Planning a trip to Albania? You’ve come to the right blog! I spent 1.5 months travelling in Albania and I can confidently say I’ve seen all the country’s highlights. From the Albanian Alps to the beaches along the Albanian Riviera and everywhere in between. In this guide I’ll tell you about all the best places in Albania you’ll want to visit on your next trip to the Balkans.
Albania has SO much to offer its visitors. The people are friendly, the nature is untouched, the food is delicious, the culture and history are rich, and the cost of travelling is cheap. So cheap! In fact, I’d consider Albania a total backpacker’s paradise, if we’re factoring in cost of travel, lack of tourism, and ample opportunity for adventure.
ps – at the end of this post you’ll find a map marked with all the best places in Albania!
This post contains affiliate links; see my full disclosure. If you click these links and make a purchase you’re supporting The Holistic Backpacker. Thanks for your support & happy adventuring! – Taylor ♡
Quick Albania Travel Guide:
Currency: Albanian LEK (aka ALL). This is a closed currency so you’ll need to wait until you’re in Albania to exchange $.
Phone: purchase a SIM card from Vodafone in Albania – the plans are cheap and they include lots of data.
Language: Albanian, however you can totally get by with English.
Helpful Info: don’t drink the tap water, bring an international travel adapter, notify your bank before travelling.
Where to go in Albania
If you want to go really in depth and see everything in Albania, I’d recommend spending 1-1.5 months exploring the country. This’ll give you enough time to learn about Albania’s history, relax along the riviera, explore the ancient cities, go hiking in the Alps, and acclimate to/understand the culture.
Unfortunately not all of us have a month+ to explore Albania. So, if you’re short for time you may want to consider exploring a particular region of Albania rather than trying to cram a bunch of places into a short trip. Albania can mainly be broken down into 3 “travel specific” regions: north, inland, and south.
My favourite region in Albania was the north, however each region has something completely unique to discover and experience. I think each region warrants a visit, however the following breakdown will help you decide where to plan your next trip to Albania:
If you’re searching for the best place in Albania to go hiking, look no further than the Albanian Alps. The Albanian Alps are located in the northern region of Albania and are mainly comprised of 2 National Parks – Valbona and Theth. These 2 national parks are located in the Dinaric Alps and the mountains within this part of the alps are called the Accursed Mountains. The more you know!
The mountains here are absolutely phenomenal and the hiking trails vary in terrain, technicality, and length making this a great hiking destination for newbie and experienced hikers alike.
The inland region is by far the best place in Albania to visit if you’re looking to experience history, ancient cities, and cobblestone streets. Many of the cities in the inner parts of Albania are jam packed with museums, bunkers from the communist regime, and other historic cites. In fact, two of the cities – Berat and Gjirokaster – are UNESCO World Heritage sites!
The final “travel specific” region of Albania is the south. In the south you’ll find vibrant coastal cities and lovely beaches along the Albanian Riviera. The southern region is the best place in Albania to visit if you’re looking for a relaxing vacation along the Ionian Sea complete with cocktails, a bigger social life, and those laid back Albanian vibes.
Note – there are many many many beaches along the Albanian Riviera and visiting all of them on one trip is impossible. In fact, visiting a lot of the beaches along the riviera is very difficult unless you’re travelling via car – which most backpacks aren’t. Rather than list each individual beach as a destination (like most travel bloggers do), I’ll list them in accordance to the city they’re most easily accessible from.
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17 Best Places in Albania
In this guide to the 17 best places in Albania, I’m going start with the north and work my way down to keep things more organized. Because who doesn’t love a super organized travel blog!?
The culture capital and “ancient city” of Albania is Shkoder. This city is vibrant and fun and has a super cute city centre which makes for the perfect evening xhiro/patio vibe.
Shkoder is situated next to Skadar Lake and Rozafa Castle which you can explore via bike. Another plus to visiting Shkoder is that it’s the gateway city to the Albanian Alps. If you’re looking for great hiking trails and outdoor adventure, you’ll have to make a quick stop in Shkoder first.
ps – Shkoder has a huuuuuge biking culture. If you’re one of those people who likes to explore new places via bike, Shkoder is one of the best places in Albania to visit!
Here’s my 6 day Shkoder/Albanian Alps guide complete with a list of everything there is to do in Shkoder.
2. Theth National Park
One of the most well known – and one of the most beautiful – National Parks in all of Albania is Theth. Theth has soaring mountain peaks, waterfalls, cold springs, canyons, and incredible valley-scapes.
Theth can be visited as a day trip from Shkoder, however most people spend 2 nights here. One day is spent hiking to the Blue Eye of Theth and the other is spent hiking to the neighbouring Valbona Valley National Park – yup, that’s right! You can actually hike from one National Park to the next.
If you’re a mountain person or hiking enthusiast (like me) you’ll surely want to add Theth National Park to your Albania bucket list. This is easily one of the best places in Albania for both hiking and scenery.
Here’s my hiker’s guide to the Albanian Alps – complete with hiking trails, travel tips, and planning advice.
3. Valbona Valley National Park
The beautiful Valbona Valley is yet another National Park within the Albanian Alps. My personal opinion is that Valbona Valley is THE best place to visit in Albania. Like the #1 place. Seriously.
I cannot even put into words how incredibly beautiful this park is. The mountain peaks, the rivers, the valleys. Absolutely breathtaking.
Valbona has fabulous hiking trails as well as quick walks from town that’ll take you to mesmerizing spots. If you’re looking for a spot in the Albanian Alps with access to multiple day hikes, Valbona is the place. The locals here are super knowledgeable and can recommend great trails. My hiking recommendation for you is Maja Rosit.
Maja Rosit is a long and steep trail – you’ll have to work to get up here – however the views are fantastic. you’ll trek through alpine meadows, fields of wildflowers, and end up crossing the Montenegro border to a pass where you’ll find absolutely wild views.
Like Theth, Valbona Valley is accessed via Shkoder, however a ferry trip across Komani Lake is required to enter the park.
Here’s my hiker’s guide to the Albanian Alps – complete with hiking trails, travel tips, and planning advice.
4. Shala River & Komani Lake
Remember how I just mentioned that place “Komani Lake” – well, it’s not just a random lake you have to cross to access Valbona. It’s actually the “Thailand of Albania.”
Komani Lake is an absolutely STUNNING lake in the Albanian Alps. The lake itself has a rich green/aqua colour and it’s lined by lush, green mountains of all shapes and sizes. The peaks outlining Komani are jagged, rounded, pointy – each unique from the next. This place will seriously take your breathe away.
The Shala River is a small river that feeds into Komani Lake. It’s crystalline blue colour will shock you and the rustic cabins and beach huts along the shore will make you want to set up shop and lounge… forever!
I stayed on the Shala River/Komani Lake for 2 nights and I can confirm these were 2 of the best nights I spent in Albania. The quietness, open sky for star gazing, kayaking spots, and hiking opportunities make this place an absolute paradise.
The Shala River and Komani Lake are the best place in Albania for a quiet getaway in nature.
Where to stay on the Shala River: Riverside Komani Lake.
Here’s 10 reasons why you need to visit the Shala River + travel tips & activity recommendations.
Tirana is the capital city and it’s the best place in Albania for travel purposes; Tirana is home to the country’s only international airport and the regional bus station here will take you anywhere you need to go within the country.
In my opinion Tirana is like any other big city. Here you can find nightlife, museums, cafes and patios, shopping centres, etc. And although there’s lots of life in Tirana, I think it’s lacking the whole “authentic Albanian experience.” You’ll want to visit the smaller cities and villages to get a feel for that!
^ make note of these shopping centres though. It’s hard to “buy” things in Albania. If you need simple items like clothes, a backpack, any sort of hair, face, or body product, Tirana is where you’ll want to go shopping.
With this being said, there are some really great things to do and see in Tirana. You can take a ride up the Dajti Ekspress and hike into Dajti National Park, visit one of the many museums (there are toooons here), go on a free walking tour, and/or go on a food tour; Tirana has delicious restaurants! You can also go to the beach in Durres as a day trip.
Here’s my 2 day guide to Tirana.
Berat is a UNESCO world heritage site and it’s the best place in Albania for ice cream enthusiasts. Pasticeri Tori serves high quality ice cream in a yum cone for only 80LEK (less than 1 euro). After trying ice cream everywhere I went in Albania, I can confirm that this place was the best!
Amongst the Ottoman style buildings in the Gorica & Mangalem quarters, you’ll also find a big castle overlooking all of Berat – this is the best place to watch sunset.
Although there isn’t a ton going on in Berat, there’s a really nice feeling to this place. The city is clean, the atmosphere is good, and you can see the massive mountains of Tomorr National Park in the near distance. I felt so at peace in this city – and I never say that about cities!
Here’s my 2 day guide to Berat & the Osumi Canyon.
7. Osumi Canyon
Speaking of Berat – Berat is also the best city in Albania to access the Osumi Canyon from. The Osumi Canyon is known as the “Grand Canyon of Albania.” Early in the season you can go rafting through this canyon, whereas in mid summer it becomes a hiking/canyoning excursion.
The Osumi Canyon is an excellent place in Albania to visit if you’re looking for adventure. If you’re feeling extra adventurous, you can even engage in some cliff jumping!
Marking the northernmost tip of the Albanian Riviera is Vlora. This is the starting point for all the beautiful beaches along Albania’s coastline. In fact, something unique about the beaches in and around Vlora is that they’re sand based. Most of the beaches along the Albanian Riviera are full of rocks and pebbles, so if you’re strictly a sandy beach person, Vlora might just be the best place in Albania for you to visit!
If you venture to more of the secret and lesser known beaches in Vlora you may also stumble upon flamingos. I wasn’t lucky enough to see one, but hopefully you will!
If you stay at Vlora Backpackers, the owner can make some GREAT local beach suggestions!
Here’s my detailed 2 day guide to Vlora.
9. Karaburun Peninsula
The Karaburun Peninsula totally flies under the radar and is essentially an unvisited place in Albania, in terms of tourism. The only way to access this area is via personal car or boat.
Most people who go to Karaburun opt to visit via speedboat which can be booked from the city centre of Vlora. On these tours you’ll be toured along the shore of the Karaburun Peninsula where you can explore private beaches and swim in caves! Some of the tours also offer a ride to Sazan Island which is an abandoned military base.
Your tour operators will often take you on a historic walk through the military base on Sazan Island, however even if you don’t get off the boat, the ride there is fantastic. On the journey you’ll be able to see 2 different colours of water coming from the Ionian and Adriatic Sea mixing together. I’s mesmerizing to watch.
You can check pricing and availability for the Karaburun Peninsula and Sazan Island boat trip here.
Himara can be described as a picture perfect place along Albania’s coast. It’s located approximately midway along the Riviera between Vlora and Saranda.
The beaches here are stunning. They’re rocky and they’re completely enclosed by mountains. If you’re looking for the best place in Albania that offers both mountains AND beach, Himara is it.
Himara offers great kayaking opportunities along the coast as well as direct access to the beautiful, and hidden, Gjiri Filikuri Beach. Speaking of beaches, Himara is also located centrally along the Riviera which actually makes it a great access point for most of the beaches along the coast. You can easily do day trips to the beaches north and south of this little coastal city!
My Himara kayaking guide outlines the beaches that can be accessed without a car from Himara, however if you have a car you can also access Dhermi Beach (aka Dhërmiu), Drimadhes Beach (aka Drimadhë), and Palasa Beach to the north. In the southern direction you can access Borsh Beach.
Here’s my detailed 3 day Himara itinerary.
Permet flies under the radar in Albania and is only starting to become a more known spot within the country. Permet is a little – and I mean little – inland town in Albania. There are limited things to do if you’re a city go-er, however adventurers will thrive here.
Lengarica Canyon and the Benja hot springs are located nearby, however the most exciting thing to do in Permet is horseback riding. The horseback riding tour here follows paths up the mountains and over some pretty gnarly terrain. You’ll be riding on steep inclines and declines, traverse rocky terrain, and do the odd river crossing.
There are also quite a few traditional dishes, like gliko, that come specifically from Permet. Calling all foodies!
Here’s my 2 day adventurous guide to Permet.
12. Lengarica Canyon & the Benja Hot Springs
Now I want to get more specific about the canyon and hot springs in Permet I just mentioned… Lengarica Canyon and the Benja hot springs are located NEAR Permet. They actually fall within the boundaries of Fir of Hotova National Park.
To access these natural features you’ll need to drive, bike, or hitchhike – I opted for hitchhiking. The Benja Hot Springs are said to have natural healing powers, however they get quite crowded during peak season. For some (me), this is quite annoying and unenjoyable, so I recommend heading straight to Lengarica Canyon instead!
Lengarica Canyon is located around the corner and under the Ottoman Bridge you’ll find next to the springs. If you hike up the canyon you’ll have the whole place to yourself! This canyon is virtually untravelled and it’s shockingly beautiful. The dramatic canyon walls + the milky blue water of the canyon makes for the perfect swimming location on a scorching Albanian summer day.
Gjirokaster is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it’s the best place in Albania to visit if you’re after those ancient cobblestone streets. Gjirokaster is known as the stone city and the entire place is made of stone dating back as early as the 6th century.
The most notable attraction of Gjirokaster is the city’s bizarre. The bizarre is full of patios, colourful local crafts and artisan goods. You’ll definitely want to grab some photos of the beautiful carpets and hand painted bowls.
In addition to museums and other historic sites, Gjirokaster also has direct access to some pretty beautiful nature. Gjirokaster itself is located in a valley which lies between the Gjere Mountains and the Drino River. There’s a quick day hike from the city to the Ali Pasha Bridge which is definitely worth checking out!
Here’s my 2 day travel guide to Gjirokaster.
Marking the the southernmost point of the Albanian Riviera is Saranda. Like Himara, Saranda is a great spot on Albania’s coast to explore beaches in the area.
Saranda is probably the best place in Albania (besides Tirana) to experience nightlife. Saranda is a touristy destination which means you’ll find plenty of travellers who are looking to socialize and party. “THE” nightclub in Saranda is undoubtedly Orange.
Saranda has some great restaurants and the city is home to the ferry that crosses the Ionian Sea to nearby Korfu, Greece.
There are local beaches in Saranda as well as many others nearby. If you’re looking in the direction of north you can visit the beautiful Borsh Beach (via car) and in the southern direction you can visit the beaches surrounding Ksamil.
Here’s my loaded 2 day Saranda itinerary.
15. Blue Eye of Saranda
Located just outside the city of Saranda, you’ll find the Blue Eye. There are actually 2 Blue Eyes in Albania: one in Saranda and one in Theth.
To access the Blue Eye you’ll either have to rent a scooter, hire a taxi, or take the bus to Gjirokaster and get off at the stop for the Blue Eye, followed by a quick walk.
The Blue Eye is a natural phenomenon that no one can quite explain. Cold water deep within the Earth’s rises to the surface through a small opening. No one knows how deep this Blue Eye is, but it’s fascinating to look at.
If you’re brave enough you can actually jump in it from the platform above! The water will shoot you back up to the surface and the temperature will be quite cold. You’re not “technically” allowed to swim here, however you won’t get in trouble for doing so!
Ksamil beaches are located just south of Saranda. These beaches have beautiful sand, bright blue water, and a super tropical feel! The beaches here are quite different from the rest of the Riviera.
If you’re looking for a beach party, Ksamil beach is the best place in Albania to visit. The beaches here aren’t relaxing – they’re packed with people, there’s party music playing, and there are beachside bars everywhere. It’s honestly a super fun vibe, if that’s what you’re after!
If you’re searching for a quieter beach experience, you can try some of the more secluded beaches just up the coast: Mirror Beach (aka Shpella e Pellumbave) or Edon Bina, for starters.
17. Butrint National Park & UNESCO Site
Butrint National Park is also located just south of Saranda. At Butrint you’ll find ancient ruins, a museum full of old artifacts, and beautiful natural views into the National Park. Butrint can easily be explored in a few hours, so definitely add this to your list of places in Albania to visit.
More: 2 day itinerary for Saranda.
Map: Best Places in Albania
As promised, here’s a map of all the best places in Albania! These locations are the “main spots,” however if you click the pins you’ll find links to more specific travel guides + places to visit within that area.
Be sure to check out this page for all my Albania travel tips, destination guides, and more!
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About The Author
Hey! I’m Taylor – the voice behind The Holistic Backpacker.
After moving to Banff National Park in 2020 I became an outdoor adventure enthusiast and vowed to never stop exploring.
I’m now focused on travelling the world and seeing everything our beautiful home has to offer.
I created The Holistic Backpacker so I could share my adventures and help connect people like you with the same amazing experiences.
I am also an advocate for the environment and do as much as I can to take care of our planet.
Get to know me and my story more here 🙂
I can’t wait to share my adventures with you!