Leicester BOBs Visit Albania
Leicester BoBs visited Albania in October 2022 to cycle around south Albania, visiting 5 cities and covering a distance of 370 miles with 26500 feet of elevation.
The route consisted of cycling across lakes, rivers, through forests and rural land, and climbing multiple mountains along with riding across the coastline of Albania, the feedback from the group was highly rated and expressed as a “thrilling experience”.
The five cyclist Strava profiles are
Below is a day by day snippet of each day written by the team.
Day 1: Sunday 16th October - Leicester > Ohrid > Elbasan
We left Leicester at 3:30AM to catch the 7:45 flight from Luton.
The flight was booked on Wizz Air to fly into Ohrid, North Marcodnia, due to the last minute cancellation and changes with flying to the capital of Albania, Tirania. Flying to Ohrid worked out as it was 2hr 45mins from Tirana and 1hr 45mins from Elbasan, where we were due to start our cycling journey from.
Flight was 3.5 hours long and relatively smooth and not too busy allowing us to comfortably catch up on sleep. Landing into Ohird during the daylight hours allowed us to view the mountains the city is surrounded by and the famous Lake Ohrid.
Ohrid airport is extremely small and Passport control along with luggage collection was the quickest we had experienced.
We had pre hired a car for seven days from Alfa rental, which was ready for us to collect. Despite booking a larger car we were given a saloon as it was categorised within the same class of cars, loading the car with 5 suitcases was a challenge but we managed to squeeze them all in.
The route to Elbasan from Ohrid entails a border crossing which took us approx. 30-45 minutes with our car being searched. Once crossed over to Albania the drive into Elbasan was straightforward. As it was part of our cycling route for the upcoming day, it allowed us to scope out what to expect when cycling.
The hotel booked in Elbasan was Hotel Vila Imperial, which was was very clean with good size rooms. The location being central gave us the flexibility to walk around the canter of Elbasan.
While we waited for Bike Point our bike hire company to arrive we visited King Mosque, a historical mosque within the Ottoman Elbasan Castle. The mosque was built by Sultan Bayazit II around 1482–1485. This makes it one of the oldest active mosques in Albania.
Once our bikes were all set we enjoyed an evening meal at Piceri Zemrat e Mira, a Halal local fast food.
Day 2: Monday 17th October - Elbasan to Korce
After an early breakfast we set out from Elbasan at 8:45, riding out the city towards Pogradec. The first 45 miles of the route was a constant climb with a few tough sections. Parts of the routes did have heavy traffic but was manageable and the drivers seemed to be cautions when over taking us.
As this was our first day of cycling we had quite a few mechanical stops to adjust our bikes to ensure we are comfortable, our support driver Alfir (from Bike Point) was always on hand to help make the adjustments to our bikes.
The most challenging segment so far in the the route was the Prenjas cela a 3 mile Category 3 climb of 996ft, after 40 miles of climbing we were rewarded with a beautiful view of Lake Ohrid and a short decent to our Lunch Stop at Nesti Relax Home Restaurant situated on the lake side. The meal was light and tasty consisting of grilled vegetables, bread and fries.
The next twenty miles were relatively flat, riding along Lake Ohrid and through the city of Pogradec heading south towards Korçë. On the final stretch of the route the brothers started to feel fatigued due to the consistent climbs and headwinds. One of our brothers took respite in the support vehicle, and unfortunately one of the brother had a mechanical issue which prevented him to continue for the day. Bike Point was unable to repair the issue on the roadside but arranged a replacement bike to come from Tirana, which arrived within a few hours ready for the next day.
We arrived into Korçë just before sunset which was imperative to ensure we could pray Zohr, Asr and get ready for Maghrib. While in Korçë we stayed at Guesthouse Sara&Esi a 3 Bedroom apartment relatively close to the city. In the evening we enjoyed a 20 mins walk to the local mosque Xhamia e madhe e Korçës where we prayed Eisha and met a few brothers who guided us to a local Halal restaurant Korca Food Hallall.
We also visited Iliaz Bej Mirahori Mosque one of the first and most ancient buildings in Korçë built in 1496.
Day 2: Tuesday 18th October 22 Korçë to Përmet
We set of again as early as possible after breakfast from Përmet, Alhamdulliah the weather and the atmosphere was calm as we rode our of the city surrounded by mountains. Todays route consisted of 82miles and 6,000ft of climbing with ten category 3 and 4 climbs. Our support driver did warn us that it was going to be a long day and we should work together to support each other.
The route was one of the most scenic routes we had ridden upon as the terrain was a mixture of mountains, forests, rivers and remote areas of Albania, each turn came with a new backdrop and breath-taking views. The route had very minimum traffic on it, however the first part of the route did not have the best road surfaces and at times it was dangerous especially on the steep descents.
Our lunch stop on this route was 41 miles in at Farma Sotira a quite camp site in the forest and at the foot of a climb, where we stopped for an hour. After 50 miles the road surface improved and we enjoyed a thrilling 10 mile decent and smooth road surface into Përmet.
Again arriving into Përmet just before sunset allowed us sufficient time to check in and pray our salah. We stayed at Funky Guest House & Adventures, a good location with a good breakfast, but the staff and service was extremely poor. A place we would not recommend to stay.
During the evening we walked around the main centre (not very big) and went to the local mosque but it was locked. Our dinner in Përmet was at Sofra Përmetare, which served us a delicious vegetarian meal.
Day 3: Wednesday 19th October 22 Përmet to Sarandë
Setting of straight after breakfast became a habit at this point, with the team being all ready, packed and rearing to go at 8.30AM. Our initial route today was planned to be 73 miles with 3485ft of climbing, however our support driver suggested we change the route due to the surface of the road and recommended a new road which had recently been constructed. This changed our route to 58 miles and 3854ft of climbing. We were all pleased with the change of route as the road was externally smooth and again the scenery was beautiful.
The challenging section on this route was the climb at 33 miles into the ride which consisted of 1,857ft of climbing over 8.8 miles, however the incredible scenery on this section made it all worthwhile. This section of the route was a new road and was not picked up by our cycling computers, at times it felt we we didn't know what to expect at the top or how long the climb was going to be. The climb finished with a tunnel cutting through the rest of the mountain to bring us out to the other side, Once we got over the mountain, it was a gradual decent into Sarandë, besides one final category 4 climb into the city itself which came right at the end of the ride.
On this day we did not stop for a lunch break due to the short distance and relatively flat route.
Day 4: Thursday 20th October 22 Rest Day
We had a ride planned for this day around Sarandë and Kasmil, but due to the majority vote we all opted for a rest day. After a later breakfast we lazied around on the floatable pier.
Our support driver was kind enough to chauffer us around Sarandë and Kasmil so we visited the sites we were initially going to visit on the bike but in the car.
Starting of at Blue Eye an underwater spring near the village of Muzinë in Finiq municipality, the walk from the car park to and back from the spring was 2 miles through a national park.
Later in the afternoon we visited a beach in Kamil and had lunch at Abiori Restaurant Pizzeria, followed by a drive up to Kalaja e Lëkurësit a Hilltop castle ruin with a spectacular view of the city and sunset.
Day 5: Friday 21st October 22 Sarandë to Vlorë
This was the day we were all looking forward to and dreading at the same time, our route from Sarandë to Vlorë was 76 miles and nearly 9,000ft of climbing which involved numerus category 3, 4 and HC climbs. According to our support vehicle the section at llogara pass and Qafa e
Vishës is one of the toughest in Albania due to the 10 miles climb in the scorching sun and the gradients were not friendly.
As accustomed by now, we set out from Sarandë sharp post breakfast taking a steady stroll out of the city as we hit our first climb of the day. The sun soon came out above the mountains and majority of this ride we were riding in the sun with minimum shade and along the beautiful southern coastline of Albania heading north towards Vlorë.
As warned by our support driver the two challenging sections were at Qafa e Vishës approx. 35 miles into the ride and then shortly followed by a 10m climb up Llagara Road in the sun. This is the day we really appreciated our support person (Alfir), who ensured that we were constantly topped up on fluids along the long climb.
At the top of the mountain we stopped for a quick lunch at Panorama Restaurant, which followed by a 15 miles decent and flat costal road into Vlorë, this section of the route did have a lot of headwind. We arrived at our apartment just before sunset. The location of our apartment was in a quitter part of the city on the beach.
The evening meal was at Ciao Italia PIZZA HALLAL, again found by one of our brothers where we all enjoyed an Italian meal followed by deserts at a local coffee shop.
Day 6: Saturday 22nd October 22 Vlorë to Elbsaan
Our final day of riding in Albania, by now we were all sore from riding and not having our own bikes didn't help, nevertheless our spirits were high and determined to complete our tour. Our route again for this day was changed due to the recommendation our local support person to ensure we avoid highways and motorways. The route was now 76 miles with 2,904ft climbing.
We set of slightly earlier on this day without breakfast with the intention of stopping on route for breakfast. Due to the last minute route change we did not have the full route loaded on our bike computers, and instead were following our support vehicle who waited for us at junctions.
The ride out of Vlorë was steady but soon the road tarmac became non existence and we found ourselves riding on gravel for 10 miles of the route. This was due to ongoing local road constructions. Riding in this condition was uncomfortable for the group, once the gravel section finished the road surface became more bearable.
We stopped for a short breakfast in Fier, a city on route and then rode through the villages of Albania. Today's ride focus was to keep it steady Zone 2 riding, which we all achieved by enjoying the scenery and absorbing the atmosphere of Albanian Village life. We stopped for some fresh fruits at one of the local service station in the village, and the host gave some of our brothers a tour of their orchard.
We arrived into Elbsaan in good time well before sunset, which allowed us plenty of time to collect our hired car from the location where it was parked. Our accommodation in Elbsaan was at Hotel Universe where we also met some of the Rahma Mercy volunteers in the evening.
Our plan for the evening meal was to visit Restorant Vëllezërit Murati which was recommended by local brothers for serving halal meat, but unfortunately it was closed, which led us to the restaurant we started at Piceri Zemrat e Mira for our last meal. Later in the evening we visited Masjid Hafiz Patel and treated ourselves to waffles and ice cream, which went down as a treat.
Alhamdulillah we are all grateful to have completed the full route without any incidents nor major mishaps, surpassingly we also did not have any punctures considering the road we rode on at times were not the best. We all experienced riding through many villages, cities and meeting locals and Alhamdulillah majority of whom were extremally welcoming and friendly. We were all taken a back by the beauty and the creation of Allah at how beautiful Albania was. The week together with the brothers was thoroughly enjoyable and made our brotherhood stronger, and also provided an opportunity of self reflection and appreciation of the bounties Allah has bestowed upon us.
Download a PDF guide of useful links used by the brothers on this trip.