In June 2016 we put together a particularly interesting private tour for Bob & Fiona Robinson, who were keen to experience village life and Albania rural tourism in the less-visited parts of the country. As we spend a lot of our downtime walking in the little-visted mountains of Dibër and Elbasan district, this was a great tour to create. Read Bob & Fi’s thoughts on the tour here…
“Having looked at Drive Albania’s website, I was not sure if they could offer us what we were looking for. So I emailed Ed detailing what we would like to do; he replied very promptly with a complete bespoke tour tailored to our interests – we were very impressed!
“During our tour we had a driver, Nesti, and guide, Dori, as well as being joined on occasion by office manager Ani and Bubi (naughty dog!) and once by Nesti’s American girlfriend Katie – it made for a very sociable group. Our tour took us through central and eastern Albania, into the remote villages of Labinot-Mal, Orenjë and Fushe-Stüden, including a visit to a Bektashi monastery, a ferry trip on Lake Koman, and into Kosovo.
“We asked for a range of village culture, to see the real raw Albania, touring and walking in more remote areas. We got all we requested in bucket loads. There are no walking maps of this area – hence a guide who knows the tracks is essential. Being able to speak the language is also vital: we altered our course on one day, as we were informed by a man bringing milk down from the mountains on the backs of mules, that there were dogs guarding sheep on the route we had been intending on taking, and we’d be safer taking an alternative route. We also walked up Mount Korabi into the snow, forged rivers and stayed at the Korabi Hotel – the centre of the mountain village. Whilst we didn’t specifically want a 4×4 driving trip, without such a vehicle the remote areas would just not have been accessible.
“We stayed in a range of very different accommodation, mostly small hotels, and best of all, Villa Balla in Orenjë, staying as guests of an Albanian family. We were also welcomed into the family of a friend of Ed’s in Labinot-Mal for lunch during one of our walks – the hospitality was amazing and we were treated as close friends and had the most amazing meal, all four courses; four hours later we got back to walking feeling very full. By being guided by locals, we experienced things only the locals would know. So in Peshkopi at midnight, gazing up at the stars, we soaked in a natural pool of sulphurous hot water that during the day is full of locals. Our guide also helped us buy mountain tea and homemade raki to take home.
“Food was always good and varied – and lots of it. Picnics on tour included local delicacies from the bakers as well as cooking pasta over an open fire, with an accompanying salad, with up to six cucumbers between four people. Whilst we could have eaten separately from our guide and driver in the evenings, we chose mostly to eat as a group which was very sociable and gained further information about Albania.
“Dori and Nesti were fantastic and Bubi added his mark; they did a brilliant job. It was a fantastic adventure – we felt we really did see the real Albania.”
Bob & Fiona Robinson, June 2016.