Wed, 05 August 2020
BTM’s very own Farah Baig recently explored Albania on a ten-day trip during which she visited 5 different districts. Here’s what she had to say:
If you’ve been hoping for a travel experience that’s pleasantly surprising, you might want to consider paying a visit to the beautiful country of Albania. It’s one of those seldom-visited places which boasts a rich history, great hospitality and scenic landscapes. The best part is the country is yet to face the brunt of being labeled a ‘tourist destination’, hence providing you with the pleasure of being in a quiet location for self-reflection, relaxation and true happiness. I had picked Albania for three main reasons - affordability, untouched nature and its rich history.
Tirana is nestled within a few hills and has numerous cozy hotels, eateries and cafes dotted across the city. Be sure to take a stroll through the city’s Skanderbeg Square to take in the beauty of the colourful buildings. One of the most interesting historical remnants in Albania is the hundreds of bunkers scattered across the country. In Tirana you will find that one of these former Cold War bunkers (Bunk Art 2) is now an underground contemporary art & history museum. You can also discover their surveillance museum, known as the ‘House of Leaves’, which provides you with an interesting insight of the surveillance that the citizens underwent. While in the capital, don’t forget to steep yourself in one of the aspects of Albania’s culture - their ability to enjoy a hot cup of coffee just about any time of the day.
Make peace with the fact that the best way to get around in Albania is on one of their many buses. The schedule on which they run is not an exact science, but with sprawling greenery and winding roads, you’re bound to enjoy the ride regardless. On your journey to Saranda, it’s advisable that you consider taking the route past Gjirokaster to have a glimpse of Albania’s inland districts. After a 6-hour bus ride from Tirana, you’ll find yourself in the absolutely breathtaking seaside district of Saranda. The beautiful town boasts stunning views of the Ionian Sea and the Greek island of Corfu. In addition, just a short drive away, you’ll find the natural wonder known as the Blue Eye- a stunning natural spring with a bright kaleidoscope of colours. If you enjoy your fair share of hiking, you can also visit the UNESCO World Heritage site of Butrint which combines archaeology, historic monuments and nature in the Mediterranean. Last but not least, a trip to Saranda Castle is an absolute must-see if you’d like to enjoy one of the most scenic sunsets of your life. Follow this up with a walk by the promenade and dinner at one of the seaside restaurants and Saranda will be the highlight of your trip.
Word of advice: rent a car and enjoy the scenic drive from Tirana to Kruja. This trip will take you up and down hills, through busy streets and eventually to the quaint district of Kruja. After a lovely traditional lunch at a restaurant on the side of a mountain, I made my way up the hill to the castle of Kruje which offers you stunning views of the district and a refreshing glimpse into Albania’s rich history. On your way out, be sure to visit the cobble-stoned bazaar to get some traditional crafts and souvenirs.
This quaint town in the middle of the mountains is the epitome of a breath of fresh air, and is the perfect spot to get away and just recharge your batteries. You can do plenty in Korce in just two days. Some of the best things you’re bound to enjoy is a visit to the old bazaar, dining at one of its many unique restaurants, discovering the iconic Resurrection Cathedral and delving into the world of the Museum of Medieval art.
Your journey to Vlore from Saranda will take you across several kilometers of the country’s stunning shoreline which is absolutely indescribable. I stayed at the extremely unique Hotel Liro, which is built into the side of a cliff and requires you to take an elevator down into the hotel. It is the most unique property you can stay in where your room is practically a few feet away from the sea and provides you with a stunning view of point where Albania’s two seas - Adriatic and Ionian - merge. If you’re feeling especially adventurous, you can even take a short walk down a staircase and swim in the sea too. When visiting Vlore, be sure to take a stroll through their beautiful corniche and city’s bustling market