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One of the main questions for anyone travelling to Albania is ‘Where should I visit?’. Albania has many great cities, towns and villages that you shouldn’t miss out on when you come to visit. Therefore, I have named some of the best places to visit in Albania that you should visit during your time here. From quaint villages to happening cities and beach towns – there’s something for everyone coming to Albania.
There are so many reasons why you should visit Albania. It’s a country that is truly unique and authentic. Around every twist and turn, you will find another beautiful landscape or beach. The people are extremely friendly and very hospitable. In the last year, it has fast become my favourite country in the world due to its uniqueness and strong traditional ways that no other country in Europe can offer.
Here are the most incredible places to visit in Albania.
Berat is also known as the town of one thousand windows due to the Ottoman style houses that Berat is famous for. It is now a UNESCO site as there are over 2000 years of history to explore. If you walk to the top of the castle you get amazing views of the city of Berat. Within the castle walls, you will also see everyday homes that people still occupy today. If you are a backpacker then make sure you stay at Berat backpackers, it’s a great hostel located in one of the most beautiful places in Albania!
Himare is a less busy beach town located a few hours’ drive north of Saranda. The views are incredibly pretty and it’s the perfect place if you want to chill out by the beach for a few days. There’s a promenade with some really good restaurants to check out. Himare has a more relaxed, chilled vibe than the likes of Saranda. I highly recommend making a trip to the old part of Himare which is in the hills, next to the castle. From there you get incredible views of the Riveria and you also get to see a traditional village, it’s so pretty!
Located in the north of Albania, this city is very quaint and a great doorstep to some fantastic hiking in the area. You will notice that Shkodër is the city of bikes, everyone’s biking! It’s also incredibly affordable place. The architecture is unlike anywhere else in Albania. You may notice that you have stepped back in time into an old-fashioned film, that’s the charm of Shkodër.
Interesting fact! The southern Albanians speak a different dialect to the Albanians in the northern places like Shkodër and in Kosovo.
A lot of people either go to Berat or Gjirokastёr because they think because they are both UNESCO cities they will be the same – WRONG! Make sure you visit Gijrokastёr too. Cobbled streets and a castle perched at the top, Gijrokastёr is worth the stop.
Make sure you save a few hours for the castle where you can see and climb if you wish on the old army tanks, plus you get amazing views. There is so much to see here including underground tunnels, a weapon museum (you can actually pick up the weapons!) and abandoned rooms of the castle. Spend an afternoon wandering the streets and people watching from a café. Gijrokastёr has a lot of character!
If you’re a backpacker I highly recommend you stay at Stone City Hostel. It’s an awesome hostel!
Tirana is one of the coolest cities in Europe in my opinion. It has an edge, there are lots of things to see and most importantly for any traveller, the alcohol is cheap. In the summer as most people have migrated to the beach of Saranda or Durres the city isn’t as busy but in the winter the city is thriving again. There are some wonderful places to party in Tirana as well. Don’t forget to visit the raki bar, Komiteti. You can try all the different flavours of raki here and its set in a sort of museum! It’s a cool place to hang out.
You can also look at the old communist leader’s house, Enver Hoxha. I highly recommend visiting the house of leaves, which is where you can find out a bit more about what Albania was like in the communist times. There are lots of things to do in Tirana so I highly recommend spending a few days here. If you’re a backpacker make sure you stay at Trip’n Hostel, you won’t regret it!
Saranda is where I am based in Albania. In the summer this is one of the thriving beach cities in Albania and one of the most popular places to visit on Albania. Saranda is a great mix of beach life, good restaurants and the main location in Albania for nightlife. In the summer a substantial number of Albanians come here to live and work for the tourist season so the nightlife here is very prominent.
When the winter starts it turns into a sleepy beach city but still boasts great weather. In fact, Saranda itself gets over 300 days of sunshine a year so if you have to spend winter anywhere in Europe I would spend it here! Make sure you read my full guide on Saranda here which includes the best things to do, best places to eat and where to stay!
One of the places in Albania that will leave you speechless is Ksamil. Only a 20-minute bus ride from Saranda is this beautiful paradise. The only advice I would give is to visit in any other months except for July and August. During those two months, the place is absolutely packed. It’s much nicer to visit in the of the season when most of the summer tourists have left and there are only a few sunbeds left.
The sand is white, the sea is crystal clear, what more could you want? There are also a few islands which you can swim out to as well as you can rent a jet ski or paddle boat and spend the day relaxing in the Albanian sun! Ksamil is often referred to as the most beautiful place in Albania and for good reason, it’s stunning!
When you come to Albania you will no doubt try one of the local beers Korça. Well, you can visit the city when Korça is made and produced. The best thing about it is that you will get beer for the wholesale price. That means you will pay a pittance for a bottle of beer, that’s insane! Korça is set in a valley so the city is surrounding by mountains. From Korçë you can also do some amazing hikes in the surrounding area.
Kruja is a must-see when you come to Albania. It’s a small town positioned on the top of a mountain. It’s referred to as the city of Skanderbeg. Skanderbeg is a national hero and saved the Albanians from being taken over by the Ottoman Empire at one point. He tricked the Ottomans and told them that he wanted to go back to Albania to help them take over the country. But in fact, he went back to Albania and rallied the troops against the Ottomans.
In Kruja there is a castle and a big museum which is amazing to learn more about Albanian history. There are also the most incredible markets which are hundreds of years old. Here you will find the most beautiful antiques and unique Albanian souvenirs. The antique shops are filled with little treasures!
It’s only a 45-minute bus ride from Tirana and costs 100lek. It’s well worth staying here if you have the time. I highly recommend staying at Emiliano rooms if you do stay. The property is in one of the original houses within the castle walls. The staff are incredibly friendly, and the price is incredible! Make sure you have the traditional dinner here even if you don’t end up staying here.
There are two parts to Qeparo – old/new or up/down. Upper Qeparo is magical and possibly my favourite place I have been to in Albania. It’s the perfect place to see a traditional Albanian village, but there’s a twist. This one is half abandoned. After communism fell many of the villagers left from here to other countries and therefore the village was completely abandoned. These days about half of the village has been renovated but many of the old stone houses stay derelict. The streets are cobbled, the views are magnificent, and history is rich here. There’s not much to do apart from awe at this beautiful village.
Lower Qeparo is situated right on the beach and is a chilled out little beach town.
Highly recommend a visit to these villages!
Another great place to visit along the Albanian Riviera is Borsh. Borsh is also very chilled and holds the longest stretch of beach in Albania. It’s situated in between olive groves and is a nice place to get away from the craziness of Saranda in the summer.
I highly recommend making a trip to Borsh castle which sits on the mountain overlooking the beach. The castle is in ruins, but it’s often missed by tourists and is completely forgotten. The views are stunning. There’s also an old mosque in the castle walls. This was added by the Ottomans! It’s not a working mosque as its nearly completely ruined but its beautiful inside and you can still see some of the paintings on the ceiling.
Dhermi is becoming one of the most popular places to visit along the Albanian Riviera. There are some great beaches and the town is made for tourists, lots of accommodation and restaurant options here. You can choose to stay right on the beach or in the village above.
Dhermi is a great place to base yourself as it’s the middle of some great places to visit in Albania. Make sure if you stay in Dhermi to make a trip to Gjipe beach. It’s one of the best beaches in Albania which is hidden in between a canyon.
Vuno is off the tourist radar and often missed! It’s a very small village along the Albanian Riviera trail. There’s a charm to Vuno just like Upper Qeparo. Vuno was too abandoned but today it’s slowly being revived. Stone houses and cobbled stone paths lead throughout the village. You gain magnificent views over the olive groves and the beaches of the Albanian Riviera.
Gjipe beach is not too far away from here and is a great thing to go see if you end up basing yourself in Vuno for a night or two.
Jale is a beach town which has become popular in recent years. This is a great option for a beach vacation and there’s many accommodation options, beach parties and the perfect place to relax.
You can hire a kayak and visit some of the nearby hidden coves and beaches, Gjipe being one of them!
Located in the north, Theth national park is one, if not the most beautiful national park in Albania. Theth is a picturesque village hidden in the mountains. From here you can start some great hikes through the Albanian Alps.
The area is a haven for lovers of wild animals and beautiful nature. Over 2/3rds of the park is covered in trees. Theth is isolated but slowly tourism is developing. There’s an abundance of things to see including the park itself, springs, waterfalls, stone carvings and more.
Vlore is a coastal city, much bigger than the likes of Saranda. It’s the start (or end) of the Albanian Riviera. It’s a special place in the history because Vlore is where Albania claimed independence in 1912. This old city was founded in the 6th century BC and used to be named Aulona.
There is plenty to do in and around Vlora. I highly recommend going to the castle, you get spectacular views of the city from here. Sazan island is also close and is the largest island in Albania. It’s a military zone but recently It started opening in the summer for tourists to come see. There are plenty of beaches in Vlore to check out too.
I must be honest, Fier is not my favourite place in Albania. BUT it does have one advantage – Apollonia!
Apollonia is a UNESCO world heritage site full of history! It’s an ancient Illyrian and Greek city. I heard that less than 5% of Apollonia has been discovered, which is truly incredible because as you walk around the park you will soon understand how much is yet to still be discovered!
Durres is a port city and a popular pick for a beach getaway for Albanians living in Tirana as its only 35km from the capital. It’s the most ancient city in Albania with a history going back as far as 3000 years.
The biggest thing to see in Durres is the ancient Amphitheatre which seats over 15,000 people. The theatre is the second largest in the Balkans and is a great thing to see if you end up in Durres. From Durres, you can head north for some incredible nature and hiking. Only an hour away is Cape of Rodon which I highly recommend visiting. It’s home to sandy beaches and a 14th-century castle!
Permet is near one of Albania’s natural wonders – hot water springs! The town is known to be the cleanest and the greenest being named the city of flowers. One of the main features of this town is the enormous rock that lies in the centre called the stone of the city.
There’s also a beautiful old bridge called Katiu which is right next to the springs!
20. Finiq/ Phoenice
Finiq is an incredibly under-visited site located just out of Saranda! The Finiq archaeological park is still mostly yet to be discovered but there’s a Roman theatre, Hellenistic houses, a small prostylos temple, Byzantine church and lots of relics. The site was formed in the second half of the 5th century BC.
Many tourists don’t even know this site exists which is such a shame. From the park, you gain amazing views of the surrounding landscape. It’s a very peaceful place. I highly recommend taking a picnic up to the site and enjoying the view and history!
21. Porto Palermo
The Porto Palermo castle and its beach are a great stopover during a holiday to the Albanian Riviera. The castle was built in the 19th century and belonged to Ali Pasha. The castle is unique because it’s in a star shape instead of the usual 4 corners a castle normally has!
You will also see old army barracks beside the castle and nearby there’s also a submarine bunker! The beach is small and rocky but lovely, nevertheless. I have also seen people camping right on the beach here!
Right on the border of Macedonia is a popular stopover holiday spot for families. Pogradec offers beautiful views of Lake Ohrid which is over 4 million years old. The lake is under UNESCO protection as it’s home to as many as 17 aquatic animal species which are majority native to this lake.
The town is a must for nature lovers who are after a peaceful holiday by the lake!
23. Llogara national park
Llogara national park is great for a summer or winter getaway. Within the park, you have many options – hiking, paragliding, camping and you’re also close to the sea! The Llogara pass is one of the most beautiful drives in Europe. You gain stunning views of the Albanian Riviera, particularly Palase which is the best beach before/after the national park (it’s one of Albania’s best beaches).
If you love hiking, then good news because Llogara is the gateway for the Karaburun Peninsula. There is still not a lot of information about this peninsula as it’s the most untouched part of the Albanian Riviera. To get to the hidden coves and beaches you must hike for 4-6 hours one way and there are no certain tracks yet.
Note: Hopefully in spring 2019 I will go and explore this area to document its beauty and to give you guys some information about it!
The last place but certainly not the least is Butrint – a UNESCO protected area nearby Saranda and next to Ksamil. The Greeks inhabited Butrint in the 6th century BC and later the Romans took over. But Butrint was inhabited well before that, in the prehistoric times. The earliest evidence of life is from 50,000 years ago!
The park is incredibly big, you can easily spend the whole day here exploring all that it has to offer. There’s one restaurant within the park at the top otherwise there’s also another one down the road. I highly recommend looking at Ali Pasha fortress which is not too far from the main park at Butrint. You can reach it by catching a ride with a local fisherman or walking down from the viewpoint on the road going towards Butrint. More information on how to get to Ali Pasha’s fortress here.
There’s a roundup of the best places to visit in Albania that you simply cannot miss. There are plenty more places to visit while you’re in Albania. Every town, village and city are unique, and none are the same. My advice would be to hire a car and drive around the country. This way you can see a lot more. If you don’t have access to a hire car, make sure you read my guide to transport through Albania!
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