Despite being a small country in the Balkans, Albania offers a plethora of attractions for tourists. The country’s beautiful nature, historical richness, and delicious cuisine are highly appealing to travelers. Albania has been increasingly attracting more tourists every year and is especially popular among Italians. Personally, I never imagined there would be so many tourists before I visited. Now, let’s take a look at the most beautiful spots of the country, here’s the Albania Travel Guide and Itinerary for you.
Albania Travel Guide
Before diving into travel tips for Albania, let me share some general information about the country.
The majority of Albania’s population is Muslim, followed by Christians. Thus, although the country is small, it hosts cultural diversity.
Albania has been influenced by many civilizations throughout history. Ancient Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Ottomans, and Italians, among many others, have left their mark on the country.
The currency in Albania is the Lek, but Euros are also accepted in some places.
As for safety, there’s no need to worry. Although we used to hear unpleasant things about safety in Albania, the country has made significant developments in recent years and has become a safe destination for tourists.
Now that we’ve covered some basic information about Albania, let’s continue exploring the country.
Albania transportation guide
The best to travel comfortably within Albania is to rent a car. The most common question I get in this regard is: “Can we cross into other countries with the car we rent in Albania?” Yes, you can, but not every rental company may allow this because there’s a requirement for additional insurance to cross into another country. Therefore, you must inform the rental company if you plan to go abroad. If you don’t rent a car, it’s still possible to travel around Albania using public transport. The train network isn’t very developed, but buses can comfortably take you almost everywhere. Minibuses, known as ‘furgons’, are also popular public transport in Albania.
To help with navigation, I recommend downloading the Albania map on the Maps.me app and/or on Google Maps. This way, you can find your way even without the internet.
Albania Travel Itinerary: Places to Visit in Albania
I’m writing the Albania Travel Itinerary from north to south, but you can decide in which order to travel. This route is suitable for those who have plenty of time and want to experience culture, nature, history, and the seaside all in one trip. Those who have less time can plan according to their interests and the number of days they have. For a beach holiday, the south side is preferable. I will describe the most beautiful bays and beaches later, but first, let’s write about the itinerary.
Shkoder: This can be a stop for those coming from Montenegro. It’s not particularly attractive for sightseeing, in my opinion, but it stands out more for its venues. Also, if you’re not traveling by car, it’s a necessary stop for certain routes, like getting to Theth, for example.
Theth National Park, Valbona Valley, Lumi i Shales: These places are more suitable for those who love being in nature, village life, and trekking. You can also camp in this region. It’s better to visit in the summer due to weather conditions.
Kruje: This is a medieval town about an hour away from Tirana. It’s significant for being the birthplace of the Albanian national hero, Skanderbeg, and was once under Ottoman rule. Kruje Castle and the Old Ottoman Bazaar are worth visiting here.
Tirana: The capital city isn’t particularly appealing, in my opinion. Nevertheless, you can spend some time here on the day of your flight. The best activity in the city, in my opinion, is visiting the BUNK’ART and BUNK’ART 2 museums. They have transformed old war bunkers into museums, and it’s quite impressive.
I would say those focused purely on a beach holiday should follow the itinerary from here and not go north. 😉
Dhermi: Its sea and historical part are beautiful, but it’s a small town, so it’s more of a place for a day trip. However, there’s a nice hotel here that I’ll mention in the accommodation section, worth staying at.
Himare: This is one of the most stunning places in the Albanian Riviera. You’ll love its turquoise bays. I’ll describe the bays around Himare later. The area resembles Greece. If you have short time in Albania , I recommend Himare over Ksamil for a beach holiday. Besides the beaches, you can visit the streets with stone houses and the Himare castle at sunset.
Berat: A city under Ottoman rule for many years, Berat reminds me of Safranbolu or Şirince in Turkey. Its old city area is on the UNESCO World Heritage list. You can also visit Berat Castle.
Gjirokaster: This is a sweet town with Ottoman influences, visually similar to Berat. Its old city area is also on the UNESCO World Heritage list, and its castle is worth seeing. 🙂 If time is limited, you can choose one or the other. If you’re going in the summer or around, I think Gjirokaster is more beautiful.
Syri Kalter: A must-visit for nature lovers. It’s a crystal-clear turquoise lake, known as the Blue Eye. If you’re going from Gjirokaster to Ksamil, it makes sense to stop here for a few hours; otherwise, you can visit as a day trip from Ksamil.
Saranda – Ksamil: This region has beaches comparable to the Maldives, with white sands and a mint-colored sea. The distance between them is about half an hour. Ksamil offers more beach options.
Butrint National Park: This is an ancient city you can visit as a day trip while staying near Ksamil. It’s on the UNESCO World Heritage list and takes 1-2 hours to explore.
There are other places to visit, but these are the ones I find more noteworthy. There were some I liked but didn’t include as they were too far off the main route. Traveling in Albania will become easier as their roads develop further. 🙂 I also see people including Durres in their Albania itinerary. We stayed there for one night as a stopover, but we didn’t really like Durres, so I didn’t include it. It might be chosen for being close to Tirana, i.e., the airport, but it doesn’t have much to offer in terms of sightseeing or beaches. Its beach is just an ordinary sandy beach, which seemed basic compared to the other turquoise beaches.
Albania Travel Itinerary: Albania Beaches
Let’s talk about the magnificent bays of Albania, reminiscent of the Maldives and Greek islands. There are a series of beautiful bays from Himare to Ksamil. There are surely more than what I mention, but I am writing only about the ones I know. Also, I am not including the ones I saw and didn’t like.
Vlore: Nimfa Beach and Kalaja Beach.
Dhermi: This place has beautiful restaurants side by side and their own beaches in front. We loved it here, and access is easy. Parking is a bit of a problem, it is better to get there early. We were at Luciano and liked it. The two establishments of Havana, Rose and Azul, also looked very nice.
Gjipe Beach: A turquoise bay at the bottom of giant cliffs covered with greenery. Access isn’t easy, as you have to walk quite a bit along trails, but the destination is beautiful, and there are facilities available.
Jale Beach: This place is quite popular with beach clubs and turns into a nightclub in the evenings. It can be particularly chosen for partying.
Gjiri i Akuariumit: Known as Aquarium beach. It’s a small cove but very beautiful. You can walk here from Jale or Livadi beach in about half an hour. Go early in the morning to enjoy before it gets crowded. There are no facilities, just a small kiosk, but you can bring your own food and drinks.
Livadi Beach: A beautiful beach near Himare. Here you can either rent a sunbed from a facility or just sit on your own towel. There are also places to eat.
Llamani Beach: A beautiful beach and a nice establishment, but parking and beach entry are charged.
Porto Palermo: A fantastic beach along the road. You just park your car right by the roadside. There is one establishment where you can eat and drink. It’s a great stopover spot.
Ksamil: There are lots of beach clubs here, and you can stroll around to find one that suits you. Some places looked good on Instagram but didn’t impress us much in reality, but I will mention a few. Manta Resort’s own beach was quieter compared to other places, suitable for families. They have a private beach for hotel guests and areas where people who are not staying can rent a sunbed. The beach below Guvat Bar restaurant also looked nice; I think that’s Poda Beach Bar, and the restaurant itself was good. Apart from these, Pema e Thate and Veranda By Apollonia are some of my favorites. Pulebardha Beach, between Sarande and Ksamil, is also beautiful.
Accommodation Options for Albania
I will write about places to stay in Albania and hotel recommendations for every budget. Some places I am including specifically because they have special and beautiful hotels.
Lezhe: There’s a unique hotel here, included for that reason. It can be considered as a stopover if coming from Montenegro. Mrizi i Zanave Agroturizëm
Vlore: Hotel Nimfa has a very nice beach; if you’re staying here, it’s worth it.
Dhermi: Worth staying just for this hotel. Zoe Hora
Best Time to Visit Albania – How Long to Stay in Albania?
Albania, being a country with a Mediterranean climate, is ideally visited during the spring and autumn months for cultural exploration. During these months, the weather is milder, and you avoid the heat and crowds of the summer. Additionally, the colors of nature in spring and autumn enhance the country’s beautiful landscapes, so I wouldn’t recommend visiting in winter. 🙂 Based on our own experience, I advise not to plan a trip in August. I have never seen such traffic in any country. Forget about city traffic; even intercity roads were jam-packed, turning travel into a nightmare. This is because August is generally a vacation month in Europe, and especially Italians flock to Albania. July is relatively better, but for a summer holiday, June and September are more sensible choices.
The duration of your stay in Albania depends on your travel plan and interests. To explore the entire country, including its beaches, historical and cultural heritage, staying at least a week would be good. If you’re going in summer and just want to enjoy the beaches, 3-4 days would suffice, or similarly, if you’re focusing solely on a cultural tour, again at least 3-4 days are needed. Exploring all of Albania from start to finish would take about two weeks.
What to Eat in Albania? Albania Food Guide
Albanian cuisine is similar to Turkish and Greek cuisines. Traditional dishes are mostly meat-based. The type of food you eat varies depending on the region you visit. As we stayed mostly on the coast, we ate a lot of seafood, which was really delicious. Of course, we also had meat dishes, and like the rest of the Balkans, the meats were very tasty. Elbasan tava (Tave kosi) is the most well-known Albanian dish. This dish, originating from the Ottoman palace cuisine and named after the Albanian city of Elbasan, is made with meat in a casserole and yogurt sauce. Albanian pie is called Byrek, dumplings are Samsa, and meatballs are Qofte. One of Albania’s most famous dishes is Fèrgesë, a casserole with vegetables and cheese.
Albanian raki is also famous, but it’s nothing like Turkish raki. We were mistaken thinking it’s similar to Greek ouzo. My husband ordered it one evening at a restaurant but couldn’t drink it; it is very strong.
Is Albania Expensive or Cheap? Albania Travel Costs
Albania is a relatively budget-friendly country. However, you can encounter high prices in touristy southern coasts depending on where you eat, but overall, it’s a budget-friendly travel route. If you book your hotels in advance and avoid the peak season, you can find pretty nice hotels starting from €20. Dining at average family restaurants will cost about €5-6 per person. In Ksamil, renting 2 sunbeds and 1 umbrella on the beach generally costs around €15.
By the way, a bit off-topic but since I’m talking about prices, I wanted to mention this: we bought a SIM card with 35 GB of internet in the country, and it cost around 2000 LEK or €18.
I hope my Albania Travel Guide is helpful, and you have a wonderful trip to Albania. I might have missed something, so if you have any questions or additional suggestions, please leave them in the comments. I look forward to your questions, critiques, and likes in the comments to produce better content.
Don’t forget to follow me to stay updated on my upcoming posts and for more photos!