Skhodër 🇦🇱

Recommendations for Skhodër, this beautiful little town in Northern Albania. The country itself is full of castles and fortresses and is crossed by the Albanian Alps.  The capital city is Tirana, which is known for its colourful Ottoman, fascist and Soviet era architecture. In Skhodër there is a strong Italian influence.

1. Skhodër Main Street

I really didn’t know what to expect when I arrived in Skhoder apart from it being one of Albania’s oldest towns.

There was no bus station so the bus left me at the side of the road and after seeing a used needle on the floor, watching beggars run after the bus and seeing people rummaging through bins and piles of rubbish on the streets I wasn’t too sure about things.  However, when I reached the main street in search of my hotel, I knew I had made the right decision to visit.  It is a beautiful street lined with trees, including firs, which must look very pretty in the winter with the snow, pastel coloured buildings and the Albania Alps in the distance.  There are lots of cute little side streets leading off Main Street that twist and turn and are all cobbled and all the locals seemed to be friendly and helpful but hardly any spoke English!

All the bars, cafes and restaurants have outdoor seating and there is a very peaceful vibe.  It’s a great place to relax with a drink or to enjoy some delicious local food for lunch or dinner. 

Top Tip: All restaurants seem to stop serving food at 15:00 and don’t reopen until 21:00.

Skhoder

2.  Statue of Mother Theresa 

At one end of Main Street (the end closest to where I have taken the photo in the picture above) is a statue of Mother Theresa.  There is a statue of here as even though she was born in Skopje (North Macedonia) in 1910, she was born to Albanian parents and was herself an Albanian-Indian Roman Catholic nun and missionary.  There are also statues of her in Skopje and Pristina (Kosovo).

Mother Teresa

3.  Rozafa Castle

Be prepared to walk up a very steep hill, but once you reach the top the view will make it all worth it!.  I walked up in 35 degree heat while pushing a bicycle!  I was ready to turn back around but when I reached the top I appreciated the gym work out I had just done to see this wonderful view.

As mentioned before, Albania has lots of castles and the legend of Rozafa Castle is one of the most interesting and saddest in the country.

Now are you sitting comfortably?  Once upon a time, there were three brothers married to three beautiful wives.  The three brothers worked hard day and night so they could build a castle protect their town.  But every time they finished the work, the walls of the castle would collapse and they didn’t know why.  

One day they met a bent, old man who told them that there was only one way to stop then walls falling down.  This was a sacrifice consisting  of burying one of the wives, namely the first one to bring lunch to her husband the next day…

The two elder brothers explained the situation to their wives but the younger brother mentioned nothing.  The next day, the two eldest brothers wives stayed away, resulting in Rozafa, the youngest brother’s wife being the only one to appear with lunch.

She didn’t protest about the sacrifice but said there had to be one condition.  This was:  A hole would be left for her right breast so her newborn son could feed, a second hole for her right hand so she could caress him and a lastly, a third hole for her right foot so she could rock his cradle.  After she was buried, the castle walls never collapsed again! 

The legend of Rozafa is about the strength of women who sacrifice their lives for something bigger.

To this day, the castle is mostly in ruins but the walls are still standing strong.  The legend lives on!

Skhoder
Skhoder

4.  Venice Mask Factory

As there seems to be such a large Italian influence in Skhodër, I wasn’t surprised to find a ‘Venetian’ mask factory.  It is even described as a taste of Venice in Skhodër.

The factory contains an exquisite collection of beautifully made masks.  Just looking around and seeing all the different designs and colours makes you feel like you have been transported to Venice.

I was told that guests were usually invited to have a go at making their own masks but this was not offered to me.  I think it was because the lady who took me through the factory didn’t speak English.  If you would like to try making your own, make sure you have handy the phrase to ask this in Albanian (or even Italian!). Have a look at my Handy Apps page for translator apps.

Venetian Mask

5.  Mes (or Mesi) Bridge

This is a beautiful old bridge, built in approximately 1770 by Kara Mahmud Bushati, an Ottoman Pasha.  The aim was to connect Skhodër with cities on the Northern side of Albania and for a while, this was the only route between Albania and Kosovo.  It is 108 metres long and stretches across the River Kir, which is usually dried up in summer (as it was when I visited!)

It is about a half an hour cycle from Skhodër.  Cycling is THE way to travel in Skhodër but more about that later.  

The village of Mes itself is right in rural Albania and you see horses pulling carts and cows living in back gardens.

Mes Bridge, Skhoder

6.  Lake Skhodër

This undeveloped and unspoilt lake is, without a doubt, one of the most beautiful that I have ever seen.  It is a forty minute cycle from Skhodër but well worth the long ride in the unrelentless heat when you are then able to plunge into the refreshing water and relax on the natural pebbly beach.  There are small fish darting about and no boats in sight apart from a couple of rowing boats pushed up on to the shore.  There are no cafes, traders or souvenir stalls.  It is bliss just being by this beautiful lake with no one to bother you.

Top tip:  Take plenty of water and snacks and a swimming costume in case you want a dip!

Skhoder, Albania
lake

Transport:

Cycling is the way to get around in Skhodër.  All hotels and guest houses hire out well maintained bikes.  With some accommodation, the hire price is already included, with others it isn’t but the amount is very low.  There are cycle lanes along most of the roads (including the main ones) and the motorists are used to cyclists and are carful not to speed past, go to close or startle them.  It was my first time riding in traffic like that but I felt very safe.  Just be careful about which side of the road you are supposed to cycle on.  For me it was the opposite side as I’m from UK an I started off a little confused.

Where to stay:

A beautiful pastel coloured building situated on the centre of Main Street. Very OTT decor but fabulous staff, clean rooms and very good value for money. A decent buffet breakfast was provided in the basement restaurant of the hotel.

This is an older building situated just off Main Street and down one of the winding cobbled streets. The decor is much more down to earth, fabulous staff, clean rooms and even better value for money as this includes free bikes. Breakfast was nothing special but did the job and was served in the little hotel courtyard.

Where to eat:

A delicious, Albania restaurant situated just off Main Street. A very casual restaurant that possibly serves the best food in the Balkans! With low prices and large portions, I can’t complain!

Another tasty Albania restaurant just off the Main Street. The prices are slightly higher but the portions are still large. The decor is very different to Puri as it is decorated to show off the lovely Albanian culture.

C.King

Brit girl on a bummel. A solo female traveller accompanied by her camera, aiming to see as much of the world as possible and sharing what she's learnt along the way!

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