Albania, Budget travel, Europe, Expat life, The Balkans

A weekend in Vlore, Albania with kids

Day 1

Last weekend, we took off on our first little road trip in Albania. We’ve been here a month now. I can’t believe it. We bought, licensed, and insured our car on Tuesday, so by Friday at 4:00, we were off! We decided to visit Vlore on the Albanian Riviera which is a couple of hours away. We drove from Tirana and stopped in the smallish city of Fier for dinner. It’s worth a stop. Its beautiful! We had pizza at a local chain called Proper Pizza. They were really friendly and cute with our kids and the food was great.

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We arrived in Vlore as the sun was setting, and checked into Le Pallazine Hotel. The rooms are beautiful and fresh and modern and it was impeccably clean, and really affordable!

We walked down the stairs along the rocky cliff our hotel sat atop to the boardwalk by the beach. The weather was perfect. It was a lovely night.

Day 2

The free breakfast the next morning was great. A typical Balkan breakfast with homemade cheese, meats, fruit, tomatoes, cucumbers, bread and eggs. A barista was there as well to make any fresh cappuccino or coffee you’d like. Freshly juiced fruit juices lined the tables like a rainbow. My kids were in heaven. In the U.S., we didn’t buy juice as it was basically sugar and concentrate disguised as a healthy drink, but juicing is really popular here and you can buy fresh juice in malls, at the lake in Tirana, and all over the city.

After breakfast, we left the hotel and drove a few kilometers outside the city to the Copa Cabana private beach.

This was our first close peak at the water. We parked and walked a few feet to see this…

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It’s truly stunning. Teal, aqua, and azure blues seamlessly knitted together.

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This beach was recommended to us by another family with kids and it’s just perfect. It is just right for small kids. The water has light waves. Just enough to have some fun, but still enough to swim and play and not feel scared.

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Two chairs with an umbrella and table service is 500 leke ($5) for the day.

We had a delicious seafood and pasta lunch at our hotel, then decided to venture a bit further south to the village and beach of Dhermi. This beach was recommended by a sweet local girl where we bought our paddle boat.

Its hard to find the words to describe how crazy beautiful the drive from Vlore to Dhermi is. It is both crazy and beautiful. Here are some pictures from the way there and the sunset on the way back.

It is a steep and windy road, the locals drive really fast and pass in terrifying spots, but it is still incredible.

Dhermi Beach is beautiful. It’s a long stretch of beach, unlike Vlore which had smaller stretches of beach, and is much rockier (but is so strikingly beautiful).

Dhermi is a bit more rustic in its feel. It’s less glamorous and had more families than couples. We paid about 200 leke to park, and Johnny, the owner of the land, was so excited that we’re American, as he lives in Maryland most of the year and returns to Albania for the summer. He helped us pick some pomegranates off his tree and told us we could park there anytime. Even if he wasn’t there. We ❤️ Johnny.

Dhermi’s waves are much bigger and made our little boat adventure pretty fun.

As the sun was setting, we headed back to Vlore and ate at a castle restaurant just off the windy mountain road.

Day 3

On Sunday morning, we decided to visit the beach for the morning. We went to Copa Cabana again because it’s just so lovely.

After playing for a few hours, we headed up to the Kanine Castle ruins. Its about 3 kilometers east of Vlore, located outside the little village of Kanine. It’s not clearly advertised or marked with signs. Luckily, Google Maps got us there without any problems. It was incredible! The roads get a bit rough, but only for a short while, and there is a parking lot. It is a small hike to get up there. It’s not terribly difficult, (my kids ran up it) but could be difficult for those with limited mobility and, unfortunately, it’s not at all wheelchair accessible. The view all along the walk to the top gets more amazing every new level you reach.

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The fortress ruins were discovered in the 1970’s. It had been hidden in the hills for centuries. It dates back to the 3rd Century B.C. It was occupied during the Hellenistic Era. I read up a bit about this before we went and it made it so much more fascinating to picture what it must have been like. The theater major in me had to pull up pictures so I could see the clothing (costumes, ya know?). It makes history come alive for me.

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The views from the top look out over the whole valley and straight to the Ionian Sea. It’s magical.

Then, we made the journey home. We didn’t want to leave, but we will surely be back. There’s still so much to see. Next time, we plan to take the boat out to the monastery on an island nearby, check out more amazing restaurants, and of course, play at the beach.

Albania is still not on many people’s radar, certainly not people from the U.S., where we are from, and not many in Europe either. Now that we’re here, I find it is just such a beautiful place with such incredible history that I call myself lucky to be able to explore its stunning beauty before the rest of the world discovers it.

It’s also incredibly affordable!

Budget breakdown

Hotel: €120 total for two nights. We also had free breakfast.

Food : €90 eating out in great restaurants with seafood and drinks.

Transportation: About €50. We drove our car. It uses natural gas.

Total: €260

❤️ Melissa

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