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The Honey Trail at RESET

The Honey Trail at RESET

We are very happy that the online platform for sustainable innovation RESET.org included the Honey Trail in their list of tips and providers for sustainable travel experiences.

Thank you!

For our German-speaking readers, here is the link to the website:

                                                                                                                        Source: RESET.org
Your unique travel experience for 2019: Honey Trail tailor-made

Your unique travel experience for 2019: Honey Trail tailor-made

Beehives in Gjirokastra
Bees in Përmet                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          © Honey Trail

You are a (group of) bee lover(s), hobby beekeeper(s), new-bee(s), nature enthusiast(s) or foodies and want to learn more about bees and discover Albania from a unique perspective?

You are a beekeeping association or a training provider and want to organise a study tour for beekeepers to get to know Albanian beekeepers, beekeeping tradition and practices?

You are a family looking for a holiday that offers kids unique and engaging nature experiences?

We are happy to plan your very special travel experience, a custom-made itinerary that combines beekeeping, culture and nature, depending on your interests: Visits with beekeepers, agricultural co-operatives and organic farms, expert round tables or the opportunity to get hands-on during honey harvesting, in a boat on the wild Vjosa or Lake Shkodra, on foot in the Ceraunian Mountains or the Albanian Alps, at UNESCO World Heritage sites like Gjirokastra or Butrint, over a nice cup of mountain tea or at a winery.

Our offer includes all inclusive (bus) tours with English-speaking tour guides, self-drive options, bee farm homestays during honey harvesting season, and day trips to beekeepers.

We look forward to realising the Honey Trail tour that fits you just right!

 

It was a great pleasure!

It was a great pleasure!

From September 15 to 23 the wonderful group of the Armbruster Beekeeping School was with us on the Honey Trail exploring the South of Albania. It was a great pleasure to have you all as our guests! We thank you for the beautiful experiences together and hope to see you again!

Honey Trail impressions from Përmet

Honey Trail impressions from Përmet

In June, a film crew of the Social Travel Network Mapify visited our partner beekeeper Robert in Përmet as part of their Albania-Macedonia film production. We are very happy that the production included the Honey Trail and a short clip featuring the Albanian beekeeping tradition and excited to share the outcome with you: Wonderful impressions from the bees in Përmet!

 

Tickled your wanderlust? Want to meet Robert and his bees yourself? We offer tailor-made Honey Trail experiences that fit your interests and expectations just right, including all-inclusive and self-drive options, bee farm stays during honey harvesting season and day trips to beekeepers.

The Honey-Trail bees and the camera

The Honey-Trail bees and the camera

We had very special visitors! The film crew of the Social Travel Network Mapify met with our partner beekeeper in Përmet as part of their Albania-Macedonia film production: The short film aims to inspire people to discover the beauty and rich culture of Albania and we are very happy that it will also feature the Albanian beekeeping tradition and the Honey Trail. The short film will be presented on the platform in July and we cannot wait to see the outcome!

Hello beautiful spring!

Hello beautiful spring!

Beehives in Gjirokastra
© Honey Trail / Taulant Pjetërgjokaj

 

Happy weekend greetings from this sunny spring meadow in the south of Albania!
Here in the Lunxhëria region in Gjirokastër County live and work the bees of a certified organic beekeeper

Meet Lejla Shehu – Chairwoman of the Albanian Beekeepers Association

Meet Lejla Shehu – Chairwoman of the Albanian Beekeepers Association

Lejla Shehu in Lezhe, Albania
Lejla Shehu - Chairwoman of the Albanian Beekeepers Association    © Sondor Travel
 

Lejla Shehu has been working with and for bees since more than 30 years. She is the chairwoman of the Albanian Beekeepers Association and works tirelessly to promote and support beekeeping in Albania.  She has been providing invaluable guidance and input to the planning of the Honey Trail and we feel so honored and grateful to have her on board. We are very happy to introduce you to Lejla Shehu who took the time to talk to Taulant Pjetërgjokaj about her passion for bees and beekeeping practices and trends in Albania:

 

When and how did your interest in bees and beekeeping begin?

My involvement with bees started after I completed my studies: In 1981, I graduated in biochemistry from the Faculty of Natural Sciences and started working at the silk-producing center. The center included a lab which later became a part of the bee and silk department under the umbrella of the Zootechny Institute. When the department closed in 1996, I started working at the former Veterinary Research Institute (now Instituti i Sigurisë Ushqimore dhe Veterinare - ISUV) until 2006. It was in the lab, that I began working on issues relating to honey bees and bee health, especially on varroasis and others diseases but also analyses of honey, wax and propolis. Over the years, I got involved in many collaborations and projects on these issues where there was a need for our laboratory.

 

In 1991, the Albanian Beekeepers Association was founded. It is based on different local associations.  From 1991 till 2007, I was the General Secretary of the association. During that time I learned a lot from working with beekeepers and their wealth of experience, the exchange of information during trainings and visits to bee farms. Since 2007, I am the Chairperson of the Beekeepers Association. This task has not always been easy, especially in view of limited resources, investment capacities and government support and other difficulties that are present in the beekeeping sector. On the other hand, adressing these concerns has made me love my job even more so!

 

Can you tell us what makes the Albanian honey so special?

We have about 365,000 beehives in Albania and produce 3,200 to 3,400 tons of honey per year. Farmers in Albania breed the Apis mellifera Carnica which fits well in our context: The vegetation in Albania is Mediterranean and Mid-European and 2/3 of the territory is hilly or mountainous. From the western coasts to the eastern borders, the vegetation blooms from January to December. We have 350 hours sunlight in winter and 980 hours in summer. The two climate extremes are in November-January and July-August.  

Beekeeping takes place all over the country. Some bees 'graze' up to 1,000m - 1,500m and find a great variety of medicinal and aromatic plants growing on the mountain slopes: Sage, thyme, oregano, winter savory, clover, small-leaved lime and other herbs or plants as well as trees like the acacia, the strawberry tree or the chestnut help our bees produce high-quality honey. Albanian honey is mainly polyphlore and offers delicious varieties in all parts of the country, for example in Tropoja, Malsia e Madhe, Mirditë, Dibër, Pogradec, Erseke, Përmët, Tepelenë, Vlorë, Sarandë or the mountains of Librazhd! Also, the lack of industrial plant propagation often containing GMOs adds to the quality of our honey. 

 

We notice that there is an increasing interest in honey production in Albania, which seems to continue in the years to come. But besides honey, Albanian beekeepers also produce royal jelly, which is in very high demand as well as propolis, pollen and wax. These bee products bring beekeepers increasingly an additional income and have been traditionally used as or included in medicines.

Lejla Shehu visiting beehives of Lezhe Beekeeper Association
Visiting the regional Beekeepers Association in Lezhe
 

What is your favourite home remedy using bee products?

Since ancient times, honey is also used as a medication. Creams with honey support the healing of burns and wounds. Other ingredients I use in creams are wax and olive oil which together with propolis offer so many healing values. Propolis contains abundant flonoloids and is anti-mold, antibacterial and antiviral. The propolis creams I prepare help improve various health conditions such as eczema, psoriasis or wounds. The combination of wax, olive oil and Lule Basani (Saint John’s Wort) has positive effects not only on skin conditions but also problems such as hemorrhoids. Other creams are made with propylene glycol ingredients to substitute alcohol for those people who for example practice Traditional Chinese medicine.

 

Thank you very much Lejla!

 

More information on our Honey Trail, itineraries and booking details is available here.  We will also be happy to plan your very own tailor-made Honey Trail experience for you!

Treasures along the Honey-Trail: The Gashi River Valley

Treasures along the Honey-Trail: The Gashi River Valley

Lumi i Gashit Riverbed Albania
© Gabriel Schwaderer / EuroNatur
 

Tropoja in the Albanian Alps is famous for its deliciously intense Chestnut Honey. The chestnut massif of Tropoja is the largest of the Balkans and a key destination of the Honey Trail North Tour. Yet, very closeby but well hidden lies another of Albania's many natural treasures: The Gashi River Valley.

The Gashi River (Lumi i Gashit) is in the very Northeastern edge of Albania in the border zone with Montenegro and Kosovo. The river originates below the Dobërdol pass at an altitude of about 1,600m and flows from there 27km through various peaks and a narrow gorge to the Tropoja basin and further south into the Valbonë river. The upper catchment area of the Gashi River is a strict nature reserve of about 3,000ha and an important and most beautiful pearl along the European Green Belt. In 2017, it was declared UNESCO World Heritage Site as part of the Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and Other Regions of Europe.  The inscription made the Gashi River together with the Rrajce core zone Albania’s first natural site to get UNESCO protection. Albanian experts describe them as the last ‘islands’ of virgin woods in Albania and it is mainly due to the remote location of the Gashi River in the former border exclusion zone that these patches of virgin forests  survived. Since 2016 a 10-year wood cutting moratorium aims at protecting the remaining woods.

The Gashi River retains a wonderful natural beauty: The slopes of the valley are lined with forests, especially coniferous and beech. The beech forest alone covers one third of the nature reserve at an altitude between 700m - 1,900m, with remnants of primeval forest as old as two centuries.

Lumi i Gashit Urwald Albanien
© Gabriel Schwaderer / EuroNatur

The strict nature reserve is also home to a great variety of animal species, among them many who are listed as endangered, such as the brown bear, the lynx, the capercaillie or golden eagles. The valley can only be reached by foot and there is only one small village in the area - Bradoshnica. We will take a full day to discover the beauty of the area together with our local guide who will be able to provide many insights about the valley and its flora and wildlife.

So far, the nature of Lumi i Gashit is well preserved. However, during the last decades the human impact and pressure on the environment and biodiversity of the area has significantly increased: Especially the planned development of hydro power plants in the area presents a serious threat to this treasure and would destroy important ecological values. EuroNatur has worked with Preservation of Natural Environment in Albania (PPNEA) to support the protection of the Gashi River Valley and published a brochure where you can find more information on the Gashi River reserve.

More information on the Northern itinerary and booking details are available here.  We will also be happy to create your own tailor-made tour for you!

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