The Balkan Peninsula lies off the Southern coast of Europe. Bordering this peninsula are the stunning seas of the Adriatic, Ionian, Aegean and the Black Sea. One of the 12 countries of the Balkan states is Albania. Our 50 Days of Balkans Road Trip has led us to this country on our 16th Day.
7th Country in our 50 Days 15 Countries Balkans Road Trip
Albania is the 7th country we have visited and Day 16 had turned out to be quite interesting. The Republic of Albania, or Albania, faces the Adriatic Sea of the western section of the Balkan peninsula. The tumultuous war and historical background of Albania
A Little Albanian History
Before we get into the fun adventure activities that Albania has in store for you, let’s talk politics. During WWII, Russian leader, Joseph Stalin, “helped” Albania liberate from the war but was dragged into the communist party. Until the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, Albania had remained a communist country. Today, Albania is proudly a member of the unitary parliamentary constitutional republic which is run by a Prime Minister and a President.
This historic country has been around since 2000 BCE and has seen many wars during its years. During the late 1960’s, the communist party in Albania closed all places of worship to ensure the world knew that Albania had been turned into an atheistic country. The fall of the communism era turned things around and today, most of Albanians consider themselves Muslims.
Where is Albania in Europe?
The location of Albania has been a gift and a curse for many years. Aside from communist parties, Albania had been sought after for division by the Ottoman Turks, Slavs, Huns and Buglars until 1912, when it became an independent country. Albania borders the Adriatic and Ionian Seas, which has made access and conquests by enemies very easy. Albania can easily be accessed by plane, train, ferry/boat and car. Four countries that border Albania are Greece, Serbia, Montenegro and Macedonia. In my opinion, the best way to view all the places you want is by renting a car. Getting to and from places should happen your way and on your time.
Honestly, I think the best way to visit the capital city of Tirane is by going on a tour. This guide will help navigate your way around the capital during your brief stay.
Morning: Do a free walking tour in Tirana
I would definitely recommend starting your day with a free walking tour. Your eyes don’t deceive you, there is a free walking tour in Tirana that is made up of volunteers. This tour lasts roughly 2 hours and it begins at the beautiful Opera House. This free tour includes visits to the Clock Tower, Mother Teresa Square, National Art Gallery, Piramida and Et’hem Bey Mosque, just to name a few. Since the walking tour last a couple of hours, use the rest of the morning to explore the city-unguided! You must visit the BunkArt. This area was built by the former dictator Enver Hoxha and was transformed into an underground artists’ gallery.
Lunch: Check out an Authentic Albanian barbeque
Between walking tours and museum visits, don’t forget about lunch and dinner. An authentic Albanian barbeque should come from Tek Zgara Tirones. This place has amazing prices, delicious meals and good service.
Afternoon/Evening – Visit Skanderbeg Square
To continue your own tour through the city, you must visit the Skanderbeg Square, It is a historical place where a statue of communist, Stalin, once stood. The green grass and stunning flowers only add to the stunning view of this Albanian square. After viewing all the architectural beauty of Albania, take the time to visit the Botanical Gardens. It is 15 hectares of beautiful flora and over 2,000 plant species.
Late Dinner: Enjoy Exquisite Albanian Dishes at Wilson Square
Less than a mile from the Botanical Gardens is a charming and inexpensive place to eat. The Rooms Restaurant in Wilson Square offers pizza, beef filets, salad and gluten-free meals as well as vegetarian/vegan options. After dinner I would suggest getting some rest for a busy day tomorrow.
Albania Day 2
The second day of your fun Albanian adventure should include a physical activity.
Morning: Go for a hike in Dajti Mountains
Why not start your morning by going on an a hike? There is a 5.8-mile hiking trail along Dajti Mountain Trail. This hike usually lasts 2-3 hours to complete. If you are unfamiliar with this hiking trail, like most people, then a guided tour is best. This day-trip usually begins around 9am with a meet and greet followed by a cable car ride to the starting line. Pick-up locations are available to and from Tirana as well as an English-speaking guide, snack and water.
Lunch: Have a picnic in the Dajti Mountain National Park
The end of your hiking adventure will most likely take you right up to lunchtime. There is no need to move around to eat there is a picnic area at the Dajti Mountain National Park.
Early Afternoon: Go for a swim at Spille Beach
If you are visiting during the warmer months, I recommend taking in the afternoon sun at Spille Beach in Tirana. This beach is open to everyone and there are restaurants, cafes and resorts to occupy the rest of your day. It is the perfect place to cool off from your morning hike.
Dinner: Dine by the Sea at Kavaje
If you would rather not stray too far, La Mer in Kavaje is a delightful restaurant less than 1.5 miles from Spille Beach. This restaurant has tasty fresh seafood and outdoor seating.
Late Night: Indulge in cocktails at The Padam
End your trip to Albania with a bang by giving cheers at The Padam Boutique Hotel & Restaurant in Tirana. This is a great bar that guarantees delicious cocktails and drinks. Give a European-style salute good-bye to your fantastic trip.
Is it Safe in Albania?
The most recent war in Albania is in 1997, which caused uproar and heartaches for many Albanians. Aside from this brief period, Albania has been a relatively safe country. Like most countries, you cannot completely stop crime or random acts of violence, but they can be controlled. In my opinion, travelling with someone or a group is safe. You can watch each other’s backs if you get paranoid, but nothing to be alarmed about. Solo travelling may not be the right fit for everyone, but it can be done in Albania. The main streets of Tirana are always filled with people (at all hours) that it won’t make you feel like a solo traveller. Albanians are known to be friendly people and love to help out tourists, regardless if you are a solo traveller or not.
What Cities Nearby Albania?
If you have made your way through Albania, you might be wondering, what’s next?
Dubrovnik in Croatia
Beaches in Albanian Riviera
The Albanian Riviera is a great place for tourists to view
Explore Lecce and Apulia in Italy
The picturesque town of Lecce, Apulia, Italy is only a short plane or ferry ride away from Albania. This seaport city is great for fishing excursions.