Nestled in the southern corner of Lake Skadar, just across the border from Montenegro, you’ll find the small city of Shkodër. With a lingering Italian colonial feel and relaxed pace, the town is a welcome break from nearby cities. Much of the town center is solely for pedestrian and push bike use- earning Shkodër the nickname of City of Bicycles. At night, the wide paved streets come alive with al fresco dining, street stalls and rooftop bars.
Here’s what I loved most about Shkodër
Perched high above the river, fortifications on the hill date back to Illyrian days, over two thousand years ago. However, much of what remains of the castle today is from the Venetian period. It’s is a short bike ride from the center and you can leave your bike at the bottom of the hill and climb the rest of the way on foot. Entrance is 2€ and it’s the perfect spot to watch the sunset as you have 360° views of the river, lake and towns below.
Ride along Lake Skadar
Renting a push bike for the day only costs a few euro and it’s the perfect way to see more of the lake area. From the town center head down towards the castle then across the Bojana river and along the bank of the lake- there’s a walking/riding track most of the way. There are several small villages to stop at for coffee, lunch and beautiful views.
Head North and Hike in the Theth Valley
Shkodër is the jumping off point for the amazing hike from Valbone to Theth. The views in this full day hike are incredible and it was hands down my favorite experience in Albania. I’ll have a separate with details about the hike over the coming days.
From Montenegro it is relatively quick and easy to take a bus from either Bar or Podgorica. The longest aspect can often be the border crossing, but outside peak tourist season this should only take around 30 minutes. From Bar the fare is 6€ and the journey takes around two hours.
From elsewhere in Albania, especially Tirana, there are very frequent minibuses. The trip to Tirana takes around two hours and costs 2.5€.
For timetables ask at local bus stations, information booths or hostels. Tickets often can’t be bought in person before departure. Some longer trips can be bought online but be aware that you’re often required to print the ticket for it to be valid. I only ever bought my tickets on the buses and never had a problem with tickets selling out- Albanias seem to find ways to squeeze everyone in.
Where to Stay
I really recommend The Wanders Hostel, there was a great atmosphere, amazing staff and unbeatable rates (7.5€ including a huge breakfast). They rent push bikes, provide a plethora of information about activities in the area and organise the transport and first night of accommodation for the trek to Theth. There are many other good value hostels in the town.