Despite being surrounded by the well-trodden Balkan countries, Albania is missed off the majority of the backpacking itineraries of this region for some reason. I can only presume that this is because people have watched too many Liam Neeson films.
Whilst it is still one of the final frontiers of Europe, the landscape is beautiful, getting around is easy, and the people are friendly and welcoming. With a rapidly expanding tourism sector and a potential EU membership on the horizon, Albania is now very much open for business.
As I don’t know anyone who’s been to Albania, I really didn’t know what to expect from our visit here. However, as there was a direct bus from Ulcinj in Montenegro down to Shkoder, it seemed as good a place as any to start and get a feel for the country.
Shkoder is used by a lot of people as a base before going on organised hikes up to Theth or Valbona National Park in the Albanian Alps. However, as a town itself there was plenty for us to see and do during our stay. Here is our top five:
Kotor and Dubrovnik are both old walled cities on the Adriatic which are very easy on the eye. Consequently, during the summer months they are now both rammed full of irritating millennial’s who spend most of their trip taking ridiculous selfies for instagram, accompanied with even more ridiculous hashtags (#blessed, #wanderlust, etc etc).
When comparing our pictures from our trip to Kotor last week and our Dubrovnik visit in 2016, you’ll mainly notice that my wardrobe and quality of facial hair has not improved at all in two years. However, you will also probably deduce that you only need to stay in one or t’other.
Mostar drops nicely into an Balkan itinerary; most people arrive from Sarajevo on the train which is direct, fast, and gives great views towards the end of the journey.
One night here is plenty to get a feel for the city and take in the famous Stari Most before getting back on the road and heading further south to either Dubrovnik or Kotor.