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Dubrovnik-Kotor-Durmitor National Park-Accursed Mountains

Our family of five is considering a trip to Montenegro and Albania next summer, flying in and out of Dubrovnik, Croatia.

Wondering if I can get thoughts and suggestions on our itinerary?

  • Fly into Dubrovnik spend 3 days
  • Drive to Zabljak and hike in Durmitor National Park spend 2 days
  • Drive to Theth, Albania and hike in the Accursed Mountains spend 2 days
  • Drive to Kotor spend 4 days with day trips to Budva Ulcinj and other spots along the coast

What else is a must-see for a couple days? Podgorica? Tirana? Shkoder? Possibly Korcula before flying back out of Dubrovnik?

Thanks in advance!

Posted by
27417 posts

Podgorica is not a must-see.

Tirana is not a particularly exciting place, but I think if you're going to Theth it makes sense to see at least one Albanian city. At the moment the country's top historical, art and archaeological museums are all closed. The first two are in Tirana and the third is in nearby Durres. That's painful in a country whose relatively few museums are not generally up to European standards in the first place. Tirana was my first experience of having planned too many days in a city, and I'm have traveled a lot. It's not an unpleasant place, but I don't think the concept of zoning has made its way to Albania, and the city is rather thin on sights from my perspective. Two nights would be my recommendation for a traveler with general interests, or 3 nights for people especially interested in Albania's 20th-century experience; the latter would potentially be interested in Bunk'art 1, Bunk'art 2 and the House of Leaves. I will warn you that traffic in Tirana can be really bad; I wouldn't want to drive there.

I'm in Shkoder now. It's much less hectic than Tirana. It has a good museum about the post-war period, the Site of Witness and Memory. Unfortunately, the English translations occasionally seemed wrong, and they didn't appear to have been reviewed by a native speaker. Shkoder is much more convenient to Theth (and Montenegro) than Tirana is, and I wouldn't feel impelled to go to Tirana as long as the key museums are inaccessible. (And not having seen them, I can't comment on their quality.) A day would be plenty of time in Sjkoder for the typical tourist not planning side trips.

My favorite destinations in Albania were Korce, Gjirokaster and Berat, but they're less geographically convenient. On the other hand, distances aren't great, and since you'll be driving, you won't have to deal with the massive frustration involved in obtaining basic bus information on departure points, arrival points and departure times.

I've been in Albania and North Macedonia since mid-May, and it has been hot on most days. You may run into quite unpleasant temperatures when you're not in the mountains or on the water.

Edited to add: Since you're going to be driving, I want to mention that Albania doesn't have a lot of traffic signals but is inordinately fond of traffic circles (roundabouts). Be absolutely sure you are aware of the local rules regarding those. No promises as to whether folks tend to follow whatever the rules are; I haven't been driving. However, I've seen no accidents, so the circles seem to work.

Be sure to notify the rental-car company of your plan to go to Albania. I've read the road to Theft was repaved recently. With luck it will still be in good shape for you next year. On the other hand, the road from Shkoder to Lake Koman is very rough; I think damage to the undercarriage would be possible if the driver didn't go very slowly. I recommend being very careful about your insurance coverage.

Taxis will take you just about anywhere you want to go in Albania, usually for much less than it would cost in points north and west.

Posted by
4341 posts

Well, first, good for you for planning to head to these beautiful and interesting countries!

I have to ask if I am looking at your plan correctly (counting nights seems to make things easier):
Dubrovnik 4 nights
Durmitor 3 nights
Theth - 3 nights
Kotor 5 nights

First driving distances aren’t far and the roads in Montenegro are narrow (and fine) but it truly will take you longer to get anywhere that it seems at first. So you can’t count a driving day as a full day in the next place.

Durmitor is really gorgeous and worth 2 full days - especially if you hike. You could use that much time just driving the loop and stopping.

I might suggest heading to Shkoder for a couple of nights instead of directly to Theth.

I assume this means you are not hiking Theth to Valbona (or reverse?) Having your own car means you would need to return the way you came. But that also means you will miss the ferry ride on Komani Lake: Koman to (Fierzë) Valbona. If you decide you want to do it all, there ARE services that will provide transportation Shkoder to Valbona and Theth to Shkoder. acraven is right that the Tirana/Shkoder to Koman road is pretty awful. Driving a rental there wouldn’t be the best idea (actually, driving at all….) - I drive a lot of places and can’t imagine the uninitiated driving that road after experiencing it. And I didn’t go to Theth, but have heard that road is improved. But then you miss the lake…..

I definitely agree that Podgorica is not a must see….. I enjoyed Tirana but 2 nights would be sufficient. And yes, Berat and Gjirokastra are gorgeous! If you have time, they give you a great sense of Albania.

I didn’t make it to all the places along the coast of Montenegro, so I can’t do a fair comparison. But I loved Perast (might be too sleepy for some) and I liked Budva old town and beach. Kotor itself seemed too busy with cruise ships. The beaches at Petrovac and Bar were also nice. All of them have boats you easily can catch to other less accessible beaches and amazing water.

I do love Korcula, but if you build in time at the beaches in Montenegro, I don’t think you will miss it.