Albania was our first encounter with a more Eastern culture and it was interesting to be in a country where roads and transport were less developed. Because of the size of the country we decided to make a loop south before heading towards the border. While bicycle touring Albania we entered the country from the ferry by sea at Durrës on the 14th of April 2014 and left the country on the 20th of April 2014. We have cycled 427 km and ascended 4647 meters.
cycled in Albania
Our impressions of Albania
Albania has the image of being dangerous, after cycling in Albania for a week we have come to conclude that for us it was not dangerous at all and we actually felt very comfortable in this country. The borders have been opened since 1991, before they were closed due to the communism regime. Slowly more travellers are learning that this country is a highlight of the Balkans because of the wild nature, strong history and friendly people and hospitality. Also more cyclists are experiencing the joys of bicycle touring Albania. The culture is distinctive in the Balkans and we felt the country was a combination of Europe and Turkey.
Our first day was chaotic and messy. We were on the more populated lowlands cycling between city, towns and villages. The roads were occupied by many different kinds of transport: from trucks to cars, to motorcyclists and horse or donkey drawn carts. We had our first fall of the journey where Susanne road off a curb, slipped the bicycle and hit her helmeted head on the road. After leaving the lowlands behind the roads became more quiet and with some challenging route choices we even found roads with no traffic at all (although the going was slow due to technical gravel roads). The town of Berat holds a beautiful historic centre with white houses crawling up the side of the valley. The area between Tepelene and Erseke really was a highlight for us with quiet roads and beautiful valleys and forest where we could smell pine trees and enjoy being outdoors. All what cycling in Albania is supposed to be! We enjoyed cycling along lake Ohrid to the border with Macedonia with nice views over the lake.
A special feature of Albania are the bunkers. During the 40 year communism over 700.000 bunkers were built in the country and many of these still remain although they are mostly ruined. We would encounter many of these during our rides cycling in Albania on the side of the road or in the fields. Albanian food was very nice and we regularly tried byrek, dolma and kebabs. While we were hosted by a family we were gifted many many cucumbers from their own garden. We think we were eating cucumbers during our total visit in Albania!
We really want to share our story, our journey with you. We have thought about this new dimension for a while. If you enjoy our story consider receiving one of our postcards from the road. We cycle through many small towns and cities with their own story and often there is a postcard to be found. This postcard can be sent to you.
We left the ferry at Durrës and started off cycling in Albania directly south. We decided to leave the main road as soon as we could and got on the small roads towards the lake south of Divjakë. The lake was not so impressing because we couldn’t get close to it. We were hosted by a family in Gradisht and followed small road and the SH72 to Berat. We took the SH74 towards Buz and went through the hills to Tepelenë. We had read the valley following the SH75 should be beautiful and we had decided to not go to Gjirokaster to avoid heading back the way we came. We followed the road to Këlcyrë, Përmet and Leskovik, before heading north again to Ersekë. We slept between Leskovik and Ersekë at camping Farma Sotira. We headed to the Korcë plateau and from there to Pogradec and to go around lake Ohrid in a clockwise direction. We crossed the border at Kjafasan to Macedonia.
Buz gave us asphalt again and from here we cycled down to Tepelene and up to Permet through the Vjosa valley, before taking the exit to Leskovik we took another gravel side road with nice views of the river. Then the road went up and up to Leskovik after which we stayed at Farma Sotira.
We cycled from the top of some mountains over a plateau towards Korce, which is quite a modern Albanian city with an nice feeling. We then stayed in Maliq and passed Pogradec on the way to the Macedonian border. Pogradec did not have a nice feeling and the road from Pogradec was dreadful with road works.
Martin and Susanne are the crazy cyclists behind TwistingSpokes. We enjoy taking you along on our adventure while we are traveling by bicycle from the Netherlands to Nepal. What occupies us while cycling are the interactions with people on the road, culture, scenery and meaningful encounters. You can read more about us on our About page or on G+.