For a taste of real Albanian life and hospitality, I recommend staying with Florian and his lovely family. Good value accommodation in dorms or private rooms and great food using produce all fresh from the garden. Amazing homemade wine too!
Shtoj i ri, Reparti Ushtarak, Shkodra
During my stay in Albania, I decided to try something new: rafting. This experience completely exceeded my expectations; rafting gave me a kick, the water of the river was crystal clear, and I saw maybe the most wonderful scenery I have ever seen! It has been one of the greatest and most special experiences in my life.
I booked this trip at Outdoor Albania (www.outdooralbania.com), who specialise in sustainable tourism
A very important archaeological World Heritage site, set in a National park surrounded by Lake Butrint.
Originally a Neolithic settlement, later developed by the Greeks, Illyrians, Romans and Venetians. Comprising ruins of 6CBC fortifications, 3CBC Hellenistic amphitheatre, acropolis, 4CBC Temple of Asklepios, Roman Baths, 5C Byzantine Baptistry and mosaics, 6C Basilica, impressive Venetian tower and fortress.
A protected site with excellent museum housing original artefacts. Outdoor stalls selling local handicrafts.
Set in beautiful woodland, reached from the south via a small chain ferry. Access now possible by day tour from Corfu and northern Greek resorts. Local currency is the Lek but Euro is accepted. Prices somewhat lower than in Greece. A rare opportunity.
Southern Albania,opposite the Greek island of Corfu, close to the Greek border in Epirus and the mainland resort of Parga.
Stay at this lovely little hotel right on the beautiful Ionian coast. It's a bit of a drive from Saranda (also lovely) along a scary steep terrible coast road but well worth the drive. The Albanians assured me this road would be totally finished and tarmacked by July 2009.
The hotel is clean and has a lovely terrace and restaurant, which serves fresh fish chosen from a plate and lovely pizza.
Pick a nice day and ask to hire a kayak (1000 leke = £6) take this north for about half an hour and enjoy the mile long white sand (and bunkers!) of Drymades beach. There is a little beach bar further down if you fancy a drink.
The sea is bright blue and view of the rocks and snow capped mountains is awesome.
In the evening walk up the hill and get a 2 litre plastic bottle of wine from the shop for 300 leke a bargain. Pleasant and no hangover!
The best part of my Balkan tour.
Dhermi Hotel, Dhermi, 1500 leke for a double per night (in May/off peak - I'm told this rises to 5000 in summer)
(Head down to Dhermi from the coast road and take the left fork near the bottom)
The best part of Tirana is the 'blloku' (block) area - the streets in the old Commie Party residential area - now full of shops, bars, restaurants. Especially lively in early evening when everyone comes out for a stroll between here and Rinia park.
More on nightlife at bit.ly/1awq7m
This beautiful mosque from 1821 was one of the highlights of the city centre (north of the river). Its old-fashioned architecture provides an intriguing contrast to the communist blocks across Tirana which have been painted bright colours in an attempt to liven them up. Inside, there’s also some beautiful artwork and decoration.
Google map: tinyurl.com/nqtfrf
Reached via cable-car, this mountain at the edge of Tirana gives an attractive break from the bustle (and traffic) of the city. There are some restaurants and amenities up here but it’s mainly about the view along the route and the scenery atop the mountain. Costs about 500 Lek for the trip.
For budget meals, there are lots of roadside stalls and tiny shops scattered through Tirana selling cheap, delicious – and mostly traditional – food. Try the byrek or lakror for a few hundred Lek (meat, cheese or spinach filled pastries) or the amazing rotisserie chickens.
Really friendly hostel in Tirana, just minutes from Skenderbeg Square. Although there are shared and private rooms, even the dorms only have a few beds in them (no bunks!) making for a pleasantly peaceful atmosphere. Our room also had a TV and en-suite, plus air-con which is very handy in the steamy summer months.
Also Freddy (the owner) was very helpful!
75 Bardhok Biba, Tirana, Albania
Google map: tinyurl.com/lucv9x
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