Cycling Albania: different, wild, but also a rapidly developing country

Another field exploration is behind us. There were a lot of questions before visiting Albania. For two reasons: although all of us from the team had been to Albania before, it is the least familiar country to all of us. Secondly: even the Albanians themselves don’t know which road is still dirt and barely passable, which is under construction, and which may have already been paved – this is the speed at which a country that was very isolated from the rest of the world until the 1990s is changing.

 

Above Theth in the northern part of Albania.

Above Theth in the northern part of Albania.

 

Today, Albania, Trans Dinarica’s country no. 5, is developing at the speed of light, and if you were in Tirana, the capital with half a million inhabitants, a decade ago, you would hardly recognize it today. Progress can also be seen in the countryside, especially with many new roads and other infrastructure projects, and on the coast, where tourism is booming. But we at Trans Dinarica hold the red thread – the Dinaric Mountains and the less populated mountain regions, which in Albania means that we cycled to many less-visited places. This also meant a bit more research work for us; we even had to swap our support van for an off-road pick-up truck for a few days.

 

Albania is perfect for cycling, and cyclists are perfect for Albania

This intertwining of unspoiled nature, living the old-fashioned life and on the other hand development (roads!) and openness of the country for tourism leads us to the conclusion: Albania is a perfect country for cycling, and cyclists are perfect guests for Albania. Everywhere they welcomed us with open arms, treated us well, and were enthusiastic about the idea of a cross-border cycling route. Another interesting fact: unlike other Balkan countries, there is less meat on the menu, a lot of fresh and pickled vegetables, homemade cheese, eggs, and fish. And language shouldn’t be an obstacle either: young people speak English perfectly, older people… Well, if necessary, you will use pantomime. On the road, we met three ladies on gravel bikes from England, and they confirmed just that: that neither language nor vegetarianism is a problem.

 

Roads? Be prepared for everything

The roads… Hmm, the roads will be very diverse: from perfect, new asphalt through a mountain pass to macadam, on which you’ll be forced to push the bike uphill, while the traffic in cities like Tirana or Shkoder might be a little bit chaotic. The final decision on the route will be made after a complete analysis and in a way that makes connections with Montenegro and North Macedonia logical and simple.

Albania, we are already looking forward to meeting again!

Trans Dinarica – Albania photo gallery

Our next Trans Dinarica expedition: Albania!

These days, our team is preparing for this year’s first autumn Trans Dinarica research expedition. After exploring Serbia and part of Bosnia and Herzegovina, we now await the beautiful and somewhat lesser-known country where the route will reach its southernmost point: Albania.

A twisty, empty road in Albania.

The fun will start in Theth National Park on the border with Montenegro. We continue south towards the Adriatic Sea and Tomorri Mountain National Park. Then we will turn our bikes east towards the Prespan National Park between Lake Ohrid and Lake Prespan. The route then crosses the border to North Macedonia … but we’ll have to save that country for next time.

All of us involved in this project have been to Albania several times, but we still have exciting surprises waiting for us, so we will also have a local cyclist and an excellent expert on the terrain with us. For those interested, please follow the expedition on our social channels: Instagram and Facebook. Stay tuned and thanks for being a part of the journey.