This will contain a guest post from the wonderful Bena Mero, who was my tiny little superhero in Albania; she will let us in on the best of traveling to Albania, from a local’s viewpoint.
After leaving Corfu Island drunk as can be, and taking a very sickening ferry ride, Megan and I were in Albania. I usually keep close tabs with my parents while traveling, but decided I shouldn’t update them on this stop. For some reason they’d made me swear not to go there. In Barcelona while couchsurfing, two different hosts warned us not to head to Albania. A guy on a train told us we’d be “asking to be kidnapped” as “no girl who gets on a train in Albania gets off on her own”. We were told we would absolutely be sold into a sex slavery ring.
Well, it was cheaper to get to Croatia through Albania, and when you’re on a budget that sort of becomes the main decision maker, not safety. A girl on the ferry, Bena, told us she was headed to Tirana, the capital, by bus and to go with her. She would help us get to Montenegro. We stayed with her at her dad’s house, went out to a couple bars, and then got a mini bus to head out. We switched rides from car to car throughout Albania, Montenegro, and finally Croatia. My regret wasn’t going somewhere unsafe, hitchhiking for 2 days, having nowhere to sleep, nor any correct currency to buy food and water… my regret was not having time to stay in Albania with Bena. The one night we were there showed a side of Albania that we were not told about. It seemed to be a modern, fun, and safe place to explore.
Bena, has graciously given Hippie in Heels some tips on what to see in Albania!
The Best of Albania from a local
Sightseeing & Nature
There are two don’t miss archaeological sights; one Durres is near the port, and the other, Butrint is near Ksamili in Saranda. You can see the Kruja Castle and museum of their National hero, Skenderbej: Kalaja e Krujes dhe Muzeumi i Skenerbeut. Want to see another castle? No problem. Kalaja e Rosafes (Rosafa castle) in Shkoder is amazing!
Archeological site, Durres via flickr
Butrint, the other main archeological site, via flickr
view from the Kruja Castle on flickr
Between Gjirokaster and Saranda. Syri i kalter is a beautiful fresh water spring with stunning blue and green color. How about a visit to a small village to see how locals really live? Thethi, a village in the mountains of Northern Albania. A 4×4 vehicle is required to get there, but it is beautiful. The villagers have rooms set up for visitors and make home cooked food, which they grown.. If hiking is your thing, this is a great place to visit. Another beautiful large lake, Valbona, near the border with Macedonia is a easy to get to by ferry.
Syri i kalter on flickr
Valbona Lake on flickr
Eating & Nightlife
Piceri Era, Tirana
Piceri Era (Tirana) is my favorite restaurant in Tirana. Everything is amazing. Liro’s Hotel (Vlore) has good food and lots of water sports/activities, located on the edge of a cliff and right by the water. Other great restaurants are Sofra e Ariut (Dhermi) and Beer House (Saranda). Three great bars to check out are Sky (Golem), Folie (Tirane), and Mumia (Tirane).
Sand Beaches (Adriatic Sea) worth a visit:
Velipoje, Shengjin, Golem, Vlore
White Rock Beaches (Ion Sea) you must see:
Dhermi, Jale, Himare, Ksamili — small island beaches near Saranda
Himare beach on flickr
There are three UNESCO Heritage sites
They are the cities: Berati, Gjirokastra, and Kruja (where the castle is mentioned above).
Berati on flickr
Thank you to Bena for this helpful information, I hope someone finds it beneficial on their Albania trip!
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