Permet, Langarica Canyon and Much More: A Southeast Albania Travel Guide

In southeast Albania there is an undiscovered land full of culture, colors, and people. Get ready for being the only foreigner in every bar.

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When one thinks about south Albania, the beaches of the Albanian Riviera come to mind. But if you head east past the Unesco cities and touristic gift shops, there is an undiscovered land full of culture, colors, and people. Get ready for being the only foreigner in every bar, and if you didn’t receive enough attention as a child, now is your chance. Welcome to southeast Albania.

Permet-The Charming Town of Southeast Albania

Vjosa river in Permet
Vjosa River
Rooftops, trees and mountains in Prmet
Permet, from our guest house’s balcony

Permet is called the city of flowers, it’s small but don’t let it fool you. With a river, stone, park, church, the main square, sulfur springs, cafes, bars, and restaurants. In Permet, you could bathe in the Vjosa river, walk up the Guri I Qytetit mighty stone that looks like a miniature Meteora, visit the healing source of Benja natural sulfur pools, and drink coffee. Yep, coffee. That’s a must in every Albanian city\town. Do it with intention, not out of necessity. In the summertime, Permet has a morning life and a nightlife, more like evening life. It is perfect for travelers because you could emerge into the town while it’s active, before your daily activity and after. During the day, while you’re out there seeing the world, everybody is asleep.

many people siting, having a beer and celebrating in Permet's festival
Permet’s Night Festival

There’s so much to do in Permet. But don’t forget to sit down, have a drink, and look around.

Benja Thermal Springs and Langarica Canyon

Benja Thermal Springs

20 min drive away from Permet will bring you to the springs of Benja. Popular with Albanians for their healing qualities, the sulfur springs burst beside Langarica river stream. If you walk opposite the stream, you’ll find more and more sulfur spring pools to its banks. Every pool is therapeutic and connected to the health and healing of different body organs.

It seems like whoever visits Benja arrives with intention, healing, and maintaining health reasons. The Albanians bathing in the pools would make sure to tell you how long you should stay in each pool and what the healing purposes of the particular spring are.

People bathing in the sulfur natural pools of Benja
Benja’s Natural Sulfur Pool

Combine the healing energy of the springs with the affection of Albanians to have fun, and you get a seniors field trip while everybody is laughing none stop around you. Maybe about you. I was embarrassed, and I loved it.

Food and Snacks

There is no restaurant or food at the site, but only coffee shops and local people selling homemade jam, gliko, honey, and tea.

Langarica Canyon

This overwhelming canyon together with the sulfur pools of Benja is the biggest attraction in southeast Albania, in my eyes. I found nothing to read about these places before my arrival. Together with the joy of discovery, I arrived unprepared. And for that, I hope you’ll find the following words useful.

The bus from Permet to Benja stops next to Kadiut Bridge. An Ottoman structure you can’t miss above Langarica river stream. Walk under the bridge, up the river stream, while noticing the cliffs to your sides getting closer to one another. Welcome to Langarica Canyon. No other sign would announce it but nature.

Kadiut ottoman bridge above the Langrica river
Kadiut Bridge
Langarika river flow
keep on walking upstream and reach Langarica Canyon

Walking up the stream in the water brings you inside the canyon.

Before I started walking, the business owners told me that the path upstream takes 3 hours and back and forth takes 5 hours. I started walking barefoot while soaking in every thermal pool I crossed. Another group of 3 Albanian couples walked with me. When I asked if they hike to Langarica Canyon, they replied, ‘we are walking as far as we can.’ Remember that sentence.

Two cliffs in the sides of the river, the inside of Langarica canyon
Langarica Canyon. ‘We are walking as far as we can.’

At some point, the people around me were gone, the water in the stream became fresh, the sulfur smell disappeared, it was quiet, but not completely.
People’s voices from the end of the canyon carried up the walls as they got closer to one another, creating an illusion that the walls were whispering.

On my way up the steam, I saw a lot of left-out flip-flops and shoes. I felt like I was watching the remains of people on my way up to Everest.

The cliffs above the canyon got closer to one another. The air was nice and cool, and the water was pleasant to feel—a mystical sensation.

Back to What’s Important for You

45 min walk after the bridge, you’ll reach a point where the only possible way to move forward is having a sweam. I recommend not to walk by yourself to the canyon hike. It’s easier to move your bag with two people. Also, use shoes made for walking in water or good sandals, the bottom of the river is muddy and easy to sink in it. Your bag can get wet, have that in mind while packing.

Two cliffs in the sides of the river, the inside of Langarica canyon
Langarica. First swimming pool. Have a nice swim.

I don’t know where the hike ends. After swimming in that pool, I turned around and realized what the Albanian group told me when saying, ‘we are walking as far as we can.’ As I did.
If you reach a point, you can call -The End-, let me know in the comments below. I am curious.

What to Pack to Langarica Canyon and Benja Springs

Since you’re about to hike the canyon, bathe in the hot springs, or preferably do them both, the gear you pack should combine different worlds but stay as light as possible.  

Get a good daypack with you for better back support. Keep in mind your gear will get wet, so make sure it’s made from a fast-drying material. Another option is to use a waterproof dry bag.

Inside your daypack: Water bottle |Sunscreen | Sandals for Him & for Her | Swimsuit for Him & for Her | Waterproof phone case | Energy bars.

How to get to Benja Springs and Langarica Canyon from Permet

Two blue color buses leave from Permet every day. The first one at 8:00 and heads back to Permet at 12:30, and the second at 13:00 and heads back at 17:00. The bus starts the pick up from the central bus station next to ‘euro supermarket,’ rides on the town’s main road till it gets to ‘Hotel Ana,’ and turns around. You can catch it anywhere throughout this track. The drive to Benja and Langarica Canyon lasts approximately 30 min and costs 100 Lek.

Two poeple waiting to the bus in Permet, southeast Albania
Permet’s Bus Stop

The bus ride is charming as Albania bus rides usually are, with a vast natural landscape and small different crop fields. The bus was full and felt like a field trip of the golden age. All happy and excited to start rejuvenating and healing their bodies, same as me.

Farm Stays in Southeast Albania

In the last few years, Albania has seen a rise in agrotourism. More and more farms are opening their doors for guests to enjoy fresh, seasonal, homegrown food. The farms are mainly found in two regions, the first one is in the north of Albania, and the second one is in southeast Albania. The farm provides accommodation and outdoor activities like horse riding, hiking, rafting, etc.
For us, it was a great way to get to know the rural lifestyle in Albania.

1. Camping Farm Shelegur

Unlike the rest of Albania, where it seems like they keep on forgetting lines and finishes, Camping Farm Shelegur is all about the final touch. When it comes to the cabin’s construction, the cooking and seasoning, the cleaning, the open landscape of the farm, and even the view around, it is all well put together and tightly made.

Camping Farm Shelegur has high standards of hospitality combined with a functioning sustainable farm. It’s serine. The owners of the farm make sure the guests do not overcome the land capability.

Order a salad and notice the chef step outside to pick some vegetables for you. It’s not an industry; on the contrary, it’s a farm.

Three wooden cabins in Shalagure farm at southeast Albania
Camping Farm Shelegur‘s three cabins, with lots of other space for campers and tents.

Great for couples, individuals, and families that prefer a quiet vacation.
We paid 30€ per night, including breakfast. The farm has a restaurant with fair and reasonable prices for the rest of the meals. Take into consideration that there are no supermarkets within a radius of 30 km. So, if you plan on cooking, arrive prepared with a stove and additional products. It’s possible to purchase vegetables from the farm, while fruits are in the trees around.

2. Farma Sotira

While looking for a farm to stay in Albania, the first one that would rise on the Albanian lips is Farma Sotira. Its name precedes it, 23 years old of a sustainable farm. It started as a trout fish farm selling fresh fish to nearby restaurants. After two years, they sold fish for families coming to have a barbeque in the area. Not long after, Farma Sotira became a self-sustained restaurant. Nowadays, it’s a farm, a restaurant, and a guest house.

Animals walk freely next to you: pigs, horses, ducks, geese, sheep, goats, cats, chickens, and dogs—an absolute joy for children of all ages.

Livestock in Farma Sotira at southeast Albania
Livestock in Farma Sotira
Horse riding in Farma Sotira at southeast Albania
Horse riding in Farma Sotira

We paid the same as in Shalagur farm: 30€ per night, including breakfast. The restaurant on the farm is busy, and waiters walk hectically around the tables. Yet, they still manage to serve fresh home-cooked food at fair and reasonable prices. If you travel on a budget and plan on cooking for yourself, the cabins don’t have a kitchen, so bring your stove. Furthermore, it’s possible to purchase vegetables from the farm.

Korcha-The Capital of Southeast Albania Region

We can easily say with no hesitation that it’s the most beautiful city in Albania. Historically, Korcha is known as the intellectual and cultural center of Albania. This charming city is full of unique architecture and lively energy. Don’t miss Korcha’s brewery, its Japanese gardens, and the orthodox cathedral.

The front of an orthodox cathedral in Korcha located in southeast Albania
The Orthodox Cathedral in Korcha

What about some “don’t do’s”?

Feel free to skip the touristic market in the old town. We found it to be too artificial, in the cultural matter. Instead, you could dive into the real market right next to it. Travel Slow. Take the time to cook for yourself. It will give you an excellent opportunity to visit the local market and notice the seasonal produce. And even if you don’t have time for cooking, get an apple.

A variety of fruits and vegetables in the market of Korcha, located in southeast Albania
Korcha’s Colorful Market

Final Thoughts

After two months of traveling in Albania, the southeastern part was the last area we explored. It certainly opened our appetite literally and metaphorically. In southeast Albania, we found that people have more time. Time to talk, time to share, time to enjoy life, and in other words, live life. While we try to live our lives following the concept of slow travel, they live their life at a slow pace.


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