Berat, Gjirokaster, Sarande and Southern, Albania


Heather Markel, Best Selling Author, Professional Speaker, Traveler, Full Time Travel and Business Coach

With only about a week before I need to start heading to Scotland to meet my mom, I decided not to go to Turkey. If I travel by bus or train it will take too long to give me more than a couple of days there. Now that I’ve adapted to full time travel, I no longer enjoy quick trips to a new country the way I used to. Having explored Tirana, I decide to take a couple of day trips to see more of Albania.

I find a local tour company, and learn there is a couple using one of their guides to go to Berat, and I can join on for a reduced fee. I eagerly accept. The driver picks me up at my hotel and seems very kind. We pick up the other passengers and are off to our excursion!

We stop at a beautiful small town on the way, Elbasan. There’s a fortress wall, which is now a beautiful venue where we imagined you could hold a wedding. We spend a few minutes wandering, and I notice some stray dogs. Albania is not fond of stray dogs, and I have a hard time with that.

Our driver is lovely, seems to drive safely, which is comforting in Albania! And, he tells us a lot about the places we visit. We spend most of our day in Berat. It becomes my favorite place in Albania.

Berat has three old sections – so imagine any city you’ve been to with a wonderful old town that you enjoyed walking through – and now there are three in the same city! The city has huge hills and the houses are built right into them. This comes from the Roman Empire. We walk along the walls, and even see an Armenian style church.

We visit a local mosque, and on the way, I try my first Byrek and it’s delicious. Our guide explains that Muslims in Albania don’t practice the religion, but they also don’t eat pork, but do drink beer. And, Albanians go where there is alcohol, as opposed to other Muslim countrires. In effect, Albanians have created their own version of being Muslim.

Our guide surprises us by taking us to a local vineyard where they give us so much food I’m not sure how we ate even a quarter of it. But the real treat came at the end, when they brough a full bottle of raki to the table, and we made toast upon toast upon toast, and almost finished the entire bottle!

After this enjoyable trip, I signed up for an overnight trip with the same company, and we visited Gjirokaster and Sardanë, with a few stops along the way; Ksamil, Butrint, and Korçë among them.


Known as the stone city, it’s just beautiful to walk through. Again, it’s built on a hill, and the view from its fortress is just beautiful. I stayed in a charming hotel called The Old Hotel Bazaar 1790. I ended up swapping my upstairs room for a second floor room which was a great choice. The room was lovely and even had a balcony. Breakfast was another eating fest – they kept cooking and bringing over food, it was way too much for anyone to finish, but delicious!

Sarandë and Vlorë

This is an absolutely stunning beach town. It’s also the place you can grab a ferry to Corfu, which, had I had more time, I would have done! I love standing in one country gazing out at another that’s close enough I can take a quick boat to reach it. We spend some time taking in the beautiful beach before departing.

The Blue Eye

This is one of the most stunning acts of nature I’ve ever seen. The water is crystal clear and the color of the eye is even more vibrant than this photo.

I have to mention that our tour guide for this trip was a different person than to Berat. He was younger and seemed to feel that driving was a contest to get as close to the car in front of us, at as high a speed as possible, especially when passing it on a steep, curvy, two-lane road with no ability to see if a car was heading towards us at equal speed on the other side. If I tell you I was terrified, that wouldn’t even begin to explain. Happily he got me safely to my final Albanian destination, Durres.

Llogara National Park 

Since it was raining, we only got a few minutes to play with the lovely deer and feed them. And, later on in our trip, I was treated to cows crossing the highway!


This is the other town in Albania that has ferries to Italy. (Sarandë was another possibility.) There isn’t a lot to Durres. I spent a couple of days, and it felt like ages. There’s a boardwalk, there are a few restaurants, and some ruins to visit. I loved my hotel, and staying there got me a discount at a nearby restaurant where I met a lovely couple (Albanian husband, Colombian wife) who generously offered me a glass of wine. (Make reservations at Portiku or it’s likely to be full.) I donated some of the clothes I didn’t want to carry anymore to the hotel housekeeper, and she hugged me! I was so happy to pass along that happiness. Next stop, Italy!

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