Via Egnatia

To inspire everyone who loves walking and raising funds for charity, we set an ambitious challenge for 2021. Our plan is to encourage TEN’s supporters to virtually walk, jog or cycle along the Via Egnatia— the ancient, Roman road constructed by Gnaeus Egnatius, the Roman proconsul of Macedonia, who ordered its construction in the 2nd century BC from Durrës  (Albania) through North Macedonia and on to Thessaloniki (Greece).  The Via Egnatia united the Roman colonies of the Southern Balkans and eventually became the vital Silk Road between Europe and Asia.

The whole walk is divided into 10 stages covering 300 miles (equivalent to 600,000 steps!) following several stretches of the original paved highway. The Via Egnatia was built as a coast to coast route that linked the Adriatic with the Aegian and thereby avoiding a long and perilous sea journey. The Via Egnatia was used for journeys between Rome in Italy and the ancient Byzantium capital of (Istanbul) in modern-day Turkey. It was the ‘motorway’ of its day that enabled commerce, military power and messengers to travel unhindered. The route was frequently used by legions of Roman soldiers, Balkan traders, New Testament apostles, and centuries later by medieval Crusaders to and from the Holy Land.

Via Egnatia

HOW DO I TAKE PART?

Having first registered with TEN for the Via Egnatia Challenge and donated your £5 starter with Give.Net, you commence the first stage to walk the virtual 28 miles from Durrës, Albania inland to Peqin. The mileage can be accumulated over several days or even weeks as an individual, a couple, a family or a walking group. As a confirmed participant, you will receive a welcome pack with information about your first stage (Peqin Challenge) and details of TEN’s nearest partners.  On completion, you may wish to proceed to the next stage (Elbasan Challenge). Let us know and you will receive a second welcome pack to introduce you to the local area, its history and people. Each month we want you to tell us how many miles you or your group have covered while walking in your neighbourhood (maybe with your dog), rambling through the local countryside or following your favourite trails. In doing so, you will track the equivalent miles/steps on our Via Egnatia chart. When you complete your virtual stage challenge – please let us know! Cyclists are also welcome to follow the route. The individual or group latest totals of your current challenge will be updated on this page at www.ten-uk.org/walks unless you prefer to be anonymous.

Setting off from the busy, coastal town of Durrës from the western Golem neighbourhood there is a steady climb ahead along the tracks through olive orchards and hay meadows with ever-stunning views of the Adriatic to the right. Passing mountain lakes, crossing rivers and mountain villages the route leads to Memzotë. Following the ancient mule route, you will finally reach the River Skumbin and the town of Peqin with its 15th-century castle, Ottoman clocktower mosque.

Soon after leaving Peqin you will get your first experience of the Roman road and one of the surviving Roman bridges. The road follows the railway line and a string of picturesque viaducts. Passing Brohkë the final stretch extends along the pleasant western bank of the River Shkumbin and across the iron bridge into Elbasan. The city abounds with history from Roman times through to Communist rule. Discover the remains of a Roman bathhouse and the sights and sounds of bustling market days.

Crossing back to the eastern bank of the river the route climbs through the hills and descends to the river at Polis-Vale and Mirakë.  The next section offers more of the original Roman highway and remains popular with local shepherds and their heavy-laden mules. The next stretch crosses rich meadows and rejoins the River Shkumbin at Dardhë and follows the valleys in a south-easterly direction towards Qukës.

The route soon leads into the patchwork of lush fields of the Perrenjas plain before climbing the hills and reaching the tarmac road that leads to the national border into North Macedonia. Once across the border turn right and head down towards the stunning Lake Ohrid. Follow the coastal road to Struga at the northern end of the lake and continue on into the picturesque Roman town of Ohrid. There is plenty to see and do. The old city with its ancient wall and watchtower, its famous Tsar Samuils’ castle, a Roman theatre and several fine churches, including Sveti Jovan and Sveti Bogorodica.

With a short visit to the Sveti Petka monastery, head north to Velgosti and enter the Galicica National Park with great views over Lake Ohrid. This is a challenging route with a difficult climb and eventual descent into a beautiful valley full of springs and rare flora that leads to the village of Petrino and a further climb before sighting Lake Prespa and the downhill route to the town of Resen and its many apple orchards. Visit the palace in Resen built in the French Renaissance style.

Take the gentle climb to Sopotsko with its red mud-brick houses and then head south passing through the mountain saddle pass to Kazani and then a short detour via Dolenci to step back in time before heading south to Capari. The trail along the foot of Mount Pelister leads through Vlach-ancestral villages and leads to the canal and a short climb up to Dihovo. A trek of six miles further is the village of Bukovo and the large town of Bitola and the ancient Heracleia.

If you are a regular walker and would be happy (post lockdown) to lead a small group in your area, please let Melanie know melanie.griffiths@ten-uk.org

Donations to the Via Egnatia Challenge 2021 can be made online here www.give.net/walkforten