Leaving the port city of Vlora, to make our way to Saranda in the Albanian Riviera, we embarked on a drive that was likely the most winding, narrow, and treacherous I’ve ever been on….especially in a great big coach! But oh my, what a beautiful drive it was.
We started our journey driving briefly along the coastal roads leaving Vlora which were lined with lots of development in the form of hotels, hotels, and more hotels going up all along the beach front. It is great to see the development so they can attract new visitors to the area to help their country grow, but then on the other hand one of the things I loved so much about Albania is that much of it is unspoiled by commerce and tourist areas. Definitely a tricky balance to try and maintain.
It wasn’t long before we left the views of the sea to start our ascent up in to the Llogara Pass which is a high (3,369 ft/1,027 m) mountain pass on the Ceraunian Mountains which connects the Dukat Valley in the north with another coastal area, Himara, in the south.
To help preserve the forested area in the pass the government declared 2,500 acres (1,010 hectares), between the altitudes of 470 m and 2,010 m above sea level, a national park in 1966. And with good reason! There is so much flora and fauna in this area we could see forests of pine, fir, and ash for miles. Living in those forests are deer, wild boar, eagles, and woodpeckers, to name a few. While we didn’t see any of those species we did see a few cows and goats roaming the roads or just taking a little rest along the edge like this one…
We also saw a few of the bunkers, that Albania is so known for, nestled into the woods. Years from now as the forests fill in even more I’m sure many of these will be completely out of sight for good.
Once at the top we were rewarded with even more spectacular views of the sea on the other side of the mountain and those views continued for almost the rest of the day.
Along the way we got out of the bus and our guide took us for a little walk and described some of the history in the towns of the area. One of those is a tiny settlement called Palasa which is where Julius Caesar and his men landed in 49 BC on their way to fight a battle at Kajava Crag in the north. Yes, THE Julius Caesar. Another little town in the area, with its idyllic white sandy beaches, is Dhermi which was a favourite of the writer and painter, Edward Lear, who visited in 1844. At the end of our little walk we stopped for a quick coffee break but L, the kiddo, and I opted to enjoy the views and cool mountain breezes instead of a coffee.
After our little break it was time to start our steep and even more winding (if it is even possible) descent down the other side of the mountain on our way to the town of Himara where we would be stopping for lunch. I’ve said it before, but I’m going to say it again, our coach driver is a GREAT driver. I couldn’t imagine travelling those roads in a car, let alone a great big coach, but he navigated them with a slow and steady manner that put us all at ease. All we had to do was sit back, relax, and enjoy the breathtaking views. And you know the views are awesome when your teenage son puts away his games on his tablet and just enjoys the scenery too.
By lunch time we had reached the bottom of the mountain and entered the lovely little town of Himara that is tucked away in a bay and surrounded by mountains. As you enter the town there is a castle up on the hill that is believed to have been inhabited for over 3,000 years. It is in the Byzantine and Ottoman styles but isn’t in great condition now. Despite that it reflects both the age and strategic importance of the town to have been around for so long. We didn’t visit this castle but we did visit another one not too far from Himara that I’ll show you around in my next post.
For today though I’ll leave you with a few photos of our short time in Himara where we enjoyed some delicious seafood for lunch and then some fun skipping stones on the beach.
If you missed my other posts about Albania, or would like to start at the beginning of our journey please click here.
Next up on our adventures is our stop at a castle, a very neat little restaurant along the side of the road with waterfalls, and then on to the port city of Saranda.
To read more about our adventures on our tour around Albania, please feel free to check out these posts:
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