TIRANA, October 27
Solitary, challenging, and refreshing. Is there anything better than walking the trails covered in golden leaves and chestnuts in autumn? Getting a healthy dose of fresh air is a must especially in times of coronavirus. The temperature is pleasant, hiking is not as demanding as in the hot summer months while keeping a distance is easy. Somehow, a short hike could be the only way to spend some time with those close friends or relatives who are too precautious and don’t go out in bars, restaurants, or any other social environment. The pandemic forced people to renounce workout activities and replace them with new in-house hobbies to escape the boredom of lockdowns and stay-at-home orders. Hence, when the country reopened, hiking was a way for people to stay active and be safe while being outside in remote destinations. At the same time, hiking trips and holidays remain one of the few ways to support local business operating in the accommodation and hospitality sector and raise awareness for local causes such as habitat protection from human activity
Having fun and being responsible
Before hitting the trail make sure to comply with the safety measures where you are indoors, in a busy area, when passing other hikers, or when there are too many people in your group, for guided tours.
Pack hand sanitizers and extra face mask.
Pick a destination close to where you live.
Leave no trace. Opt for reusable packaging and leave no trash.
Contact a local inn before departing on a hiking holiday to check if the place will be packed.
Hike to Stilo Cape, Konispol
This route takes to the southernmost part of Albania. At the same time, it is one of the most off beaten areas in Albania. You can start the trail at the tangerine plantations in Xarra. The only difficulty is that you will have to cross the Pavlo River. Locals have built small bridges over the river as the tangerine plantations expand over the other side of the Pavlo. Those are safer options compared to using the improvised river raft. The difficulty level is moderate. From the riverbank, the trail follows a donkey trail up to Korafi hills. The hills overlook the Corfu strait and the Old town of Corfu and Vido Island are visible on the other side. Better go accompanied as there are no people in the hills’ area.
Other walking options in the area to consider
Climbing at the top of Ajtoi Hill in Ciflig
Walking to Kreshmoi Cave in Konispol
Hiking to Shen Marena Cave in Bogazi Gorge
Hiking to the Milea mountain summit
Where to stay?
Consider staying in Konispol. The citadel is a gold mine for old house enthusiasts.
What’s in season?
Buy citrus fruit, pomegranates, almonds, olive oil, honey, cheese, and saffron
The Southern Riviera Hiking Trails
Hiking in Vlora Region can be organized in different ways. Some choose to follow shepherds routes, others take a more cultural approach by exploring the small villages and their old castles. There’s a lot to see and explore in the Albanian Riviera from mountain peaks to hidden beach coves. The region is a hiking wonderland thanks also to the warm weather. As major cities around Europe are hit by hikes in COVID-19 cases, some people, especially digital nomads, are considering other countries where they can move on. Southern Albania would be an excellent option for those looking for a place where to spend the wintertime.
Hiking trails to choose from:
Karaburun Crest, difficult, 12 hours
Qorra peak, moderate, four hours
Cika Mountain, moderate, five hours
Llogara- Gropat e Piritirit, moderate, five hours
Llogara- Lek Duka- Thanasi Peak, moderate, four hours
Dukat – Terbac, moderate, 13 hours
Dhermi to Himara, moderate, 12 hours
Dhermi – Kondaq, moderate, one hour
Dhermi – Jal, moderate, seven hours
Dhermi – Gjipe, moderate, about two hours
Kudhes – Qeparo, four hours
Where to stay: local guesthouses in Himara, Borsh, Qeparo, Lukova
What to eat? Authentic Albanian Riviera Food to Try on Your Vacation
What to get with you: Olive oil from centenarian Kalinjot trees
Hike in Bulqiza
Bulqiza is at the same the richest and poorest area in Albania. The underground is rich in chrome, the above-ground is poor and forgotten. However, nature offers an additional alternative to gloomy mining jobs. Even though the mining industry has shadowed other economic sectors, tourism is blooming out of the chrome ore.
The area surrounding Bulqiza is completely off the beaten track. There are lakes, waterfalls, mountain peaks, plateaus, and a lot to please avid hikers.
Must see: the Black Lake of Valikardha
Where to stay: Bulqiza Traditional Guesthouse/Kulla Hupi. For those looking for really authentic places, nothing extravagant, and no weird combinations of old with fancy, this is the right place. Delicious food, guided tours, and a lot to take back home at an affordable price.
What to buy: hazelnuts, chestnuts, tea, medicinal and aromatic herbs.
Where else to go in the area?
Hike to Kacnia Lakes
The 15 glacial lakes of Kacnia are an unknown destination even though they’re located not far from Lura lakes. The lakes got the attention of hikers and outdoor enthusiasts that explored Balgjaj Mountain also known as Allamani Mount in Kater Gryket (four gorges). Glacial activity created a jagged terrain with several peaks such as the Miceku, Arnishta, and Gurrat e Zeza.
Hike to Zall Gjocaj
The park is not well-known among Albanians and it has received scant attention. However, the area is under the threat of small Hydro Power Plant projects that would cut water resources to the area and also have a negative environmental impact.
Even though it is a small park of only 140 hectares it is known for its habitats that are highly significant in terms of biodiversity. Zall Gjocaj is situated 40 km northeast of Burrel city and beside Lura National Park, which is known for its glacial lakes.
Zall Gjocaj National park includes pine forests, endemic and sub-endemic plant species, alpine meadows, glacial lakes, numerous springs, and creeks. Moreover, the park is a great place for wildlife observation. Bears wolves, lynxes, roe deer, and eagle species are found in Zall Gjocaj National park.
Besides the scientific and natural importance, the park and the surrounding area are home to stunning landscapes. All of these values offer great tourism potential for the area. This would help local people get involved in tourism services. Thus, they would maintain their traditions and culture and generate incomes that would help the local economy and park maintenance.
Hike in Korab-Koritnik Nature Park
Korab-Koritnik Nature Park covers an area of over 55,550 hectares in the regions of Kuksi and Dibra. The park borders with Mavrovo National Park in North Macedonia and Sharri National park in Kosovo. The landscape of the park is beautiful and rare and it is regularly visited by numerous mountaineering associations that climb to the mountain summit at 2,764 meters above sea level, which is also the highest peak in Albania.
Puka, Hiking to Munella Mountain, and more
Munella Mountain brings together the pleasure of hiking trails solitude with the cause of a solitary creature, the critically endangered Balkan Lynx. Puka-Mirdita region offers plenty of opportunities for the development of nature-based tourism. Hiking could be one of these activities and Puka-Mirdita regions are known for their high biodiversity and wonderful landscapes.
Kryezi Village. Kryezi is one of the most beautiful villages in the north of the country, rich with water resources, canyons, waterfalls, and many historic and cultural traditions. Its name is believed to come from the black crest of the pines that dominate the village above the Hill of Gega.
Hiking, Swimming, and Stargazing
These three activities have one thing in common. Do you know where to find the darkest sky in Albania? On the coast of the Vjosa River between Petran and Carshova. That is the place with the darkest night sky in Albania. It is also close to the thermal springs of Sarandaporo in one direction, and Benja thermal baths in the other.
Read also: Guide to Thermal Baths in Albania
Moreover, Shebenik-Jabllanica National Park has already established guides that combine hiking tours with stargazing experiences.
Hike to Rrajca
Rrajca is perfect for one-day tourism, or if you plan to stay a few days you could hang out at the host families’ houses of the village. As in all the national park areas, there haven’t been investments in inns or hotels yet, so one of the other choices while staying there is camping too. The hospitality of the local villagers is known, as it is in many rural zones of Albania, with their traditional cooking. Some of the locals there have reconstructed their houses, to attract the many tourists who come to enjoy the natural beauty of the village.
The glacial shapes, where Rrajca is located, are in the northern and eastern slope of the Shebenik Mountain, where the complex of the glacier circles of Rrajca are found. In this glacial circle are 4 lakes, which are a natural attraction for visitors. These lakes have a length of 100 meters, and a width of 80 meters. They are found 2,200 meters above sea level. To reach these glacial lakes, you should take the route Prrenjas-Rrajce, and afterward, the walk from the village to the lakes is done on foot. In this area, there are eight lakes on the eastern slope of Shebenik Mountain. They are lakes placed at the bottom of a glacial complex, divided from each other by moronic deposits.
The depth of the lakes is a few meters, they have cold and clear waters. During the wintertime, the lakes freeze on the surface, creating a very strong layer of ice, until the melting starts in the spring. These lakes have a rare natural beauty. Three lakes that hold the name of Rrajce, have the biggest surface and they are located on the eastern slope of Shebenik Mountain.
Castles and Museums
Castles and Museums fall into the category of city hikes. They are often located in a close distance to a city or main road. Such hikes are easy and pleasant for people of all ages.
Read also: Top 10 Most Popular Castles in Albania
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Main Photo: Gashi River by Abdulla Diku