Albania

Impressions from visiting Albania

(Last Updated On: 04/12/2018)

Albania is the country I knew next to nothing about prior to my visit there (ok, maybe my knowledge of Moldova is even worse). But after hearing about so many people being impressed with the place I knew I have to visit Albania as soon as possible, before the mass tourism gets there (it’s a matter of time, trust me).

And so when the opportunity appeared and I was about to plan my autumn Balkans trip I knew I have to include Albania in the itinerary, even if just for two days. And it was the best decision ever!

From the very first moment I opened my eyes in the bus somewhere in the middle of Albania I knew I’m going to enjoy it. It looked messy, chaotic and so beautiful! Unfortunately I haven’t seen all that much, didn’t really have the chance to get to know the country properly but sometimes what you see and think at first is the most important. So here are my first impressions from visiting Albania!


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Incredibly nice people in Albania

I’ve visited some countries where locals were extremely hospitable, helpful and well, just good and nice. But now Albania joined the club and ranks pretty high in my personal list of the countries with best people.

For all the time everyone around tried to do their best to help us, make us feel as good as possible in their country. In (almost) all the cases there was a language barrier but it didn’t stop people from trying to communicate with us, one way or another. During our long and adventurous bus journey from Thessaloniki, Greece to Berat, Albania fellow passengers took really good care of us and we didn’t need to worry about getting to our final destinations, even if in the meantime it turned out we need to change the bus two times.

I don’t think we’d have found our accommodation so easily if it wasn’t for people who helped us out on the streets and walked with us to our place (and then greeted us afterwards when we passed them by during our walks around the city).

When we wanted to buy some burek in a small bakery the owner so badly wanted to get to know more about us that he took inside a random teenager who was passing by and who then, in his broken English, was a translator. When it turned out we are from Poland the owner showed us all his football memorabilia, including posters of Polish players from 1970s.

The accumulation of such a random and nice stories was really high for these two days, much bigger than anywhere else! It could have been our luck but we didn’t meet anyone unfriendly when visiting Albania!

visiting Albania

visiting Albania

Breathtaking views when visiting Albania

Again, I’ve seen only a very small part of the country (and for pretty much of the travel time I was just napping – I hate you motion sickness) but the landscape I could admire when visiting Albania was incredible! Dramatic mountains, deep valleys and picturesque towns – that’s what I’ve seen in Albania! And I was really impressed!

I knew Albania is supposed to be beautiful but I didn’t expect this kind of gorgeous views!! Apparently what I haven’t seen is even more spectacular: twisting roads high up to the mountains, the capital city – Tirana – so weird that it is actually interesting and the turquoise clear sea.

EDIT: Fortunately I returned to the country and could see even more of beautiful Albania destinations. They didn’t disappoint!

visiting Albania

Cafes, everywhere!

It’s no surprise Balkans have exceptionally big cafe culture. But I had a feeling this went to a completely new level in Albania! I did a double take when I saw people sipping coffee in a small cafes along the road, at 5.30a.m., on Sunday morning! And no, it wasn’t a dream!

Cafes were literally everywhere! On the main pedestrian street in Berat, Bulevardi Republika, there were at least 10 of them, next to each other. And all of them were full of people, but the majority were of course men. The coffee was strong, extra sweet and super thick but still really good! I’ve seen places with a big cafe culture but the number of small random cafes in Albania was definitely outstanding.

visiting Albania

Bunkers, everywhere!

Albania is the country of bunkers! While I haven’t seem there anywhere else (or they weren’t so visible) in Albania they are on every step – literally as on average there are 24 bunkers per square kilometer! Over 700.000 of them were built between 1972 and 1984, back in the times when Enver Hoxha ruled the country. He was kind of paranoid that his land will be invaded therefore he has decided every Albanian should be protected as best as possible.

When you think that Albania has just a little bit over 3 millions inhabitants it’s easy to do the math and see the real enormity of this issue. These days bunkers are one of the biggest tourist attractions of the country and its symbol, their miniatures are sold as souvenirs, there’re restaurants or cafes located inside them too.

Many have been destroyed anyway but still it’s easy to spot them just about everywhere: in the backyards, at the beach, high in the mountains, at the graveyards or in the middle of nowhere! When traveling around we were playing who will spot more bunkers and this never got boring!

visiting Albania

People go for a walk a lot in Albania

One of the things that always impress me in the developing countries is the number of people that spend time outside, going for a walk or sitting in the park (men almost always play chess). We don’t see much of that in Poland anymore. Once I read an article that it’s due to the poverty and the lack of any available activities and attractions and I actually think this might be true.

Albania, or at least stunning Berat, was the same. From our accommodation we had a perfect view on the main pedestrian boulevard – it was always crowded, at 8am, at noon, at 10pm… People were constantly walking up and down and it looked like the most popular pastime activity there. We also walked the boulevard few times!

visiting Albania

The most delicious vegetables

I always find the Balkans a food heaven for me! Not only there is burek easily available everywhere (and there’s no such thing as eating too many bureks!) but the vegetables are just the tastiest ever!

I could live only on cucumbers and tomatoes there and I’m the happiest person ever! It was like that in the Caucasus, it was like that in Bulgaria and it was exactly the same in Albania! They all were like I remember from my childhood, the taste that is long gone in Poland now…

visiting Albania

Albanian language is one of the weirdest in Europe

While in most countries you understand some basics of what’s happening around you there’s no way to figure it out in Albania. The language is really one of a kind, it is not related to any popular languages and it reminds you of nothing. It is just a mix of letters put together but the meaning cannot be simply guessed (and try to read these words – it’s not easy at all!).

I could have stared at it for minutes but my mind was blank. It was a little bit like being in Hungary, Finland or Estonia (but those last two I figured out a little bit after spending 5 months in the middle of nowhere in Finland). However the crazy language makes the whole adventure of visiting Albania so much funnier and travelling there is even more challenging!

visiting Albania

Unknown country that has so much to offer

Every time I heard the name “Albania” I thought of the list of 25 proofs that this country doesn’t exist. And no matter how funny they are the longer you think about them, the more you realize you really know nothing about this place.

It’s been locked for years, making it almost impossible to learn more about it but fortunately it’s slowly opening to the world. The tourism is growing, Albania is discovered by more people and I’m sure in few years’ time it will be a really big thing! So make sure visit Albania before everyone else will!

There are so many reasons to travel to Albania and I know after these 2 days there I want to discover so much more of it. It was like a trailer for me and now I’m impatiently waiting for the whole movie!

visiting Albania


PLAN YOUR TRIP TO ALBANIA

With over 15 years of independent travelling I’ve learnt which websites and services are the best when planning a trip. I always use and trust following websites:

Flights – I search for the best deals on either Momondo or SkyScanner. Both search numerous sites to find the best offers. I also really like the “everywhere” option when searching for the flights as it often gives me the inspiration, if not for this trip then for the next time.

Accommodation – I always book my accommodation thgrough Booking.com. They have really good deals (especially with their “Genius” program that you become a member of after few reservations) and in most of the cases, if you plans change, you can cancel the reservation without any extra costs. I also value them for a really good customer service that I had to use few times. Check the best deals on accommodation in Albania here.

Insurance – I never travel without the insurance as you never know what might happen on the road (I’ve learnt my lesson). I can recommend World Nomads that offer the insurance dedicated to travelers just like you and me. Check the insurance options for your trip here!

Guide books – I do like reading a guide book before and during the trip. Depending on the destination I usually buy either Lonely Planet or Bradt. For Albania I definitely recommend Bradt guide book – you can get your copy here!

Day tours in Albania – I do go for a day trips when I travel as often they are the most convenient way to see the place that save you time and money. Click here to see and book the best day tours in Albania.


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visiting Albania


love, kami 2

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53 Comments

  • Reply
    Anna @AnnaEverywhere
    25/02/2015 at 08:36

    What’s this food in the photo? Looks delicious! It reminds me a bit of burek from Sarajevo.

    • Reply
      kami
      28/02/2015 at 23:28

      ok, I cheated a little bit here and this is burek from Sarajevo ;) but the one they had in Albania looked and tasted very similar :)

  • Reply
    Agnieszka Poznanska
    25/02/2015 at 08:10

    Starsi ludzie na ulicach powodują u mnie jakiś taki wesoły spokojnie ducha. W centrum Londynu ich nie zobaczysz…

  • Reply
    Iwona Łazarewicz
    25/02/2015 at 09:18

    świetny opis i great command of English! strona naprawdę godna polecenia :)

  • Reply
    Izabela No-To
    25/02/2015 at 10:28

    Pozdrawiam ze Shkodry! :)

    • Reply
      Gaz
      21/08/2016 at 15:50

      Great city

  • Reply
    Maria Purt
    25/02/2015 at 13:18

    I’ve been waiting for this one… thank you!

  • Reply
    Yomadic
    25/02/2015 at 14:02

    Nicely done, Kami. I can’t wait to go back to Albania!

  • Reply
    Kinga Bielejec
    25/02/2015 at 15:19

    Byłam tylko w Tiranie, trzeba będzie się wybrać do Albanii ponownie!

  • Reply
    Albania Holidays
    25/02/2015 at 15:24

    Thank you Kami. We loved your article about Albania, and we shared it in our blog..

  • Reply
    Jenia from HTL
    25/02/2015 at 16:27

    We’ve been to Albania this past summer and absolutely LOVED it! This country is a hidden gem, but I don’t think it will stay that way for long!

    • Reply
      kami
      28/02/2015 at 23:30

      I’m also afraid it will be discovered soon! On one hand it really deserves it but on the other I kind of like it being so off the path :) I’m really not surprised you enjoyed it that much! :)

  • Reply
    Maciek
    25/02/2015 at 17:27

    I had no idea about Albanian language being so weird, I always thought Hungarian is the weirdest one. And, to be objective, Polish for foreigners of course :)

    • Reply
      kami
      28/02/2015 at 23:30

      I also thought that Hungarian (and Finnish for that matter) is the worst but then I’ve seen Albanian ;) I bet Polish is a nightmare for foreigners too ;)

  • Reply
    Sam
    25/02/2015 at 18:35

    I’d love to go to Albania one day! It’s such a mysterious country somehow, but still in Europe – there aren’t many like that left nowadays! Zab and I like cafes, but 5.30am on a Sunday morning is a bit extreme for us. Otherwise, it sounds perfect!

    • Reply
      kami
      28/02/2015 at 23:32

      I was really surprised by this 5am coffee too! It’s way, waaaaay too early! Albania is a little bit challenging to travel around but that’s what makes it so great! I think you’d like it there!

  • Reply
    Pożeracze Przygód
    25/02/2015 at 19:35

    Ładnie napisane :) Ale jeśli chodzi o komunikację to myślimy, że na tle całych Bałkanów w Albanii jest stosunkowo łatwo się dogadać po angielsu. Chyba, że tylko tak trafialiśmy :D

  • Reply
    Mateusz Konrad
    26/02/2015 at 00:48

    Jeszcze mnie tam nie było, może w końcu pora? :)

  • Reply
    Adri T
    26/02/2015 at 10:24

    Oh my God, this is SO COOL!
    If all goes well, in May I will be going on a mini round trip in the Balkans, covering Montenegro, Albania, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Serbia and Bosnia, and Berat is one of our stops! If you like off the path destinations you should come to Romania, I’d be happy to show you some of the most hidden, but awesomely beautiful places in Transylvania! :)
    Love the blog by the way, and the photos are very good!
    Happy Travels!
    Cheers,
    Adri

    • Reply
      kami
      02/03/2015 at 18:58

      Thank you for your lovely comment! Your trip sounds pretty awesome! I bet you will have a blast and I will make sure to follow! :)
      And thank you for your invitation! I was already in Transylvania but I’m thinking of going back so who knows, maybe we will meet :)
      Cheers!

  • Reply
    Hannah
    26/02/2015 at 12:08

    I’ve heard more about Albania this year than ever before…It looks and sounds really interesting so I’ll have to check it out for myself soon :) thanks for sharing!

    • Reply
      kami
      02/03/2015 at 19:05

      I’ve notticed that too and it is definitely getting more and more popular! It will be a big thing soon, I’m sure of that! So better hurry up Hannah :)

  • Reply
    Meg Jerrard
    26/02/2015 at 17:29

    I don’t really know much about Albania so I’m surprised to hear that there are bunkers everywhere – though this is what we love traveling for; abandoned places to explore, so you’ve just put Albania very much on our radar. Thanks!

    • Reply
      kami
      05/03/2015 at 23:19

      You definitely should go there before everyone else will! And before all the bunkers will be removed! It was so weird to see them all over the place!

  • Reply
    Sarah
    26/02/2015 at 22:50

    I visited Albania a few months ago and fell head over heels with the country. It’s true, it a place nobody seems to know about and kind of fear, but wow wow wow, amazing! I agree about the vegetables thing… Though I didn’t realise it till now that you mention it!

    • Reply
      kami
      05/03/2015 at 23:20

      haha, I could eat those vegetables all day long, seriously! They were just the best!! Where in Albania have you been?

  • Reply
    Hanna
    27/02/2015 at 10:23

    I’d better visit Albania sooner than later, as I know later it might be too crowded for me! It looks very nice in your (and Andrea’s) pictures and I’m really surprised about the cafes’ culture there! I really hope to visit it within next two years! Btw. if Albanian is a crazy unlearnable language :D what language is the most useful to communicate there? Russian?

    • Reply
      kami
      06/03/2015 at 22:04

      You better go there asap! I think it might be a great destination for you and your tours! As for the language: Albanian is your best option and sometimes, if you’re lucky Italian as there’s a huge Albanian community in Italy. Their language is one of the craziest I’ve ever seen, there’s no way to figure out what’s happening around ;)

    • Reply
      Geyik Piri
      21/09/2016 at 17:54

      If hopeless with Albanian language, try Italian. Albanian lands being once a part of Roman Empire, two languages share SOME amount of vocabulary. Before WWII, there has been a period when the country was under Italian rule, and during the isolation period many people secretly watched the aerial broadcasts of Italian TV channels and some of them simply learned Italian by listening, nowadays there are many Albanians living in Italy and visiting their hometowns during holidays. If you will try to communicate using another language, try Italian first.

  • Reply
    Sammi Wanderlustin'
    27/02/2015 at 12:56

    Yeah I really want to visit Albania, I’m really into the idea of going anywhere like that, I like places less popular because I always feel less disappointed by them.

    • Reply
      kami
      06/03/2015 at 22:05

      Actually these less popular places are often so much more interesting! :) fingers crossed you will have a chance to visit Albania sooner than later! :)

  • Reply
    Nina Travels
    27/02/2015 at 13:31

    We traveled overland to Albania 2 years ago and loved it! It is trully an amazing country. Love the fact it’s not so often on travel maps as it makes it much more unique! Hope to go there soon again.

    • Reply
      kami
      06/03/2015 at 22:06

      I really hope to go back there soon as well! I think Albania is getting more and more popular but it’s still a long way till it gets on everyone’s radar!

  • Reply
    Beth
    27/02/2015 at 16:14

    I feel like Albania is so underrated when it comes to tourism. I have a feeling that’ll be changing soon though ;)

    • Reply
      kami
      06/03/2015 at 22:07

      It’s crazy underrated but I’m sure it will be a big thing very soon! It’s already getting more and more popular every year!

  • Reply
    Jenna
    27/02/2015 at 19:26

    Ok, you just moved Albania way up on my list of places that I want to visit–it looks wonderful! I always love hearing about nice locals, and the views and cafés look incredible!

    • Reply
      kami
      06/03/2015 at 22:10

      ha, that’s good to hear (or read ;)) I really hope you will be able to travel there soon, this country is pretty amazing (even if somewhat challenging). But friendly locals, incredible views and all these cafes make up for that! :)

  • Reply
    Raphael Alexander Zoren
    28/02/2015 at 18:25

    Great article, I’m going to the Albanian Alps in a few weeks, cannot wait!!! :D

    • Reply
      kami
      06/03/2015 at 22:12

      Thank you! I bet you will love it there!

  • Reply
    Ewa
    01/03/2015 at 00:28

    The most off the path country I’ve been to was South Sudan. I notices it had a potential (like breathtaking mountains for example) but now when the situation is unstable I don’t think I would recommend to go there…

    • Reply
      kami
      06/03/2015 at 22:12

      you’re so hipster for being there! Actually South Sudan sounds really fascinating and interesting to me, too bad it’s kind of no-go zone now…

  • Reply
    Tresvodka_Chile
    01/03/2015 at 04:31

    Dzięki za miły spacer po kraju, o którym wiem niewiele. Co do języka to podobne uwagi mają moi studenci polskiego, kiedy słyszą polskie słowa, które ciężko im do czegoś porównać czy odnieść. Czarna magia, ale dzielnie dają radę :)

    • Reply
      kami
      06/03/2015 at 22:15

      o tak, wyobrażam sobie jaką męczarnią dla obcokrajowców musi być polski! Ale mając jakie takie o nim pojęcie już można dalej walczyć z innymi językami słowiańskimi, a ten albański to taki jedyny w swoim rodzaju :) dziwny i nieznany jak i cały kraj ;)

  • Reply
    antonette - we12travel
    01/03/2015 at 09:59

    Like you, I don’t know anything about Albania. It looks pretty nice from your pictures though so wouldn’t mind paying a visit in the future…

    • Reply
      kami
      06/03/2015 at 22:17

      I think you’d really enjoy it – they have some incredible mountains there so I bet hiking there is pretty amazing!

  • Reply
    John
    01/03/2015 at 17:41

    Beautiful photos once again! I really could spend all day reading your blog, I love it!

    • Reply
      kami
      06/03/2015 at 22:17

      Thank you!

  • Reply
    Tiana
    03/03/2015 at 17:42

    haha I love your walking comment. Europeans tired me out!

    • Reply
      kami
      06/03/2015 at 22:19

      but walking is fun! :)

  • Reply
    Shing
    06/03/2015 at 06:39

    Your photos present a great impression of local life, but I guess that’s partly due to it being less unhibitited by toursits, huh? You’re right, the time to see the country is now. I was really susprised to hear about the bunkers, to see them must evoke many feelings from interest to sorrow.

    • Reply
      kami
      06/03/2015 at 22:37

      you’re so right about bunkers! they’ve been bothering me for a long time and even now I keep thinking how weird it must have been to live feeling a constant danger. I was in Albania in November so I think this might be the reason too why it was so empty. But I’m sure soon the place will be bustling with tourists!

  • Reply
    ROSA ALFANO
    21/03/2015 at 19:04

    Kami ,it was a pleasure for me to read your comments and would like to receive all the time yur different trips and your wonderful pictures, thank you

    • Reply
      kami
      06/04/2015 at 20:56

      Thank you for your lovely comment Rosa!

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