Tour Down the Albanian Riviera

Last weekend, we were invited to join some friends of ours, Bardhyl and Natasha, on a trip south down the Ionian Coast.  We left early on Saturday, August 13th and drove over Llogara Pass, past Himara, to a village called Qeparo.  We found a nice apartment to stay in for the night overlooking the sea.  That afternoon, we drove down to Borsh Beach, swimming and relaxing in the sun.  We had a late lunch at a place with a natural spring/waterfall running right through the restaurant!  That night, we drove into Himare and had a coffee on the beach while watching the sunset.  We wandered the main strip along the beach doing a little shopping before heading back to Qeparo.

On Sunday, Rebecca and I got up early and ran down to Borsh Beach and back for a 10.5 km round trip.  It was a little gruelling with major elevation changes and barking stray dogs, but well worth it.  For breakfast we had a local speciality called Petula (deep fried dough – like a donut).  We went back down to Borsh Beach for more sun and sea.  We had a nice fried fish lunch before Bardhyl and Natasha headed back to Vlore.  Rebecca & I planned to stay Sunday night in Qeparo so I could continue down the coast and spend some time at my company’s gas field in Delvina.  The Odhisea hotel we stayed at had a private beach with a steep and winding path.  The water was a little chilly as there are a number of natural springs running into the sea.

On Monday morning, 2 co-workers of mine, Ilia and Bardhyl (different Bardhyl), came to pick us up.  We drove south through Saranda to Ksamil and found a nice hotel on the water.  We left Rebecca there to check out the beach while the rest of us headed inland to Delvina.  The company I work for has some major operations going on there right now and I wanted to check things out.  We spent the afternoon there before heading back to Ksamil and hitting the beach.  That night, we had a great seafood dinner with shrimp, calamari, and the local specialty, mussels, which are farmed in the nearby Butrint lagoon.

Tuesday, we got up early to be the first at the ancient site of Butrint just a little further south of Ksamil.  Butrint was built on a small peninsula and lay undiscovered until 1928.  It has a very rich history which includes the Greeks, Romans, and Venetians.  Only 20% of it has been uncovered and it is truly amazing.  We then started our journey home and, instead of taking the coastal route, we went inland towards Gjirokaster.  We stopped at the Blue Eye which is a large, beautiful natural spring.  I was the only one brave enough to dive into the chilly 10C waters.  The next stop on our trip was Gjirokaster, a stunning stone city, with its castle looming overhead.  We walked up the through the old town with its Ottoman buildings and then up the hill to wander the castle grounds.  We would like to go back to Gjirokaster to spend some more time there. We left Gjirokaster and continued through Tepelena and Fier before finally making it back to Vlora.  Our tour of the Albanian Riviera was truly a magical one!

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