17 Instagram Posts That’ll Make You Want to Visit Albania

Locked between dramatic mountain faces and azure blue seas; it’s nothing short of a miracle that Albania hasn’t made it onto the mainstream tourist trail yet. “Shqipëria” to the locals, it’s known to its natives as the land of the eagles, a moniker adopted from folklore tales passed down from generation to generation. They tell of how a young Albanian saved an eaglet from certain death at the fangs of a venomous snake. And it’s that willingness to do things for others that sum up the spirit of the country.

Albanians are known for their hospitality, kindness, and affinity for knocking back glasses of homemade raki. The days of communist dictatorship are a distant memory for all but a few. Albania is looking ahead to a brighter future. There is no better time to visit than now.



Tucked between the Tomorr mountain (which locals claim to be the resting body of a fallen giant) and the Osum river, Berat is the jewel in the crown of Albania. Home to 60,000 people, many of whom tell tales of being forced to work in the munitions tunnels carved by the Communist government into nearby hills. It’s a town of two halves – the winding medieval white-washed streets cut a course on the right bank of the river, while an altogether more modern settlement is the hub of the town on the left bank.

High above the town lies its castle – a fortress built to protect the town and her inhabitants from Byzantine raiders. Once it was a front line of wars between powerful empires vying for control. Now a slippery marble paved road keeps all but the most determined flip-flop clad tourists from reaching the top.

Consecutive invasions of Berat have left the town with a mixture of architecture. The Turks brought their influence, as did the Communists. An interesting mishmash of styles pleasing to the eye, and the camera.

Where to stay: Ex-pat Scotti has been running ‘Berat Backpackers’ since 2009. It’s the stuff of backpacker dreams; Cuni the rather aloof cat, a legend in the hostel world helps to secure that.  The 250 year old home offers more than comfortable lodging, and excellent social vibes. Comfy corner sofas, incredible views across the town, good home cooking, and cheap beers are all part of the charm.

Doubles and dorms are available from £8 (€10,  US$11) a night. Worth the furgon ride! Book here


Valbona National Park

Misty mountains and alpine streams dominate in this untouched corner of europe’s unexplored country. The traditional way of life is slowly changing in the steep-sided valleys. Farmers are turning their hand to hosting trekkers looking for adventure.

The region borders Kosovo, territory fiercely claimed by both Serbs and ethnic Albanians. It’s home to wild dog,  wolves, and some say bears. But don’t let this put you off. The mountains offer fantastic trekking, climbing and camping.

The day-long trek from Valbona to Theth is not to be missed. Sitting more than 2,000 metres above sea level means weather fronts blow in and leave in a matter of hours. It’s not uncommon for there to be mysterious mist lingering in the morning then crystal clear skies in the afternoon

Albania is becoming a stoic pinpoint on the map for travellers from around the globe. New roads are being built, hotels are under construction, and the country is planning to build a second airport, at Kukës – development which’ll make getting to northern Albania much easier, and visiting a more attractive prospect.

Where to stay: Traditional but comfortable lodging is available at home stays throughout the valley. Albania’s reputation for good hospitality earns its name in Valbona.  But by far the most popular place to kip is Quku i Valbonës. Halfway up the valley the family run business has great food, the most comfortable beds, or a place to camp if that’s your thing. The showers are great too!

Beds start from £20 (€25,  US$28) a night. Book here


The “not to be missed” Lake Koman ferry

A ride along Lake Koman is only comparable to a trip on the Norwegian fjords. Bottle green trees meet the waters edge along the breathtaking route.  The landlocked lake through the ‘accursed mountains’ is actually a hydro-electric damn, but also forms part of an ancient route from Kosovo to Albania. The rickety ferry stutters into life several times a day, passing which scenery has to be seen to be believed.

A photographers dream, the landscape could have been plucked from the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Mountains tower above the lake as it weaves its way to Fierza. It’s a route used by tourists and locals alike – meaning it’s a great chance to practice pigeon Albanian (or sit back, have a beer and take in the views).

Lake Koman is the most scenic route to travel to the Valbona National Park from Shkodër. It has been described as “one of the world’s great boat trips”.



This sleepy fishing village on facing out toward the Ionian Sea remains relatively untouched by Aussie backpackers flaunting flip-flops and tales of far-flung lands. Seafood restaurants line the seafront enjoying unspoilt views over the town’s beach.

Less than half an hour’s stroll away from the Xhiro is ‘Albania’s Ibiza’ – Jala. Toned men and bikini-clad women descend on the beach to drink at its bars, swim in crystal clear waters and ‘be seen’ during the summer month. It’s a world away from the serenity of the surrounding villages.

Reminders of Albania’s communist dictatorship past are ever present.  On a clear day the Greek island of Corfu is visible – too visible for those once in Tirana’s corridors of power awaiting an imminent invasion which never came. The now defunct fortifications line the roads leading between the coastal towns and villages.

For a truly undiscovered experience take the coastal route between Vlora and Himarë. Google Maps directs tourists away from the twisting mountain roads as they descend down from Mount Çika, but the hairpins bends are a thrill for any driver (but maybe not so much for passengers!)

The original hermit kingdom was not always as open and welcoming as it is today. As recently as the 1980’s tourists required a chaperone to visit, were prevent from mingling with locals, and were only allowed to see what the government wanted them to see. Nowadays the fortifications are used as bars, storehouses, or have fallen into disrepair.


Tirana – the capital city

Probably Europe’s weirdest capital city. At first glance Tirana doesn’t have a huge amount to offer a wondering soul, but its quirkiness makes it worth at least a day stop-off. The International Center of Culture (or the Pyramid of Tirana) tops the Albania’s list of the weird and wonderful. Opened in October 1988 was intended to be a museum to Enver Hoxha – the leader of Albania’s communist cult. The pyramid new sits empty and derelict. It’s an ad hoc climbing frame for plucky locals and tourists hoping to get that “perfect selfie”.

Tirana of the centre of Albanian life. Smartly dressed men and women weave their way between the chaotic traffic like in any other European capital. It’s the home of the country’s nightlife, especially the Blokku area, a section of town formerly reserved for the country’s elite.


Where to stay: Unlike most places in Albania, there is a good choice of places to sleep. Backpackers flock to Trip’n’Hostel – only a stone’s throw from the central Skanderbeg Square. Good showers, tasty breakfast, and a relaxing garden make this a great place to exchange backpacking stories with other travellers.

Beds start from £8 (€10,  US$11) a night. Book here

Albania is a fast-changing country, its mystique and wonder could be all but gone in a few years. What are you waiting for?


Reasons You Need to Add Warsaw to Your Travel Bucketlist

What is impressive about Warsaw is, despite its most recent history, it hasn’t lost even an ounce of its culture and identity. The city’s streets are strikingly modern;  glass buildings tower above picturesque parks, trams whizz between hectic traffic and yet turn a corner and you’ll find yourself discovering traditional food in squares that have barely changed since their first sods were dug.

Top Tips

  • Check out the Old Town for culture, charming squares and history.
  • The best food is served to the locals, don’t be afraid to try out backstreet eateries.
  • Budget more Zloty than you think you’ll need, Warsaw has a lot to offer and you’ll want a taste of it all.

Like most capital cities, Warsaw is a sprawling modern metropolis. It is defined by communist era boulevards, glass buildings and colourful squares.

The Old Town is the most picturesque area of the city, laid out in phases since the 12th century. The main market square, built in the 13th century, is home to colourful townhouses and has a fascinating history of hosting key moments in Poland’s past. Nowadays it’s home to fine restaurants and gift shops. In the area, it’s worth checking out the Historical Museum of Warsaw and the Royal Palace.  There’s also a great Italian restaurant just off the main square. Known as Rucola, dishes start at £5 ($7) for a main and it’s a great stop for a leisurely lunch.


The towering city streets are impressive (and totally not what most Western travellers associate with Poland). London has the City, Warsaw has Emilii Plater street. It’s home to a cluster of impressive modernist structures that are a visual reminder of how Poland’s economy is changing and growing. The tallest of these towers is the Communist era ‘Palace of Culture and Science’ rising to 237metres. Close in its shadow are the Warsaw Spire and Warsaw Trade Tower standing at 220m and 208m respectively.

Warsaw was nominated as one of Europe’s greenest cities, in a bid to hold the title for 2018. It’s true that it has some fantastic parks that offer a quick getaway from the hectic streets. When the snow falls, the park at Królewska offers splendid scenic adventures. There are even some ducks that call it home.  Come snow or shine, it’s a good place to stop by on your way to the Old Town.

It’s home to Poland’s tallest building. Built in the mid-50’s by the Communist regime, the 231m Palace of Science and Culture sets the standard for height in Poland.  On clear day it’s worth taking the lift to the 30th floor to take in the views of the city. The building was gifted to the Polish people and takes inspiration from the Empire State Building.

The food is a fusion of local and international cuisine. Make sure you spend an evening at low-key Banjaluka on Grenadierów for a mix of Polish and Balkan cuisine. Raki, shopska, cevapi and live music – what could possibly go wrong…? The friendly and attentive staff speak excellent English and are keen to recommend items from the menu if you’re not sure.

Tip: get one of the bar stools near the stage, the local bands that play here are phenomenal and put on a real show.


It has some of the best hostels in Europe. After a day of exploring, bed down at ultra-cool Chillout Hostel. A stone’s throw from the main sights, the hostel is situated in a renovated tenement house near Central station. It has quirky staircases, cosy dorms and a charming area to relax with fellow travellers and share stories. You can save a few Zloty on accommodation, Warsaw ranks cheaply for a place to stay, beds start from £6 ($8).

Sip a freshly brewed coffee by Nyhaven

8 Cheap Things to Do in the World’s 8th Most Expensive City: Copenhagen

The dazzling Danish capital and home of Carlsberg; Copenhagen is to weekend trippers what Smørrebrød is to sandwich lovers. Our Scandinavian neighbours are known for several things: breakfast pastries, longboat invasions, simply designed goods, innovative food, and a more relaxed pace of life.

The canals, townhouses and cobbled streets of Copenhagen are a living and breathing ‘how to guide’ for a perfect Nordic existence. Seeing the best of the city is easily achievable in one weekend. Business Insider recently ranked Copenhagen as the world’s 8th most expensive city to live in, but it doesn’t have to cost the Earth to see it.

1. Start with the Rosenborg Castle

Start with the Rosenborg Castle

Slap bang in the centre of Copenhagen and known locally as Rosenborg Slot; the castle was originally built as a summer home for the Danish Royal family. Over the years has been expanded many times to become one of Copenhagen’s most memorable buildings. Created in the Dutch Renaissance style, the castle has been used as the official home of the Royal family two times.

Inside is a maze of quirky rooms home to the ornate wares of Denmark’s first family. The areas open to tourists span three floors and serve as a good guide to how Denmark became one of Europe’s most powerful states. It’s worth setting aside a good two and a half hours to cover the whole castle. On a warm summer’s day, the grounds are one of the most popular places for Danes to take a break.

Rosenborg is where Denmark’s Crown jewels are housed and there couldn’t be a more fitting home. The regal red stone walls and towering spires are an imposing yet enticing sight from ‘Kongens Have’ — or the Kings Garden — the oldest royal garden in the country. Within the basement of the castle is an enormous collection of the Danish crown’s insignia — a collection of artefacts which make the castle worth a visit in their own right.

Surrounding Rosenborg is a network of buildings established to provide a place for those who serviced the castle to work, eat, and sleep. Changing seasons bring the turn of emerald leaves to shades auburn and hazel, contrasting beautifully against the white brushed wooden window frames. If you don’t fancy going inside the castle then it’s worth seeing the gardens, especially in summer when events and music concerts are held within the castle’s grounds.

Getting there and getting in: Rosenborg Castle is in the centre of Copenhagen and an easy walk from the central railway station or main shopping streets. Adult tickets start from 105 DKK (£11.) The castle is open most days but times vary so it’s worth checking its website. Nearest Metro: Get off at Nørreport and walk for around 5 minutes for the quickest route to the castle.

2. Frederik’s Church

Frederik’s Church proves that not all city centres are created equal. Copenhagen does most things pretty spectacularly but it really excels when it comes to beautiful buildings. If you’re walking between Rosenborg Castle and Christiansborg – the seat of the Danish parliament – then you’ll no doubt stumble across the towering dome of Frederik’s Church. Crowned by the largest dome in Scandinavia – it has a span of 31m – you’d be forgiven for thinking you were looking at the Vatican’s St Peter’s Basilica; a building which is said to have inspired its design.

Unsurprisingly it’s a popular spot for glamorous Danes to tie-the-knot, and it’s easy to see why; the striking church sits on a peaceful cobbled square near Copenhagen’s glistening waterfront. Make sure you don’t miss the view from the top of the dome – tours are available at 1pm and 3pm on weekdays in the summer months and at the same times on weekends for the rest of the year.

Getting there and getting in: If you’re starting at Rosenborg Castle then you’re about a 10-15 minute walk away, less if you’re on two wheels. There is an entry fee to get in: 35 DKK (£4), but the dome is best viewed from the elegant square it sits on. Nearest Metro: Kongens Nytorv is at the bottom of the square on which the church sits.

3. The Royal Library

The Royal Library

The Royal Library is an institution of two vastly contrasting halves. That’s because Copenhagen’s cathedral of literature is housed across two buildings, with a glimmering glass walkway connecting them. On one side of a busy city road is a decadent and historic reading room where Dane’s study literature forming the foundation of their Kingdom. Adjacent is the gloriously modern and beautifully designed main building known as ‘the Black Diamond’. Here 50ft glass windows look out over Copenhagen’s waterfront and heels clack quietly along polished wooden floors.

Unless you’re fluent in Danish then the words within the books resting on dark wooden shelves won’t be of much interest. That aside the library is host to almost every piece of Danish literature to be published and includes the first book published in the language, dating back to 1482.

Crossing from the original building into the new extension is could be described as like travelling in a time-tunnel of Danish architecture. The library’s modern extension was completed in just before the turn of the millennium and owes its name to the polished Italian granite that clads its exterior. But it’s the atrium which is the real spectacle to be marvelled at. Explorers can find the best views from the top floor of the building. Looking down at academics, students and bibliophiles probably isn’t enough to stop vertigo, but for a few short seconds, it’s worth peering over the parapet into the vast space below.

Crossing the harbour offers the best views of ‘the black diamond’, especially at night when it’s lit up with a luminous tangerine glow. Such thought was put into its design that it has the appearance of floating just above the water level. If you really feel like pushing the boat out (literally) you can take a tour through the harbour on one of the boats which helped make Copenhagen such an important city. You’ll find them along the quayside.

Getting there and getting in: Who pays to go into a library? Nobody, that’s who. This cathedral of design and literature won’t cost you krone to get in. However you are meant to be studying to go into the reading rooms (but if you don’t tell then I won’t either). As always opening hours vary throughout the year, it’s worth checking them on the library’s website. There is a good coffee shop and place to store your bag for a small fee too. Nearest metro: Christianshavn St. or Kongens Nytorv are both equidistant at around a 10-minute stroll from the library.

4. Get lost in the winding streets of the old city

Despite being one of Europe’s most influential cities it isn’t hard to find a near-deserted street in Copenhagen. Away from the hustle and bustle of the city’s beating shopping mile – Strøget – Dutch style townhouses tower above cobbled streets and resting bikes. Rainbow painted houses are the bread and butter of Copenhagen and are seen nowhere better than on Magstræde just south of the main commercial centre.

On Magstræde and Snarestræde, the oldest streets in the city, the original cobbles take the tread of locals on their way to bars, shops, and work. The area is the home of Denmark’s culture, indeed it houses the government’s ministry dedicated to it.

Getting there and getting in: It’s completely free to look around. The knack is knowing where to go as it’s tucked away. Most hostels will give you a free map to help find your way around the city, but if you stay at Copenhagen Downtown Hostel then you’re right on the doorstep, more on there later. Nearest Metro: Kongens Nytorv is probably the closest, it’s about 15 minutes away.

5. Sip a freshly brewed coffee by Nyhaven

Sip a freshly brewed coffee by Nyhaven

The harbour of Nyhavn is a lot more peaceful now than in days gone by. Dating back to 1681, the quayside once throbbed with the shouts and laughs of traders from around the world, today it’s an altogether more peaceful affair. At the beginning, middle or end of a long day of pavement treading the harbour is the perfect place to take a seat and watch the world go by. The area has strong literary connections: it’s where Hans Christian Anderson lived and wrong some of his most famous works including ‘The Princess and the Pea’ and ‘The Tinderbox’.

If you’re a set-jetter then Nyhaven is certainly worth a visit. It has been used as a location in several films; most recently the Academy Award winning ‘The Danish Girl’ starring Eddie Redmayne and Alicia Vikander. Director Tom Hooper stated the film owes a debt to the city and its “untouched” city centre. Visit in winter for traditional Christmas markets, or in summer for good food from market stalls dotted around the harbour.

Getting there and getting in: Nyhaven is free to visit but do watch the prices in some of the cafes along the harbourside; Nyhaven attracts tourists from around the globe and with that comes people looking to get as much of their hard-earned cash from them as possible. For a decadent hot chocolate try ‘Baresso’ next to the French Embassy at the land end of the harbour. The popular chain of coffee shops is a favourite with Danes for its cheap prices, bold menu, and comfy places to sit (they play some good music too). Nearest Metro: Kongens Nytorv is the nearest at less than three minutes walk away.

6. Climb to the top of Copenhagen’s golden church

Sip a freshly brewed coffee by Nyhaven

The Church of Our Saviour sits on the same island as the bohemian Christiana commune and offers views across the city. The journey up 400 steep wooden then copper steps to the top of the corkscrew spire has been attracting visitors since it was completed in 1752. The views from the top are incredible but aren’t for the faint-hearted.

On a clear day, it’s possible to see the Øresund Bridge which connects the city with the Swedish city of Malmo. If you’re not fortunate to have the sunshine on your side then it’s still worth a trip to look down on the city as if it were a child’s play toy. Toward the top of the spire, the steps narrow to a point where there’s barely enough room to squeeze past people going in the opposite direction. Think skinny!

Top tip: The steps are lined with shiny copper and when they’re wet they’re very slippery. Keep a firm grip of the handrail; the bruises from slipping down a few wet steps last a long time. I speak from experience… Ouch!

7. Drink like a Viking

Denmark’s most famous export, the Vikings, started the country’s reputation for a good pint. It’s a tradition that Danes have continued to embrace. Copenhagen is home to the Carlsberg brewery where hops have been fermented into an impressive range of beverages since 1847. The brewery has a museum in which bottles from all their products produced for different global markets are on show, but the best bit is you get two free drinks included in the entry price.

The brewery still upholds its time-worn traditions; following the same brewery methods it did in more than 150 years ago. Originally, Carlsberg stored its beer and lager in wooden barrels made on site; today the production process takes place in a sanitised factory where metal machines whirr and men in white coats analyse pH levels. The beer tastes the same but it’s hard to say the same amount of love goes into making it as in days gone by.

Getting there and getting in: To get into the brewery costs 95DKK (£10) but the entry price includes the cost of two drinks of your choice. If you use public transport once during your time in Copenhagen then this should be that time. The brewery is located about an hour’s walk outside the city centre in the Vesterbro neighbourhood. It benefits from good public transport connections too.

Nearest Metro: Pick your allegiance as there is two a similar walking distance away. Both Valby and Enghve S-train stations will leave you around a 10-minute trot from an ice cold drink. There’s also a free shuttle bus put on by the brewery, it’ll drop you right at the door, but where is the adventure in that?

8. Eat like a Viking

Copenhagen is the world’s kitchen when it comes to innovative new cuisine. Denmark, like all great European countries, is home to people from around the globe. Bosniak, Turkish, Iranian and Scandinavian cuisine is all one the menu. Despite only having one Michelin Star restaurant Copenhagen is a holy grail for foodies. If you’re on a budget there are plenty of places to choose from.

Lonely Planet highly commends the burgers at Cocks and Cows on Gammel Strand. It says: “energetic staff deliver fresh, made-from-scratch burgers that are generous and insanely good.” The American-style venue combines the best of Danish and US cuisine in a chilled out communal setting. From vegan to gut-busting, prices on the extensive menu start from 95DKK (£10). The salsa-laden ‘BBQ Farmer’ free range pork burger is a steal at 109DKK (£12.50).

When to visit

Tempted? It’s easy to see why. Copenhagen is a solid choice for a weekend jaunt any time of year. But for the best Danish experience make sure you’re there for the biggest party of the year – J-Day. The biggest party of the year happens on the first Friday in November when the local Carlsberg brewery begins to sell its special Christmas beer ‘Julebryg’.

Locals flock to the bars for 9pm when the first pints are sold and promptly drunk to the sound of merry delivery workers singing and throwing fake snow. Dane’s will tell you the brew is the best in the world, in reality, it’s like Carlsberg laced with a hint of liquorice. Legend says that shout it snow on J-Day then Christmas in Denmark has begun. You can get your hands on some pretty cool merchandise too…

Getting there, getting around and getting on.

Ryanair fly from London Luton 5 times a day. Prices starting from as low as £7 each way for the hour long flight. Copenhagen Airport is one of Europe’s busiest airports; a recent makeover has made sure it’s fit for even the chicest travellers. A fast and frequent rail connections will get you to the city centre in less than 20 minutes. You can pick up a 24-hour ticket for 65DKK (£7).

The city has a well-developed transport system including buses, trains, boats, and the local’s favourite: a bicycle. If you’re feeling flash there are plenty of taxis, or you can book an Uber to take you most places in the city. Denmark used the Danish Kroner, a currency which offers a moderately good exchange rate with the British Pound with £10 working out at around 86DKK. Prices are similar to those in London.


6 Reasons Why Kotor Is the Best Place to Visit This Summer

Kotor is, without a doubt, the most beautiful city in Montenegro, if not the Balkans.

Sheltered from the Adriatic winds by a natural harbour, the UNESCO World Heritage Site sits in what is often thought to be the world’s southern-most fjord, but it’s actually a submerged river canyon.

The 500-year-old port dates back to Kotor’s period of Venetian rule and was once an important trading hub — these days it’s a stop-off for cruise ships and backpackers seeking a few days of relaxation and beautiful architecture.

1. The location is unlike any other


Squeezed between imposing mountains and cobalt waters, Kotor couldn’t fit more perfectly into its surroundings. The city walls define its outline, and within lies a maze of marble paved streets with squares made for sipping coffee and watching the world go by.

2. It’s like stepping into a medieval world


Since the city walls were built in the 9th century, not a great deal has changed inside them. Kotor is a living, working, thriving museum to its past. Cruise ships dock alongside the main entrance to the city, bringing with them gaggles of excited explorers. To see the city at its best, get up early and explore the streets before breakfast — it’s more than worth the early alarm.

3. The city has barely outgrown its ancient walls


Terracotta rooftops and glistening marble streets are the calling card of Kotor. Secret squares and tucked away staircases provide opportunities for endless exploring. Akin to most ports along the Adriatic sea, the city has been under control by empires from across the continent — the Venetians, Napoleonic Italy, and the Habsburg Kingdom have all flown their flag on the hill above the city at some point in history.

4. You can feel like a millionaire on any budget


Tourism hasn’t been so kind to all of Montenegro’s resorts. Budva, a few miles to the south, is a playground for the über-wealthy and has turned into a contest of bling.

Kotor has had a lucky escape. The sheltered waters are perfect for mooring luxury yachts, bringing with them the rich and famous — including the Rothschilds. Swanning along the waterfront past the boats and exotic cars is sure to make anyone feel like they’re in a dream.

5. It has one of the best hostels in the region


Imagine waking up and stepping out into twisting streets steeped in history before your first coffee of the day.

Nestled in between the main square and the southern city gate is Old Town Hostel. Stripped back walls and a sociable atmosphere have secured this resting place one of the best Hostel World ratings in Montenegro. Comfy beds and warm hospitality are stones throw from the waterfront and a short trek from the medieval castle which crowns the hill behind the town.

Prices start from £12 per night – booking ahead is highly recommended.

6. The locals are friendly


Kotor has a population of just over 13,000 people and the locals are friendly and accommodating, they recognise the benefits tourism brings to their city. You can be sure of a warm welcome in Montenegrin fjords.

The feline residents are pretty friendly too. Kotor has an art gallery and shop dedicated to cats. It’s so popular Trip Advisor rates it as the 16th best thing to do in the city.

Getting there

Ryanair fly from London Stansted to the Montenegrin capital Podgorica twice a week. Seats start from as low as £25 for the three-hour flight. Kotor is about two hours on a bus through beautiful coastal and mountainous scenery from the capital.

A more expensive but faster option is to fly to Tivat Airport, around 5 miles outside the city. Easyjet offer seasonal flights to Tivat from Manchester and London-Gatwick.