIAN RIVIERA & COASTAL MOUNTAINS Forgotten Valleys of Laberia and the Llogara NP
Overview An 8-day itinerary of Southern Albania, suitable for spring and autumn, that includes six scenic and varied walks, three treks in a hidden valley accompanied by mules and two hikes reaching for the high peaks of the Llogara National Park. The journey is broken up by a beach intermezzo at the Albanian Riviera and framed by cultural discoveries at either ends of the trip. “Albanian Riviera and Coastal Mountains” Highlights:
a tranquil ferry ride on fjord-like Lake Koman splendid views on scenic hikes in the Valbona, Theth and Dajti National Parks on the edge of two magnificent valleys: the hike across the Valbona Pass (1820m) insights in traditional mountain lifestyle and warm hospitality the Blue Eye’s fascinating play of colors
Duration: 8 days Group Size: 6-12 (possibility for private departure starting from one person) Accommodation: simple, clean and simple guesthouses and family-run hotels Difficulty: 2/4 - rocky terrain, long transfer hike on day 4 can be replaced Walks: 6x | 5:30h average walking time Luggage Transfers: yes, by horse and car
Outline: 1. Airport – Vlora: Durres amphitheater, Apollonia archeological site. Hotel [-/-/D] 2. Vlora – Terbac: Crossing of St. Georg Pass into Shushica Valley. Guesthouse [B/LP/D] 3. Terbac – Kallarat: Transfer walk through rollings hills. Guesthouse [B/LP/D] 4. Kallarat – Qeparo: Grand crossing of the Coastal Mountains. Hotel [B/LP/D] 5. Qeparo – Llogara: Villages and beaches of the Riviera. Hotel [B/LP/D] 6. Llogara – Mt. Qorre: Climb of second highest peak. Hotel [B/LP/D] 7. LLogara – Tirana: Hike on Karaburun Peninsula, sightseeing Tirana. Hotel [B/LP/D] 8. Tirana – Airport: Departure [B/-/-]
Tour Facts Services included:
5x accommodation in simple hotels, private rooms with en-suite bathroom 2x accommodation in guest houses, shared facilities and rooms with 2-4 beds full board (meals in restaurants and picnics) English, German, Italian, Spanish or French speaking guide (inquire for others) all transports within Albania incl. transfers from/to airport, ferry trip entrance fees at cultural sights
At your own:
airfare insurance (compulsory for every participant) tips and personal expenses for drinks or souvenirs
Hikers should bring the following equipment: Hiking boots, gaiters, rainwear (90% of rain falls in winter), sun protection (cream, hat, glasses), 25 to 35 liters backpack, 1.5 liters water gear, towel and swimsuit (optional). Please note that suitcases are not suitable for transport on horses and only one piece of baggage with maximum weight of 15kg is included. Visitors are expected to respect the wildlife, leave what they find, dispose of their waste properly and to be considerate with locals.
Arrival in Southern Albania’s Adriatic Port Vlora The Amphitheater of Durres and Apollonia Archaeological Site
Welcome at the Tirana Airport, to reach the sea-side town of Vlora will take about 3h (150km). Depending on your arrival time we may stop along the route in Fier and Durres, Albania’s largest harbor and bridgehead of the Via Egnatia that connected Rome with Constantinople. We may stretch our legs on a short walk to visit the large amphitheater and remaining fortifications before we continue into the coastal basin. Before the agricultural revolution of the 60s this was a malaria stricken wetland, most of the lagoons were drained and turned into the fertile farmland the Myzeqe Plain is now known for. Fier boasts not only the largest onshore oilfield of Europe but also the remains of the ancient city Apollonia, the Temple of Agonothetes is a delight and exhibits on display within the museum. Soon we drive past salt pans into the quite Adriatic port in the Bay of Vlore, a savory sea-food dinner awaits us at the family run pension. After the failure of a series of Pyramid scheme in 1997 the town played a major role in following uprise and unrest but today attracts holiday makers with its sandy beaches and pleasant evening stroll called the “xhiro”.
Journey into the Highlands of Laberia Entering the Shushica Valley via the St. Gerog Caravan Crossing
The short drive (45min, 30km) along coves and pebble beaches offers views of Sazan Island and the Karaburun’s spine. The peninsula separates the Adriatic from the Ionian Sea and forms the Street of Otronto, the narrowest passage with Italy. The village Dukat is our starting point and embedded in a small side valley at the foothills of the Llogara Natinalpark. On a forgotten caravan route that connected the Roman harbor with inland colonies, now only used by goat herders, we ascend over meadows and through fir to the St. George Pass (1.132m). After lunch we turn a last time towards the sea before descending into the Shushica Valley and Southern Highlands. Panoramic views of the Ceraunian Range’s (Greek for thunder-split peaks) highest tops accompany the descent on a donkey trail which leads us through ancient oak forest and the deserted village Pirgu to Terbac. In the afternoon you can explore the village and remains of communist buildings. Delicious homemade dinner and overnight in a guesthouse of a shepherd’s family.
History and Culture of the Southern Highlands Transfer hike through rolling hills of the Lower Kurvelesh
A more relaxed walking day, that can be further shortened, takes you from Terbac along the village floor to Kallarat. Passing the lower neighborhoods we cross inside a canyon the turquoise river and rise again for views of Mt. Kendervices (2121m) further inland. Through orchards and light forest, meeting donkey riders along the way, we approach Vranisht, a village situated at the foot of the highest coastal mountain, Cika (2044m). After a café pause and chatting with the locals we continue on dirt road before entering a narrow path that takes us through the hills. Yesterday’s St. Georg crossing as well as the slopes of Mt. Bogonica are visible from the lass pass above Kallarat. As in most of Laberia’s villages many monuments dedicated to the partisan’s anti-fascist struggle can be found here and the locals still keep books and pictures of former dictator Enver Hoxha. There’s a swimming opportunity near the village where we stay overnight with different families, tasting more of the pastoral community’s cuisine, excellent cheese and other milk products.
The Grand Crossing of the Ceraunian Range Panoramic Views from the Balcony of the Riviera & Pastoral Life
The longest and most challenging walk of this journey traverses the Coastal Mountains and takes us to the Ionian Sea. From the partisan monument the path leads first to the ruined old village. Burned down by Greek troops at the brink of World War I, it is an eerie site with panoramic views. A long climb, partly in the shade, partly on scree, takes us to a series of flat meadows hidden on the plateau. Two groups of shepherds reside here for half the year, in turns the men take care of the flock, wolfs pose a constant danger to it. Our effort is rewarded reaching the highest point on 1400m above the sea. A place dubbed the Balcony of the Riviera offers a panoramic view from the Greek border and island Corfu over most of the Riviera to coastal town Himara. The ridge walk grants views to often snow-covered Nemercka (2482m), the highland villages, rugged Ceraunian Range and diverse coast line. We descend to the village Pilur and drive few minutes to the laid back sea-side village Qeparo, where we stay in a family-run pension at the beach. Our host is a fisher who, according to the rumors, lost his arm in an accident fishing with dynamite.
The Villages and Beaches of the Albanian Riviera Stone Houses of Qeparo, Porto Palermo and Beach of Gjipe
After the challenging walk we earned ourselves an easy-going day. During the mild morning temperatures we visit the semi-deserted old town of Qeparo, perched on a cliff and overlooking the seemingly endless olive groves. Time seems to stand still in the maze of stone houses and cobbled streets. The nearby Bay of Porto Palermo is the only safe harbor between Saranda and Vlora, used since ancient times by sailors and of such strategical importance that Ali Pasha constructed a castle here and the Soviets submarine pens to access the Mediterranean. In Himare we have coffee at the promenade, take in the flair and buy picnic supplies. We continue a bit by car and after a short 2km walk reach the secluded beach Gjipe. Time to relax, indulge on our picnic, swim in the turquoise waters or explore the narrow 70m high canyon. Pretty villages, citrus groves and olive plantations line the road to the Llogara Pass that is reached after driving from sea level to 1043m in the afternoon. Two overnights in a mountain hotel inside the national park.
Climbing the Coastâ€™s Highest Summits Walk from Llogara Pass to Mt. Qorre / Kore (2.018m)
The second highest point of the Riviera is in our reach. From the Llogara pass a well-trodden zig-zag route winds up the mountain side within the pine forest. At viewpoints we overlook the glimmering waters and beaches far below on which Caesar landed in pursuit of Pompej, crossing the same mountain range to catch his opponent. Our first goal is the panoramic Dhjopuri Saddle on 1600m attitude, we will return to this point later, the extension to the peak of Mt. Qorre (2018m) is optional. Rather steeply, not always on a visible path but neither overly exposed the climb continues with stunning views towards Mt. Cika (2045m). The summit towers high above the Ionian See, Southern Highlands and almost the whole area we covered during our trek in Shushica is visible. Return to our hotel and free time. A short stroll to a viewpoint is offered before dinner at another restaurant where we enjoy polyphonic songs. The tradition is part of the intangible cultural heritage of the Laberia Region we traveled in for the last week.
The Karaburun Peninsula and Vibrant Capital Tirana Hike in the Llogara NP, Ardenica Monastey and City Discovery
Our last walk starts just outside the hotel. On a shepherd’s path we hike through the dense forest of the national park to the Deep Pass (1200m), a saddle on the Karaburun Peninsula. The western slopes plunge steeply into the deep blue Ionian Sea and we enjoy panoramic views of Vlore, the coast’s highest summits and yesterday’s route as well as rugged shore of the Albanian Riviera during the walk on the peninsula’s spine. We pause to memorize the views of jagged peaks and turquoise waters before descending on a military road to the Llogara Pass. After a light lunch at the iconic viewpoint we leave for Tirana. To stretch our limbs and admire the Byzantine church we stop at the Ardenica Monastery. In the afternoon we explore the modern metropolitan city that stands in stark contrast to our experience in rural Albania. A city caught between its Eastern heritage and Western influence, looking for a new identity between shiny sky scrapers and Communist monuments. Overnight in a centrally located hotel, last dinner and possibility to join the capital’s famous night life in one of the trendy late night bars of the “Block” district.
Farewell from Tirana and Our New Mediterranean Love A great Journey of Southern Albania ends?
Time permitting you can visit after breakfast the National History Museum, Art Gallery or other sights of the city prior to departure. Our multi-faceted then journey ends with a single timed transfer to the airport (25km/30min) where we wish each other farewell. Are you looking for more? Extend your stay by adding days at the beaches of the Riviera, join a tour in Northern Albania or explore the other Balkans nations on a trip to the neighboring Montenegro, Kosovo or Macedonia.
3-day trek through the Kurvelesh Valley, the Riviera Coast and best of Llogara National Park.