Albania is one of the most exciting destinations to visit this summer. Located at the Adriatic Sea, it has a lot to offer: pristine beaches, wild national parks, great food and very welcoming people. And the best part is: there are hardly any tourists! After my road trip last summer, I have put together a list of my four favorite things to do in Albania:
1. Spend a weekend in Tirana
Not too long ago, Albania was a communist country, pretty much closed to the rest of the world. I wonder how the generation who lived through communism until the early 1990ies looks at Tirana now. It is pretty much the center of hope. Professionals in suits and ties, traffic, shops, museums and art, restaurants and cafes, bars and clubs. Albania’s capital with about half a million inhabitants is worth a visit. Spend a weekend there. Walk around the city center. Ask the waiters at the restaurants what you should eat and share the food with your friends. Take the cable car up to Dajti National Park for the great view. Enjoy the night life. Although it might not be like anywhere else you’ve been: you’ll find bars and clubs packed with people (men and women), pumping beats, light-shows, a lot of alcohol… but at the same time a very relaxed atmosphere, almost a bit restrained…
2. Visit the beach at Velipoja
Located in northern Albania, by the border to Montenegro, this destinations main attraction is the 10 km beach. Mainly beach-goers from the area as well as tourists from Albania and Kosovo visit Velipoja today. Hotels and Resorts are being built and soon tourists form all over the world might visit Velipoja. Another reason to hurry and go this summer!
3. Drive from Shkodra to Valbonë
Renting a car in Albania is the best thing you can do. It’s easy to drive around and it gives you so much freedom. Shkodra in northern Albania used to be the cultural center of the country. Visit the picturesque city center and have a coffee there before you start the journey.
There are two ways to get to Valbonë and back: Drive all the way on serpentine roads through the mountains or take the ferry on lake Koman. We decided to drive to Valbonë national park and really enjoyed the journey which took us through villages and up and down numerous mountains. We enjoyed great views throughout. However, it is a loooooooong drive. You can spend the night at the town called Bajram Curri or book a room closer to the national park. Valbonë is great for hiking, so you can easily spend some time there.
On the way back, we decided to take the ferry, which saved us a lot of time and was great fun. It’s best to call the ferry company the day before you go, since apparently, it is the only way to get accurate information. Tel: +355 67 28 08 727.
4. Spend some time in and around Saranda
This beach town on the rise is the perfect starting point for small excursions. Saranda has numerous hotels, restaurants and bars. You can reach the Greek island called Korfu by ferry within two hours. There are countless small, pristine beaches and islands surrounding Saranda, such as Ksamil. If you are interested in history, you can visit the ruins of Butrint. And if Albanian summers are just too hot for you, visit the fresh water spring at Blue Eye (Syri Kalter). The springs are beautifully located and very, very refreshing.
What are you waiting for? Plan your trip to Albania and enjoy the beauty of this country, mostly unknown to tourists.
Text by Nicole
Pictures by Nicole and Andi (Instagram: nenna_nana)
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