Ever wonder how long you’d last living in a one-shop village with no WiFi?
I lasted 20 days. If I’d had internet and a means of mobility, tho, I think I could have stayed in Vuno, Albania for the rest of my days. Of course, it’s no secret that I love small towns (like Zdair, Slovakia).
Even if you aren’t a village enthusiast, there are still multiple reasons to include Vuno in your Albania itinerary! First of all, the southern region of Albania is freaking gorgeous. You got mountains. You got sea. Not just any sea, either. Really clear, really turquoise, perfectly temperature-d Ionian sea.
How did I end up in a tiny village in southern Albania? Volunteer labor at the Shkolla Hostel. Turns out, the Tirana Backpackers had too many volunteers while I was there…so they asked me to head 5 hours south to their lil baby hostel.
Luckily, for me, a tiny kitten had crawled out of the bushes and made its home at the hostel just two weeks before I arrived, so I got to spend my days in reception lounging around with a cute little nugget curled up in my lap.
Anyways….if you’re heading south and want to go somewhere with practically 0 tourists, no internet access, lot of donkeys, and a beautiful view, here’s a list of the best things to do and see in Vuno, Albania:
This is the best beach in the region surrounding Vuno, Albania. I’m not biased. The fewest tourists, clearest waters, and overall the main reason people go to Vuno at all. You can hike 1.5 hours to the beach from the hostel and then hitchhike back. The stone beach is at the mouth of a lush canyon, which also has a great hike. Like cliff jumping? Just to the right of the caves you can swim into is a great beginner cliff jumping spot…braver people can climb higher. Since the water is instantly deep and clear, there aren’t any rocks to worry about.
Lots of people who came to the Shkolla Hostel left their bags for a night, hiked down to Gjipe, and camped the night there. Since several restaurants and a campsite have set up shop, all the amenities are provided.
As mentioned, there are animals. The donkeys will come into the campground to see if you’ve forgotten to hide your apples. Friendly stray dogs would appreciate some belly rubs (and might even act as your guide on hiking trails). If you get lost on the way back from the beach, maybe you’ll run into the shepherd’s flock of 100+ goats and sheep. Be ready to have a full conversation with the locals…in which you might not have any clue what’s being said.
Café Vuno or “Lula’s Place”
In the village (5-10 min walk from the hostel) is “Lula’s Place.” A magical bar/café/restaurant/grocery/bus-stop-location. They have all the basic foods—pasta, veggies, eggs—that you need to make your meals or (better idea) you can simply ask Lula to make you some food. No having to decide what you want, she just whips up a fresh, delicious meal. When I was there, it was usually stuffed pepper, burek, and a Greek salad. Let me tell you, I thought I knew how to chop tomatoes and cucumbers to make a salad. I was wrong. Fresh, local olive oil and sheep cheese and love.
Which reminds me, this region has some of the oldest olive trees you’ll ever see. Groves and groves of them. No one minds if you take a stroll. In fact, if you meet one of the farmers, he’ll probably tell you his whole life story….in either Albanian or Greek, doesn’t matter if you understand.
Walk around Vuno, Albania and you’ll find lots of old buildings. The ones that are most impressive are located just next to the Shkolla—two old Greek Orthodox churches with Byzantine frescoes aged over 200 years! Ask the hostel peeps if they have the key to let you in the big church.
A more party-beach, Jaleit is a 5 minute drive from Vuno (again, an easy hitchhike) and is perfect when you just need to jump in the sea one more time.
The largest nearby city of Himare is an easy hitchhike away. Or just a 15-minute drive. There, you can check out the local castle and, what else, beaches! Plus, anything you can’t get in Vuno (coughcough WiFi) you can get in Himare. If you stay a night there, the Himare Hostel looked dope or Himare Camping is across the street from a good beach.
Guess what, there’s even a ‘secret’ beach. No restaurants or lounge chairs. Ask a local, they’ll tell you.
Further south of Himare, if you have a car or motorbike, is the cool bay of Porto Palermos. Keep your eyes open along the way, as there’s usually nice spots just off the road for a swim. The bay also has an old military vacation complex. Allegedly, there’s one person living there to make sure you don’t trespass. Looks really tempting tho.
On a pimple of a peninsula is the fort…and more nice swimming. See a theme?
Go to Vuno, Albania!
Basically, I loved this region. During a 6-month long trip it was a major highlight. Far and away it’s one that I plan to go back to again.