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DESTINATIONS ALBANIA CROATIA & THE BALKANS


RIGHT: Theth’s


lock-in tower


FAR RIGHT: Residents of Theth


BELOW: Lake Koman


SAMPLE PRODUCT


Intrepid Travel offers a 15-day


Kosovo, Albania & Macedonia Explorer tour, from £1,650


for departures from May to September 2019, including B&B accommodation, transport and activities, but


excluding flights. intrepidtravel. com/uk


Exodus has an eight-day Walking in Albania tour that starts in


Tirana and takes in Theth, Valbona and a traditional


folklore evening. Land-only prices start at £1,149 including accommodation, some meals, and transfers.


exodus.co.uk


peaks. At points, it seems as if the boat is completely enclosed, only for another immense gateway in the rock to open up as the ferry turns a corner. It’s a remarkable journey, made all the more impressive by the fact that it costs only €5.


w PEOPLE POWER


But beauty is not only skin deep here. Albania’s people are as much a reason to visit as its glorious mountains and placid lakes. There’s a genuine warmth to Albanians, and an immense pride in their country, language and culture. After undertaking the seven-hour


trek from Valbona, we were welcomed at our guesthouse in Theth by the entire family. As Raphael, one of the younger generation, showed us to our room, he said earnestly “please


Beauty is not only skin deep, as Albania’s people are as much a reason to visit as its placid lakes and glorious mountains


treat our home as your home”. And that’s exactly how it felt. In Albania, hospitality is an integral part of cultural tradition. This wasn’t an isolated case, either.


After taking a wrong turn on a bike ride to a 500-year-old Ottoman bridge near Lake Shkoder, I paused to look at my map and within seconds a passer-


by had stopped to help. In the capital Tirana, a bus conductor ran after us, after we got off a stop too early. That’s not to mention the happiness and enthusiasm that greeted us whenever we attempted a few words in Albanian – a notoriously difficult language. Besides a warm welcome, a complimentary raki, Albania’s potent national drink, is never too far away. Albania is full of the small gestures that make travelling all the more enjoyable. That Albania will become more popular in the coming years is not in doubt – it is too beautiful not to. But with many established European destinations struggling with over- tourism, this unusual and unassuming nation is perfectly placed to take some of the weight. See it now, before the mystery is solved for good.


68 travelweekly.co.uk 4 October 2018


PICTURES: SHUTTERSTOCK


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