Albania is Europe’s best-kept secret, and with its friendly and welcoming locals, beautiful nature and historic cities, this Eastern European country is a great travel destination and offers something for everyone. You can enjoy remote beaches, swim in crystal clear water, hike in spectacular sceneries, learn about the history and wander in beautiful towns. Here some ideas for your trip with the top 12 places to visit in Albania.
Berat – The Town of a Thousand Windows
By Dave Briggs of Dave’s Travel Pages
The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Berat is a must-see when visiting Albania. Located less than a 3-hour drive away from Tirana, it is most well known for the Ottoman style houses that range up and down the hill slopes, and its castle commanding amazing views over the surrounding area.
Berat earns its name of the Town of a Thousand Windows due to the beautifully preserved houses that yearn for people to photograph them! During the day, the sun glints on them, and in the evening as the sun sets, you can almost feel the medieval atmosphere!
Berat can be visited as a day trip from Tirana, or as part of a road trip. I would suggest staying overnight if you can, and there are even places to stay within the castle itself along with plenty of restaurants to choose from. A unique experience in one of Albania’s most unique towns!
Interested in finding out more? Check out Dave’s guide to visiting Berat in Albania.
The Blue Eye
By Gabriela of Gabriela Here & There
The Blue Eye (or Syri i Kaltër in Albanian) is a tropical paradise and a fresh-water spring. It’s possibly the most beautiful sight in Albania with its crystal clear blue water, amazing colors and stunning surroundings. The freshwater spring from the mountains flows into the Blue Eye and creates a deep natural pool. The exact depth is still unclear but divers have descended to fifty meters.
The Blue Eye is located about a 30-minute drive away from the coastal city of Saranda and can be visited as a day trip. Another option is to visit the place as a day trip from Gjirokastra. It’s possible to take a bus to get to the Blue Eye, but you might have to hitchhike back (at least this is how I did!).
By Christine of Christine Abroad
Butrint is a historic town in Southern Albania. It has a long history that goes back even to Julius Caesar himself and beyond. He saw Butrint as a great strategic location during his reign over the Roman empire. Still today, you can see ancient Roman ruins from that time period, such as the amphitheater. It’s easy to get to Butrint from Saranda and Ksamil, which are the nearest towns.
From there you can either go by taxi or bus. If you like to walk, it’s also possible to walk through the olive groves and peaceful nature from Ksamil. It’s a lovely walk, but make sure to bring water since it gets pretty hot in Albania during summer. As for Butrint, there’s a small entrance fee, which is expected since it’s nowadays a UNESCO world heritage site.
There are also guided tours available if you want to know more specific things about each point of interest within the ruin city of Butrint.
By Lee and Stacey of One Trip at a Time
Gjirokastër in Southern Albania is famous as the birthplace of communist leader Enver Hoxha and today boasts an old town that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the impressive Gjirokastër fortress.
The old town is a fine example of an Ottoman town and has been nicknamed the “City of Stone” due to many of the houses having stone roofs. Climbing the hill to Gjirokastër Fortress gives a panoramic view across the pretty town to admire before you go exploring. Within the walls are a museum about resistance to German occupation, a clock tower, a church, and a cistern as well as many nooks and crannies to explore. The strangest thing in the fortress must be the captured United States jet fighter which stands proudly on the fortress’ wall, though sadly it is generally covered in a tarpaulin limiting your view of it.
By Rohan of Travels of a Bookpacker
Himare is one of the most beautiful areas of the Albanian coast and makes a great base for exploring some the secluded bays nearby. Himare itself is a small beachside town with a few markets and restaurants serving great seafood.
Besides the beach, there is not a lot to see in the town but if you hire a kayak or take a boat trip there you can discover some of the most beautiful little bays and if you’re lucky, have one all to yourself. A popular day trip from Himare is Gjipe beach which requires a half an hour walk down from the carpark, but you are greeted by crystal clear waters and little shade huts lining the beach with very few other people around. It’s also a great spot for camping if you have a tent!
Text by Stephanie of Sofia Adventures
Photo by Gabriela
If you’re looking for an offbeat place to go on your Balkan trip in Albania, you can’t miss the picture-perfect town of Korçë. Often given a pass because of how it is slightly difficult to get to from other places in Albania, it is not far from Pogradec, Berat, or even Tirana.
Korçë is incredibly beautiful and very untouched, with pristine mountains nearby holding some of the most ancient churches in Albania. But one of most beautiful things in Korçë is the massive cathedral in the center of town, which was rebuilt in the early 1990s after the fall of Communism, because the dictator Enver Hoxha destroyed the original church during the strict Communist era.
You can also find the first school in Albania, which is now a museum, as well as a beautiful viewing platform with views over the city, several parks, an old bazaar neighborhood, and lovely pedestrian walkways that show what Albania is like without the tourists that are starting to trickle into places like Tirana, Saranda, and Berat.
By Ryan of Treksplorer
Got extra time in Tirana? There’s no better way to start rounding out your Albania experience than with a quick day trip to Krujë (or Kruja in English).
Krujë might not look like much as you wind up the forested mountainside into its centre, but few places are more important to Albanian history than this lovely medieval town.
Albania’s national hero, Skanderbeg, once called Krujë home, leaving behind an ancient castle from where he bravely fended off the Ottomans until his final hours.
Truthfully, little remains of Krujë Castle today with its Communist-era Skanderbeg Museum taking charge as its most imposing feature. Nonetheless, wandering around the sprawling castle grounds will put your imagination into overdrive while delighting you with beautiful mountain and countryside views.
Possibly more charming than its castle is Krujë’s Old Bazaar. Whereas much of the town’s modern architecture is fairly non-descript, the cobblestoned alleyways of the Old Bazaar, lined with Ottoman-style wooden merchant houses, bestow a sense of Krujë in its early days. It’s a perfect introduction for what to expect as you move on to some of Albania’s lesser-known corners.
By Alex of Swedish Nomad
Ksamil is one of the most beautiful places to go if you want to relax and sunbathe. The beaches here are some of the best in all of Europe, with crystal clear turquoise water and white sand. In addition to beautiful scenery, the prices here are cheaper than other popular destinations such as Italy, Spain, and France.
You can easily get a meal in a restaurant for 2.5 – 8 Euro per person. There are many pizzerias here, which are perfect if you want to grab something quick for lunch while you’re at the beach. If you want to save some money, I recommend that you don’t choose the restaurants that are located next to the beach as they will be pricier.
Another place you shouldn’t miss is the four islands that you can go to by boat from Ksamil, it’s just a few minutes by boat, and at the islands, you can snorkel or just enjoy a nice paradise beach. Around the beaches, there are also various kinds of watersports available. And the best part is that you can choose between crowded and lively beaches to more secluded and smaller beaches here in Ksamil.
Rozafa Castle, Shkodër
By Warren of Sling Adventures
The Albanian flag flies high over the imposing Rozafa Castle located atop a hill which overlooks the northern Albanian city of Shkodër. This 2000-year-old stronghold has served the Roman, Ottoman and Serbian empires in its long and tumultuous history. Today, it is a crumbling relic with little done in recent times to preserve its place in history. Yet, herein lies the charm.
After scaling the steep cobbled stone entranceway, visitors are free to clamber over the sprawling fortifications and get stunning views over the Shkodër valley and Lake Skadar. The few plaques present are written in Albanian, so you’ll need to use your imagination to work out what each building actually was used for. Lastly, there is no ticket window, only a guy wandering about with a sign collecting a 100 Lek ($1USD) for admission.
Text by Helen of Bristolian Backpacker
Photo by Gabriela
Along the south coast of Albania, you will find the stunning city of Saranda. The beach is ideal for sitting with a beer and a picnic, and there is an array of great local restaurants along the front.
One of the real gems of Saranda is taking a day trip to Butrint. The UNESCO site has the remains of a city from over 2,000 years ago. The history of the site is made even more amazing by the natural settings of mountains and water. We went in January and had the whole play to ourselves. But, even if you visit during peak season, take the time to wander around slowly and enjoy the tranquility.
By Karen of Wanderlustingk
Theth is a stunning village high up in the Accursed Mountains of Albania that is surrounded by one of Albania’s most beautiful national parks. This village is the perfect base for hiking in Albania as you can easily do the famous Theth to Valbona hike or do a day hike to the stunning Blue Eye of the North, a freezing cold spring that is a stunning blue color.
Although Theth is not particularly easy to reach, it’s worth the journey as although Albania’s cities are beautiful, there’s nothing like experiencing Albanian hospitality and tasting delicious fresh food at the many guesthouses in the area.
By Kaila of Kaila Yu
Why Tirana is the Best Place to Visit in Albania – There are many reasons to visit Albania’s capital, but perhaps the hospitality is the number one reason. Albanians are friendly to foreigners, and you might enjoy some great plum wine.
Another thing you will enjoy is the colorful nature of the city. The buildings are painted in beautiful hues of blue, yellow and pink. The colors really do much to improve your mood and generate a feeling of joy as you walk around.
You will also enjoy a visit to Piramida, a relic of the former Stalinist way of the country. Some say it should be torn down, others say it should stay so that history’s lessons can be learned.
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