Category Archives: Europe

Travelling around Southern Europe  with a dog, in a motor home

Sicilian Adventure

Date of travel: 16th July – 21st August 2018

We went on an epic 6 week road trip around the beautiful island of Sicily and have compiled a trip taking you from our starting point of its capital city Catania.

On our other post we described Sicily and it is well worth a read before you explore it for your self. Click here to read: Sicily – Our Thoughts

Allowing yourself 4 weeks will give you time to really enjoy all that Sicily has to offer and more. We had an extra 2 weeks around the beautiful lagoon of Lo Stagnone, Masala playing with the wind learning to kitesurf. So why not do the same!…

Catania, the busy bustling capital is really just a necessity to get access for you. If you need to stock up on anything here is the place but I would leave Catania to the locals. For us it was more of a working city and the highlights weren’t worth the sweat and stress that a city brings.  From Catania head towards Syracuse but on the way stop at Agnone Begni Beach. A long sandy beach which sprawls out of the city. Head to the very end where there is a couple of restaurants where you can have a beer and watch the amazing sunset as it rests behind Mount Etna.

Stunning views of Mt Etna from Agnone Begni Beach

Syracuse. This 2700 year old, Old Town purched on top of an island accessed by a small bridge.  Once you cross the bridge your taken to a beautifully preserved Italian Old Town. The Venetian buildings are built almost to the edge with walls dropping down to small beaches below. It offers a really unique Italian feel. Venturing inside to the marble floors with plenty of churches and the temple of Apollo, it’s hard to resist its charm.

Exploring out side the Old Town on the mainland you will also find the archaeological park with a roman amphitheater, a museum and plenty of other sites to explore. So allow yourself plenty of time basing yourself nearby to make sure you see all the sites over a couple of days or more.

Once your ready to relax and cool off from all the exploring, head to the one of the beaches between San Lorenzo and Marzamemi. Lido Agua beach being one. With beautiful white sand and crystal clear turquoise waters it’s an absolute gorgeous place to relax and soak up the beauty and atmosphere amongst the friendly Sicilian locals.

In the evening head to the beautiful hamlet of Marzamemi a tiny gem built on a little rocky outcrop with a small harbour behind it. A lovely romantic town which looks like it’s never been touched but for a few restaurants and bars you feel lucky to have found it (or we did) giving your day that parfect finish.

Now your rested, head in land, straight to the baroque town of Ragusa.

The very southern part of Sicily, as you travel towards Ragusa has an abandoned feel with farms and fields overgrown. Why this is, we do not know but trying to navigate to the coast is not worth the trouble so head for Ragusa where being inland gives another perspective to Sicily.

Ragusa, is built on top of the hill as you make your way from the coast you appreciate the scale of the task to build this beautiful city set in an idyllic location surrounded by valleys.

Perched Regusa.

Once you arrive you will be amazed by the grand buildings all across the city and the amazing marble cathedral, the centre piece with cobbled streets to wonder though and plenty of restaurants and bars to relax and enjoy the views across the valleys.

From Ragusa head back to the coast but this time to the unmissable Valley of the Temples.

It’s hard not to feel infearier when you reach the Valley of the Temples.  The road leading into the valley certainly gives you the Wow factor. With temples jotted high on the hill, along side one by one they stand tall, towering over you as you drive though. Once you enter the site, it is one of the most impressive archaeological sites in Europe and that is saying something considering the competition. Having been to many of the main sites all across Europe including Rome and Athens this area has the same awe around it and offering 7 temples, what an incredible place!!!..

We would advise getting to the temples first thing in the morning, as it can get very hot and offers no shade up amongst the temples. We found half a day was enough, you can then set off to a famous Sicilian postcard picture at the Scala dei Turchi. These are white cliffs that have erroded to form a giant step like formation. You can walk down them to the beach below of enjoy the picture from above, either way it’s a great stop.

You can then spend the rest of the day or night at the Siculiana marina. We parked on the sand flats and enjoyed a wonderful sunset and were even lucky enough to see the Red Moon.

The Red Moon.

There are plenty of sandy beaches around here and it’s a relief from the tourists and the heat of the Valley of the Temples.

A fantastic free spot to spend the night.

Next, head not far to the beautiful nature reserve Riserva Naturale Foce Fiume Platani. This beautiful long expanse of sandy beach surrounded only by fern trees stretches for as far as the eye can see, on one end are beautiful white cliffs.

This is a parfect place to kayak around the cliffs and see the beauty from the ocean.

Around the cliffs is another long beach so there is no escaping the stunning beauty of Sicilian nature.

The nature clay is fantastic for your skin, or so we were told…

Marsala/ Lo Stagnone

Lo Stagnone, a giant lagoon with its history based around salt, with salt planes that are still visible today. But to stop here would really all be about kite surfing or windsurfing. There is no better place to learn, it’s flat, safe and most part shallow. Have a bit of adventure whilst you travel.

It has wonderful sunsets and if you go to Kitelaguna they will look after you with a wonderful bar to enjoy a beer afterwards.

Our home for 2 weeks.

You can also hire a boat from the nearby town San Teodoro and explore the island of Favignana, so if the wind is not up, you have something to keep you entertained .

A short drive from here, is Erice. Built high up on the only mountain in sight, its almost like a scene from a land of the giants. You drive up and up until you fill like your in the clouds. You’ll find this mystical old town and castle perched overlooking the ocean and land below. Meander around the character filled lanes, it’s another great place to get lost in.

The next city you should stop at is Cefalu.

You will pass Palermo, this is Sicily’s second largest city and although it’s not so gritty and is more glamourous than Catalonia, I wouldn’t recommend stopping.  We do not like large city’s and with so much more to see, for us a drive through was enough.

It’s worth noting that Palermo has a major port and ferrys run from here all around the Med. So it may be you enter or exit from Sicily. We have created a loop so just carry on until you come back to Palermo.

Cefalu. Gorgeous medieval Cefalu. Energetic, powerful and majestical. It’s a beautiful place to see across the bay with its cathedral appearing to float above the city. This city has character a plenty and if Syracuse is a bit quiet and Toarmina is a bit glamourous then Cefalu is for you. Fire juggling, live djs, light displays, your certainly be entertained. Put all this in a medieval town with a distinct difference in feel to the usual marble and stone buildings, its more flags and coat of arms here, your in for a treat.

During the day there is a long city style beach which although does not have a beautiful natural back drop its sandy and with beer umbrellas and deck chairs a plenty at least you can look down at any time and with a view of that city that’s all you will need.

Toarmina. Beautifully parfect Toarmina. Many people’s favourite. It’s emphatically Sicilian, beautiful sculptured and wonderfully charming. When you think of a Italian picturesque seaside town you won’t get anywhere that suites that roll more than Toarmina. Sicily may have rubbish in places but you could almost eat your dinner of the marble floors here. It is that clean. Every flower seems like it has been dressed for the job of glamourising.

The main town is based up on top of the hill with an old town which has a main walking street, marble obviously and many streets that take you into the narrow meandering streets around it. The streets are lined with designer shops but it has a wonderful holiday feel as you join the energetic bubbly Sicilians enjoying all of the best Sicilian delacasies. The Roman theatre has a great view and still puts on shows today. To top all this off you have the magnificent Mount Etna peering down at you.

Down at the base of the hill and on the coast are bays perfectly formed with little islands that you can swim too, almost like they have been placed there to create the beautiful look. Back that with Venetian hotels and restaurants with plants and colourful wooden shutters, that’s the Sicilian holiday brochure taken care off.

Your final stop for this epic trip has to be Mount Etna. You started with a picture looking back at her and now it’s time to climb her to view Sicily from a higher perspective.

Mount Etna

Arrive at Mount Etna’s base in the late afternoon the day before you are to climb her, there is a huge car park where you are allowed to sleep in your motor home. There are plenty of things to explore, even from here, volcanoes and craters are almost everywhere you look so you can climb and enjoy until the sunsets.

Life on the edge.

In the morning we took the cable car, which takes you to about half way up Mount Etna. From here we recommend you walk the rest of the way to the top, you get a great feeling, it’s more like mars or the moon than it is earth.  Walking gives you the opportunity to stop and take in that endless view.

Once you reach the top, steam is rising not just from the peak but from places in the floor around you. You have the most incredible view right across Sicily and the epic journey that you just travelled, there is no more a fitting place to finish your journey than on the top of Sicily. It’s a unique trip and the fact it’s still an active volcano only adds to that adventurous feeling.

Alf, the King of Etna.

She is also known as the mother because Mount Etna created almost all you can see.

Hope you enjoy it!!

This is only a guide to the places we enjoyed. Enjoy the island explore the island get lost in the island and most of all embrace the island.

Sicily – Our Thoughts

On top of the world.

​Marmite, it’s as simple as that…

It really creates a mix of opinions…

Some people love it and some just do not understand it…

Everyone is entitled to their opinion but hopefully after reading this, you will give it a go and make your own decision.

On paper Sicily is paradise. Situated as the ball of the Italian boot, in the southern Mediterranean with a climate to die for. Endless sandy beaches, turquoise bays and history that is only comparable to Rome. So your asking? “why doesn’t everybody get it?” Is it because Sicily is very different to mainland Italy or the fact it’s very different to anywhere else in Europe? To be honest, we think at times it was comparable to India, yes India! It certainly had similarity’s to us. It’s very random, people do strange things, nothing is logical like elsewhere in Europe. Signs will send you in a maze of one way streets and dead ends without any kind of notice.  Go with the crazy flow of it all and embrace this unique island in all its scattered glory.

Sicilian diversion!!??

But once you embrace all these characters and settle into their way of doing things, you will be rewarded with some of the most hospitably friendly people and wonderful destinations in the World.

Told you they were friendly – lunch in a local families home.

So there you have it paradise!! Right?…

Before you start packing the sunscreen, shorts and your travellers guide (please see ours) there are some negatives that might make you think twice about whether it is the paradise island we have just described.

Most people who travel Europe’s beautiful shores wouldn’t expect to see much litter on its unspoiled beaches, in its towns or maybe at least its been kept to a minimum. This is where Sicily does let its self down. They have a major problem managing their waste. Not in the main tourist destinations, these are impeccably clean, to what you would expect of Italian standards. But it is outside of the main hotspots, where you discover the problems they have. Speaking to the locals they all seem to blame it on the council, accusing them of pocketing the money for a service, that they do not provide. The bins are over flowing, which proves people are using them. This is very sad for the locals, who not only have to live with this but also know that it may stop tourists falling in love with their paradise. Also, Sicily is placed in the Mediterranean near Africa and it gets currents which can one day wash rubbish onto the beach and the next day it’s completely clean. We witnessed this on a few occasions, please, like us, make an effort to collect the rubbish before it gets washed back into the ocean.

The only way to see Sicily in my opinion is by motorhome, camper, or a well prepared trip with  lots of stops all around the island. Because the island is so big and the attractions are found even in the furthest corners, going on a short trip and hiring a car for the day will leave you with a disappointed feeling.  If you only have a short amount of time, stick to the tourist places like Toarmina or Cefalu which are beautiful holiday destinations in themselves.

You need to commit time to Sicily, travelling from one destination to another. By not rushing, you will discover the lovable Sicilians and the unique flavour that this wonderful island has to offer. If you don’t speak Italian then you will need too here, so learn a few phases before you go, the locals will appreciate it.

Please read our Sicilian Adventure to see what we got up to in our epic 6 week road trip around this amazing island. 

 

 

Photos

Here are our Instagram photos

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Prague – Our Winter Break 2019

Date of travel: 20th – 23rd January 2019

Prague the incredible city…

With its expansive old town offering you spires and bridges, squares and alleyways, castles and cathedral’s, everywhere you look the gothic architect is casting its spell on you. So don’t be afraid and embrace this magical city. If your thinking of a weekend break then the Czech capital will not only satisfy but will draw you back time after time.

We visited Prague in January, it was extremely cold, about -3 in the day and -6 at night. We spent a lot of our time wandering around the old town, this is where you will find the astonishing astronomical clock.

Be sure to watch as the hour strikes.

There are plenty of cafes, bars and restaurants to grab a drink to warm up or a beer or two.

One even has a husbands day care…

Public transport is very easy to navigate and cheap to use. You just need one ticket that can be used on the trams, underground and buses. Avoid taxis as they seriously over charge, we used Uber to get around late at night when we were just too cold. In the day we mainly used the trams as these take you all around the beautiful city. We also did a open top bus tour with head phones in all languages, this was very interesting.

Read on to see what we got up too….

Vytopna Train Restaurant

This is a quirky restaurant where your drinks are brought to your table by a train. Yes a train, there is a miniature railway line running from the bar to your table. You have to be quick as you just have 15 seconds to get your drink from the carriage before it speeds off.

Choo choo

Stroll across Charles bridge

There are many bridges across the river Vltava but Charles bridge has to be the most famous.

The stunning Charles Bridge.

Prague Castle

Incredible, this really is impressive and absolutely huge.

It really is huge and this is just one building…

Be sure to allow plenty of time to wander.

The detail is incredible.

Restaurant Peklo

Have a tasty gourmet lunch or dinner in side a cave.

Boat and Dinner Cruise

We went on a brilliant 3 hour dinner cruise up the river Vytopona we booked this with Get Your Guide. This is a fantastic way to see the sights of the city by night, the buffet dinner was delicious and the live music was very good.

Speculum Alchemiae

Museum tour of ancient secret medicines. Can you spot the secret door?…

Ghost, legends and dungeon tour

Unfortunately, we did not enjoy this as much as we hoped, if I’m honest it was not worth the money.

Zizkov Television Tower

On our last day we went to the TV tower for lunch with spectacular views over Prague. Despite being voted number 2 for the ugliest building in Europe it is very slick and modern inside and prices are not too bad.

We guess you hate it or you love it…

Medieval Tavern

To celebrate our last night we went to a Medieval night, which was absolutely brilliant. You can choose between an all you can eat meat, fish or vegetarian option as well as unlimited drinks of beer or wine. Prosecco drinkers do not panic, you can buy sparkling wine. The staff were on the ball and as soon as you were close to finishing your drink or food, they were ready to get you more.
As for the entertainment, it was awesome. With a belly dancer, fire eating and juggling, sword fighting – what more could you want?…

Feeling hot, hot, hot…

We all fell in love with the enchanting city of Prague and whether you are on a weekend break or a week holiday you will not be disappointed…

Enjoy xx

Germany’s Romantic Road (Romantische Strasse)

Date of Travel: August 2019

Rothenburg Ob Dee Tauber – One of our highlights, certainly not to be missed…

The Romantic Road (Romantische Strasse)  is a motor homers dream, a travellers dream and anyone in between.  Not only that, with the addition of easy access to night stopovers, well signposted routes and good roads, even the most novice of motorhome drivers can enjoy all it has to offer with the minimal of stress. 

Haven’t got a motor home??

Don’t panic you can hire one or take a car, as there are plenty of hotels at every stop.

This epic road trip will whisk you through 14 romantic towns and  lush green rolling hills. You will be taken from the historic, bold and energetic city of Würzburg, at its northern point and will leave you enchanted at its final destination of Füssen.  In between, there are  many stunning fairytale medieval towns.  Each stop has its own unique backdrop to a mystical world that can be quant or bold but always enchanting.

If like us, you love old towns and that unique feeling that only they can offer.  Crossing the drawbridge and entering a forgone time, life was very hard but much more simple.  The ambience of this time with its flickering candles, wooden fires and cobbled stones is intoxicating.  Compact all that atmosphere inside the towering walls and your unique medieval setting is complete.

 

Wurzburg – Marienberg Fortress Moat

We have created a guide, which not only gives you the 14 stops, but the distances between them and some unique free night stops.  Some of these stops are off the beaten track, but we think they will be another highlight to this already great trip.  

1st night stop over.

We completed the drive in 5 days, but easily could have spent twice this.

There are well sign posted motor home car parks outside most of the town walls.  Here you can empty your toilet, fill up with drinking water and some even have electric hookups for a very small fee.  You can also stay overnight at some of them. 

So lets begin!!!…

1st Town – Würzburg

A large, young and energetic city full of history, bars and restaurants.  Be sure to have a glass of wine on Old Main Bridge.  

“Wineo Bridge”

Visit the magnificent Marienberg Fortress perched high up on the hill surrounded by vineyards.

(This is free of charge and dogs are allowed in).

Can you spot Alf?..

On the other side of the river, visit the impressive Würzburg Residenz.  The gardens alone were spectacular, beautifully decorated with every colour flower you can imagine.

Parfectly landscaped.

37km to:

2nd Town – Tauberbischofsheim

A beautiful charming picturesque town.

Picture Postcard.

35km to overnight stop 
Or
34km to Weikersheim

1st Overnight Stop: 

Home for the night.

We stayed at a beautiful spot for motorhomes along the river in Tauberrettersheim. (There are no amenities, but there is a pub that offers food along the river).

Address:
St2269
97285 Tauberrettersheim
Germany

6.1km to:

3rd Town – Weikersheim

A quant town with a picturesque square.  On the edge of the square is a beautiful palace with spectacular gardens. 

Palace entrance €6.50.

28km to:

4th Town – Rothenburg Ob Dee Tauber

A medieval jewel on the romantic road, it truly is unbelievable!! 

Think of the stories, the walls could tell…

Make sure you walk around the city walls, where archers once would have stood.

The wall walk is surprisingly free of charge. There is one tower that you can climb for €2, this is well worth it as the view is spectacular!!

So high up.

We spent a day here but easily could spend a few, as we think it compares with Dubrovnik in Croatia, Kotor in Montenegro or Monemvasia in Greece for walled cities.

2nd Overnight Stay:

We stayed in a motor home carpark just outside the old city walls. Here you could fill up with drinking water and empty your toilet.

50km to:

5th Town – Dinkelsbuhl

The small walled town with its many towers, which rise from its stone wall every few hundred meters gives a great backdrop to a vibrant town. 

A fairy tale seen.

A day can easily be spend marveling at the quirky building’s and getting lost in its old cobbled streets.

Alf, a parfect lunch companion.

(Motorhome parking with amenities).

32km to:

6th Town – Nördlingen

Another impressive medieval walled old town. Built inside a meteorite crater (although you wouldn’t know it).  

Impressive cathedral.

The grand cathedral is the center piece of the town. 

15km to overnight spot
Or
19km to Harburg

3rd Overnight Stay:

We stayed in a beautiful spot surrounded by fields, onlooking the Harburg Castle. There are no amenities.

 

Address:
DON37
86655 Harburg (Schwaben)
Germany

(Google Maps gets a little confused, please see map from park4night)
You do have to go up a concrete track, follow track around and then 1st left, down the hill up the hill and park on the right where there is some gravel. It really is worth it and not too far).

6.3km to:

7th Town – Harburg

A picturesque fairytale castle sits atop a hill overlooking the quaint town. 

Walk within the castle walls.

Castle entrance €3
Guided tour €4

Be sure to take a photo from the stream below.

Row, row, row your boat.

12km to:

(Unfortunately despite it being August, the weather took a turn for the worst and we had torrential rain for the rest of our trip.  We had a quick look around the next few stops but didn’t spend much time there).

8th Town – Donauwörth

A much more modern town compared to the previous stops. Surrounded by the Danube and Wörnitz rivers.

Its raining, its pouring, we are still touring…

47km to:

9th Town – Augsburg

A very large city.  We decided not to stop as it was not easy to find parking and it was absolutely pouring down.

41km to:

10th Town – Landsberg am Lech

A charming town, surrounded by the River Lech, that gives a natural defence to the old town.

A grand tradition bavarian square

28km to:

11th Town – Schongau

The city walls are still largely intact, it has a modern feel. 

21km to:

12th Stop – Wieskirche

It was still absolutely pouring, so I just run to get a photo of the huge church.

9km to:

4th Overnight Stay:

What a view!!

We stayed in another beautiful spot surrounded by fields in the outdoor swimming pool carpark.

Address:
20 Badweg
87642 Halblech
Germany

15km to:

13th Town – Neuschwansteim & Hohenschwangau Castles

The beautiful Neuschwansteim Castle is very impressive and absolutely stunning!!

Sleeping Beauty’s Castle

It was used for the model for Disney’s Sleeping Beauty and it’s easy to see why.

Hohenschwangau Castle opposite, is bolder and less attractive but no means unimpressive.

Motor home parking €9.50
Car parking €7

Or, if you are lucky, you can get a free spot at the side of the road.

Entrance €12 each castle or €23 for both.

Make sure you get there very early as we got there at 10am and the next available tour wasn’t until 3pm and the queue was at least an hour long.

4km to:

14th Town – Füssen

Plenty of cobble streets to wander to your hearts content, surrounded by the stunning alps.

 

Most people use this as a hub to see the castles as it’s so close. There are hotels, bars and restaurants galore and some campsites for motor homes.

 

So you have now just completed the Romantic Road!!

Hope you enjoyed it as much as we did!!..

 

 

Parfectdays.com

 

 

Dover – England to Ancona – Italy 2019

Date of travel 15th Aug – 1st Sep 2019

So today Ian and I set off for our 2nd European adventure in Doris our motor home, along with Alf our fur baby.  We haven’t really got a plan, other than we need to be in Corfu by 4th September to go sailing with our parents.

Alf, waiting to get on the ferry at Dover.

We booked our ferry this morning (told you, I’m not very organised) from Dover to Calais through Aferry.co.uk. It cost £140 for 2 x adults, Alf and Doris.

 

Bye bye England, see you in a few months.

Whilst on the ferry we had a look on the laptop to come up with a route.  We decided that we should go to Trento, Italy to visits our friends and to get there we would go through Germany.  Ian then came across The Romantic Road (Romantische Strasse), that leads you on a fairytale journey from the north to south of Germany, so that’s would we decided to do.

The Romantic Road took us through beautiful quint picturesque villages and grand fairy tail walled medieval towns. We really enjoyed it and it’s a great way to see some of Southern Germany.

Our Romantic Road travel guide will be coming soon – so please watch this space…

After 5 days following the beautiful Romantic Road, starting in Würzburg and finishing in Füssen, it was time to continue south into Austria and then into Italy. This of course was absolutely spectacular as we drove through the alps.

Who wouldnt want to see these views?…

High up in the Austrian sky, I suddenly spotted a walking bridge and told Ian, but unfortunately we had to much traffic behind us to pull over and you can’t just turn around in Doris. Since then, I’ve learned that it’s the highest walking suspension bridge in the world, it’s called Highline179 and best of all it only costs €8 to walk it. That’s definitely on my to do list!!…

We spent one night at the magnificent Lago di Resia in Val Venosta valley.

The famous sunken bell tower.

Where Ian was very excited to find out that it’s a mekka for kitesurfers, but so disappointed as there was no wind. So I’m sure we will be back…

No wind 🙁

Highlights of this part of our drive, coming soon…

After one week of being on the road, we met up with our friend in Trento, Italy. He got us straight out of town and took us to some incredible places that only locals would know about.

We had our own VERY MINI festival, dancing and playing music to celebrate our 5th wedding anniversary and of course the breathtaking view.

Just WOW!!!

We felt like we were in South East Asia rather than Northern Italy climbing up a waterfall in Centa San Nicolò. 

Alf, lost in the fall of it all.

We said our goodbyes and met up with another friend for breakfast at the beautiful Lago do Caldonazzo before continuing our journey down the Adriatic coast of Italy.

Where, we finally found the sunshine and sea…

Ancona

Our highlights for the East Coast of Italy, will be coming soon – so please watch this space.

We are now 2 weeks and 3 days into our European adventure and it’s time to head east over to Greece.

We booked our ferry directly with Grimaldi Lines from Brindisi in Italy to Corfu Island in Greece, it took 6.5 hours.
It costs £167.60 for 2 x adults, Alf and Doris.

I really hope you have enjoyed reading about our adventures and it will encourage you to get out there and explore…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our Favourite Beaches of Albania…

Drymades – Alf enjoying the view.

Albania has many beaches.  Some pebbles, some sand, some are tiny coves whilst others stretch as far as the eye can see.

Albania is also west facing so you have beautiful sunsets every night. Parfect!!!

Sunset from Kune-Vain-Tale Reserve.

Albania really has it all when it comes to beaches…

Here are our favourite beaches,  in order from North to South to make it easy for you to find them.

Kune-Vain-Tale Reserve

Sand, as far as the eye can see.

A long wide sandy beach set amongst a nature reserve.

Shengjin Beach

Be sure to climb the Thrown Sand.

Climb the amazing Thrown Sand and then relax on the long sandy beach.

Vlorë

A Parfect way to end the day.

A huge long sandy beach, reaching all the from the city to Narta lagoon backing onto Vjose-Narte nature reserve.

Drymades

A window made by nature.

Beautiful long beach divided by a rocky window, separating sand from pebbles.

Himarë

Bye bye sunshine, see you tomorrow.

A triple coved seaside town, with rocky peninsulas dividing the beaches.

Borsh

Surrounded by nature.

7kms long, this makes it the longest beach in Albania. Surrounded by olive groves and soaring mountains.

Sarandë

Where the river meets the sea.

Considered the capital of the Riviera, there are a lot of resorts but still beauty to be found

Ksamil

One of the beaches in Ksamil

Paradise – an Ionian Gem

We hope you get to see them all, we are sure you will have a fantastic time if you do…

To find out more about Albaina, please read our other posts:

Albania – 13 Must Do’s!! Because, we couldn’t stop at 10…

Northern Albanian

Northwest Albania – Albanian Hospitality

Central Albania

Southern Albania – The Riviera

 

 

 

Albania – 13 Must Do’s!! Because, we couldn’t stop at 10…

How can you not love, this?…

We fell in love with Albania and its simple to see why, it is such a beautiful country, with wonderful people. There’s breathtaking beauty around every bend, the mountain drives will give you everything. River side and high cliff hugging roads that take you through local villages and display the endless vistas beyond. 

One word – Beautiful…

We travelled from North to South in our Motorhome (Doris) with our dog (Alf) for 19 days from 1st – 19th October 2018.  Considering the time of the year the weather was absolutely  brilliant making it a Parfect autumn holiday destination.

Here are 13 things that we think, you MUST do whilst in Albania…

These are in order from North to South to make it easier to plan your travels.

Yet, another spectular view.

1.) Shkodër Lake

It would be easy to think, that you were looking out at sea…

Be sure to visit the largest lake in southern Europe, that stretches all way to Montenegro.

2.) Lake Koman

All aboard…

Hop on the local ferry and travel with the locals as they go about their daily lives. Whilst gazing at the mountains as they dramatically enter the water.  This unique trip is one not to be missed!!

Alf, taking in the views of Koman Lake.

3.) Valbona National Park

Ian & Alf, stretching their legs.

Once you have finished your Lake Koman trip head for the spectacular Valbona Nation Park. Here is a Mecca for trekkers high up in the Albanian lush green mountains.

4.) Thrown Sand at Rana e Hedhun at Shengjin Beach

Alf, waiting for me to make the steep climb…

This really is something special and if you have the energy, climb up for spectacular views. The slide down is great fun too.

5.) Vlore

Vlore at sunset.

Visit the beautiful seaside town of Vlore, with its long stretch of sandy beach and newly developed promenade.

6.) Barat

Barat, the city of windows.

Barat, a beautiful city on the river Osum with a castle high on the hilltops, be sure to spend a whole day and night here.

7.)  Gjirokastër

Gjirokastër Castle.

Take in some history with a visit to the splendid Ottoman UNESCO old town and Gjirokastër castle. The castle is still used to this day for concerts.

8.) The Blue Eye

Beautiful colours.

A stunning natural spring.

9.) Ksamil 

Couldn’t resist a selfie.

Ksamil, wow, what can I say ? A little piece of absolute paradise!!…

10.) Kayak

We made it…

Spend the day kayaking around the beautiful islands of Ksamil and a day to kayak to the incredible Butrint national park.

11.) Butrint

Once, the 1st line of defense.

 Butrint a prehistoric UNESCO world heritage archaeology site, the biggest not only in Albania but all the Balkans.

Amphitheatre in Butrint.

12.) Explore on 4 wheels, or 2…

Doris flying high, in Albania

It is the only way to get off the beaten track and see the real Albania.

(If you haven’t got wheels, Albania is still a fantastic holiday destination).

View from our home, oh the joys of Moho life…

13.) Get to know the locals

 

Hospitality at its very best.

We found that Albanian’s were incredible welcoming and extremely kind and always had time for us.  We were even invite into their home.  To read more about the locals we met, please read: Northwest Albania – Albanian Hospitality

Plus, you get your very own local tour guide and a friend for life.

Ndue whng us a tour around Lezhë.

 

It was really, really hard to name just a few things to do in Albania as it really is an amazing country full off natural beauty and history.

If, I was you, I’d get there quick before it gets too discovered…

Please read my posts about our road trip starting in the north, heading south, the links are below:

Northern Albanian

Northwest Albania – Albanian Hospitality

Central Albania

Southern Albania – The Riviera

 

Sailing the Greek Islands

Sailing the Ionian and Saronic Islands

We recently sailed the  North Ionian islands ( Sep 2019) and  after sailing the Saronic islands (June 2018), we thought a post about the two would be appropriate.

A stunning sunrise to get you out of bed for a days sailing.

Firstly, sailing anywhere in Greece is sure to be an amazing experience.  With more than 1400  islands and one of the longest coastlines in the world and beaches and sunshine that stretch out for longer than the kids summer breaks.

The Ionian Islands

When people think of sailing anywhere around Greece most are drawn to the Ionian islands.

Misti, our home for 7 nights.

The north Ionian islands are easily accessible from Corfu and southern Ionian accessible from Lefkada.

These iconic group of islands are a sailing holiday dream with short distance’s between turquoise bays and pretty harbours. You never have to travel far before those google pictures you have been dreaming of become a reality.

Marathias – one of the stunning stops for dinner.

The one thing that really struck us on these islands is how green they are. It is almost a natural phenomenon having travelled down the Adriatic coast many times. Where the landscape, especially as you move south becomes very dry and arid like. But head across the bay from Albania to Corfu and it’s surreal how the lush green islands appear. This really enhances the beautiful colours of the waters and the white sandy coves that appear around every corner.

Never too far from a sandy beach.

We set sail out of Corfu and headed south to the islands of Paxos and further south to Anti Paxos. The further south you go the less populated the islands. Both islands are extremely beautiful and offer a contrast of sandy coves on one side and large caves and rugged landscapes on the other. Giaos especially is a gem of the Ionian coast a beautiful harbour town concealed in a small inlet. Giving a very unique feel.

The blue cave.

We also touched on the mainland for one night at the stunning long sandy BBQ beach.

Our crew enjoying the sunset at BBQ Beach.

Like the Saronic islands having the wonderful Poros, you start and finish on the stunning island of Corfu which can sometimes be overlooked as a party island with Kavos being its main attraction. Don’t be fooled, Corfu is a diverse island offering everything a holiday goer would want.  So don’t forget to extend you sailing trip into a land trip as well.

Sailing conditions for us were very good, getting the sails up most days with stronger winds being found between the islands.

We are sailing, We are sailing…

Saronic Islands

Located in the Aegean sea an hour by ferry from Athens is this cluster of islands. More traditional to the Greek landscape these islands are much more baron and scorched from the hot arid climate.

Rowing to dinner.

Reaching the start point for your sailing holiday is a highlight in its self as our flotilla started on the beautiful island of Poros.  With its old town it’s such a charming island and a lovely place to prepare and finishing your sailing adventure.

Returning to the stunning Poros

With rocky islands jutting out of the turquoise waters, you go in search of secluded sandy bays that are few and far between and very rewarding.  There are also some brilliant snorkeling spots, that the flotilla staff tell you about in your morning briefing.

Yeyy, we found a beach..

For us the evenings were almost as rewarding as the days sailing (or motoring). Once you locate the harbour for the evening , they usually are a spectacular quant gift. Some give you a fairytale feeling with sometimes as little as 10 yachts and only one taverna. It is a great place to rest and talk about the day that’s been or the one to come.

Argos, Argolis – home for the night.

The (North) Saronic islands take you into the Saronic Golf, this is a large bay that you sail in and around. Methane juts out from Poro’s bay and feels like a large island but has a small slither connecting it to the mainland. On the west side of Methane offers some of the best mariners.

The fairytale harbour of Vathi.

Agistri feels like the central island with so many small islands jutting up around it, it has some amazing coves and snorkelling bays. On the other side of the bay on mainland is historic Edidavros.

Flotilla

We were part of a flotilla on both occasions, OCC for the Ionian islands and Greek Sails for the Sardonic, both companies were fantastic!

Our flotilla of 7 yacht’s at BBQ Bay for the night.

A flotilla gives you best of both worlds, you are free to do as you please but help is always on hand if you need it.  Destinations and a variety of different anchoring procedures are all explained in the briefings. This enables you to have a stress free week as you will know where you will be mooring for the night. Your only worry is, who will buy the first beers.

Alf, paying attention to our daily briefing.

Conclusion

Too compare the two, is extremely difficult as we absolutely loved both!!

The Saronic, although doesn’t have the greenery or so many coves as the Ionian, it doesn’t have the crowds and feels more adventurous than the Ionian. Offering more traditional quant mariners and even one of the largest amphitheater’s.

Epáno Epídhavros, Argolis,

But, it is impossible to deny that the Ionian’s, with is abundance of beaches and coves, has more to offer.  They are a wow factor for your average holiday goer.

Pretty Gaios, a gem on the Ionian.

Both of these stunning, idyllic locations make for an absolutely brilliant sailing holiday.  And are easily accessible (especially the Ionian) compared with some of the other sailing destinations around Greece.

Who, wouldnt want to wake up to this?

If it is a toss up between the two you wouldn’t be disappointed with either but when you have sailed both, the Ionian comes out ahead, for us..

Northern Albanian

 

Date of Travel: 1st – 5th October 2018

We crossed the border from Montenegro into Albania, this was surprisingly easy and took no time at all and was free of charge. We crossed using the most southern border at Muriqan into Sukobin which is close to the city Shkodër.

We didn’t spend much time in Shkodër, we just used the ATM to get some Albanian currency called Leke and brought an Albanian sim card as it isn’t in the EU. There are plenty of stalls/shops selling sim cards along the road. We then headed to the promenade for a lovely late lunch around the vast lake Shkodër. This is the largest lake in southern Europe and feels as if your looking out to sea.

Lake Shkodër

We then left Shkodër to drive to Koman so we could go on a ferry trip on Lake Koman. This drive took us around 3 hours as it is an extremely windy, steep and rough road with potholes galore. Remember we are driving Doris our motor home so could only drive 15 miles an hour, maximum!

Be brave…

Please do NOT let the road put you off, the views are absolutely spectacular and well worth it!!!

See, told you the views are beautiful…

I lost count of the amount of times we said wow and beautiful, it truly is breath taking, just drive slow and you will be fine. We spent the night parked not far from the bridge down by the river, we found the spot in the App “park 4 night”. We booked our ferry at 9.30pm for the following day (told you we are unorganised) to go from Koman to Fierze at 9am this cost us €78 for 2 people & Doris, we didn’t have to pay for Alf, our dog.

We booked it using: https://komanilakeferry.com/en/services/

All aboard

Alf, enjoying the views.

Koman Lake = Wow, WOw and WOW!!!

Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t great.  It was pretty cold and cloudy but this did not spoil the beautiful views on the ferry crossing. Sheer mountains, drop dramatically straight into the lake.

The steep mountain edges are mainly unspoilt with a few houses here and there built steep up on the mountain edge. The only possible transport must have been by a small boat followed by a climb. I would love to know how on earth they got the materials up there to build them or how they do their shopping and go about their everyday lives. At parts of the lake the mountains were not quite so steep and there are small communities farming the land. It really was brilliant to see how people live, I could imagine Ben Fogle filming ‘New Lives in the wild’ here.

The trip was well worth the money as the scenery is truly spectacular…

We arrived in Fierze and drove to Valbona (Valbone according to satnav), the road was in great condition unlike the last. Unfortunately, when we arrived in Valbona the weather had got even worse and was now pouring with rain and the forecast wasn’t good for the following day. We decided that we were not going to stay the night as didn’t have the correct trekking clothes and the temperature was going to get down to 6 at night (we are warm weather people). So we went for a quick 45 minute walk through the woods to give Alf a run and had a beer followed by a coffee (same price) in one of the hotels.

Alf and Ian enjoying a walk in the woods.

It was such a shame as once again the views were incredible and had the weather been better, we could have easily spent a day or two here.

We then began driving back down the mountains towards the coast on the SH22 road. This drive is absolutely stunning and is one of the best that we have driven in Europe.  And a bonus, it is pretty much tarmac the whole way and there is very little traffic except for a few goats.

It was now dark so we decided to pull over and sleep in the 1st town we came across called Fushearez.

The following day the spectacular views continued as we made our way down the winding mountains heading for warmer weather.

Miles and miles of sand.

It didn’t take us long to find a huge sandy beach as far as the eye could see in Kune-Vain-Tale Reserve.  Where we spend the rest of the day and night parked directly on the beach for free.

Just Parfect…

What a view to end the day.

 

To continue reading about our road trip, please click on Northwest Albania – Albanian Hospitality

Thank you for reading xxx