The North Albania itineraries, not only culinary but also a pilgrimage in history, in authentic natural heritage and in the Albanian culture

March 2, 2020 || views

This long culinary and cultural tour is offered from CABRA, a GIZ project, in collaboration with Regional Developmet Agency 1

Prepared from: Luan Dervishej

Albania is as small as also big: most of the edges of Albania can now be easily reached and with the increase of tourists’ interest for exploration and improvement of touristic supply, the range and density of cultural and natural assets enjoyed by the visitors proves a wealth with substantial values. Nowadays, to travel from Tirana to the northernmost point Vermosh, it could be achieved within 4 hours drive. However, as a tourist we want to explore step by step the touristic attractions along the way, which would extend the travelling time up to a week.
Gastronomy degustation as part of tourism should not be left out from the exploration of nature and cultures of the destinations. This means to dive in and understand the environment, traditions, the origin of the products and the culture behind cooking. At this point, you can understand and choose what is special and authentic, an experience that you can probably find it even at a modest corner.

What you will need is: the desire to ask, to explore and enjoy the beauty; the necessary information and reference for the destinations, and a mobile phone with google map. For tourists who are not keen to drive themselves and undertake such adventures, with the exception of the road Qafë-Thore-Theth, all the other main destinations as described could be reached with common cars as the roads are well asphalted. 
Beyond experiencing and enjoying the touristic journey, the itineraries offer a possibility of enrichment for the memories and the photography archive; enrichment from historical and geographical knowledge; enrichment of the house basket with local products and why not the feeling of appreciations for the country’s values.
The touristic package of the north itinerary exposes a touristic arrangement that covers a region with a historical cohesion, cultural and geographical, which is an important part of the identity and the Albanian autochthonous heritage. 
Therefore, in accordance with the cultural or natural interest, the exploration of the region could be experienced as a pilgrimage in history, cultural heritage and Albanian nature. 
The itineraries in the district cover all the main categories of the touristic products: natural, rural, cultural. Products of the sun and wind originated from a complex picturesque view and biodiversity. The wide range of biodiversity passes through areas and parks awarded with national values, international or regional like the reservoir of Kune – Vain, up to the protected area of Buna river, near the Natural Park of Shkoda’s lake, the regional park of Shkrel, the National Park of Theth and even up to Vermosh as the future park of the Albanian Alps. The itineraries pass through the Adriatic coast across lagoons, exotic and affirmed beaches, fields and hills areas rich with not only agro-biodiversity but also historical and cultural. On the way you get to pass by the large water streams rivers like Drini and Buna, offering picturesque mountains river valleys like Kiri, Rrjolli, Prroi i Thate, Cemi or Vermoshi. It follows with Shkodra’s lake and panoramic villages, cities with a rich historical and cultural heritage like Shkodra, considered the capital of the northern region of the country that stretches beyond the borders and the Albanian Alps, which are the symbol of mountains and heroic heritage of the Albanian landscape.
The touristic package includes different regional destinations where you can spend a whole day and one night stop. The itineraries consist in embracing cultural, historical, regional, natural, rural, agro-biodiversity and gastronomy heritage, with a dominant main theme of different specialties from the respective areas.

– From Patok to Shëngjin:
the diversity of the Adriatic coastline – landscape varieties, rich biodiversity, different options to relax and explore a wide variety of culinary

Although the trip from Tirana to Lezha lasts only an hour, the beautiful attractions that the Adriatic coastline offers makes it necessary to stop over for a night in Shengjin.
The main attractions: the Patok lagoon, the beach of Tales, the lagoon of Kune-Vain, the island of Lezha, Shengjin and Rana e Hedhun. Spend the night in Shengjin.
All these stopovers can be reached within ten minutes from the main axis of Tirana-Shkodra, with roads completely asphalted.
The Patok lagoon, is crossed by a road axis similar to a dam amongst it, where bars and restaurants are built on both sides. Wooden cabins above the water, an exotic panorama where a drink or a meal could be enjoyed like if you were on a boat or in a house above the water.
The Tale beach, it’s a new beach with only bars and restaurants. Accommodation is mainly offered in the villages or neighbourhoods beyond the coast. It has a rural panorama and could be enjoyed as a beach during summers, or also out of season for a more quite atmosphere, not overcrowded or if you want to enjoy a place not surrounded by buildings.
The Lezha Island and the Kune-Vain lagoon, with traditions offered from the ‘Hunting Hotel’ since the 1990s, offers an opportunity of a nice walk to explore the local protected nature, a variety of food and accommodation.
The Kune-Vain lagoon is located close to the delta of Drin river, the branch of Lezha and khas sightseeing opportunites until the delta also from watch towers. The wetland panorama and the wild birds are a special treasure. Binoculars would help to explore this panorama further. There are plenty of restaurants, such as ‘Diella’, located 3km inside the park, offering a traditional cuisine characterised from byrek, chicken and fish; ‘Sebastiano resort’ which offers accommodation and swimming pool. With the exception of fish and wild birds, other restaurants fall under this category such as ‘Ceni’, ‘the Island of fishermen’ etc.
Accommodation in Shengjin, provides the exploration of the panorama, afternoon walks where you can find plenty of restaurant specialised in fish, and it offers a magnificent panoramic view. If you’re looking for more refined cuisine, Rapsodia is the place. Rapsodia is located in the road from Lezha to Shengjin where the well-known chef Alfred offers a combination of classic and traditional cuisine made out of products cultivated in the area.


-From the fields of Zadrima in Bushat, gastronomy, history & agrobiodiversity

The history of gastronomy and agro-biodiversity from the Zadrima field in Bushat – wine, cheese and olives of Kallmet –  to the art of culinary at Mrizi i Zanave,; from the Fishta and Mjeda cradle to Bushati, the residency of princes and pashas.

From Shengjin, the itinerary towards the north starts in Lezha with the archaeological antique area of Lisus and memorial of Skanderbeg, following Baldren. On the right we find the area of Zadrima leading to Kallmet, where important famous people of the national history were born or worked in the area (from the Illuminism to the Albanian Renaissance) like Pjetër Budi, Frang Bardhi, Gjergj Fishta, Ndre Mjeda. Starting with Kallmet, a rich area with cultural heritage traditions that maintains the autochthones agricultural recourses and livestock like the Kallmet grape, the Lara goat of Kallmet, and the olive of Kallmet. At the Cantine of Kallmet you can enjoy or purchase the autochthones wines while visit the goats farm where you can purchase the artisanal goat cheese of the Kallmet goats.
Onward, the itinerary continues along the Zadrima area where after stopping at the church, which once used to be the assembly of Trushani, you pass by Fishte and just a little further you can reach the ‘Mrizi i Zanave’. This restaurant follows the idea of Slow Food, where you can taste a variety of the finest local products made from the culinary art like petë me hitha, purrinjë dhe mëlçi kecit, laknur me kungull e mazë te fresket, Krane me mish derrit në prush, Mish ftuje i pjekur në tepsi, pule me pulener në kusi bakri.
From Fishta, passing through the national axis towards Shkodra you take the left for Gjader. In Gjader, you can visit the aviation track which reminds us the military airport built during the communist regime. The airplanes are still located inside mountain tunnels, and the track was used as a logistics base until the end of Kosovo’s war.
In the secondary road, towards Barbullush and Bushat, you can stop at the church and visit a house converted into the museum of ‘Ndre Mjedes’ in Kukel.
The next destination to spend the day and stop over for a night can be found at the Garden Land Resort. It is located in the middle of Bushat’s rural area, an area which has been home to the Illyrians followed by the romans and medievalism princes of Zeta. Later in history, the Bushati inhabitants were resided in the area, as the Drini branch at the time used to be the main branch which flowed towards Lezha. The resort offers swimming pool and traditional food like byrek, lakror, turshi, pula fshati etj.
Another alternative stop for accommodation is the Velipoja beach.

-From Velipojë to Shirokë

Admiring the natural panorama along Buna from Velipoja, up to the tava e krapit at the Shkodra’s lake – reachable by car but also by walk and bicycle; explore more water and birds in their habitat, boats and fishing, vegetables  of Oblike and local goats, Zogaj carpets,  “tave krapi” and qefull ne “tjegull”.

At Velopoja beach, to enjoy the Adriatic diversity landscapes you can start with Viluni lagoon followed by the natural reservoir of the delta of Buna. You can continue to explore the upstream along the Buna river, up to some of the villages suitable for biking tours. At Shirq, a medieval inland port for ships coming from the sea towards Shkodra, you can visit the ruins of the medieval church build by Helen d’Anjou . Previously it used to be the site of a benedictin monastery built on the foundation of a paleo chistrian church of Siant Sergus and Bachus. Passing through the Buna bridge at the edge of Rozafa castle, you can visit Eco-Social Farms.
When directed towards Muriqan near Oblika, you can find Ana e Malit. From Shiroka to Zogaj , you can enjoythe lakeshore promenade where you can walk, hike or bike. There are panoramic view points and fisherman stations where one can observe the starting or arrival moments of the fishermen . Fish based restaurants can be selected also based on the panoramic view location: the Buna shores, the Rozafa castle panorama or Shiroka and Zogaj lake view. At first the tava e krapit ( capr plate ) and then putakra ( fish eggs) , eels and we full on tile are among the most popular plates of the area.

-Shkodra, the crown of  greatness of the North and the Albanian authentic values

A castle at the edge of the lake which unites the mountain and the sea; an exploration of values that must be explored step by step.

Shkodra, the crown of greatness of the North and the Albanian authentic values – a castle at the lakeshore , a connecting bridge for the mountains and the sea, an exploration of treasures.
Shkodra can be discovered and enjoyed on different time periods: on a daytrip, on weekends or even everyday regardless of how many times you have visited before.
The city offers a spiritual and cultural heritage, as a concentration of values of an entire geographical area combining the epic tradition of the mountains with an international cultural and commercial exchange of the world: from Ragusa to Venice, from Trieste to Alexandria, from Vatican to Istanbul, a heritage passed by and refined through generations. It has a history from survival to heroism, to entrepreneurship, to cultural education and art, to hospitality and democracy, and in essence to a human and artistic spirit that never ceases . This heritage can be explored not only on material testimonies but especially when you get in touch with spiritual dimension embodied within the local population . In addition to the nice walk in one of the longest traditional streets in Albania which starts at Parruca near the municipality and continues up to the end of Piaca and towards the Cathedral via Gjuhadol, you can continue to visit: the Shkodra castle, the historic museum at Oso Kuka house, the National museum of photography Marubi, the site of Witness and memorial museum, the Cathedral , the Lead Mosque,the Migjeni theatre etc.
Through the way, you will be welcomed from the locals by offering hospitality and their particular sense of humour, , you can observe the traditions and daily rituals; morning shopping; bike rides ; enjoy a walk along the lakeshore or at the central street; you can stroll along the wide variety of coffee; you can attend concerts and cultural events; and you can learn about how art, culture, sport, rituals and the sense for the beautifull are transferred to a community’s tradition and spirit.
Gastronomic tradition is based on specific regional products. Shkodra, being the centre of a region blessed with all landscape components, has an opportunity for a balanced supply of key food products, autochthone vegetables such as peppers, aubergines, cabbages, oblika, drishti onions, shala beans, kelmendi potatoes, fruits, pomegranades “ devedishe” , figues, plums, grapes, meat and fish.The traditional menu and cooking is dishes inherited from ottoman period cuisine such as pilaf me mish ( rise and meat) , japraku ( filled grape or cabbage leafs with rise, minced meat and other stuffing) , mishi jahni ( meat simmered dish with sauce ) , filled peppers or aubergines, mantije me kos ( ravioli in yogurt garlic saucec) , pies with different stuffing (onion, yogurt, spinach, and sweets like tespixhe, haxhimakulle, bakllave, kadaif, tarts), influences from the early 1990s until the recent Italian influence dishes such as pasta, pizza, , trileçet.
Also accommodation is offered in a wide range of options from hotels, hostels , Bed and Breakfast, and private houses.
Local food can also be found in pie shops (byrek) , fast-foods and pasticeri . You can also preorder a whole byrek for your excursion or picnic.

Albanian Alps Valleys, The getaway towards agrobiodiversitety and the endless history

-From the Mesi bridge and the Kiri valley, along Drishti , at the Reçi’s chestnuts and towards Veleçik in Razëm.

Starting from the north east of the town in direction towards the industrial area, in few minutes you can reach the Mesi bridge, another Shkodra’s culture monument of pashallik period. After crossing the other side of Kiri valley, the trip continues along the cultivated orchards form the hardworking of Postriba locals, the renown Drishti onions, and you can climb up to the strategic view point in Drisht , where you can visit the medieval castle ruins and enjoy the panoramic view of Shkodra’s lake.
Postriba is known for the its biodiversity and honey values. When heading down, after crossing the Mesi bridge, the trip can be continued on the right. Near the Boksi hill , you can find the place of Illyrian tumulus and Kratuli fortress heading to Rrash-Kullaj e Gruemirë to reach the national road towards Koplik. For those visitors looking for camping or tent accommodation, Shkodra lake resort located in Omaraj by the lake shore, is the perfect spot. It is a campsite highly ranked reviews online from worldwide visitors. From there, daily trips can be organised by bike or car to Shkrel or Shkodra area.
Around Koplik, where you can visit “ Miqesia” winery, you can reach the lakeshore villages of Kaldrun and Sterbeq, or towards Shkrel you can visit the touristic villages of Reç, Razëm and Bogë.

-DESTINATON REÇI  – agritourism, walks in the chestnuts forest, a visit in the villages and farms, food in the restaurant, purchase of products.
Reçi is a small village, about 2 km far from the main road of the park, and has potential especially for developing agritourism. The road that brings you toward the village is surrounded by planted fields with heterotopic plants, and on the background hills arise overtaken by the high mountains views. The village of Reçi and its neighbourhoods like Qafë Gradë and Mosel are well known for a dense chestnuts forest, where you can find about 8km marked trails across the forest.
The village offers a rural panorama characterised by wood fences, courtyards with fruit trees (cherries in particular), vines with caracas, vodhëz (vesa), pears etc.
Towards Qafë Gradë, you can visit the ‘Cave of Pigeons’ which has a vertical stretch and it is easy to explore. The cave is rich in stalaktite, stalagmite and pillars with interesting shapes.
In September, when chestnuts are ready to be picked, you can enjoy roasted chestnuts, chestnuts honey, and a variety of desserts made out of chestnuts.
From Reçi village, towards the north, you can visit the Rrjolli valley and the Repisht highlands.
Local products to be enjoyed are meat, goat cheese, Reçi’s corn bread, potatoes, honey and fruits. Products you wish to purchase from the village are cheese from the local dairy, honey, seasonal fruits like cherries, chestnuts, thana juice, teas etc.

-DESTINATION RAZMA: relax, accommodation, food, picnic, walks in the woods, visit the Vrith village.
After visiting Reçi, the night stop over destination is Razma. Razma is located on a karstic field, 900-950 meters above the sea level. Pyramidal peaks, vast beech and pine forest with different colours throughout the seasons with a picturesque contrast. Furthermore there is a pleasant climate, fresh and clean air.
The high quality service offered in restaurants and hotels, have turned Razma into a tourist attraction destination.
Here you can enjoy hiking, observe wildlife such as birds, you can have a picnic in the flower covered fields, you can explore caves, and play different sports on the playground in the middle of the village.
Local dishes not to be missed are fërlik ( meat ) , potatoes, , goat cheese from local autochthone flocks around the area, wild fruits and mushrooms from the nearby chestnut forest, seasonal fruits such as nuts, chestnut, mountain tea, honey etc

Thethi, the heart of the mounts

-For the passionate ones who like to dive into nature and hiking.

Using off-road cars, you can start through the Përroi i Thatë valley , passing by the touristic village of Boga and right after you can find Qafe Thore. The road continues unpaved for around 10-15 km, through a dramatic landscape where sometimes you pass along the forests and some other times you can view the top of the mountains when descending to Theth.
Theth is located in a deep valley which is connected with the astonishing landscapes at different altitudes: Valbona , Shala and Kelmend. The valleys offer options for wandering and sightseeing, in particular long hiking in the woods for the true hiking and nature lovers.
The village provides a rustic and authentic atmosphere with its traditional towers and houses made with wooden fences and bridges, rural landscape, and hospitality of hotels and guest houses.
Marked trails in the main highlights such as Ujvara e Grunasit (waterfall) , Syri i Kalter ( Blue eye source) , Okoli can create e breath-taking experience in the hearts of Alps.
With more recent cultivation of vegetables using local seeds, the visitor can enjoy also fresh tomatoes, peppers, cabbages along with bread made out of the Thethi corn, Shala beans, and dairy products from livestock grazing in mountain pastures.

The tradition of the Highland (Malësia e Madhe)

-From  xhubleta and  Logu i  bjeshkeve  local contest,  to Mishavina cheese and Cemi trout

Kelmendi has a wide geographic territory containing some tourist villages like Vermoshi, Lëpusha and Tamara. The villages can be visited for several days due to lack infrastructure, but there are accessible newly paved roads until Vermosh, shortening significantly the distance to Lepushe and Vermosh. There is a stunning panoramic view while riding, coming from Koplik and passing through Bajza in direction towards Hani i Hotit custom borders. Continuing the drive, you will find the plum orchards and newly build restaurants. Passing near “Velecik” dairy you can taste or purchase different types of cheese, in particular those with herbs and dried fruits. Turning on the right, just before reaching the customs border, you can continue to Hoti village. A newly refurbished village with a mountain upward road leading to Rapsha. When passing by the village you can stop for a break near some natural shaped rocks called the Mullarët e Rapshës, reaching the serpentine picturesque road downwards of Leqe të Hotit, well known pictures already promoted through TV advertisement spots of mobile communication companies in Albania
In Tamara , where the centre of village is newly re- decorated, you can find restaurants and shops to buying or consuming local products . Also , those can be found also in tourist villages of Lepushe and Vermosh. Along the way , you can stop at the cultivation station of Cemi trout.
Lëpusha has a unique scenery with a combination of green pastures, rural landscape, village orchards, grey tops of Bjeshkeve të Namuna ( Accursed Mountains) and other peaks decorated forest and mountain pastures.
Cultural traditions and cooking are already in offer for tourists : along Alps trout there are other products such as Mishavina cheese, dry meat, Vermoshi potatoes, apples, blueberries, strawberries, Sanza ( Gentiana lutea) tea, products from wild fruits such juices, jams etc..

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