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22 Travel Tips for Albania: Useful Things to Know Before You Go

My top travel tips for Albania to save you money, time and stress. Read this before you go travelling in Albania.

When I embarked on my 6-month overland journey through the Balkan countries, Albania was definitely the country I was most nervous about visiting.

I had read all about the rugged beaches , high mountains and historic towns and castles – so I had no trouble deciding where to go and what to do . But the people, the culture, the food and all the practical details such as transportation, WIFI and accommodation – well, I had absolutely no clue what to expect.

On the ground, I discovered that most negative stereotypes about the country are untrue. In my experience Albania is safe, affordable, friendly, diverse, tolerant and above all else, incredibly beautiful .

At the same time, I learned that Albania does present some particular challenges , even for those well-practiced at travelling in the region.

Without spoiling any of the country’s special secrets or revealing too many of the quirky things about Albania that are fun to figure out as you go, I want to share a couple of things that will make your travel experience smoother and more fulfilling.

Here are 22 practical travel tips for Albania that I think every traveller should know.

Travel tips for Albania graphic.

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What is travelling in Albania really like? 22 useful travel tips for Albania

Albania is quite unlike any of its neighbours.

It’s tempting to think of the Balkans (particularly the western Balkans) as a monolith. But I don’t need to tell you that every country is its own entity. Within this tapestry, Albania is perhaps the most distinct nation in terms of both its culture and history.

An obvious example: The Albanian language, Shqip , is unlike anything else spoken in the region (or anywhere else in the world for that matter). It’s thought to be descended from an extinct Illyrian tongue, but its exact origins are still a mystery to linguists.

After months of being able to follow the rough contours of a shared speech in Croatia, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina , hearing the curious chatter of Albanian on the streets of Tirana was quite a contrast.

Albania’s cultural and religious traditions are also very distinct. And although you can find local variations of cevapi and burek, the cuisine is totally different too!

With the exception of Kosovo where almost 93% of the population are ethnically Albanian, it’s hard to draw a comparison between Albania and any of its neighbours. In many ways Albania feels more like Georgia – slightly chaotic but imminently beautiful, with the furgon the local equivalent of the marshrutka.

Learn a bit about the history before you go

Of course this runs much deeper than just food and minivans. Albania wasn’t part of Yugoslavia and doesn’t have the same ‘baggage’ as its northern neighbours. That’s not to say the nation wasn’t impacted by the Balkan Wars and genocide – it certainly was – but in a different way. No fighting took place on Albanian soil.

Instead, Albania was subjected to its own private horrors, namely 45 years under an oppressive political regime including 30 years with despotic communist dictator, Enver Hoxha, at the helm. Hoxha’s ideology was so hardline, he viewed Yugoslavia and the USSR as too lax. It’s very difficult for an outsider to try and comprehend how this period of history impacted Albania and its people. But I felt compelled to at least try.

One of the most interesting things I found is that Albanians embrace their whole history – the good and the bad. The communist regime only fell in the 1990s so for the majority of the population, it’s not a distant memory but something that’s still very fresh. But it’s never glossed over. Most people we met were happy to chat politics and share their experiences.

For example: There are 173,000 disused nuclear bunkers sprinkled around Albania, each a monument to Hoxha’s paranoia. Instead of destroying them, people decided to either leave them be or repurpose them as museums or galleries. (Now there’s even a Cold War military base that’s being rebranded as an island destination .) Tirana’s collection of Communist-era statues and busts are displayed in a courtyard behind the National Art Gallery. And Blloku, once an exclusive neighbourhood where the party members lived, has been reclaimed as a vibrant cafe and street art district. Even Hoxha’s old house is still standing.

Some might think of Albania as a dark tourism destination. To me, this is a nation of light and colour. While visitors have an obligation to familiarise themselves with the nation’s recent history, it’s important to do so in a respectful, thoughtful way. The Bunk’Art museums in Tirana are a great place to start and will enrich your experience immensely. 

Communist-era statues behind the National Art Gallery in Tirana.

The man atop the horse is General Skanderbeg

On a lighter note, here’s a bit of trivia for you. If Hoxha is Albania’s villain, then the nation’s hero is definitely Gjergj Kastrioti Skënderbeu, AKA General Skanderbeg. 

It took me far too long to learn who Skanderbeg is and why he’s so beloved in this part of the world. As I travelled around the Balkans, I kept seeing the same statue of a warrior – including in squares in Skopje and Prishtina – and started referring to him simply as ‘the man atop the horse’. It wasn’t until I got to Albania that I was finally able to put a name to the face.

Skanderbeg was an Albanian military commander who lived during the early 15th century. He’s famous for leading a campaign against the Ottomans which freed Albania and several neighbouring countries from being vassal states. His penultimate battle was launched from the town of Kruja north of Tirana, now the location of Skanderbeg’s castle-museum. It’s a popular day trip and the place to go if you want to learn more about this chapter of history.

The only other person held in similar esteem is Albania’s heroine, Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu, AKA Mother Teresa. Born to Albanian Kosovar parents in Skopje – then part of the Ottoman Empire and now the capital of North Macedonia – she’s beloved in all three countries (though each claims her as their own!).

Albania is overwhelmingly a safe country for tourists

One of the biggest misconceptions about Albania is that it’s unsafe for tourists. In reality, foreigners are very rarely the target of violent crime, and although pickpocketing and scams do happen, they’re not as widespread as in other countries in Europe.

Generally speaking, Albania is overwhelmingly safe for travellers of all types (including solo females) provided you exercise common sense and caution.

My one negative experience in Albania was being fleeced by a taxi driver in Gjirokaster . It was my mistake for not doing my research – I was unfamiliar with the location and agreed to a price without understanding just how short the distance to my hotel was. To avoid misunderstandings within the cities, it’s best to download a taxi app .

The biggest thing to watch out for in Albania is road safety. (Here we find another similarity to Georgia: The driving style.) More on that later.

As a side note: It’s not advisable to drink the tap water in Tirana or other cities/towns.

Avoid visiting in July or August

The best time to visit Albania in my opinion is any time except summer. I travelled during June. As the month went on and my trip was coming to an end, I found most places were getting a little too warm and dry – and much too crowded – for my liking.

Albania has a Mediterranean climate, thus winters are mild but wet. The best time to visit Albania is shoulder season (late March to early June or September through October) when the weather is pleasant both on the coast and in the mountains.

July and August are hot and busy, especially on the riviera, and should be avoided. That’s unless you plan to stick to the mountains, in which case summer is the best time for trekking.

A blue rock pool in Albania.

Consider flying into a neighbouring country

Most people arrive in Albania via the country’s main international airport, Tirana Airport Nënë Tereza. This makes sense if your itinerary starts in the capital or in the northern part of the country.

A second international airport opened in July 2021 in Kukës (KFZ), 150km north-east of Tirana (and just 45-minutes from Prizren in Kosovo ). It’s a suitable starting point for the Albanian Alps, but international arrivals are so far limited to flights from Zurich and Istanbul.

If you’re travelling around the south of Albania, it might be more convenient (and more affordable) to fly into a neighbouring country instead. Corfu International Airport in Greece is a short ferry ride from Saranda, for example, and a logical place to arrive/depart if you’re mainly focusing on the Albanian Riviera.

Also read: My top tips for visiting Montenegro .

Lek is the official currency, but Euros are widely accepted

The official currency in Albania is the lek. Although Albania is not part of the EU, the Euro is widely used as well.

Lek is common currency in convenience shops, at restaurants and among taxi drivers – i.e. for small purchases. You’ll find that most hotels and guesthouses list their prices in Euro, and it usually works out far better to pay for big-ticket items such as hotel bills and rental cars in Euro rather than lek. If you try to pay in lek, you risk losing a big chunk of cash due to the conversion rate.

At the time of writing, 1 Euro is equivalent to 121.5 LEK.

Always have cash on you

Albania is very much a cash society so you need to make sure you have plenty of bills on you at all times. You can get by in Tirana using card only, but outside the capital, cash is still king.

Lek is a closed currency so you’ll have to wait until you arrive in-country to get your hands on some. Remember that lek is only good for small purchases and meals, so only withdraw as much as you need.

ATMs are easy to find in Albania (even in rural areas). Most banks charge a 300-700 lek withdrawal fee, but Credins Bank and Alpha Bank are among those that are fee-free (at the time of writing). Remember to check for any extra charges issued by your home bank.

A woman stands in front of a market shop in Gjirokaster, Albania.

Albania is extremely affordable – even by Balkans standards

Accommodation, restaurants and activities in Albania are all extremely good value for money. We easily got by on 40 USD per person per day – and you could spend a lot less by taking advantage of the hostel scene and sticking to free activities. One of our biggest expenses was museum tickets, something we don’t tend to skimp on.

A generous meal in a restaurant in Albania might cost you 500-1000 lek per person, while cheap snacks such as burek are perfect for breakfast and will only set you back around 100 lek.

Expect to pay 1,600 lek for a local sim card with data, around 200 lek for a cup of coffee, and anywhere from 400-1,000 lek on average for an intercity bus fare.

Buy a sim card when you arrive

Majority of hotels, bars and restaurants in Albania have WIFI, while many beaches and archaeological sites are now serviced by a free public network. Still, if you want unfettered access to the internet for things like booking taxis and navigation, you will need a sim card.

ALBtelecom is the preferred mobile provider in Albania. It’s very easy to buy and register a sim card at one of their shops in Tirana using your passport/ID card. A sim card and internet package (20 GB with 30 days validity) will set you back 1,600 lek.

While coverage in Tirana is good enough to support a burgeoning digital nomad community, reception is still fairly limited in remote areas and non-existent in the mountains.

Don’t put your faith in Google Maps

If you’re getting around Albania with public transport and only using Google Maps for general navigation within the cities, then you have nothing to worry about. But if you’re driving in Albania and using Google Maps to plan your road trip route , you need to watch out for a couple of things.

It seems Google Maps hasn’t quite been able to keep pace with Albania’s rapid infrastructure developments. Missing roads and non-existent turn offs are common encounters, and you’ll find you’re constantly being forced to re-route. Take directions with a grain of salt and always budget extra time to account for detours.

The same goes for finding addresses – street names and house numbers often don’t correspond to what’s on the map. Even major landmarks are sometimes pinned in the wrong spot.

Aerial view of Tirana, Albania.

Furgons are your friends

Albania has a limited railway network connecting Tirana with Shkoder in the north, Durres and Vlore on the coast, and Pogradec on Lake Ohrid in the east. Domestic flights are now available from Tirana to Kukës, and flying can certainly save you time getting from the capital to the far-north.

Travelling around the centre and south of Albania, you’ll be relying on road transport. Renting a car is a great option if you’re a confident driver. Otherwise, furgons are your friends.

Furgons are intercity minivans similar to marshrutka vans used throughout the former Soviet countries . They run on a flexible schedule, stop on demand, and are extremely budget-friendly. The downsides: Road safety is not exactly a priority, luggage space (and legroom) is very limited, and you can forget about AC. Furgons depart when full so it’s important to always arrive at the bus station well ahead of schedule.

An upgrade on the furgon is the coach bus. You’ll find large air conditioned coaches running on most popular routes during the warmer months, including between Tirana and Berat , Kruje, Gjirokaster, Korca , Durres, etc.

Gjirafa Travel is a terrific website for checking bus schedules and timetables online in English. Whenever possible, I recommend cross-checking times locally at the station.

Speaking of bus stations – there are multiple bus terminals in Tirana and trying to figure out which one you need can be extremely confusing! Pogradec and Shkoder have their own stations, while other buses depart from the Regional Bus Terminal – North and South Albania.

Take extra care on the roads

Albanians have a reputation for their maniacal driving style and for flouting the rules of the road. Combined with poor road conditions in many parts of the country (although the major highways are in good nick) and the proliferation of old and worn-down cars on the road, it’s a recipe for disaster.

Be careful when crossing the road, especially in the city. Take precautions whenever you travel by road, and only hire a car if you’re very confident. Try to avoid being out on the road after dark, and never get into a car with someone who’s been drinking. I also recommend capping your road journeys to a couple of hours per leg.

Albanian cuisine is a revelation

Albania is not exactly known as a foodie destination , but it should be. Regional cuisine, traditional Albanian dishes and the country’s super-popular farm-to-table fresh food movement all combine to create a fascinating culinary scene.

Albanian food is so diverse, you can find something new to try every day. I was quite satisfied eating only Albanian food for the entire duration of my stay. I found Albanian food fresher and less meat-oriented than in some other countries in the region. Most restaurants have plenty of vegetarian options.

Northern, central and southern Albania all have their separate culinary traditions , and within that towns and villages have their own specialties. Balkan, Italian, Turkish, Greek and even ancient Roman influences can all be identified, while you’ll find many similarities to other Mediterranean cuisines (especially Greek and Italian).

Seafood reigns supreme on the coast, while in the south, food choices reflect the pastoral landscape: Dairy, citrus and olive oil are all prominent. Garlic and onions are ubiquitous.

Some of my favourite Albanian dishes include: Tavë Kosi , a meal of lamb, eggs and yogurt traditional to Elbasan; Gjirokaster qifqi (arancini-like rice balls flavoured with mint and black pepper); ‘Berati schnitzel’ (pork stuffed with hard cheese) and pispili (spinach pie with a cornbread base), both traditional to Berat; and Korca’s famous savory lakror pie.

Fresh Albanian food on a restaurant table in Berat.

Watch out for raki

One thing Albania does have in common with its Balkan compatriots is the proclivity for alcohol. Sipping spirits in particular is a huge part of the culture.

The drink of choice in Albania is raki or rakia , a potent clear spirit distilled from grapes. Commercial versions are up to 45% proof, but homemade raki is much, much stronger. If you’re at a small restaurant or guesthouse and a recycled plastic soft drink bottle comes out, brace yourself.

It can be difficult to get out of these drinking sessions. I found it much easier to decline as a woman. Remember you can always step away if you feel uncomfortable. Otherwise, take small sips and make sure there’s always something left in your glass to avoid unwanted top ups!

Raki isn’t all bad. In Northern Albania in particular you’ll find lovely varieties of fruit raki made from cherries.

Every day ends with a xhiro

The xhiro is an Albanian tradition and the perfect way to put a full-stop on your day. Essentially a xhiro is a sunset stroll: It involves heading to the nearest pedestrian street and walking laps.

For locals, it’s a way to catch up with friends and neighbours, learn the latest goss and socialise. Ice cream stalls and popcorn vendors set up to cater to walkers, and sometimes entire streets close to traffic for a couple of hours to accommodate people.

This is the ultimate people-watching activity and a terrific opportunity to mix and mingle. But don’t be surprised if people let their glance linger a little bit too long – staring is not considered impolite in Albania, neither whilst out on a xhiro or in everyday life (at restaurants, at the supermarket – I’ve experienced it all). It can be awkward but try not to take it personally – in most cases, people are just curious.

An old man with a cane walks down a path in the city of Korca, Albania.

Albanian people are incredibly hospitable

Hospitality is serious business in Albania (yet another point of similarity to Georgia). In Albania, people are bound by Besa , a code of honour that dictates how others – especially strangers – should be treated. According to Besa, if someone approaches you for help, you accommodate them. If someone comes to you hungry, you feed them. This creed has shaped Albania into an immensely tolerant and welcoming nation.

After WWII, Albania was one of the few nations to emerge with a larger Jewish community – the nation protected its own and offered sanctuary to families fleeing from elsewhere in Europe. In the 1990s, Albania sheltered refugees from Kosovo displaced by conflict.

Today that same kind of generosity is extended to tourists. Kanun , the customary law of Albania, says that the master of a house should always have a spare bed ready for unexpected guests. While I wouldn’t recommend showing up on someone’s doorstep unannounced (Albania has Booking.com for a reason!), the takeaway is that Albanians will extend you a helping hand if and when you need it.

English is widely spoken, but not ubiquitous

Albanian is the official language in Albania but many people – especially those born after the fall of communism – speak a second language. As one person described it to me, Albanians are ‘thirsty to know the world’, and learning a foreign language is seen as a pathway to knowledge, experience and more opportunities.

English is the most popular second language and is taught in schools. At last count, around 40% of Albanians speak English. In my experience, anyone working in tourism or hospitality has at least a basic understanding of English. We got by in all the major cities and tourist destinations without any issues.

Albania is one of those countries where the language is so much more than a means of communication, it’s part of the culture and identity and a massive source of national pride. Learning a few words of Albanian will earn you big props.

Here are a few basic words:

  • Hello – Përshëndetje (per-shen-det-ye)
  • Bye – Mirupafshim (mi-ru-paf-shim)
  • Yes – Po (po)
  • No – Jo (yo)
  • Thanks – Faleminderit (fal-e-min-der-it)
  • Cheers – Gëzuar (ge-zu-ar)

There is a strong Italian and Greek influence

Albania is just across the pond from Italy and very close to Greece (especially Corfu). There were Italian colonists in Albania from 1926 onwards, and the country was actually invaded by Italy in 1939. Italy especially has a big influence in Albania – to such an extent that I noticed it right away.

You’ll see Italian cars, Italian coffee culture – and yes, pizza on almost every restaurant menu! Pizza is so popular in Albania, if you ever tire of local fare there’s always a Napoletana to fall back on.

Almost a third of Albanian people speak Italian and a quarter of the population speaks Greek. Many areas are officially bilingual Albanian-Italian, with road signs in both languages. If you know either of these languages, communication will come even easier to you.

Three men sip coffee at a cafe in Gjirokaster Bazaar.

Tirana is one of the coolest cities in Europe – so don’t rush it!

Unlike a few other capital cities in the Balkans that are all cold concrete, Tirana is a warm, green, welcoming city that’s bristling with creative energy. I’ve said before that it’s probably the most liveable capital in the region in my opinion. There’s a park, dining precinct, cool museum or street art district around almost every corner.

One day in Tirana is enough for the must-sees, but I really recommend slowing down and spending a couple of nights here, getting into the rhythm of the city with morning markets and nightly xhiros.

We stayed in Tirana for a full week and still didn’t see everything.

Hiking in Albania is a must

I fell in love with Albania’s cities and towns, but even I agree that the country’s natural beauty is its biggest asset.

Albania has 15 national parks, each offering incredible scenery and hiking opportunities. As I recently discovered, Albania has more than 3,200 species of plants, accounting for a whopping 30% of the flora in Europe. One of the best places to appreciate this ecology is Llogara National Park, known for its wildflowers. Others, notably Butrint National Park, combine surreal landscapes with valuable archaeological sites.

Even if you’re an anti-hiker like me, there is one day trek in Albania you at least have to consider: Valbona to Theth . Walking between two alpine villages across two jaw-dropping national parks in the country’s far north, the trail takes you through the heart of the picturesque Albanian Alps or Accursed Mountains as they’re also known. The hike is tough going in spots, but it’s absolutely the best way to experience this side of Albania.

Craggy mountain peaks in the Albanian Alps.

The lakes are just as impressive as the beaches

Albania might be famous for its beautiful beaches, but the unsung heroes of the landscape are the country’s lakes. Komani Lake, Lake Ohrid (shared with North Macedonia) and Skadar Lake in the north (shared with Montenegro ) are all beautiful and worth visiting.

Skadar is the largest lake in the Balkans. Boat trips on the marshy wetlands are popular on the Montenegrin side; on the Albanian side, you can cycle around the periphery from the lakeside city of Shkoder, visiting Rozafa Castle at the same time.

Albania’s share of Ohrid Lake is similarly smaller and with fewer points of interest to the North Macedonian side, yet charming villages such as Lin – a little red-roofed settlement on a natural peninsula – make it worth a visit. Lake Koman is my favourite. The ferry ride through the dramatic river gorge to reach Valbona and the starting point for the aforementioned hike was one of the highlights of my time in Albania.

There are more stunning water features around the country, including cascades and river canyons in the centre (Osumi and Begove near Berat are great), hot springs, and of course the famous Blue Eyes. All offer some much-needed reprieve in the hot summer months.

Have you been to Albania? Are there any extra travel tips for Albania you’d like to add? Leave your best advice in the comments below!

Stone buildings in Gjirokaster Old Bazaar, Albania.

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The 9 best places to visit in Albania

Anita Hendrieka

Nov 18, 2023 • 7 min read

Rear view of man crossing bridge, Accursed mountains, Theth, Shkoder, Albania, Europe

A hike to the Theth Waterfall can be combined with the trail to the Blue Eye © Ben Pipe Photography / Getty Images

Albania is slowly becoming the jewel of the Balkans due to its sparkling crystal waters, impressive mountains and affordability for all types of travelers. Come with an open mind and a rough plan, and be ready to be submerged in a rich culture like no other in Europe.

If you’re planning a trip to this magnificent destination and are looking for the most beautiful places to visit but have no idea where to go in Albania , we’ve got you covered.   

Descending from the Qafae Pëjes pass towards the village of Theth, Albania

1. The village of Theth

Best place for hiking and adventure lovers

Theth might just be the most peaceful place to visit in Albania. This small village nestled in between the Albanian Alps is perfect if you’re looking for the best hiking in the country and dramatic landscapes to enjoy.

There are two hikes you must do while visiting Theth . The first is the hike to the Blue Eye , which leads you through a forest, over rivers and finally to a vibrant blue natural spring. This hike is easy to moderate and perfect if you’re not an experienced hiker.

The second is one of the most popular in the country and one of the most beautiful: the Theth to Valbona  hike. This trail starts from the top of Theth village, near Guest House Gjelaj, and it leads you through the Albanian Alps to breathtaking views at the top. It’s not for the faint-hearted, as it will take roughly six to eight hours to complete – but you will be glad you did it!  

Planning tip: Make sure you bring cash with you, as ATMs can be hard to come by, and almost everything will need to be paid for in cash.

Old houses and orthodox church in the old city of Korce

Prettiest place in Albania

When you visit Korce, make sure to stroll through the Pazari i Vjeter , which is the old bazaar of the city. Here, you can admire the bazaar’s 13th-century style in the form of old cobbled streets and Ottoman-style architecture.  

When you visit this area, be sure to pop into The Kooperativa, a communist-themed cafe that gives you a glimpse of Albania’s communist history from 1944 until 1991. 

Try the traditional alcoholic drink called raki, made from distilled grapes and very popular in Albania. You might even catch someone having a glass of raki with their morning espresso!

Streets of Old Town Gjirokaster, Albania

3. Gjirokastra

Best city for Albanian traditions

Known as the city of stone, Gjirokastra is a UNESCO city in the south of Albania. It was the birthplace of the former communist dictator, Enver Hoxha. 

One of the best things to do here, apart from walking the bazaar and visiting the castle of Gjirokastra, is to wander around  Zekat e House .  This traditional family home was built between 1811-1812 and is a beautiful example of some of the most fascinating Albanian home and marriage traditions. When you visit, one of the family members will show you around and explain the different rooms and their purposes.

If you love wine and want a foodie experience, then you need to take a trip to Te Fucite  (The Barrels). This family restaurant and winery specializing in smooth handmade wine offers platters of local cuisine for you to try while overlooking their vineyard and the surrounding mountains.

Planning tip: Try the dish called pasha qofte , which is essentially a cream soup made from milk with small meatballs inside. It’s a delicious dish you can only find in Gjirokastër.

People enjoy time on the beach, play snooker or having good food in the reataurant

Best place to go for beaches  

If you’re looking for a destination where you can lay about, get a sun tan and enjoy a dip in the sea, then you need to visit Dhermi . It’s one of the pearls of the Albanian Riviera and home to many summer music festivals, including the Kala festival and ION festival .

With idyllic beaches, trendy beach bars and views that might make you never want to leave, Dhermi is a hotspot for younger generations looking for the hottest parties and the best vibes of the summer. 

Try Restaurant Luciano for delicious food overlooking the water, or head to Alevra restaurant and beach bar to try some mouthwatering seafood with a twist.

Planning tip: Make sure you book well in advance if you’re visiting in July and August, as hotels can be booked out due to the festivals mentioned above.

5. P ë rmet

Best for white-water rafting and mountain biking

On a bend in the fast-flowing turquoise Vjosa river, about 32km (20 miles) from Greece where the river springs, is the hub town of Përmet. From here you can organize adventure activities from white-water rafting to camping, hiking and mountain bike riding in the region. Once an Ottoman-era commercial center, Përmet is "one of the greenest and cleanest parts of the country" today. The Vjosa River was recently designated as a wild river national park , Europe's first. 

Detour :  A 29km (18-mile) taxi or bus ride away is the Bënjë thermal baths next to an Ottoman-era bridge on the Lengarica River (a tributary of the Vjosa). In summer, you can pick up supplies from small vendors here; in the off-season, bring your own food and drinks. 

Best northern city in Albania

The city of Shkodra  is a breath of fresh air and is unlike any other city in Albania. When you arrive, you’ll notice most of the population peddling around the city by bike. While you’re there, do as the locals do and hire a bicycle for the day. Then head down to Liqeni i Shkodrës to enjoy the beautiful lake views. 

While you’re in the area, make sure you visit Rozafa Castle and ask one of the guides about the legend of Rozafa. Also, when you reach the top, you’ll experience a magnificent 360-degree view.

Planning tip: If you would like to do the Theth to Valbona hike and don’t fancy taking your luggage with you, a popular option is to leave your bags in Shkodra at your accommodation. Shkodra is a great city to base yourself in, as transfers will leave from there to take you to either Theth or Valbona.

Most peaceful village in Albania

Lin is a quiet village positioned on Lake Ohrid, which means there is excellent fishing here. If you’re looking for a lake getaway and craving silence and tranquility, this is a perfect choice. 

One of the best things to do is walk to the archaeological site on the hilltop, where you’ll get to see the well-preserved mosaics of a Paleo-Christian church built in the 6th century. If you visit in the summertime, the mosaics will be uncovered, and there should be a guide who can tell you all about their history.

You also get an incredible view from the top of Lin and can see North Macedonia as you look over Lake Ohrid.

A boy jumps off a pier into the Mediterranean Sea in Sarande (Saranda), Albania

Most visited place in Albania during summer

Saranda is the southern gateway to the Albanian Riviera and one of the best cities to visit, not least because it’s close to one of the region's best beaches, Ksamil Beach. 

Get a hotel in Saranda, where you’ll be close to some of the best restaurants in Albania and the city’s buzzing nightlife. Then explore the beaches of Saranda and Ksamil during the day.

One of the best things to do from Saranda is to hop on one of the day trip boat tours that leave from the boulevard and go to the beaches of Kakome and Krorez. Tickets start from €30.

Planning tip: The best time to visit Saranda is in May, June or September when the crowds are not crazy but the beach bars and restaurants are open. As this is a summer destination, most businesses close during the off-season.

Fishing boats in the harbor of Porto Palermo

9. Porto Palermo

Most underrated Albania Riviera destination

The triangle-shaped castle is a great reason to stop at Porto Palermo castle, as are the beautiful, unspoiled and peaceful beaches you'll find here – making for an excellent camping spot along the Albanian Riviera coast. 

You can also rent a kayak and paddle along the beaches and quiet bays. As you kayak, you’ll see the old military submarine bunker situated on the hill not far from the main beaches of Porto Palermo. 

Porto Palermo is filled with history and spectacular swimming bays and has a peaceful positioning along the Riviera.

This article was first published Oct 3, 2022 and updated Nov 18, 2023.

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Albania Travel Guide 2024 – Everything You Need to Know

Last Updated on March 1, 2024

Albania Travel Guide for First Timers: Everything You Need to Know!

This Albania travel guide is updated every month to give you the best and most up-to-date information on travelling Albania .

Not only that but I’m also a full-time resident on the ground and run the leading Albania travel blog so you get everything from a local perspective.

As Albania’s tourism is slowly increasing the demand for information is increasing too.  Unfortunately, as tourism is still so new, it can be hard to come across factual and up-to-date information. 

For example, bus timetables can change with a click of the fingers, and the only people who would know would be the locals.

Therefore, I have created this full Albania travel guide with all the information you need if you plan to visit Albania for the first time, or the next time! 

💾 Albania is full of beautiful surprises.

I have lots of great information for you to use during your travels to Albania so make sure you bookmark this page so you can come back to it again and again.

Here’s your full Albania Travel guide!

Why should you trust my information?  I have lived in Albania since 2017, so I have a great knowledge of the dos the don’ts, the best local spots to visit and the ones you should avoid! 

Also, I have an extra local insight as my partner is Albanian.

Every month, I try to update this Albania travel guide, sometimes more often as new information comes up or as I explore new places.

If you like this Albania travel guide, then go grab a physical copy of my 170+ page comprehensive downloadable Albania guide here.  

Read more: 11 lessons I have learned from living in Albania

Where is Albania?

Great question, and one that I’m often asked when talking to foreigners outside of Albania.  Where the heck is Albania?!

Albania lies in South-Eastern Europe.  Its neighbours are Greece to the south, Montenegro to the north and Kosovo and Macedonia to the east(ish).

Albania sits on the coast of the Adriatic Sea and is home to some of the best beaches in Europe.

Some of the best beaches are found in the Albanian Riviera which stretches from the city of Vlora (Vlore in Albanian) and the popular tourist city of Saranda (Sarandë in Albanian), where I have lived for 5+ years.

Albania Travel Guide for First Timers: Everything You Need to Know!

How to get to Albania

Albania can be reached in many ways by air, bus and ferry.

Flying to Albania

There is one international airport which is Tirana International airport, also called the Rinas International Airport or Nënë Tereza.

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There is another currently being built in Vlora but who knows if/when that will be finished.  I’ll keep you updated!

Flights in and out of Tirana can be expensive, however, Wizz Air and Ryanair have started a service which means sometimes you can grab budget-friendly flights to and from Tirana throughout the year which is great news for tourism.  Check the latest prices and availability of flights to Tirana here.

Overland from Greece

You can easily catch a bus from Athens to Saranda .  

It takes about 9 hours and costs around €35.  You can also catch a bus from Ioannina which stops at Gjirokastër from there you can catch a bus elsewhere in Albania.

I have caught this bus a dozen times.

If you take snacks and download some entertainment on your phone, it’s not that bad. They do also stop a few times for snacks, lunch and coffee so it really isn’t that bad.

Ferry from Greece

Another incredibly easy way is Corfu!  The island of Corfu is only a 25-minute ferry ride from Saranda.

The prices and times will vary depending on the season. You can find them here.

If you do decide to catch the ferry, especially in the summer, make sure you book a few days before because they can get booked fast and you may miss out.

Corfu does direct flights to a bunch of other European countries.  If I want to fly to the UK I will fly out of Corfu as EasyJet does cheap and direct flights from there!

This can be a great way to get to Albania with a quick stopover in Corfu. 

Usually, you will have to stay in Corfu the night depending on when your flight is but it’s a good excuse to explore the island as it’s very beautiful too.  Check the prices and availability of flights to Corfu here.

Read more : How to get from Corfu to Saranda

Overland from Montenegro

If you’re coming from Montenegro there are buses between Kotor and Podgorica to Shkodër and Tirana. If you want to head towards the south, you will have to change buses in Tirana.

Overland from Macedonia

There are 3 buses from Skopje to Tirana (8:10am, 8:45am and 9pm).  Please check with your accommodation that these are still the times that the bus leaves as in the Balkans bus timetables frequently change!

Overland from Kosovo

If you are coming from Kosovo there are regular buses from Pristina to Tirana.  Then if you want to visit other places around Albania you can go to the regional bus station and catch a 2nd bus to wherever you want to go.

Boat from Italy

You can catch a boat from Durres to Bari and Ancona. 

There are several crossings per week but it’s best to contact the ferries themselves as crossings and prices change from month to month.

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If you can weirdly transport yourself to Albania using time travel then I don’t have any information for you, but congratulations, that’s an awesome skill to have!

Albania Travel Guide for First Timers: Everything You Need to Know!

Recent History of Albania

Albania’s history is beyond fascinating compared to some other countries in the world. 

From 1941 to 1992 Albania was under the strict communist regime of the leader Enver Hoxha. 

Everything was controlled, from food to housing and jobs.

Some compare it to North Korea, but only those who lived through communism will know. 

There were labour camps where political prisoners were sent if they said something that the communist leader did not like. 

The prisoners built the infrastructure that Albania sees today.

After the collapse of communism, Albania saw itself as a democracy.

Unfortunately, in 1997 the government collapsed after a dodgy pyramid scheme. 

Over 2/3rds of the population invested their life savings into this scheme which meant most people lost everything they had worked hard for all those years.

The civil unrest saw a lot of anger and violence from the citizens of Albania, many fled from the country for a better life.

The civil unrest went on for 6 months and when visiting Albania, you will see for yourself that Albania is still recovering.

There is still a lot of corruption within government sectors today. It seems every day there is a new person whose corruption has been exposed.

Albania Travel Guide for First Timers: Everything You Need to Know!

Ancient history of Albania

Many only discuss communism and the civil war as the history of Albania but the real history dives way older than that. 

If you move to Albania, you will find yourself in many conversations with locals about ancient Albania and the Illyrians who many believe are older than the ancient Greeks.

There is so much that hasn’t been uncovered and publicized about Albania’s ancient history.

The ancient site of Apollonia which is in Fier and is a popular site to see if anyone who loves ancient history, is less than 5% excavated.

One of the biggest ancient graves have been found near Korca in 2018 which archaeologists believe are more than 5000 years old!

Butrint National Park is also a great UNESCO site to visit if you want to learn more about the rich history in Southern Albania.

Read more: 5 Best Albania UNESCO Sites to Visit

Albania Travel Guide for First Timers: Everything You Need to Know!

Language of Albania

Shqip is one of the most fascinating languages I have come across and one of the hardest to learn (in my eyes!).  It’s an Indo-European language that relates to no other language in the world, it has its own roots.

The North and South speak different dialects.  In the south they speak Tosk, and, in the north, they speak Gheg.

Usually, the two different parts can understand each other a little. 

I found myself in a hostel in Kosovo with a girl from the north and a girl from the south and they were speaking English together because they could not speak Albanian together!

The younger generation in Albania mostly knows some English as they are taught in school.  The older generation you will find speak none such as the adorable Albanian grandmothers.

You don’t have to worry about the language barrier when you travel to Albania as you can always get past it with some English and sign language.

If you really want to impress the locals when you come to Albania it’s a great idea to learn a few words.  Albanian people love it when people try and speak the Albanian language. 

It’s always met with a smile and a little giggle.

  • Pershentdejte – Hello
  • Faleminderit – Thank you
  • Gazuar – Cheers or Salut!

Albania Travel Guide for First Timers: Everything You Need to Know!

Capital of Albania

The capital of Albania is Tirana. 

There’s a lot to see and do in Tirana and it’s fast becoming a tourist mecca of trendy cafes and bars and a great place to learn about the recent history of Albania.

I have a full Albania travel guide on the best things to do in Tirana as well as my recommendations on restaurants and hotels below.

The capital city is a great place to base yourself while doing the odd day trip around the local area because there’s SO much to see in this part of the country. Click here to read about the best daytrips from Tirana.

Read more: 19 best things to do in Tirana

Albania Travel Guide for First Timers: Everything You Need to Know!

When should I visit Albania?

I have a full article on the best times to visit Albania below. 

My favourite time is spring because in the south especially, the beach bars start to open, the sun is out and in full swing, and it’s just a little quiet.

Plus if you’re on a budget, then this is a great time before the prices rise in the summer.

Albania has the ol’ Mediterranean climate so during the summer it can get very hot and dry.

Below I go into detail on the pros and cons of travelling at any time of the year.

Read more: The best time to visit Albania

Travel insurance in Albania

If you’re going to travel in Albania, I personally would look into SafetyWing Travel Insurance, you can read more about it here .   They have two great plans whether you are on a budget or want a more comprehensive insurance plan. 

No matter where in the world you are from, or where you are going, they can hook you up with the best deal!

➡ Get an instant travel insurance quote here

Albania Travel Guide for First Timers: Everything You Need to Know!

Albania Holidays and celebrations

1st January – New Year’s:   As Albanians generally don’t celebrate Christmas like elsewhere in Europe and other parts of the world, they go all out for New Year’s!

They usually gift presents and see the New Year in with their family then go out and party until the sun rises.

Apparently, this tradition came from communism as all religion was outlawed and the only holiday that isn’t religious is New Year’s.  So, because of that, Albanians only could celebrate one holiday a year.

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14th March – Dita e Verës (Summer Day): This is one of my favourite days in Albania, as it’s the start of spring, is always a great day!

This is the biggest pagan holiday and an important holiday for Albanians and throughout the Balkans.  It celebrates the first day of the Albanian ancient calendar as well as the end of winter and the start of summer and the rejuvenation of nature.

If you want to celebrate this day then head to Elbasan.  Here is the centre of celebrations with concerts and festivities for the day. People also make and eat ballakume – a sweet cookie.

You will notice people wearing a 2-string red and white bracelet named ‘verore’ which many start to wear March 1st.  After dita e vere is over they then tie the bracelet to a tree for good luck.

28th November – Flag and Independence Day: This is the day that Albania declared its independence from The Ottoman empire.  It was proclaimed in Vlore in 1912.

Only 6 days later the first government of Albania was created and led by Ismail Qemali.

A prominent moment was when Ismail waved the first flag of independent Albania from the balcony of the assembly of Vlora.  This flag was inspired by Skanderbeg’s (a national hero) flag which had been used 400 years beforehand.

29th November – Liberation Day: The day after Independence Day Albanians also celebrate liberation day.

This day celebrates when the country was liberated from Nazi Germany during World War 2.

25th December – Christmas Day: Albanians don’t celebrate Christmas day like other countries.  New Year is more celebrated.

On Christmas day all the shops run as normal and the day continues like any other day.  However, New Year’s is a different story.

Read more: Festivals in Albania

Albania Travel Guide for First Timers: Everything You Need to Know!

Prices in Albania

Albania is an incredibly affordable destination.  This is the reason why many choose Albania as their holiday destination.

You can grab a beer for about €1-2 and a meal between €5-10.  A hostel bed with breakfast and a beer can cost as low as €10 and a hotel room for around €20-50.

There are many great options for all budgets, whether you’re a backpacker and want to stay in the best hostels , are in the mid-range and want nice hotels that don’t break the bank or prefer a more luxurious holiday within these must-stay luxury Albania hotels .

If you want more of an adventure and plan to hike around the country, here are the top campsites in Albania to stay in!

If you are thinking of a more permanent move then you check out my article where I go through the prices of renting, food and utilities.

It’s also helpful if you are just visiting as it gives you an idea of what you should pay for different things.

Read more : Cost of Living in Albania

Read more: Getting a long-term visa in Albania

Albania Travel Guide for First Timers: Everything You Need to Know!

Best places to stay in Albania

There are several accommodation options for travellers coming to Albania. 

In each of my destination Albania travel guide, I recommend the best places to stay in that city or town.

You can book easily through Booking. 

Here are some quick links to destination, hotel and activity guides that will be helpful during your stay in Albania:

Tirana travel guides

  • The Most Incredible Hotels in Tirana
  • 15 best bars in Tirana to check out
  • 16 best restaurants in Tirana
  • Top 12 day trips from Tirana to try

Saranda travel guides

  • 20 Incredible Hotels in Saranda
  • Best things to do in Saranda
  • Best restaurants in Saranda

Ksamil travel guides

  • 17 best Ksamil beaches to visit
  • 10 best hotels in Ksamil

Berat travel guides

  • 12 hotels in Berat to stay in

Northern Albania travel guides

  • Things to do in Theth, Albania – Home to the famous Albanian Alps
  • Kruja Guide
  • Cape of Rodon (Durres) Guide

Southern Albania travel guides

  • Best things to do in Gjirokaster
  • 7 best hotels in Dhermi to stay in
  • Qeparo Guide
  • Himara Guide
  • 13 Amazing Things to do in Korca, Albania
  • 8 Things to do in Permet, Albania – Full Travel Guide
  • Ali Pasha Castle (Butrint)
  • Visiting the Beautiful Blue Eye, Albania (Syri i Kalter)

Albania Travel Guide for First Timers: Everything You Need to Know!

What it’s like to travel to Albania

Travelling in Albania is something you may have never expected. 

Many expect Albania to be dangerous, not friendly and ugly but people are surprised that none of those is true.

Albania is safe for tourists.

The Albanians are some of the friendliest and most welcoming locals in the world.  They will treat you like one of their own.

Albania is far from ugly. The pristine beaches, mountains and people confirm that. Albania tourism is thriving!

When you travel to Albania, you shouldn’t plan too far ahead.  Everything is flexible, from bus timetables to itineraries.

I would suggest having a rough plan but the option to be a little flexible with it.

Read more: 35 Unique Things to do in Albania

Albania Travel Guide for First Timers: Everything You Need to Know!

Where to go in Albania

Albania is full of scenic, historic and interesting places to visit. 

You can see the article below which goes into detail of the best places to visit including tourist and local spots which most tourists don’t even know about.

  • Read more: 24 Incredibly beautiful places to visit in Albania
  • Read more: 10 incredible cities to visit in Albania
  • Read more: Theth- Valbona hike: Best hike in Albania!
  • Read more: 14 most must-visit castles in Albania
  • Read more: 5 best hikes in Albania

The best beaches in Albania

My favourite part of Albania are the beaches.  It’s what made me fall in love with Albania in the first place.

I have tried and tested just about all the beaches in Albania and all the beaches located within the Albanian Riviera .

Below you can check out the ones I recommend visiting.

Read more: 17 of the most beautiful beaches in Albania

Albania Travel Guide for First Timers: Everything You Need to Know!

Holiday Itineraries for Albania

Below you can read how to spend 1 week in Albania and how to spend 10 days exploring the country! You can get more holiday itineraries in Albania by purchasing my itinerary pack here.

Read more: How to spend 1 week in Albania

Read more: South Albania Itinerary: 10 Days in the Albanian Riviera!

What to pack for Albania

If you’re stuck on what to pack for your trip to Albania, check out my Albania packing list before you start jetting off on your holiday!

Otherwise read below for my must-have top picks for any holiday.

🧳 Anita’s Packing Must-Haves: Don’t leave home without these must-haves in your suitcase!

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Facts about Albania

There are many interesting things to learn about Albania. 

I have included them all in the article below.  Click to check them out!

Read more: Facts about Albania

Health and safety in Albania

Is Albania safe?  This is such a popular question and one of my most viewed articles on Albania answers just that and goes into detail (read below).

Yes, Albania is a safe country to travel whether you’re a family, couple or a solo traveller (female and male).  Petty crime like pickpocketing is non-existent.

You will notice that Albanians have the best hospitality, maybe in the world!  Everyone is very helpful and if you’re very stuck in a situation there will most likely always be someone to help you.

If any other Albania travel guide tells you otherwise, they’re wrong!

The only thing you have to watch out for is taxi drivers as most of the time they will try and charge you 2 or 3x the regular price.

Read more: Is Albania safe?

Wi-Fi in Albania and getting a sim card

Believe it or not, I have found Albania to have better Wi-Fi than in New Zealand. It’s fast and reliable.

As I now live in Albania, I have a Wi-Fi router which was free to set up and cost me 2000 lek per month.  Most accommodation options and restaurants will have Wi-Fi.

If you would like to get a sim card you can do so at any of the Vodafone shops around.  There’s one at the airport if you fly into Tirana. 

They will get you set up on a local sim fast and easily.

For under €10 you can get 5MB of data and I have found that you will most likely get another 5MB free!

Can you drink the water in Albania?

I wouldn’t recommend drinking the water in Albania.  The water throughout the country has high levels of chloride and heavy metals. 

I used to drink the water myself but noticed after a couple of months I started to experience bad stomach pains. 

Then, I found that none of the locals drink the water, that’s when you know to not drink it!

Albania Travel Guide for First Timers: Everything You Need to Know!

Cultural norms in Albania

Staring: In Albania, it’s totally normal and encouraged to stare.  You may find at the start it might be a bit uncomfortable, but you will have to get used to it!

I have had old men stop in the middle of the street to just stare at me.  Nowadays I just try and laugh and give a good old stare back!

Expressing: Albanians are very expressive.  They love to move their hands when they talk.

Albanians are also very loud.  Most of the time they are just having a conversation but sound like they are arguing.

The headshake: In some parts of Albania, they will shake their head side to side for a yes and up and down for a no.

They also shake their head side to side when they are listening in a conversation.  It can get very confusing, especially if you’re asking a question and the answer is yes but their head is saying something else.

Grunting: Upon my observations, while living in Albania, I have noticed that Albanians grunt a lot.

In fact, I have listened to a whole conversation once with just grunting and noises instead of words.  Super interesting.

Communication: If you want to know about how your weight is doing, ask an Albanian.  Don’t be offended if Albanians say that you look thin or fat.

Weight is not something that’s a taboo subject to them.  I still struggle with this if I’m honest.  Although, when I’m having a skinny day, it’s the best confidence boost.

Dress:   you’re welcome to wear whatever you like during your time in Albania.  The women make a big effort when it comes to dressing up.

They love to wear big high heels and dresses that I would only wear once in my lifetime, to the local club.  I always feel underdressed at a club or sometimes even walking down the street.

The older men usually wear suits, yes suits!  Just for having a coffee!  Pretty impressive huh.

You may notice that most of the older women in Albania are wearing all black. There is a reason for this.  This is to pay respects to loved ones that have passed.  They usually wear this for as long as 10-20 years after that person has passed away.

Greetings: Albanians will usually greet you with a kiss on each cheek or a handshake.

When older women greet younger women, you will normally get a million kisses, a pinch on the cheek and squeezed until you can’t breathe.

Dating:  Some families still arrange marriage but nowadays this not common at all.  Sometimes the family will be open to their son/daughter dating a foreigner.  I have only heard from one girl I met that it was a problem for her, and she wasn’t accepted into the family.

From personal experience, I have an Albanian boyfriend and his family have welcomed me like I’m their daughter.

However, dating is not really something that Albanians do.  But saying that, if you’re looking for an Albanian boyfriend you will easily find one.

If a single man goes out with a single woman, it’s usually considered that they are together.

So, ladies, if you do go to dinner with a man make it clear that you want to get to know each other and going for dinner doesn’t mean you’re boyfriend and girlfriend.

Men generally don’t like women who have dated many other men in that city/town too.

Albanian men will do anything for their girls and can usually be quite possessive.  They will get jealous easily if you do have guy friends.  Don’t take offence to this though, it just means they care and they will openly tell you that.

Gender roles:   Albanian women generally look after the house and the men work for the family.

This is how most families work in Albania but today it’s now common for women to be working too.  Gender roles are still very much prominent in Albanian society.

As unemployment in Albania is very high, a lot of men will sit in coffee shops for much of the day.

Albanian flexy time:  If someone says to meet at a particular time it usually means at least half an hour after that.  It’s considered polite to be late.

Even Dr/dentist appointments are merely suggestions.  No wonder nothing gets done in Albania quickly.

Albanians don’t like commitment so arranging things ahead of time probably won’t end well.

Superstitions in Albania

I’m currently constructing an article on Albanian beliefs.  In the south, there are many things that Albanians believe in.  For example:

  • If you have finished a glass of raki and you order another, the waiter will pour the raki into the cup you are already using.  They will never give you a new cup.  This is because if you change the cup, you can lovers!
  • You may notice stuffed toys hanging outside houses/apartments.  This is to ward off bad spirits.

Corruption in Albania

I try to be very honest in this Albania travel guide when it comes to corruption. Unfortunately, corruption in Albania is still alive and well. 

It’s not something that you really have to think about unless you do something that’s illegal. 

Corruption is slowing down though if you compare it to five years ago, or maybe it’s that you just can’t see it as obvious anymore.

Things are slowly changing for the better.

Albania Travel Guide for First Timers: Everything You Need to Know!

Driving in Albania

If you visit Albania it can be a great idea to hire a car in Albania . That way you will see more of the country and get to stop at all the great hidden spots most tourists would completely miss.

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When it comes to driving in Albania, it should come with caution as signs and road laws seem to be merely suggestions for Albanians.

Speeding, weaving in and out of traffic, overtaking on blind corners etc is very common. 

When driving in Albania always drive with caution and beware of all sides of the car as people can and will overtake you without your knowledge.

You MUST put your lights on when driving in Albania. 

There is a law that states it.  Whether the law is followed through, that’s another story.  Better to leave them on than not.

Another thing that they are very tough on is always carrying your drivers’ license. 

Albanians can be put straight into jail if they don’t have their license on them when an officer asks.  This applies to foreigners.

I have had friends who didn’t have their licences on them and it was a horrible experience.  There was a lot of shouting, taken ‘hostage’ in a police station and a huge hassle! 

So please, always carry your licence.

Read more: How to Hire a Car in Albania

Albania Travel Guide for First Timers: Everything You Need to Know!

Religion in Albania

Talk to just about any Albanian and they will tell you that religion doesn’t matter.  They don’t care what you believe in, it’s your choice.

Albania is a Christian country, then after the Ottoman empire, it became predominately Muslim. 

However, during communism, all religion was banned so it became the first atheist country. 

Nowadays many online articles say that the Albanian population is predominantly Muslim, which is somewhat untrue.

If you do come across someone who is a Muslim you probably won’t even notice because pork is eaten, alcohol is drunken, and no one follows any sort of rules.

Drone flying in Albania

You can fly your drone everywhere except near Tirana airport of course and military spaces. 

As of now, there are no laws on drone flying in Albania.

There was speculation that there was, but my partner has personally checked with officials and you can fly anywhere that’s not airspace.

Albania Travel Guide for First Timers: Everything You Need to Know!

Transportation

I have a full article on transportation below!  The most popular way of getting around is by public transportation which only consists of busses.

You can also hire a car if you feel comfortable enough to drive.

Backpackers quite often hitchhike through the country which is completely safe.  Albanians often hitchhike themselves so it’s very common.

Read more: Getting around Albania

Read more: Albania bus timetables

Albania Travel Guide for First Timers: Everything You Need to Know!

What to eat in Albania

There are many delicious foods you should try during your time in Albania.  Albanian cuisine is fresh, healthy and very delicious.

They use a lot of olive oil, white (feta) cheese and eat lots of fruit. 

Albania also does great Italian food. Many Albanians moved to Italy after communism and the civil war, and brought back their skills of Italian pizza and pasta. 

Greek food is also readily available.

In the south and along the coast of Albania they eat a lot of seafood.

What I love about Albanian food is that everything is fresh and comes from the local garden, so you always feel full and amazing after a meal!

Read more: 39 Delicious Albanian Dishes to Try!

Albania Travel Guide for First Timers: Everything You Need to Know!

What to drink in Albania

Raki is the national drink.  It’s an alcoholic spirit which can be between 20-80% and the dangerous thing is, you never really know how strong it is.

Many families brew their own raki.  You will see old men with their glass of raki with their morning coffee.  They use it for health and to ‘keep strong’.

They also use raki in hospitals as a serializer for wounds. 

If you have a cough or cold, someone will probably recommend that you drink Raki.

Albania also has its own beer.  There’s one called Korca and one called Elbar.

There are also some delicious Albanian wine and great wineries to visit in Albania. 

There are 3 around the town of Berat.  My favourite is Çobo.  You can go there for a tasting and for €14 taste 4 wines and a little food platter with olives, cheeses and bread!

Join my travelling Albania Facebook group!

I have created a group on Facebook called ‘Travelling Albania’.  It’s a great group where we help each other with any questions you may have about travelling or living in Albania.  Make sure you join below!

🌍 Join the Facebook group here

If there’s something else that you didn’t find in this Albania travel guide then let me know in the comments so I can be sure to add it!

I try to create as much new and valuable content for this Albania blog as possible.

Other Albanian articles you will love:

  • How to Find an Apartment to Rent in Saranda, Albania
  • 17 best Albanian souvenirs to buy
  • Travel Albania: 15 Beautiful Photos of Albania
  • Reasons Why I Love Albania
  • 9 Reasons Why You Need To Visit Albania
  • Backpacking Through the Balkans: From Bosnia to Albania

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Albania Travel Guide for First Timers: Everything You Need to Know!

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The Comments

Great article. I have Albanian friends .I have always been interested in visiting Albania. In depth guide!

Anita Hendrieka

Thank you for reading! 🙂

Thank you for all your insight into Albania! You are living the dream! I find myself drawn to this area of the world more and more.

Question: my partner and I will be in Athens in May and would like to travel along the coast north. I appreciated your post about taking the bus to Sarande (and this one about renting a car in the Albania). Have you ever seen/heard of the possibility of renting a car to drive from Athens/Sarande through Montenegro to Croatia? Thanks!

Hi there! Thanks for a great and informative read. I’m also a fellow kiwi and my partner and I are about to cross from Corfu to Albania! I was curious as to where this new market is in Tirana you spoke of? Google maps hasn’t provided me much insight. Your help would be greatly appreciated. Many thanks!

Hey Georgie, the market is called ‘Pazari i Ri’ in Albanian 🙂

I have a question I hope you’ll be able to answer. I’m visiting Albania this August with my boyfriend. We plan on backpacking through the country. I’ve read and heard that Albanian people tend to be quite racist towards black people. My boyfriend is black so this concerns me. Can you tell me more about racism in Albania?

Thanks in advance!

Hey Maxime, Thanks for your comment! I’m glad that you have chosen Albania as your holiday destination. To be completely honest, I have heard both positive and negative stories about racism in Albania. As I don’t have any personal experience myself I don’t think I am equipment to answer that question, but I highly recommend joining my Facebook group ‘travelling Albania’ and asking in the forum as there might be people in there who have had some personal experiences! 🙂

Thanks for your reply! I can’t seem to find your facebook group. Can you maybe post the link? Thank you!

Hey Maxime, you can find it here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/travellingalbania/

Ingrid Danielsson

Hello! I travel to Albania all the time since I know a lot of Albanian people there. So very very much to explore and I do that both with my Albanian friends and with Swedish tourists who I bring to share it with. I should say that the water is very clean and the best possible to drink, at least in the northern regions like Dibra and Tropoja. You can fill your bottle with cold fresh water directly from the mountains at a lot of places along the road, even around Gjirokastër in the south. Also when you buy coffee you often get a glass of water. Don´t be afraid to drink that! I guess only in the biggest cities you should be better off buying your water, which is very cheap but sadly do contribute to the plastic bottle consumption.

Hey Ingrid, yes you’re right! If you can get water straight from the mountain then it’s amazing! Unfortunately nearly all over Albania, it’s not advised to drink water from the tap. There have been tests done in Tirana and Saranda by people I know and they have come back unsafe to drink. I try to get water from the local spring just of Saranda but unfortunately, I do have to buy most of my water when I can’t get there 🙁 Hopefully, Albania can provide fresh drinking water from the tap for their citizens soon!

In my native town Tepelena, we drink from the tap, is good.

Amber Richards

Albania is such an amazing country and often underrated! I’ve been there twice and will go again as soon as I can – great places!

Hi Anita – thanks for the wonderful guide. Regarding driving, is it expected to have an international driving permit, or a regular drivers license (in my case the US) okay?

Trying to avoid a situation like the one you mentioned!

Hey Shawn, yes as you are from the US you will need an international drivers license. You can only use your own license if you are from the EU 🙂

Anita, thank you, thank you, thank you! Your guide is helping me a lot!! The information is very valuable. Next week I’ll be there, yuhu!

Hey!! Major thanks for this guide! You helped me a lot!! Although, I always thought Kukër airport is international too, no?

Yes, there is but as far as I know they do not do commercial international flights. I read somewhere that they might start opening it to some low-cost airlines in autumn 2019

Thomas Mills

Hello, thank you for this wealth of information! I have been fascinated with Albania for years. However, I need your advice, I am in Croatia now, looking into traveling through Albania. But I am concerned about road conditions, and running buses, especially after the recent earthquake. Would you advise me to try this trip, or avoid it for the time being? Thank you for your time and consideration! Tom

Hello, thank you for your amazing experience. I will have a 4 day trip to Albania this November and i intend to visit Tirana and Theth. Do you think its a suitable time to enjoy scenery in Theth ? as i am a natural lover, i would love to explore this beautiful place.

Hey there, depending on when in November you visit it will be constant rain or there may be even snow so I’m not sure it is the best time to visit

Hello! Thanks for the inspiring stories! I do not find any information about grave and burial culture. In each of the countries I visit, I’m visited a some cemetery. I find it interesting to know about other different traditions. What would you recommend to visit? Best regards!

Hi FAB information thanks for the Blog after reading it really looks and sounds perfect. I have just started my nomad journey this year but stuck in two countries due to awful Covid situation. Albania sounds perfect. Being EU citizen I have read up on the 1 year temporary residence visa which I may apply during my 90 days. Please can you please advise as some requirements are not fully detailed on the government webpage. 1. Do I need my birth certificate? (as this would take me long time to arrange) or only passport? 2. I note I need a medical certificate from Armenian Hospital, I am unable to find the full listed details of the tests. What does the health examination entail please? Is it just general health check or a full health screening blood work (what tests) , X Ray etc. 3. Is it easy to obtain / register for a tax number? 4. Would I need to start a business LLC in country, to provide support in my application? (even though my online work is still fledgling as I live on savings and rental income) 5. How long does the process take, normally I am plan to travel early January Thank you very much jo

I would like to visit Albania for the first time as a digital nomad but I’ve heard that there are frequent power cuts. Is that true?

Your blog is a treasure! Thank you so so much. I’m hoping to travel to Albania at the end of this May. Any recommendations on traveling to Albania during the pandemic? Thank you so much!

Hey! Thanks for the lovely comment 🙂 I just published a new post about the situation here: https://www.anitahendrieka.com/albania-travel-restrictions/ Hopefully that helps!

Dear Anita, Thanks for all the information about Albania, knowing the conuntry sounds amazing! My wife and I want to spend 3 weeks all around the country in July, focusing on the beaches, but I am afraid about the influx of people and covid precautions on them. As you live there, how full use to be the albanian riviera beaches during July? We would appreciate too your recommendation on “special beach places”.

Thanks in advance, Warm regards!

Swarup Kumar

Read your blog with interest Can you advise some acco near prespa lake Not in Podugorce Or a trip for 3 days from kasmil to Prespa Thank you swarup Kumar

Hi Anita, I just found your blog and am very impressed so far. I find myself with the unexpected opportunity of staying in Finiq near Saranda for a while, and wanted to check in to see whether you have done any posts about crafts and artisans in Saranda and surrounding areas, or at least any coverage of souvenirs unique to the area or wider Albania? My primary interest is in the ethnographic and photographic documentation of traditional skills, so I am researching what potential there may be. Also, can you advise me on the importation and use of drones in Albania, and whether places such as Butrint need permits or advance permission? Thanks!

Louise Phillips

Your travel guide to Albania looks amazing. My friend and I are thinking of going to Albania, we are both in our 70’s but are fit and like travelling. Can I pick up a hard copy of your guide in UK? I can see Amazon sell it in the US but cannot find it in Britain? Thanks Louise

Wow! What a fantastic resource, thank you! I’m a travel writer in Canada, and we’re heading to Albania in autumn – can’t wait to put your advice into practice.

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Albania Itinerary: Complete 2-Week Road Trip

Albania Itinerary: Complete 2-Week Road Trip

Welcome to the most unexpected destination in Europe : beautiful Albania! A diverse country that will take your breath away, from the beaches (similar to those in neighboring Greece ) to the mountains, which wouldn’t look out of place on a Swiss postcard. Combine this with the delicious food, Ottoman towns, and incredible hospitality of the locals, and Albania is set to top every traveler’s bucket list. Use this complete 2-week Albania itinerary to explore this remarkable destination.

The Ultimate Albania 2-Week Itinerary

Traveling in Albania is magical, as you discover a country home to the last wild river of Europe, incredible mountains, and white sandy beaches.

Also read: Best Things to do in Albania .

albania itinerary theth

Despite this well-preserved nature, the country is developing fast, and the infrastructure continues to go from strength to strength. Because of this, the roads are good, so we recommend completing your Albania itinerary by car.

google maps phone

If you don’t have a car, it is possible to travel by bus, but it does take more time. Plus, you’ll have a lot more flexibility if you choose to do a 2-week Albanian road trip. 

Did you know? Surprisingly, 60% of the country is Muslim, but all religions live together in harmony. You’ll notice beautiful mosques and the sound of the call to prayer echoing out across the ancient towns and vistas.

albania travel guide graphic map

Day 1: Tirana to Berat

On day 1, fly into the colorful capital city of Albania: Tirana . We recommend finding a morning or early afternoon flight, so you have time to collect your hire car and drive directly to Berat (2 hours). Don’t worry about missing out on the beautiful sights of Tirana , as you’ll come back to the city on your final day. 

albania itinerary things to do tirana

How to get from Tirana to Berat

Rent a car from the airport and drive directly to Berat . The drive takes approximately 2 hours, and the roads are in good condition (with most of the journey on the highway). 

We recommend to rent a car in Albania through Sunny Cars with free cancellation and insurance included. Book your rental car here .

albania itinerary tirana

Buses in Albania are reliable and very cheap. The only downside is that your journey might take a little longer than by car.

From the capital city, buses to Berat are very frequent (run roughly every 30 mins) and cost 500 LEK (4.30 USD). The bus ride takes 2 hours and 15 minutes. 

Albania Itinerary: Complete 2-Week Road Trip

Where to Stay in Berat

When you reach Berat, book yourself into a traditional guesthouse. We recommend staying in the neighborhood of Gorica as it’s more affordable and only just across the bridge from the town center.  See all your hotel options here .

Hotels in Berat 😴

Tradita e Beratitu

Day 2: Berat  

On day 2, explore the extraordinary city of Berat , a place home to incredible Ottoman architecture. It’s known as the city of a thousand windows, and it’s easy to see why; beautiful window panes face downhill onto the River Osum.

Read: Things to do in Berat, Albania .

albania people

Unusually, two neighborhoods face each other across the water with bridges connecting them, so it’s fun to move between the areas, wandering the charming cobbled streets.

Make sure to also walk up to the impressive Byzantine Church and the castle ruins, which are left at the top of the hill—it’s the perfect place to go for views of the valley below, especially at sunset. 

nan albania travel

Day 3: Berat to Gjirokaster

On Day 3, wake up and enjoy a typical Albanian breakfast of bread, butter, yogurt, fruit, and olives, before your 3-hour drive to Gjirokaster . This is a very scenic drive, so take it slow and make regular stops to get some photos. 

nan albania travel

How to get from Berat to Gjirokaster

First, you need to drive to the city of Fier before continuing your route along the beautiful Drino River. Google Maps might suggest a shorter way via Komar, but this is a route only accessible for 4×4 cars. In total, the drive will take around 3 hours (longer if you’re taking regular breaks).

albania berat streets

There is a direct bus to Gjirokaster from Berat , which takes approximately 3 hours. However, the bus makes many stops along the way, so be aware it could take a little longer. There are 3 buses daily, 2 of which leave at 2 PM (the last bus of the day).

berat albania travel guide

Where to Stay in Gjirokaster

Stay centrally in Gjirokaster, within the old town which sits high on the hill with beautiful views. It’s definitely worth it, even with the walk! See all your hotel options in Gjirokaster .

Hotels in Gjirokaster 😴

Hotel SS Kekezi

Day 4: Gjirokaster

Gjirokaster is one of the most memorable towns on your Albania 2-week itinerary. This beautiful town is full of houses with white facades, complete with wooden balconies and stone roofs in the typical Ottoman style. There is also a magnificent fortress that sits high on the hill.

Gjirokaster castle albania

Because of its history, everything is carefully preserved, and it’s been awarded UNESCO World Heritage status. If you want to learn more about the town’s interesting past, there is a museum within the fortress. 

Read all about the things to do in Gjirokaster .

albania itinerary Gjirokaster

Spend your day in Gjirokaster wandering among the characteristic houses and browsing the cute shops selling carpets and ceramics. You can even visit inside the homes to see the interior of what a traditional Ottoman house would look like. The most beautiful thing of all, though, is the scenery; the town is surrounded by mountain ranges and towering ridges.

Gjirokaster traditional houses albania itinerary

Day 5: Gjirokaster to Ksamil (via Syri i Kaltër/Blue Eye) 

On day 5 of your Albanian road trip, begin your journey to Ksamil , a beautiful coastal town on the ‘Albanian Riviera’. On your way, break up your trip with a stop at the Blue Eye (Syri i Kaltër), a crystal clear emerald pool that is perfect for swimming.

albania itinerary blue eye

It takes just 30 minutes to drive here from Gjirokaster and then a 15-minute walk from the parking spot. When you arrive, you’ll be met by the most gorgeous sight: beautiful blue and green colored water that comes fresh from a natural spring.

The water is numbingly cold but so refreshing, especially in the summer! It does say that you’re not allowed to swim, but plenty of people do so (there was a guard there patrolling, and he only asked people not to jump from the platform). We recommend arriving as early as possible in the morning to avoid the summer crowds. 

Entrance fee: 50 LEK (0.50 USD)

blue eye albania travel guide

After your swim, dry off and head back to the car for the rest of your trip. Follow the road to Saranda, and continue on to Ksamil from there. From the Blue Eye, the journey takes approximately 1 hour.

Tip: Ksamil and Saranda are neighboring coastal towns and both popular choices on an Albania itinerary. However, Sarande is much more of a party town than Ksamil, so it depends on your preference.

How to get from Gjirokaster to Ksamil

The drive from Gjirokaster to Ksamil takes around 1 hour and 20 minutes. However, that doesn’t include time for your stop at the Blue Eye. Allow for 2 hours at the Blue Eye to relax, have a swim, and enjoy walking through nature. 

blue eye albania

There are no direct buses running from Gjirokaster to Ksamil. Instead, you will need to take a bus to Saranda and, from there, take a taxi to Ksamil. Buses leave Gjirokaster every 20-30 minutes and take about 1 hour.

If you’re traveling by bus, you won’t be able to make a stop off at Syri I Kaltër (Blue Eye). However, tours run regularly from Gjirokaster and Saranda and include return transport.

Where to stay in Ksamil

Once you arrive in Ksamil, choose to stay close to the beaches, ideally within 10 to 15 minutes walk. See all your hotel options here .

Hotels in Ksamil 😴

Ionian Hotel

Day 6: Ksamil

The beach paradise of Ksamil is a must-see on your Albania itinerary. Sitting on the coast of the Albanian Riviera, it’s home to incredible beaches, which aren’t dissimilar to the south of France (hence the name!). Turquoise ocean backs onto soft yellow sand that’s covered in a sea of multi-colored beach umbrellas—bliss!

Read about the things to do in Ksamil, Albania .

sunset beautiful beach albania

There are also 4 small islands on the coast which are perfect for exploring. Hire a kayak or a SUP and paddle out to explore the rocky outcrops, jumping off into the water to cool off at any opportunity. You can also do boat tours to some of the bigger islands and even take a ferry to Corfu, Greece !

ksamil islands albania itinerary

By day, choose a private or public beach, and hire day beds from chic beach clubs. By night, do as the locals do and enjoy promenading along the seafront, stopping for a bite to eat in the warm evening air. 

beach club ksamil albania

Day 7: Butrint National Park

Day 7 is all about history as you embark on the next part of your Albanian road trip! Stay in Ksamil for another night, but venture away for a half-day trip to Butrint National Park (one of the most important historical sites in the whole country). Discover this remote national park, full of roman ruins and now a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site .

butrint national park albania itinerary

As you wander between the unique stone monuments, you’ll be shaded by many beautiful trees, and you’ll never be far from the clear turquoise water that sits nearby. Because of this, it’s doable to visit in the middle of the day (although we advise visiting in the morning for fewer crowds).

Read everything about Butrint National Park

albania travel itinerary butrint national park

Spend 1.5 to 3 hours in the park, finishing your walk at the beautiful castle where there is a great view.

Entry Fee: 700 LEK (6.10 USD)

butrint national park ksamil albania

How to get from Ksamil to Butrint National Park

Butrint National Park is only a maximum 15 minutes drive from Ksamil, so it’s straightforward to reach by car.

albania travel itinerary

There are 3 small squares by the main road where you can catch a bus to Butrint National Park. You must request the bus as otherwise, it’ll just drive on. Because of this, it’s safer to get a taxi to give you more flexibility.

Organized Tour:

Organized tours to Butrint Park run from larger cities like Saranda and normally include other locations like the Blue Eye and Ksamil.

Day 8: Ksamil to Himarë

Wake up on day 8 of your Albania 2-week itinerary and head for the beautiful beach town of Himarë , another gem on the Albanian Riviera. The journey in total takes around 2 hours.

Read everything about Himare, Albania.

himare beach albania itinerary

Castle Palermo (Optional Stop)

If you have time, make a stop at the incredible Castle Palermo. This mammoth, triangular-shaped fortress sits on top of a cliff on a peninsula overlooking the most beautiful blue ocean.

Also read: Historic Krujë Castle.

albania itinerary himare castle palermo

Park for free close by and wander towards the castle, looking out over the dazzling sea and beautiful olive groves. Once you’re in the castle, you can learn more about its history (it was built for an Ottoman governor as his home and defense fortress). You can even walk upstairs to the rooftop for fantastic views!

If you have time, there is also a beach underneath the castle where you can relax and swim for a few hours.

Entry Fee: ​​300 Lek (2.5 EUR or 3 USD)

palermo castle himare albania

How to get from Ksamil to Himarë

By car is the best way to get to Himarë , particularly if you want the flexibility to make a stop at Palermo Castle. The journey in total between Ksamil and Himarë is just under 2 hours. The journey time is more or less the same if you make a stop at Castle Palermo (it’s 1.5 hours to the castle and 25 minutes from there to Himarë). 

There are no buses from Ksamil to Himarë. You must travel by taxi or book a private transfer .

himare castle village albania

Where to Stay in Himarë

Once you’re in Himarë, you have two bays to choose from. One has many hotels and restaurants, and the other is quieter as it’s still in development. Wherever you choose, you’ll find both smaller guesthouses and beautiful luxury hotels.

Hotels in Himare 😴

Scala Bungalows

Ideally, stay for 1 or 2 nights, choosing accommodation close to the beach. See all your hotel options in Himarë .

Tip: Camping is also possible in Albania and is the perfect way to explore the country’s dramatic landscapes and diverse nature.

himare albania things to do

Day 9: Himarë  

Himarë is a beautiful beach destination north of Ksamil and Butrint National Park . The advantage of visiting this coastal town is that it’s far less crowded than Saranda and Ksamil, and it’s considerably cheaper than the nearby town of Dhermi.

himare town albania travel itinerary

It is home to wide sweeping bays with the most perfectly calm, clear ocean, and it’s not as busy, so you won’t find the beaches packed with parasols and beds. 

Read: Best Things to do in Himare .

beach himare albania

Spend the Afternoon in Dhermi

However, although we recommend basing yourself in Himarë on your Albania 2-week itinerary, you should definitely try and make a visit to the nearby town of Dhermi. Not only is it close to some of the most fantastic beaches, but it’s an authentic hillside village in Albania.

albania itinerary dhermi

Walk through its cobblestone streets with pretty houses and churches, stopping to take photos of the beautiful coastal views. It’s a great place to visit in the afternoon or evening for sunset. 

dhermi albania

Day 10: Himarë to Kruje

One of the most beautiful drives on your Albanian road trip is the one from Himarë to Kruje . Although it’s a long drive (4-5 hours), it moves across stunning landscapes, especially the first 1.5 hours on the road to Vlore—which is absolutely breathtaking.

As you go, you’ll pass through the luscious Llogara National Park, riding along the high coastal road, which provides you with epic views of the cliffs, beaches, and Adriatic sea. Vlore itself is very green and luscious and, surprisingly, is famous for being home to the spotted deer. 

Llogara national park albania travel itinerary

Kruje Castle and Old Town

When you finally arrive in Krujë , you’ll be blown away by this beautiful medieval town—home to one of the most colorful bazaars we’ve ever seen. Gorgeous ruby red textiles hang from the market stalls, and it’s lovely to walk around and buy souvenirs, antiques, and handmade carpets. The afternoon is the perfect amount of time to explore the old town and bazaar.

Read all about Krujë Castle and the Historic village .

kruje albania

Alternative Stop: Shkod er

Alternatively, you can spend the night at Shkoder, which is closer to Theth (the next stop on your Albania itinerary). This is a bigger city with beautiful old town pedestrian streets and loads of great food and drink options. Especially at the weekends, this city is vibrant and lively and an enjoyable place to hang out.

albania itinerary shkoder

We recommend spending time in the Gjuhadol neighborhood, where you’ll find the nicest streets.  Find a hotel in Shkoder .

Tip: if you’re traveling in Albania by public transport, you’ll need to spend the night in Shkoder to take an arranged transfer to Theth the following day. If you have a car, we recommend skipping Shkoder and arriving at Theth directly from Kruje .

shkoder albania itinerary

Where to Stay in Kruje

Stay as close as you can to the old town and bazaar, particularly as you’re only in Kruje for the afternoon/evening.  Here are all your hotel options in Kruje .

Hotels in Kruje 😴

Mervin Hotel

How to get from Himarë to Kruje

Traveling by car from Himarë to Kruje is the easiest option and takes between 4-5 hours. 

There are no direct buses from Himarë to Kruje. Instead, you’ll need to take a bus to Vorë or back to Tirana and take the bus from these destinations. In total (including changing bus), both these journeys will take you approximately 5-6 hours.

Please note: If you want to travel on to Theth the next day, you’ll need to stay the night in Shkoder because that’s the only town where transfers leave for Theth (Albania’s answer to the Alps).

Day 11: Kruje to Theth

If you haven’t already explored Kruje’s Bazaar (one of the oldest markets in Albania), then spend the morning here taking in all the sights and senses of this beautiful area. (Just note that most shops opens at 10 AM) There is also a castle in Kruje to explore if you have time. 

albania itinerary kruje castle

After breakfast and a morning exploring Kruje, start on one of the most beautiful journeys of your Albanian road trip: the drive to Theth . Along the way, you’ll share the winding roads with goats, cows, and pigs and stop off at beautiful viewpoints with panoramic views of the mountains; you’re now arriving in Albania’s version of the Swiss Alps! 

albania itinerary kruje

Theth Village

Spend your afternoon in beautiful Theth village , a cute town which essentially consists of one long street bordering the river. It’s full of sweet houses, guesthouses, and great campsites (with good facilities). 

Read everything about the mountain village Theth in Albania .

hotels theth albania itinerary

People come to Theth to camp and hike, so it’s popular in summer with tourists. However, you’ll notice that authentic local life continues, with the farmers still herding their sheep and horses along the roads.

albania itinerary theth

Witnessing this with the majestic mountain peaks in the background is truly like something from a movie. You’ll spend a few days here, enjoying the town, and hiking famous trails like the Peje Mountain Pass or the Valbona Peak. 

Tip: One of the most beautiful parts of Theth is the idyllic church you can find on the outskirts of town, surrounded by mountain peaks and meadows full of flowers. It’s an absolute must-visit and one of the best places to visit in Albania!

albania itinerary theth church

Where to Stay in Theth

Look for a hotel on the main street of Theth (not on the hill), so you can be closer to the center of the village for your afternoon stroll.  See all your hotel options .

Hotels in Theth 😴

Bujtina Miqesia Hotel

How to get from Kruje to Theth

The journey from Kruje to Theth takes around 3.5 hours. Along the way, you can stop at Shkoder if you’d like a break; there are lots of beautiful things to see here, including Lake Shkoder, which forms a natural border between Albania and Montenegro.

albania itinerary drive to theth

As Theth is very remote, there are no buses from Kruje to Theth. You’ll need to get to Shkoder and arrange a transfer or organized tour from there to Theth. 

Day 12: Hike to Valbona Peak, Theth

Day 12 is your chance to explore the unbelievable nature that Albania has to offer. Pack a backpack and prepare to do the most beautiful hike from Theth to Valbona peak and back.

albania itinerary Theth to Valbona peak hike

Along the way, you’ll pass through forests, gorgeous grasslands that look across onto the mountain peaks, bubbling brooks and streams, and meadows full of flowers and boulders. You could really feel as if you were in the Alps, with dramatic scenery all around and only birds, crickets, and butterflies to keep you company along the way. 

hike route theth albania

How long does the hike take? 

Start at 8 AM, and you should return to Theth around 3-4 PM. It takes around 7 hours to hike the trail (15 km in total), and it’s doable but definitely a challenge! Please be aware that on some parts of the trail, there are (very) steep gravel paths, so make sure you’re wearing proper hiking shoes. 

Tip: Traveling to Theth by public transport? You can catch a ferry or shared van back to Shkoder after your hike (the journey is approx 2 hours).

albania Theth Valbona peak hike cafe

Day 13: Theth to Tirana

On your penultimate day in Albania, it’s time to head back to the buzzing capital: Tirana (a must-see on your 2-week Albania itinerary). Have breakfast and make an early start to drive back to Tirana so you can spend the afternoon in the city. 

albania itinerary tirana capital city

Spend the Afternoon in Tirana

Once you’ve checked into your hotel, make the most of the city’s cultural hotspots, enjoying all the museums, art galleries, and interesting restaurants. You’ll find the National Museum of History here, which is a plot of former underground bunkers now turned into an exhibit on Albania’s communist history.

Entry Fee: 400 LEK (3.50 USD)

albania itinerary tirana bunk art

Aside from seeing the city’s museums, it’s lovely to just walk around for a few hours, witnessing the interesting architecture of Tirana —a reflection of its historical and cultural heritage.

colorful buildings tirana albania travel

You’ll find a mix of older and newer buildings, some in a more Mediterranean European style and some in an urban fascist style. Best of all, it’s earned a reputation for its colorful buildings due to the major being an artist and painting the buildings. These colored buildings are spread across the city, but two of the must-sees are:

  • Ministry of Tourism and Environment
  • Ministry of Agriculture

cafe tirana albania

How to get from Theth to Tirana

The journey from Theth to Tirana takes 3.5 hours. You don’t need a 4×4 as the road to Theth is now paved and safe to drive on.

It’s possible to take a bus from Theth to Tirana. You’ll need to first take a shared shuttle bus to Shkoder (or taxi). From there, there are buses running every 30 minutes to Tirana. The journey takes 2 hours and costs 400 LEK (3.60 USD), so it’s very cheap.

Where to Stay in Tirana

The Blloku neighborhood is the most colorful and trendy of all and a great place to stay in Tirana. Alternatively, anywhere close to the city center is good. See all your hotel options in Tirana .

Hotels in Tirana 😴

Hotel Theatro

Day 14: Drive to Tirana Airport (Departure)

Day 14 is the final day of your beautiful 2-week Albania itinerary, and time to pack your bags and leave with some incredible memories of this underrated country in Europe!

If you have a hire car, drive the 30 minutes to the airport and drop your rental car there before you fly. Alternatively, take the airport shuttle bus, which leaves the city center regularly (from Skanderbeg Square). A ticket costs 300 LEKE (2.70 USD) and can be purchased on the bus.

How to Visit Albania in 2 Weeks

Albania is one of the most unexpected treasures, home to everything from epic mountains and natural spring pools to beaches that would rival some of the best in Europe. This 2-week Albania itinerary provides you with various activities, hotel options, and transportation. 

Getting to Albania

The main airport in Albania is Tirana, and international flights arrive here from all around the world. Most of the public transport leaves from the capital city too, and you can collect your car hire there.

Getting Around on Your Albania 2-Week Itinerary

The easiest way to get around Albania is definitely by car. In the past, it had a reputation for bad roads. However, these days, most roads are safe and paved (especially when sticking to the highways). Even in the mountainous region of Theth, the roads are newly paved, so you can use a normal rental car. The only thing to be wary of on the roads is other drivers (Albanian drivers have a bit of a bad reputation, although we didn’t experience this ourselves). Use Waze or Google Maps as your navigation app.

how to travel around albania

Getting around by bus in Albania is a little trickier, as many destinations don’t have direct bus connections. Because of this, you may have to make multiple changes, and the journeys can be long. The upside, though, is that tickets are very cheap! 

Organized Tour

Alternatively, base yourself in bigger cities like Tirana and Saranda and use those as jumping-off points to explore other areas by organized tour.

Our Favorite Accommodations in Albania

There are many fantastic accommodations in Albania, from charming guesthouses and B&Bs to more luxury beachside hotels. There is even the option to camp! Below are our favorite places to stay for each destination on this 2-week Albania itinerary:

  • Berat: Hotel Mangalemi , Tradita e Beratit Hotel
  • Gjirokaster: SS Kekezi , Argjiro Traditional , Hotel Argjiro
  • Ksamil: Ionian Hotel , Summer Point Hotel , Hotel Meta
  • Himarë: Scala Bungalows , Filoxenia Holiday , Guest House Solive
  • Kruje: Mervin Hotel , Hotel Panorama
  • Shkoder: Çoçja Boutique Hotel , Atelier Boutique Hotel
  • Theth: Guesthouse Marashi , Bujtina Miquesia Hotel , Gurra Family Guesthouse
  • Tirana: Hotel Theatro , Hotel Boutique Vila , Crown Boutique Hotel

Food in Albania

Albania has a mix of history, cultures, and religions, all coming together in one big melting pot. This makes for some delicious cuisine, whether it’s traditional Albanian dishes, Italian, or Middle Eastern.

traditional albanian food

You can enjoy all sorts of delicacies, from stuffed peppers and eggplants to olives and baked local cheeses. If you’re brave enough, you can also try Raki, the traditional alcoholic beverage in Albania.

Fun Fact: In Albania, the head gesture for ‘yes’ and ‘no’ is the opposite of most countries (something you might need to know when you’re asked to try Raki!).

food albania

Albania Budget

Albania is super cheap; you can get a huge meal for 2 people (with salad and 2 main courses) for just 10 EUR (10.15 USD). You can also stay in incredible hotels for 50 EUR (51 USD) per night, although you can find good hotels for as little as 15 EUR (15.20 USD).

Costs of Traveling in Albania

Travel on a budget in Albania, from $80 − $130 USD weekly per person, mid-range $330 − $920 USD, and high-end from $920 − $1180 USD. However, costs depend on factors like accommodation, transportation, and activities. We did not include flights. Check flight prices here

  • Hotels: $35 − $70 USD Check available hotels
  • Hostels: $5 − $15 USD Check available hostels
  • Car Rental: $50 − $75 USD Book a rental car
  • Food: $3 − $8 USD
  • Activities: $0 − $7 USD See tickets & tours
  • Sim: $1 − $3 USD Get an eSIM or SIM here
  • Travel Insurance: $2 − $6 USD Get Travel Insurance

restaurants Gjirokaster albania travel itinerary

Best Time to Visit Albania

Albania has very hot summers and mild winters (although you’ll find lots of snow in the mountainous regions). In the summer, locals and tourists head for the beach, and it can get very busy. Because of this, we recommend visiting in the shoulder seasons: May/June or September. This is the perfect time to enjoy warm weather, sunny days, and the beaches of the Albanian Riviera without the crowds. It also has slightly cooler temperatures, which are perfect for hiking in the mountains.  

 best time to travel albania

Is Albania Safe?

There is some dispute about whether Albania is safe, and its communist history has slightly tarnished its reputation. However, in our personal experience, it’s very safe. The locals are warm, friendly people who are always eager to help, and the towns feel very safe and inviting. We walked around with our phones and cameras the entire time, zero issues! Albania truly has our hearts.

Travel Insurance Don't forget a travel insurance for your Albania trip! Heymondo covers medical emergencies, theft, delays, cancellations, lost luggage, and more, with 24/7 worldwide assistance and medical chat. As a Salt in our Hair reader, we've got you 5% off! Check Heymondo here

We’ve met a lot of solo (female) travelers who had the best time. Yes, they got some heads turning but never experienced anything negative. Obviously, take care of yourself and stay inside the main tourist areas. Here are our tips on how to travel safely .

safe albania travel itinerary

What to wear in Albania?

Even though over 60% of Albania is Muslim, there are no specific guidelines on what to wear; You’ll see a huge mix of different clothing styles, and especially the younger Albanians dress in a very western style. When entering a religious site, always wear a cover-up. However, at most places they really allow everyone. One Albanian said to us that due to the country’s history, Albanians are now one big family, all living together no matter what their religion is. That’s how the world should be if you’d ask us!

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  • Find Hotels via Booking.com
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8 Best Things to do in Gjirokaster, Albania

Berat, albania: the city of a thousand windows, renting a car in albania in 2024: all you need to know.

Looking for more travel information? Plan a chat with us for personalised travel advice or get an answer from the Salt in our Hair Travel Community on Facebook.

If you had two extra days to spend, where would you choose to stay a bit longer? I’m travelling with a kid so want to take some extra days of rest in between.

Probably Theth or Gjirokaster! 🤗

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An aerial view of Rozafa Castle overlooking the lake and the river in Albania

Northern Albania: a 10 day itinerary

Maysie Dee

  • Northern Albania itinerary

It is easy to get lost in the wonders of Northern Albania. Rugged mountains, caves, waterfalls, and beaches provide the adventurous traveller with plenty of opportunities for outdoor activities.

Those who are also fascinated with bygone times will revel in the crumbling castles and fortresses set in gorgeous locales. In fact, several of the most beautiful places in Albania are in the north.

Plentiful chestnut forests dot the northern Albanian landscapes that also host native wineries and enticing farm-to-table eateries. With bountiful agricultural areas, it’s no surprise that Albanians love good food and wine .  

The northern part of Albania is full of historical monuments, enticing beaches and compelling vistas… here’s an itinerary that takes you through the highlights of the region that you won’t want to miss.

The first peak of the village of Valbona

How much time should I spend in Northern Albania?

How much do you love the out-of-doors, exploring historic ruins and enjoying sandy beaches? You could easily spend a few weeks jaunting through Northern Albania, but if you’re pressed for time you can hit the highlights in about 7-10 days.

Of course, that also depends on how you travel around Albania. There is ample, inexpensive public transportation in the country , but buses don’t always show up as scheduled (or at all!), can be crowded and generally cause travellers a lot of frustration. For this reason, I’d suggest renting a car to tour Northern Albania. 

The rates aren’t unreasonable, and the country is relatively small. This itinerary, never has you driving more than two hours without reaching a spot to stop for sightseeing or arriving at the next overnight destination.

If you really want to splash out, hire a personal driver to drive you around Northern Albania in style. There are excellent English-speaking drivers - our favourite driver is friendly and never fails us! A personal driver will go out of the way to make your trip amazing – that includes helping you find hidden gems to visit in the key areas, lugging your bags, and negotiating better rates along the way.

Although there are gorgeous mountain hideaways and ski resorts to enjoy in winter, the best time to tour Northern Albania is in late spring, summer or very early autumn. The roads are also free from dangerous winter conditions in these seasons. 

You’ll also be able to go on hikes that are not possible in winter, and comfortably relax in the Albanian countryside or at the beaches under the glowing Ionian sun and azure skies.

Now, on to the itinerary...

People walking along a wide pedestrian street with a cafe under the trees

Tirana (1 night)

For travelling purposes, the country is roughly divided from north to south from Tirana, the capital city. As international flights to the country arrive in Tirana, it’s the perfect point to start off your northern Albania tour.

Depending on when you arrive, you might choose to relax and take a day to tour the eclectic city, by taking a walking tour to take in the highlights. You’ll want to see the famous Communist-era bunkers scattered around and visit the Et'hem Bey Mosque, with its colourful frescoes and mosaic work. 

You can also take the gondola ( Dajti Ekspres ) in town up Mt Dajti for the fantastic views over the city. Be sure to have a meal of local cuisine and enjoy a coffee at one of the many trendy cafes in the capital.

Stay at the Crown Boutique Hotel , within walking distance of Skanderbeg Square

Looking down on Durres city and waterfront on a sunny day.

Durres (2 nights)

Head out of Tirana and take a short 40-minute drive to Durres, a large modern city on the Adriatic Sea. Durres’ long, beautiful, white sand beach with its inviting sapphire-blue water is ever-popular among foreign and Albanian tourists. 

With an unbelievable amount of reasonably priced high-rise condos and high-quality hotels, you can have an upscale beach holiday in Durres without breaking your budget. The city also features a shopping promenade with boutiques, historical mosques, ruins of a Roman amphitheatre, and lively nightlife.

Enjoy your time sunbathing, kite surfing, or windsurfing, among other water sports. Excellent cafes, seafood restaurants and beach bars round out the offerings of this dynamic city with its own captivating beach. Most hotels include beach umbrella rentals in the price; check when making reservations.

If you’re really into beach time, just a short drive south of Durres is the popular Golem Beach, with an enchanting pine forest as a backdrop, deep blue waters and a charming renovated beach promenade. There are plenty of bars, restaurants, and snack bars right on the beach, with lots of space for everyone, even in summer. 

If you’re a fan of agritourism , don’t miss a trip to Agroturizëm Huqi , about 19 minutes outside Durres, near the town of Rade. This is a family-friendly property that offers fabulous regional cuisine, along with separate cozy cabins set on stilts for (optional) comfortable overnight stays). 

The speciality of the house is a traditional preparation of lamb, along with chicken dishes, salads, Albanian savoury pies, homemade cheeses and fresh garden vegetables. Explore the ample gardens, too, and pet the farm animals on the inspiring 15-hectare property where you can fish, and paddle-boat on the lake. Onsite camping is also possible.

Stay at the Relax Inn Durres near the beach and within walking distance of the city centre.

The ruins of Lezhe Fortress and the view of the town on a sunny day.

Lezhe (1 night)

After a night in the countryside (or a continued stay in Durres) your next stop should be the awe-inspiring rocky peninsula known as the Cape of Rodon (about an hour from Durres or 45 minutes from Rade). The cape is one of those ancient places that’s all the more beautiful because it is yet mostly undiscovered. 

You can peacefully enjoy the glorious views from the forested hiking trails on the narrow slice of land that reaches into the Adriatic. In springtime, it’s covered with flowers and in summer, the clear deep blue waters are perfect for a swim.  

Also located on the historical peninsula are the ruins of the Castle of Skanderbeg, (sometimes known as Castle Rodoni) built in the 1400s. Near the base of the peninsula is the quaint ancient Church of St. Anthony, a cultural monument built in the 17 th century. The ruin contains remains of frescoes and is a beautiful example of Romano-Gothic architecture.

After the cape, head on to the distinctive Lezhe Castle, which sits high above the attractive town of Lezhe on the Adriatic coast.

One of the most important castles in Albanian history that served as a major defence against outside attacks, the grand stone fortress reflects Illyrian, Byzantine, and Ottoman influences. Roam through the ruins and enjoy the views of Lezhe town, the River Drin and the Adriatic below. 

Then, stroll the stone-tiled streets of Lezhe, an art lover's dream of galleries, museums, and exhibitions, and host to numerous cultural festivals, along with scrumptious regional cuisine.

Or, if you’re into artisanal wines and tranquil country environments, you’ll probably enjoy a tour of an Albanian vineyard. Although great wine is produced throughout the country, Kallmet Winery is a great option for a happy afternoon of wine tasting:

Located near the town of Lezhe in Kallmet Village, this winery welcomes all visitors on every weekday, without prior appointment. Once there, you can visit the wine and brandy facilities, view olive oil production, and of course, try the wine for yourself.

Stay at Hotel Liss for comfortable rooms near the castle.

People walking in downtown Shkoder, a city in north of Albania

Shkoder (2 nights)

Next up is Shkoder, a lovely small city located on the vast Plain of Mbishkodra, less than one hour from Lezhe. Not only is the city prized for its history as one of the oldest settlements in the country, but also for being the perfect access point for visiting the exalted Albanian Alps and impressive Lake Shkoder (Skadar).

The town itself is charming, with eco-minded cyclists, a lively walking promenade, and beautiful historic cathedrals and mosques. Here you’ll find other travellers enjoying everything from coffee to Albanian specialties to pizza, while they take in the surroundings and plan their ventures to outlying mountains, caves, lakes, and rivers. 

Shkoder is also known for its enthusiastic and helpful trip guides and excellent customer service.

While in Shkoder, take a tour of the absolutely fascinating Venice Art Mask Factory , an easy 20-minute walk from the city center. This artisanal workshop of 160 employees creates stunning Venetian carnival masks by hand, using the Italian cartapesta papier-mâché technique. 

If you’re a lover of beautiful things, you’ll be thrilled to browse the gallery filled with thousands of exquisitely painted and embellished masks and wall hangings for sale, plus intricately beaded costumes on display. There's an entry fee of approx. €3.50 (no purchase required).

A 6-minute drive (or 20-minute bike ride) outside Shkoder will take you to Rozafa Castle for expansive views of the city, the Drin and Buna Rivers, and Lake Shkoder, while you wander the ruins.

Spend the night in Shkoder and plan to visit the nearby natural and cultural sites before heading up to Lake Koman, which is a must-not-be-missed point on this itinerary.

Just beyond Shkoder is the wondrous Kir Valley, a spectacular natural environment for enjoying warm spring, summer and autumn weather. The impressive landscape, encircled with steep cliffs, makes the area perfect for cycling trips, swimming, hiking and nature photography. 

In summer, when water levels of the river are low, you can explore the 104-meter Zhyla Cave system, via several water openings to the cave along the river bank. Nearby Prekal village provides some infrastructure (a few bars and cozy restaurants) as a resting point, among lush greenery and stunning views.

Stay at Çoçja Boutique Hotel with stylish rooms in the city centre.

An aerial view of the stone Mesi Bridge and surrounding countryside.

Mesi Bridge and Drishti Castle

While you’re in the area, you’ll want to stand on the iconic Mesi Bridge, about 6 kilometres outside Shkoder. This grand relic is Albania’s largest remaining Ottoman Bridge - over 108 meters long – and is a testament to Albania’s ancient roots. 

The bridge’s fifteen impressive arches span the luminous blue water of the Kir River. Mesi Bridge was constructed in the late 1700s to connect bustling trade roads between Albania and the ancient Serbian Empire.  It's best in spring and autumn when the river is fullest.

In the same area as Mesi Bridge, you’ll find the medieval Dhristi Castle. Built in part by Byzantines during the 13th century, and by Venetians in the 14th, the castle and fortress became one of the strongholds (along with Rozafa Castle) that protected Shkoder from Ottoman control.

You can peruse the ruins and examine the remnants of several houses within the fortress’ ruined walls.

Lake Koman surrounded by mountains in Northern Albania in the summer

Lake Koman (2 nights)

While in Shkoder, make your plans to visit gorgeous Lake Koman. The expansive and stunning lake, about one and a half hours from Shkoder, is a wonder to behold. The happy result of a hydroelectric dam project, the sparkling emerald and teal lake and surrounding mountains are often referred to as “Albania’s Switzerland.”

Taking a ferry from the small town of Koman, you’ll slip between towering cliffside canyon walls, the lake twisting, as if a river, then opening to wide sweeping views across the glittering water. The ferry pauses at various little hamlets along the way, which also serve as stepping-off points for hiking the famous Valbona and Theth alpine trails . 

If you hike the Theth trails, be sure to visit another of northern Albania’s wonders, The Blue Eye of Theth. Nourished by the Black River, this captivating cold-water spring is deep, set amidst green foliage and a small waterfall. The pool’s luminous lapis blue and turquoise water is perfect for a refreshing dip after a long and strenuous hike. 

The ferry ride and hiking trails are best experienced during late spring and early autumn, as hiking is not possible after the snows set in. You can also join the throngs in summer… it’s very hot then, but a trip into the mountains will cool you off, for sure…

There are several active tour companies lining the touristic Gjuhadol walking street in central Shkoder who will be happy to reserve your ferry seats or guide you there themselves. It’s possible to do a day trip if you forego hiking, but if you have time, the hikes are amazing!

Stay at Kulla e Vjeter , a comfortable guesthouse with an onsite restaurant near the lake.

A boat on Lake Shkoder in Albania.

Lake Shkoder (1 night)

When you return to Shkoder after your Lake Koman adventure, take a day afterwards to soak your weary muscles in the healing Velipojë Beach sands.

Located on a small bay about 30 minutes from Shkoder town, Velipojë is Albania’s northernmost beach. Velipojë Beach is truly a hidden treasure that is nestled near a protected area with surrounding tall pines and green vegetation.

The unique attraction of Velipojë is its curative dark sand, full of natural minerals, such as iodine. Many visitors come for a walk along the beach or to immerse themselves in the sand as a free therapy for rheumatism, asthma and cardiac issues. 

The 5-kilometre beach has inviting sapphire blue water, a shallow entry, and is calm enough for families, children, and seniors, who all enjoy swimming there. 

Beach access and amenities are available to everyone (beach umbrellas €6). 

Spend the night near the beautiful, shimmering Lake Shkoder (also known as Lake Skadar). The largest lake in the Balkans is just a quick taxi or bike ride from the centre of Shkoder. The lake is great for picnicking, kayaking, fishing or just having a restful meal in one of the many inviting restaurants ringing the lakeside.

Before you leave Shkoder, take in Shkreli Regional Nature Park, a 2000-hectare nature area located between Lake Shkoder and the Theth National Park.  With numerous hiking trails, caves, horseback riding and farm-to-table destinations, it’s a haven for adventure lovers.

You can easily spend a day or enjoy an extended visit. Clean air and stunning views are the signature elements that bring visitors to the area for rejuvenation.

Villages in the area are popular for their organic produce. Be sure to check out the abundant chestnut forests, especially in September and October, when chestnuts are ripe and local autumn celebrations take place.

Stay at the Four Generation Hotel with stunning views of the lake.

Aerial view of Krujë Castle overlooking the town in Albania

Driving back to Tirana

As you end your tour of Northern Albania, there are still a couple of sites to enjoy. 

Before you head south, located only about 15 minutes north of Shkoder, is Kantina Mani , another great winery where you can take a tour and have a wonderful lunch. After living in Italy for some years, Fatjon Mani returned to his family land and decided to plant grapes. With the help of a few of his Dutch friends, Faton began wine production in his small facility.

The winery now produces a few varieties of select wine, plus homemade rakija. In 2020, they used natural materials from his family’s original homestead to build a kantina, so they could invite visitors to partake in wine tastings and delicious traditional meals in the beautiful surroundings. 

Today this humble kantina offers (by reservation) wine tastings, meals, vineyard tours, pick-your-own grapes, and traditional cooking and raki-making workshops - all at very reasonable prices, with friendly personal service.

On your way back to Tirana, be sure to stop at the Castle of Krujë (Kru-yeh), the ancient fortress of Gjergj Kastrioti Skanderbeg, Albania’s beloved national hero. 

You’ll find the castle about an hour and a half outside Shokder, set on a lofty hilltop above the small town below.

The castle remains are now home to a small museum, but the main attraction is the incredible breathtaking view from the stronghold. With one glimpse, you’ll understand why Skanderberg chose this location for his home, as he struggled to protect his homeland from invaders. On a clear day, you can see all the way to the Adriatic Sea in the distance. 

If you want to take the time, Krujë village is a charming place to wander. he Stroll through the Old Bazaar, stop for a coffee (because there’s always time for coffee in Albania !) or have a delicious local-style lunch with a view overlooking the area.

From  Krujë, it’s just an hour's drive back to the capital city of Tirana. If you have more time, head south to relax on the beaches of the Albanian Riviera .

Planning a trip to Albania? Read our travel guides .

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Maysie Dee

Author - Maysie Dee

Maysie Dee is a freelance writer, content editor, and recipe creator. She and her husband have travelled across the world for decades as natural product consultants, collecting stories along the way.

Last Updated 18 February 2024

Ksamil Beach, Albania on a summer's day

Sofia Adventures

The Ultimate Albania Itinerary: 1 Week, 2 Week, and 3 Week Options

The Ultimate Albania Itinerary: 1 Week, 2 Week, and 3 Week Options

If you’re planning a trip to Albania, it can be a bit of an overwhelming prospect. The country isn’t large, objectively speaking, but giant mountain ranges throughout the country and winding roads make certain trips that look short on the map look way longer in reality.

The fact that there’s really only one international airport right in the middle of the country means that some backtracking is almost always inevitable, unless you are able to fly out via another country.

Want to save this post for future reference? Pin it below!

Planning to travel Albania? We've created the ultimate Albania itinerary, perfect for anywhere from one week in Albania up to 2 or even 3 weeks in Albania. From the Albanian Riviera to the Albanian Alps, from Tirana to Berat to Saranda to Ksamil to Butrint, this post covers the top places to visit in Albania as well as some off the beaten path Albania alternatives.

One Week in Albania Itinerary: 2 Ways to Spend It

If you only have one week in Albania, it can be a little hard to create a good Albania itinerary without excessive backtracking.

I’ve created two itineraries, one focusing on Northern Albania and one focusing on Southern Albania, as they both offer extremely different things.

For the first itinerary, if at all possible, I recommend starting in Tirana, working your way down the coast, and ending in Saranda by then taking the ferry to Corfu to get your flight out. However, if you have flights in and out of Tirana (or Corfu as the case may be), this Albania itinerary will still be useful to you, you will just to have to add on some extra travel time.

For the second itinerary, it will be easy to just fly in and out of Tirana, but this is also a good itinerary to combine with onwards travel throughout the Balkans such as if you are going onwards to Montenegro, North Macedonia, or Kosovo.

A quick note: While this itinerary is possible with only public transportation – which is how I’ve traveled Albania for the 5+ weeks I’ve spent traveling it – a car will enable you to get even more off the beaten path and visit more remote and pristine beaches, gorgeous hidden hot springs, marvelous ruins, and more. But driving in Albania isn’t for the faint of heart, so it’s only for the experienced driver!

We haven’t been brave enough to drive around Albania… yet. But friends who have had said it’s the trip of a lifetime! Should you choose to rent, we suggest searching via Discover Cars. We’ve rented cars dozens of times in the Balkans through various search engines and have settled on Discover Cars as the best car rental search engine – it searches over 500 trusted rental companies to find the cheapest price for your rental! Compare prices for car rental in Slovenia here.

City & Summer Fun: 1 Week Albania Itinerary

If you’re traveling in summer and want to make the most of Albania’s beaches – while also getting to see a bit of city culture – this is the ideal Albania itinerary for you!

Day 1-2: Explore Tirana

nan albania travel

Tirana is hands-down one of my favorite cities in the Balkans, full of incredible restaurants, cafés serving up perfect coffee for less than $1, funky museums, interesting open-air markets, and vibrant street art.

Spend your first day in Tirana getting aquainted with the area around Skanderbeg Square, visiting Bunkart 2 and/or the House of Leaves, checking out the socialist mural on the National History Museum, visiting the newly renovated Pazar I Ri market area, and walking around the hipster neighborhood of Blloku which used to be the center of Communist rule during Enver Hoxha’s murderous reign.

This is a great area to go out at night: I strongly recommend Colonial Cocktail Academy for inventive mixology, Radio Bar for chilled-out drinks in a funky vintage-inspired settling, Nouveau Vague for one of the most photogenic terraces in Tirana, and Kino for a lovely summer garden and fabulous mixed drinks.

nan albania travel

For your next day in Tirana, get a little green in your life. I strongly recommend heading out to Bunkart 1, which is quite different from Bunkart 2 and even more interesting as it used to be  Enver Hoxha’s nuclear bunker and a lot of it has been kept just as-is. As a bonus, it’s right next  to the Dajti Express cable car, where you can zoom up to the heights of Mount Dajti and have a fabulous view over Tirana.

Afterwards, when you return to sea level, take a walk through the Grand Park of Tirana near Blloku with its gorgeous artificial lake and stop for drinks at one of the lakeside bars (I like Black Sheep). You can also check out the the Cloud installation (Reja) in front of the National Arts Gallery of Tirana, which is also worth a visit.

Tirana - Albania - Pyramid Bell Horizontal

While there, don’t miss Piramida (the abandoned Pyramid of Tirana, built in homage to Enver Hoxha and since abandoned) and the Peace Bell installation which was made of melted-down bullets from the crazy post-communist years of the 1990s. You also should check out the “Postbllok – Checkpoint” installation near the Pyramid, which has a piece of the Berlin Wall, a leftover bunker from the paranoia-days of Hoxha’s rule, as well as the iron supporting beams of a copper and pyrite mine from one of Albania’s forced labor camps.

After all that, be sure to check out some of Tirana’s fantastic restaurants – there’s something for everyone!

Tirana - Albania - restuarants

Day 3: Take a day trip to Berat or Kruja

If I had to pick one or the other, I would opt for Berat as it’s one of my favorite places in Albania and it’s a UNESCO World Heritage site with good reason. It’s extremely impressive and really beautiful to walk around, and its small size (and only two-hour minibus distance from Tirana) means that it’s quite easy to visit for just a day trip.

When in Berat, be sure to cross the bridges to get a sense for both sides of the town, as they are a bit different (one is protected by UNESCO and prevented to make any changes, and the other has been allowed to make some adaptations to be better suited for guesthouses and the like).

And of course, don’t miss the gorgeous Berat Castle up on the hill, the crowning glory of any trip to Berat. Getting up can be a bit of an effort – it’s not the most well signposted so you can easily find yourself getting in the back way with some struggle, especially if it’s hot when you visit!

If you opt to visit Kruja, it’s most famous for its excellent castle remains – one of the best-preserved remains of a castle in Albania. It’s also well-loved for its fabulous ethnographic museum, as well as the National Museum Gjergj Kastrioti, a beloved 1400 military figure.

Day 4-5: Head to the coast (basing in Himara or Dhermi)

I love the Albanian Riviera so much, and if you’re visiting in the summer, you’ve got to have some beach days on your Albania itinerary. I have a detailed guide to the Albanian Riviera which you can reference if you want more explanation, but I’ll go into it a bit here as well.

Albania - Himara Albanian Riviera - Gjipe Beach

Personally, I loved basing myself in the chill beachside town of Himara. The main city beach isn’t so phenomenal, but there’s a “secret beach” you can hike to or hire a boat to take you to that is one of my favorite in all of Albania. It’s also quite close to several of my other favorite Albanian beaches, including Jale, Gjipje, and Porto Palermo.

Dhermi also makes another fantastic base, although I didn’t get a chance to experience it for myself on my Albanian Riviera trip a few years back. Dhermi is a little more posh whereas Himara is a little more low-key, so it depends what the vibe you’re looking for it. Dhermi has Drymades beach, which is phenomenal, and it’s closer to the Karaburun peninsula which has some of the most untouched beaches in Albania.

Either make a great base so I suggest picking based on your travel style and what accommodations are available.

Day 6-7: End your trip in Saranda, exploring Butrint & Ksamil

Saranda is a fantastic base for further explorations in southern Albania, in addition to just being a great town to relax in as well. Saranda has some quite nice beaches once you get away from the ferry area which is a bit polluted, but the really beautiful beaches are down just a 15-minute drive from Saranda in Ksamil.

Albania - Ksamil - Beaches

I’d spend a half-day exploring Butrint, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the least-crowded Roman ruins you’ll ever come across in your life, before spending the afternoon in Ksamil Beach enjoying the sun and relaxing.

On your final day, you can either chill in Saranda, eating delicious seafood from waterfront restaurants, taking a brisk hike up to the Lëkurësi castle which has gorgeous views over the city, or returning to Ksamil for a lovely day of relaxing.

Nature & Hiking Focus: 1 Week in Albania Itinerary

Day 1: explore tirana.

It takes a while to really get into the mountains of Albania, so you’re going to have to cut your city time close if you only have one week in Albania on your itinerary and you really want to do some epic hiking and nature escapes.

I’d roughly follow the outline I recommended above for Tirana but skip some parts of Day 2, particularly Bunkart 1 and Mount Dajti which will take the better half of a day.

Tirana - Albania - Tirana Castle development

If you walk strategically and get an early start in Tirana, you can cover the following: either Bunkart 2 or The House of Leaves, Skanderbeg Square, Pazar I Ri and the revitalized Kalajes I Tirane area as well as the pedestrian street of Toptani, visiting the Piramida complex, seeing Reja and the National Arts Gallery, and Postbllok – Checkpoint park area, followed by checking out Blloku by night for its fabulous restaurants and nightlife.

Day 2: Head north to Shkodra

Shkodra is one of my favorite cities in Albania – it’s quiet and calm in a way that is sorely missing in Tirana, mostly due to the fact that it’s one of the most bicycle-crazy cities in Albania.

It has a great pedestrian walkway with lots of wonderful coffee shops which is an easy place to while away half an afternoon. I recommend renting bikes and heading out to Rozafa Castle, where you can get phenomenal views over Lake Shkodra, and if you’re extra ambitious you can even bike to the shores of the lake and sunbathe there for a bit or even go for a dip.

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You can also check out the phenomenal photography museum there, the Marubi National Museum of Photography, the beautiful central mosque, and the old bazaar.

Day 3: Head to Lake Komani for the Valbona to Theth trek

The best thing about staying in Shkodra for a night before your hike is that you have the ability to leave the majority of your luggage behind. I stayed at Wanderers Hostel in Shkodra and they had secure luggage storage. This way you can just pack a smaller day pack for what you’ll need for your Valbona to Theth hike.

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Start your day heading to Lake Komani, which is the gateway to the Albanian Alps, and take the gorgeous ferry across the waters to Fierza, from which you can head onwards into the Alps. Here’s a guide to taking the Komani ferry .

You’ll end up making your way to Valbona by the end of the day, which is a fantastic place to rest up before your epic hike tomorrow or the following day.

Day 4-6: Enjoy Valbona & Theth

The hike from Valbona to Theth is one of the most popular in Albania. I actually have wanted to do this hike for ages and have planned two twice – only to have my first trip derailed by freak thunderstorms and flash floods and my second attempt derailed by the first snowfall in early October… so, while I know from photos and friends’ experiences that this is a must-do in Albania for hikers, I can’t personally speak to it.

Instead, I refer you to my friends Rohan and Max who know Albania super well and have done this hike and written about it in great detail – their Valbona to Theth guide is easily the best out there (as other guides have just copied it without adding anything of their own to it), so use that as your reference point.  

Once you arrive in Theth, it’s worth spending some time exploring Theth National Park and making the hike out to the Theth blue eye, which is one of the most beautiful places in Northern Albania.

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Day 7: Head back to Tirana

The journey back from Theth is a long one, so I recommend leaving the better part of a day for it. You’ll need to go back to Shkodra via an incredibly bumpy road (which keeps hearing promises of repaving, yet no dice so far as of 2019). From there, you’ll need to catch a bus back to Tirana.

At that point, you’ll probably only have an evening left, so check out the Tirana bar and restaurant scene and enjoy your last few meals and drinks in Albania!

Tirana - Albania - restaurant Salt

Two Weeks in Albania Itinerary : Extension Ideas

If you have two weeks in Albania, now you’re open to plenty more options that will make your time spent there even more rewarding. Personally, I think that two weeks is a way better amount of time to spend in Albania, but I understand people sometimes only have one week and that’s better than nothing.

With a two weeks in Albania itinerary, you’ll be able to cover the majority of the main sights, squeeze in both beach time and mountain time, and even get to see all of Albania’s UNESCO sights.

Albania - Ksamil - Lemon Tree

To save time, this Albania itinerary has you arrive in Tirana, explore the North, then head south and catch a ferry out of Corfu. If you need to return to Tirana from Saranda by bus to catch a flight, factor that into your Albania itinerary.

I’m not going to re-write these entirely as it is mostly combining both of the one-week itineraries with a few extra which I’ll mark with a NOTE . Other than that,  I’ll just lay it out and you can refer above to my suggestions.

Day 1-2: Tirana

Day 3-4: Berat

NOTE: Spend your extra day in Berat visiting the nearby Cobo winery, one of the best in Albania, or cooling off in the fabulous Bogove Waterfalls.

Albania - Berat - Berat Flowers Walls

Day 5: Shkodra

Day 4-6: Lake Komani & arriving in Valbona

Day 7: Return to Tirana for a rest day before making your way down the coast

Day 8-11: Albanian Riviera, using Himara or Dhermi as a base

Day 12-14: Saranda, Butrint, Ksamil, Blue Eye, Gjirokastra, etc.

nan albania travel

NOTE: The Blue Eye is right on the way to Gjirokastra, so you can simply take a furgon from Saranda, get off at the Blue Eye and visit it for an hour or two, then wait back where you exited the bus to then go onwards to Gjirokastra, a “Stone City” and a UNESCO World Heritage Site about an hour and a half from Saranda. There, you’ll find a castle with a unique amphitheater as well as the ethnographic museum which was the birthplace of Enver Hoxha.

Three Weeks in Albania Itinerary : Even More Extension Ideas

If you have three weeks in Albania, now you can really start exploring and getting off the beaten path!

Follow the two week itinerary, but add one day in Tirana and use it for a day trip to Kruja Castle, which is a wonderful stop on your Albania Itinerary. From Berat, you can add a side trip to Korca and/or Pogradec to enjoy some time on the Albanian side of beautiful Lake Ohrid.

nan albania travel

Here are a few other places you can add to your Albania itinerary, so you can mix and match it to suit how much time you have there:

  • Rana e Hedhun sand dunes in Shengjin, near Lezhe on your way to or from Shkodra.
  • Karaburun peninsula and the Llogara Pass on your trip around the Albanian Riviera
  • Elbasan between Tirana and Berat for a non-touristy Albanian city
  • Durres to visit Apollonia, a UNESCO-tentative sight
  • Permet, some beautiful hot springs in Southern Albania which make a great diversion from Gjirokastra

More Albania Resources

First, start by reading our post on planning a trip to Albania . It covers everything from visas to vaccinations to what to pack, so it’s a great jumping-off point for your travel plans.

If you’re curious about the currency used in Albania and how tipping works, we recommend our Balkan currency guide to learn all about the Albanian lek and tipping culture.

If you’re looking for even more places to add to your Albania itinerary, we have a bunch of ideas for you from us and other bloggers in this collaborative post about the 15 best places to visit in Albania !

We are working on all of our Tirana guides, but for now, we have posts on the best restaurants in Tirana and the best Instagram spots in Tirana .

We add new content almost daily! We recommend you bookmark our homepage , our Albania page , or our general Balkans page to refer to when planning your trip.

Finally, Don’t Forget Your Travel Insurance!

I’m sure you’re aware that  travel insurance  is a great idea for Albania and for travel in general! This is especially true when you’re talking about hiking in remote areas where help is far away, or relaxing on the beach or traveling around cities where you can be a potential target for theft.

Stephanie and I have both been paying customers of  World Nomads  for the last three years. We love the peace of mind it gives us in case of emergencies, accidents, illnesses, theft, or trip cancellation or disruption.

While Albania is perfectly safe to travel around, there’s always a risk inherent in everyday travel, so it’s better to play it safe.

Get a travel insurance quote for your trip here.

nan albania travel

Originally from California, Allison has been living in Bulgaria for the last two years and is obsessed with traveling around the Balkans. She has been published in National Geographic, CNN Arabic, Matador Network, and the Huffington Post. She loves befriending dogs, drinking coffee, geeking out about wine, and cooking food from around the world.

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LOTUS EATERS TRAVEL

Our two week albania itinerary: an epic road trip without a hire car.

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two week itinerary albania

OUR TWO WEEK ALBANIA ITINERARY: AN EPIC ROAD TRIP WITHOUT A HIRE CAR.

We had both visited Albania before, Emma for a brief trip to Durres in 2022 and John to Tirana back in 2019. But the shortest of visits previously had left us wanting more. With the month of August totally free in our diaries, we decided that the small but delightful gem of Albania would be the perfect destination for us.

Having been before, we knew that Albania was not only an affordable country for budget travellers, but was also a very safe and welcoming place. We are always on the look out for somewhere that feels a little undiscovered with new hikes, new food and somewhere to get our teeth into and explore. Albania delivered this and more.

As I write this, I am sitting in an Albanian campsite surrounded by olive groves, with nothing but the owner of the campsite for company. As she tends to her garden, all I can hear is the gentle sound of crickets and the distant hum of a radio. We’ve spent the day at a delightful beach on the Albanian riviera, swimming in crystal clear water and basking in August rays. Later, we will be heading out to a quiet taverna beside our campsite, where a few glasses or raki will be consumed as an accompaniment to barbecued meat, fresh salad and tzatziki.

This may sound like a typical day on a Greek island, but I think it’s unfair to draw a comparison between Albanian and any of it’s neighbors like Greece and Italy, because Albania has it’s own character and its own unique and enthralling history. It has things that make it distinctly Albanian – the language, the food and the chaotic bus system.

Albania is not perfect and certainly there are some mistakes that we would not make if we visited a second time around. Albania can get extremely busy in the summer. It can feel less “undiscovered” and more spoiled by tourism in some areas, but if you look hard enough there is far more to it than sunbed wars in Ksamil. It has well and truly won us over.

Read on to find out more about our adventures and our two week Albania itinerary – a road trip without a hire car.

Albania top picks 😍

Short on time? Some of our top recommendations for Albania are:

Accommodation 🏨

  • Mi Casa es Tu Casa – Shkoder
  • Rupa Guest House – Theth
  • Hotel Villa Fernando – Tirana
  • Guesthouse Gjerjo – Berat
  • Sea View Breeze – Himare
  • Theth to Valbona Hike
  • Kruje Bazar and Castle
  • Shala River and Komani Lake
  • Tirana Walking Tour (or make your own – more on that below)

The currency of Albania is LEK and you will need cash. ATMs charge high fees, we recommend taking currency with you.

Transport 🚌

Short buses cannot be booked in advance but, we recommend booking longer journeys ahead of time using Book Away.

A quick note on spelling of locations in Albania. For ease, we have used the English translation of the place names, for example Vlora rather than Vlorë and Saranda rather than Sarandë. When you are in Albania, you will see the Albanian spellings on road signs.

Our two week Albania itinerary: a road trip without a hire car

When we found out that Albania is the approximate size of Wales, in the United Kingdom, we immediately thought about embracing the relatively small size of the country and taking a road trip to visit as much of Albania as possible.

This idea of driving around Albania with the wind in our hair, was quickly put to rest when we saw the price of a hire car. Granted, it was August (peak summer season) and we had left our planning quite last minute, but it didn’t feel we could possibly justify around 60 Euros per day for a hire car.

This is how we came to find ourselves exploring Albania “road trip style” but sans hire car. Instead, we made use of buses, which are the main mode of public transport, our own two feet, a few taxis and a token ferry ride.

This blog post sets out our two week Albania itinerary, travelling from the mountains of the North to the Albanian riviera in the South – all without a hire car.

Our two week Albania itinerary: route and map

We actually were in Albania for three weeks, extending our trip slightly to accommodate a longer stay in Saranda, a longer period in Tirana and a stay in Dhermi/ Gijepe. Our two week Albania itinerary omits this, but is adapted to include the best of the beautiful places to see in Albania.

This is our recommended two week Albania itinerary for anyone who wants a mix of hiking, relaxing on the beach and cultural stops and wants to travel on public transport We are generally budget conscious travellers , so this Albania itinerary focuses on keeping costs down but without sacrificing the top experiences.

Here’s an overview of our two week Albania itinerary:

Tirana airport to Kruja (arrived at midnight)

Day 1/ Explore Kruja and stay in Shkoder

Day 2/ Travel to Theth and hike blue eye Theth, stay in Theth

Day 3/ Hike Theth to Valbona , stay in Valbona

Day 4/ Hike Mount Rosit, stay in Valbona

Day 5/ Travel Valbona to Tirana, stay Tirana

Day 6/ Explore Tirana, travel to Berat, stay in Berat

Day 7/ Explore Berat, stay in Berat (visit nearby vineyards)

Day 8/ Travel to Himare, stay in Himare

Day 9/ Explore Gjepe Beach and Jala, stay Himare

Day 10/ Beach day in Himare, stay Himare

Day 11/ travel to Ksamil, stay in Ksamil

Day 12/ beach day in Ksamil, stay Ksamil

Day 13/ explore surrounding area of Ksamil, stay Ksamil

Day 14/ travel to Tirana airport and fly home

Our Albania itinerary day by day

Albania itinerary day one: kruja and shkoder.

nan albania travel

We arrived late night (01:00) into Tirana airport on a bustling flight from Rome. Initially, we considered staying in Tirana and travelling to Shkoder the next day. But, we decided to head to Kruja straight from the airport, keen not to miss any opportunities to sight see.

Kruja is a short drive from Tirana airport, a town at 600m above sea level with a quaint and historic feel to it. It is famous for being the home town of Albania’s hero Skanderbeg and the frontier for his resistance against the Ottoman empire. Today, it makes a delightful tourist pit stop on route to Shkoder and the North of Albania.

How to get there

Kruja is only around 30 minutes from Tirana airport, we took a taxi which we pre-booked with our guest house. This cost 30 Euros, perhaps a little steep but it was at the unfriendly hour of 01:00. A direct taxi from the airport is an option at whatever time of the day.

From Kruja to Shkoder can be a 1 hour 45 minute journey, or it can take up to 3 hours depending on traffic. We opted for a taxi, paying 60 Euros. An expensive trip, but we comforted ourselves with knowing this would be our last long taxi ride of the trip.

💡Tip: If you’re travelling on a budget, we suggest skipping Kruja and instead heading straight to Shkoder. You can do the journey from Tirana to Shkoder with public transport for as little as 300 LEK. You’ll need to get from Tirana airport to Tirana first, but this is an easy journey during daylight hours. Whereas travelling via Kruja requires a taxi.

What to do in Kruja

nan albania travel

Kruja is a small town, there are a few highlights to take in whilst you visit. We started with a slow meander through the Bazaar, a market selling Albanian artifacts, from cosy slippers to traditional head wear. Be sure to ask the stall holders for information about their handmade pieces.

Next, we explored Kruja castle which is easily walkable from the Bazaar . It is a small place, you need no more than around 20 minutes to nose around. There’s an optional museum inside the castle, where you can find out more about the local hero Skanderberg. We chose not to go in, as reviews suggested there were few exhibits with English language translations and we are not fans of museums with little information. The nearby Ethnographic museum was unfortunately closed for refurbishment when we visited.

Following this, we explored a little and discovered a shrine , the largest building is under construction currently but there is a smaller shrine to visit. A local elderly man tried to offer us an “exclusive tour” to the building site, but we politely declined.

What to do in Shkoder

We didn’t have a huge amount of time to explore Shkoder. After a few drinks in our wonderful hostel , and a delightful supper, we had just enough time to walk past the modern Mosque in Shkoder and peruse the bars on Kole Idromeno Street.

Where to stay in Kruja

In Kruja, there are a number of delightful guest houses to choose from. This was our first foray into an Albanian guest house and it was something we enjoyed immensely. We stayed at Meti Guest House which has a fantastic view and very welcoming hosts. For a more mid-range, rather than budget option, we suggest Kruja Albergo Diffuso , which has a wonderful location inside Kruja castle walls.

💡Guesthouses in Albania are some of the most affordable place to stay in the country. They are family run and tend to be homes that have been opened up to guests. Most have only a handful of rooms, making them feel very welcoming. A traditional Albanian breakfast is often included in the room rate and more often than that seems to be cooked by Grandma. Staying in guesthouses can be a great way to get to know more about Albanian culture.

Where to stay in Shkoder

In Shkoder, there are a mix of hotels, hostels and apartments in the centre of town. If you’re travelling onwards to Theth, it’s best to pick accommodation in the centre of town. However, do note that the highlight of Shkoder, the lake, is 6km outside town, so if you want to spend some time there, it can be helpful to book accommodation near to the lake.

We stayed at Mi Casa es Tu Casa , which is a backpackers hostel. It’s a really fun place, with great communal space, complete with a few friendly hostel dogs roaming around. Dorm beds or private room are available. The staff here will also sort out your bus tickets for you too.

Eat and drink

In Kruja, there are a few restaurants near to the castle and the Bazaar. Prices are fairly consistent between these places and more local restaurants, despite being near to the tourist attractions.

Shkoder has decent nightlife and plenty of restaurants to choose from. We opted for Fisi Restaurant , which was near to our hostel and serving traditional and delicious Albanian grilled meats. For bars, one of the most pleasant areas of Shkoder is Kole Idromeno Street , a pedestrianized area lined with numerous bars and restaurants.

Albania itinerary day two: Travel to Theth and Hike Theth Blue Eye

On our second day, we were chomping at the bit to head up to the Albanian Alps and start hiking. We had heard wonderful things about the Alps, but it’s fair to say that the whole experience far surpassed our expectations.

We left at the crack of the dawn, and after a mad dash to the ATM, one of us nearly missed the bus. Once both safely on board, we wound our way up the mountain, bouncing up and down on a very threadbare seat in the back of an old 4 x4. Arriving in Theth at 09:00, we dropped of some luggage in our guest house and set out on the famous Theth Blue Eye Hike.

For more detailed information on all the hikes we did in the Albanian Alps, you can find our guide to walking in the Accursed Mountains here.

Buses leave Shkoder at 07:00 bound for Theth. Rather than an organized coach/ bus, transport is provided by mini-buses in combination with 4×4 vehicles.

The journey takes around 2 hours and 15 minutes on a good day, this includes a short coffee break stop at a cafe in the mountains.

It is best to arrange a ticket with your hostel or hotel the night before. The company will put on as many vehicles as required for the number of travellers but it’s best to express your intention to get the bus the next day. Buses or 4x4s will collect you from your accommodation.

The cost of the journey is 10 Euros, but hostels may take a small commission fee to secure your ticket.

The journey to Theth is not a completely comfortable one, if you get motion sickness, you may want to consider managing this as you climb up many mountain roads and could quite easily lose your breakfast!

nan albania travel

If you wanted to skip the Blue Eye Hike and save a day in the Alps, you could walk straight to Valbone on the Theth to Valbone hike. However, we would strongly urge you to take your time in the Alps and enjoy the Blue Eye Hike on day one.

We’ve written in detail here about the Blue Eye Hike , but in short, it is a 17km round trip to visit a glorious swimming area filled with bright blue water.

💡If you’re not into hiking, but still want to visit the North of Albania, you could visit Lake Konami and Lumi I Shales. From Shkoder you can take a bus to Koman to explore from there. Find out more on the lake Komani website here.

Where to stay

Theth is full of guest house accommodation, from basic to luxury. There are also campsites and a smattering of more upmarket hotels.

We stayed at  Rupa Guest house in Theth . I chose this place as it had excellent reviews and I read about how it is run by a friendly lady in her 70s. It didn’t disappoint. The guest house is utterly charming, with the option for dinner or breakfast which can be eaten in the pretty garden.

Rates at Rupa Guest House are around 45 Euros for a double room with private bathroom. Book with  Booking.com here.

Theth is a hamlet, rather than a town, however there are a few places to get food and drink in the area.

There is a new food store, a  small market  selling sandwiches and dry foods. It’s open from 07:00 until late. Bread arrives at 11:00, so if you want some for your sandwiches for the next day, shop after 11:00! Thankfully, the shop accepts card payment too. It is a little expensive, but to be expected in a remote mountain village.

When you arrive in the morning, the mini market is the best place for food as it is the only place open. For the evening, there are a few restaurants (three), which sell basic food and drinks. We had a delicious  pizza at Jezerca , served with an ice cold beer.

The other option for dinner, and the one most people take, is to eat in your guesthouse. Most will offer a typically Albanian mountain meal.

Albania itinerary day three: Theth to Valbona hike

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Today was the day that we had been most excited about, the walk from Theth National Park to Valbona National Park.

The Theth to Valbona Hike is historically a mule trail, used to get across the mountains. Today, it is one of the most popular hikes, if not the most popular hike, in Albania. This gives the hike a really fun atmosphere as there are plenty of other hikers enjoying the trip.

After an initial climb, lasting around 2-3 hours, you will reach the top. There are a few cafes around on the route, but we recommend packing lunch that you can enjoy at the top. Then, stopping at one of the delightful mountain bars on the route down to Valbona to enjoy an ice cold beer. You’ll need it after the climb!

Enjoy spectacular scenery and views as far as the eye can see. This truly is a special hike and one of the best that we have ever done.

💡 it is also possible to walk from Valbona to Theth and do this circuit in reverse. We’ve written more about that option here.

You can find the start of the trail head, just behind the supermarket here.

Theth to Valbona hike – here are the essential facts.

theth to valbone

You can find our full guide to walking from Theth to Valbona here.

Valbona has guest houses or camping options. There are quaint family run places, large guest houses or mountain lodges to choose from. Do note, that the accommodation in Valbona is mostly a few kms from the trail head. You can walk or take a taxi if required. The walk is flat and easy along a quiet road.

On our first night, we stayed at  Guest House HYSA.  This place is on the main stretch of road through Valbona, with a spacious garden. They serve simple but great food, including an ample breakfast to set you up for a day of hiking. You can also ask to purchase a packed lunch for your hike too. Rates are around 35 Euros for two people.  Book here on booking.com.

The second place we enjoyed was the tiny family run guest house  Butjina Sherifaj.  We paid 30 Euros for one night with a private bathroom, this included a huge breakfast. Dinner is an additional cost but inexpensive, genuine Albanian home cooking. The guest house is nestled into the mountains a little out of town, well worth the walk given the peaceful location.  Book here on booking.com.

Valbona is a small mountain village, it has one tiny market shop. Otherwise, food is found in guest houses. Many guest house also open a restaurant, so you don’t have to eat in the guest house you are staying in. Breakfast tends to be included in room rates and you can normally arrange a packed lunch with your guest house too.

We ate in our guesthouses on both nights in Valbona and were delighted with this choice. In expensive and local food, washed down with Raki.

Albania itinerary day four: Mount Rosit hike

nan albania travel

For the third day of hiking, we recommend staying in Valbona and tackling the  Mount Rosit Hike . This hike takes you to the base of Mount Rosit (also called Rosni peak) at the Montenegro border. This is a 19.5km “out and back” trail, with the option to climb Mount Rosit rather than just reach the base.

There are two trails in Valbone that join the Mount Rosit hike trail. One is near to  the school  and the other is a little further into town. This  Wikiloc trail  shows the two options.

The first half of the hike feels quite relentless, with little views out of the woods. But, after passing this you will be rewarded with more open views.

We recommend leaving very early in the morning to beat the heat. The hike takes between 7 and 10 hours (honestly, it’s very slow going).

You can find more information on the Mount Rosit hike here on our Albanian Alps hiking guide.

💡This could be substituted with an easier hike, or a visit to Kayak in Lake Komani or bathe in Lumi i Shales. Find out more on the Lake Komani Website here.

The hike returns to Valbona, so you can stay in a guesthouse there. With forward planning, we recommend booking the same guesthouse so that you can leave luggage there. Trust us, you will want your bags to be as light as possible for the hike up the mountain.

There are no places for refreshment on the Mount Rosit hike. Ensure that you pack enough lunch and water for the hike. It really does take a long time to walk this route, so do not underestimate it.

Albania itinerary day five: Tirana

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Today was mostly a travelling day, leaving Valbona after a leisurely breakfast and eventually arriving into Tirana at around 20:00. The journey is long, but enjoyable owing to the ferry ride into Koman accompanied by spectacular scenery.

We really loved Tirana, so much so that we’ve decided to go back and stay for an extended period in the future. Especially in the summer, Tirana has a cosmopolitan feel. The city is peppered with tree lined boulevards, with excellent bike lanes which enable scooters and cyclists to scoot around freely. Cafes by day and bars by night spill out onto the pavements. It is a city with a lived in feel, offering sharp contrast to the coastal resort towns.

It seems like a complicated journey from Valbona to Tirana, but it is not. You can book it all as one journey and just follow the crowds as most people will be doing a similar trip.

First, you will take a minibus from Valbona at 10:00. This will collect you from your guest house. The journey is on mountain roads.

Next, you will take a ferry from Fierze to Koman which leaves around 13:00. The ferry takes three hours, but is a stunning journey. The ferry is crowded and small, but it does have a bar and bathroom. We recommend sitting inside if you want to avoid the sun!

Finally, you will take a bus from the ferry terminal in Koman to Tirana. Expect this to take around 3 to 4 hours, potentially longer in traffic.

Book with your guesthouse in Valbona, through  Komani Lake ferry , or on  Albanian Bus.  The journey should cost around 30 Euros.

What to do in Tirana

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If you’re in Tirana for only a short time, as with this itinerary, you will only have the opportunity to visit the main sites. Here are our suggestions:

1/ Visit the House of Leaves Museum

The House of Leaves Museum is an incredibly interesting expose on surveillance in Albania’s communist era. The house itself, was once a medical clinic but during the communist period, it was taken over by secretive security forces. It then became a covert operations centre used for spying and interrogation.

It is a well curated museum, with lost of information and poignant exhibits. Well worth a visit. Tickets cost 700 LEK and we recommend spending around 90 minutes there.

2/ Visit either the National Museum or Bunkart 2

There are two further interesting attractions in Tirana. We would recommend picking one, but not both. However, if you’re on a budget, we suggest just visiting The House of Leaves Museum only.

The National Museum is in Skanderberg Square. It costs 500 LEK to get in and houses exhibits demonstrating the history of Albania, from Roman times to present day. Whilst the exhibits are interesting to look at, there is very little information in English so it’s a bit of a challenge to learn much.

Your second choice is Bunkart 2 , a communist era bunker that has been turned into a sort of art gallery. Here, pictures speak a thousand words, showing the history of the police and security forces during the communist era. The cost is 400 LEK.

3/ Take yourself on walking tour

Tirana is a very walkable city, but if you don’t amble with a bit of purpose you may not find the best bits. We recommend that you take yourself on a bit of walking tour.

Start with Skanderberg Sqaure , the main square in Tirana. Next, stop for coffee on Murat Toptani Street a pretty modern promenade next to Tirana castle, which has now been turned into a cute shopping mall.

Once caffeinated, take a stroll through Taiwan Park. Then climb the Tirana pyramid (a glossy conference centre that on John’s last visit a couple of years ago was not much more than a pile of bricks with graffiti).)

Finally, head to the Blloku district , an upscale area of Tirana, housing some of the fancier bars and restaurants of the city. Personally, we preferred the low key bars and restaurants around Kavaja Street , so head there if you’re looking for a more local affair.

if you’d rather something more organised you can also book a walking tour here.

Where to stay in Tirana

You’ll want to be central in Tirana. Accommodation is inexpensive, so you should have a good amount of choice.

Budget: For a budget option, Tirana has some excellent apartments in the centre of the city. Something like this one bed place, would suit for a night.

Mid-Range: Hotel Villa Fernando Tirana is a divine opulent hotel at a mid-range price. Here traditional Albanian design meets hotel chic in the heart of the city.

Luxury: Maritim Hotel Tirana is an excellent choice for a very central 5 star hotel. It even has a rooftop bar for cocktails overlooking the city.

There are some excellent places to eat and drink in Tirana. We tried a couple of different Albanian restaurants in the area of Kavaja Street where there are numerous restaurants.

Tymi King Pils became a favourite and we returned to it twice, ever creatures of habit. This is a low ley grill restaurant, with excellent fresh salads, meat and ice cold white wine.

For a more upscale affair, try Salt (sushi) , Lift (rooftop steak restaurant) or Artigiaino (Italian).

For a pre-dinner drink, we enjoyed Goat Gastro Bar . It has wonderful seats on the pavement on a quiet Tirana street and has a good wine list. If you’re after somewhere a bit more budget, Cafe du Pont is a local joint with a bit of a dive bar (in a good way) feel.

For cocktails or an after dinner drink, we loved Hemingway Bar. Sure, it’s a little gimmicky, but we very much enjoyed a rum or two as we sat outside watching old movies on the projector screen. Find it he re .

Albania itinerary day six: Tirana and Berat

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We spent half a day in Tirana before heading to Berat in the early evening. Berat is a short journey from Tirana, so you can easily travel between the two in a day and still find time for sightseeing.

Berat is a UNESCO heritage site, known as the “town of a thousand windows”, because of the unique architecture. The river Osum cuts through the town, dividing the two neighbourhoods of Mangalem and Gorica.

We hadn’t quite appreciated how beautiful Berat would be, nor how popular. It really is right on the tourist trail. In part, because of the location just south of Tirana. But also because of the history and cultural significance. Plus, Berat is nestled cosily in the middle of wine country (more on that below!)

After arriving to Berat by bus (and taking a short nap!) we explored the town. On our first evening, we explored the cobbled streets of Mangalem before settling in for sunset drinks and supper on the Gorica side of the river.

The bus from Tirana to Berat takes between two and three hours and costs 400 LEK. It is a regular bus, normally running once an hour or so. The tricky bit is getting to the bus station in the first place, which is not in the centre of town. You can find the location on Google Maps here.

When you arrive in Berat, you will also not arrive into the centre. the bus station is around 30 minutes walk or a short taxi ride from the historic centre of the town.

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Berat is small and very walkable. In a day, you can easily cover the main attractions.

We suggest starting early morning to walk up to the castle, avoiding the heat of the day. There are two routes to the castle, one more scenic and one short cut ( found here. ) The castle is really more of a ruin of a citadel, than a castle. Spend an hour or so exploring up here, perhaps enjoying a coffee. Be sure to also see the ruins of the cistern and the Mosque too.

After this, we recommend ambling around the old town on both sides of the river. Stop by gift shops and quaint places for lunch or a drink. It’s best to be on the Gorica side of the river for sunset. You can climb a hill in Gorica to watch the sunset, or just stop for a drink in Good Vibes bar instead.

Once sun has started to set, head to the newer part of Berat to the promenade. We sat in the park here for a while, watching the locals come out for an evening stroll, kids playing and the older gentleman engaged in some uber competitive board games. Once darkness has fallen, grab drinks on the promenade (see where to eat and drink below).

We had read quite conflicting things about the price difference between Mangalem and Gorica, with many blogs suggesting that Gorica is much cheaper than it’s neighbour. In our experience, there really wasn’t much difference at all. In fact, accommodation in Mangalem was very inexpensive. Berat in general is one of the cheaper places to stay on our two week itinerary, so you may want to splurge a little on a luxurious spot.

Budget: Try Hava Baci Guesthouse , a low key family run space nestled into the cobbled streets of Mangalem.

Mid-Range: Guesthouse Gjergo is a spacious and well located mid-range guesthouse in the heart of Mangelam with a supurb rating on Booking.com.

Luxury: If you are looking for a luxury stay in Berat, staying within the castle wall has to be the best option. Berati Castle Hotel is just that, a 4 star hotel inside the castle walls. Total romance.

Homemade food Lilli, is the top rated restaurant in Berat and a very popular place. It seemed that every tourist in town was trying to eat there, suffice to say, it is difficult to get in without a reservation.

For local food we enjoyed the grill restaurant Xhimtiku Grill , which can be found across the river. This is a very low key place, but popular with locals and tourists alike. It is handily next to a fabulous bar, Good Vibes , where you can savour a cocktail with a sunset view of the river.

The modern area of Berat has an enjoyable promenade, lined with the bars which excellent for a drink with some people viewing. Be sure to stroll here after dinner for a nightcap.

Albania itinerary day seven: Berat

We chose to spend a second day in Berat, in part because it is a lovely town, but also we were keen to visit a vineyard in the area and slow down the pace a bit from the previous couple of days of travelling.

Waking up early to beat the heat, we took a morning walk up to the castle before enjoying a slow cup of coffee in town. Once the weather had cooled, we took a (slightly hair raising) taxi ride to the Pupa vineyard to enjoy some wine tasting and food.

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If you take a second day in Berat, you can continue to explore the town, visiting museums and enjoying long lunches. As an alternative, you can explore local vineyards.

Pupa Winery is a family run winery around 20 minutes from Berat. We visited for a delightful wine tasting and tour. For 150 Lek (around 15 Euros) we were treated to three wines and a glass or Raki, plus a spread of nibbles. It may not have been the best wine tasting we have ever been to, but we really enjoyed learning a little more about Albanian wine. And of course, the excuse for some afternoon wine drinking.

Nurellari Winery is a larger winery around 10 minutes walk from Pupa. We understand that they offer a wine tasting of five wines for 25 Euros. Unfortunately, you must book ahead and we weren’t able to call in for an impromptu tasting. Do book ahead if you want to to do the double and visit Nurellari as well as Pupa.

Albania itinerary day eight, none and ten: Himare and surrounds

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After the Alps and the towns and cities, it’s time to retreat to the Albanian Rivieria. You could choose to base yourself anywhere along the coast, we opted for Himare as a base for a few days, in part because it is close to other beaches that can be explored on foot. But, also because it is a more laid back town and very affordable. Himare was definitely our favourite coastal area and one we would return to.

💡Another option is to base yourself in Dhermi for a few days. This makes it easier to explore Gjiepe. If you stay in Dhermi you should be able to head South to Himare or Saranda on public bus, but this may require some help from a local in the know to work out the exact timings of the bus passing Dhermi. Nevertheless we do think it is possible as numerous buses pass Dhermi on route from Vlora to Saranda every day. In Albania it is common to flag down buses and also to disembark the bus at unofficial stops. Just note, Dhermi is a little more expensive than Himare.

From Tirana, you can take a direct bus to Himare, or two connecting buses via Vlora. We opted for the latter, as we had a plan to do some hiking from Dhermi (North of Himare). More on that below.

We would suggest opting for the direct bus to Himare if you can. It departs twice per day at 05:30 and 13:00 and costs 1000 lek. The bus departs here on the outskirts of Tirana, but arrives directly to the centre of Himare.

Beaches in Himare

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Himare is such a perfect beach town. We loved how accessible the beaches are and the fact they are public.

The main one in town is Plazhi i Maraçit. But you can pretty much pitch your towel anywhere along the coast in Himare for a wonderful day of sunbathing and bobbing about in the sea.

Beaches near Himare

As we are avid hiking fans, we attempted to walk the Southern Coastal Trail along the Albanian Riviera. In classic “best laid plans” style, this was quickly aborted. In part, because it was simply too hot to hike. But also, and more importantly, because the trails are either overgrown or no longer exist.

I mention this, firstly as a warning to anyone considering walking the Southern Costal trail in Albania . And secondly because when walking parts of the trail, we discovered that there are some excellent beaches near to Himare that you can get to on foot.

Here are three of our favourite beaches in the area around Himare:

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1/ Livadi Beach

Livadi Beach is a very undeveloped beach with cute tavernas, a short 30 minute walk from Hiamre. Visit here for peace and quiet and lower prices than Himare.

2/ Jala Beach

Around 30 minutes further from Livadi, you can walk on to Jala Beach. Jala was one of our favourites, albeit it is a little expensive for sunbeds. But the water is some of the nicest we found in the area. Crystal clear and calm.

3/ Gjipe Beach

Gjipe can only be reached by foot but you can get close to it by car or cab. There’s a car park 1.5km from the beach with a short trail to the beach. The main road is around 3km away, with a scenic hiking trail leading to the beach.

Gjipe is a stunning beach, rugged and a lot less developed than nearby beaches as it’s so remote. From Himare, it is difficult to get here on public transport, but you have a few options.

Firstly, you could hire a scooter for the day to explore the coastline. Secondly, you could take a taxi to and from Gjipe. Or, for the more adventurous, technically you can walk from Himare to Gjipe. It is around 14km, and a mix of trails. Some parts are difficult, with steep climbs and overgrown trails (Jala to Gjipe), but the section from Himare to Jala is easy.

For more information on the best beaches in Albania, you can visit our article here (published soon).

Budget: Himara Hostel is one of the best budget options in town, close to the beach and with a central location. This is a popular hostel. Camping is another alternative ( see below).

Mid-Range: Himare has lots of low key apartments, some with sea views and they are mostly quite inexpensive. Sea View Breeze is one such option. For just a little more money, Argjile Rooms is a fancier option, with a swimming pool.

Luxury: A little out of town, but perched on a hill, is Wait and Sea, a hotel with an exclusive feel.

Camping in Himare

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We camped on the coast of Albania and we would really recommend this option for budget travellers, or nature lovers.

The choice for camping in Himare is excellent. We stayed at two sites and would recommend both. The bonus of camping in Albania is that you don’t need to take any camping stuff, tents, sheets and mattresses are supplied.

1/ Pine Side – this is a MEGA campsite, a totally chilled place to stay for a few days. It is particularly special because it has a swimming spot right by the tents, and you can hear the sea from your bed. We loved the simplicity of waking up, swimming and chilling out. You can also walk to town and the main beach in around 5 minutes.

2/ Olive Camping – a different vibe to Pine Side, this is a family run campsite and much quieter. Set in a field surrounded by olive groves, it is a clean, carefully run and spacious campsite. It also happened to be next to one of the best places we ate in Himare, Taverna Velco.

We cooked in our campsite a few times, so didn’t eat out in Himare that much. But there are a few places we can recommend, Kafe Pasticcieria 28 is a delight for coffee and cake. Furre Himare is an excellent bakery, as everywhere in Albania, we enjoyed Burek (savoury pastry) for breakfast from here and a Baklava in the afternoon.

For dinner, the restaurants all along the seafront are comparable prices. Any tavernas and restaurants on the streets behind the sea front tend to be better food and lower prices. Our favourite taverna, Taverna Velco , was a Greek place a little out of the way, but worth it for the excellent service and food.

Albania itinerary day eleven, twelve and thirteen: Ksamil and surrounds

Which is better: saranda or ksamil.

If you decide to travel further South, one of the decisions you will have is whether to base yourself in Saranda or Ksamil.

We had read many blogs and seen a lot about Ksamil on social media and it’s fair to say that this was one of the destinations that we were most excited to visit. However, we had quite a mixed impression of Ksamil.

On one hand, Ksamil is very beautiful, especially the water. But, the beaches have been taken over by beach clubs and apart from a few slithers of sand and a few rocks, it is difficult to find any public space on the beach. Instead, you will have to pay for sun loungers and umbrellas, which can cost anything from 10 Euros to 60 Euros! This isn’t’ usually our travel style, and it felt a little decadent but we have to admit that we did enjoy a day at a beach club. However, there is no getting away from the fact that it Ksamil is at maximum capacity in the summer, and it feels that way. Restaurants are bars along the beach tend to be overpriced, 5 Euros is standard for a wine and up to 10 Euros for a cocktail.

Conversely, we weren’t that excited to visit Saranda. But we had a really great time. It is true that Saranda does not have the prettiest beaches, it is more of a port town. But it does have beaches, they are public and have plenty of space. We loved the restaurant scene in Saranda and the nightlife. On one day we stumbled upon a beach bar hosting a day rave and over the weekend we found ourselves partying on the promenade at a free music festival. We also found that the accommodation was some of the best value during our trip and food and drink was very affordable too.

For budget travellers, in all honesty we would recommend staying in Saranda and taking a day trip to Ksamil. This way, you could take advantage of the cheaper prices in Saranda and splurge on one day of sun lounger loveliness in Ksamil. For the purpose of this itinerary, we have assumed that most readers will want to visit Ksamil, but if you want to know more about Saranda, check out our post here.

This feels like a bit of a topic of debate, so we’ve written a full piece about Saranda or Ksamil, that you can find here.

Alternative to Saranda and Ksamil

💡You can have an enjoyable time on the beaches in Albania without coming as far South as Saranda and Ksamil. If you are looking for a more relaxing final week of your Albania trip, we would recommend staying in Himare for a full six nights rather than travelling further South. Himare is much less developed, it has a really nice laid back feel and is a touch less expensive than the South. Plus, the beaches around Himare are more authentic than those in Ksamil, which are man made with imported sand.

Travelling from Himare to Ksamil is relatively easy, but you do need to take two buses. Firstly, from Himare, head to the “bus station”, as marked on Google maps here . Not actually a bus station, just a stop. One side is for Tirana and the other in the direction of Saranda. There’s normally a man there assisting and confirming the time of the bus.

The bus from Himare to Saranda takes around 1 hour 30 minutes, depending on traffic. It’s a pretty crazy journey along the coastal roads, stunning scenery, but quite disruptive for anyone who suffers from motion sickness. Tickets cost 1000 LEK (really quite OTT pricing for Albania and definitely a bit of tourist tax included.) Bus times are a little unclear, we got one at 11:00 which seems to run every day. But, we recommend checking times the day before, if you’ve got a particular schedule to keep.

From Saranda, you can take a local bus to Ksamil. The bus leaves at a different stop to where you will be dropped off, but it’s not far at all. You can find the bus stop here (Google Maps.) In summer season, buses run every 30 minutes, on the hour and at half past. The cost is 150 LEK. In Ksamil, there are three bus stops (all marked on Google Maps), so just jump off at the one nearest to your accommodation.  

Beaches in Ksamil

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There are two main beach areas in Ksamil. Both are created by imported sand, they are beautiful but have a bit of an artificial feel.

This area, plazhi i ksamilit is the party beach. Music is loud, loungers are crowded, jet skis zip about during the day. We even spotted a day time foam party when we were there. It’s fun and definitely where I would want to be if I was with a big group of friends. To escape the crowds, you can walk a little further up around here. Quieter beach bars await you.

The second area, around here , is much quieter and more suitable for families and couples trying to romance. The water is calm and clear and prices are cheaper too. We recommend Paradise Beach where you can hire loungers for 10 Euros, or Ohanas Beach club , where prices are the same.

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Public beach Ksamil

Contrary to what we had read online before arriving in Ksamil, there is actually a small slice of public beach and it’s really lovely. You can find it here at Paradise Beach . If you don’t have an umbrella and you want shade, there are rocks nearby with shade in the afternoon.

What to do near Ksamil

Depending on your appetite for exploring, you may be happy to spend another day on the beach in Ksamil. If not, there are a few alternative options for your last day.

If you want to try a new beach, particularly a public one, head for Gjiri i Harets . This takes less than 10 minutes on the bus from Ksamil, plus a 10 minute walk. You’ll find a delightful and much quieter public beach to enjoy all day.

Another option is to head to Butrint National Archeological Park for something a little different to a beach day. We didn’t choose to visit, so cannot comment on whether it is worth the 1000 LEK (10 Euro) entrance fee, but it is a popular destination. You can read more here on the excellent The Adventurous World blog.

Budget: Villa Alfio , where we stayed in Ksamil, is one of the lesat expensive accommodation options in Ksamil. Around 10 minutes from the beach, this property is quiet, spacious and well run.

Mid-Range: Hotel Meta Ksamil, is possibly one of the closest properties to the beach. It is also inexpensive for a four star property.

Luxury: Valmar Hote l is a luxury property modern and well designed, complete with a swimming pool.

Restaurants and bars in Ksamil are dotted along the coast. Many are overpriced and have mixed reviews. The best that we found were Coco Beach , a low key spot for an early evening drink. Pisko Beach bar is an ideal place to enjoy the sunset with a cocktail, before eating at popular pizza restaurant Rolling Pizza next door.

Away from the beach, you’ll find the less expensive and better restaurants along the main road, which is sort of a “strip”. I am both ashamed, but also a little proud to say, that we ate Souvlaki at Beshiku taverna two days in a row and would recommend it.

Albania itinerary day fourteen: Travel home via Tirana Airport

The last day is sadly the day to pack up the bikini, throw away the leftover sunscreen and return home via Tirana airport.

There are no direct buses from Ksamil to Tirana. Instead, you must take a bus from Ksamil to Saranda and then travel from there onward to Tirana.

In peak season, the bus between Ksamil and Saranda leaves every 30 minutes. It is difficult to predict the exact time of departure, but head to bus stop three, two or one in Ksamil and the bus will be along soon enough. Current price at time of writing is 150 LEK.

You will get dropped off near to the main terminal. If you are in a hurry, we recommend trying to get off the Ksamil bus before your fellow passengers, it’s likely that many of them will be heading to Tirana and the Tirana bus can get quite full.

Bus Saranda to Tirana

Prices are 1700 LEK per person, a significant increase on recent years and frankly a bit of a rip off.

The bus should take around 4 and a half hours but often the driver will stop for an extended break, sometimes up to an hour. Unless you have a late flight, we do not recommend risking the bus on the same day as your flight. Instead, travel to Tirana on the previous evening.

If you plan to head straight to the airport from the bus station in Tirana, you will need to take a taxi. Otherwise, you can take a bus into Tirana city centre and then a later bus from outside the Palace of Culture to the airport. This bus runs once an hour costs 400 LEK and takes only 30 minutes. You can find more information on this excellent website Albania Tour Guide.

💡In 2024, Albania will be building a new airport on Vlora, this will make it easier to fly home from the coastal towns. Until then, if you don’t fancy the journey back to Tirana, you could take a ferry from Saranda back to Corfu and fly back from there. The ferry from Saranda to Corfu takes 30 minutes and costs around 25 Euros.

Albania itinerary: FAQs and tips

Logistics and getting around.

As we have shown, it is possible to get around Albania without a hire car. That said, it is certainly much more complicated and slower than if you had a hire car. The bottom line, is that it that public transport in Albania is the budget option and it does feel budget. There are no trains or fancy modes of transport, although taxis are an option in most areas.

If you decide to travel around Albania using public transport we suggest two things. Firstly, plan a little bit ahead so that you know when/ where you can get transport. Secondly, try to take the rough with the smooth – keep an open mind and expect the unexpected!

What are buses like in Albania?

Buses in Albania operate a fairly informal approach to timekeeping and collecting passengers. This is not really the type of place where one can book a seat on a bus and expect everything to work perfectly. Instead, you have to allow for delays and hiccups along the way.

Most buses are small “mini buses”, they tend to be owned by the driver and can be dated. Many don’t have aircon, or even windows that open. We have never sweated so much as we did on the drive from Berat to Vlora on a bus with literally no air! Quite often the driver will open the door to let air in (yes, even as you drive.) It’s also not uncommon to find a bus with passengers standing in the aisle or sitting in makeshift seats.

How to book buses in Albania

Short answer – you can’t really book buses in Albania. Buses operate on a much more informal system. For many, you can rock up to the bus station and hop onto a bus without booking in advance or much planning. For example, the Tirana to Berat bus or the Himare to Saranda bus. But, with others, longer buses particularly, you will need to buy a ticket and may need to wait a few hours to get onto a bus. The Saranda to Tirana bus service is a bit like this.

If you head up to the Albanian Alps, you can normally “book” a ticket through your guest house the night before. In reality, this means that your guesthouse will call a bus driver and tell him that you need to be collected the next day, but you won’t receive a formal ticket or anything like that.

How to get to Albania

The international airport in Albania is Tirana. There are regular flights to and from Tirana to most major European cities. If you’re travelling to Albania as part of a bigger European trip (why not!) then you can also travel overland into Albania. For example, buses from Montenegro into Albania are easy to arrange.

The other options for flights is to fly into Corfu, this is especially helpful if you plan to visit Saranda or Ksamil to the South of Albania, both are a short hop from Corfu. Finally, if heading to the North of Albania , you could also consider flights to Podgorica in neighboring Montenegro, which is a short hop from Shkoder.

Finally, you can also get a ferry from Italy to Albania – it’s actually a lot more fun that it sounds! Find out more here.

A few notes on the optimum Albanian itinerary

How much time to spend in the albanian alps.

Many people arrive in the Albanian Alps just to hike from Theth to Valbona or the other way round. Although this takes two to three days of travelling, it only includes one day of hiking, which seems a shame to me.

The Albanian Alps are fairly remote and difficult to get to. If you’re going to travel all that way, why not stay for a little longer? To use a British phrase “in for a penny, in for a pound.”

I think the best itinerary for Albanian Alps hiking would be a minimum of three days of hiking, but four days total travel time. You could also spend longer if you have time and are really into hiking and the outdoors.

How long to spend in Tirana

Tirana is a fairly small city, but it if you enjoy a city break then it is very much worthwhile visiting the capital of Albania during your vacation. Even as part of a summer itinerary, we would really advocate a stop off in the capital. In the summer, the city is alive with people enjoying the weather and spilling out of cafes and bars. Despite the heat you may feel elsewhere, Tirana doesn’t generally feel too hot either, especially at night.

We would suggest that you spend at least 24 hours in Tirana, more if you can. But, our two week itinerary allows for just a short 24 hour stop off. In this time, you can see the main sites and pick a nice spot for dinner and drinks to enjoy the city. Perhaps you’ll make plans to return again in future after a brief taste of what Tirana has to offer.

Beaches in Albania

Public and private beaches in albania.

Something to consider if you’re hitting up the Albanian riviera, is the distinction between a public and a private beach. This may be an unfamiliar concept to some, but Albania has some beaches which are completely privatized. This means that they are managed by either hotels or beach clubs and you must pay to hire sun loungers and umbrellas to enjoy the beach.

Many private beaches will have security at the gate preventing passers by from using the beach, unless they pay for the pleasure. Some are more relaxed and you may be able to get away with popping onto the beach for a quick dip (I did this a few times in Ksamil), but if you dare to put your towel down you will be moved on.

Public beaches, in contrast, are free to use for anyone. You can take towels and your own umbrellas onto public beaches, just find a space and relax. Most public beaches also have life guards too, which may make them safer for people travelling with children.

You can find out more about beaches in our blog post above (Himare, Saranda and Ksamil) or in our guide to the best beaches in Albania (published soon.)

What is the currency in Albania?

Officially, the currency in Albania is LEK. However, you can almost always use Euros as well. Guesthouses, hostels and hotels will normally provide a rate in Euros and will expect most people to pay with Euros, but will of course accept LEK too. Restaurants and bars are more likely to expect LEK and you’ll find menus in LEK. However, most will accept Euros too. Sometimes you may even pay in LEK and be given Euros change, or vice versa.

Can you use credit card in Albania?

Albania is very much still a cash based society. More so than any country we have travelled to for a long time. In our entire three weeks in Albania, we were able to use a card once or twice in restaurants and supermarkets. But, the vast majority of time we had to pay cash. Every guest house, hotel and hostel operated on a cash only basis. So, prepare in advance and make sure you take cash or get cash out on arrival.

Are there ATMs in Albania?

ATMs are easy to find in Albania but we did not manage to find one that did not charge an extortionate fee. We often paid between 5 Euros (500 LEK) and 8 Euros (800 LEK) just for the pleasure of withdrawing cash. The fee is calculated on a percentage basis too. Ouch.

Is Albania expensive?

It would be difficult to call Albania expensive, but we certainly found that prices were higher than we had anticipated. In part, this may be because it is August and peak season. In part, this was also down to the fact that the LEK is currently strong against the Euro. During our trip, the LEK rose to 110LEK to 1 Euro, a near 5% increase over three weeks.

As you may expect, prices in Alania are higher in popular tourist areas, such as Ksamil in comparison to Tirana and more low-key beach resorts, like Durres and Himare. By way of example, a glass of wine in Tirana would cost around 200 LEK (around 2 Euros), versus a typical glass in Ksamil at around 500 LEK (5 Euros). Honestly, we think that prices in some tourist areas may have been raised a little too high, artificially so. It’s possible that they will come down again, but this relies on tourists voting with their feet!

The cheapest areas we stayed in in Albania were Berat, Saranda, Himare and Tirana. Whereas, the more expensive were Theth, Valbona, Dhermi and Ksamil.

Typical costs in Albania

Here’s a breakdown of typical costs in Albania as of August 2023:

There are some unexpected costs in Albania to consider. For example, ATMs charge around 5 Euros per transaction for foreign cards. You also need to buy bottled water in Albania.

Culture and language

Culture in albania.

We clearly cannot profess to know a lot about Albanian culture after three weeks of travelling their, but there were a few things that we picked up on our trip:

  • Topless sunbathing or nudity of any kind is not acceptable in Albania – it is not strictly illegal, but could be considered an indecent public act, which is illegal.
  • Although topless bathing is considered indecent, the dress code in Albania is not strict. You can find our Albania packing list here (published soon.)
  • Smoking in public places is technically banned – but in reality it is completely acceptable. Smoking is popular in Albania and ashtrays are found on most tables in cafes, bars and restaurants.
  • Tipping is normal, we tended to add 10% to a restaurant bill.
  • The majority of Albania’s are Muslim, bu most do not practice. That said, you will see Mosques and hear the call to prayer often. Most towns have a Mosque and a church.

Language in Albania

The language in Albania is Albanian, although there are some minorities who speak native languages like Greek. The vast majority of people speak some English, but Albanians frequently also speak Italian. In general, anyone working in the tourist industry will speak some English. The word for thank you in Albanian is “faleminderit” – it can be nice to learn this and use it during your trip.

Tech and Mobile coverage

Is there wifi readily available in albania.

Every guesthouse, hostel and hotel that we travelled to had WiFi. Whilst some connections were not great, we generally found most had high speed internet available for guests. Cafes, restaurants and bars tend to have WiFi available for customers and are wiling to give out the password readily.

Phone signal

If you are travelling to Albania and planning to drive or take public transport, we recommend having a working SIM card. We recommend Airalo SIM cards , although they are a little more expensive, we love using e-sims for ease.

Albania Travel Guide

If you’re looking for a more detailed travel guide for Albania, you can now purchase our Short Guide to Albania. A 119 page ebook, detailing the best experiences in Albania, vital information to help you travel and suggested itineraries. Buy it now in our online shop.

A travel guide to Albania

Written by Emma

Wine Lover. Yogi. Hiker. Writer.

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5 responses to “our two week albania itinerary: an epic road trip without a hire car”.

[…] Find out more about Gjipe Beach here. […]

[…] Do note, you don’t have to travel South to find excellent beaches on the Albanian riviera. You can find out more below on alternatives to visiting Saranda or Ksamil, and in our two week itinerary here. […]

[…] We recently traveled around Albania using public transport – you can find our two week itinerary, a road trip without a hire car here. […]

[…] city fans, Tirana is a must, although it may not seem it, this city has a lot to offer. Fly into there and enjoy 2 nights […]

[…] 2) Transport – I’ve heard mixed things about Albania’s transport. The main systems seem to be private buses and taxi vans as, rather than public buses. There is a train system but its renowned for being slow. You can find out more about Albania transport here on our guide to travelling around the country. […]

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Longer Trips in Cheaper Destinations — And Why Albania Is Getting So Popular

Elizabeth Casolo , Skift

May 14th, 2024 at 9:00 AM EDT

Travelers are still booking flights despite inflation. Where some of those flights are headed may be different, though.

Elizabeth Casolo

Italy and Greece may come to mind when planning a summer holiday in Europe . But travelers are gravitating toward other destinations that offer similar amenities at lower prices. A 2024 travel trends report from Mastercard showed increased air traffic and longer stays in some cheaper destinations.

“People are trying to be very thoughtful about how they can continue to enjoy travel and enjoy these experiences within their budget,” said Mastercard Chief Economist Michelle Meyer.

Albania is one standout budget-friendly destination. The country has had a 141% increase in daily flight traffic since 2019. For this summer, the Albanian capital of Tirana — which is close to some beach hotels — is witnessing an increase in its share of flight bookings from pre-pandemic levels. The report calls it one of this year’s trending summer destinations.

“There has been more of potentially a focus on tourism in terms of increasing the number of flights that are moving in, trying to facilitate more tourism, which is, of course, an effort to support greater economic growth,” said Meyer on Albania’s popularity.

An extra day for a traveler’s stay

Another change: Travelers are staying about one day longer on trips than they did in 2019. This trend is most prominent in destinations that have not experienced a steep increase in hotel prices.

For example, in markets with the smallest price change, travelers added 2.1 days. In markets with the biggest increase, travelers added less than one day.

The Middle East and Africa, followed by Europe, are the regions with the greatest trip extensions from 2019.

Meyer thinks the post-pandemic spike in “bleisure” travel — fusing business and leisure — may be contributing to this boost in longer stays. The hybrid work model that evolved from the pandemic leads to more flexibility.

“To travel for work, you can add on a leisure trip. If you travel for leisure, you can add in one day working from anywhere or be able to integrate your work into your leisure activity,” Meyer said.

What else to know

  • A record-breaking total of around 15.9 million Americans traveled abroad in the first quarter of 2024.
  • Japan had the highest increase in share of tourist spending from last year. The U.S. and Canadian currencies’ strength against the Japanese yen led Japan to becoming a trending destination.
  • The surge in events-based travel, like with Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour , remains. Munich — a host of the upcoming UEFA European Championship — tops the list of Mastercard’s most in-demand summer destinations, with Tokyo and Tirana close behind.
  • The share of passenger arrivals by sea has gone up in the Bahamas since late 1999. Originally at roughly 60%, that percentage was over 80% for Bahamas arrivals in February. Cruise transactions overall are up from 2019.
  • Egypt’s currency devaluation and tourism investment could eventually position it to be a major player for those looking to travel to the Middle East and North Africa in coming years, Meyer said. Egypt’s 2027 eclipse will be another event to look out for.

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Tags: albania , bahamas , coronavirus recovery , cruise , euro 2024 , europe , germany , japan , Mastercard , middle east , munich , north africa , tokyo , Travel Trends , uefa

Photo credit: Street in Durrës, Albania. Árpád Czapp / Unsplash

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