SH20 is a mountain road in northwestern part of Albania with a length of 20.7 miles. The road starts in Hani i Hotit, where a border crossing point between Albania and Montenegro is situated and ends in Bashkimi, the northernmost village of Albania, located in the rural Kelmend municipality. The road is difficult and it’s a nightmare in the wet or dark (or both).
Proper preparation is essential to having a safe, enjoyable trip on this road. The road is about 65 km long. The first about 20 km between Hani i Hotit and Tamare are currently under construction. You can see it has been paved once and driving is okay. Between Tamare and Bashkimi the road is not very good and for the total you have to count about 8 hours drive. The existing road has been in a very poor condition and impassable for most part of the year, making impossible the normal movement of vehicles but the road is being improved the last months (February 2014).
Watch out for sudden loose-gravel breaks. And that pavement can ripple like a roller coaster track in places where “frost heaves” are caused by seasonal freezing and thawing of the ground. All the road is very rocky (none is tarmac) and sometimes steep and also with deep puddles of water. In order to make sure you’re not going to damage the car, you need to drive pretty much at walking speed for most of the way and having to get out the car all the time to remove stones.
Caution should be exercised when driving the road because of the steep inclines and icy conditions often present. Drivers should be especially cautious of oncoming traffic. As 4wd cars and lorries made the tracks too deep for standard 2wd it’s necessary to drive on the higher parts of the rocks which other cars had moved out the way. Also, the villages shown on the map are not really villages, just some houses and farms further away from the road and there’s only one cafe.
The surface on this gravel road is often loose, especially along the sides of the road. Due its unique location and the climb in elevation over thousands of feet, and passing through remote areas, it is important when driving in these conditions to be prepared. This track can get very muddy and slippery after rain making it challenging to get through. During and after a storm the road may be impassable, even with a four-wheel-drive vehicle.
This road has humbled many egos. It’s not for the sissies and shouldn’t be attempted by novice drivers. The road is in dreadful condition and requires strong nerves to negotiate it. It’s certainly breathtaking and it has a fearsome reputation. It still remains an adrenaline-pumping journey and is definitely not for the faint of lungs, heart, or legs. Words can’t describe the road and pictures don’t do it justice.