Discovering Albania: A Week of Cultural Riches and Natural Wonders

Destination: Albania (Kosovo and North Macedonia)
Travel Companion: Graham
Duration: 8 days

Embarking on a week-long adventure through the heart of the Balkans, Albania revealed itself as a captivating blend of history, nature, and chill vibes. From the vibrant streets of Tirana to the serene shores of Lake Ohrid, join me as I recount the highlights of a journey that unfolded like a tapestry of diverse experiences.


Before I delve in, feel free to check my trip's highlights (Albania, North Macedonia and Kosovo) on my Instagram account.

Day 1: Tirana's Spirited Start

Landing in Tirana, our first afternoon unfolded with a walking tour that navigated us through the city's history and gastronomy. I always try to get a walking tour first as it reveals things I could be interested in exploring further. This tour was not an easy one, it was 5 hours and a blend of food and history. While walking around, we also saw the iconic Pyramid of Tirana, now a youth IT center, symbolized the city's transformation post-communism and several bunkers spread around the city. It's estimated that there are around 170,000 bunkers built all over the country for fear of being invaded. Moreover, while in Tirana, you will see a lot of colorful buildings, this is mainly due to wanting to change things up from the communist look.

Tanners Bridge

Tirana is relatively a new city. It was founded in 1614 by the Ottoman Albanian general Sylejman Pasha Bargjini. It became Albania's capital in 1920. To visit its oldest part, you can visit Tanners Bridge (built near the Tanners Mosque) is an 18th century Ottoman period foot stone bridge, the road was the route by which livestock and produce entered the city.

Did you know that Albanians don't actually refer to themselves as "Albanians" as this name was given to them by the Romans. Instead, they are the Republika Shqipërisë.

Tirana's colorful buildings

Days 2 and 5: Exploring Neighbors - Kosovo and North Macedonia

Days 2 and 5 brought us to neighboring countries, Kosovo and North Macedonia. Prizren in Kosovo left us impressed with its historical charm, while the tranquility of Lake Ohrid in North Macedonia offered a refreshing escape. Historic sites like Samuel's Fortress and the Monastery of Saint Naum added cultural depth to our journey. Given we had to sit in the car for quite a while for both day trips, I would definitely recommend depioritizing Kosovo, if you are keen on adding another country to your list, then you can try to just go over the borders to Prizren without the need to make it all the way to Pristina. As for North Macedonia, it is a must to visit. Ohrid is a charming town, but the lake itself is exquisite, make sure to keep a swimsuit on you.

North Macedonia (Ohrid)

Did you know that North Macedonia used to be known as Macedonia before 2019, this change came as a result to the political tension with Greece which also has a region called Macedonia.

Kosovo (Prishtina and Prizren)

Day 3: Lake Bovilla's Steep Serenity and Grand Park of Tirana

More of a half day trip, we went on a tour that took us to Lake Bovilla, it is mainly comprised of a short but invigorating hike around Lake Bovilla unveiling breathtaking views, followed by a lunch at the main restaurant there which also had the view of the lake. Given that day was relatively short, once we were back into our hotel, we went back out for a tranquil walk that afternoon at Tirana's Grand Park. It has a lot of restaurant choices on the lakeside which is a nice option for you to also try. In general, Tirana is quite a walkable city with a main square, several parks and walks by the river.

Lake Bovilla

Grand Park of Tirana

Day 4: Bunkers, Bleak History and a Cable Car Ride

More Our exploration continues with visits to bunkers: Bunk'Art 1 and Bunk'Art 2 (not in that order). We first started with Bunk'Art 2, which is the smaller bunker turned museum and is located inside the city itself. Bunk'Art 1 is the larger multi-level bunker and situated a bit outside the city. Both will provide you with a stark glimpse into the nation's history and how extreme the regime was when it came to surveillance.

Every bunker has a necessary characteristic: to have only entrance doors but no windows. One window, in fact, repeals all the fortification significance weakening it in front of the strongest threat a bunker can face: Sunlight. -- Anonymous.

From bleak to captivating, very close to Bunk'Art 1 and only a 10 minutes walking distance, you will be able to reach the Dajti Expres (cable car) and in 20 minutes you will reach the top of the Dajti mountain offering you a beautiful panoramic view of the city, a restaurant and some family recreations, so it could be a good idea to go early and the day and spend some hours there.

The biggest living space consisting of a living room, bedroom and office built in the bunker (Bunk'Art 1) for Enver Hoxha and his wife

Day 6: Cape of Rodon's Majesty and Winery Delights

The enchanting Cape of Rodon beckoned on Day 6, revealing panoramic views and a short but invigorating hike. In general, Albania's sea side is gorgeous, and Cape of Rodon itself is quite distinguished and worth visiting. From there, we continued to Duka Winery and Vineyard, offering not only a delightful winery experience but also the option for a tranquil kayak trip on the nearby lake which is a nice end to a hot summer day!

Cape of Rodon

Wine tasting at Duka Winery & Vineyard

Day 7: Seaside Bliss - Albanian Riviera and Gjirokaster Folklore

Day 7 and our last day led us to the Albanian Riviera, where we stopped few times on the way to the south. On the way to Sarandë, we made a stop at a local beach and spent an hour there for a nice albeit cold swim in the Ionian sea. My favorite part of this is that it only cost us $5 to rent an umbrella and two lounge chairs. We also had a glimpse of Greece's Corfu which is technically swimmable from Albania as it is only around 1 mile away from Ksamil. When we reached Sarandë, we enjoyed a nice seafood and fish lunch right by the Sea. When we started the drive back, we visited Gjirokaster, a UNESCO World Heritage site, where we were also surprised to find that there was a folklore festival, a rare cultural gem that happens every four years. While in Gjirokaster, we recommend visiting the Skënduli house for a dose of culture and history, it was a special tour given that our tour guide was actually a 10th generation of this family. Our journey all in all included scenic stops in Vjosa, Borsh Beach and more.

Himare Beach

Folklore Festival

View from Gjirokaster Castle

Vjosa Scenery

Conclusion: A Harmonious Blend of Experiences

As we reflect on our week-long odyssey through Albania, the memories resonate like a symphony of diverse experiences. From the historic streets of Tirana to the tranquil shores of Lake Ohrid, from the cultural richness of Gjirokaster to the natural wonders of the Albanian Riviera, each day unfolded a new facet of this Balkan gem.


  • Consider staying in different parts of Tirana for a more immersive experience.
  • Rent a car to explore the South, Tirana, and the North efficiently.
  • For a deeper exploration, consider extending your stay to visit the Theth National Park.
Nerver miss an opportunity to have a soft-serve.

Quick notes:

  • Flights: From Dubai, it's quite easy due to the FlyDubai service to Albania.
  • Transportation: We arranged taxis from the airport to the hotel with And within the capital itself, we were taking their local taxi service. We also used specific tour companies for our day trips.
  • Restaurants / Coffee shops: Tirana felt like it has quite a chill vibe, almost coffee style pubs all around but with cocktails and drinks. It also has a strong coffee culture, but small disclaimer, I think it's more of the vibe of going out for coffee and hanging out in a coffee shop than actual coffee quality itself. Here are some of the restaurants / coffee shops we tried and enjoyed: Era (lovely place with very nice fusion food), Artigiano (italian cuisine), Komiteti Kafe Museum (we only had drinks there but the place has a nice funky decor), Tymi (where we went in our first day with the walking tour, super funky place, but quite local / balkan inspired food), and Noor Coffee and Fine Food (cute coffee shop with an interesting decor).

Komiteti Kafe Museum

Albania, with its rich tapestry of history, vibrant culture, and pristine landscapes, invites travelers to delve into the heart of the Balkans. As I bid farewell, I carry with me the echoes of centuries-old stories and the allure of undiscovered treasures, knowing that Albania's siren call will lead me back to explore further in the future.

#FromAlbaniaWithFunk -- Visit on Instagram.

This post has been mainly generated by ChatGPT 3.5 based on my own specific experience in Albania, I also edited and added a lot more details to personalize it.


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