Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Dardha: The Idyllic Winter Village in Korca Albania

Dardha lies 20 km from Korca at an altitude of over 1,300m above sea level. Founded centuries ago by families fleeing the occupation of central Albania, this remote mountain village is nestled between the Morava and Gramoz Mountains.

At a height of 1344 meters, this ultra-cozy 300-year-old southern touristic village with unforgettable panoramas and delicious food is the place to spend your fantasy winter weekend.   

Not only winter, but all seasons of the year are perfectly manifested in Dardha, thanks to its lucky position among mountains and forests. Yet, in the winter, Dardha may be one of the most surprisingly perfect touristic villages in Albania. Snow-covered traditional houses, some of the best traditional foods in the country, a kind of freshness that fills your lungs with air and makes you feel totally rejuvenated. These, among plenty of other aspects, have tourists rushing to this wonderfully regenerative destination.

The well-preserved stone homes highlight a proud village that has been left largely untouched over time. The green fields, fresh summer days and cold snowy winters make Dardha a popular tourist destination throughout the year for its unparalleled natural, architectural and culinary traditions

Dardha is a small beautiful village in the Korçë District that was founded by the refugees who were chased by the Turkish invaders, mostly for not wanting to change their religion. The name “Dardha” (pear in Albanian) comes from a legend that says that when the refugees found a place to hide, when asked “where are you?”, they said “At the cottage under the pear”. It was a wild pear which was nearby their cottage. Dardhë is also a well known ski area in Albania since the 1920s. Mention Dardha to anyone in Korça youll instantly get a smile, so good is the reputation of this small mountain village. Lovelier than any other village in Albania, Dardha is set in the Morava mountains 20 kilometres southwest of Korça, at 1344 metres above sea level and has about 50 permanent inhabitants. The village is sheltered by the Shën Pjeter and the rugged Guri i Vjeshtës (Autumn Rock) mountains and is surrounded by flowering fields, orchards and forests, making it an ideal base for hikes in the surroundings.

Founded in 1600 by Orthodox Christians escaping from Ottoman conversion campaigns, Darhda is famous for felt processing (incorporated in the local black/red folk dress), Dharda had 500 houses in the early 1900s. Nowadays, the village consists of a few narrow cobbled streets winding between stone houses, many of which are decorated with carved symbols and retain their traditional flagstone roof tiles. Most of the villages stone houses look rather smart after recent renovations, yet there are few modern additions to spoil the atmosphere. Dharda has few specific sights, though its worth entering the small Shën Gjergj (Saint George) church for its old icons. Scattered along the streets are several public fountains and wells spouting natural mineral water, believed locally to cure all manner of ailments. Drink sulpher-spiced water from the aptly named Uji i Qelbur (filthy water) spring if you have stomach problems. Apart from the pretty streets and mountain views, the local cuisine is a reason to visit; Dardha is famous for its huge fire-baked lakror onion and tomato pies, the unusual side dishes like snails, mushrooms and corn flour pie, all best washed down with the local raki pear liquor. The annual village festival is on Shën Maria (St Marys; 16 August), when the road is clogged with people returning to the ancestral home for the day, and everybody dresses up in their best folk clothes and joins in the religious rituals and traditional dances. In winter, somehardy types attempt to ski on the slopes around the village, though there are no rental or lift facilities at all. Practicalities Dardha can be reached across basic gravel roads by car or taxi; theres no minibus service. Heading south out of Korça, turn left into Boboshtica after passing the new prison, and left again at the World War II monument, pass the Shën Maria church and follow the road up into the gorge. Accommodation is available in a handful of village homes where one or two rooms are available for guests, at about 1000 lek per room. Its difficult to book ahead so its best to simply ask around on arrival. The Shtëpia e Pushimit (tel. 069 266 60 10/069 214 85 75; 15 rooms, 600 lek per person) is a rather basic converted workers resort, with small rooms, a few dorm rooms, shared showers, a restaurant with pool table and terrace. The best meals are to be had at the locals homes; ask around or look for Mrs. Stolie Mekolli for the best lakror pie in town, though dont expect fast service; order, go for a walk and come back later. Alternatively, the Batelli bar and restaurant along the road at the top of the village is a great place for traditional food, served on the grassy terrace with its great views.

The romantic city of Korca is known for its serenades and culture, but if you’re looking for a winter adventure, you have to travel some 20 southeasts of the city to Dardha village. This is a mountainous village located better Saint Peters hills, the Autumn Rock, and several other hills. It is a year-round destination due to the favorable climate, but the number of visitors increases during the snow season. Several ski resorts operate in the area and welcome winter sports enthusiasts. The slopes of Bigell in Dardha and Voskopoja are the best for skiing in Albania and highly affordable.
Dardha is known for its traditions, traditional clothing and woodwork, bio food like pickles, salt-cured meat or pasterma, the traditional pie lakror ne sac, and plums grape.
The city has its architectural style of traditional houses and cobbled streets and all the information on the historic and cultural heritage of the village can be explored at the local museum.
Everything seems to have a curative effect on Dardha, especially climate and water. There is one water spring with the non-inviting name The Pungent Water (Uji i Qelbur) that is believed to have healing properties for anemia, stomach, liver, kidney, and many other health issues.

What to do in Dardha
Skiing, visiting local churches, eating local food and drinking from the pungent water spring, hiking and trekking.

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