Road trips are our thing. We love nothing more than jumping in a car and hitting the road. The best thing about road trips for us is not only the freedom that they offer but also they allow you to see what you want, when you want and for how long you want. Having hired cars and taken road trips all over the world we have a long list of things that we have to have including cruise control, climate control and backup sensors for cars, to ensure our journey is as smooth, safe and stress free as possible.
Our recent trip took us to The Balkans were we spent two weeks exploring three different countries (Croatia, Montenegro and Albania) and a number of different towns and cities. Therefore, we have put together the perfect road trip itinerary including distances and times. Times when heading into a new country are dependent, of course, on border crossings, all ours took between 30 and 60 minutes.
Dubrovnik Airport, Croatia – Budva Montenegro
(2 h 18 min, 71.7 km, 6 Nights in Budva)
We flew into Dubrovnik airport, which is an easy place to pick a hire car up from. We headed straight through to Montenegro. The border crossing between the countries is a double on, therefore prepare yourself and have your passport ready for both checkpoints. To save some time, we took the Kotor Bay ferry from Kamenari on the Herceg Novi side to Lepetane on the Tivat side. The ferry takes 5 minutes and the views from it are breathtaking. Tickets can be bought from the booth on either side for €4.50 per car one way. 6 nights is plenty of time to spend in Budva, it is a beautiful town, especially the Old Town Area. It has a beach, castle and narrow streets to explore together with numerous bars and restaurants.
Budva, Montenegro – Shkodër, Albania
(1 h 54 min, 86.0 km)
The road from Budva to the Albania border crossing offers great views over the Adriatic Sea, with plenty of places to pull over if you want to take a selfie with the beautiful backdrop. We found that the Montenegro/Albania border crossing was a lot quieter and quicker to pass through than the Croatia/ Montenegro one. Our first stop in Albania was Shkodër, where we spent an hour or so, as there is not that much to see or do. We did, however, visit St Stephen’s Catholic Cathedral, take a walk along Rruga Kole Idromeno, the main street in the city which is lined with bars and restaurants and is quite pretty. We also admired the beautiful Al-Zamil Mosque which stands in the city centre.
Shkodër, Albania – Durrës, Albania
(1 h 38 min 105 km)
The next stop on our trip was Durrës, which is a port city on the Adriatic Sea in western Albania. A number of cruise ships dock here, however again, there isn’t that much to see or do. Therefore we only spent around an hour here too. The first place we headed was to the Amphitheatre of Durrës in the city centre. It was originally built in the 2nd century AD. Considering its age and the fact that a couple of earthquakes have hit it over the years, it is very well preserved. Again, we found a number of bars and restaurants, although not as many as in Shkodër. We did stop at one for a bit of liquid refreshment and were more than pleased to only be charged the equivalent of €2 for a litre of local beer.
Durrës, Albania – Tirana, Albania
(36 min 36.4 km, 1 night in Tirana)
The capital of Albania, Tirana was our next stop. It is not overly touristy, therefore you won’t find any chain restaurants here. In fact, when one did open it only lasted around 6 months. It is however very cheap to eat here, even compared to Montenegro which is not overly expensive itself. For lunch, we had a pizza each (which were huge!) and a litre of beer each, which came to around £13. Tirana is not the prettiest of cities, however, it was nice to have a wander around and see some of the sights, especially Skanderbeg Square which is the main square int he city, the Et`hem Bey Mosque and Grand Park. Also look out for the postwar Hoxha era bunkers, there are nearly 200,00 dotted across the country.
Tirana, Albania – Podgorica, Montenegro
(2 h 40 min, 153 km, 1 night in Podgorica)
The next stop and back across the border into Montenegro was the country’s largest city and capital Podgorica. The first thing that struck me about Podgorica is how quiet it is for a capital city, even though there is quite a lot to do. I think as Montenegro becomes increasingly popular with tourists, more people will visit. There are some great sights in Podgorica to visit including the Vladimir Vysotsky Monument, Millennium Bridge and Saborni hram Hristovog Vaskrsenja (Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ) which we spend around 40 minutes exploring. Podgorica is also home to Montenegro’s only Hard Rock Cafe which meant it was a must stop place for us as we visit one everywhere we can.
Podgorica, Montenegro – Ostrog Monastery, Montenegro
(57 min, 42.9 km)
One of our favourite places that we visited in Montenegro was the Ostrog Monastery. It is made up of the lower monastery and the upper monastery. The upper monastery is situated high up in the large rock of Ostroška Greda. The drive up to the monastery is not one for the faint-hearted. The road is very steep with hairpin turns and often there is only one lane with no passing places. Therefore, the journey needs to be taken take slowly and carefully and I personally would never want to take at night. It was certainly worth it though as the monastery is stunning, as are the views over the Bjelopavlići plain, the fertile lowland below. Entrance into the Monastery is free and it’s important to dress appropriately i.e. covering shoulders and knees, although there were signs we could not see anyone actively enforcing it.
Ostrog Monastery, Montenegro – Kotor, Montenegro
(2 h 3 min, 117 km, 3 nights in Kotor)
Kotor is, behind Budva the second most popular town in Montenegro and beyond beautiful. We spent time wandering around the narrow streets contained within the old city walls. With more restaurants then we could shake a stick at, choosing where to eat was tough. If you are a fan of cats, like we are, you will be in your element as the ‘Cats of Kotor’ wander the streets freely and are super friendly. Another must-do in the town is to take a boat tour to Perast and Our Lady of the Rocks. There are a number of operators lined up in the port and we found one no problem, most charge the same – €15 and most take the same route. It was a great way to spend a couple of hours and the views from the boat are breathtaking.
Kotor, Montenegro – Dubrovnik, Croatia
(1 h 49 min, 91.0 km, 3 nights in Dubrovnik)
The last stop on this Balkans tour was Dubrovnik. Having visited Split before, I was very excited to visit Dubrovnik. However, I was not prepared for just how busy it is during the summer months, it is insane. It is understandable though because it is so beautiful and of course Game of Thrones enthusiasts including Mr ESLT flock in their droves. There are walking tours galore where the main filming locations are pointed out. A couple of must-dos are to take the cable car up Srd Hill and walk the city walls, both of which gave us perfect panoramic views over the red-roofed city. We highly recommend taking a boat tour too, either to Lokrum, the small island off the coast of Dubrovnik or along the cities coastline.
Dubrovnik, Croatia – Dubrovnik Airport, Croatia
(28 min, 22.0 km)
We loved our Balkans trip and our two-week trip flashed by. Of course, there are more cities and countries in The Balkans and we hope to plan another multi-week, multi-country tour in the near future. We hope that this itinerary helps you if Montenegro, Albania and Croatia are at the top of your must-visit list. All three countries have a lot to offer and are all beautiful in their own right and we are so pleased that we chose them to visit this summer.
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