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One of the most popular travel destinations in the region, which is not a surprise, because there are so many things to do in Shkoder, Albania.
Not to mention the mind-blowing scenery all around the city.
How to get there?
Well, so as I mentioned above Shkoder is a popular travel destination, so it is easily accessible. Your best option is by bus from Tirana – if you are in Albania – and from Podgorica or Bar if you are in Montenegro. If you haven’t been to Montenegro, then go there too, here is why you should put it onto your bucket list:
But – of course – only after you have travelled around Albania.
The bus will take you to the city centre, in front of the Rozafa Hotel in most cases. It is good to remember its location because everything is quite near and locals use this point very often when they want to explain something. If you are not sure which direction to go, it is a tourist information centre on your left (Rozafa Hotel is behind you) where you can ask or use an offline map like Maps.me or Abarad.
Where to stay?
I tried two hostels there, one is the so welcoming Our Way Hostel with amazing, helpful and such friendly staff, and another one with a lovely garden and amazing interior in the old Budapestien flat style, called Villa Troshani.
If you are looking for a party hostel, then pick Bulldog Hostel & Club. All of them have a good location and they are pretty easy to find.
Where to eat?
Well, Albania is a place where you can find surprisingly cheap food – 7 euros for two with beer – and huge portions – in restaurants, so it is a good option to give them a try – a few times – even if you are a budget traveller. Don’t miss Peja Grill restaurant on the main street or try the Pizza Park which is a little bit more expensive, but they also serve delicious food and it is located in a cosy garden.
If you wanna make your own meal, you can find little markets in every 30 meters and there is a huge Spar which is located about 2 km from Rozafa Hotel, but as I noticed, the prices are almost the same pretty much everywhere.
Amazing things to do in Shkoder, Albania
The city, the old town and museums
Well, if you are just wandering around the city without any purpose – as I did on my very first day – you can find some amazing statues and gain some surprising experience all around.
One of my favourite things to do is people watching and Shkoder’s main square is such a good place for that. Just sit down behind Al-Zamil Mosque and watch the flow of the diversified people’s mess and you can get the real Albanian spirit in a minute.
The old town is not the typical old town that you are used to. Old and restored buildings alternate each other while giving a special feeling to the travellers by their special and oddly glamorous charm.
Albania is a place where a lot of religions can stand next to each other without any arguing, totally in peace so you can find the presence of the most diverse religious symbols pretty close to each other.
There are several museums too such as The Site of Witness and Memory, The Shkoder Historical Museum and Marubi National Museum of Photography. I did not go inside but took huge and nice walks instead, and I found an amazing part, which became my favourite part of the city. The Europa street is actually the least European street that I’ve ever seen, but the street trade that you can find here is amazing – and brutally cheap. Literally, ask anything and they’re gonna give it to you – maybe it will be a little bit rusty, but hey, at least it’s yours.
Considered as the biggest tourist attraction, but I think the reason is not the castle itself, but the amazing scenery that you can see from the top of it. But really like everything! I was sitting on the ruins for at least an hour and it was entrancing.
About the practical things: the castle is easily accessible on foot as well, it is like a 30-minute walk from the city centre and it will cost 200 LEK (1,50 EUR) to get into the territory of the Rozafa castle.
The largest lake in Albania and also in Montenegro, hence it crosses the border. It is a good place for hanging out, swimming and kayaking too.
Theth-Valbona hiking tour
If you are into hiking, this route is a must. All of the hostels I mentioned above help you to organize a shuttle from Shkodra to Theth or Valbona and back. It takes roughly 3 hours and costs 10 euros – stop here a bit, because it is stupidly cheap: 10 EUR for a 3- hour ride! It is insane! -. The hike is an exhausting 6-8 hours, but it is worth staying there an extra day.
If you’d like to take the easier route than pick the one from Valbona to Theth.
Other awesome things to do in Shkoder, Albania
A surprising experience with some taxi drivers
If you are in Albania, never rely on the internet if it is about bus schedules. Really! Ask the bus driver, ask someone in the hostel or in the tourist information centre or even ask the first Albanian person who you spot on the street.
I tried to catch my bus from Shkoder to Durres that leaves at 3 pm – at least according to the online schedule – but as soon as I arrived I couldn’t find my bus.
Some taxi driver – seeing my puzzled face – offered me a ride, after they told me that the bus left at 1 pm and the next would be tomorrow the earliest.
“I don’t have enough money to pay a ride to Durres” – I told them and I would have walked away after saying this because I thought that our conversation was ended with the sentence I don’t have enough money.
But! And here comes the surprising part, because before I could realize what was going on, I was sitting on the bus to Tirana!
The whole thing was just like a minute or less, and I’m not joking. So the following happened – but really fast -. After I turned away, one of the taxi drivers told me that my best option is to take a bus to Tirana because there is a bus to Durres every hour.
And then he was just like “There is the Tirana bus, hurry up!” – pointed to a bus which was actually in the middle of the roundabout. They grabbed me and my backpack, while another one stopped the bus – in the roundabout! – and took me to the bus.
It was so so fast, but for me, the most amazing and astonishing part was that they helped me after they got to know that I wouldn’t give them any money. And still!
I’m not against taxi drivers or something but based on my experiences, a person who looking for some of your money – let it be a vendor, a taxi driver or something – won’t help you after you tell him that you don’t have a penny.
It was really nice to experience that there are still some truly helpful and altruist people in the world.