Van Life #4 – 7 days in Albania

I have started a new blog series called ‘Van Life’ and it will mainly highlight wild camping and vegan tips in each country we visit. I really appreciate finding out information about this kind of thing whilst travelling to put me at ease and save time on finding wild spots and decent food.

Albania was a the country I was slightly apprehensive to visit, I don’t know why but I’ve heard horror stories about crazy Albanian drivers and awful roads. When you live in your vehicle, you kinda want to keep it away from this kind of stuff but, it wasn’t actually (that) bad!

Crossing the border from Montenegro at Muriqan – Sukobin was seamless, however the drive from Montenegro was not. See previous post! A hundred metres from the border are small huts where you can buy car insurance, the cheapest is €49 for 15 days. We wanted to find a camp spot pretty quickly so headed straight to the coast near Shëngjin as there were a lot of highly recommended places on Park4Night there. However, every place we tried had about 1000 mosquitoes either on the van or on Pete so we left and headed further south to Patok lagoon. There’s a sea turtle research centre there so we hoped we could visit them. The lagoon had less mosquitoes and free WiFi so we could plan our next few days of travel. Oh and the sea turtle place was closed!

From Patok we went into the big city, Tirana! Getting in was relatively okay, as long as you’re prepared to get beeped at and cars overtaking you from all angles then you’ll be fine! We stayed at a paid secure parking right next to the Grand Park. It’s location was perfect for exploring the city and there was even toilets and tap water. I have since read that tap water in Albania is highly chlorinated and to be honest, I did get a dicky tummy for a couple of days, but nothing too bad. Tirana is cool and if you’re nearby do stop by, we found some nice places to eat and drink.

With a bit of a hangover, we left Tirana for the bright lights of Durrës, what I now consider to be the Blackpool of Albania. We stayed one night in the shaded trees way south of the main strip. I’ve also since read that the coastline near there is highly polluted but we thought the sea was okay, not as clear as we’d swam in in Montenegro and Croatia.

After seeing a bit of northern Albania we kept pushing on south as we knew the beaches there were supposed to be incredible. Keeping to the coastline, we took the Llogora pass which was stunning with views of cloud covered mountains above you and perfect turquoise sea beaches below. We headed straight for Gjipe beach which did not disappoint. You pay a random woman 500 lekë to camp overnight in the upper car park then you walk 20 minutes down to one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever been to, definitely the nicest place I’ve ever swam in Europe. The water is so so clear, warm and calm. There are little caves to explore and sea cliffs to jump off. If you have a 4×4 you can drive down to the beach and camp there too. There’s two rustic (expensive) bars and an eco campground where you can also pitch your own tent.

Further south of Gjipe beach is Monastery beach which is a small cove stone beach. You can camp there for €5 a night, the bar/restaurant owner is so lovely and speaks perfect English. There’s toilets, showers and WiFi. We took our inflatable kayak out here and found our own private beach for the day. The coastline in southern Albania is spectacular with quiet beaches dotted all the way to Greece. I say quiet now, but do remember are visiting in mid-October.

The last big town near the border to Greece is Ksamil where we stayed overnight at the closed Last Bay bar which had a serene stoney beach. The last journey to Greece was a hilarious looking ferry crossing across a small section of river near Butrint. Onwards to Greece where we crossed the border at Qafë Botë – Sagiada Mavromati. This was easily done except for a question from the Greek police about Brexit, uch! We had an awesome time in Albania, should you be worried about taking your campervan there? Hell no! Get there before the huge hotel chains do!

Tips for Albania:

  • Carry cash – except for in Tirana, cash points are hard to find and a lot of places you can’t pay on card.
  • Buy fruit and veg at local stalls – Apart from Tirana, we never found a decent supermarket. Local small markets tend to sell all the same stuff; crisps, croissants, nuts, jarred vegetables and drinks.
  • Driving in Tirana can be crazy but just go with the flow and be confident.
  • There are petrol/fuel stations EVERYWHERE and some have water that is drinkable too, just ask the attendant.

Vegan food highlights:
Veggies restaurant in Tirana is awesome.
Conad supermarket at the bottom of Toptani Shopping Mall has some vegan options and the best thing we found was the 500ml soya milk. We found 1 litre cartons went off quite quickly in the van.

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