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Personal recentish travel review with pictures and well researched itinerary of the whole sovereign state.
Mention Albania to most people and the responses are negative: corruption, poverty, crime, illegal immigrants trying to enter England and a past extreme communist dictatorship. Few people you meet who are non-Albanians would have ever been there or are thinking of it for their next holiday. The only item non-Albanians will remember is the name of the late dictator, Enver Hoxha, surname pronounced something like Hoja.

Being that I love odd places, especially ex-communist, this was right up my street. Montenegro I could see from research did not have too much to see so this came after Montenegro. London to Podgorica, explore Montenegro, explore Albania, drive back to Podgorica and fly out. Flights are a lot cheaper from neighbouring countries instead of flying to Albania from London. The hire car was a Fiat 500XL from Podgorica airport.

In 2011, Top Gear filmed in Albania. Of course, the episode was stereotypical and outrageous. One item of truth is Mercedes are very common there.

Before I fly, I spend many hours researching what to do and use maps to plan each day. Sources include: Trip Advisor, official tourism website, Atlas Obscura and other blogs. A full European Garmin satnav comes with me since it does not need a phone signal. I do not always book hotels and just do that on the afternoon depending on where the next large town is. Most of the trips are solo since most friends are too chicken to go to such places.

Seven days was enough to cover the vast majority of sites. Again, I drive at decent speed, walk quickly & far and drive for long distances per day. Warning: Albania has possibly the worst drivers I have seen anywhere and the worse roads. Driving and road conditions are better in Tunisia and Philippines! You need skill, focus and aggression to drive there. Traffic is not too bad outside of Tirana, but the roads are barely passable.

Albania over the year has had its fair share of invaders, Greeks (it does border Greece), Romans and Ottomans. The latter rubs off in architecture, Albanian cuisine, language and religion. In 1976 Albania declared itself atheist as did the USSR ban religion. These days Albania is mostly Muslim split into different sects, Catholic, Orthodox Christian and others. Everyone gets on. You will see a mosque next to a church. No one seems too religious compared to the Middle East.

How were the people? Despite the negative views of Albania, I had zero problems. The people were friendly, helpful and spoke decent English. Not even the slightest scam was tried on me. Despite the wages being very low, in the bottom five of Europe no one tried to take advantage of me. Your main danger is driving! Below gives you a partly funny idea of the problems I had there:

Poor drivers: at roundabouts it is “illegal” to stop - you just jump on. When on a rare motorway, cars will just join even if you are going at 100kmph. On normal roads, cars will brake without warning and block the road. Drivers will fill their entire car with oranges or balance wood on their front wing mirror whilst supporting the plank from the back window. Animals: expect, especially on non-city roads: cows, sheep, goats, chickens and shepherds to randomly appear whilst you are driving.

“Road” quality: UK roads would be offended by me using the word road. Even national highway were barely even dirt tracks hugging a mountain side. On 2-3 occasions I had to turn back since the road was just mud, uneven and with water flowing through it. Once in Gjirokastër I had no choice but to continue and scratch the car since the road was uneven, cobbled and very narrow. A heft 4x4 is really recommended.

Cops: the day after entering Albania, a cop flagged me for “speeding”. He had no speed gun and was probably after a bribe. He laughed at me since we couldn’t communicate, and I was let go. On exiting to Montenegro, I was held, sent to the inspection hut and asked if I had drugs or guns on me. Again, probably after a bribe but after an English-speaking cop came, I was let go.

Despite of the problems it was epic, and the stories are funny to tell afterwards!

What is there to see? Bunkers, bunkers, bunkers, churches, mosques, beaches, castles, springs, Ottoman style buildings, museums, Roman & Greek ruins, lakes, Ottoman bridges and just a few more bunkers.

Day #1
  • Enter Albania, Border Crossing Hani i Hotit - Bozhaj
  • Night in Shkodër
Day #2
  • Shkodër for Site of Witness and Memory, Lead Mosque, Lake Skadar and Rozafa Castle
  • Mes Ottoman Bridge
  • Drive to Berat
  • Walk around
  • Night in Berat
Day #3
  • Walk around Berat in the daytime
  • Drive to Gjirokaster - be careful which route you take since I wasted 4hrs due to poor roads and had to return back to Berat
  • Walked around the very nice Ottoman era town
  • Night in Gjirokaster
Day #4
  • Walk around Gjirokaster in light. Castle, bazaar, Zekate House, mosque, hamman, fountains, Skenduli House, Enver Hoxha ex-house and National Museum of Armaments
  • Blue Eye Spring
  • Car “ferry” to Butrint Archaeological Park
  • Sarande
  • Drive to Fier
  • Night in Fier
Day #5
  • Apollonia
  • Durres for amphitheatre, forum, baths, city tower and walls
  • Drive to Tirana
  • Tirana Clock Tower, Bunk’art 2, National History Museum, parliament, tanners bridge, communist pyramid, National Museum of Archaeology and Enver’s ex-residence
  • Night in Tirana
Day #6
  • Bunk’art 1 & other nearby bunkers and House of Leaves Museum
  • Night in Tirana
Day #7
  • Back to Podgorica
Would I return? Potentially, to see the submarine pen featured on Top Gear, another bunker and Sazan island.

Albania - Vlorë County
Albania - Tirana County

Albania - Shkodër County
Albania - Gjirokastër County
Albania - Fier County
Albania - Durrës County
Albania - Berat County