The next morning we said goodbye to Ksamil, and set out for Himara, which is another southern Albania beach town, but this one is a lot more relaxed than Saranda or Ksamil. We took the main road, which was curvy and winding and up a mountainside then down a mountainside, then again, all along the coastline. We made one stop along the way, at the Borsh Castle, which looks down upon on the town of Borsh.
The map app said there was a road right up to the castle, but that was not the case; we had to park at the base of the castle, and then take the winding path up.
We were the only car parked at the bottom of the road; so we wondered if there was anyone else who would take the journey up on this hot day. Once we reached the castle, which had seen better days, we were completely alone. The views of the mountains and valleys below, covered in forest trees, was truly remarkable.
The original castle dates back to the 4th century BC, and was later used by the Romans, Byzantines and in 1417 the Ottomans took the castle. In the 18th century the mosque was built.
The most well preserved (and really, only) standing building on the castle grounds was the Mosque, which is open and we could still see the faded and cracked painted ceiling. There was also a broken ladder to climb the minaret; but as the minaret barely remained, and we had already climbed one active minaret while in Berat, we decided to explore more of the castle.
There are remnants from all of the different empires that had ruled this land, as we had seen at the other castles we had previously visited. It was fun to wander though there were no real paths; it was mostly climbing on broken stones and overgrowth; but it was super fun.
We made our way to the very top of the castle, under the large, red, Albanian flag that blew in the breeze.
We relaxed at the top for a while, before carefully making our way back down; if you zoom in really well on the picture below you can see our orange car at the bottom.
We made a couple of pit stops once we were back on the road; one was at a recommended eatery in Borsh proper that had a small waterfall running through the multi-tiered outdoor seating, which was nice; but the service was terrible and once we could eventually order, they told us they did not have pizza (and we were craving pizza) so we left and went to the pizza parlor right next door. We were treated to good pizza and even picked up some really tasty baklava to go that we would enjoy once we arrived in Himara. We also refilled our water bottles with cold water from the mountains at a public tap right in front of the pizza place; we have encountered a few of these on our mountain drives throughout Albania, and the water is excellent, so don’t pass up the opportunity if presented.
With full bellies we drove the rest of the way to Himara. When we arrived, our guesthouse host, a sweet Greek/Albanian woman named Margarita, who ran the guesthouse with her mother in the summer months, led us up to the guesthouse. It was more than 100 steps on foot, but thankfully we had the car, so did not have to carry our bags up the hill.
After we settled in, we walked down the stairs and from the bottom it took the less than five minute walk to the waterfront. The beachfront is not very deep, but long, and there were no rental chairs and all the umbrellas were either brought by tourists or free to use. There was a boardwalk with restaurants, not more than a couple blocks long, and we walked up and down, and then sat and watched the beach-goers and happenings.
We called it an early night after buying supplies, took in the view from atop the guesthouse before settling in to some cards and drinks on our balcony.
Our next day was a beach day, and our host let us use a large purple umbrella, which we planted in the sand. We laid out on our towels, went into the water a few times, which became quite deep really quick. Only a few feet from shore our feet could no longer touch the bottom. Although the water was cool, it was easy to float as the waves were calm, and there were not too many beach-goers on the weekday we visited. We later ate gyros at a restaurant on the boardwalk before taking in a final Southern Albanian sunset, staying until the sun was gone and dusk approached.
We left in the morning, packing up the car to head to our penultimate destination in Albania, the coastal city of Vlora.