Albania’s Best Wild Swimming Walks

Albania’s Best Wild Swimming Walks

TIRANA, February 21

Hiking and swimming go hand to hand in Albania. From a coastal hike with a hidden cove on the Ionian or Adriatic to one of the highest glacial lake in the Balkans, these wild swimming walks are like nothing you’ve ever seen or read before about walking holidays in Albania
Call it what you want, swim hiking or wild swimming walks, there’s nothing more rewarding than a pleasant and refreshing dip after a long hike on a hot summer day.
Although the Ionian bluer-than-blue vistas tempt travelers to indulge in sun, sea and doing nothing, some want more.
Luckily, Albania is bursting with walking opportunities. Adventure-seekers walk routes that meander through lush forests, towering mountains, and vast lakes. All those options combine awe-inspiring scenery with epic swimming and camping sites for a night out under the stars.

Gramozi Mountain glacial lake

Gramozi Lake
Gramozi lake

The alpine lake at Gramozi Mountain, also known as Gistova Dragon Lake is shared between Albania and Greece. Located at 2,365 meters above the sea level, it is one of the highest glacial lakes in the Balkans. The hike starts at Starje village and follows the path along Albania – Greek border. After five hours of moderate walk, there is the moment for a dip on the lake.

Bogova Waterfall in Berat

Bogova waterfall in Berat
Bogova waterfall, credit: commons wikimedia

Bogova is a village in Skrapar municipality, Berat County that took its name from the waterfall of the same name. To get there it takes about an hour’s drive from Berat, and even though it isn’t considered a popular tourist village yet, it has all the potentials to become so in the future. Stretched between the mountains and with greenery all year long, the village has turned into a tourist attraction, for the locals and foreigners who come to visit it.
Also, in this village, you could visit the Bogove Nature Park, which is declared a protected area since 1977, and it spans an area of 3.3 km2. The Waterfall of Bogova in the park, with its clear, cold water is a pearl of nature and attracts thousands of visitors each year. It is the perfect retreat for those who want to get away from the heat during the summertime.
To reach the waterfall and its natural springs it takes approximately 45 minutes on foot from the village. Positioned on the left-hand side of Osumi Canyon, this waterfall is hidden between the forests, cliffs and dense vegetation, and its isolation makes the strong point of this village.

 

Gradeci Canyon river hiking

Gradec Canyon
Gradec Canyon

Gradeci Canyon is an out-of-the radar destination located in the northeastern part of Corovoda, a city near Berat. The canyon can be found in the middle course of Corovoda River, at 250 meters above the sea level.
The canyon used to be an underground karst landform where the river flowed, but as the roof collapsed the canyon was created.
The canyon is about three km long and its depth varies from 100 to 200 meters. Meanwhile, the width varies from ten to 15 meters and is some narrow sectors it is two-three meters. The bottom relief is crooked with deep water pools and massive rocks detached from the canyon walls. All these increase the difficulty of passing through the canyon on foot.
Gradeci is home to an interesting karst aquatic ecosystem.
This natural monument has scientific, cultural, ecological, and tourism-related values. There are sections in the canyon apt for rock-climbing.
Gradeci Canyon can be reached by car through Corovoda-Gradec rural road. Another interesting destination in the area is Pirogashi Cave, which is not completely explored.

 

The Blue Eye of Kaprre, Lower Theth

Blue Eye Theth
The Blue Eye of Theth, credit: Abdullah Diku

The Blue Eye of Theth receives numerous visitors and it’s one of the most famous tourist attractions in the Northern Region. Although most visitors go there in the summertime, the Blue Eye is an excellent year-round destination.
The Blue Eye, Theth is located in Lower Kaprre (Kaprre e Poshtme) village. The latter is regarded as one of the most beautiful villages in the Albanian Alps. The Blue Eye is created by Lumi i Zi that originates from Maja e Zeze (The Black Peak) and it’s generated from snowmelt. The Blue Eye has an approximate surface of 100 square meters and deeps of three to five meters. It is easily accessible to people of all ages.
The road to the Blue Eye runs through Grunasi Canyon, also one of the most stunning canyons in Albania.
How to get there?
For those descending from Thethi follow Grunasi Canyon – Nderlysa Central – Nderlysa Village – Pusi i Zi.
For those driving, stop at Pusi i Zi, which is created by Lumi i Zi (Black River), and park somewhere nearby the ruins of a former school.
From there to the Blue Eye you have to walk for 40 minutes. Make sure to stop at water pools and the waterfall right after crossing the bridge.

Hike to the Canyon of Kryezi in Puka

Kryezi canyons
Two visitors relaxing in the Canyon of Kryezi. Photo Credit/ Nentor Oseku

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. Many streams pass along through the village, are Fani, Rrahi, Kroni Hys, Pllacka, Bens, Prrezi, Nermjece Qaf-Hije, Brraka Kolics, Lum Mahall, etc.

 

Nivica Canyon

Nivica canyon
Canyon climbing in Nivica during an expedition

Nivica is the perfect place for those who love nature and history. Life in the village and the entire region follows a slow pace that reflects the importance of agriculture and old traditions. Nivica is a place of legends and myths, but nature seems to be the cult of its inhabitants.
The village is home to picturesque and dramatic landscapes where it is possible to hike to the top of high mountain peaks like Kendrevica, 2,121 meters above the sea level, or explore unknown canyons and waterfalls. Besides natural riches, the region is also home to severs cultural monuments such as fortresses, pagan temples, shrines, churches, and other objects that date back to antiquity.
Among all the natural wonders, canyons are the most difficult when it comes to capturing their beauty in photos. Albania is a playground for adventurers, hikers, and photographers, yet many areas are still unknown even among Albanians. In many cases, international expeditions are those that help to explore stunning places like Nivica Canyon, in Kurveleshi highlands, Southern Albania. This is one of the longest canyons in Europe, and a few people knew about it.

This is Nivicaaa
One of the most interesting things to visit in the canyon is ‘Pusi i Hasmerive’ or ‘The Pit of Feuds’.
According to the legend, it was the burial site of people killed for feuds. The rumor feeds on ancient skeletons found in the canyon.

Buni Glacial Lake Jezerca

Buni glacial lake in Jezerca
Buni glacial lake in Jezerca. credit: Afrim Tahiraj

In the northern peaks of Tropoja city, tourists can visit glacial lakes which date after the last glacial era about 15,000-12,000 years before. They are situated in Doberdol village, 2,124 meters above the sea level. Such glacial lakes are not only a tourist attraction but also a study object for experts and naturalists.

Sylbica Lake

Horse grazing by Sylbica Lake
Horse grazing by Sylbica Lake, credit: Bjeshket e Sylbices

Another glacial lake tourists can visit in northern Albania is Sylbica Lake, situated about 1,900 meters above the sea level in the glacial meadow of Sylbica in Highlands of Gashi, Kukes region. The glacial meadow of Sylbica is known for its nine glacial lakes (including Sylbica Lake,) the biggest one in the area, at an average altitude of 1,000 -1,500 meters and each cover circa 40 hectares surface.

Holta Canyon River hiking

Holta Canyon Grmash
Thermal baths, Holta Canyon, credit: Olta Bici, IG

This canyon may be the reason why most of the people are visiting Gramsh area. Like Sotira Waterfall (see below) the Holta was mostly visited by local people from Gramsh and the surrounding areas. Now, there is a road that takes just at the canyon and numerous visitors come mostly during the weekend from Tirana on organized day trips. Before the road was built it took a two-hour walk from Driza village to the canyon. Holta is located northeastern of Gramsh near to Kabash and Bardha villages. The canyon is three km long, 150 m high and in some places, it narrows as little as ten meters wide. The canyon was formed by karst activity and Holta River erosion. Several unexplored karst caves are found on the canyon walls. The best time to visit from May to September depending on the river flow and level.

 

Hiking to Valamara lakes

Valamara lakes
Valamara lakes

The reason for visiting Valamara Mountain are three glacial lakes. They are located some 2,200 meters above the sea level near to Lenie village. The lakes have average sizes of 300 meters long and 200 meters wide. They have cold crystal-clear waters. During winter their surface freezes. Valamara lakes create an interesting ecosystem of alpine water bodies and they also have geological, ecological and cultural values. They can be visited following Gramsh-Lenie itinerary. The path from the villages continues to Mushaka Pass to the eastern slope of Valamara Mountain.
Gramsh is home to many other unexplored attractions such as the Black Lake, Grabova, Sineci Canyon, etc. The area is apt for hiking, trekking, camping, rock climbing, caving, off-road rally and other outdoor activities. Adventure tourism can trigger major economic, social, and cultural development in the Gramsh area.

 

Hike to Kacnia lakes

Kacni Lakes
One of 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.

Lura National Park

Night Sky at Lura national park
Night Sky at Lura national park

Lura was proclaimed a national park of the second category in 1966 to protect the biodiversity and ecosystem of the area The Park covers a total surface of 1,280 hectares in the Dibra region. Lura is known for its glacial lakes such as the Lake of Flowers, Kallaba Lake, the Blake Lake, the Big Lake, etc.

 

Hike to Zall Gjocaj

Zall Gjocaj national Park
Zall Gjocaj national Park, credit: Burreli

Zall Gjocaj is located in the Dibra region. It gained status as a national park in 1996. 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 wolfs, 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 a 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.

Benja Thermal Baths and Lengerica Canyon

Benje Thermal Baths Albania
Benje thermal baths, credit: Trajeborg

There is one place in Albania where tourists can enjoy a relaxing dip no matter what the season is. Located 120 away from the Ionian coast and Saranda, swimming in the natural thermal springs of Benja in southeastern Albania, feels better during the cold months of the year. Benja’s thermal springs are no longer an overlooked landmark. They grabbed the attention of Albanians and international visitors that travel to the south and during the summer season, the place feels a bit overcrowded.
Besides the natural beauty of Benja area and Lengerica canyon, the springs are known for their healing properties. Road infrastructure has been improved and a parking lot was built for cars and camping vehicles, while the parking rates are too low.
The canyon is located about 200 meters from the thermal springs and his altitude varies from 30 m to 150 m.

Valbona River

Image of the River in Valbona
Valbona River

One of the most beautiful rivers is the Valbona River which is part of the Valbona National Park and stems from the Accursed Mountains Albania – Montenegro border in the north of Albania. The river is crystal clear and is well known for its clean water. It flows throughout the Valbona Valley to the Drin River.
The tourists can enjoy the beauty of the river and the national park mostly during the spring, summer and fall seasons – the period when nature shows its best side in wonderful colors. The national park is one of the least touched natural parks by the human hand and it is one of the most favorite destinations for outdoor tourists.

Shebenik National Park, hike, swim, and look at the stars

Shebenik national park
Fushe Studen, credit: Shebenik Adventure

One of the most beautiful areas of Elbasan county is the Shebenik-Jabllanica National Park. This park withdraws many foreign and local visitors, throughout the year, all days of the week. With a size of 339 square kilometers, Shebenik-Jabllanica not only is the biggest national park of Albania but the most important one. This is one of the few sites in Albania with a specific focus on stargazing and atrotourism.

 

Hike in Rrajca

Rrajca glacial lakes
Photo Credit/ Rrajce-Shebenik Guide FB

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 2200 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 8 lakes in 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.

 

Gashi River

Gashi River Albania
Gashi River canyon, photo Abdulla Diku

Lumi i Gashit (Gashi River) along with Rrajca are part of Ancient and Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and Other Regions of Europe of UNESCO World Heritage List. The inscription made them the first natural sites Albania. Lumi i Gashit is located in the North-East of Albania in the border zone with Montenegro and Kosovo in the area of the European Green Belt. It belongs to the Bjeshket e Nemuana Mountains or the Albanian Alps, a high-altitude mountain with peaks reaching 2,694 meters above the sea level.

Hiking in Mirdita and Bulqiza

Natural pool in Shqefen village, Mat
Natural pool in Shqefen village, Mat

The unknown parts of Albania in Mirdita and Dibra can be explored in daily trips or multi-day hikes. More details on Mirdita hiking are available by Info Kulla Mirdite

 

Other destinations

Pellumbas Cave hike and Erzeni canyons 

Progonati Waterfall

Progonati waterfall
Progonati waterfall by Afrim Tahiraj

Shegani Eye

The Eye of Shegan water spring
The Eye of Shegan water spring
Erzeni canyon
Erzeni canyon by Afrim Tahiraj

Also Read: Guide to Thermal Baths in Albania

Hiking and Walking Holidays in Albania

Invest in Albania


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