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Through Albania to Lake Ohrid, Macedonia

A quicker journey than expected!

Thursday 10th June

Woke up early to the sound of building works, so we left the campsite by 8.30am and headed for the Albanian border at the town of Muriquan. The road there was a small windy country road and near the border we had to pass through a seemingly very old tunnel, luckily high enough for us.


At the border we were expecting to pay a €10 fee, we had heard was payable entering and exiting Albania. When we arrived at the border post though we didn’t have to pay any fee, in fact we were actually filmed and interviewed by the Albanian tourist board! We set off for the Coastal town of Durres and found the Albanian roads ok, also for a while the traffic too was good. The first town we came to in Albania, we came into what seemed an area of poverty and took a wrong turn. This resulted in some people coming up to beg, as well as two small children grabbing hold and hanging off either window as we drove slowly trying to get them off. We then had to pass over an old seemingly rickety wooden bridge across the river!


It then became pretty much like driving in Morocco, with people overtaking everywhere and instead of two lane roads people really used them as three! Also at one point they were rebuilding a large stretch of dual carriageway and cars were travelling both directions on either side!


Albania wasn’t really anything special, it was pretty built up all along the roads and there seemed a lot of industrial areas. It very much had a feel similar to Morocco, but without the outstanding countryside.


We arrived in Durres by midday, this was supposed to be our halfway point and where we would have stayed the night. But the coastal town was very developed, full of high rises and as it was still early we made the decision there and then to continue our journey and complete Albania in one day. So we cut Eastwards into the country, this was when we finally hit the bad roads people had mentioned. The road was full of potholes and we began to wonder whether we would get to lake Ohrid, as our journey time was slowed down avoiding the holes. This though didn’t last long and we were soon back on a speedy road, having to overtake horse drawn carts while brand new 4x4’s overtook us.


We started heading into the hills, although again all along the road was built up. We reached the town of Elbasan which was a horrible industrial town, surrounded by factories disused and used.


Before we knew it we were heading up into the mountains towards the border with Macedonia.


All along this stretch we saw the remains of all the old concrete bunkers put up to guard Albania during the Hoha regime. Although at the time the people of Albania were told these were for Albania protection against the surrounding countries, they were actually pointed inward not outward, so to keep control of the country.


We passed through customs again not paying the 10 we were expecting, but only 2! We weren’t complaining though. We then entered the Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia, as they have to call themselves due to Greece seeming to have the rights to the name Macedonia! We drove down from the mountains onto the view of lake Ohrid. This is one of the oldest lakes in the world and is 20 miles long by 10 wide, it was a stunning view. The town of Ohrid was not anything to write home about, just modern and concrete, although there is an old town.


We set about asking around for a campsite and were informed all were closed bar one, so we set off to find it. When we arrived at the campsite near the town of Struga, we found it didn’t look very open but they let us in. Apparently the season doesn’t really begin till July, so all facilities there were closed. I was a little concerned about the signs on the office window, as they had some no handgun posters up! Still we didn’t fancy driving around today to find anything else, so we got ourselves a spot near the lake. We met two Dutch couples that had come especially to this campsite, as they had been told by the Macedonia Minister of tourism at a Holiday fare in Holland how wonderful the campsite was, they were very disappointed! Also the top of the campsite, with their so-called private beach, seemed to have people constantly wondering through. That night we didn’t get the best sleep, as there was constant noise.

Posted by marklorna 04:19 Archived in Albania

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Glad to have you here! Just a little clarification on the Greek having issues with our name - we are always calling ourselves Republic of Macedonia. Some organizations, and, like 10 countries, insist on Greek stance to use "former Yugoslav" in front of our name when addressing us. All the other countries in the world have no problem with our name.

BTW, if you need some travel tips - feel free to ask. I would not recommend any camping site, but Elshani near Ohrid, and even that one is not quite up to the standards. Anyway, Ohrid is more than 10 centuries old and lots of churches, galleries, museums, wonderful scenery, beautiful monasteries (St. Naum is stunning), ...

by Kiro Velkovski

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