From: Alice Taylor
Places to Visit: Agritourism Huqi

Tucked away down a dusty road, amongst the hills of Manze is Agritourism Huqi. A 25-minute drive from Tirana, this sprawling restaurant sits on the shores of an artificial lake, which is in turn surrounded by olive trees and rolling hills brimming with freshly grown produce. Huqi has a number of rooms available for overnight guests- but these are not your typical hotel rooms.

Each room stands alone, two metres off the ground, perched on stilts. Constructed from wood with a floor to ceiling glass window overlooking the lake, they give you the feeling of being completely alone, while still being in walking distance from the bar. Each room has a television, air conditioning, a large balcony, a large shower, and a huge, extremely comfortable bed.

These rooms are really something special, nestling amongst various trees and plants.

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The restaurant is spread out along two lengths of the lake. One one side there are wooden booths set back from the shore, offering seating for medium-sized groups. A view of the lake can be spotted through the vine leaves and roses that grow there. On the other shore of the lake amid the heart shape topiary arches, are small wooden platforms suspended over part of the lack, or set back a bit offering views from a higher vantage point.

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From these booths, you can enjoy a secluded and private dining experience as the team of waiters scuttle past. Another fun aspect of these platforms is you can feed your leftover bread to the ducks, geese and swans that swarm expectantly and honk impatiently as you eat your dinner.huqi We sat and enjoyed the most spectacular sunset as we drank their homemade white wine (really fantastic by the way) and soaked up the atmosphere. As darkness fell, fairy lights illuminated the whole area. The walkways, gardens, paths, and heart-shaped arches all came alight with bulbs of varying hues. It’s easy to see why this is a very popular wedding and wedding photo destination.

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There are other dining areas on the grounds- a large inside area lit with large bulbs and wicker lampshades, and an outdoor hall-type setup with a high canopy entirely covered in vines. This place is a beautiful maze of leaves, plants, flowers, and fairy lights that really comes alive after darkness falls. In fact, I didn’t even mind that I got lost on my way back from the bathroom after a few glasses of wine.

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As for the food, all the fruit and vegetables are grown by the owners on-site. Cheese, milk, and meat comes from local farmers who they’ve entered into agreements with. Furthermore, they employ an army of smiling waiters and staff, providing many jobs for what is quite a rural area.

We enjoyed cornbread with cheese, fresh garden salad, roasted baby goat, and all the usual Albanian trimmings. It was simple, well-seasoned, and cooked to perfection. This is the type of cooking that places emphasis on the natural flavours of the fresh, organic ingredients, rather than using sauces and buckets of salt. As mentioned, the house wine was really fantastic and I was informed the red is just as good.

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In terms of child-friendliness, it is a great place for older children- from 3+. Else, if your baby is happy in a stroller, that would work well also. They don’t have baby chairs, but they offer changing facilities and the gardens are wonderful for youngsters to explore.

Huqi also offer barbecues for rent and you can use the grounds for your own picnics.  They also offer camping facilities with outdoor power plugs and lighting.

Agritourism Huqi is definitely worth a visit. Go for the surroundings, the lake, the lights, and the plants and stay for the fresh food, wonderful wine, and friendly, helpful service.