The fifth day of my epic trip through Albania and Kosovo began in the city of Kukës. Come join me as I explore Kukës attractions and try Albania’s most popular food, flija, in Kukës, Albania!
My day began in the beautiful, underrated city of Kukës, about 30 minutes from the Albania/Kosovo border. It’s located about 2.5 hours from Valbona and 3 hours from the capital city, Tirana. There are lots of interesting things to do there!
My boy Erjan from Travel Media EU and I were going to kick off our day by visiting the tunnels that were built during the Communism era. They’re kind of like old bunker tunnels that were built in the 1970s for safety in case of a war. They weren’t discovered until 1992, after the Communist regime fell.
The tunnels are pitch dark and can be dangerous, so we wore hard hats for safety. There are no lights in the tunnels, so you need to bring flashlights with you. About 6,000 people can fit inside them at a time. There are rooms inside with unfinished electrical sockets and even toilets. They were constructed but never used. There are about 15 rooms in the first part of the tunnels.
From there, we took the stairs 30 meters further down. The former Albanian leader built similar tunnels in every city, but the ones in Kukës are special! Some of the stairs are slippery, so you have to be careful. Water has entered parts of the lower tunnels.
At the bottom, there are lots of piling and construction materials, as well as loose wires. There are also unfinished areas and lots of dirt and rocks. No one has explored this area! It’s a little scary but very cool. The hard hat was a savior, as I kept hitting my head on the low ceilings!
Every building from the Communist time has entrances leading down to the tunnels. We came across one of them as we explored. As we got deeper into the tunnels, it got colder and colder. It was amazing that these tunnels exist in most Albanian cities and most people don’t know about them. There’s even an area where they kept wine chilled!
We put plastic bags over our shoes because the rest of the tunnels are flooded. It’s super wet and muddy. The tunnel is three kilometers long. We came across a drinkable water spigot in the walls. Further on, the tunnels became narrower with higher ceilings. We also found a wider area that I guessed was used for storage.
Once we reached the end of the tunnel, we turned around. I had to change the bags on my shoes because one of them ripped at one point. The exit was very muddy and impossible to get through, so we looked for another exit. Then, we had to climb up for five minutes to get back outside!
What an awesome tour! The only way to take this tour is to reach out to my boy Ermal and arrange it. We emerged on a boulevard in the center of Kukës near Memorial Tower. Kukës helped the people of Kosovo by accommodating over 450,000 Kosovar people seeking refuge from the war in 1999.
Then, we headed to Hotel Bar Restaurant America, a beautiful restaurant with an outdoor bar, indoor dining areas, a hotel, and an outdoor elevator. The bar is on the seventh floor. I loved the terrace. Up a spiral staircase is the rooftop terrace, where you get stunning views of the city, the lake, and the mountains. The views are epic!
We had some raki with the owner. It was smooth and a lot easier to drink than the ones I had the previous night! They say it’s the best raki in the north! Then, we drove to an unassuming building to try the most popular Albanian food, flija, just 5 minutes outside Kukës, Albania. It’s the most traditional dish in Kukës. It’s a type of layered, savory pie. They have cows, chickens, and roosters there and it smells like a farm.
In the back was a woman preparing the flija. She would mix the batter as the tava lids heat over a fire. She uses 15 eggs, along with butter, milk, and water. She adds butter so it doesn’t stick and then bakes the flija layer by layer with eggs between them.
It smells amazing! It takes about 3 hours to make, but she made a smaller version for us with less layers and the eggs on top. She constantly swaps the lids to keep it cooking and added ash underneath.
We drank some lala, which is like a sour, chunky yogurt, and then she sliced the flija! It was crunchy and crispy. It was like a combination of an omelet and a pancake. It’s no wonder Albania’s most popular food is flija! They say Albanian guys don’t marry a girl unless she knows how to make it! Our friend Edison has a business where he delivers the flija anywhere in Albania!
Next, we headed to Kantina Dogjani, a cantina winery two minutes away. There, we met Bleron. They’re both a winery and distillery and make both wine, raki, and Albania’s first dry gin. I could smell the alcohol inside! They make many different types of wines and rakis!
I watched the distilling process and then we tried some blackberry raki. It’s 40% alcohol by volume but is super smooth. The gin was smooth and generally isn’t my favorite. Then, we had some wine made from indigenous grapes. It’s best paired with meat. It was fruity and light.
And that’s it for Kukës! What an amazing morning trying Albania’s most popular food, flija, and to explore Kukës attractions in Albania. I had an incredible time. Huge thanks to my friends at Travel Media EU and Rental Car Albania for making my trip one I will never forget!
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