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 Country of bunkers, Mercedes cars, and beautiful nature 
  • Albania
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When our friends heard from us that we chose Albania as a vacation spot, they were surprised. This is normal, Albania is not considered a tourist country among most tourists. Blame socialist totalitarian regime and the famous Kosovo war between ethnic Albanian separatists and Yugoslavia, in which NATO forces took part. Some regions of the country are still recovering.

What you think is the hallmark of Albania? It is hard to believe, but the bunkers! More than 700,000 bunkers were built by dictator Enver Hoxha, who ruled from 1946 to 1982. We found them even in remote places in the mountains.

Even in such a lonely place you can find bunkers.
Even in such a lonely place you can find bunkers. ©Yuriy Buriak

The second hallmark are the old Mercedes cars. Almost everyone in Albania has such a car. There may be two reasons: it makes sense to choose a better car because of the bad roads or stolen Mercedes cars settle in the country.

Nature has generously endowed Albania: the country lies along the two seas, Adriatic and Ionic. Approximately 75% of the territory is covered by mountains and hills with a height of up to 2.7 kilometers. However, the country is not able to use this fabulous potential at the moment. The Adriatic sea is not clean in most resorts in the north of Albania. Situation with the Ionic sea in the south is a bit better. Infrastructure is very weak. It's very difficult to get to any place in the mountains in the north of the country as there are no paved roads! In some national parks such as Theth you can drive only a SUV.

Albania is the only Muslim country in Europe, 60% of the population are the Muslims. Very few people speak English, and Albanian language is not similar to any other. This is the challenge: finding the way or other information can be very difficult. And you need to ask the locals for directions, as modern GPS maps have no Albanian roads! So be sure to take a paper atlas.

We have traveled around the country in a car that was rented in Montenegro and had no safety-related problems. Although perhaps problems with safety exist. Albania in general is very convenient to combine vacation with Montenegro. They are located near each other and many tourist companies carry tourist charters to Montenegro, and from there take people on minibuses to Albania in 4-5 hours. However, there are not many good roads in Albania, they can be viewed here.

Main tourist attractions are near Tirana and below. But we, as usual, are looking for some cool but unknown places. Therefore we explored the north of Albania.

Our 6-day trip with links to already written articles:

Our trip to Albania
Our trip to Albania ©Yuriy Buriak

Day 1

We arrived at Albania from Montenegro. Ukrainians do not need a visa, so the border was passed quickly (check if you need a visa). We didn't know what to expect, Albania still remains a dark spot for many tourists. But there are many foreign cars here, as everyone goes through Albania to Greece. The first object that meets tourists in the country on the way from Montenegro is a Rozafa fortress standing on a high hill.

Rozafa fortress
Rozafa fortress ©Yuriy Buriak

There is also an inscription "Shqiponja". In Albanian it's an eagle, national symbol. The Albanians call themselves Shqipëria - country of eagles.

Shqiponja means eagle, national symbol of Albania.
Shqiponja means eagle, national symbol of Albania. ©Yuriy Buriak

Initially we planned to spend the night in Shkoder and ever found a hotel on this website. But after driving around the city and looking at the real "Albanian life" we decided to go to the sea at Velipoja. We stayed there for two nights.

Velipoja ©Yuriy Buriak

Day 2

This day was not very successful. Despite the fact that we planned the way quite carefully, we didn't reach the national park Theth. The plan was as follows: in the morning we reach the park in 4 hours, walk there, have a rest and come back in the evening. There's about 100 kilometers from Velipoja to the park. Moreover, we specifically rented a beach jeep 4x4 not to worry about the Albanian roads. As it turned out, we needed a bigger car, something like a good Land Rover.

The first surprise was the road of national importance Shkoder - Koplik. We spent 1 hour for 20 kilometers, rolling in the dust. Poor residents of private houses near the road have to live under dust all the time... Not finding the right exit from Shkoder (GPS doesn't work because it has no Albanian roads), we decided to ask for directions the two guys who stood near the fence. They didn't speak English. As it turned out, there was a wedding in the house and within a minute about 20 people were giving us directions in Albanian :) By the way, the Albanians are surprisingly very friendly people, we were convinced of this more than once.

Shkoder - Koplik road
Shkoder - Koplik road ©Yuriy Buriak

Next was a good road to the foot of the mountains, and then 17 km to the park remained. And these 17 kilometers were the biggest surprise for us. We expected the dirt road, but after 4 hours we passed only half way!

Road to the Theth park
Road to the Theth park ©Yuriy Buriak

The main problem, as it turned out, was not even the road itself, but other cars. At the mountain pass we had to pass a large truck. It was very dangerous, as the wheels of our car were just 15 centimeters from the 700-meter steep.

Therefore, after reaching the sign "National Park Theth," we had to turn back. The trip back down took us about 1.5 hours. Next time we will take a bigger car :) French guys on the car that stands in the middle went much faster than us on such roads.

Ferry on the Komani lake
Ferry on the Komani lake ©Yuriy Buriak

However, beautiful scenery accompanied us throughout the entire trip.

Scenery on the way to the Theth park
Scenery on the way to the Theth park ©Yuriy Buriak

Scenery on the way to the Theth park
Scenery on the way to the Theth park ©Yuriy Buriak

Scenery on the way to the Theth park
Scenery on the way to the Theth park ©Yuriy Buriak

Scenery on the way to the Theth park
Scenery on the way to the Theth park ©Yuriy Buriak

Scenery on the way to the Theth park
Scenery on the way to the Theth park ©Yuriy Buriak

Day 3

On this day we had to move to the national park Valbona, because of which we decided to visit Albania. The main part of the way we overcame by ferry on the Komani Lake so everything was just perfect, and at 2 pm we already sat surrounded by mountain peaks and ate homemade Albanian food.

Komani lake
Komani lake ©Yuriy Buriak

Valbona in Albania
Valbona in Albania ©Yuriy Buriak

Day 4

Tracking in Valbona.

Day 5

On this day we went across the country to Durres (300 km). We chose a route through Krume and Kukes and didn't regret it. The road between Bajram Curri and Kukes is not always perfect but it is very picturesque, see the photos.

Bajram Curri against the Albanian Alps
Bajram Curri against the Albanian Alps ©Yuriy Buriak

Bajram Curri against the Albanian Alps
Bajram Curri against the Albanian Alps ©Yuriy Buriak

Fierze lake
Fierze lake ©Yuriy Buriak

Fierze lake
Fierze lake ©Yuriy Buriak

Section of road between Krume and Kukes
Section of road between Krume and Kukes ©Yuriy Buriak

Section of road between Krume and Kukes
Section of road between Krume and Kukes ©Yuriy Buriak

Fierze lake
Fierze lake ©Yuriy Buriak

Net to catch suicides :)
Net to catch suicides :) ©Yuriy Buriak

Recently Albania has built the roads very actively. From Kukes, halfway in the direction of Durres, we went along the only Albanian highway through a long tunnel, which the Albanians are very proud of.

Kalimash tunnel
Kalimash tunnel ©Yuriy Buriak

Albanian highway
Albanian highway ©Yuriy Buriak

On the highway we met... a cow. Yes, that's an Albanian highway :)

The next two days we stayed in Durres.

Durres ©Yuriy Buriak

Day 6

On this day we went to Tirana and walked only in the downtown. Tirana is not a tourist city, I see no point in describing it in detail. However, now the city looks better than on our photos, as it was reconstructed in 2012.

Many houses in Tirana are painted in different colors.
Many houses in Tirana are painted in different colors. ©Yuriy Buriak

Albanians love to read, books are sold on every street corner.
Albanians love to read, books are sold on every street corner. ©Yuriy Buriak

Center of Tirana
Center of Tirana ©Yuriy Buriak

Skanderbeg statue
Skanderbeg statue ©Yuriy Buriak

Opera house
Opera house ©Yuriy Buriak

©Yuriy Buriak

Albanian wires
Albanian wires ©Yuriy Buriak

Lana river
Lana river ©Yuriy Buriak

Funny advertisement of a bank
Funny advertisement of a bank ©Yuriy Buriak

Day 7

On this day we returned to Montenegro. The road Durres - Shkoder - Montenegro is normal.

Useful links:
National park Valbona
National park Theth
Nature of Albania
Old military map of Albania (in Russian)
Topographic map of Albania
Which countries can enter Albania without visas

Comments (Total: 3)

2013-11-23 21:56 # 1 Алиночка
мне понравилось...Я там везде была...ссупер фото...

2016-09-08 15:33 # 2 Andrew
Thanks for sharing your blog.

It's my turn to visit Albania / Montenegro later this month.

2017-05-14 11:10 # 3 Simona
Thank you the video and the story from Thethi, convinced me to go to Valbona. This was very helpful!
Links are also very useful

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