If you want traditional Albania, head to Berat. This old town has a slow, laid back vibe about it that makes you want to stay longer. Cleaner than some other areas of the country and with nice Ottoman style architecture, it is definitely a place to visit. Part of the charm is its location – set amongst a large mountain backdrop. Still largely unexploited by tourism, the restaurants sell great food and the people are very hospitable. If you are short on time and want to visit Albania at its best, Berat has to be among the places to consider.
Like the rest of Albania, food is cheap – you should be able to buy a pizza in a restaurant for €3. Smaller dishes can be even less. Unifry restaurant in the castle is a good value place to eat. Street pastries are under €1 too.
There are daily buses to Tirana, Sarande and other main Albanian towns. The Sarande bus leaves once a day, early in the morning. Most buses arrive and depart from the ‘bus station’ – basically the square next to the Lead Mosque.
• Walk the streets – Berat is an ideal destination to soak up the history of Albania, and imagine the city during Ottoman times. Street traders still sell odds and ends to provide a living for their family; life in Albania is intriguing and colourful, making it good to just people watch sometimes.
• Visit the Fortress – an old castle with people still living inside the fortress walls. It’s a lived in piece of history with great mountain views, a museum, and a 13th century church to explore…truly like visiting a bygone era.
• Sample the wines at Cobo – if you club together with a couple of other travellers, you can easily arrange a wine tasting tour at the Cobo Winery. 12 km away from Berat, they have a selection of wines, raki and cheeses to try. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange a visit.
• Wander around Mangalem and Gorica – below the castle is the city area of Mangalem, with small narrow streets, distinctive buildings, and mosques. Gorica is across the river bridge and is another area of the city with similar architecture….but with churches rather than mosques and countryside close at hand.
• Explore the Ancient Greek city of Appolonia – go to this partially excavated site from ancient Greece. It was an important Roman city, and nowadays there are ruins to look at and a museum on site showing other artefacts from the period. Appolonia is still a work in progress but relatively unknown to tourists and worth a visit. Catch a bus to Fier and then board another to Appolonia.
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