So today Ian and I set off for our 2nd European adventure in Doris our motor home, along with Alf our fur baby. We haven’t really got a plan, other than we need to be in Corfu by 4th September to go sailing with our parents.
We booked our ferry this morning (told you, I’m not very organised) from Dover to Calais through Aferry.co.uk. It cost £140 for 2 x adults, Alf and Doris.
Whilst on the ferry we had a look on the laptop to come up with a route. We decided that we should go to Trento, Italy to visits our friends and to get there we would go through Germany. Ian then came across The Romantic Road (Romantische Strasse), that leads you on a fairytale journey from the north to south of Germany, so that’s would we decided to do.
The Romantic Road took us through beautiful quint picturesque villages and grand fairy tail walled medieval towns. We really enjoyed it and it’s a great way to see some of Southern Germany.
Our Romantic Road travel guide will be coming soon – so please watch this space…
After 5 days following the beautiful Romantic Road, starting in Würzburg and finishing in Füssen, it was time to continue south into Austria and then into Italy. This of course was absolutely spectacular as we drove through the alps.
High up in the Austrian sky, I suddenly spotted a walking bridge and told Ian, but unfortunately we had to much traffic behind us to pull over and you can’t just turn around in Doris. Since then, I’ve learned that it’s the highest walking suspension bridge in the world, it’s called Highline179 and best of all it only costs €8 to walk it. That’s definitely on my to do list!!…
We spent one night at the magnificent Lago di Resia in Val Venosta valley.
Where Ian was very excited to find out that it’s a mekka for kitesurfers, but so disappointed as there was no wind. So I’m sure we will be back…
Highlights of this part of our drive, coming soon…
After one week of being on the road, we met up with our friend in Trento, Italy. He got us straight out of town and took us to some incredible places that only locals would know about.
We had our own VERY MINI festival, dancing and playing music to celebrate our 5th wedding anniversary and of course the breathtaking view.
We felt like we were in South East Asia rather than Northern Italy climbing up a waterfall in Centa San Nicolò.
We said our goodbyes and met up with another friend for breakfast at the beautiful Lago do Caldonazzo before continuing our journey down the Adriatic coast of Italy.
Where, we finally found the sunshine and sea…
Our highlights for the East Coast of Italy, will be coming soon – so please watch this space.
We are now 2 weeks and 3 days into our European adventure and it’s time to head east over to Greece.
We booked our ferry directly with Grimaldi Lines from Brindisi in Italy to Corfu Island in Greece, it took 6.5 hours. It costs £167.60 for 2 x adults, Alf and Doris.
I really hope you have enjoyed reading about our adventures and it will encourage you to get out there and explore…
We fell in love with Albania and its simple to see why, it is such a beautiful country, with wonderful people. There’s breathtaking beauty around every bend, the mountain drives will give you everything. River side and high cliff hugging roads that take you through local villages and display the endless vistas beyond.
We travelled from North to South in our Motorhome (Doris) with our dog (Alf) for 19 days from 1st – 19th October 2018. Considering the time of the year the weather was absolutely brilliant making it a Parfect autumn holiday destination.
Here are 13 things that we think, you MUST do whilst in Albania…
These are in order from North to South to make it easier to plan your travels.
1.) Shkodër Lake
Be sure to visit the largest lake in southern Europe, that stretches all way to Montenegro.
2.) Lake Koman
Hop on the local ferry and travel with the locals as they go about their daily lives. Whilst gazing at the mountains as they dramatically enter the water. This unique trip is one not to be missed!!
Ksamil, wow, what can I say ? A little piece of absolute paradise!!…
Spend the day kayaking around the beautiful islands of Ksamil and a day to kayak to the incredible Butrint national park.
Butrinta prehistoric UNESCO world heritage archaeology site, the biggest not only in Albania but all the Balkans.
12.) Explore on 4 wheels, or 2…
It is the only way to get off the beaten track and see the real Albania.
(If you haven’t got wheels, Albania is still a fantastic holiday destination).
13.) Get to know the locals
We found that Albanian’s were incredible welcoming and extremely kind and always had time for us. We were even invite into their home. To read more about the locals we met, please read: Northwest Albania – Albanian Hospitality
Plus, you get your very own local tour guide and a friend for life.
It was really, really hard to name just a few things to do in Albania as it really is an amazing country full off natural beauty and history.
If, I was you, I’d get there quick before it gets too discovered…
Please read my posts about our road trip starting in the north, heading south, the links are below:
We recently sailed the North Ionian islands ( Sep 2019) and after sailing the Saronic islands (June 2018), we thought a post about the two would be appropriate.
Firstly, sailing anywhere in Greece is sure to be an amazing experience. With more than 1400 islands and one of the longest coastlines in the world and beaches and sunshine that stretch out for longer than the kids summer breaks.
The Ionian Islands
When people think of sailing anywhere around Greece most are drawn to the Ionian islands.
The north Ionian islands are easily accessible from Corfu and southern Ionian accessible from Lefkada.
These iconic group of islands are a sailing holiday dream with short distance’s between turquoise bays and pretty harbours. You never have to travel far before those google pictures you have been dreaming of become a reality.
The one thing that really struck us on these islands is how green they are. It is almost a natural phenomenon having travelled down the Adriatic coast many times. Where the landscape, especially as you move south becomes very dry and arid like. But head across the bay from Albania to Corfu and it’s surreal how the lush green islands appear. This really enhances the beautiful colours of the waters and the white sandy coves that appear around every corner.
We set sail out of Corfu and headed south to the islands of Paxos and further south to Anti Paxos. The further south you go the less populated the islands. Both islands are extremely beautiful and offer a contrast of sandy coves on one side and large caves and rugged landscapes on the other. Giaos especially is a gem of the Ionian coast a beautiful harbour town concealed in a small inlet. Giving a very unique feel.
We also touched on the mainland for one night at the stunning long sandy BBQ beach.
Like the Saronic islands having the wonderful Poros, you start and finish on the stunning island of Corfu which can sometimes be overlooked as a party island with Kavos being its main attraction. Don’t be fooled, Corfu is a diverse island offering everything a holiday goer would want. So don’t forget to extend you sailing trip into a land trip as well.
Sailing conditions for us were very good, getting the sails up most days with stronger winds being found between the islands.
Located in the Aegean sea an hour by ferry from Athens is this cluster of islands. More traditional to the Greek landscape these islands are much more baron and scorched from the hot arid climate.
Reaching the start point for your sailing holiday is a highlight in its self as our flotilla started on the beautiful island of Poros. With its old town it’s such a charming island and a lovely place to prepare and finishing your sailing adventure.
With rocky islands jutting out of the turquoise waters, you go in search of secluded sandy bays that are few and far between and very rewarding. There are also some brilliant snorkeling spots, that the flotilla staff tell you about in your morning briefing.
For us the evenings were almost as rewarding as the days sailing (or motoring). Once you locate the harbour for the evening , they usually are a spectacular quant gift. Some give you a fairytale feeling with sometimes as little as 10 yachts and only one taverna. It is a great place to rest and talk about the day that’s been or the one to come.
The (North) Saronic islands take you into the Saronic Golf, this is a large bay that you sail in and around. Methane juts out from Poro’s bay and feels like a large island but has a small slither connecting it to the mainland. On the west side of Methane offers some of the best mariners.
Agistri feels like the central island with so many small islands jutting up around it, it has some amazing coves and snorkelling bays. On the other side of the bay on mainland is historic Edidavros.
We were part of a flotilla on both occasions, OCC for the Ionian islands and Greek Sails for the Sardonic, both companies were fantastic!
A flotilla gives you best of both worlds, you are free to do as you please but help is always on hand if you need it. Destinations and a variety of different anchoring procedures are all explained in the briefings. This enables you to have a stress free week as you will know where you will be mooring for the night. Your only worry is, who will buy the first beers.
Too compare the two, is extremely difficult as we absolutely loved both!!
The Saronic, although doesn’t have the greenery or so many coves as the Ionian, it doesn’t have the crowds and feels more adventurous than the Ionian. Offering more traditional quant mariners and even one of the largest amphitheater’s.
But, it is impossible to deny that the Ionian’s, with is abundance of beaches and coves, has more to offer. They are a wow factor for your average holiday goer.
Both of these stunning, idyllic locations make for an absolutely brilliant sailing holiday. And are easily accessible (especially the Ionian) compared with some of the other sailing destinations around Greece.
If it is a toss up between the two you wouldn’t be disappointed with either but when you have sailed both, the Ionian comes out ahead, for us..
We crossed the border from Montenegro into Albania, this was surprisingly easy and took no time at all and was free of charge. We crossed using the most southern border at Muriqan into Sukobin which is close to the city Shkodër.
We didn’t spend much time in Shkodër, we just used the ATM to get some Albanian currency called Leke and brought an Albanian sim card as it isn’t in the EU. There are plenty of stalls/shops selling sim cards along the road. We then headed to the promenade for a lovely late lunch around the vast lake Shkodër. This is the largest lake in southern Europe and feels as if your looking out to sea.
We then left Shkodër to drive to Koman so we could go on a ferry trip on Lake Koman. This drive took us around 3 hours as it is an extremely windy, steep and rough road with potholes galore. Remember we are driving Doris our motor home so could only drive 15 miles an hour, maximum!
Please do NOT let the road put you off, the views are absolutely spectacular and well worth it!!!
I lost count of the amount of times we said wow and beautiful, it truly is breath taking, just drive slow and you will be fine. We spent the night parked not far from the bridge down by the river, we found the spot in the App “park 4 night”. We booked our ferry at 9.30pm for the following day (told you we are unorganised) to go from Koman to Fierze at 9am this cost us €78 for 2 people & Doris, we didn’t have to pay for Alf, our dog.
Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t great. It was pretty cold and cloudy but this did not spoil the beautiful views on the ferry crossing. Sheer mountains, drop dramatically straight into the lake.
The steep mountain edges are mainly unspoilt with a few houses here and there built steep up on the mountain edge. The only possible transport must have been by a small boat followed by a climb. I would love to know how on earth they got the materials up there to build them or how they do their shopping and go about their everyday lives. At parts of the lake the mountains were not quite so steep and there are small communities farming the land. It really was brilliant to see how people live, I could imagine Ben Fogle filming ‘New Lives in the wild’ here.
The trip was well worth the money as the scenery is truly spectacular…
We arrived in Fierze and drove to Valbona (Valbone according to satnav), the road was in great condition unlike the last. Unfortunately, when we arrived in Valbona the weather had got even worse and was now pouring with rain and the forecast wasn’t good for the following day. We decided that we were not going to stay the night as didn’t have the correct trekking clothes and the temperature was going to get down to 6 at night (we are warm weather people). So we went for a quick 45 minute walk through the woods to give Alf a run and had a beer followed by a coffee (same price) in one of the hotels.
It was such a shame as once again the views were incredible and had the weather been better, we could have easily spent a day or two here.
We then began driving back down the mountains towards the coast on the SH22 road. This drive is absolutely stunning and is one of the best that we have driven in Europe. And a bonus, it is pretty much tarmac the whole way and there is very little traffic except for a few goats.
It was now dark so we decided to pull over and sleep in the 1st town we came across called Fushearez.
The following day the spectacular views continued as we made our way down the winding mountains heading for warmer weather.
It didn’t take us long to find a huge sandy beach as far as the eye could see in Kune-Vain-Tale Reserve. Where we spend the rest of the day and night parked directly on the beach for free.
We continued our journey south west, if you haven’t read about Central Albania, please click here: Central Albania
Please note – to travel the Albanian Riviera, you really need wheels as there is much distance between each beach. Please do NOT let this put you off. The spectacular mountain drive, as it corkscrews between them is a gift in itself.
We arrived in the coastal city Vlora mid morning. We headed north of the city, straight for the beautiful long golden sandy beach to find a place to call home for a day or two.
The beach is huge and undeveloped apart from a few wooden beach bars scattered along it . As we were there in October the bars were not open but this meant we had the whole beach to ourselves except for locals doing their daily exercises and a few beach dogs that Alf had fun playing with.
The next day we walked south along the beach, where we found a newly developed port. Just past here there is a newly built promenade with lots of bars, restaurants and hotels. I imagine in season this would be buzzing with life. We spent 2 nights here but we could have easily spent longer.
We then continued our journey south along the twisting and turning mountain roads, stopping at the picturesque pebble Drymades beach for a night. A lot of reviews that we read, say that this is the most beautiful beach in Albania, who are we to argue…
We even got to share the beach with a cow who had a paddle to cool down.
We climbed up through the split rock to find yet another beautiful beach, this one was sandy so you have the best of both.
Next stop was Hirmare, we liked it here and thought it would be a great location for a week holiday, we spent 2 nights. This seaside town is split into three sections. The 1st is a modern pedestrian promenade full of bars and restaurants. The 2nd, a small pebble beach with a campsite and a few apartments. We were lucky and the owner of the campsite let us stay for free as it was out of season. And the 3rd, a long pebble beach with more apartments and residents.
Continuing south, Porto Palermo Castle is well worth a stop, it cost 200 Leke each to get in. We just wandered around but you can get a guide. There is also a small beach here if you wish to have a swim.
Borsh beach is a very long unspoilt pebble beach. It would be rude not to stop and have a swim, so we did….
We popped into Ujvara Varander where we enjoyed a coffee sat amongst a natural spring as it cascade around the seating area.
(Reviews for food on trip adviser are not great, we only had a coffee so I can’t comment).
We then headed to Sarande, the main holiday destination in Albania. There are plenty of resorts and bars stretched along the promenade and 100s of shops. For 1st night we stayed in Camping Ecuador which is south of the city, we had the ocean straight in front of us and a river to our left.
From here we drove inland to Gjirokastër (it sometimes is spelled Gjirokastra) for the day, where we spent the day roaming the spectator Ottoman UNESCO old town.
The Castle is absolutely incredible and very well preserved. It is definitely worth pulling yourself away from the beaches of the Riviera to spend a day or two here.
We then parked for free closer to Sarande city with breathtaking views, I was very lucky and spotted dolphins whilst we were having a beer. We then enjoyed the evening having dinner and drinks along the promenade.
The following day we went to see the famous blue eye.
We should have incorporated this as a stop on the way to Gjirokastër as you do not need long here.
We continued our journey south to the stunning picturesque Ksamil, it really is paradise and in our top 12!! We spent a few days here, kayaking around the close by islands and eating at the local restaurants.
(Please bear in mind we were there in October so pretty much had the small beaches to ourselves, this may be very different in peak season).
Whilst here, we decided to be a bit more advantageous and kayaked along the coast to Butrint national park, leaving our kayak with some fisherman to look after. It sure was worth the energy as the archaeological site is very impressive! It’s one of the most important in the country and is still being discovered to this day.
We kayaked back to Ksamil via lake Butrint which is absolutely huge. At one point we had to get out and carry our kayak with the help of a fisherman around a fishing gate. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t see to many tourists and their dog doing this.
The following day after 2 weeks and 4 days, we said our farewell’s to Albania, a country that we loved and headed back to Greece…
Thank you very much for reading about our Albanian road trip. I really hope you enjoyed it and it helps you to plan your trip to Albania. I wouldn’t leave it too long…
Whilst chilling on the long sandy beach of Kune-Vain-Tale Reserve, a young guy (Ndue) and his Mum (Bardhe) came over to speak to us. Ndue spoke fluent English and translated for Bardhe as she spoke none. They invited us over to their house for the evening as they wanted us to experience Albanian hospitality.
We were very grateful, as we had a fantastic time, hearing all about how Albania has changed over the last 20 years. Whilst feasting on home made wine, goats cheese, bread, jam, vegetables and in fact everything we eat and drank were all grown in their garden.
They even made their own Raki, which was incredibly strong at almost 60%.
Bardhe thought it was funny that we could not drink much.
The following day Ndue became our local tour guide and took us out site seeing. We went to a town called Lezhë, had a coffee along the river and then went up the hill to see Lezhë Castle and its view of the Lezhë.
We then headed north along the coast to see the Thrown Sand at Rana e Hedhun at Shengjin Beach.
A beautiful, long sandy beach, where a mountain meets the beach and has deep sand half way up it. Ndue tells us that in summer a slide with water is put here and people slide really fast down it, crazy aye…
We stepped back in time, visiting an old bazaar town in the charming Pazari Krujes. The market sits on old cobble stone streets with traditional wooden houses above the stalls. As you wander the narrow lanes you cant help but imagine all the 1000’s of different people that have also wandered the same lanes through the centuries.
Make sure to buy your traditional Albanian clothing, rugs and souvenirs here, as we found them to be cheaper than most of Albania.
You will also find Kruje Castle , the center of Skanderbeg’s rebellion against the Ottoman Empire.
We then continued south deciding not to go to the capital Tirana as it was raining and getting late in the evening. (There is a cable car that takes you to the top of the mountain, we were told the views are spectacular on a clear day, so may be worth a visit).
We headed to Berat a city on the Osum River, known as the city of windows due to the white Ottoman houses.
Perched on a hilltop overlooking the city is Berat Castle, its worth the steep climb to see the beautiful view.
After a few hours of sight seeing we headed down to the new part of the city to mingle with the locals. We watched a premier league football game in a betting shop and was made to feel more than welcome and even put a few bets on, we didn’t win. There are many bars and restaurant’s, so the evening quickly went.
The following day we attempted to drive to Tomorr National Park unfortunately this was not possible in Doris (motor home) as you need a 4 x 4. So instead we stretched our legs with a long walk along the beautiful river at the base of the park in Polican.
So the time has come for Ian and I to say farewell to England for 4 months or so and head over to Australia to activate our visas. This of course can not be done without a 9 night stop over in beautiful Thailand.
What about Alf, I hear you scream!!… Unfortunately he will not be joining us on this adventure 😭. We thought it too mean to put him in haulage and then 10 days of quarantine, so instead he is living with my Mum and Step Dad and his best friend Buster the Labrador.
Our journey began on 3rd April with a 6.35am flight from Gatwick to Dussaldolf, then on to Bangkok and then a third flight to Krabi. This took 20 hours, followed by a 2 hour wait to get the bus and then a speedboat over to Koh Lipe.
We booked our flights using kiwi.com, as they allow you to be flexible and were the cheapest. It cost £1,100 for 2 adults and also includes flights from Krabi to Kuala Lumpur and then onto Perth WA. (Please let us know if you know a cheaper website).
Just watch out, as we regrettably flew with Eurowings for our 11 hour stint to Bangkok and it was absolutely awful!! Picture being stuck on a Ryanair flight for that long, the only free thing was a drink of water. Anything else, you paid through the roof:
€3.50 head phones
€9.99 to watch films or tv shows
€11.90 for really gross pasta
Get my drift, it’s well worth doing a little homework on the airline and paying more, especially for such a long flight. A lesson well learnt by us…..
The bus and speed boat, we booked when we got to Krabi airport (you can also book online). We used Black Tiger Tour, this cost 2,400B (£60) for two adults. Be careful, there were some companies charging 2,300B for just the bus.
The bus took around 1.5 hours and the speed boat with its stunning views, 2 hours.
When you arrive at Koh Lipe, the speed boat drops you at a jetty. You then have to pay 250B per person to get a long boat to the shore – money making at its best…….
We rushed this part of our 24 week adventure around Europe, simply because … We wanted to stay in the sunshine until as late as possible!!!…
We arrived in Ancona at 8pm on Tuesday 23rd October after being on a ferry from Igoumenitsa Greece for 18 hours.
We drove for about an hour, heading north before finding a place on the side of the road to spend the night.
The next day we headed for Trento to take Alf (our dog) to the vets to get the tapeworm medication and to have a health check. This is needed within 24 hours and 5 days before returning the U.K, the passport MUST also be stamped and signed by the vet.
We then met up with our two close friends who took us to a hidden gem set up in the mountains with a view over Trento. If you find yourself in Trento it is definitely worth going too, the food is delicious and the view spectacular!!