Albania/Montenegro travel advice
I'm going to be doing an internship in Albania this fall and my mother is planning to come over and spend about two weeks in September traveling around the region. Tentatively, I'm planning to spend some time within Albania itself (mostly along the coast, I think) and then head up into Montenegro and possibly up to Hvar in Croatia and Mostar in Bosnia. I was wondering if anyone had been to any of these places and had any advice to share, particularly as far as where to go, how long to stay there, hotels, what to see/do, etc. I'm especially wondering if it's worth it to go to Hvar, since it's quite a bit out of the way from the other places we'll be, but it looks beautiful and my mom and I both really love Croatia.
Any other general advice about life in Albania is welcome, too.
- Rep Power
My father's family is scattered across what was formerly Yugoslavia, and I have traveled to this area albeit about 25 years ago. I do recall that Herceg Novi was a beautiful coastal town in Montenegro. Also, Kotor was not extensively rebuilt after the 1979 earthquake when I visited, but I believe it has been largely restored now and is very worth a visit. I assume you have already been to Dubrovnik and Split? If you do get up the coast as far as Hvar and have not been there already, you may want to consider Korcula. Most of these towns can be seen in a day or two each though longer if you want to relax at the beach. Travel between may take a little longer than you think as the roads wind through the hills, are single lane, and you might get stuck behind a donkey cart. When I was there, I mainly stayed in homes of family friends, so I can't really comment on accommodations, but I recall many German and Scandinavian tourists from college students through middle age, so there should be some pretty affordable hostels through mid range lodgings in most of those places.
- Rep Power
Okay here we go!
The prettiest beaches are those stretching from Vlora to Saranda, meaning the Ionian Coast which is very similar to the Greek one, rocks, cristal clear cold water. Bear in mind that it might be a bit chill if you visit it after September.
My fave place is Syri i Kalter (Blu Eye Spring). Amazing.
The north also has great scenery but I would avoid going when it gets colder, presumably middle October. Places around Tropoja and Theth are great but you'd need a guide for these northern parts.
Cities: Tirana has basically nothing to look at architecturally speaking but it has great nightlife, lots of bars and restaurants and basically everything a capital can offer, cinemas, pools, also a park where people love to do some jogging. You might find Tirana very noisy and smogy...it actually is!
Kruja, Berat, Gjirokastra, mentioned in order of distance from Tirana, are all UNESCO heritage towns and very characteristic of medieval or Ottoman architecture.
Trasportation: In Tirana you can move either by bus(which I don't recommend because they have no A/C, are very crowded and you might risk getting stuck into because traffic is very heavy) or by walking. Therefore pick you accommodation near your work, possibly central area. Central Area is to be considered The Block district, which is where all the nightlife and bars are concentrated. Tirana is a safe city, whatever that means. Consider is still the capital and 1/3 of the population is here.
I do not recommend driving a car in Albania. Won't go into details, but it's something only Albanians can do. . To move to other cities people use buses, cheap, usually safe just be sure to pick those with A/C
People: Usually very friendly to foreigners, English-friendly, so basically friendly people. We don't not have particular dress codes and you might notice a great part of the ladies dress pretty provocatively at whatever hour of the day or night.
The weather is typically Mediterranean.
Ask me any question you want
- Rep Power
Regarding Montenegro: Podgorica is meh. Budva and Kotorr are very nice, and the Montenegrin people are very and kind EYS
Dubrovnik is pretty as well, kinda like Budva but bigger. I thing you can make it up to Dubrovnik with no problem at all. I think it takes max 2 hours to get to the ALB/MN border from Tirana, 40 min just to get out of Tirana really
Mila, thank you so much for all of the advice! We're planning to go to Budva and Kotor, which seem to be the two best places in Montenegro to visit, based on what I've read. My mom and I have both been to Dubrovnik and Split before, so I think we'll skip those and maybe head for some of the Croatian islands instead.
How difficult it is to get from Tirana to the beaches in Vlora or farther south? And is Durres worth visiting?
Thanks also for the advice about life in Tirana, you basically confirmed what the guy at my internship told me. He said that it's very safe, cheap, and that Albanians love Americans. My work is going to be on Elbasanit so I would love to find an apartment nearby and close to the center.
- Rep Power
Forgot to mention that Sveti Stefan, the castle/island right before getting to Budva is very pretty.
I was actually born in Durres si I have very fond memories. It's nothing in particular. Basically is like Brooklyn to Manhattan (with a bit of imagination ) People get there because is the closest city with the beach and it's much more quiet compared to Tirana, to have some fish. So I think is worth going just for a day, have a walk, drink something on the roof of a tall building and enjoy the view.
Getting to Vlora is no problem at all. Tons of buses and it's something like 2.30 hours far from Tirana, depending on the traffic. Would recommend staying here It's a very nice hotel, clean, private beach and it's not to far from Vlora but still near to the Llogara Mountain which is worth going to. It's the highest point and you have a breathtaking view of the sea. You can sleep on the little wooden houses which are usually fool with tourists. Then getting down the mountain on the other side you reach Dhermi, bluest water ever but keep in mind tourism managing in this area is a bit, um, on the Spartan side. Don't expect resort service, we are very Europeans in our rudeness .
Half an hour from Dhermi you have Himare, basically Albanians speaking Greek because they receive(-ed kinda pension for declaring they're Greek minority, I guess now is a bit difficult ).
Gjiri i Llamanit, (Llamani's Gulf) is spectacular, used to be a military base for submarines and its water is pretty cold because of the streams.
You can reach Saranda from Gjirokastra or doing the coastal road, from Vlora. You have to check how the part from Himara to Saranda is when you decide to do the trip because I know there have been some road construction so don't know how the condition of the road is. Saranda is ok, tipically overloaded with ugly constuctions but the beaches outside Saranda are to die for. Ksamil Island is beautiful also a beach called Pasqyrat (Mirrors) is great. Then if you reach Saranda, Corfu' is just 30 min away.
Here you can have a look at pics of Albania, just to get your mind wondering
On the east part, the Ohrid Lake is very nice and it's very dunnable from Tirana, 3 hours away from it. You can visit Ohrid city and St. Naun orthodox church which was given as present from Albanians to Macedonians because that's where Cyrill, the guy who wrote the Cyrillic alphabet stayed.
Again, depending when you come, the Northern areas, Theth, Valbona Canyon are breathtaking you just have to do organized trips, like 2 nights and you'll be fine.
Re Tirana: Elbasani street is more than fine, is central and it's near the US Embassy and also near the park I was mentioning you before.
Don't think you'll have a problem getting an accommodation around there because there are a lot of new constructions which are either giving space for offices or renting usually to foreigners because they pay in $ or Euros and are usually more careful on treating the apartment.
Last edited by mila19; 06-10-2010 at 08:23 PM.