A trip to Përmet

Përmet is a small town, two hours inland from Sarande. They have "everything besides the sea", they say, and it's true. A clear blue river runs through the center, with rocky beaches on each side. It's possible to scramble down. It's icy cold, but shallow edges mean it's nice to paddle when the sun is out. Down there were local youths lounging in an intimidating group, but friendly to say hello and ask 'where from?' and offer weed..

In the town center there's a big rock, which you can climb for fantastic views of the town. It's cooler than the coast, surrounded by mountains. The town center is full of cute cafes, nice restaurants line the river, and it all comes alive at night, even immediately post-lockdown, with lots of children and elderly people in the streets and outside restaurants.

There are no hostels. I stayed in Hotel Ramis which was pretty much empty, in a small room with a nice balcony overlooking the river. The owners didn't speak English and were surly-friendly. Breakfast was salad and bread and local jams. Përmet is known for 'slow food', even hosting an organisation to promote and regulate it, whose sign you'll see on several restaurants.

Two slow-food restaurants I tried were Trifilia and Antigonea. Trifilia has an outdoor terrace, and friendly staff who understand vegan. The highlight there was wild mountain cabbage salad. In Antigonea, by the river, I was delighted to find fasule, dolma, and byrek with wild mountain herbs. The waitress offered complimentary fish (this poor fool only ordering salads and side dishes?!) and raki too which I politely declined.

I went twice to the famous bënjë - thermal mineral baths. They're a short drive or medium-length hike up the nearby mountain, into the canyon. The first evening, there were quite a few people there. The water was not so much hot, but it wasn't cold so it was comfortable to climb right in whatever the weather. There are several pools each supposedly with different healing properties. The two main ones are by the distinctive Ottomon bridge at the beginning of the canyon. Further in there are more pools that fewer people venture to. The springs are natural, but the pools themselves are manmade, with stones building up the edges and plastic lining them (under layers of mud) to keep the water in.

In the morning, there were fewer people, but still not zero. Before it got too hot I hiked along one of the trails across the top of the canyon. The views were incredible. No photos can capture the epicness of the canyon. The trail was varied, with some overgrown narrow paths, steep up and steep down, as well as wide roads with no shade. Then stopped to read for a while near some beautiful (cold) pools where the only sound to be heard was the trickle of the water. There had been something here once - there was an abandoned hut and some walls. But no other hikers came this way.

There were more people in the pools by the time hiked back. I walked further into the canyon, at some point giving up and wading through the water with my trainers on because the rocks were too uncomfortable for bare feet and there was often no easy way through without getting wet. I lounged in some of the pools further into the canyon until the sun started to go down.

More photos of the town, river, and views from the rock, evening at the thermal pools and hiking and bathing in the canyon.

🏷 albania vegan food travel

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