Why stop at Kukes during a trip to Albania?
Let me tell you: there is no valid reason to do this . Not if you are a tourist in a hurry, those who in seven days in Albania would like to see everything about everything, from the mountains to the sea through the archaeological sites and museums. In this case, go straight, it makes no sense to make a detour to get to this city, facing the 150 kilometers that separate Kukes from Tirana along the brand new and spectacular highway that leads to Kosovo (for a fee!).
But don’t be in a hurry – or if, like us, you are on the umpteenth return to the Land of Eagles – instead it’s worth stopping . For a lunch, a coffee or, why not, a night on the town before heading to Kosovo or into the mountains of the Valbona National Park.
NOTE : The economic situation of Albania is in a whirlwind change. Tourism is certainly a huge resource for the country and it’s easy to delude yourself that cities like Durres or Tirana are the norm. On the contrary, however, poverty is still very widespread, as is unemployment, two Albanian problems that cannot be ignored. This does not mean that a trip to the Land of Eagles is a wonderful experience, which will allow you to meet people with a big heart. If you want to know more, this is a guide that can accompany you on your journey not only in planning but also in discovering people and their traditions ( follow the link to find out more ).Buy the Albania guide on Amazon
What to see in Kukes
Part of the charm of a trip to Albania is its people . Proud people, who have had very hard times but who nevertheless never tire of helping and welcoming. Also for this reason we have decided to tell you about Kukes, discovered by chance for “a coffee break along the road” and then revised by choice, because, I am convinced, as tourists we can do a lot to help.
But let’s go in order.
Kukes the largest center of the homonymous region . The original seat of the city was not located in the current position: the town was in fact transferred in 1976 as part of the project that saw the creation of the hydroelectric basin used to discover energy. The old city is now located under the artificial lake of Fierza and made the city of Kukës a peninsula from above.
Here there is no Durres seafront nor the frenzy of Tirana . Here there are unemployment and poverty, as Aron told us, who returned from Belgium to open a fast food restaurant in his city. “ They told me I was crazy! But this is my land, my mother is elderly and I wanted to go home … “he told us when, intrigued by a couple with a child who complimented him on his cooking, he came to our table to chat a bit ‘ with us.
The madness, if it can be defined as such, was to leave a secure job in Europe to return to Kukes and open his own business. A madness that, he told us, leads him to work for almost 20 hours a day but which he is happy with. And while he tells us how unemployment is really high in the city and young people dream of fleeing far away, the pride for his Albania shines through, a land where there are still many problems but where heart and courage are never lacking.
And that’s why I recommend you see Kukes.
Why visit Kukes
Kukes is located near the border with Kosovo and when the conflict erupted in the country, the people of the city literally opened the doors of their homes to help and support refugees. People who had little but who did not hesitate to welcome strangers who had even less with open arms.
So no, in the city you won’t find much to do : a mosque, a small museum, a market that winds along one of the main streets, a tower-monument and some retro buildings (to be polite !) Then there are the (artificial) lake nearby and the great mountain – Mount Gjallica – to guard but also the bars as well as a great variety of restaurants serving traditional Northern Albanian cuisine at low cost.
In short, little to do in Kukes but a big heart to see, that of the Albanians.
How to get to Kukes from Tirana
Once isolated and difficult to reach, today the city is connected by the new toll motorway . The cost is not high (for us Europeans) yet it seems to be so high for the locals that many cannot afford it. As long as you have a car to drive it, of course.
However, from here you will reach Tirana in about 2 hours and Valbona in just over 3 . In short, the perfect break between two destinations not to be missed during a tour in Albania! 😉