Albania is basically the Balkans in a nutshell. It’s got many beautiful beaches, centuries-old monuments and stunning mountains. And yet, Albania is not yet advertised to the world much, so we figured we’d do the job for it.
We’ve recently written about Durrës, Vlorë and Sarandë, Albania’s most popular resorts. Now, let’s go over the entirety of Albania in one swoop. We recommend you stock up on Albanian Leks, as not all places support card payments.
Without further ado, though, let’s go over our list of the best sites Albania has to offer.
The Accursed Mountains
For those of you who prefer to keep your holidays active, Albania has some beautiful mountains to hike through. The Albanian Alps, usually referred to as the Accursed Mountains, are the highest range of the Dinaric Alps that stretch across the Balkans. It’s one of the last areas of Europe largely untouched by mass tourism. The Accursed Mountains are criss-crossed by a network of trails that can take several days to traverse from one point to another. Therefore, if you are not experienced in mountain hiking, you can head to the town of Theth. This is quite a touristic place and a good starting point. From here, you can make several day trips in different directions.
Lake in Albania
Lake Koman, sometimes referred to as the Albanian Fjords, is located in the north of Albania, three hours from Tirana and about 1.5h from the city of Shkodër. The surface area of this reservoir is 13 km2 and it stretches between the villages of Koman and Fierza, surrounded by high mountains. The lake was artificially created in the 1980s, during the construction of the hydroelectric plant in Fierza. It’s home to 13 species of fish and amphibians. Its biggest pull, though, is the ferry that crosses between Koman and Fierza. The cruise lasts 3 hours and the view of the lake and the soaring green mountains is simply incredible.
You can find the current ticket prices and ferry schedule here.
Gjirokastër – the City of a Thousand Steps
Small peaceful town in Albania
35 miles north of Saranda is Gjirokastër. The city has steep winding streets with stone houses covered in grey slate roofs all around. It’s thanks to them that the city was and is sometimes referred to as the ‘silver town’. It is also sometimes referred to as the City of a Thousand Steps. In 2005. Gjirokastër was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
The town is very well preserved, partially thanks to the fact that Enver Hoxha was born here. You can take a stroll through the remarkable Old Town where original Ottoman buildings dominate. Labyrinths of streets and the multitude of viewpoints give it an amazing atmosphere. There’s also a huge medieval fortress towering over the city, which was also expanded in the 15th century by the Ottomans. To this day, it’s the largest castle in Albania and the Balkans.
Berat – the City of a Thousand Windows
The most beautiful city in Albania?
Since we’ve gone through one UNESCO-listed city already, why not go for another? Berat is often referenced as the most beautiful city in all of Albania. Why the nickname? Well, it’s no great mystery, as a great many houses have been built on the hills here, all squeezed side by side and each with lots of large windows. It’s possible, though, that the nickname is a mistranslation and was actually supposed to mean “One above other windows”, as buildings do scale up on the hill, making the buildings at the top ‘above the windows’ of the houses below. Either one works, really.
Beret, just like Gjirokastër, is distinguished by its well-preserved buildings dating back to the reign of the Ottomans.
Viewpoints in Albania
LLogara Pass is one of the most beautiful viewpoints in Albania. It’s located between the coastal Vlorë and Himarë. A winding mountain road leads up to the pass, up to an altitude of 1,043 m. Once you reach the top, the road begins descending towards the sea, serpentine-like.
A historic city in Albania
Shkodër lies in the northern part of Albania, on the shores of Lake Shkodër and at the foot of the Albanian Alps. It’s the first city that you’ll encounter when entering from the north. From here, you can take a trip to the mountains and the beautiful town of Theth or relax by the lake. The town’s biggest attraction, though, is the medieval Rozafa Castle. Not only are the remains impressive but it also acts as a great viewpoint of the Alps, the lake and the rivers nearby.
Another great place for hiking in Albania
The Osum river gorge is another popular attraction in Albania. It lies 30 mi southeast of Berat. It is 16 miles long and reaches a depth of 450 m. The canyon comprises six narrow sections, ranging from 1.5m wide to 35m further down. The most beautiful of these is called Gradeci and is 2.5 miles long and no more than 1.5 m wide. There are many viewpoints and specially built viewing platforms along the canyon. Still, the best way to view the canyon is from river level. That’s why we recommend kayaking or rafting through it.
Beaches in Albania
The Albanian Riviera is the name given to the Ionian coast, from Llogara to the Greek border. Many compare it to the French Riviera. You’ll find loads of wide sandy beaches, charming resorts and beautiful coves. The most famous resorts are: Ksamil, Saranda and Dhërmi. We’d recommend you take a trip along the length of the entire Riviera if possible. There’s a highway that runs alongside it and you can stop at any tiny beach you encounter. You’ll, no-doubt, find many with not a soul, a whole beach to you and you alone. If you want to check out the more mainstream beaches, though, here’s our list of the best beaches in Albania.
Vlorë and its attractions
What to do in Vlorë?
Vlorë is a sizable coastal town and resort in central Albania, ideal for beachgoers. You can either get here by car or by ferry from Brindisi. Vlorë is a sunny town full of beautiful long beaches and a famous sunbathing destination. You can read more about Vlorë here.
What to see in Saranda?
Saranda is a famous resort on the Albanian Riviera. The city lies on the Ionian Sea, at the height of the Greek island of Corfu. A good place for beachgoers and for those of you who may want to explore Corfu as well, as there’s a ferry service from Saranda to Corfu. We’ve also gone over the best tourist attractions you find in Saranda. You’ll find the famous Blue Eye nearby, for instance.
What to see in Durrës?
Durrës is one of the most popular cities in Albania, located close to Tirana and the sea. It’s full of beaches and various interesting sights. You can read more about Durrës and its attractions here.