Albania cycling holiday
Description of Albania cycling holiday
This week long Albania cycling holiday takes us through some of Europes least known yet dramatically beautifully terrain. With six full days of cycling, the routes vary from moderate to challenging, cycling between 50-70km every day, with some challenging stretches from the start. Given that our first outing is through the Grammoz Mountains and over the Barmash Pass (1159m).
Another climb awaits as we take in the magnificent, often snowy peaks in the distance ascending to magnificent plateaus near the Greek border, and then down through river valleys, stopping at waterfalls and continuing along mountain ridges. One of the highlights of this mountainous cycling is our stop off at the ancient town of Gjirokaster (City of 1000 steps) perched on the steep side of the Drino Valley.
From here we descend to the coast to very different scenery in Butrint National Park. Also a UNESCO site, it boasts ancient Greek and Roman ruins that jut out into the sea. A fine reward for all that tough mountain cycling. You have to work hard to earn your next national park too but cycling up to Llogara National Park is a spectacular route through the Llogara Pass at 1000m above sea level although, as with all our cycling holidays, you can always use the support vehicle if you think this one is too tough for you. Either way you will love this trip up to the countrys magnificent black pine forests where eagles soar above.
A final coastal treat awaits at Vlore, on the Albanian Riviera. This section of the Ionian coastline is packed with beautiful beaches, and Vlore is just one of them, a Greek city founded in 6th century BCE. This is where the Albanian Declaration of Independence was proclaimed in 1912 and an ideal place to celebrate the great feeling of freedom you will have gained cycling through its mountain wilderness.
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Water is a really important issue with cycling trips and whilst we must stay hydrated, it is also vital that we have a system for providing clean water without causing lots of waste with plastic bottles. We suggest that instead of repeatedly buying bottled water, guests should use the fresh water springs beside the road to re-fill a singular container. These springs are clean and are a wonderful resource for reducing waste.
Few holidays have as little detrimental impact on the environment and local residents as a cycling trip. Leaders ensure that clients stick to agreed path in order to minimise our impact. We do believe in leaving no more than footprints (or tyre tracks!) although this tour actively encourages guests to talk to local people, visit local cafes and restaurants, use markets to purchase traditional gifts and crafts and get a real impression of the country.
It all starts at home so we have first worked at reducing our carbon footprint in our UK Offices. Through energy conservation measures and recycling policies, we are proud to be actively reducing the waste produced and our impact on the environment. We support various projects all over the world to try and give something back to the places we visit.
PeopleLocal Crafts and Culture:
Under Edvar Hoxha Albania became a self-sustaining country due to its isolation to the world. However due to the lush fertile valleys, fresh mountain springs and Mediterranean climate, they are still very much a subsistence culture and show very little signs of changing. Guests know that most things are produced locally and are encouraged to purchase crafts and produce locally everywhere they go.
Accommodation and Meals:
We try to ensure that we use locally run accommodation serving locally sourced produce as much as possible. In Germenj we stay in Sotira Farm that is nestled in a tranquil valley, with fresh water running down from the mountains. It is also a self-sustainable trout farm, so you may find dinner to be fresh from the stream. In Benje we stay in a guesthouse that is only a few kilometres from the thermal springs and Ottoman bridge. Run by a local family dinner will often be taken out on the veranda where you will be served their own homegrown produce. Where meals are not supplied, your local guide can recommend a number of good restaurants in the area. Meat dishes are often goat or lamb, with fish dishes ranging from trout to whitebait. Courses often come in mezze form complimented with a variety of succulent vegetables, freshly baked bread, homemade cheeses, wines and of course, raki.
In Gjirokaster, a UNESCO designated city also known as the city of 1000 steps, we help each year with a direct financial contribution to maintenance. The buildings and structures in Gjirokaster are largely made from very old stone and so the locals in particular have trouble with damage to their roofs. As collapsed roofs are very costly to restore and UNESCO do not allow a cheaper alternative, we help annually with a monetary donation to ensure the locals do not suffer and that the re-building is in-keeping with the rest of the city.
This small group tour has a maximum of 16 participants, meaning that we have a low impact on the environments and communities we visit and are able to ensure that we do not disrupt or lead to the displacement of local people. The small number also allows us to stay in unique, family-run hotels that cannot benefit from coach tours and other mass tourism due to their limited sizes.
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