Note: This post on things to see in Albania is a guest post by Amy of Templeseeker. Minor edits have been made to change the post to American English. See below the post for our recommendations and tips.
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Though Albania is one of the least visited European countries, don’t let this fool you into thinking there’s nothing to do or see. Albania is a fascinating country with a lot of history, culture, and untapped potential.
The country is dotted with beautiful charming towns, a stretched coastline of turquoise beaches, extraordinary mountains, diverse historical sites, wonderful weather, and affordable prices. These are just a few of the reasons why more and more tourists are noticing this hidden gem.
Arriving in the Capital
The capital city of Tirana is one of the best off-beat European capitals. There are non-stop flights from London to Tirana and also Vienna to Tirana.
(If you’ll be coming from somewhere else in the Balkans, Tirana is easily reachable by bus from North Macedonia and Montenegro, plus you can take the ferry and bus over from Corfu).
What to know before you go
A few things to know before you go….don’t expect buses or people to be on time. Albania has a very relaxed and laid back culture so sometimes you will just need to go with the flow!
The currency used in Albanian Lek. $1 is currently approximately 108 Albanian Lek (time of writing August 2019) and so you can roughly think of 100 Lek as a dollar.
The national language is Albanian and it’s a slightly different dialect in the North to the South.
How long to Spend in Albania
One week in Albania will be long enough to at least explore Tirana, Shkoder, and Berat.
Two weeks in Albania will be enough to see the destinations outlined in this blog – Northern Alps, Karabrun Peninsula, Gjirokaster, Tirana, the Albanian Riviera, Rozafa Castle, and Berat. You will be traveling every other day, so if you are looking for a more relaxed itinerary, spread this over 3-4 weeks.
A month in Albania would be an amazing amount of time if you can spare it. This would include some relaxing days on the coast and a more thorough exploration of the capital.
7 Unique Things to See in Albania
Below you’ll find some of the most unique sights and experiences in Albania.
Hike the Accursed Mountains and Alps in North Albania
North Albania is unlike any other place I’ve ever been to. If you have an adventurous spirit, and love mountains and hiking, this will be your favorite part of the country. North Albania offers various breathtaking sights like the Theth National Park, Valbona, Shala River, Lake Koman, the Grunasi Waterfall, and the Blue Eye Theth –all of which are not to be missed. I recommend joining a tour guide like Zbulo Discover Albaniaor Komani Lake Ferryso you won’t miss any of these wonderful sights.
Discover the Karaburun Peninsula
Albania has one of the most beautiful coastlines and the Karaburun Peninsula is a must-see if you’re looking to spend your time at the beach.
Surrounded by the Adriatic Sea to the north and the Ionian Sea to the south, the Karaburun-Sazan National Marine Park coastline is surrounded by sandy and rocky beaches, sea caves, cliffs, and various bays.
I recommend doing a boat tour with Aquamarine Adventure so you can enjoy the different beaches of the Peninsula.
Visit the Charming Gjirokaster
If you’re looking to visit Albania for its cultural and historical aspects, I recommend Gjirokaster, dubbed as the “City of Stone.” Gjirokaster is an ancient Ottoman city that began as a 4th-century castle, and it’s on the UNESCO World Heritage List. This charming city is surrounded by beautiful greenery and nature. The Fortress is one of the most beautiful sights, and check out the Bënja Thermal Pools and the Langarica Canyon for some adventure.
Experience the Hustling and Bustling Tirana
Tirana, the capital of Albania, has a hustling and bustling modern city life and it’s one of the busiest cities in the country. Blloku, or “The Block” is a trendy area with lively nightlife, restaurants, and clubs. Check out the Sky Tower, especially at sunset, for a panoramic 360-degree view. Another unique aspect of Tirana is the nature spots, such as Mount Dajti which you can access by a cable car to get another perspective of the city.
Relax in the Albanian Riviera
The Albanian Riviera is one of the most-visited parts of the country for its crystal-clear waters and the white sandy beaches. Ksamil, Sarande is one of the most popular beaches because it has three islands near the coast which you can swim to. Vlore is another city with spectacular beaches like Dhermi, Himare, or Jal. I recommend driving through the Llogara Pass, which has views of the coastline and paying a visit to Butrint, a historic archaeological park.
Explore Rozafa Castle
The Rozafa Castle is an ancient castle with Illyrian walls with medieval ruins and it offers stunning sights of the city and the lake. Located approximately 3.5km South of Shkodër, this castle is a symbolic structure of Albania that holds centuries of history.
Travel to the City of a Thousand Windows
Another quirky town to explore is Berat, dubbed as “The City of a Thousand Windows.” A historic site to visit is the Berat Castle, a 13th-century fortress protected by UNESCO which has an impressive view of Berat. You might also like to visit the Ethnographic Museum and the Sultan’s Mosque.
Get Out and Start Exploring!
Albania is rich with adventures and you will always find yourself entertained. In each city, you’ll discover a captivating history, delicious cuisine, and exciting adventures.
I hope I’ve inspired you to visit this fascinating country and try out these seven unique experiences. Please also check out my Albania Travel Guide for more information about this great country.
5 Things to Bring to Albania
We have a complete packing list for Albania, but make sure you bring these five items with you!
Lonely Planet Western Balkans is a great guidebook for your visit to Albania, and it’s great if you’re also visiting any combination of the following countries: North Macedonia, Kosovo, Bosnia, Serbia, Croatia, Montenegro, and Slovenia. It can be really hard (sometimes impossible) to buy a physical guidebook in English once you’re in Albania, so if you like having your guidebook in your hands you will need to bring it with you from home.
A water bottle with a filter. While generally, the tap water in big cities in Albanian is drinkable, such as in Tirana and Sarande, we generally recommend using a water bottle with a purifying filter to reduce your plastic consumption and ensure you won’t drink any funny-tasting water on your stomach that could make your trip unpleasant! Albanian water has a notoriously high amount of chlorine that affects the taste.
We recommend the GRAYL water bottle – it filters water perfectly in an instant so that you can even drink from lakes, bad taps, etc.
Wet wipes, hand sanitizer, TP & other Balkan transit needs. Bathrooms in the Balkans tend to be… how can we say it?… not so well-stocked. Save yourself the disappointment and bring a mini-rescue pack of wet wipes & hand sanitizer.
Unlocked Cell Phone: Allison and I both have unlocked cell phones that we bought in Europe (I use a Samsung and Allison uses an iPhone). This allows up to get sim cards when we travel so that we always have the internet. This has gotten us out of so many jams! If you don’t have an unlocked cell phone that can use an Albanian sim card, you can buy a cheaper unlocked phone online and bring it with you!
Travel safety items. We think Albania is very safe to travel, but at the same time, it never hurts to be prepared! Some people like to carry money belts, but neither Allison or I use these. Instead, we both carry the same PacSafe anti-theft backpack. It has locking zippers, slash-proof construction with metal mesh hidden in the fabric, and tons of other smart security features — all while being cute and stylish enough to be our everyday bag. We recommend it highly for both male and female travelers, as it’s neutral enough to be unisex. We also strongly recommend travel insurance! Our recommendation is at the bottom of the post.
Where to Stay in Albania
We’re in the process of creating comprehensive guides on where to stay in various Albanian cities, but for now, we recommend checking out Booking.com as early as possible. While Albania is underrated by international travelers, many of the best places can book early during the high season because Albanians know where to go.
More Albania Travel Resources
First, start by reading our post on planning a trip to Albania. It covers everything from visas to vaccinations to what to pack, so it’s a great jumping-off point for your travel plans.
If you’re curious about the currency used in Albania and how tipping works, we recommend our Balkan currency guide to learn all about the Albanian lek and tipping culture. We also have a post on Albanian cuisine!
If you’re looking for even more places to add to your Albania itinerary, we have a bunch of ideas for you from us and other bloggers in this collaborative post about the 15 best places to visit in Albania!
Don’t Forget About Travel Insurance!
If you’re planning a trip to Albania, make sure to travel with a valid travel insurance policy. While we feel safe in Albania, it’s a good idea to be covered in case of an emergency. Travel insurance covers you in case of theft or an accident, which can save your trip if there’s an incident.
For travel insurance, Allison and I use World Nomads. I’ve been a happy customer of theirs for almost three years, and I’ve never had an issue when making a claim. I’m happy to refer them to anyone I meet.
Pin this guide to the Best Things to See in Albania for Your Trip!
Stephanie has been living in and traveling around the Balkans for the past three years. She’s written for National Geographic Online, appeared on CNN Arabic and in the New York Times, and ridden more Balkan buses than is good for a person.