bicycle touring albania
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Bicycle Touring Albania

We cycled the length of Albania in late December, mostly following the EuroVelo 8 with a handful of detours. We had very different experiences bicycle touring Albania in the north versus the south. The northern part of the EV8 travels through flat agricultural land that’s densely populated, while the southern part is more remote and hilly. If we had been in Albania during warmer months, we would’ve explored more of the mountainous regions, but due to weather we mostly stuck closer to sea level.

Route

bicycle touring albania map
Route map of our Albanian bicycle tour.

Download the GPX track of our bicycle tour through Albania.

Northern Albania

The northern agricultural areas of Albania were fairly challenging to cycle through, mostly from a road quality and wild camping perspective. Even the smaller roads were busy and didn’t have a shoulder, so we wore our reflective vests and took alternative routes when we could. On the positive side, Albanian drivers and pedestrians are very friendly, and we got lots of waves, thumbs up, and greetings as we made our way through the country.

wild camping albania
First wild camp in Albania. Pretty secluded, but we heard lots of gunshots from hunters.
bicycle touring albania
Country road with lots of potholes to avoid.

Mud in Albania is Unforgiving

One day early on, we were dealing with a busy road and decided to try out some smaller farm roads. It had rained quite a bit recently, and we were quickly bogged down in a muddy clay disaster. We passed a farm house where a father and son saw that we were in over our heads, and the son walked us through a grassy olive grove to bypass a particularly horrendous section of road.

We pushed our bikes the rest of the way back to the pavement, with huge gobs of mud lodging in our fenders so that our wheels couldn’t even turn. We had to stop every few feet to scrape the mud out of our fenders with sticks. After that, we were pretty wary of side roads.

bicycle touring albania
Biking on one of the quieter roads with lots of farm land.

Camping in the North

Wild camping was difficult in the agricultural areas, as this part of the country is populous even between towns. Our Christmas Eve campsite was located behind a stone wall in a field right off the main highway. Farmers’ fields were really the only option here, so we just looked for grass fields that weren’t currently growing anything and tried to be as hidden as possible.

wild camping albania
Christmas Eve wild camp in a field next to the highway.

Tirana

We stayed in Tirana a few days to wander around Albania’s capital and wait out some rain. The city was enjoyable to walk around, and the Christmas Market was still in full swing with lots of beautiful light displays. Eating out in Albania was much cheaper than anywhere else we’ve been in Europe, so we splurged on some fancy restaurants and even found an American-style breakfast place!

tirana albania
Looking over the fence at Enver Hoxha’s residence in Tirana.
The Cloud art installation tirana
“The Cloud” art installation.
Namazgah Mosque
Namazgah Mosque
Tirana Christmas Market at night.
Tirana Christmas Market at night.

Southern Albania

While there were difficult aspects of touring in Albania, there was never a dull moment. One minute we were on a busy highway, and around the next curve a flock of sheep blocked the road. A group of children we passed would be incredibly nice and excited to see us, and down the road another group would shout curses (usually in good fun, but still).

bicycle touring albania
Sharing the road with a flock of sheep.
bicycle touring albania
Posing with sleepy beach dogs in Vlore.
bicycle touring albania
Nice beach sunset riding.

South of Vlorë, the route gets much less busy and more scenic. The coastline is hemmed in by tall mountains, and the hilly riding is rewarded by beautiful views of the sea and spectacular descents down impressive switchbacks.

Heading up into the mountains.
Great camping spot in rural Albania.
bicycle touring albania
Heading up a big pass with great views.
bicycle touring albania
The top of a pass on the coast, crazy switchbacks visible down below.
bicycle touring albania
Picturesque hillside town nestled above the coast.
Gorgeous coastline and beaches in Porto Palermo. This was an abandoned military base – note the submarine bunker on the left.
bicycle touring albania
There was so much amazing scenery packed into these few days.
bicycle touring albania
We had to work for the views – the terrain was extremely hilly.

We absolutely loved this area, and we got lucky with perfect weather to ring in the New Year. Wild camping was also much easier in the south, and one of our sites even featured a friendly stray dog that kept us company in the morning.

wild camping albania
New Year’s campsite with a sweet dog that was also very photogenic.
bicycle touring albania
Not a bad way to spend New Year’s Day.

We spent a night in Sarandë, a beach town near the border with Greece, where we got our Covid tests in preparation for the ferry to Corfu the next day. Luckily they were negative, and we didn’t have any trouble crossing the border.

Final Thoughts on Bicycle Touring Albania

While northern Albania was a somewhat challenging place to bicycle, the beauty in the south and the friendliness of the Albanian people warmed us to the country in the end. We would very much like to return and explore the mountains during warmer season!

Bicycle Touring Albania and Montenegro Video

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