It's easy to see why, our top rated Cycle Albania trip is one of our most popular. With the chance to cycle through areas untouched by tourism, be welcomed by local people and try delicious local food. Ali Butler, our Cycling Product Manager, talks about why she loves this trip.
I arrived in Albania
excited to explore more of a beautiful country that I last visited over 10 years ago. I was greeted with a warm welcome by the wonderful Explore Leader, Bledi, who introduced everyone in my small group. We arrived in our first hotel, set beside the beautiful Lake Ohrid, in perfect light conditions to capture stunning photographs. Lake Ohrid is one of Europe’s oldest and deepest lakes and the view is breath-taking. I took the opportunity to stroll along the shores of the lake, watching men playing dominos in the shade of the trees and couples walking up and down the promenade enjoying the autumn evening.
The next morning we headed down to try out our bikes. All of the bikes had been set-up to our measurements and labelled with our names, ready for testing. Buzzing with excitement we set off along the lake shore to test brakes, saddle height and make any minor adjustments needed before setting off on our cycling adventure.
Cycling through the Albanian countryside was such a delight, the varied landscape kept us smiling for the entire 320km we covered by bike, even through some of the steeper uphill sections. Autumn is also a spectacular time to cycle in Albania as the temperature is great for cycling with cooler mornings and evenings, but the sky was blue during the whole trip.
The first day of cycling takes you from the shores of Lake Ohrid into the Gramoz Mountains and on to Germenij, where we spent the night in log cabins in the woods. We enjoyed a delicious home-cooked meal in the main house warmed by a great log fire.
Albania has some beautiful scenery. I cycled along roads that steadily wound up and the only traffic I saw were shepherds and their flocks. The cool autumn mornings are perfect for this terrain and are refreshing as you start to climb the ascents. Luckily they are always followed by great descents and on the smooth tarmac they really are a pleasure.
As we cycled through the countryside, we passed farmers harvesting maize, olives and chestnuts, which you can buy at the roadside for a delicious afternoon snack.
We often stopped for coffees in small villages and were welcomed by the local children waving and running alongside hoping for a high five. The Albanian communities treated us like long lost friends and Bledi, our Explore Leader, would translate so we could have a conversation over our well-earned morning rest. The coffee shops were full of delicious local delicacies, including biscuits and honeyed walnuts – great snacks for our cycling trip.
Albania has so much more to offer than just the wonderful cycling routes. Bledi introduced us to the history of Albania and some of the wonderful seasonal Albanian food.
The stop at Butrint UNESCO World Heritage Site was fascinating. The guide took us around the vast site and showed us archaeological treasure dating back to the Greeks and Romans. The site was beautiful and we took time to appreciate the history in the shade of Eucalyptus trees.
Along the way we also got to bathe in natural springs, an excellent way to unwind and relax.
Our last cycle took us to Dhermi, where we left the bikes, jumped on a bus and drove to Berat. Our journey took us through Llogora National Park, which is centred on the Ceraunian Mountains and gives you great coastal views. In Berat we explored the cobbled alleys before settling down to our last night supper, which was a multi-course extravaganza of local produce, in a small restaurant within the citadel. The owners were warm and hospitable and gave us all a glass of Rakia, a local fruit brandy to toast the epic journey we had made by bike through the Albanian countryside.
The group were lovely, supportive and encouraging throughout the whole journey. We all cycled at our own speeds but met at the top of hills to catch our breath and regroup. As normally found on these sorts of trips the older members of the group are usually among the fittest and I was reminded of that when one cruised past me near the top of a hill striking up a conversation while I was struggling to draw breath!
We also couldn’t have made it without the cycle support of Claret (The Bike Doctor) who kept our bikes in tip top condition, welcoming us to the top of the hills with water and a smile. He also pumped up tyres, adjusted brakes and gears overnight to make sure we have the best ride possible.
A support van is on hand on many of our Explore trips if you require a break from cycling, especially in hillier countries, such as Albania.
The whole cycling trip was an enjoyable, rewarding and beautiful week. I know won’t be leaving it another 10 years before I return next time.