Tirana: This is a city of extreme contrasts. Take your time discovering them.

Road to Gjirokaster: The road trip was littered with surprises.

Gjirokaster: A museum-quality town of mini-fortresses, it is the birthplace of modern Albania and a link to its cultural soul.

Saranda: When Conde Nast Traveler once wrote that Albania was "the next place", they probably had this city in mind.

The Ruins of Butrint: I've seen my fair share of ancient ruins over the years, but none of them prepared me for Butrint.

Road to Vlora: For all of its driving challenges, it rewards you with raw beauty.

The Fortress of Ali Pasha Tepelena: Not on any map or any guidebook . . . definitely a hidden treasure.

The Ruins of Apollonia: Dating back to 588 BC, much of these fantastic ruins still remain underground.

Ardenica: This sidetrip to my driver's birthplace offered fantastic views and the splendor of an Orthodox Chapel.

Durres: Earthquakes and invaders have left their mark on this beautiful city.

Kruja: Tucked into the mountainside more than 6,000 feet above sea-level, this small city was the perfect end to my visit.