Albania’s Water Wonderland

Photo by Elizabeth Gowing

A lake, a canyon and a stunning coastline

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Albania is rich in water resources, from its glorious Adriatic coast running along the country’s western border to the shores of vast Lake Ohrid (the deepest lake in the Balkans) on the eastern side. This itinerary offers a route from Lake Ohrid to the highlights of the Riviera. Starting in Pogradec makes it a natural itinerary to combine with exploration of Macedonia, the country on the other side of Lake Ohrid. If you are coming from tirana there are buses and furgon minivans to Pogradec. The itinerary ends in Saranda, in the south of Albania. From here there is easy bus or road connections to Tirana or to Corfu or mainland Greece.

Day 1

Pogradec is the largest town on the Albanian side of Lake Ohrid and offers a chance for a day of beach activities including boating. Although the beaches and cafes can be busy in high season, the lake is huge enough to give a sense of calm to the town, and sunrise and sunset are particularly spectacular. It is one of the oldest lakes in the world, comparable with Lake Baikal and Lake Tanganyika, and is a Unesco World Heritage Site. The town itself won’t hold you for long, though, and for an atmospheric place to spend the night you are better off in the fishing village of Lin 20km (12 miles) north.

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Day 2

You’ll enjoy wandering down the lanes of Lin and watching the fishing by traditional methods, involving loud banging on the base of the boat. A walk up the hill above the village might (depending on whether the keyholder is about) give you a chance to see the sixth century church and its mosaics but will certainly give you a beautiful panorama of the lake. Leaving Ohrid behind, travel south to Korca, a charming Art Deco town renowned for its grills and good food and an ideal place for an afternoon stroll and to stay the night in a historic home hotel.

Day 3

Drive south from Korca, looping around the Hotova National Park, to reach the dramatic Osumi canyon. From March to June it’s possible to raft the canyon in a tour group. Spend the night in charming Unesco World Heritage city Berat.

Day 4

You may want to explore Berat’s historical sites, but when you can no longer resist the call of the coast, head towards seaside Vlora. This was where Albanian independence was declared in 1912 and it was the country’s first capital and is still an important port. There are plenty of bars and cafes giving vibrancy to the city.

South of Vlora is where you’ll find Albania’s most breathtaking coast and the views from the coast road are among the best in the world. Spend a day or two chilled – and sun-warmed– on the beaches of Dhermi or Himara.

Day 5

Less than an hour’s drive from Himara is Albania’s southernmost city, Saranda. It has a reputation for its beaches and nightlife, but the reason that many tourists come here is en route to the ancient Greek and later Roman city of Butrint, a Unesco World Heritage Site. You can explore this atmospheric site, set in marshland, and see the remains of acropolis, amphitheatre, baths with mosaics, and the nineteenth century additions made by warlord Ali Pasha Tepelena.

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