Backpacking Albania

Hello to all seasoned and aspiring backpackers!



Let's face it – most people wouldn't be able to find Albania on a map right away. That's nothing to be embarrassed about, but it's a real shame given the hidden treasures that lie within this country.

For a long time, Albania had a pretty bad reputation due to its proximity to the successor states of the collapsed Yugoslavia, and was never really considered a tourist destination (even though it’s located right next to the popular holiday destination Greece).

Bordered by Montenegro to the north, Albania has more than 350 kilometers of coastline where the Adriatic and Ionian Seas meet.



However, Albania is much more than just sandy beaches; the country has so much to offer, for example its incredibly beautiful hiking trails in the north. The hiking trail from Theth to Valbona is particularly famous, as it leads through many small mountain villages along the highlands of Albania.

The largest cities in the country are Tirana, Vlores and Durres, all of which are heavily influenced by communist architecture. There are many extravagant looking avenues leading to a square which displays a statue of a former ruler. Although there is still a need for restoration in many places, the towns are being redesigned and modernized with great attention to detail.

The south of the country is also known as Albania's Riviera, and rightly so! Close to the border, Albania's landscape cannot be distinguished from Greece. Gentle hills bend down to the sea, which shines in every shade of blue you can imagine. The vegetation in the South is not as rich, as it is pleasant to very hot all year round. Minus temperatures are a rarity in the south, even in winter.



Getting around by public transport is not so easy, as the connections to smaller places are irregular and unreliable. Therefore, we recommend taking a rental car in Tirana, as it is simply the cheaper and more practical option. This way you are independent and can explore the country at your own pace without having to worry about bus and train schedules. Accommodation and meals are also more than affordable. But before you travel, remember that the currency in Albania is not Euro, but Albanian Lek. A bed in a dorm usually costs less than €15.



The traditional cuisine is a blend of Mediterranean and Balkan influences. There are the classic dishes you will probably know from Eastern Europe, such as byrek (stuffed cake made of filo pastry) and baklava (the sticky dessert from Turkey). The cuisine is often very meat-heavy, because zgara (grilled meat of all kinds) or qofte (meatballs, similar to cevapcici from Croatia) contribute to a balanced meal. In the coastal regions, however, fish is much more prevalent.



See below for the perfect Albania itinerary for an unforgettable journey:


Important Basics

Official Language

Albanian

Basic Vocabulary
EnglishAlbanian
YesPo
NoJo
ThanksFaleminderit
HelloPërshëndetje
ByeTung
Capital City

Tirana

Form of Government

Parliamentary Republic

Phone Country Code

+355

Currency

Lek

Climate

Highest temperature by day: 10 to 32 degrees Celsius

Highest temperature at night:1 to 18 degrees Celsius

Summer is from June to September, and winter is from December to February

Fun Fact

Albania has the highest density of Mercedes in the world.

Cities

Tirana

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.

Pogradec

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

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.

Saranda

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.

Berat

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.


Tirana

Tirana

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.

Pogradec

Pogradec

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

Korce

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.

Saranda

Saranda

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

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.

Berat

Berat

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.

Albania Route Map

Itinerary and Stops.

Tag
Route/Station
Transport
Unterkunft
1. Home - Tirana
Home - Tirana
Flight
50
Six-bed dorm
10
2. Tirana
Tirana
-
Six-bed dorm
10
3. Tirana- Pogradec
Tirana- Pogradec
rental car
Four-bed dorm
12
4. Pogradec
Pogradec
-
Four-bed dorm
12
5. Pogradec
Pogradec
-
Four-bed dorm
12
6. Pogradec- Korce
Pogradec- Korce
rental car
Four-bed dorm
10
7. Korce
Korce
-
Four-bed dorm
10
8. Korce- Saranda
Korce- Saranda
rental car
Six-bed dorm
11
9. Saranda
Saranda
-
Six-bed dorm
11
10. Saranda
Saranda
-
Six-bed dorm
11
11. Saranda- Llogara NP
Saranda- Llogara NP
rental car
double room
15
12. LLogara NP
LLogara NP
-
double room
15
13. LLogara NP- Berat
LLogara NP- Berat
rental car
Six-bed dorm
10
14. Berat- Tirana- Home
Berat- Tirana- Home
rental car+Flight
50

Total price.

Flights 100,00
Transportation 200,00
Tours 0,00
Accommodation 149,00
Total449,00

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Dos and Donts, Food & Drinks, Costs.

Breakfast

Baklava: often the Albanians eat a sweet breakfast. Baklava is a puff pastry that is often topped with a chocolate sauce or syrup.

 Classic:  nevertheless, especially in the countryside, people often have a classic breakfast with toast and jam. That simply always works!

Soups

Pasul: the bean soup is often mixed with meat and hot spices, and often a chili is added.

Main Courses

Dollma: these are stuffed vine leaves. Usually the filling consists of rice and meat and often also sheep’s cheese. You can choose something to suit your taste here.

Pilaw: the rice dish originally comes from the Orient and has also established itself in Albania. Together with meat or vegetables, the rice pan tastes simply delicious.  

Potato pan: Potatoes are a staple food in Albania and the classic potato pan is therefore very popular.

Stuffed aubergines: this is a classic, especially for family celebrations. Usually the aubergines are filled with eggs and cheese, with which they are well seasoned.

Mish Jahni: this is mutton prepared with herbs and garlic. It is usually served with vegetables.

Carp with Jahni: Fish is also very popular in Albania and you can try many dishes in the coastal towns. Very popular is the carp with a traditional creamy sauce.

Drinks & Snacks

Muhaleb: the milk pudding is a popular dessert

Raki Rrushi: the brandy is produced in the rural regions of Albania and is a daily pleasure after dinner.

Albania

The exchange rate for 100 Albanian lek is around 0.81 euros (as of March 2020). You can see the prices for certain products as well as the cost of living below.

Cost of Living

Food

Free Time

Personal Hygiene

Dos

First ask the price, then buy: in Albania it is important that in markets and small shops you first check the price with the seller and then buy. Otherwise it can come fast to a rip-off.

Accept invitations: Albanians like to invite their guests for a coffee or something similar. Don't refuse and don't insist on paying yourself, but simply accept with thanks.

Shake hands: in Albania, shaking hands is a form of respect.

Kisses on the cheek: even men often greet each other this way and it is a general greeting among friends and acquaintances.

Don'ts

Don't be reserved: Albanians are very sociable and often someone will ask you how you are or where you come from. Be open here and respond to the conversations, the locals will be happy.

Refuse gifts: if you receive a gift from an Albanian, you should accept it, because refusing can be considered insulting or disrespectful to the person.

Punctuality: in Albania the clocks go a little bit differently, so you should always allow for some waiting time.

Visa, Visa, Passport & Vaccinations

Passport

Yes

Temporary passport

Yes

National ID

Yes, for stays of 90 days or less

Temporary national ID

No

Child’s pass

Yes

Visa

(Not necessary)

Vaccine

Robert Koch Instituts

Additional Remarks.

Travel documents must be valid for at least three months at the time of entry into the country. We recommend researching the current entry requirements in regard to coronavirus, perhaps via the Foreign Office.

The team at Backpacker Trail wishes you lots of fun and an unforgettable trip!

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