‘Let’s get this baby on the roooooaaaaad’’, I screamed as I turned the key and hit the gas, ready to drive #TeamWanderlust to Lake Komani in the north of Albania. It had become the slogan of our trip since I first yelled it in some kind of shrill sounding voice on day one of our adventure and Dan, Dave and I had been screaming it in the same ridiculous voice every single time we hit the road, laughing like crazy people over and over again. It was the first day in our third rental car, as we’d changed cars in every country to avoid huge one-way fees, and we were about to discover it was a little less performing than the previous two…
And that’s me being polite…
We’d arrived in Shkodër, Albania the day before, after a 2 hours’ taxi drive from Herceg Novi in Montenegro. It’s really not far but passing the border isn’t like driving from Belgium into say France or the Netherlands. It looks more like what I remember from driving into Belarus in the middle of the 90’s – only without having to give them 24 cans of coke to make it go faster and a woman screaming “no I’m not giving you my bottles of alcohol, I’d rather smash them on the floor right here”, giving them to different people in several other cars, crossing the border and recovering them 5 meters further on…
But for some reason it DID give us that “let’s all be serious or they might not let us into the country” feeling that you just wouldn’t expect to find anywhere in Europe anymore. The fact that our taxi driver wasn’t an actual taxi driver and when asked we were supposed to say we were his friends but could in fact hardly pronounce his name obviously didn’t help either…
So yes, it was one of those moments when a simple ride becomes an actual journey and to say we were super excited to finally discover Albania would be an understatement. Was it the fact that so few other people seem to have been there – at least in the parts away from the riviera, the crazy stories you hear from those who have or the fact that we really didn’t know that much about it at all, for some reason this wasn’t just another new country.
LET’S GET THIS BABY ON THE ROAD – DRIVING TO LAKE KOMANI
Shkodër is one of those pleases you could qualify as off-the-beaten path – but it would probably be because you were trying to be nice. Actually it was just not interesting, I was glad to have my two ‘bodyguards’ to walk down the street even in the middle of the day and with a guesthouse that looked more like a haunted cabin in the woods than a place people actually get out of alive, it’s safe to say we weren’t sad to leave.
We hit the road around 11 am, after waiting forever for our rental car and at some point not even being sure it was ever going to arrive anymore. The few extra euros spend on full excess-free insurance soon turned out to have been the best decision ever, for it wasn’t just that the road to Lake Komani was bad…
In fact most of the time the road wasn’t even there…
But there was this view…
At some points there was asphalt – or at least you could see that there had been at some point – but each time I started thinking ‘yay it’s starting to look better’, the next hole ungently reminded me that no, it wasn’t.
‘Aaaaaaah don’t drive so close to the mountain side!!!’ – screamed Dan from the back seat, holding on to whatever he could grab first and turning slightly pale whenever I took my eyes off the road to have a quick look at the view.
‘Babes, the holes on the other side of the road look deeper than the ravine! Don’t worry I got this under control!’ – I replied trying to sound as confident as I could, as we slowly moved forward in our Dacia Logan with no power whatsoever, brakes that took forever to react and nearly completely bald tires.
So honestly, don’t ask me how I did it with a crap car like that, but almost 3 hours later we’d finally finished the 50 km drive to Lake Komani, and thanks to what I can only imagine was some kind of divine intervention, everything and everyone was still in one piece.
FALLING IN LOVE WITH LAKE KOMANI
Arriving at Lake Komani is one of those in-your-face experiences. At some point you drive through a tunnel – correction: the most scary-ass tunnel I’ve ever been in – and once you get through it, BAM, the road stops and you’re there. And with our bad brakes and me driving as fast as I could to get the hell out of that tunnel, we were lucky not to have ended up IN Lake Komani…
It’s a small area with barely enough room to park 15 cars – and then hope one of the cars in the front doesn’t need to get out before the 2 cars that are parked behind it – and all there is to find is a restaurant/guesthouse and the tiny office of Komani Lake Boat Tours. But it was all we needed!
We hadn’t booked in advance as we weren’t sure about our rental car and about whether or not we’d be needing transportation from Shkodër to Koman, but as soon as we arrived we were warmly welcomed with coffee by Mario and his lovely staff. We chatted for a while and around 3 pm we got on the boat, that we had all to ourselves for more than 4 hours of pure awesomeness. Not that many tourists visit this place and those who do usually come in the morning, and we were definitely not complaining!
Other than a bunch of clichés, there’s no words to describe the beauty of Lake Komani, so from here on, I’ll let the images do the talking… Turn up the volume, hit play and enjoy!
Mario offers customized tours that cost around € 40 pp for a 3 hours’ boat trip, and transportation from and to Shkodër (or even Tirana) can be arranged with him, too. Make sure to ask for a stop at the tiny guesthouse along the lake, where Marjana and her family will welcome you with the warmest smile and the most delicious homemade rakkia, petulla (fried dough pancakes) and honey. Or if you have time, stay here for the night for a nice return to nature and mini digital detox – there’s no electricity or hot water.
Otherwise you can either sleep where the boats dock – we didn’t as it was full – or on the road back towards Shkodër. When you arrive at the first T-section, there’s a camping/hotel right in front of you. It’s not fancy nor really clean – and don’t get me started on the sound proofing of the rooms, it was as if the guy snoring in the room next door was actually IN my bed – but they have 8 different kinds of rakkia, so you won’t hear me complain… Haha!
Have you been to Albania? Did you go to Lake Komani? I wanna hear all about it in the comments!!
Disclaimer: we were offered a special price on the tour but all opinions are my own and straight from the heart, as always!