ALBANIA TRAVEL GUIDE

Albania is located in southeastern Europe’s Balkan Peninsula. It’s a fairly small country, but has a lot of diversity: from the Ionian and Adriatic coastlines, to a mountainous interior, and many castles and archeological sites. Add to that a Mediterranean climate plus affordable prices and you have a very attractive travel destination! Over the past centuries, Albania has been in relative isolation in terms of tourism because of its turbulent history. But today, it’s developing quickly and welcoming visitors from all around the globe. In this article, we’ll highlight 15 amazing places that you should visit in Albania. We will also cover things we learned from our trip to Albania as well as potential travel itineraries for your trip. Click any of the supplementary articles listed to see more details about those specific areas as well!

Albania Travel Guide

Check out our video of the best places to visit in Albania for a more detailed look!

Table Of Contents

Albania Best Places To Visit

Albania has a lot to offer. From beautiful blue coastlines to a rugged and mountainous interior, you will have lots of options to get lost in nature. There are also many interesting and historical small towns to choose from. If you want a vibrant city experience with choices of museums, then Tirana is the spot for you. We'll now break down the 15 best places to visit in Albania.

Tirana

We start our countdown in the center of the country… You can’t visit Albania without exploring its vibrant capital city of Tirana! Whether you like to enjoy the diverse food scene, explore the museums and surrounding castles, or have a night out at the trendy clubs and bars, you won’t get bored in Tirana. Start your journey at Skanderbeg Square, which is Tirana’s focal point. You can learn about the history of the country and city during a free walking tour here. Bunk’Art 1 is located in the outskirts and a must-visit if you’re interested in Albania’s painful communist past. Find more things to do in this exciting city in our full Tirana article.

Albania travel

Tirana downtown

Berat

Heading south from Tirana, we have the town of Berat. this UNESCO World Heritage Site is known for its historic architecture combined with beautiful nature scenery. It’s often nicknamed the “town of a thousand windows” because of the Ottoman-era houses with large windows that overlook the town. One attraction you can’t miss is Berat Castle, a fortress that dates back to Roman Times. Within its walls, you’ll find ancient Byzantine churches mixed in with ruins from other time periods. But given its location on the hill, the castle also offers incredible panoramic views of Berat and its surrounding nature.

Osumi Canyon

Situated between Permet and Berat, the Osumi River Canyon is Albania’s very own Grand Canyon. With walls reaching over 80 meters, or 262 ft in some sections, this is one of the most underrated spots in the country. A milky turquoise river flows through the canyon, offering different types of activities during the various seasons. We were there during the summer, so had the opportunity to do some canyoning ourselves.

osumi canyon albania

Osumi Canyon

Permet & The Fir of Hotova National Park

The small town of Permet lies along the Vjosa River in southern Albania. Surrounded by impressive mountains, canyons, and beautiful countryside, this is one of the best-kept secrets in the country. The most unique sight you can visit here are the nearby Benja Thermal Baths, which are sulfur springs that emerge from deep tectonic cracks in the Lengarica Canyon. You can soak in the water here as they’re supposed to have healing properties! But the scenic Vjosa Valley, unique Sopolit waterfall, and lush Fir of Hotova National Park are also worth exploring.

hiking in albania

Sopolit Waterfall Hike

Gjirokaster

Situated on a hillside in the south of Albania, Gjirokaster is our favorite town in the entire country. It’s a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, distinguished by ancient history, Ottoman-style architecture, and cobbled streets. And while walking around the old town is an experience in itself, it’s the grand castle that towers above the center that is the star attraction. Learn all about Gjirokaster during a guided walking tour, sample the unique local cuisine, or explore the nature around. Find more details about this magical town in our full Gjirokaster article.

The Blue Eye

One of Albania’s most popular tourist attractions is the Blue Eye. This natural phenomenon is located in southern Albania, near the major tourist towns along the Albanian Riviera. From a viewing platform you can see the clear turquoise water with oxygen bubbles rising up from a karst hole with more than 50 meters of depth. But besides observing this event, it’s also enjoyable to walk through the forest and experience the diverse flora and fauna of the area!

Butrint National Park

Next, we have Butrint National Park. This is one of the most important archeological sites in Albania. Sitting next to a picturesque lagoon, this UNESCO World Heritage Site dates back to as early as the 12th Century BC. It was inhabited by different cultures over time, such as the Greeks, Romans, and Venetians. Elements of these cultures are visible in the archeological site today, such as the Roman theater, the Venetian Castle, and the Great Basilica. You only need 2 to 3 hours to see the entire site, so you can easily combine it with a visit to the nearby beaches in the area.

Butrint national park in albania

Roman Theater

Albanian Riviera

The Albanian Riviera is probably the most popular place to visit in Albania and spans over the districts of Saranda and Vlora in the southwest. The coastline along the Riviera is rugged with many rocky mountains and unbelievably clear, blue waters. However, keep in mind that many of the beaches are private and cost money to rent chairs. So if you want peaceful beaches that don’t cost money to visit, this might not be the area for you! If you do visit, the seaside towns you should stop at include Himara, Dhermi, and Saranda. We spent the majority of our time in Saranda and you can read all about the best things to do there in our Saranda article.

Llogara National Park

Llogara National Park stretches over a mountain range that splits Albania’s Adriatic and Ionian coasts. The park is home to large alpine meadows, vertical rock faces, and dense forests that are ideal for hiking, biking, and other outdoor activities. But it’s the Llogara Pass that attracts most visitors thanks to its steep zigzagging road that offers breathtaking views of the sea and beaches below.

Dajti Mountain National Park

Heading back towards the Tirana area, we have Dajti Mountain National park. It sits about 26 km, or 16 miles to the east of Tirana and rises to an elevation of 1,613 m or 5,292 feet. It’s often considered the “Balcony of Tirana”. The park is best known for the Dajti Ekspres Cable Car, which takes you from the outskirts of the city to the mountain. But the real natural beauty lies deeper in the park. The stunning Lake Bovilla is surrounded by steep mountains and feels like a true escape from the city. It’s best explored on foot and we highly recommend hiking to Gamti Mountain here!

Dajti mountain national park hiking

Cave at Gamti Mountain

Kruja

Another place that is located near Tirana, is the picturesque town of Kruja. This historic town is closely tied to Albania’s national hero, Skanderbeg, who in the 15th century defended this area from the Ottoman invasion. This makes Kruja one of the most famous towns in all of Albania! You can visit the castle and museum to learn all about Skanderbeg. But you can also visit the bazaar or enjoy amazing panoramic views as the town sits 608m or 1,994 ft above sea level.

Shkodra

Heading towards the far north of Albania, we have the city of Shkodra. It’s one of the oldest cities in the country and is located on the bank of Skhkodra lake. The main attraction is the castle of Rozafa, which was supposedly built by Illyrian tribes as early as the 9th Century B.C. And even if you’re not a history buff, the views from the castle make it well worth the visit: with the stunning Shkodra lake, the windy Buna and Drin rivers, and the city of Shkodra all visible from here.

Komani Lake

Komani Lake is a reservoir on the Drin River in northern Albania. And even though it was created by humans, it doesn’t feel that way. Its emerald waters meander for over 70 kms or 43 miles through the mountains. In some places, it gets very narrow with vertical canyon walls towering on both sides. It’s a place you won’t soon forget! The best way to explore this lake is by ferry, which takes you from the village of Koman to Fierza in about 3 hours. From there, you can continue your journey to the Albanian Alps.

Komani lake boat trip

Komani Lake Boat Trip

Valbona Valley National Park

Located about an hour north of Komani Lake, Valbona Valley National Park boasts the most beautiful natural scenery in all of Albania. Home to jagged mountain peaks and a deep river valley, this is a mecca for climbing and hiking! There are many hikes in the area, but our favorite was Rosi peak as we could see the mountains of Montenegro from the top. Many travelers also come here to hike the famous Valbona-Theth Trail, which is a point-to-point trek that takes you to the alpine village of Theth. Learn more about this famous hike, the Komani Lake ferry, and other sights in the park in our Albanian Alps video.

Theth National Park

Theth National Park lies to the west of Valbona in the center of the Albanians Alps. It’s the most popular alpine region in the country as it’s easier to access than Valbona thanks to its new road. Theth is home to stunning mountain vistas and a variety of natural attractions that can be explored on foot, such as the Blue Eye and the Grunas Waterfalls. One of the most photographed sights here is the church, which is located in the town itself. But if you want to avoid some of the crowds, it might be best to look at alternative trails. You can find up-to-date trail maps at the tourist center in town.

Theth church

Theth Church

 

Interactive Map Of Albania

Since there are so many beautiful places to see in Albania, we recommend renting a car and driving around the country if you can. This will save you time while also allowing you to see some of the more remote spots in the country. To get to all of the spots we mentioned in this article, simply click on one of the destinations in the map below and then click "Get Directions".

 

Albania Travel Tips

Albania has only been really open for tourism since the mid-90's. Thus, there are still things that the country is learning in terms of creating comfortable experiences for tourists. That is not to say you shouldn't visit the country. You should! Just keep in mind that there are a few things you should know before going to make your trip the best it can be. Here are 3 things that we learned from our 5-week trip around Albania:

  1. Albania is very mountainous, which means that many of the places are located on steep hills. Be prepared to walk a lot! 

  2. Driving in Albania can be challenging and you have to be very careful. Not only because of road conditions, but also because of the driving behavior of locals. 

  3. You need to carry cash at all times as most places don’t accept credit cards. It’s best to withdraw cash at Credins Bank as it doesn’t charge a fee. 

 

Albania Itinerary Options

Albania is not a huge country, but there is a lot to explore! For visiting all of the highlights that we mentioned in this article, we recommend 2-3 weeks. But if you only have 7 days or 10 days, then you will have to pick and choose which areas you want to visit. If you have more time in Albania, it’s also worth checking out other destinations that we didn’t mention, such as Durrës, Apollonia, Korça, and Lake Ohrid. Here are some itinerary options for you.

If you have 7 days:

  • Tirana (1-2 days)

  • Berat + Osumi Canyon (1-2 days)

  • Gjirokaster (1-2 days)

  • Blue Eye + Butrint National Park (1 day)

  • Albanian Riviera (1-2 days)

If you have 10 days:

  • Tirana (1-2 days)

  • Berat + Osumi Canyon (1-2 days)

  • Gjirokaster (1-2 days)

  • Blue Eye + Butrint National Park (1 day)

  • Albanian Riviera (1 day)

  • Shkodra + Theth (2-3 days)

If you have 14 days:

  • Tirana (1-2 days)

  • Dajti Mountain National Park (1 day)

  • Berat + Osumi Canyon (1-2 days)

  • Permet (1-2 days)

  • Gjirokaster (1-2 days)

  • Blue Eye + Butrint National Park (1 day)

  • Albanian Riviera + Llogara National Park (1-2 days)

  • Kruja + Shkodra (1 day)

  • Komani Lake + Valbona Valley to Theth (3-4 days)

 

More Albania Articles

We have specific articles for many of the destinations listed above. These articles go into more detail about best things to do in those areas and they also include additional maps for those regions. For instance, if you are interested in one of the cities we mentioned, then click on the article to find a list of best things to do there, a video about that destination specifically, and additional travel tips for that area.