Whether you are seeking the warm caress of thermal springs or the cold embrace of a mountain stream, both can be found within stunning Lengarica Canyon. Catering to spa-lovers and thrill-seekers alike, the gorge presents itself as a diverse travel destination located in Albania’s adventurous south.
For me, canyons are like bougatsa (a Greek desert); I can’t get enough of them. Thus, when the opportunity arose to visit yet another gorge in the Albanian fringes of the Pindos mountains, I simply couldn’t resist. And lo and behold, it turned out to be one of the unforeseen highlights of my time in the country!
The appeal of Lengarica Canyon is twofold: on one hand the spectacular character of the canyon itself, on the other the steaming waters of its famed hot springs. While the alleged healing properties of the thermal baths seem to be the main draw of attention (at least with the locals), they are merely a sweet bonus to the adventures that await beyond the wafts of sulphur ascending from these geological peculiarities. Where rugged scarps rise ever higher and the walls draw closer, curious excursionists will find an untouched realm of exceptional beauty, cut deep into the age-old limestone rock.
From the picturesquely situated Ottoman stone bridge of Ura e Kadiut, arching across the widening riverbed, the path initially follows the stone-covered banks upstream, before the canyon begins to narrow, heralding the de facto start of this thrilling experience. As the scenery changes the water level rises (from knee-deep to waist-high), and ordinary crossings will transform into challenging, albeit far more exciting endeavours, so travellers would be well-advised to show up in their favourite swim attire!
Wading through cold waters holding a bag over your head will truly make you feel like an explorer!
Those venturing towards the far reaches of Lengarica will discover hidden hollows, cavernous caves and even remnants of lost civilizations. As the gorge twists and turns, there will be cliffs to jump, boulders to climb, and pools to unwind, before the sky vanishes, and the cliffs seem to collide. At that point, the narrowest passage will merely measure three meagre metres.
Without a doubt, Lengarica Canyon will be a delight to all those in search for an epic Albanian adventure.
| Lengarica Canyon is located near the village of Përmet in the far south of the country (roughly 1 1/2 hours from Gjirokastër). As far as I know, there are no direct buses to the gorge, so once in Përmet, you will have to arrange private transport or hitchhike the remainder of the way (always a feasible option in Albania).
| The total length of the canyon is roughly 4 kilometres. Once you reach the end you will have the option to either turn around, or climb to the top of the gorge and hike back to the start. Schedule ample time if you want to do the whole canyon, though.
| Definitely bring your swimming gear! If you wanna explorer further than the thermal springs this is essential.
| Beware of flash floods. Always watch the forecast and do not enter the canyon if there is a possibility of rain.
| There are a total of six hot springs scattered across the first few hundred metres of the canyon. You will find the nicest one half a kilometre into the gorge up the slope on the right-hand side.
| It is possible to camp at the entrance of the canyon (either with a van or a tent).