This is our 2-week roadtrip itinerary in Albania in the middle of summer. We organized our trip by following a loop in the South to discover the turquoise beaches and then a loop in the North, in the mountains and on a quiet pace
My budget: Tickets at 200 € per person with Austrian Airlines which included a stop in Vienna. There are direct flights from France operated by Transavia but only on certain days of the week (Tuesday, Thursday). Most of the flights go through Italy or Corfu, we have rented a car for two weeks for 300 €. Life there is very cheap (hotel, restaurant), you can enjoy yourself
warning: There are few guides available and little information on the Internet. The South of the country is tourist but the North much less so. The road conditions are bad in some places and Google Maps is not up to date, so it will necessarily lead you to a dirt road out of nowhere at some point! (Our trip dates back to August 2019 and things are moving quickly in Albania where the whole country seemed to be under construction).
Only a few people speak English !
So, we talk with our hands, it makes the experience fun though !
Day 1 – Tirana
Tirana Arrived in the night in Tirana, we pick up the rental car in the morning and drive to Berat, a village listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The old town is a pile of dozens of houses on a hill, tiny cobbled alleys and stairs, typical of the traditional Balkan style. We climbed on foot to the citadel of the castle, for a beautiful view of the heights of the city. Choose to do it early in the morning or in the evening at the end of the day because of the heat. Our hotel was charming (Berat Backpackers Hostel) and had a nice view of the village.
Day 2 / Day 3: Gjirokastër
Before taking the road to get off at Gjirokastër, we will visit the Nurellari Winery, to see what Albanian wine looks like! Very nice visit, but be careful if you drive again, in Albania, there is zero tolerance for alcohol on the roads… We spend two nights in Gjirokastër, a village also classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which we really enjoyed! We were able to visit old Ottoman houses and the castle at the top.
Day 4 / Day 5: Albanian Riviera
Sarandë and Ksamil direction on the Albanian Riviera. Beaches with umbrellas and deckchairs, with too much concrete and too many people. Not too much our kiff even if the water is turquoise, we visit the archaeological site of the ancient city of Butrint, which is interesting, at the end of the peninsula. The sunset on the beach of Ksamil is worth it, tourists desert the place at the end of the day. The view of Corfu is very beautiful:
Day 6 / Day 7: Dhermi
We are fleeing mass tourism for Dhermi, which we have clearly preferred. The beaches are larger and especially by walking a little or taking a boat small coves with turquoise water are accessible. We recommend Gjipe Beach and Gjiri i Akuariumit in the early morning… A treat!
Day 8 : tranfert toTirana (before going to the northern part)
It is the end of the southern loop, heading north. We go up again to make a first stop in Tirana. The road between Dhermi and Tirana, at the level of the Llogara pass is magnificent! On site for a day in Tirana, we take the opportunity to do the essentials and take a closer look at the history of the country, which experienced a very harsh dictatorship between 1945 and 1991. For this, we visit Bunk’Art 1 and 2 (old bunkers transformed into a museum).Then we stroll through Skënderbej Square, a gigantic square that served as a venue for large military gatherings, the Tirana International Hotel, which welcomed foreign dignitaries during the communist era, the Palace of Culture, full of ministries and the National History Museum, all built in the distinctive communist style, the enormous Boulevard des Martyrs de la Nation (Bulevard Dëshmorët e Kombit), which extends to Mother Tereza Square and the Pyramid.
For eating or going out, we recommend the trendy Blloku district that we loved! our hotel was the Stela Hotel Center, where the staff was adorable and the rooms are new and spacious. We recommend !
Day 9 / Day 10: North loop
That’s it, we’re starting to discover the North, not unhappy to go to less touristic places. Our first stop is the big city of Shkodër where we stay at the Legjenda hotel which is a great favorite.
We visit the castle at the top of the city and the Ura e Mesit bridge which dates back to the Ottoman Empire, located 25 minutes away.
The second day, we go on an excursion in the Shala River, a small boat ride and a water walk in the gorges to finish eating fish by the water’s edge. A great day, we loved it.
That same evening, we set off for the Albanian Alps. To cut the road, we stop in Pukë, not too much interest except for the communist buildings that have been painted in bright colours.
Day 11 / Day 12 / Day 13: Albanian Alps
To get to the Albanian Alps, you can take the ferry from Koman to Fierze and then drive to Valbonë or go to Valbonë by road.
Don’t listen to the Albanians who don’t seem to know this part of the country so well and who will tell you that the roads are impassable and that you absolutely need a 4WD. That’s not true, some parts of the road are damaged, yes, but we did it with a carefree city car! In addition, many portions were being redone (August 2019) so it might get better and better.
The village of Teth, also located in the mountains, is only accessible by 4WD or by trek from Valbonë.
We loved this drive. It took us about 3h30 from Pukë and the road is sumptuous. The last stretch of road between Fierze and Valbonë is in excellent condition and follows a river with a panoramic view of the mountains at the bottom, it’s worth it!
We take advantage of our few days in Valbonë to walk in the mountains. Considering my state of pregnancy, we could not do the famous trek between Valbonë and Teth but the view from Valbonë is already very beautiful. There are many hiking trails, relatively well marked, thanks to the work of Catherine, a local American, with several levels of difficulty. We were staying with the locals at the Bujtina Ahmetaj – a big crush!
Day 14: Medieval village & last stage
We leave Valbonë by ferry from Fierze to Koman. The crossing of Lake Koman is really pleasant. The road at the exit of the ferry is very damaged, you have about 1 hour of track. As a last stop, we stop in Krujë, a small picturesque village with a medieval spirit.
What I would change if I had to do it again:
We would have spent one night instead of two nights in Sarandë (South Albania) which was of no interest to our eyes.