Suggested Balkans Itinerary: Podgorica to Corfu Town the Long Way

ITINERARY SUMMARY 

(Montenegro) Podgorica – Kotor – Ulcinj (Albania) – Shkoder (Shkodra) – Tirana (Kosovo) – Prizren – Decani – Pristina (Macedonia) – Skopje – Bitola – Ohrid (Albania) – Berat – Gjirokastra – Saranda (Greece) -Corfu Town

The Montenegro capital of Podgorica is not the most exciting of places, but Ostrog Monastery on the outskirts of the city is worth seeing, as is the old royal capital of Cetinje. On the other hand, Kotor was a place that we found difficult to leave. The old town is relatively free of tourists once the day-trippers have left and it’s also a good base for exploring more of the Bay of Kotor and the Adriatic coast. We visited nearby Herceg Novi and Perast  using public transport in both cases.

In order to get across the border into Albania from Kotor, it is necessary to change buses in Ulcinj. Most travellers head straight for Tirana once they are over the border but we would recommend a couple of nights in Shkoder – not only has it got an impressive fortress, it also happens to be one of the oldest cities in Europe. Shkoder is also the jumping off point for the scenic Lake Koman ferry ride but pick your season if you want to experience it. We were too early (April) and the ferry wasn’t running. Tirana is a lively city that is worth exploring for a day or two and from there we took a direct bus to Prizren in Kosovo.

Our introduction to Europe’s newest country was a good one and after a few days seeing what Prizren had to offer, we decided to visit the controversial Visoki Decani Monastery en route to Pristina rather than go the direct route. As for the Kosovo capital, parts of it were OK but the most interesting thing that we did was visit Gracanica Monastery on the outskirts of the city. So-so is certainly not how we described Skopje when we first clapped eyes on it. An expensive facelift has turned parts of the city into a neoclassical Disneyland and our camera was working overtime. Away from the centre, though, the city is quite normal and certainly the nicest of the three capitals we visited on this trip. Bitola, with its regal architecture and interesting old town, was an unexpected discovery and seeing Lake Ohrid for the first time confirmed our suspicions that Macedonia is a real find with lots to offer.

From Ohrid we returned to Albania using several means of transport (including our feet) to get to the splendid city of Berat, the highlight of our time in Albania up until that point. But then we moved on to Gjirokastra which was, dare we say it, even nicer than Berat. Reluctantly, we left Gjirokastra and took a bus south to Saranda, which was not the most exciting city but then, to be fair, we were there out of season. We were impressed with the UNESCO-listed Roman ruins at Butrint plus the views back towards the coastline from the ferry to Corfu were memorable. As for Corfu Town – expensive compared to the towns and cities in the Balkans but stunning nonetheless and well worth the cost of a pricey hotel room for the couple of nights that we stayed there.

Number of countries: 5

Number of UNESCO sites: 6

Best time to travel: May to September

Recommended duration: 4 to 5 weeks

Best places to slow the itinerary down: Kotor and Ohrid

Mode of transport: Buses and minivans (known as furgons in Albania) plus a ferry between Saranda and Corfu Town

HIGHLIGHTS

The view of the Bay of Kotor from the town’s city walls

Berat and Gjirokastra

Watching the sunset over Lake Ohrid

The old part of Corfu Town

The Roman ruins at Butrint

Clambering around Rozafa Castle in Shkoder

The journey between Lake Ohrid and Berat

Balkan cuisine

OPTIONS FOR EXTENDING THE ITINERARY

Several low-cost carriers have services in and out of Corfu Town

Explore more of the Ionian Islands

Getting from Corfu Town to mainland Greece via the Peloponnese presents an interesting route

Corfu has regular ferry connections to southern Italy, with Brindisi and Bari being the main tow ports of entry

FURTHER READING

OTHER TRAVEL PLANNING RESOURCES

Balkan Viator is a useful resource for finding bus and train schedules in the region, although it’s not 100% reliable so double-check timings locally.

Depending on our itinerary, often we just find our accommodation as we go, particularly in smaller places. In big cities, we tend to make a reservation in advance using Booking.com.

There are a lot of guidebooks to this part of Europe available but we’ve always used Lonely Planet and it’s hard to change a habit of a lifetime!  READ: Lonely Planet’s Guide to Eastern Europe 

And if you need a few more reasons to follow this itinerary…

Kotor, Montenegro

Tirana, Albania

Prizren, Kosovo

Skopje, Macedonia

Lake Ohrid, Macedonia

Berat, Albania

Gjirokastra Castle, Albania

Butrint, Albania

Corfu Town, Greece

Did you find this post useful? Pin it to your travel planning board for later…

Enjoying this post? Get more travel inspiration, delivered right to your inbox.

 

Enter your email address below to receive regular (but not too regular!) updates. And don't forget to confirm your subscription via the link in your inbox to complete the process!  

Thank you! Don't forget to confirm your subscription via the link in your inbox to complete the process!

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This