14 best places to visit in Albania
Albania is definitely not a very touristic country. In my opinion, it’s one of the most ‘exotic’ and wild countries in Europe. Both, the road and tourist infrastructure are often in poor condition or they are missing. Therefore, it’s not a place with fancy 5* all inclusive hotels or large amusement parks.
However, what is an argument against visiting Albania for one, becomes an advantage for others. The fact that there is no infrastructure means that in Albania you can still sleep under a tent on beautiful wild beaches or bathe at night in natural thermal springs. You also don’t have to worry about crowds of tourists in the mountains, because it’s so hard to get there.
That’s why in my opinion the best places to visit in Albania are mountains, lakes, canyons, springs, beaches. Beautiful nature is the biggest attraction. Besides that, it’s also great to learn something about the local culture and the history of the visited country. Therefore, some of the historic cities and towns have also to be visited 😉. Below you will find a list of the 14 best places to visit in Albania.
What will you find in this article?
Lake Koman is an artificial lake that was created as a result of the construction of a hydroelectric power plant in Fierzë. The valley between the mountains filled with water and created a breathtaking landscape, similar to the Norwegian fjords. The main attraction of this region is crossing the lake by ferry and admiring the beautiful views from its deck. Because of the unusual means of transport and the amazing landscape for me, it was one of the best places to visit in Albania.
VALBONE AND THETH
If you are a mountain lover you will definitely have to visit at least one of these places. Valbone and Theth are towns located deep in the Albanian mountains. It’s not easy to get there, but ones you get there you will be rewarded with breathtaking views. Snowy peaks, intensely green pastures with cows and horses, as well several meters high waterfalls. Most people visit the Albanian Alps for trekking in the mountains, e.g. from Valbone to Theth or to the waterfall.
Definitely the best beach I’ve been to in Albania. Gjipe Beach captivated me above all with her still slightly wild and hippie atmosphere. The very fact that it’s hard to get there gives it a unique charm. Besides sunbathing and enjoying the crystal clear water you can also go for a trekking or at least a short walk to the Gjipe Canyon located at the back of the beach.
Ksamil is a small coastal town with beautiful beaches and many small islands. Here, you can enjoy a real seaside holiday: sunbathing, eating fresh seafood, or drinking drinks while watching a sunset. Ksamil is much less touristy than Saranda and in my opinion, it has more beautiful beaches. It is also a great place from which you can visit the nearby attractions.
SHKODRA LAKE AND SHKODRA CITY
Located in northern Albania on the border with Montenegro, Shkodra Lake is the largest lake in the Balkans. It is separated from the sea by picturesque mountains, which, combined with the mirror-like surface of the lake, create a beautiful landscape. The lake is a habitat for many species of birds. In some places, you can take a swim and rent kayaks or pedal boats (e.g. at Lake Shkodra Resort).
The main city on the Albanian side of the lake is the city of Shkodër. It has over 80,000 inhabitants, which makes it the largest city in northern Albania. Its most interesting sight is the Rozafa Castle.
THE BLUE EYE (alb.: Syri i Kaltër)
The Blue Eye is a source from which crystal clear water comes out under pressure. It’s located in the mountains of southern Albania. I was charmed by this place, but I must admit that this is definitely an attraction for people who like spending time in nature. You will find there nothing but a small gift shop and different plants stretching to the horizon. Considering the fact that the water from the source is completely transparent and breaks to the surface from a depth exceeding 50m it is a real miracle of nature and for me definitely one of the most unique places in Albania.
A city in southern Albania, the historic part of which is inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. You can see there the Ottoman architecture which the city is famous for. The unique atmosphere can be felt when walking between the white houses with grey-brown roofs. On the hill, the Gjirokaster Castle is located and it’s definitely a place worth visiting if you are into history.
If you are in the south of Albania, somewhere near Ksamil or Saranda, you can go for a trip to Butrint National Park. It’s an area filled with ruins of an ancient Greek settlement inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Besides that, there is also a very unique attraction, which you will most probably not find anywhere else in Europe. It’s a wooden raft that serves as a ferry and transports people and cars to the other side of the river, where another fortress is located.
SMALL SEASIDE TOWNS
Driving by the Albanian coast, you can occasionally make a stop in one of the many small seaside towns. Two examples located side by side are Jala and Himare. You can stop by for dinner and a short siesta on the beach, or stay for longer if you like it. Next to Himare there is also a hill with a viewpoint and the ruins of Himara Castle, which you can also visit along the way. There are many more small charming towns to be discovered along the Albanian coast – it’s worth just spontaneous stopping by to one of them.
The most famous seaside resort in the south of Albania. You can visit Saranda for a walk on the promenade, for a lunch in a good restaurant or in order to visit the Lëkurësi Castle. It’s a renovated castle with a restaurant inside, which offers an amazing view of the mountains and the sea. However, I wouldn’t stay in the city longer. Saranda does not impress me at all, most probably because I don’t like resorts. It’s much bigger than Ksamil and the beach in the city centre is not so nice.
The triangular fortress is located on a picturesque island, which is connected to the mainland only by a thin strip of land. The building can be entered, although the interiors are quite austere. Admission is 200 Lek. The main attraction of Porto Palermo is probably the view extending to the sea from one of the three towers. The unusual location of the fortress is also interesting, but it can only be captured from above (e.g. from a drone). Information about the history of this place can be found here.
UNFORTUNATELY, I DIDN’T MANAGE TO VISIT ALL THE MOST INTERESTING PLACES IN ALBANIA. HOWEVER, IF YOU HAVE ENOUGH TIME CONSIDER VISITING ALSO THE FOLLOWING ONES:
BENJA THERMAL BATHS (alb.: Llixhat e Benjes)
This is one of the best places to visit in Albania. I didn’t have enough time to visit it and I really regret that ☹. It’s a place with several natural pools with thermal water. The water is 26 to 32 C warm and you can swim in the pools. It can have a positive influence on some illnesses like joint or skin problems. Moreover, you will find there also the stone bridge called Kadiut Bridge (similar to the one in Mostar), as well as the Lengarica CanyonLengarica Canyon, where you can go for a walk.
Osum Canyon is a beautiful canyon with blue water located in the middle of southern Albania. People who are open to new adventures can try rafting here. You can also just bathe in the turquoise water between the high rock walls of the canyon or take a walk around the area.
Berat is the second Albanian city after Gjirokaster, which due to the characteristic Ottoman architecture has been inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. A large number of long rectangular windows is the reason why it’s called “the city of a thousand windows.” Berat is much smaller than Gjirokaster, but it is picturesquely situated on the slope of a hill right on the bank of the turquoise Osum River. If you will choose the road through central Albania (and not by the coast), it is definitely worth stopping there for a walk (especially if you are not planning to go to Gjirokaster).
If it’s still hard for you to decide which best places to visit in Albania, take a look at how I planned my 7 days trip.
Below you will find a map on which I marked all the important places in Albania as well as my itinerary. By clicking on the star you can save it in your Google Maps Account under Your Places and use it later while travelling. Enjoy!