Home Tourism Discovering the timeless Vjosa River in Albania

Discovering the timeless Vjosa River in Albania

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“Here, farmers are the guardians of the culture,” said Ms. Bejo, who is a gardener, janitor, yoga instructor and hiking guide in Albanik. “It’s important that hardy families – those who stayed in the valley instead of leaving – are appreciated as the economy shifts to tourism.” »

My initial hike was moderate to the 65-foot spring-fed summit. Sopoti Waterfall. The next hike was an hour’s walk south of Permet to the 18th century Orthodox monastery. St. Mary’s Church in the hilltop village of Leusa. The three-nave stone and brick church, with a finely carved wooden iconostasis, is full of frescoes and wall paintings.

I then met Ms. Bejo, who guided me through the narrow Lengarica Canyon, home to the Lengarica River, a tributary of the Vjosa, and a series of hot springs near the village of Benjamin. We passed the Ottoman-era Katiu Bridge which frames the largest of the thermal baths, which was already crowded. We went upstream, through knee-deep water, to more isolated pools. Each of the six sulfur baths has a specific medical benefit. We chose the one for rheumatism and relaxed as a rain shower passed.

The next day we took a 45-minute run from the riverside town of Kelcyra to the anonymous remains of a 2,400-year-old body. Illyrian Fortress on a ridge overlooking the Vjosa. Hundreds of feet below the ruins, a tour of kayakers – orange boats and red helmets against the electric water – paddled through the Kelcyra Gorge. From this strategic advantage, ancient inhabitants once communicated with smoke signals to other outposts, warning of invaders: Greeks, Macedonians, Romans.

Between hikes, we walked to villages to visit families who work with Ms. Bejo. In Gostivisht, Flora and Krenar Sali 150 hives make honey from mountain flowers called Bedunica. In the village of Peshtan, at the foot of Mount Golikut, rising to almost 2,000 feet, we met Mira Muka, who runs the Bujtina Peshtan guest house and campsite. She showed us her collection of weapons from the Italian-Greek Vjosa Front during World War II. “About 10 years ago, 15 people stopped here,” she said. “This year it will be 1,500. The Vjosa gives us everything: people, fish, water. It is our past and our future.

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