Underrated Albania. Oh how I love its people and its landscape. Speaking of its landscape: Exceptionally diverse. Beaches, Mountains, Canyons, Fields; Albania has it all. Also, it is so extremely and wonderfully affordable.
Here are 6 things that we did on our trip to Albania that I highly recommend. These are places that are a bit more off the beaten path and might not be the top suggestions on other blogs. Many of these things were experienced with locals.
I say do as the locals do.
Stay at the Millingona Hostel (Tirana)
It all starts with a place to stay am I right? I am also assuming that you are flying in to Tirana. The Millingona Hostel was actually the first hostel I have ever stayed in. This means something must have been true for me to have a good experience: The ownership was extremely gracious and friendly. Not only was my group experiencing some of our first hostel experiences, we were also exceptionally jet lagged and experiencing a new culture the same day. This hostel has a great location just about a 15 minute walk from the city center, as well as very close by to many good coffee shops and restuarants. It has a great relaxing vibe, funky artwork, as well as a beautiful view from the balcony.
Go to Beirut Lounge ( Mustafa Rd, Tirana)
Okay, I 100% understand. You don't really go to Albania to go to a Lebanese bar. Thing is, the surrounding area is prime, and I bet this will be better Lebanese food than you could ever have where you are from. Beirut is located on Rruga Mustafa Matohiti, which is located behind the pyramid. The service there was absolutely fantastic, and this man named Arsen, was the best bartender I've ever had. We came back twice even though we were only in Tirana a few days. Also on this street is a great church that actually let us stay there for a time, and The Funky Mustache. The Funky Mustache is a great place to go for dessert and coffee. I mean, I know there are a billion cafes in Tirana, but the Funky Mustache also has great smoothies which is huge especially in the summer when its crazy hot. Also, nearby, on the corner of Bulevardi Bajram Curri and Rruga Papa Gjon Pali II there are vans which sit and will take you to other cities of Albania, which leads to me next things to do.
Walk up to Kalaja e Kaninës (Vlore)
Typically for less than 10usd you can get a ride all the way from Tirana to Vlore. Let me tell you; Vlore is beautiful. We had an incredible experience with Vlore and its people. Earlier on this day we were swimming there to the left in the Adriatic sea, and we saw this mountain and decided to climb it. We honestly didn't even know that there would be the remnants of a castle potentially from 3 or 4 B.C. WORTH IT. Also when in Vlore, head south on SH8. Here you will find rugged, beautiful beaches with deeper water. These are better for snorkeling (Hotel Nimfa). If you are more interested in sandy, shallow beaches, go east toward the peninsula on Rruga Pishave (Narta Beach).
Jali Beach (Jala)
This beach is the bomb. It is further south towards Sarande. Albanians seriously know how to chill. It makes for a breathtaking drive (from Vlore). I recommend staying at Kambingu Jal. We stayed in a tent and were absolutely fine, of course we were probably used to sweating by then. There are plenty more resort type accommodations nearby if you want something a little more chic. We actually enjoyed most of our meals from the camp but there are plenty of other good restaurants. Just a warning, these places so far to the south are much less westernized and finding English speakers gets more and more challenging. Sounds like more of an adventure to me. Oh also, this is where I told my wife I loved her for the first time, so there.
Kanionet e Osumit (Cerenisht)
I'm honestly not sure if this location and Osumi Canyon are actually different places, but on google maps they are two different locations. We went to this place. It is amazing the different landscapes that Albania provides. This is a place that an Albanian was very excited to take us to. Unfortunately there was a rain recently and so the water wasn't extremely clear. Either way, this rugged landscape is something to behold as you twist around bends on your way there. I actually remember feeling quite nauseous as we were on our way here because I was so hungry. Speaking of which!
Tavern Dafinat (Bogove)
Alright. If you are south of Berat at the canyons that I mentioned earlier. This is a must go-to restaurant. This place is divine. We had lamb, and pork, and plenty other Balkan specialities in this incredible off the grid castle of a restaurant. Very few travel websites or blogs say anything about this restaraunt at all, let alone that it is a magical place that your taste buds are dying to wander off to. Please partake and tell us about it. Here is the link on trip advisor which I was suprised to even find! Tavern Dafinat