Your backpacking trip starts in the capital Tirana. As Albania is becoming more and more popular as a travel destination, flights to and from there are becoming much more common.
In Tirana you can expect a perfect mixture of old and new. A special highlight of the city center is Skanderberg Square. On warm summer days, the locals meet here in the shade of the trees to spend the afternoon relaxing. Just around the corner you will also find the parliament buildings of the country and the Et'hem Bey Mosque in Ottoman style.
The local mountain Datji is enthroned high above the city with an altitude of 1,600 meters. The best thing is you don't even have to hike up, because since 2005 there is a cable car that will take you right to the top. From there you can even see the Mediterranean Sea. If you are more of the sporty type, you can of course also climb the mountain on foot.
As the largest city, Tirana is also the hotspot for restaurants and nightlife. As a student city, Tirana never sleeps and you can experience something different every day of the week. In the Blloku district you will find a number of relaxed bars, pubs and cool clubs.
You can get a comfortable bed in the center at Trip n' Hostel, where you will spend the night in the six -bed dorm for €10.
After getting a rental car, you can head east into the mainland of the country. The city of Pogradec is located on the southern shore of Lake Ohrid and has always been a tourist attraction.
The city center is always full of life: in summer you can get lemonade at the stalls of the marketplace, whereas in winter the typical Albanian mountain tea is offered. The lake invites you to cool down or to take a little boat trip, while the surrounding mountains inspire hikers and all those who seek shade and peace. If you walk for 30 minutes towards the outskirts of the city, you will find the Drilon springs leading into the Ohrid lake. The small river inlet is the perfect place for a picnic in the countryside. At 200 meters above sea level, the ruins of Pogradec Castle look down on the city. The view over the whole lake is definitely worth the climb.
In December, Pogradec is the place-to-be for all wine lovers. The traditional wine festival lasts three days and offers not just good wine, but also plenty of food, dance, and music performances.
In the Chill Out Hostel right in the old town you will be able to relax, and maybe even find a new travel companion. A night in a four-bed dorm will cost €12.
Korce is only about a one-hour drive from Pogradec. This southern city is considered the center of Albanian culture and the birthplace of Albanian literature.
Even people who usually don’t show much interest in old buildings will love about Korce; after all, it’s not often known as the "Paris of Albania" for nothing! The old town begins directly behind the orthodox cathedral. It is the largest in the country and was last renovated in 1992. The city center consists of charming villas in French style, mixed with the typical Albanian houses, which mostly only have one floor. Don't forget to charge your camera, because you will find a great photo opportunity on every street corner here.
The Sky Kafe is the go-to recommendation for a restaurant here. As the name suggests, it goes up to lofty heights, giving you an incredible view of the city and the mountains behind it. If you prefer to stay on the ground, try the allegedly best beer of the country, which is produced in Korce, in one of the bars in the old town.
You can get a comfortable bed in the Stacioni Hostel for only €10 a night in the four-bed dorm.
Our journey continues with a quick stop by the sea. To get to the famous coastal town of Saranda, you have to plan for a car journey of about 5 hours. You should drive carefully, because the fastest route will take you across the border to Greece, which is not allowed with a rental car.
Saranda, on the southern Riviera of Albania, is one of the most beautiful seaside resorts in the country. However, it is unfortunately not a very well-kept secret, as in the summer months a lot of tourists come here to enjoy the climate and atmosphere.
Shortly before or after the main tourist season the city is a dream for every backpacker. There are countless affordable restaurants along the promenade and in the old town. So, you can sizzle in the sun during the day and end the evening with freshly caught fish and a cool beer.
The Hostel Hasta La Vista is located in the district Kodrra away from the big hotel complexes. You can sleep in the six-bed dorm for €11 per night.
Llogara National Park
Another highlight is waiting for you 2 hours north of Saranda. The road runs along the coast, so take your time, enjoy the view and stop to take pictures if you’d like.
The destination is the Llogara National Park. It extends over 1000 hectares from the coast to the Ceraunian Mountains. Thanks to its creation in 1966, rare plant species, especially pine, can now sprout and flourish here. The park was only slowly opened up for tourism. It should remain a resting place for flora and fauna. There are several hiking trails of different lengths through the park and there is something for every fitness level and age group. The view from the Llogara Pass is particularly impressive. All the efforts to preserve this location are definitely worth it, as on clear days you can see from the pass as far as Corfu, which is 80 kilometers away.
Another popular hiking route leads to the beach Gjipe. Here you can swim undisturbed and wash off the sweat of the hike. So be sure to pack a swimsuit!
Hostels in and around the National Park are unfortunately in short supply. But the hotels are just as nice and cheap. In Maxola's Dream Orikum you get a double room for €15.
Last but not least, you will head to the town of Berat back in the mainland of the country. There are several different roads leading to the destination, some more adventurous than others.
Berat, also called the White City, is simply incredible. The many small white houses traditionally always have a lot of windows, so another nickname is "The city of a thousand windows". In 2008, the whole city was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site; after all, its foundations have been standing for more than 2000 years. Berat enchants with its simplicity and with the uniqueness of its construction. Nestled between the river Ishull and the mountain on which the ruins of Berat Castle stand, you will simply be enchanted by the rustic and simple nature of this city.
In the Mangalem Hostel you can even sleep in one of the traditional houses with thousands of windows. In a six-bed dorm it costs only €10 per night.
From Berat you need about two hours back to the capital Tirana. This means that you can easily leave on the day of your departure. Depending on where you have picked up your rental car, you will either be already at the airport or can take a taxi there.