- Posted: 11 August, 2021
- Category: Europe
As most of you know (or not), I visited Albania in 2021 (Covid times.). So to enter Albania, there were some rules. I was flying from Montenegro to Albania, couldn’t find any direct flights to had to fly via Serbia. I’m actually wondering why weren’t there any direct flights, its so close to Montenegro.
Upon arrival, I headed to car rentals at the airport and rented a car for the duration of my stay; my stay in Albania was for 7 days. If I want to describe Albania and the south part I’ve visited, it reminded me alot of Greece, except its cheaper and less commercial/less luxurious. (heads up, many of them told us they take only cash which was a bit alarming.. I insisted on paying with card till I found a rental company from those at the airport that took card payment).
I was in between going to the North where it’s filled with nature and beautiful scenery. I’ve read so many articles about the North part and was really tempted as all the ‘instagramable’ locations I’ve seen during my research were on the northern part. However, I ended up choosing the beach and coastal areas since its summer. South it is!
Before I dive into my recommendations I have to highlight something. During my process of trying to find a hotel, I realized that many of the pictures on hotel bookings websites are NOT the same as reality. Although I know exactly how to do my research and tell if the photo is not so accurate, I was surprised by a few hotels I stayed at (which I will not recommend in this blog post) were so off reality and so not like the pictures I saw when I booked. I feel that even though I did my homework, its still something you might encounter since I did so too.
Tirana (the capital)
In my opinion and after experiencing Tirana, a 2 night stay destination at max was more than enough especially in Summer.
My favorite part in Tirana was Skanderbeg Square, I stayed in a hotel nearby called Maritim Plaza Hotel Tirana which I do recommend. It was really nice.
Here are other things to do when in Tirana:
- Walk around the area of Skanderbeg Square and the nearby streets, many restaurants and cafes.
- Bunk’Art 2.
- The famous upside down umbrellas of Ágitagueda near Bunk’Art 2.
- The Cloud of Sou Fujimoto (Reja) – a famous 3D semi-transparent white pavilion in a grassy area in front of the National Gallery that is not only a monument to see but also an interactive space where you can sit down and read or watch the world go by, or a space for events.
- Enjoy the view of Tirana from a rooftop; There are two hotels with top floor bars that have views over the city. One of them is the Sky Tower’s rotating bar and restaurant, and the other is The Plaza Hotel.
- You can go up the cable car and enjoy the views Dajti Ekspres (make sure you also buy a return ticket) – best time to go is around sunset.
- Walk around Blloku area, the hip area of Tirana.
- I was also trying to find all the colorful buildings in Tirana, which is one of the things Tirana is known for. I looked for, The rainbow buildings in Wilson Square. Walk back from Wilson Square to Skanderbeg Square along Kruga Abdyl Frashari and spot all the colorful buildings on the street. Vasil Shanto (A school name), Zogu I Zi Square (large roundabout with lots of traffic), Murals on Blloku (hip area of Tirana).
- Checkout the Pyramid of Tirana.
- I also tried the restaurant Mullixhiu, which is famous for trying local food. The place was completely empty but the food was good.
- Tirana Castle Toptani Family was one of my favorite spots. Like a little village of restaurants, souvenir shops and some music and things happening.
- Tirana’s lake is a famous spot to visit in Tirana too. I didn’t like the lake, but its a must see spot!
Aside from the above and since I’m a big fan of speciality coffee, I passed by a cafe called Antigua Speciality Coffee which I liked and recommend.
PS. The currency in Albania is called LEK.
Possible Day Trips from Tirana:
During my road trip, I’ve passed by Berat for half a day. The drive from Tirana to Berat is around 1 hour 45 minutes by car. The three major neighborhoods of the old city are Mangalemi, Gorica, and Kala where the castle itself is located.
Berat is a city on the Osum River, in central Albania. It’s known for its white Ottoman houses. On a hilltop, Berat Castle is a huge compound now inhabited by townspeople. Within its walls are Byzantine churches, the Red Mosque and the Onufri National Museum, with Christian icons. East is the Ethnographic Museum, in an 18th-century house, displaying traditional crafts and part of a reconstructed medieval bazaar. ― Google
The road trip was along the way between Tirana and Sarande. I’ve made a couple of stops in between and decided to stay in just any hotel I found along the way (not on the spot, pre-planned as usual). The hotel I stayed at were ‘ok’ so I’m not going to recommend them, since this will be purely up to you taste. With that said, they were super clean and convenient for an over night stay.
From Berat, we continued to stay at Vlore. The trip from Tirana all the way to Vlore took a total of 3 hours 11 minutes by car. If you’re spending the night in Vlore like I didn’t, I highly recommend finding a hotel that overlooks the beach, its beautiful.
Our first stop in Vlore was Bora Bora Beach where we wanted to grab food. I loved the place, they had great pizza, rocky beach and nice vibes.
Vlore was a big reminder of Greece since its on the Ionian Sea.
Enroute out of Vlore we stopped for lunch at Dhermi beach. I loved Dhermi so much I wished I had stayed a night in this area! We had lunch at Havana Beach Club; highly recommended! The food was great.
From Dhermi we continued to Sarande. I’ve decided to stay for 3 nights in Sarande as I heard amazing things about it.
In my honest opinion and many might not agree, I found Sarande overhyped. I expected to see something alot nicer than what I saw but maybe my mistake is that I went with really high expectations. It is lovely don’t get me wrong, but not what I expected. Would I recommend you to go see it if you’ve never been? Absolutely yes.
I’ve passed by a really good looking hotel, the reception staff were so nice and they showed me a room when I asked to see one. It’s a hotel where I’d choose to stay If I were to go to Sarande again.
Hotel Name: – Demi Hotel
I stayed in a hotel called Bougainville, I didn’t like it at all. Didn’t like like the design, the service nor the layout. The location is not the best too although it is a walking distance to all of what’s happening, but not so great for me. The reception first impression services wasn’t great. It felt like I’m in an all-inclusive big resort vibe – Not my style at all.
When in Sarande, Checkout these places:
– Lost: Restaurant, lounge and a really nicely designed place overlooking the beach. I went twice, sunset time and for lunch and liked both. They had sushi, I love sushi.
– Crystal Island: Some sort of a beach club/cafe overlooking the beach. Went for coffee and decided to stay longer I liked the vibes alot.
This trip to Albania overall was a chilled one. I wasn’t looking to do any activities/adventures other than just CHILL. Enjoy the beach, take it easy and laid back and so I did.
Enjoy your trip!