Northern Albania, a unique experience

Albania can be reached driving from Ulcinj in Montenegro to Sukobin where the border crossing is located.

View of a well in the grounds of Preze Castle in Albania

The first major city after the border is Skoder (Shkodër in Albanian), an historic city with lots of interesting buildings like Rosafa Castle on the rocky hill above the city, Lead Mosque (the city is famous for its Islamic scholarship) and new infrastructures like the swing bridge over the river Buna. Not far is Skadar Lake (also known as Lake Shkodër); the largest lake in the Balkans stretching between Albania and Montenegro, very popular in summer. The roads in Albania are rapidly being upgraded to cope with the expected influx of visitors keen to explore this virtual unknown corner of Europe; in the meantime, extra caution should be paid when driving in Albania as roads conditions can change quite dramatically even on major motorways, like the one connecting Skoder with the capital Tirana. And it is in Tirana where it is clear to see that this is a country being developed: old buildings are restored, new buildings are built and gardens and parks in the city are spruced up; one major problem, common to most big cities remains: the traffic. Leaving Tirana for the Adriatic coast the next interesting city for tourists is Durrës. Famous for its Roman amphitheater and the beaches popular with both locals and visitors, the city is rapidly been developed with a number of high standard hotels built offering all the modern comforts at very reasonable prices.

The green countryside in Albania

Driving through Albania lowlands and uphill to the small city of Krujë, visitors (including former US President George W.Bush who visited the town in 2007) can visit a museum dedicated to the national hero George Kastrioti Skanderbeg located inside.

View of Kruje Castle in Albania

View of a cannon at Kruje Castle

Inside the Skanderbeg Museum in Kruje, Albania

Adjacent to the castle there is a restaurant offering Albanian specialties including (if you are vegetarian look away now!) fried cow brain. Krujë is also famous for the old handicraft market located in a narrow street below the castle.

Man standing outside Sari Sartik Shrine in Albania

Not far from Krujë is Sari Sartik Shrine, a small domed shrine sacred to the followers of Bektashism. According to a legend, Sari Sartik, a venerated holy man who lived in a cave nearby, liberated the town from a monster and on his departure took 3 steps leaving three footprints: one here, another one 100 miles away and the next one in Crete. Nowadays the site is maintained by a local man happy to show people around and tell them the story.

View of Preze Castle in Albania

The view from the lookout at Preze Castle

The green Albanian Lowlands

Other locations worth visiting in Northern Albania are Prezë Castle not far from Tirana from where a beautiful view of Albania’s lowlands can be seen and the monuments situated near the town of Peza or Pezë dedicated to the National Liberation Movement, a resistance organisation that fought in World War II and to one of its founders, Myslym Peza, who is buried here.

One of Peze monuments in Albania

View of Peze National Liberation Movement Monument in Albania

The grave of Myslym Peza in Albania

This peaceful location in the countryside is also home to some friendly horses and, in this rural part of Albania, it is not uncommon to see farmers and their families riding mule-drawn carts on the dusty country lanes.

Some horses seen in Peze in Albania

In recent years, there has been a great interest from tourists keen to explore Albania; with continuous improvements of the country’s infrastructures, its beautiful countryside, hospitable people and a number of locations all over the country offering visitors the chance to see monuments, castles and Roman ruins, Albania will gradually become a popular tourist destination in Europe.

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