We’ve been a little quiet on here recently, getting on with life in the UK, fixing up the house and enjoying the surprisingly good english summer. BUT the seasons have changed, the days are getting shorter and the sun is a pretty infrequent visitor… so we decided it was time for our next getaway.
This trip was pretty last minute for us, we decided in mid-august (over two months since our last trip) that it was time for us to book another getaway. So we booked our flights for the end of September and started planning our roadtrip across Montenegro and Albania. We had a lot we wanted to get done in the 10 days we were away and wanted to make the most of these beautiful countries.
Here’s a snapshot of what we got up to:
Day 1: Land in Tirana
We arrived in Tirana at around 6pm at one of the most beautiful airport locations I have ever seen. With the sun setting as we made our way through a very tiny arrivals area at Tirana International, we were glad we decided to stop over in an airport hotel and embark on our roadtrip the following morning.
We hired a car through Enterprise and we didn’t really have any issues. Car hire isn’t overly cheap in Albania and you have to inform the hire company if you plan to take the car across the border. For us this meant a 40euro cross border fee that we paid to Enterprise, and also a 15euro green card which is purchased at the Montenegrin border (this is slightly more if you want to go to more European countries). We also hired an automatic, rather than manual, as we’d heard a lot about the roads, and we were so glad we did! It made life so much easier, especially when you need to be 100% focused on dodging the crazy Albanian drivers! Our car was pretty battered – apparently this is a good thing – so we had no issues when we returned the car as pretty much every panel had some form of dent, scratch or ding on it! All in all, a pretty simple process.
Tip: the roads are quite something in Albania – not quite as bad as we expected – but there are PLENTY of potholes and objects (such as animals) that need to be avoided…
Day 2: Heading to Monentegro. First stop Budva.
We woke up pretty early on the Sunday and decided to make a start on our four hour journey (with a border cross) from Tirana airport (Albania) to Budva (Montenegro). The first 20 minutes our journey made us very nervous for what was to come… the road around the airport parameter was pretty bad, lots of VERY big potholes, pedestrians to dodge and an army barracks to pass. BUT once we made it onto a ‘main road’ we were much more confident.
Tip: the drivers in Albania are pretty nuts, they love to overtake and will do so in pretty risky situations. To drive like an Albanian you must be confident, reactive and slightly crazy!!!
The border crossing was pretty simple, as long as you have all the right documentation, which the car hire company should provide and you can purchase the required green card at a kiosk at the border. It’s worth noting, that not all the border security speak English so be prepared to take instructions via hand gestures and random words.
Once we arrived at our airbnb in Budva, we headed straight out to explore the beach, town and historic walls (more on this in another post).
Day 3: Sveti Stefan, Tivat and Kotor
We only spent one night in Budva, which was a bit too short for us as we loved the vibe there and felt it was a good place to chill. However, due to our tight time schedule we headed out early, back down the coast slightly, to Sveti Stefan. We’d seen it on the way into Budva but were unable to stop so made a special effort to check it out!
We then headed towards Tivat, known for its port and the Montenegrin airport! We only stopped here for a bite to eat but got a good idea of what the town was about. After lunch, we drove a short 20 minutes to Dobrota – the little village we stayed in on the edge of Kotor Bay, slightly north of Kotor.
Day 4&5: Kotor Bay
We spent the next couple of days exploring Kotor, the old town and castle, Perast (Our Lady of the Rocks) and Dobrota. We loved Kotor – despite being slightly touristy with all the cruise ships stopping off – we couldn’t believe the beauty of the bay. Staying slightly outside Kotor was well worth it in our opinions, you’re away from the hustle and bustle of the tourists and can enjoy the beauty of the bay uninterrupted.
Keep an eye out for following blogs that will go into more detail about exactly what there is to do in Kotor, our favourite spots, and the best food / drink.
Day 6: Lovcen National Park & Virpazar
After spending a few days exploring Kotor Bay, we headed up into the mountains to see the beautiful Lovcen National Park. Despite the poor weather and immense cloud blocking our view, we were able to appreciate the amazing vistas over Kotor Bay (including Kotor and Tivat) along the journey to the national park.
From Lovcen, we made our way in land to Virpazar via the Pavlova Stana Viewpoint. We had booked to stay at a winery slightly further south from Virpazar. The journey from the national park all the way to the winery was absolutely beautiful – we couldn’t quite believe our eyes.
As we arrived at the winery, the weather took a turn for the worst… It rained constantly for the whole afternoon and all the way through the night until the early hours. Luckily the wine tasting was indoors so we had a cosy afternoon tasting some delicious Montenegrin wine and getting some well earned rest.
Day 7: Lake Skadar & Sutomore
The weather cleared the following morning, so our host very kindly took us out on a private boat tour across Lake Skadar – we were one of two boats on the lake. It was amazing!!!
Our boat trip finished around lunchtime so we headed back to the coast before beginning our journey back to Albania, stopping at Sutomore Beach to make the most of the lush sunny weather. After a couple of hours on the beach, it was time to cross back into Albania. We stayed in the Lezhe district for the night as we were advised to avoid driving in the dark if possible.
Day 8 – 10: Albania Riviera
We ended our trip with a few days in the Albania Riviera. And yes it is as beautiful as it sounds!
Despite visiting during off-season (meaning almost every hotel and restaurant had shut up for winter) we absolutely loved exploring the hidden beaches, castle ruins and little towns along the coast.
Day 11: Home time
We made the four hour drive from Dhermi to Tirana international, stopping off at two beaches, one close to Vlore and the other in Durres – which runs parallel to Tirana.
Back on home turf
We had the most amazing 11 days and can’t quite believe the beauty of these two amazing countries! We have many, many more details to share, so stay tuned for more posts soon!
Adios for now,
Love Char & Mar xxx