The Albania Riviera

From Theth—Valbona—Shkoder—Durres—Seranda—Ksamil, Albania was never short of spectacular and just outright beautiful. The mountains were by far my favorite, but the sea is holding its own. The days following the end of the Via Dinarica were weird. Nothing is quite as strange as figuring out what to do when you’re not hiking. I’m also just not the greatest “traveler” in the sense I hate spending money everyday, on food and accommodation. So it doesn’t take long for me to miss the thru-hiking experience where you can just camp for free. Beds, showers, and not having to pack anything up in the mornings is nice as well though. We have had our fun mix of transportation along the way. Multiple hitch hikes, busses, nice ones and cramped slightly janky ones, and a ferry. Filled with models! Not real famous model, but everyone on that ship had their own photo shoot along the way. It is so funny. But I can’t help but have so much respect for people to just not care and get themselves in some good looking pics. However, the ferry was quite long and some people took pictures literally the entire time. I definitely just love people watching and the Komani Lake ferry is definitely the perfect spot for it!!! The views themselves weren’t too shabby either. About everyday here since leaving Valbona has been spent seaside. Laying, reading, relaxing, and tanning. The beaches aren’t the greatest for activities and don’t have any SUP board rentals, beach volleyball, or anything at all. Most beaches are pebbles and slammed with people and seats just laying in rows and columns along any space on the beach. It’s quite annoying. Albania is for sure a popular destination for Europeans.  

Each town seems different, yet extremely similar. The markets all carry the same things. Every restaurant in every town all offer the same foods. Pizza, basic salads, pasta, lots and lots of meat, and some pitas. I’m not even hungry much anymore because nothing sounds good to eat. They don’t seem to use much seasonings here in the Balkans, everything is just bland and boring. The salads will just be some tomato, cucumber, and cabbage, or just one of them. Or a Greek salad, which unfortunately was my go-to, but since I got food poisoning from one in Saranda I cannot even think about eating another one without feeling sick. 

As a vegetarian my choices are heavily limited here. I’m sick of bread, sick of yogurt (well kinda), sick of lame meals. The food is making me incredibly home sick. 

Theth and Valbona both just hosted some small mini-markets and a couple of cafes and restaurants. They’re mainly just a spot in the National Park where people can find places to stay as they hike around. If you’re ever in Albania I can not recommend this area enough! I have literally never seen such beautiful mountains, and the hike was a breeze! There’s even cafes on your way up/down the mountain!

We only spent a few minutes in Shkoder, but had an amazing experience. These men at a cafe bought us coffee, bottles of water, went all around asking when and where we could find the bus we needed, and drove us to the bus stop. We were also offered a free place to stay, but had already booked something in Durres so missed out on the special offer! So good people there, and a lot going on so I’m sure it’s a fun town to check out!

Durres- cute town! We were down past the ferry and it wasn’t very crowded which was nice. The sea was lined with cafes and restaurants open pretty much always. Offering different types of cuisine, even sushi! And one spot serving a couple Mexican food options. So extremely rare here. We got to stay in a perfect apartment just over 100m from a small beach which is where I spent a good chunk of time. I am not really sure what else to do out here besides lay by the beach. It’s free so I keep doing it. 

Durres comes more alive at night with lots of carnival games, and vendors selling grilled corn and some with doughnuts. It was cute. 

Saranda- Luckily we only stayed one night, and only because we had a really long bus ride to reach it and decided to stay. I hope to never return only because it was-quite touristy and pricey, and mostly because it gave me food poisoning. But it is the main place to head on over to The Greek island, Corfu. As it’s just a short ferry ride. 

Ksamil- we snagged a place to stay that was only $10/pp each night! I loved Ksamil, but the beaches were way to crowded with all the beach chairs. If I ever return to Albania, which I hope to, I will no longer come to any beach towns until into September when there are far less people. What good is a beach if you can’t run on it? Juggle a soccer ball, do handstand, draw in the sand, not hear pounding house music? I’d like to avoid all of that. But the best was the last day when for less than $5/pp we rented a nice swing that hovered over the sea and just lay all day reading. And I swam out to a couple of the islands off of the mainland. One took me over 20 minute of straight open water swim to reach. For me that is a huge deal! It was fun fitness for the day!!!

Our last moments in Albania will always stand out to me as an important lesson and moment in my life. We both wanted to go to Greece, but no clue where. So we hitched back to Saranda then from there our sign just said “Greece.” A couple cool guys snagged us up, and even bought us coffee along the way. Because our hitch couldn’t get us all the way to the border we got to walk across which only felt natural to us!

The only unfortunate thing is that I have no Albania stamp in my Passport. Since we entered in the mountains we didn’t pass a border crossing, and they didn’t give us an exit stamp. Which is so sad, but I guess it just means I have to return someday!

And now…….GREECE!!!

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