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Cycling Albania

Cycling Albania.

I have been cycling through Albania 3 times over the past 11 years and here is some tips and advice about cycling in Albania as a tour cyclist.

The roads in Albania.

Typical albanian road scene.

Typical albanian road scene.

The roads in Albania are quite good these days and they are nicely paved in most of the country these days. This is a big change from when I first came 11 years ago, when most of the roads were dirt roads full of potholes, but you will find that it’s only on the very small roads that things are not paved these days and you can easily go tour cycling in Albania on a road bike these days, if this is the kinda bicycle you prefer.

 

Road safety when cycling in Albania.

Quiet albanian country road.

Quiet albanian country road.

The traffic on albanian roads can be quite chaotic, but I have never felt in any danger when navigating through traffic on my bicycle in Albania. The cars are used to soft traffic as there are still many albanians who walk along the main roads with their cows, donkeys, mules, etc.  Getting in and out of the bigger towns and cities requires a bit of attention, but it’s not worse than any average big city around the globe. Apart from some far flung villages in the northeast of the country, close to the Kosovo border, you do not need to worry about safety. In the far northeast of the country, there are still some pretty outlawed towns, where you should only go if you have talked to some local about the situation in advance, but this is a very very small part of the country and Albania is generally speaking one of the safest countries in Europe to cycle around and people will often stop in their cars and ask you if you need help or offer you food and drink and you should not worry when this happens. This is just traditional albanian hospitality and one of the nice aspects of cycling Albania.

 

Albania is both steep and flat to cycle.

Cycling in the mountains of Albania.

Cycling in the mountains of Albania.

Some parts of Albania is quite flat, like the western and north western part of the country, but other parts are mountainous, especially the eastern part of the country, but also the southwestern part bordering Greece. These parts of the country are also the most scenic in my opinion and if you are not afraid to climb some long hills, then you are really up for some of the most spectacular landscape you will see in all Europe.

Bicycle station in Tirana.

Bicycle station in Tirana.

Tirana has a growing bicycle culture.

Tirana has a growing bicycle culture.

Where to sleep when cycling Albania.

When you are cycling around rural Albania it’s generally ok to wild camp if you like that. It’s very accepted in Albania and the only thing that is likely to happen to you is that locals will come and ask if you want to sleep in their house, or have dinner with them. these days there are also many little camp sites around Albania where you can get access to showers, toilets and so, for a very small amount of money. I kinda like using these, as I like to have a shower after a day of cycling. Albania is also very well equipped with roadside hotels that are generally fairly cheap.

I have come across a few bicycle friendly hostels that has both hostel beds as well as camping offered and I think they are very ideal for tour cyclists as you get all the facilities of a hostel, with good showers, kitchen, social life, wifi and such without having to pay much for it. The places I mention here are also run by people who like tour cycling themselvesand they are really good for getting some advice about cycling Albania and they are truely friendly folks. The links to the websites of these 3 hostels/campsites are:

In Tirana: tiranahostel

In Peshkopia in east Albania: Peshkopihostel

 

In the small village Vuno on the albanian south coast:

vunohostel

Country hostel in Vuno.

Country hostel in Vuno.

Mountain hostel in Peshkopia.

Mountain hostel in Peshkopia.

My conclusion about tour cycling in Albania.

Beautiful Albania

Beautiful Albania.

As a tour cycling country, I really like Albania as it still offers some real adventure and some little visited places that can be very hard to find in western Europe these days. It’s not the easiest country in Europe to be a tour cyclist, but it’s certainly not the worst either. It’s probably a good idea to have a little experience in tour cycling before going there as the traffic can be a little chaotic, but if you have some general knowledge about tour cycling then you should be really fine there and it’s one of the few places left in Europe where you can easily find some real adventure and the albanian people are the most hospitable I have met anywhere in Europe in my +25 years of roaming the globe.

And traveling a country by bicycle is simply the best way to experience a country at a speed where you have time to meet the locals, while you are getting fit too while being on the road.

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24 Comments

  1. Thanks so much for this write up on Albania. We’re in Montenegro now about to head across the border and I’m guzzling all the information I can about the country. This was quite helpful. I’ve heard about the nightmare traffic and drivers, but indicate that it is safe, which is nice to read.

    If you have recommendations on some of your favorite towns and places to visit by bike, we’d love to hear them (we’re not afraid of hills, but traveling with our dog, who hitches a ride in a trailer).

    • I would recommend that you travel inland if you do not mind mountains. That part of Albania has little traffic and is very scenic. The road going from Kukes via Peshkopi to Ohrid is very scenic and has little traffic.

  2. I’m on Croatia coast now having cycled from Manchester England on way around globe .. I want to keep south and on coast with regard to temperatures , but still undecided about Albania or Bosnia then Serbia towards turkey , your comments would be greatefully received
    Howard – Facebook/howardsmith64

    • Hi’ Howard. I would strongly suggest that you stick to the coast this time of year as you can get some really cold temperatures if you start heading inland in Serbia and Bosnia. I would suggest that you head down the coast of Croatia and Montenegro and then in to Albania and then make a left turn in Tirana and head up to Lake Ohrid and cross in to Macedonia and then head south. Doing that you should have reasonably good temperatures all the way and it’s a nice cycling route I have taken twice myself and had a good time both times.

  3. I am going to cycle from Dubrovnik to Greece along the coast. I have a road bike. I started in late June in Tallinn Estonia and have been following the Baltic, the Elbe, and the Danube. Now I want to ride some of the Adriatic. Any suggestions of towns along the way that I should be sure to ride to? Roads that are especially pretty? Anything that might help would be great. Thanks so much!

    • I have taken the Adriatic road twice by bicycle and I would really recommend the bay of Kotor in Montenegro. This is one of the most scenic coastlines in the world and good for cycling. In Croatia I would recommend to do a little island hopping as you move south. You can often take ferries from island to island and the roads there are often preferable to the coastal road, which is quite narrow in Croatia. Albania is a good cycling country too, with good shoulders on the roads that keep you safe. And the Albanian are extremely hospitable.

  4. Thanks for the great post, I am starting to plan for a two month trip in albania and macedonia from end of september to end of november. Do you have any recommendations on must see routes? I don’t have any set plans, just looking forward to biking and scenery. Thanks!

    • Hi’ Liam.
      If you are going between Albania and Macedonia, then the border crossing at lake Ohrid will be the obvious one. And that lake is very pretty too.
      There is a really good road for cycling between Lake Ohrid and Kukes.
      And if you don’t mind some steep climbs, then the road between Vlore and Saranda is really really scenic.

  5. Yo great post! heard some gnarly things about the cycling in Albania, its nice to see its more like i imagined!

    I am planning a 2 month trip from the start of july to the start of september. Begining in corfu then up through Albania, Montenegro and ending in Croatia. I would ideally want to stay near to coast and will be wild camping, is there a route or any advice you could recommend ?

    thanks ever so much!

    • Hi’ mate. Thank you for commenting. Wild camping is generally quite accepted in Albania and it’s quite safe. You also have quite a few small basic campsites where you can pitch your tent for a very small fee. I would recommend that you take the coastal road from Saranda to Vlore. As long as you don’t mind some serious climbing, then we are really talking about one of the most scenic coastal roads in Europe. The road is most of the time quite a bit above the sea, so you have some fantastic views on that stretch.

  6. Thanks for the very useful summary post Claus. I’m thinking of bicycling from Albania to Turkey, across Macedonia and Greece this summary. I was wondering if you’d have any advise on what kind of maps to get for cycling in the area. Is it best to just get a good (paper) roadmap once you arrive to the area? Good GPS maps useful for bicycling? I’m to mostly on the road tour biking but info on whether roads are paved etc. is always useful. Thanks!

    • Hi’ Sini. I have never toured with a GPS, so I do not really know what brands are good. I mostly combine an old fashioned paper map with with a good study on Google maps every morning before I take off. For good maps in Tirana, you have a very good english bookstore right on the main square in Tirana, next to the Opera.The name of the bookstore is Adrion.

  7. Hi – Really great read. Very helpful. I’m cycling from Croatia to Greece in a month or so. We have a rough route planned – are there any towns in Albania in particular that you would recommend staying in/ avoiding?

    Thanks!

    • I would recommend you to avoid staying in Vlore and Sarande on the coast and try to opt for some of the smaller places instead to stay overnight. Berat is a scenic town top stop by too on the way down south. And I highly recommend the coastal road between Vlore and Sarande. It’s a really scenic road to cycle. Have a fantastic trip.

      • Hi Claus – thanks for the tips. I’ll make sure I take your advice. Can I ask what you think of cycling along the busier roads? I am a little anxious to cycle on the busy dual carriageways but have been told that they are safe. Is this correct?

        • Hi’ Charlie. I found that most busy roads have a fairly large shoulder and is therefor quite ok to cycle on. There are parts of the road between Tirana and Skhoder that can be a little busy, but even that road is ok most of the way in my opinion.

          • Hi Claud – That is good to hear thanks! This is what I’ve heard from reading other blogs but good to hear it from you.

  8. hi Claus, do you know if it’s possible to take a bike and panniers on the buses in Albania. I’m hoping to cycle South through the mountains to Lake Ohrid but then, due to time limitations, take a bus to Sarande and head north. Think this would be possible? Any advice much appreciated, thanks, Paul

    • Hi’ Paul. If the bus is big enough to have the bike in the luggage compartment, then it will be possible. You might have to pay a small fee for it. But be ware that many bus routes in Albania are served by mini busses that do not have space for a bike, so try and find out if the bus route you plan to use is served by big busses. Have a fantastic trip.

  9. Thanks for that, I’ll continue the research and may come back with further questions!

  10. Wonderful post! Thank you for sharing all your insight! We are currently in Croatia and cycling south to Greece. Do you recommend staying along the coast or cycling inland? We are also open to Kosovo and Macedonia if you have any experience with those countries. Thank you!

    • Hi’ Katy. I would say that both the coastal route and the inland roads are fine. It’s really just a matter of what you prefer. I have cycled through Macedonia and that is fine too, Just remember that it’s a big climb when going over the mountain range between two countries. I have not cycled on Kosovo yet, so I better not say too much about that. But you could both cycle from the border via Skhodra and Lezhe to Tirana, or you could cycle up towards the Kosovo/Macedonia border from Skhodra. The eastern part of Albania around Peshkopi and mount Korab is really untouched and very nice too. Have a fantastic trip.

  11. Hi again Claus, in Albania now, in kukes and trying to decide which road to take to Peshkopia tomorrow, the old one or the new one. Do you have any advice? Have you ridden the old route and do you know how bad/slow it might be. I don’t have any problem with the hills but not a big fan of the unpaved/sandy/Rocky routes, thanks

    • Hi’ Paul. I would take the new one. It’s nicely paved and the traffic is not heavy at all. I do not know the old one, but I am almost sure that it will be unpaved. Good luck and have a fantastic trip.

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