Albania Travel Guide: Everything You Need to See and Do!
Albania, a small but fascinating country nestled in the heart of the Balkans, is brimming with unspoiled natural beauty, ancient history, and warm hospitality.
From the sun-kissed shores of the Ionian and Adriatic coasts, to the rugged peaks of the Albanian Alps, this vibrant country offers unforgettable experiences that will ignite your wanderlust and etch an indelible mark on your heart and soul! So be sure to add Albania to your travel bucket-list!
Fun fact: Albania’s nickname is “The Land of Eagles” (Shqipëria in Albanian), which originates from the two-headed eagle found on the Albanian national flag, symbolising strength, independence, and sovereignty.
Albania Travel Tip: The currency of Albania is the Albanian lek, abbreviated as ALL. I highly recommend taking out cash at the airport as we found that throughout Albania, many supermarkets, taxis, and even tourist attractions did not accept cards but only cash payments 💸
10 Awesome Things to do in Albania:
1. Marvel at the Ancient City of Butrint
In the southwestern coast of Albania you’ll find the ancient city of Butrint, which is a treasure trove of history and culture just waiting to be discovered.
Despite its immense historical value and stunning natural setting, this UNESCO World Heritage Site remains one of Europe’s best-kept secrets. It offers an enchanting getaway from the usual hustle and bustle of popular tourist destinations.
Butrint’s rich past dates back over 2,500 years, providing an incredible window into the world of ancient civilisations. Established by the Greeks and later conquered by the Romans, Byzantines, and Venetians, the city has evolved through the ages, leaving a wealth of architectural and historical marvels in its wake. As you walk through the ruins, you’ll be transported back in time to an era of empires and legendary figures.
The main highlights here include the ancient theatre, the baptistery with its intricate mosaics, and the Great Basilica. As the site is part of the larger Butrint National Park, while you’re here you can explore diverse ecosystems, including wetlands, salt marshes, and lush woodlands. I recommend hiking the well-trodden paths or taking a scenic boat tour of the lake to truly appreciate the natural splendour of this unique destination in Albania.
2. Stroll through the Historic Gjirokastër
If you’re in the south of Albania, immerse yourself in the charm of Gjirokastër, which is another UNESCO World Heritage site known for its beautifully preserved Ottoman architecture.
In this Ottoman city, you can meander through the cobbled streets, visit the well-preserved Gjirokastër Castle, and admire the distinctively designed houses that make this “City of Stone” one of the most highly rated things to do in Albania.
Don’t delay, add this to your Albania itinerary and book a guided tour here!
One of the highlights of Gjirokastër is the Barrels Vineyard, which you can visit for lunch or dinner. It’s a family run business that produces some of the most incredible food and wine in the region.
3. Relax on the Albanian Riviera
The Albanian Riviera is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in Europe. Imagine crystal-clear turquoise waters and pristine sandy beaches, without the crowds!
Here you can soak up the sun at popular spots like Dhërmi, Ksamil, or Jale Beach, or venture off the beaten path to discover secluded coves and hidden gems along the coast.
If you’re short on time but want to experience the best of the Albanian Riveiera, prioritise Ksamil. This is one of the most picturesque places in Albania and is often described as the Maldives of Europe *without the price tag!*
Whatever you do, don’t visit Albania without adding this place to your itinerary!
If you do venture here, I highly recommend paddle boarding the islands, which is the top activity in Ksamil and the perfect way to spend an afternoon.
4. Iconic Blue Eye Spring
Witness the mesmerising natural wonder of the Blue Eye Spring (Syri i Kaltër), a deep natural pool in the heart of the Albanian Riviera.
This spring is consistently voted as one of the most Instagrammable places in Albania as it’s renowned for its vibrant hues, with water so blue that pictures look photoshopped!
Take a refreshing dip in the cool, clear waters, which remain a constant, refreshing temperature year-round (making it the perfect destination for swimming and diving). Or simply admire its beauty and embrace the opportunity to reconnect with nature in this tranquil oasis.
As you explore the surrounding lush greenery and wildlife, you’ll quickly understand why the Blue Eye is one of Albania’s top tourist attractions. Plan ahead and book your visit to this unmissable destination here!
5. Experience the Vibrant Capital City
Exploring the vibrant capital city of Tirana should definitely be added to your Albania itinerary. After spending several days here, I can attest that the colourful buildings and lively streets create a unique and inviting atmosphere that’s well worth experiencing by every traveller.
In Tirana, I recommend exploring Skanderbeg Square, visiting the National History Museum, and discovering the city’s street art scene.
Getting the Dajti Ekspres (cable car) to the top of Dajti Mountain is also an unmissable activity in Tirana. Just make sure you don’t turn up on a Tuesday like we did (the cable car doesn’t operate on this day!)
Another thing worth doing in Tirana is embracing the café culture. I particularly adored the cafes around the New Bazaar, as they’re made for people watching! This is arguably one of the best ways to get to know a country and an art form that Albania has perfected.
To make the most of your time in the city, do a walking tour, which will help you to explore Tirana properly, and give you a real understanding of where Albania has come from and where it’s heading.
6. Explore the Accursed Mountains
The Albanian Alps are a dream for outdoor enthusiast’s and top the list of things to do in Albania! Here you can hike through the breathtaking Accursed Mountains in the remote regions of Theth and Valbona.
The trail begins close to Tropoje and passes from one national park in Valbona to another in Theth, extending for over 30km and taking around 13 hours to complete. As the hike can be challenging, don’t forget to wear proper walking shoes and bring plenty of water.
On your journey through the mountains, you’ll take in rugged landscapes, traditional mountain villages, and awe-inspiring vistas that make this region the pinnacle of hiking and by far one of the top places to explore in Albania.
7. Hike to the breathtaking Bovilla Lake
Nestled in the heart of the Albanian Alps is the spectacular Bovilla Lake, which is easily one of the best free things to do in Albania. It’s 20km north of Tirana and you can easily drive here yourself.
To get your blood pumping, why not hike here? I’d recommend doing a guided tour though, as the route on the way back down Mount Gamti can be difficult to traverse. This hike will take you around 3 hours but you’ll be rewarded with some of the most breath-taking views in Albania and can cool off in the lake afterwards.
8. Iconic Berat
Visiting Berat is an opportunity to delve into a rich cultural experience that should not be missed. This UNESCO World Heritage Site, affectionately known as the “City of a Thousand Windows,” boasts a unique architectural charm with its picturesque Ottoman houses dotting the hillside.
As you wander through the cobblestone streets of this ancient city, you’ll be transported back in time, tracing the footsteps of Illyrians, Romans, and Byzantines.
There’s lots of incredible things to do in Berat, from taking a stroll through the narrow alleys of the Mangalem and Gorica quarters, to exploring Berat Castle and taking in the stunning views of the Osum River. Whatever you do, I guarantee you’ll fall in love with this quaint city (it was my personal favourite)!
Berat promises an unforgettable experience, blending history, culture, and natural beauty in a way that captivates every traveler lucky enough to visit. Don’t miss your chance to explore this hidden gem in the Balkans.
9. Saranda – Albania’s Party Paradise
Welcome to the electric nightlife of Saranda, Albania’s premier coastal destination, where you’ll experience an unforgettable fusion of stunning scenery, lively entertainment, and Mediterranean charm!
As the sun sets over the turquoise Ionian Sea, the city’s vibrant party atmosphere comes alive, inviting you to revel in the unique blend of beachside relaxation and thrilling excitement that defines Saranda’s nightlife. If you’re after the best nightlife in Albania head here!
Dance the night away at popular venues like Mango Beach Club and Piazza Club. With the cool sea breeze on your skin and the sand between your toes, there’s no better place to celebrate life under the starry skies.
10. Discover the Mysteries of Apollonia
Step back in time and explore the mysteries of Apollonia, an ancient archaeological site nestled in the heart of Albania. This captivating destination, once a flourishing Greek city, offers an unmissable opportunity to immerse yourself in a world rich with history, culture, and intrigue.
As you delve into the ruins of Apollonia, you’ll uncover the stories of a bygone era and experience the essence of Albania’s ancient heritage. For history buffs, this is easily one of the most incredible places to visit in Albania.
Wander through the remnants of Apollonia’s monumental structures, such as the Bouleuterion, the Odeon, and the impressive city walls, which stand as testament to the city’s past grandeur. These architectural marvels, adorned with intricate carvings and inscriptions, provide a glimpse into the lives of the ancient inhabitants and their remarkable achievements.
Top tip: Make sure you complement your exploration of Apollonia’s mysteries with a leisurely stroll through the picturesque landscape that surrounds the site. Soak in the stunning vistas of rolling hills and the tranquil Fier River, which offer a serene backdrop to your historical adventure.
How long should you spend in Albania?
This really depends on what you plan on doing here. If you just want to check out Tirana, then a long weekend is enough to get a feel for this fascinating place.
However, if you want to go beyond the city, and explore more of the amazing attractions in Albania, then I’d spend at least 10-14 days here to fully experience the wonders of this diverse country.
What’s great about Albania is that it’s one of the cheapest places to visit in Europe, making it ideal for longer itineraries!
Best ways to get around Albania?
One of the best ways to explore Albania is by hiring a car. We chose this option as we wanted to cram in as much sightseeing as possible and not have to wait for public transport. This is a wise choice, as there isn’t a real train network to speak of here and busses are notoriously unreliable!
Another great way to explore Albania is by taking tours, which operate from most of the main cities. This is a stress-free way to visit some of the top attractions in Albania and immerse yourself in local life.
Popular Albania Tours:
The Culinary Scene in Albania
To get a taste of any country, the best thing to do is eat your way around it! One of the most authentic things to do in Albania is to visit a Zgara (grill), which serve some of the best food in the country. From qoftes (meatballs) to grilled peppers and local salads, these grill houses are perfect for experiencing tasty and affordable meals.
If you want to really get to know the food culture I suggest doing an Albanian food tour, where you can fully experience the culinary delights of this country. For foodies, this is the number 1 thing to do in Albania, for sure!
To sample some of Albania’s best wine, take a wine tasting tour. Due to its climate and location on the Ionian Sea, unsurprisingly Albania has some incredible wine waiting to be tasted!
Best Time to Visit Albania?
To beat the crowds, the best time to visit Albania is in the shoulder seasons of April to June and September to October.
We visited in April, and the weather was mild and perfect for exploring the highlights of Albania.
The summer months are better for experiencing the incredible beaches in Albania, but this is also the busiest and most expensive time of year to visit (but overall it still works out to be pretty cheap here)!
Is Albania safe?
We felt perfectly safe all over Albania, even after dark, and encountered no issues throughout our travels here. I wouldn’t hesitate in encouraging everyone to visit Albania, whether as a group or as a solo female traveller. However, as with any destination, it’s always wise to take standard precautions.
Travel medical insurance is of paramount importance during your trip to Albania. Although the country boasts a rich cultural heritage and stunning natural landscapes, the healthcare system in Albania is still developing.
Nomad Insurance with SafetyWing is probably your best bet, as it covers emergency medical evacuation and bedside visits, starting at just $42 per 4 weeks. While I hope you never have to use it, it’s there in case of emergencies that can seriously rack up expenses.
One of my favourite features of SafetyWing Insurance is that you can use it as a subscription service, meaning you don’t have to pay for the whole year upfront. Instead, you’re charged every 28 days, until you cancel (for for a maximum of 364 days), which gives you the ultimate level of flexibility.
Another massive benefit of SafetyWing is that there’s no limit on travel duration, so you don’t need a return date (and a return ticket) in order to activate your insurance.
Check SafetyWing Insurance out for yourself here:
By following these sensible measures, you can fully appreciate the beauty and charm that Albania has to offer with confidence and peace of mind!
There are so many incredible things to do in Albania, I truly believe it’s one of the most underrated destinations in Europe. Whether you’re planning a 10 day Albania itinerary or a short weekend getaway, I hope my Albania Travel Guide gives you some inspiration to experience this incredible country for yourself!
If you have any questions about visiting Albania, feel free to reach out to me on Instagram or leave a comment below! ♥
You may also like to read:
This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission, at no additional cost to you, if you make a purchase through any links. This income goes towards the sites running costs and enables me to provide readers with free content.