Gjirokastër – Albania

Gjirokastër (pop 45,000) is a town located in the south of Albania, near the border of Macedonia. Located in between the Gjerë mountains and the Drino River, Gjirokastër is a town that requires a lot of walking as most of the beautifully cobbled streets lead uphill, something that may deter those who prefer a more relaxed vacation.

Due to its location and difficulty navigating local buses for non Albanian speakers the town remains largely free of visitors, even during peak travel times. It is for this reason the town’s main attraction, Gjirokastër Fortress, provides a completely contrasting experience to most other European castles or fortresses as it often feels as if you have the whole place to yourself.

The fortress is the second largest in the Balkans and has served many purposes since it was first constructed sometime before the 12th century. The castle as we know it today was mostly added by Ali Pasha of Tepelene in 1812 and included a clock tower to assist the local Muslim community for their call to prayer. The prison area was renovated by King Zog in 1932 and served as a Nazi Prison during WW2. Today the castle hosts a variety of military and art pieces, though for those a little braved there are plenty of pitch black walkways and staircases that navigate further down into the bowels of the fortress.

Want to see more? View photos from Macedonia here!

Vevčani and Matka Canyon – Macedonia

Vevčani is a small city located in southwest Macedonia, near the Albanian border.Though the town only has a small population, approximately 2500, it is well-known for several reasons. The Vevčani Springs (pictured below) are a naturally occuring set of springs ranging from 900-2000 metres above sea level.

For the more cultural the Vevčani Carnival is an annual event whose Pagan origins date back over 1,400 years. Hosted in early January each year the festival does not take itself too seriously and often pokes fun at cultural, social and economical happenings. Participants adorn themselves with elaborate masks expressing humour and sarcasm and dance through the streets before the masks are burned as a symbolic cleansing.

Vevčani is also a self-styled republic, declaring its ‘independence’ from Macedonia in 2002, shortly after the fall of the Yugoslavian government. Visitors can purchase passports and local currency from the town, though these are more novel items rather than practical.

Vevčani

Vevčani

Vevčani

 

Located just outside of Skopje, Macedonia, Matka Canyon is a long and winding canyon that covers approximately 5000 hectares. The canyon is home to several medieval monasteries and ten caves ranging from 20 to 176 metres long.

 

Matka Canyon

Matka Canyon

Matka Canyon

Want to see more? View more photos from Macedonia here!

Sveti Naum – Macedonia

The Monastery of Saint Naum (Sveti Naum) was founded in 905AD by St. Naum of Ohrid. Located along Lake Ohrid the Monastery is home to several peacocks who can be seen wandering about the grounds. St. Naum is buried in the Monastery and it is said that by pressing your ear to his tomb one is able to hear his still beating heart. Nearby is the Black Drim River, one of the four major sources for Lake Ohrid. With crystal clear waters and incredible tranquillity the site is very popular with tourists, and half hour boat trips along the river are available for a reasonable price.

 

Want to see more? View photos from the Sahara Desert here!

 

Sahara – Morocco

My favourite photos from a three day trek into the Sahara, one of the most enjoyable and unique experiences I have encountered on my travels. The scenery was just as stunning during the night, however I have very little experience with night photography and my camera equipment isn’t really sufficient for this kind of photography.

 

Want to see more? View photos from Ireland here!

Galway and Killkenny

 

Want to see more? View photos from Northern Ireland here!