Saving the best part of Albania for last

I had been looking forward to seeing the region and town of Permet for a long time. So many people I spoke with described it as their favorite place in Albania and I was really looking forward to stopping by on my way out of Albania. Despite that excitement, I admit I was still taken aback by sheer unsurpassed beauty of the region and my intense desire to take up residence in a mountain cabin, buy an adorable donkey, a flock of sheep and goats, put enchanting sounding bells on them and never leave.

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Is it just me or is this guy just begging to be taken for a little ride?

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The road to paradise… and the way to a really cool thermal bath.

My time in Permet was basically spent walking different sections of the river valley, eating lamb and shendalti (a cake soaked in honey), and washing everything down with raki and the local harsh red wine. Before coming to the Balkans I was lucky enough to come from an amazing wine region and was unprepared for some of the wilder interpretations of wine I have experienced here but in Permet I realized I just stopped caring and am going with it.

When I think about it that is how I feel the Balkans changed me, now I just go with things.

I don’t worry as much, I have faith that everything will work out and try to get something out of the experience even when it isn’t exactly what I originally desired.

In America there is usually the illusion that you are in control of your surroundings and there is a specific rule and order to things. When the order is disrupted, it’s a big deal. In Albania that sense of control and order don’t exist, things happen according to their own pace and there isn’t much as a foreigner that you can do about it other than roll with it and enjoy the ride – however ridiculous it may become.

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My friend Steve “listening” for a waterfall on a hike around Permet. We never found it but had a great time none the less.

It is pretty hard to be upset about a little thing like not reaching a waterfall when you are surrounded by truly breathtaking scenery.

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Beach

Best lunch spot ever?! Completely solitude except for a woman who walked by with her cow on a nearby bridge.

I couldn’t get much advice on what there was to do in Permet before I went besides going to this thermal bath. It wasn’t super hot but absolutely perfect after walking 14km and exploring the valley. Like a lot of things in Permet, we pretty much had the place to ourselves.

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This picture does not do this sweet pool justice. What a lovely afternoon!

Turtle

We also made a new friend! Steve and I wanted to take him home.

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Wildflowers everywhere!

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For other travelers looking to see some of the best scenery Albania has to offer I highly recommend staying at the Hotel Alvero (room 203 has an incredible view from bed and a great balcony) and going to the delicious family run restaurant called Alonngeia (which I am spelling wrong but you will be able to find regardless as it is 30m from Hotel Alvero) where a five course meal (including wine/raki) for two people will cost you about $30.

As I don’t want to appear too biased towards Permet, I will add in this warning: I cannot recommend the espresso in Permet, drink at your own risk as all of it tasted like it had been run through an old burnt boot.

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View from the hotel balcony!

Even the town square was surrounded by gorgeous mountains.

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My last days in Albania were truly magical and made the border crossing into Greece a little bittersweet. Regardless of where I go I know this country with its ups and downs will always have a unique place in my travel memories.

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