Submitted by Eneida Berisha

South Outdoor Festival 2018 held in Vuno, Himare

Albania - May 10, 2018 - 05:00   5583 views

The last weekend of April was concluded the second edition of South Outdoor Festival, hosted this year in Vuno, Himare in Albania. It is the first of its kind encapsulating many activities at once, starting from ground activities: hiking, climbing, jeep safari, canyoning, yoga; water activities: stand up paddle, diving, kayak, as well as paragliding. 

South Outdoor Festival 2018 held from the 27th to the 29th of April gathered in Vuno approximately 3000 people, coming from all over Europe. Jala Bay was the main hosting setting for aquatic sports, while across the area many activities ran simultaneously. 

The festival is a 3-day celebration of nature and adventure situated in the scenic Albanian Southern Coastal region, but inviting participants from all over the country and Europe to join in. Apart from participating in the sports activities, it is the perfect timing for exploring the Southern Coast, by visiting the Himara villages, indulging in the local mediterranean cuisine, experiencing the culture as well as listening to the traditional singing of the polyphonic singers. 

Vuno is one of the northernmost sea-facing villages in Himara Province, and is often named as “the mountain ridge acropolis”. Cut by the national road, above it the village disperses on the hillside, with pathways and arched passages linking the stacks of houses, while below, it expands and entwines with the cascading landscape seeming to join the seaside below. Here the architecture is unique, more noticeably the Tower of Shane Koka, and the dwelling of Odise Kasneci with traditional stone and woodwork. 

Vuno by Edward Lear. Image © Harvard University

The notable traveler of the mid-nineteenth century Edward Lear stayed in the village of Vuno, in the house of Kasneci family, and left behind a number of watercolor paintings, now stored at Harvard University. About this village he has written “I was very surprised by the buildings in Vuno, such as the Kasneci one. The give you the feeling of Venetian “Palazzi”, as well as other constructions around rural area in Italy. The people of Himara use the Italian language more than anyone in Albania. In every village of this region I went, I noticed that despite the fact they are Greek orthodox by religion, they are still Albanians, with some small exceptions”.

The field close to Saint Spiridon Church was used as the main festival hub, and many activities took place, from camping, games, workshops, forums, culinary activities, open air cinema, as well as 2 days of live musical concerts. 

On Saturday, the 11km hiking trail coursed Karaburun - Llogara - Qafe e Thelle, back to Llogara  and ended in Gjipe Bay. The hike to the coast’s highest peak, Mt. Cika, and through the peninsula’s spine allowed for beautiful views to the rugged landscape of the Albanian Riviera, and ended at the point where Caesar crossed with his army at Vlora Bay. Many had the opportunity of joining the jeep safari adventure which followed the itinerary Vuno - Livadh - Submarine Peninsula - Monastery and back to Vuno again. 

The lovers of off-road adventure explored the villages and the history. On the other hand the Enduro mountain bikers took the crossed the villages of Vuno, Pilur and Qeparo, while the cross country bikers went straight to Livadh, a sandy beach that stretches nearly 1.2km. 

On Sunday, the hiking trails started at Vuno, running through Jale and ending in Gjipe, one of the most beautiful beaches of the riviera. The trail offered an in-depth exploration of the canyon, rich with streams and small waterfalls, continuing then with parallel paths to the shore of secluded bays. The sunday cross country riders travelled from Vuno, visited the old town of Himara and then redirected to Potam. Simultaneously, another group took a short bike ride to the St. Theodore Monastery and headed to the Gjipe Bay.

The most popular activity was tandem paragliding starting from Llogara Mountain, 900m above sea level,  offered by SkySports Albania, which was booked 1 week before the festival, and at the end of the festival counted 97 take offs. Similarly, the water sports offered by Albania Adventure were of high interest among participants. Kayaking, stand-up paddle and diving allowed for an exploration of Jala Beach, the Sirens Cave, as well as the Beach and Cave of Figs, as well as Himara.

This year two new activities were added: cultural tours and olive oil tasting tours. The Vuno Village tour guided locals and tourists up the cobblestone streets of Vuno, to the tunnels, and through the history of Vuno’s Byzantine churches. Many visited the Odise Kasneci House and Shane Koka house, both cultural monuments, as well as the apartments of Dhimiter Agnosti and Robert Ndrenika, known for their architectural values. The walk ended at Saint Koll Church, with a great panoramic view.

The Himara Castle tour led the participants through the Medieval Gate on the north, and through the alleyways, with a description of the history of the castle since the period of antiquity. The arrival at the Panoramic Square, Barbakas Square and the round tower gave the tourists a great view upon Livadhe Beach, and it continued to the Sergi and Baku Church, stopping at the Spiro Milo house. The tour then ended with a visit to the Church of All Saints, one of the biggest churches in the area. 

The South of Albania is famous for its production of olive oil, typical of the area. Thus, the olive oil tasting tour provided an in-depth look into the processes and the traditional mediterranean cuisine where olive oil stars often as a protagonist. The lucky goers indulged in the many olive oil based products, such as ones made with typical medicinal herbs and spices of the region, and learned to distinguish the many flavors and qualities of the olives. Amongst all, they witnessed the processing of special cosmetic products, produced out of olive oil in the Skura olive mill. 

The festival area had spaces for camping and many more preferred to stay in the typical guest-houses of the region, immersing thus in the village’s lifestyle. 

The inaugural South Outdoor Festival Pilur, took place just a year ago, in Himara from the 29th of April to the 1st of May 2017, where up to 3000 people joined and visited. The festival ensued in success with 28 different activities, 600 attendees, and 18 tour operators., while 26 families from the village of Pilur opened their houses to host the participants. 

The festival is supported by the Integrated Sustainable Development of the Southern Coastal Region, a programme of The German Development Cooperation/GIZ on behalf of the Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development, in collaboration with the Ministry of Infrastructure and Energy, Ministry of Tourism and Environment, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Himara Municipality and the private sector. 

Find below a short introduction of this year's Festival:

Top Image: © South Outdoor Festival, GIZ

All Photos: Armand Habazaj © GIZ, unless otherwise stated

> via South Outdoor Festival, Integrated Sustainable Development of the Southern Coastal Region Programme