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Travelling through Albania by car - azure waters and mountain valleys await you

Albania - is it a resort country? Tour operators from Ukraine do not take tourists to Albania, there are not many charter flights. The same situation is in Montenegro and Croatia. Only to Montenegro there are more charters. This is why it was decided to see Albania while traveling along the Balkan Peninsula by car.

There are a lot of comments in the Internet that there is nothing to do in Albania without a clear route. My personal opinion - this is not true. Because each country is unique. When you go from Ukraine along the route Ukraine - Moldova - Romania - Greece - Albania - Montenegro - Croatia - Hungary - Ukraine, you can see very well - the countries are separated by the border only, and everything is very contrasting. But now we will talk about Albania (August 2018).

Nature of Albania - a combination of low mountains, hills and azure water

In nature, the mountains can be rocky and not walkable or passable with scenic trails. Seas - somewhere they are dark and murky, and somewhere they are azure and glow in the sun. Purity of nature in any country, of course, depends on the mentality of its inhabitants. In general, Albania by the nature attractions, and everything else, too, is suitable for a single visit. It is supposed to visit by car, because in one village / town in general there is nothing more than a couple of days to do. There are no beautiful walking mountains, there are few special views. The clarity of the sea varies in sections. Perfect azure - Ksamil, Onion, solid mud - Durres.

По Албании на автомобиле: Саранда-Гирокастра-Влера-Берат-Дуррес
Ксамиль (Ионическое море) - прозрачная голубая вода
Луковое (Ионическое море) - лазурная, кристально прозрачная вода
Дуррес (Адриатическое море) - вода грязная и коричневого цвета

People in Albania (most interestingly, tourists included) have contrasting temperaments - from smiling obliging, to harsh emotional.

The number of people in the country is important. It is not entirely comfortable when the roads are jammed and all the beaches and attractions are filled with people as on a Sunday market day. Albania in August is that "Bazaar, and even before the holiday. The number of people and cars is enormous. The beaches are packed to capacity. Parking in the "right" places is difficult. It is also worth noting that the beach vacation in Albania is specific. It is necessary to settle remotely from beaches and to go by car every time to them. There are often just no residential areas near the beach.

Ksamil is the best resort village of Albania with small 2-storey cottages.

To the beach from any point on foot 10-15 minutes. Or everyone drives by car. The beaches are quite dirty. I'm not talking about the water, the water is clean and clear. Very stinky trash, standing along the road right on the beaches themselves.

Ксамиль - мусор на пляжах "норма" по всей стране
Ксамиль - пляжи забиты
Дуррес - "люди кони - все смешалось" - пляж в августе 2018

In the country you can find mostly cars with license plates of Albania and Italy. And those and those, well, very much. To see the surroundings you need to drive through the city of Saranda, which will take at least two hours just because of traffic jams.

Advice about the region Xamil - Saranda: Saranda attractions should be studied for 1 day, when you have settled in. It is interesting to walk the evening promenade. You can stay in Xamil for several days. It depends on how many days you want to spend on the beach. In general, 2 days is enough for Xamil itself and the ancient city of Butrint.


Butrint is a popularized ancient city / national park in Albania

There is no promenade in Ksamil as such, the main street runs along the highway. A couple of hours of walking will be enough to see everything. The ancient city/national park of Butrint is 10 minutes away in the direction of Greece. It is best visited after 5:00 pm, when it is no longer hot. It is not large - an hour is the real time to visit it. If you stretch the pleasure - 2 hours. You can visit it, a beautiful ancient ruins, but do not expect anything special. Map of Butrint more than he himself in the end. And if you consider that the entrance is paid. In Greece, something similar is the ruins of Aristotle, but larger in size and free.

Saranda is Albania's promenade, more like Odessa's Privoz in Ukraine

The beaches of Saranda itself do not require your attention. In the center of Saranda port / customs border, ferry - do not expect clean beaches. Although they are still surprisingly clean. Of particular interest is the promenade. In the evening, when the heat subsides, the lights come on and everyone goes out on the promenade. But here, too, has its own specifics - you do not get the comfort and leisurely walk. You can see the "Turkish bazaar", "beehive", "subway rush hour" - call it what you want. The number of strollers is such that even a leisurely walk involves regular elbow jostling. It is worth seeing, but do not want to repeat. On quay there are no entertainments neither for children, nor for adults. Around one ice cream for sale. And a lot of cafes of course.


Бутринт - древний город / национальный парк (рядом с пос. Ксамиль). Вход платный (700 лек = 200 грн./чел.)
Саранда - набережная и пляжи

According to our itinerary, we explored Ksamil and Saranda, then went to the town of Gjirokastra. It is one of the few places that particularly stand out in Albania.

Advice for the region of Gjirokastra: it is possible to explore in 1 day, but it is better to spend the night in the old town. You can even stay near the fortress itself.

Гирокастра - панорама с крепости на город и долину


The city of Gjirokastra is known because of the old fortress city of the same name.

Entrance to the fortress is paid (200 lek = 50 UAH per person). From the fortress there is a beautiful view of the mountain valley. The walk around the fortress will take about 1-2 hours.


Гирокастра - вид с крепости на часть нового города и долину
Гирокастра - на территории крепости

Then you can go down to the street, where the "Old Bazaar" is located. Not to be confused with the hotel of the same name. This market is very small and there is essentially nothing to buy, but the streets are nice and cozy. All in all, the whole walk around Gjirokastra is about 3 hours of time.

Гирокастра - Старый базар + вид на крепость

Gjirokastra can also be seen by passing through. But the road from Saranda along serpentines, plus a walk in the sun on the territory of the fortress - you end up feeling tired. So it is better to settle in the old town and meet the sunset on the balcony, with a view of the mountains and with a delicious dinner. Particular attention should be paid to the local roads in town - their slope and slippery stones can make non-local drivers sweat.


The natural spring "Blue Eye" - a beauty that thousands of people want to see

In the morning, our way was to the village of Borsch. On the way there was another attraction of Albania - the natural spring "Blue Eye". The emotions of the visit were mixed. Before the bridge we had to pay the entrance fee (200 lek = 50 UAH / car). We went about 11 am, there was no traffic jams yet. We got to the place where the traffic was and we started walking - about 100 meters. Back were leaving in about 30-40 minutes and driving / standing in traffic about 40 minutes! The source itself is undoubtedly beautiful - azure icy water beats a key from the bottom of the earth. But the number of people and cars "bring to naught" all the pleasure of enjoying nature. Want to hurry to get away from there. An option to leave the car at the entrance and walk 1 km on foot - not an option, the sun is very strong and there is no shade. Driving / standing in a traffic jam is also little fun.

Advice about "Blue Eye": In the summer season it is not worth driving especially to this place, only if your way goes through Gjirokastra.


Голубой глаз - природный источник с ледяной водой
Голубой глаз - количество людей в летний сезон

Advice on the region Borsch-Himara-Dermi: for settlement and recreation is better suited Dermi than Borsch. Himara is something in between in terms of coziness and beauty.

Lukovoe - Borsch - Himara - Dermi - the main resort villages of Albania

Before the village of Borsch is the village Lukovoye. It is located at the top of the mountains, and its beach is a 20-minute drive down the serpentine road, where people drive every day. We were passing through, but the beach is great with no complaints. People are evenly distributed, parking is scarce as always, but there is enough. The water, on the other hand, is delightful - the best place we've seen in Albania.

Borsch is already a beachfront settlement with a long beachfront promenade. Everything would be fine, but the beaches are not equipped, the water is clean, but not "glowing" as in Lukovoye. And the city, somehow coziness does not give. In general, one day to rest and walk, and we go on.

Борщ - набережная, она же променад и автомобильная дорога и парковка
Борщ - пляжная набережная


Llogora - the best mountain views in Albania

The next resting point is the town of Vlora, through the villages of Himara, Dermi, and the mountain pass of Llogora. We visited both villages and liked them better than Borsch. On the way we caught the rain, so no bright pictures. Llogora, as an overnight stay in the forest is not remarkable. But the views and the road itself is very spectacular.


Ллогора - вид на серпантин, горный перевал
Ллогора - вид с дороги на перевале горном

Vlora is not a major resort town in Albania

From the pass to Vlora are unremarkable villages. And the city of Vlora itself, as it turned out, is not impressive in terms of beauty. The embankment is big and we drove through it all without any stops. It was windy and not comfortable. The promenade was not a beach promenade, but a port promenade. We had a room booked, but in fact we could go straight ahead.


Advice on roads: travel on the main roads, if possible the larger ones, throughout the country. This is especially true of the road to Berat. Near the city itself, the road resembles an old stitched blanket.

The city of Berat - the "city of a thousand windows" - the pearl of Albania

Another landmark of Albania, worth your attention. The old town and the fortress are valuable, but they are different objects and are located on opposite sides of the river, connected by pedestrian bridge. Berat should certainly be visited with an overnight stay to see everything and walk around.

Advice on the city of Berat: stay in the territory of the fortress itself. Time to visit the city at least a day with an overnight stay.

The old town of Berat is a fortress, which is still alive today. We settled in a house / souvenir store in the center of the fortress. Almost all of the houses are residential and rented out. The entrance to the fortress is very specific. It starts from the new town, the road serpentine of medium quality goes to the fortress. At the top, you go straight into the castle, through the narrow central gate! From the looks of it, it seems that everything is pedestrian and walking, people do not want to get off at the sight of the car. But there is no other road a priori. Inside the fortress is very nice, cozy. The streets are narrow and beautiful, paved with cobblestone.

Берат - улочки старого города

The fortress is located on a mountain. The view opens up to the whole city of Berat from different directions. In the evening the lanterns are lit and the streets become like in a fairy tale. By the way, in the evening before dark (in order to explore the way back) you can go down to the city and walk along a walking street in the center of the new city. In fact, a vacation in this town is worth a visit to Albania in general!

Берат - вид с крепости (центральный обзор)
Берат - вид с крепости (на право по верхнему фото)
Берат - вид с крепости (на лево по верхнему фото)

After Berat, our way was to Durres. Durres is near the capital of Albania - Tirana.

Durres - as the song says "puddles and dirt roads"

We got to Durrès on a Saturday in August. In the end, either because of this, or it's always like this, but the number of people was just off the charts. The beaches are shallow, dirty, overcrowded. Entering the water on the knee probably 30 meters ... Parking is difficult, it is necessary to wind about 20 circles to park in the right place. There's traffic jams and nervous drivers everywhere. The city is divided into two parts, with beaches on one side. On the other side there's a promenade along the water and some beaches. But what it all looks like!!! After a couple of hours of driving / walking around the city came the decision to leave not just the city, but the country in principle. Although plans included visiting two more continental cities.


Дуррес - панорама города с видовой площадки
Дуррес - прогулочная набережная
Дуррес - пляжи

So it was decided to follow the route further, but already in Montenegro. (to be continued)

Motor roads and the culture of the drivers in Albania is obviously not the "end" of the country

Of course, the quality of the roads is of primary importance, but it is not only about whether there are any holes on the roads. The availability of autobahns and the design of roads in general - how many lanes, smoothness of turns, etc., are also important for comfortable driving in the country. The rules and driving culture of the locals are just as important as the quality of the roads.

Regarding Albania's roads - they seem to be there without potholes. But... Autobahn is only in the Tirana area, but it is so few and the driving culture of local Albanians and Italians leaves a lot to be desired. What is a turn signal and what it is used for, it seems that they just do not know. Locals turn where they want and when they want. In Ukraine the potholes on the roads, in Albania the traffic is arbitrary. On the roads, including highways, a car can stop at any place without turning on the turn signal. As a result, more than once there is a traffic jam simply and suddenly, to the fact that the rear will not understand what is the matter. When approaching any city, the center or just the ring - the traffic jam is miles long. There are patrolmen along this traffic jam, but only in order to control it somehow. In the country, everyone parks wherever they want, even on the ring in the city center, right on the roadway. When there is a traffic jam on the road, locals and Italians brazenly go to the back and oncoming lanes, which often hamper the traffic. Compared to the autobahn in Croatia, when there was a traffic jam on the autobahn, not a single car in Croatia drove out of the alternate lane, which was completely free. It would seem that the size of Albania is not big, but there is no way to pass it quickly, even if you want to. After leaving Albania for Montenegro it became easier to breathe.

Foodstuffs in Albania are mostly made in Italy

Food and shopping (availability, prices for food), accommodation, or rather the price for housing are interesting components of a vacation. Meals for traveling by car from home in principle is not a problem. We took a multicooker, which solved the problem of cooking. More of course it was necessary to take an electric kettle, because it was not very convenient to boil water in a multicooker. The menu was approximately the following: breakfast - oatmeal with dried fruits, lunch - porridge with meat and frozen vegetables, dinner - boiled eggs and cheese sandwiches. All the preparations were made exclusively in the multicooker. Porridge was taken from home - favorite oatmeal and buckwheat mostly, sometimes rice and pasta. Eggs and chicken were bought on the spot - nothing special. The Italian cheeses Grana Padano and Parmigiano Reggiano require special attention. They have a delightful taste. Well transported for half a day without refrigeration. By the way a lot of products made in Italy, which is also not bad in quality. Tea is a real problem in the country. There are only all kinds of mixtures of herbs, flowers and roots. And there is milk everywhere, even for breakfast in hotels they serve milk instead of coffee and tea. Neither green nor black tea, not even in bags! Fruits, namely figs - figs are cheap (30-50grn./kg), they grow so that to pick 1-2 kg yourself will not be difficult. In Montenegro, figs are also cheap and selected, even more than in Albania, but in Croatia they are small and expensive, at the same time up to 150 UAH per kg.

By the way, on all roads of Albania sheep, horses, sheep, cows, donkeys freely walk in large numbers.

Овцы поднад дорой по всей стране

Prices for housing in Albania - inexpensive

As for housing, then we need to figure out whether the level corresponds to the cost, which the locals want. If to compare the prices of Albania - Croatia, it will be 30 - 60 euros respectively. Yes, it seems that Albania is not expensive, but 30 euros = 1,000 UAH for Ukraine is not a little. Given that the standard of living in Albania average, species few, beaches and recreation specific, rooms, too, not ace ... That in the end will choose expensive, but beautiful and high-service Croatia, but about this separately. And if we compare Albania and Montenegro, the prices can be said similar (except for Kotor, St. Stefan - expensive in itself), and the service, views and beaches are clearly better in Montenegro.

That's how it comes out that Albania - as a country has a place to be visited by you as a resort, but once is enough. More precisely, eight days, as it was with us. Although a couple of cities can still be visited if you have a great desire. There is nothing to do in Albania more than 2 weeks.

Do you still have the question, whether to go to Albania? The answer is yes, of course! Impressions and emotions you will definitely find in the country, but perhaps you will have mixed emotions as we do. It is better to visit Albania in the route Greece - Albania - Montenegro.


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