The detour via St. Naum Monastery to Tirana

When we were in Ohrid, we were advised to visit St. Naum Monastery. It is situated in the south end of the lake, close to the Albanian border.

The monastery and the area around in itself was quite nice, but they were in the process of building many small tourist shops just outside, so it is only a matter of time before it loses its nice atmosphere.

Entrance to Monastery St. Naum

Monastery St. Naum

Monastery St. Naum

Monastery St. Naum 2

Peacock at  Monastery St. Naum.

One of many peacock at Monastery St. Naum.

Backyard of Monastery St. Naum.

Backyard of Monastery St. Naum.

Surrounding of Monastery St. Naum
Taking the long way all around the lake from Ohrid via Elshani, St. Naum Monastery and Pogradec, took much more time than expected. The road on the Macedonian side were in quite good shape, but more or less the moment we entered Albania, that certainly changed. Most of the way we had to drive very slowly to prevent the car to get damaged by all the holes. By all means, not all the roads in Albania are that bad. We have driven many streaks of decent standard, and some even great highways. But in general; expect to use much longer time than you think!

Another sign we had entered Albania.

Another sign we had entered Albania.

View on our detour around the lake from Ohrid to Tirana.

View on our detour around the lake from Ohrid to Tirana.

Both of us had been to Tirana before, but I had not been up to mount Dajti by the cable car.

We decided to take a taxi to the cable car station for the Dajti Ekspres, and it turned out to be money well spent. The road condition up there is really, really bad, so the chance of damaging your own car is quite big.

The cable car journey is 4670 m long, and took us up to 1420 masl, an elevation of 812 m. The area is quite green, with a few small villages and farms along the way. On the top there is a park, a restaurant with panoramic view, and even a hotel, if you want to spend a calm night surrounded by the nature.

Dajti Ekspres in in Tirana.

Dajti Ekspres in in Tirana.

Dajti Expres in Tirana 2

View of Tirana from Mt. Dajti.

View of Tirana from Mt. Dajti.

Back in town, we walked around in the areas around Skanderbeg Square, trying to explore by getting ourselves a bit lost in the streets.

Skanderbeg Square in Tirana.

Skanderbeg Square in Tirana.

Skanderbeg Square in Tirana 2

Colorful houses.

Colorful houses.

Colorful houses in Tirana 3

Apartment buildings in Tirana

Apartment buildings in Tirana

The orthodox cathedral.

The orthodox cathedral.

As I have a few friends living in Tirana, I was just hanging out with them in the evening. It is always nice to know someone when you visit a place!

Friends visiting Kopi at work

Friends visiting Kopi at work

My previous visit to Tirana.
More post from Albania.
More posts from the Balkan road trip.

 

Getting to Albania

The only international airport in Albania is found in Tirana, but as the Greek island of Corfu is only about 40 min boat ride away, it is quite easy to get to the south of the country from there. The departures from Corfu to Saranda by Ionian Cruises varies depending on season, so make sure you check the time table when you plan your trip.

It is also possible to get there from the other neighbour countries. Read more about how I got from Dubrovnik in Croatia via Montenegro to Albania.

Finding our way to Albania

Time had come to get from Dubrovnik to Albania. We had tried to search online for how to get there before we went on the trip, but we could not really conclude how to go.  We then decided to find out when we got to Dubrovnik. That turned out to be harder than expected. We tried to ask at the tourist information, but our request was answered by a question; “why do you want to go to Albania?”.

It ended with the conclusion that we just had to get to Montenegro and find our way as we went along. We headed for the bus station in Dubrovnik to take the bus at 10.00 to Budva via Kotor. When we got to the ticket office, the tickets for the bus we wanted were sold out. We did not even think of that. Needless to say, it was not exactly the message we wanted. So lesson number one: If possible, buy tickets in advance… But, there was a bus number two at 10.00, or at least it should leave at 10 as well, but the problem was that it arrived from Bosnia, and were usually delayed. The only thing we were told was that it usually arrived sometime between 10 and 12…. This day we were extra lucky, and while we were waiting it was announced it would arrive around 12.30. But, luck happily changed for us, and some of the passengers with tickets for the first bus did not show up, so we got on that one.

When we got to the border between Croatia and Montenegro there was a huge line, that made us wait there for 1,5 hours. The air-condition in the bus did not work very well, so it was extremely hot. When we finally got passed the border, we drove through beautiful scenery along the bay of Kotor. I spent a short time in Kotor some years ago, but if we had more time, I would definitely wanted to stay there one night to see more of the small charming town.

But, our bus continued after a very short stop, heading for Budva. On our way we had read in our guide book that Ulcinj or Schodra were places with connections to Tirana. So, when we arrived in Budva, we decided to go to the one of those two places the next bus went to. It seemed the luck was with us that day, and the next bus to Ulcinj was in 20 minutes. The ticket was 6 Euro + 1 euro for each piece of luggage. DSC_8209
After about two hours in the small bus we arrived in the little town of Ulcinj. When we got there, we found out there were two daily busses from Ulcinj to Schodra, leaving at 06.00 and 12.30. In other words, we had to spend the night. On the bus we had met two Swedish boys that also were heading for Albania. A local man that claimed he worked for the local tourist office came over and asked if we needed a place to stay. Off course we realized that he did not work for them, but we needed a place to stay and it was an easy solution to go with him. Before we knew it, we were sitting in his car, heading over to his house to share a room with four beds.

Ulcinj was a nice little town with a main street leading down to the beach. On the top of the hill in one of the ends of the beach, the old town was situated. As we had decided to go further with the bus at 06.00 the next morning, we just had dinner and a drink by the beach, and never got to see the old town except from a distance.

DSC_8220 Ulcinj old town by night
Sunday morning we walked down to the bus station to take the bus to Schodra. It took about 1,5 hours, and when we stopped along the road, a mini bus to Tirana was waiting and left as soon as we got on it. 1 hour and 20 minutes later, we arrived in Tirana. It was no bus station where we were left of, but we later learned that the buses heading in the different directions went from different places just along the streets.

We had decided to go to Berat and spend the night there, but wanted to see some of Tirana before we continued. We walked around in the heat for quite some time looking for a place to store the luggage for a few hours. It was more difficult than we imagined, but just when we were about to give up, we asked at a hotel if they could be so kind to look after our luggage for a while – and they were.

As we had not eaten yet, we first looked for a place for lunch. We sat down in the shadow by the Opera, but found out that they did not serve food. Either way, we needed the rest and something to drink, so we stayed there for a while. We asked the cute girl that sold ice cream if she had any recommendations where we could eat lunch. She was very helpful and pointed out a small square behind the big casino that had several restaurants. We also asked her what she recommended that we should see the short time we spent in Tirana. She looked out on Skanderbeg Square, and said; “this”. Obviously there are so many other things to see, but right then and there we were so hot and tired that we took her word for it. On our way to the “lunch square” we passed a church side by side with a mosque. It is nice to see that religions can live peaceful together. Further we also passed by a nice park with a nun sitting on the lawn resting. She looked very peaceful, it was almost as seeing Mother Theresa relaxing in the shadow. Now and then several wedding parties were driving by celebrating, taking us back to the busy reality.

On Scanderbeg Square

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On our way back to get our luggage, we passed the Orthodox Cathedral.
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So, to sum up the conclusion on how to get from Dubrovnik to Albania (Tirana):

Bus at 10.00 from the bus station in Dubrovnik to Budva, via Kotor. REMEMBER TO BOOK THE TICKET BEFORE TO BE SURE TO GET ON IT! Ticket price: Appr. 130KN per person + a fee for the luggage.

Bus from Budva to Ulcinj at 15.00 (appr. 2 hours drive). Ticket price 6 Euro + 1 Euro for luggage.

If you are in a hurry and really need to get to Albania in one day, we heard it was possible to get a driver to drive to the border, where it usually were several others on the Albanian side to take you further. We on the other hand, decided to stay one night in Ulcinj and take the bus at 06.00 to Schodra (1,5 hours, 6 Euros). Just let them know that you will continue to Tirana, and they know where to let you off. From there we took a mini bus to Tirana (1h 20m, 5 Euro).