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Where the Adriatic and the Ionian Seas meet, begins the journey towards the Llogara National Park. The lush forests of pines and oaks are only the beginning of this “mountain of panoramas,” which is beautifully surrounded by numerous mountain ranges and the majestic Ionian Sea. Located only 40 km southeast of Vlora, the Llogara National Park is one of the most visited natural parks in Albania, home to a rich flora and fauna and some of the most exceptional food in the country. Though the park stays open throughout the year, it is most visited during the summer, as a cooling-off stop and a literal rite of passage to the southern Albanian Riviera.
The journey towards the famous Llogara Pass, which takes you from Orikum to Dhërmi, begins in the village of Dukat. As you begin the ascent into the Llogara Pass, which ever so beautifully peaks at 1017 meters, you will be surrounded by regal forests that remain magically cool even during the scalding heat of the summer. Among them, is the so-called Flag Pine (Pisha Flamur), a century-old tree, bent from the winds into the shape of a flag. Along both sides of the road, you will have to make the most challenging decision of your trip and choose from Llogara’s several restaurants, known for their delicious meat dishes, in particular. Some other culinary delights that should not be missed include the hot kulaç (the Albanian version of a hot biscuit) with fresh local butter and cheese, as well as the homemade yogurt, plain or with nuts and the famous Llogara honey. If you cannot bring yourself to say goodbye to the latter, you need not worry as you can purchase jars of it from street vendors along the road.
Apart from its delicious foods and its cooling/calming effect, the Llogara Pass is simply a spectacular mountainous road, one made for the movies. The road, newly expanded and renovated, is in excellent condition and one of the best in the country. As you continue your journey, you will come to perhaps its most memorable spot where, as if by magic, the pine curtains separate to unveil the Ionian Sea below. This view comes at 1000 m above sea level and is every bit as breathtaking as you can possibly imagine! To the south, the winding road reveals the grand Ceraunian Mountain range, mentioned by Ptolemy in antiquity, and its highest peak, the Çika Mountain with a 2,044 meter elevation. For those animal enthusiasts and bird watchers, the Llogara National Park is habitat to many birds, deer, wild cats, foxes and more. It is also home to air sports, hosting annual international competitions of paragliding, as well as mountain biking, among others.
The regret of having to conclude this adrenaline-filled, delicious and beautiful road is swiftly overshadowed by the impatient desire to dive into the Ionian, the most fitting end to this Odyssey.
Directions: You can access the Vlorë-Orikum-Dukat-Llogara road from the national Vlorë- Sarandë highway
Flag Pine Location: Vlorë- Dukat- Llogara, at the very beginning of the ascent into the Llogara Pass