Albania wasn’t completely on our radar as we traveled around the Balkans and Eastern Europe. We knew we definitely wanted to visit this mysterious and sometimes misunderstood country, we just weren’t sure when we would make it there… With some time restrictions and rumors of unreliable public transportation there, a trip to Albania seemed slightly out of reach this time. Luckily, our plans changed after a long evening chatting with our AirBnb host in Montenegro.
We were sharing favorite travel destinations (one of hers was Shkoder) and plenty of homemade wine, and then all of a sudden it was decided – Shkoder, Albania was our next stop! We would make the time and figure out transportation, no matter what! And how wrong we were for not visiting sooner…
We were staying in Budva, Montenegro (not too far from the Albanian border) and after checking bus schedules, taxi prices and every other possible option for transport we decided to get a rental car. Usually the extra fees tacked on to rental cars for crossing borders make buses our preferred mode of transportation but we came across this amazing agency, Simeun Car Rental. It was one of the best rental experiences we have had, ever! They brought the car to us in Budva, dropped it off outside our apartment and after some quick paperwork we were free to go. The best part is they don’t charge extra for one way trips (even dropping off in another country) and crossing a border is only €4 extra! Other companies we found wanted up to €70 to cross borders and don’t even think about a one way trip (an extra €100+).
After quickly loading up the car, we were on our way!
There are 2 border crossings to choose from when driving from Montenegro, one just east of Podgorica and then a smaller one at the southern tip of the Lake. We took the smaller one and it was a really simple, quick crossing. On our way back, we used the other crossing and it was much busier, as it’s on the truck route. Still not too bad, but definitely worth noting if you have time constraints. The agents at both border crossings were very nice and we had no problems getting through. On our way back to Montenegro, the guards were searching most of the cars, but we were lucky enough to get waved straight through!
Where to Stay
Once through the crossing we drove through the small city of Shkoder and north along the lake to our final destination, Lake Shkodra Resort. This place was seriously amazing, one of the most uniquely wonderful places we have stayed so far.
Home for the next 2 nights was a large bell tent, but this was definitely not roughing it. The tents at Lake Shkodra Resort all come with electricity, wifi, fans and real beds. Glamping at it’s finest!
If glamping is not your style, they also have an incredible 2 bedroom lodge with a full kitchen or a cute little shepherds hut studio. But definitely give it a try, I’ve never been much of a camper but this was just perfect! They do also have traditional camping spaces available. Tents, RV’s and anything in between are all welcome.
The whole property is right on the lake, peaceful, beautiful and spotless! The staff were absolutely amazing, everyone was so friendly and helpful. It was the perfect break for us to get some R&R after a pretty crazy time in Budva.
What to do
Lake Shkodra Resort is perfectly set up for total relaxation. Each glamping tent has a hammock for you to laze around in, take a nap or read a book. If you’re more active or are traveling with children, there is plenty of entertainment including a playground and a huge field to play soccer or frisbee. Getting out on the water is an absolute must, the lake is crystal clear and very inviting! The front office offers paddle boards, kayaks and pedal boats to rent at amazing prices! They also have some day excursions available to visit nearby lakes and sights. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to participate in any of these, but based on our experience with everything else here – if you get a chance to go, it will be a blast!
We rented the pedal boat and paddle board and it was so much fun. First we took out the pedal boat and we were pedaling straight for the border!
Stand up paddle boarding is always a blast and somehow we both managed to squeeze on the board! We thoroughly enjoyed a day out on (and in!) the water. Be sure to take it out as the sun is going down for a truly amazing experience.
The lake front deck chairs are perfectly set up too, each with an umbrella so you can hide in the shade whenever you wish. When you get too hot, just walk to the end of the pier and take a dip in the refreshing lake water.
You truly don’t have to leave the resort at all – they have everything you need!
On a side note, the stars at night are so bright here! It really is amazing how many of them are missed when you’re in the US. Because the cities aren’t so large here, there is much less light coming from them. The Milky Way was visible and it was the first time we have each seen it in years! We were able to snap this shot during a full moon.
Where to Eat
The Lake Shkodra Resort has an onsite restaurant and it’s absolutely delicious and the prices are phenomenal. We stuffed ourselves with salad, the classic Albanian dish for two and a half liter of wine for about €15.00! We didn’t eat out in town at all, the on site restaurant and staff were just too good!
Breakfast was delicious too and the prices were unbelievable. We also enjoyed coming to the restaurant in the evenings for a beer or cocktail. There was a big group of very friendly, Dutch campers staying while we were there. It was really nice chatting with everyone! Also we were lucky enough to be here during the Euro matches, and bar area got quite lively when the football games were on!
Exploring the Area
When we arrived in Shkoder we had big plans to leave the resort and head into town to try out some restaurants and explore but between the delicious food, beautiful setting and fun water activities – neither of us really wanted to venture too far away! Still, we managed to tear ourselves away from the resort for a half day to explore the nearby town of Shkoder and drive around the lake.
Shkoder Fortress is a must see. At, 3 euros to get in, it’s a total bargain. Make sure you wear decent shoes, those stone walk ways and stairs are slippery! The view from the top is stunning, we arrived around sunset and could see the lake, and the Drin and Bojana Rivers. We also happened to be almost the only people there, which is always refreshing at such a beautiful site.
One thing we both noticed and really loved about our time here was the friendliness and hospitality of the locals. The Albanian people we met were amazing! Everyone seemed kind of surprised we were visiting when we told them we were from Florida. We were surprised there weren’t more American tourists! It is still off the main path for Western travelers, but I don’t think it will stay this way for long. Albania has a lot to offer and the cheap prices, stunning scenery and friendly locals make this place a perfect destination.
We can’t wait to come back soon and spend more time here. We will definitely be excited to get back to Lake Shkodra Resort and then head down the coast to check out some of the gorgeous beaches. Have you been to Albania, or is it on your to see list?