When I speak about my Albania holidays to my colleagues, they always ask me: Why should I visit Albania for holidays? Here is my ultimate list of 99 reasons why you must put Albania holidays on your bucket list.
1. Albania is off-the-beaten path
Let’s be honest, the best part of going on a holiday is the adventure. When a trip surprises me, it is usually the highlight of my holiday. Before I went to Albania, I never hiked across a mountain range. Or had a shower in a mountain waterfall. And I never kayaked to a little island. Albania holidays should be on your short list, because it is off-the-beaten path.
2.The Albanian Riviera
Albania’s neighboring countries, like Italy, Croatia, Montenegro and Greece, are famous for their beaches. But Albania’s beaches are more enjoyable, because they are not crowded. In Albania, you can still find a perfect white sand beach and have it to yourself all afternoon. Some of the hidden beaches, like Monastery Beach, require a hike. But when you see the turquoise water and the cliffs surrounding the site, you will realize it worth the effort. The Albanian Riviera is an absolute must during your Albania holidays.
3. Mediterranean Climate
Albania has a hot and dry summer. The summer temperature at the coast is usually between 30-32 °C. The sea water is a nice temperature for swimming, usually between 20-23°C in the summer. However, Albania has many peaks and mountains, where the temperature is lower. Please remember to bring some warmer clothes on your Albania holidays. Because the mountain destinations, like the Llogara Pass, Mount Dajti or the Albanian Alps may be colder.
Albania holidays are cheap. Touristic attractions are low in price. A visit to the UNESCO heritage site Apollonia for instance, costs 300 LEK = 2.40 EUR. Moreover, hotel stays are very affordable. You can stay in a hotel the biggest beach destinations in August for as little as 30 Euros per night. Furthermore, foods and drinks are extremely low in price and usually very fresh. A cup of coffee is only 150 LEK = 1.20 EUR.
Ksamil is the most beautiful beach in Albania and the highlight of the Albanian Riviera. The beach of Ksamil is how you image paradise. There is perfect white sand and clear blue water. From the beach, you can see little islands across the bay. Furthermore, Ksamil is a great place for snorkelling, because of the crystal clear water. You can also use Ksamil as a base to explore other touristic highlights. The historic city of Gjirokastra, the Blue Eye spring and the Archaeological park of Butrint are all nearby.
If you plan on visiting Ksamil beach during your Albania holidays, you can choose to fly to Corfu instead of Tirana. The Greek Corfu island is just across the sea from Ksamil beach. Therefore, the easiest way to reach Ksamil is flying to Corfu island and taking a ferry across the sea. Click here for more information about Ksamil beach.
6. No Mass Tourism
Albania is still in the process of developing itself as a holiday destination. The number of international visitors is growing slowly-slowly, but there definitely is no mass tourism. Therefore, Albania holidays are still charming and authentic. The Albanians are genuinely in love with foreigners visiting their country and very curious. Don’t be surprised if they invite you into their house for a meal with the family.
7. Private Island
During you Albania holidays, it is possible to visit a private island. From Ksamil beach, you can visit four little islands in the sea. The islands are not inhibited, and therefore, you can enjoy them in privacy. Two of the islands are close to the beach, therefore, you can simply swim across. The other two islands are a bit further away. These two islands are connected by a small strip of land and therefore called the twin-islands. You can rent a paddle boat, kajak or jetski to reach the twin-islands. There is also some small café and restaurants on the twin islands, so that you can enjoy a drink and food while you are there.
8. Only Short Flight
Albania holidays are just a short flight away from most European countries. Flights from mainland Europe are between 1-3 hours only. The only airport in Albania is near the capital city Tirana. From Tirana, you can either travel north if you are interested in a hiking trip across the Albanian Alps. Or you can travel south along the coast to visit beaches and UNESCO World heritage sites.Alternatively, if you are only interested in the south of Albania, you can choose to fly to the Greek Corfu island. And from Corfu take a ferry across to Albania for 45 minutes.
9. UNESCO World Heritage
Albania holidays are not complete without a visit to one or several of the UNESCO World Heritage sites. If you will only visit one site, then you cannot miss the archaeological site of Butrint. Butrint is a beautiful park surrounded by water with excellent monuments inside the park. A close second is the historical city of Berat. Berat is very popular amongst tourists, because of its beautiful old houses on the hill side. And thirdly, the city of Gjirokastra. Where you can see old stone houses from the Ottoman period. Moreover, there are four more sites on the tentative list of UNESCO: The royal tombs of Selca, the amphitheatre of Durres, Apollonia and the Castle of Bashtova. You can find information about all these sites below.
Butrint is a UNESCO World heritage site that you cannot miss during your Albania holidays. Within the archaeological park, you can see the ruins of an ancient cities. Butrint is an absolute must if you are visiting Albania. The park is located on a little peninsula and surrounded by water. Plants and threes have grown around the monuments, which makes it an incredibly beautiful place. The history of the site is fascinating and dates back to 50.000 BC. Butrint is close to the city Saranda, Ksamil beach and Gjirokastra, therefore, you can combine your trip.
Apollonia is another UNESCO World Heritage Site in Albania, that you cannot miss during your Albania holidays. Apollonia used to be an ancient Greek city. The city was originally founded by Greek colonists from Corfu and Corinth. The city was wealthy and had a famous school of philosophy. However, when the nearby river closed up due to an earthquake, the city was abandoned. You can travel to the city of Fier which is closeby and from there make a day-trip to the archaeological park. The park is located on a hill and is surrounded by beautiful olive threes.
12. UNESCO Historical Centers
Be sure to plan a visit to the UNESCO World Heritage sites during your Albania holidays. Two cities in Albania are on the UNESCO World heritage list. The cities of Berat and Gjirokastra both have a beautiful historical center. Walking through either city is like visiting a real-life museum. Albania was ruled by the Ottoman Turks for over 400 years. In Berat and Gjirokastra, you can see the traditional houses dating back to the Ottoman period.
13. Berat City
Berat is one of the historical towns on the UNESCO World Heritage list and an absolute must during your Albania holidays. The town is famous for the beautiful white houses on the hill side. You can walk on the cobblestone streets and visit the old neighbourhood with the traditional houses. Vising Berat is like visiting a museum. The Ottoman style houses are still in use today, and many have been converted into hotels and coffee houses. Moreover, Berat has a second touristic sight. On the top of the hill you can visit the Kala Castle. The view from the castle across the valley is breath-taking.
14. Berat Castle
Berat city is one of the touristic highlights that you must include in your Albania holidays. The main attraction in Berat city is the beautiful castle on the top of the hill, which is called Kala Castle. From the castle, you have a beautiful view across the old town of Berat and the Osum river below. The castle was built by the Romans. But the Byzantine empire built most of the castle in the 13th Century. There are many churches within the walls of the castle. Moreover, the castle is still in use today, because there are people living inside the walls of the castle.
15. Ottoman Houses of Berat
The city of Berat has two historic neighbourhoods. Traditional white houses were built on the side of the hill. The white houses date back to the Ottoman period. Berat is a major touristic attraction, because it is very picturesque. Therefore, Berat city became a “museum city” in 1961.The old houses have many large windows looking down on the town below. Because the houses are on the hill side, it looks as if they are build on top of each other. Therefore, Berat is also known as the “city of a thousand windows”. There are two old quarters separated by the Osum River. The water is clear blue and you can walk across the beautiful arched bridge from one quarter to the other. Berat has many monuments and old churches to explore. Moreover, many of the old houses have been converted into coffee houses, restaurants and hotels for you to enjoy. Be sure to plan a day in Berat city during your Albania holidays.
16. Gjirokastra City
Gjirokastra city is one of the most beautiful cities in Albania. The city has beautiful stone houses, a traditional bazaar and cobble stone streets. Gjirokastra has houses from the period that Albania was ruled by the Ottoman Turks. Therefore, Gjirokaster is on the UNESCO World Heritage list.Gjirokastra’s historic buildings have been well preserved, because the city was named a “museum city” in the 60s. Moreover, it is the birthplace for the former dictator Enver Hoxha, therefore, it was well kept during the dictators regime. The city is also called “the stone city”, because stone was used everywhere in the city. If you like historic cities, you must include Gjirokastra on your itinerary for your Albania holidays.
17. Gjirokastra Castle
The most impressive place for sightseeing in Gjirokastra city is the castle. From the city, you can climb up the hill and enter the castle. The castle was originally built in the 12th century. But over time the different rulers of Albania expanded the castle and made improvements. In 1930, King Zog of Albania turned the castle into a prison. Nowadays, the castle is a popular sight to visit during Albania holidays. You can visit the castle and enjoy a lovely view on Gjirokastra town below. Inside the castle, you can enter the Museum of Arms. The museum show the weapons used during Albania’s fight for independence.
18. Cold War Tunnel
The Cold War Tunnel is an enormous bunker built underneath the castle of Gjirokastra. Albania’s former communist dictator, Enver Hoxha, was paranoid for an attack. In his mind Albania was going to be attacked by nuclear weapons, therefore, he build thousands of bunkers across Albania. The Cold War Tunnel is a gigantic bunker with 80 rooms. The bunker was meant to accommodate the local government during the attack that never happened. You can take a tour trough the bunker. The experience gives you a unique insight in Albania’s history. Therefore, it is a must for your Albania holidays. Although to be frank the visit to the cold war tunnel is a little creepy.
19. Bazaar market of Gjirokastra
On you visit to Gjirokastra city, you cannot miss the lively Bazaar market. The Bazaar was built over 500 years ago and it still has the cobblestone street and the medieval buildings. Along the street, you can buy handmade products, like wooden pieces, handwoven rugs and lace. You can also see stone carvers perform their craft. The bazaar market is the perfect place to buy a souvenir from your Albania holidays. Moreover, Gjirokaster is a very hill and steep town, so the cafes at the bazaar are a perfect place for a little break.
20. Viroi Lake
Viroi Lake is one of the most beautiful places to visit during your Albania holidays. The lake is close to Gjirokastra. The site will probably remind you of a calming Monet painting, since the surface of the lake is covered in plants and flowers. Underneath the water surface, you can see many underwater plants and beautiful caves. It is also possible to dive the lake and explore the caves more closely. Or you can simply have a picnic or a lunch in the little restaurants on the shore of the lake.
21. Zekate House
Zekate House is one of the historic sights, that you can visit in Gjirokastra. The house is a traditional tower-house. Inside the house, you can see the original interior from the Ottoman period. The tower house was owned by a wealthy administrative family. In the house you can see carved wooden ceilings, stained-glass windows and wall frescoes. The owners of the house live next door, you can simply turn up and ask them to show you around. From the house, you will have beautiful views over Gjirokastra and the river below. If you like to visit historic places, then you must visit Zekate house during your Albania holidays.
22. Skenduli House
Skenduli House is a historical sight you can visit whilst in Gjirokastra. The historical house was built in the period that Albania was ruled by the Ottoman Turks. Albania’s history there were blood feuds between families and threats of violence. Therefore, the house has the living quarters upstairs and the downstairs is used as a defense against violence. The house belonged to a wealthy family, which you can see from the beautiful carved wooden ceiling and the stained glass windows. After the communism, the original family became owner of the property again. The family is restoring the house and they give tours.
23. Blue Eye Spring
The Blue Eye Spring is a sight, that you must visit during your Albania holidays. The spring has a magical blue and green color, which looks almost unnatural. It is a beautiful and calming place and certainly something you have not seen before. The Blue Eye is an underwater spring that pumps water up to the surface with an enormous speed. The spring is called the Blue Eye, because it looks like a human eye. The water originates from a black underwater cave, which looks like the pupil of a human eye. And the bright blue water resembles the iris of a human eye. The spring is surrounded by lovely nature. Be sure to bring a picnic meal, because the plateau above the spring is the perfect place.
One of the highlights of the Albanian Riviera is the Karaburun Peninsula. The peninsula is basically, a strip of mountains stretches out into the sea for about 30 km. The mountain range is surrounded by the Adriatic sea to the north and the Ionian sea to the south. You must visit the Karaburun Peninsula during your Albania holidays, because it has breath-taking bays overlooking the sea. The rocky bays can only be reached by boat or by a long steep hike. Therefore, the bays are very secluded and private. You can take a boat from Vlore or from the Dhermi village. By boat you can reach the touristic attractions: the Haxhi Ali Cave, the Gramata Bay and the Blue Cave.
25.Haxhi Ali Cave
One of the touristic attractions to visit on the Karaburun Peninsula is the Haxhi Ali Cave. The enormous cave is made of lime-stone and it covers the seawater. The cave is so large that it can hold several speedboats at the time. According to the legend, the pirate Haxhi Ali used the cave as a shelter from where he could attack rival ships. The only way to visit the cave is by boat from Vlore. It is possible to swim in the water inside the cave. A boat trip to the Haxhi Ali Cave and the Karaburun peninsula is a great addition to your Albania holidays itinerary.
26. Scuba Diving in Albania
If you like diving during the Albania holidays, there are many underwater treasures that you can discover. Firstly, the Karaburun Peninsula has many hidden bays inside the sea. By diving can discover the beautiful underwater creatures. Moreover, just of Albania’s coast is Sazan island. Sazan island has beautiful coral reefs, sea plants and underwater caves. Furthermore, it is possible to discover several sunken ships along the coast. In the Bay of Vlora, there is a sunken ship called Po. The ship had a hospital inside for transportation of injured people during the second world war. Or alternatively, there is an Italian Cargo Ship that sunk in the harbour of Saranda aroung 1944.
27. Cave diving
You can choose to go cave diving during your Albania holidays, because there are several cave diving destinations. The first destination, is the Viroi lake close to Gjirokastra city. The underwater cave underneath the surface is 249 meters deep. There are beautiful pictures online about cave diving the Viroi lake. A second destination, is the Blue Eye spring close to Saranda city. Diving the Blue Eye spring is dangerous and only for true adrenaline junkies. Because in order to dive the cave, you must dive against the enormous pressure of the water pumping upwards. And a third destination is the Haxhi Ali Cave in the Karaburun peninsula. The cave has been used by ships throughout centuries, therefore, many archaeological findings were found here. There are beautiful underwater flora and fauna inside the cave.
If you can, try to visit Gramata Bay during your Albania holidays. The bay is a hidden beach, located inside the Karaburun Peninsula. Gramata bay can only be reached by boat and is therefore very private. The sandy beach is surrounded by steep cliffs and is a beautiful sight. The bay is also called the bay of scripts, because of the inscriptions written by sailors in the wall. Sailors carved symbols and letters into the rocks throughout history. Archaeologists have found that some of the inscriptions are ancient, as they were written in ancient Greek, Medieval languages and Latin.
Permet is a town in the south of Albania and it is only 30 km from the Greek border. You should visit Permet during your Albania holidays, because of its natural beauty. Permet is called the “city of Roses” by the locals. You will see the beautiful flowers all over the historic town.The main highlights are the old Ottoman Bridge, the thermal springs of Benja and rafting on the wild Vjosa river. You can find more information below.
30. Ottoman Bride of Benja
There is a beautiful Ottoman bridge close to the city of Permet. The bridge crosses a bright blue river and is close to the Thermal Springs of Benja. The bridge was built during when Albania was ruled by the Ottoman Turks. It is in a very good condition, so you can walk on the bridge to take pictures of the landscape and river. The locals call the bridge the Judge’s bridge, because a judge fell of the bridge during the Ottoman period. The bridge is one of those hidden beauties that you should absolutely visit during your Albania holidays.
31. Wild Water Rafting on Vjosa River
If you are up for an adventure, you can go wild water rafting (or kayaking) on the Vjosa River during your Albania holidays. The rafting trip starts from the foot of the Nemercka mountain and takes you downstream to the city of Permet. Be aware that the water pressure is very high and it takes serious paddling to stay on course through the streams and rapids. The adventure is thrilling, since the waves can get well over a metre high.
32. Thermal Springs of Benja
About 13km from Permet, you can visit the Thermal Springs of Benja. The hot water from the natural springs is rich in minerals. Therefore, the hot water is said to have healing capacities. There are several different pools, which cure skin diseases, bone diseases and rheuma. There are also people, who cover their skin in the black mud, which is good for the skin. The pools are in a spectacular setting in the middle of the nature. And therefore, the Thermal springs are a great place to visit during your Albania holidays.
33. Lake Koman Ferry
The Lake Koman Ferry is an experience that you cannot miss during your Albania holidays. Just open a guidebook about Albania and it will shortlist the ferry journey in their top ten. Bradt Guide even called it: “one of the world’s great boat trips”. So what is all the fuss about?
The Lake Koman ferry feels like a great adventure. The ferry boat passes through stunning scenery and steep hills. There are moments, where the steep cliffs are so close, it seems impossible for the ferry to continue. Bare in mind, that the ferry was actually was not intended for tourists. Therefore, the journey feels like an authentic great adventure.
34. The Accursed Mountains
The Accursed Mountains, also called the Albanian Alps, is a mountain range in the North of Albania. It has become a popular attraction to visit during Albania holidays, because of the 3-4 day hiking trip across the mountain pass. But for what reason should you visit the Accursed Mountains? ….because it is like leaving the 21st-century behind and visiting the past. There are lovely little villages in the mountains, that are so far away and difficult to reach, that you can still see the old traditions. Moreover, the mountains are beautiful; There are enormous peaks, green valleys and old forests. You can swim in fresh blue mountain water. And most importantly, you can disconnect and really focus on the beautiful nature around. The hiking tour is truly a break from everything you know.
35. Korab Mountain
The Korab mountain is on the border between Albania and Macedonia. The peak is the highest mountain in both countries and the 12th highest peak in Europe. If you like to travel off-the-beaten track, you should visit Korab during your Albania holidays. From Tirana you can travel to Peshkopi, which takes roughly 5 hours by car or minibus. And then from Peshkopi, you can drive to the mountain village called Radomire. The drive to Radomire is about 40 kilometers and takes 1.5-2 hours. For this part of the trip it is recommended to drive a four-wheel drive, due to the conditions of the road.
36. Hiking in the Albanian Alps
The best way to explore the Accursed Mountains (or Albanian Alps) is a 3-4 day hiking tour through the mountain range. The trip starts from Shkodra, which is a touristic city in the North of Albania. From there you take a minibus to the Lake Koman ferry. The ferry journey is beautiful, because the boat sails through massive limestone mountains. The views are spectacular. After a 3-hour boat journey, you will arrive at the other end in Fierze. From Fierza, you can take another minibus to the mountain village Valbona. You can spend the night in a mountain lodge in Valbona and rest up for the hike the next day. The next morning, you can hike across the Valbona Pass to the mountain village of Theth. The first part of the hike is a steep climb up towards the pass and after the pass you will hike down to the Theth Valley through a thick forest. There are a few small cafes on the route, where you can enjoy a cold drink and a picnic lunch. After the day of hiking, you will arrive in the mountain village Theth. You will be greeted by children from the village, who invite you to their home for an overnight stay. If you have the time, you can spend an extra day here. And explore the natural beauty like Blue Eye of Theth, the waterfall and the Grunas Canyon. And finally, you can take a minibus from Theth back to Shkodra city.
37. Stay in a Guesthouse
If you are visiting Valbona and Theth during your Albania holidays. You can spend a night in a traditional Guest House. Which means you stay with the family and you can have a family meal. One of most popular places to stay in Valona is Rilindja Hotel, which is owned by an American lady called Catherine. She made the Albanian mountains her home and provides tourist with hiking advice. It is a very popular place to stay for hikers or backpackers the night before their hike from Valbona to Theth.
38. Valbona National Park
The Valbona National Park is a highlight to visit during your Albania holidays. The park is located in the North of Albania, close the neighbouring countries Kosovo and Montenegro. The village of Valbona is located in the valley between the high mountain peaks and it is a popular place to stay for hikers. The most popular route is from Valbona Village across the pass to Theth Village (or the other way around). If you plan on visiting, you may want to do some research on Edith Durham. She was a British traveller, who wrote about Northern Albania in the book called “High Albania”. Activities that you can undertake include swimming, fishing, canoeing and kayaking. Moreover, you can also try the local speciality dish called flija. Flija is many little pancakes layered on top of each other and it is often served with honey. The Valbona Valley is usually covered in show between November and May, therefore, you must plan your visit across the summer months.
39. Seven lakes of Lura
The Lura National Park is a nature park in the mountains of North Albania. There are seven lakes surrounding the mountain peak of Lura. Be sure to visit Lura during your Albania holidays, if you like to travel off-the-beaten path. Amongst the locals, the peak is called “the crown” and the lakes are “the pearls of Albania”. The seven lakes of Lura are ice basins, which are filled with cold water from the melting snow. Each of the lakes has something different to offer. Some of the lakes are overgrown by white and yellow water lilies. And you can see large dragon flies on the surface of the lake. Other lakes are beautifully still and surrounded by trees. The lakes were a touristic attraction for the locals during the communism for their natural beauty. You can reach the lakes of Lura by first travelling to the city Peshkopi. It is best to rent a four-wheel drive as some of the mountain roads are steep.
40. Drive a 4-wheel-drive
There are many forums on TripAdvisor asking whether you need a 4×4 or an SUV or any four-wheel-drive car during your Albania holidays. Of course, it depends on where you are going in Albania. But if you are going by car to the Northern Albanian mountains, then you will most definitely need a 4-wheel-drive. Although the Albanian government is working hard on improving the roads, not all the roads have been renewed. If you plan on visiting Theth, for instance, do rent a 4-wheel drive for that part of your journey.
41. Theth Mountain Village
Theth is a mountain village in the Albanian Alps. If you like hiking, you must visit Theth during you Albania holidays. The most popular hiking trail in Albania, is hiking across the Valbona Pass. The hikers can start from Valbona in the east and hike across to Theth in the west (or other way around). However, it is also possible to visit Theth on its own. In that case you can travel to Shkodra city and take a car or bus to visit Theth.
The village is very picturesque and it has many historic buildings. There is a beautiful stone church and many of the homes date back to the Ottoman period. Moreover, a wild river runs trough the village with fresh mountain water.The highlight of Theth is the lock-in tower. Before the communism, the Albanian’s lived by the Kanun. Which is like an old law, which explains how the people should live according to traditions. If a family broke the Kanun code, another family could kill them, which could then lead to a revenge kill. The Lock-in tower is to protect the man next in line to be killed. It protects him from the blood feud.
The beauty of visiting Theth is the virgin and untouched wilderness. The access road to Theth is still unpaved and it feels adventurous to visit. The Theth village is located in the Theth National Park. The nature park has a several highlights, like the Blue Eye of Theth, the Grunas Waterfall and the Grunas Canyon.
42. Blue Eye of Theth
The Blue Eye of Theth is a great place to visit during your Albania holidays. The eye is a emerald green pool, which is situated in a jungle-like environment. The Blue Eye of Theth it is not far from the Nderlysa village. To reach the Blue Eye of Theth, you have two options. For the longer hike, you can start from the Theth village and walk along the left side of the river to Nderlysa for 6.5 km. Or you can drive along the river to Nderlysa, park the car and start your hike there. From Nderlysa the hike to the Blue Eye takes about 40 minutes.
The Eye was formed by erosion of the rock. The mountain water from the Black river streams into the pool from a little water fall and also from an underground spring. The location is picturesque. There is a wooden plateau on the top of a rock from where you can take beautiful pictures. And there are a few improvised cafes run by the locals. The Blue Eye is also a perfect spot for swimming during the hot summer.
43. Grunas Waterfall
The Grunas Waterfall is one of the naturally beautiful places in Theth. From the Theth village it takes around 40 minutes to climb to the waterfall. But bear in mind that the trail is quite steep and therefore some requires climbing. For that reason, it is best to bring some water and some snacks along on the trail. The trail is market, but not very well, so be sure to get some instructions from the locals before you go. The result of the hike is absolutely worth it. The waterfall has a thin body and it is 30 meters high. And the view is spectacular. You can hear the sound of the water crashing on the rocks and it feels very calming. Moreover, the water is perfectly clear. Since the water comes from the mountain snow, it is too cold for a swim. If you walk a bit further along the trail, you can see the source of the waterfall, as it drops into several little pools.
44. Grunas Canyon
The Grunas Canyon is a natural monument in the Theth National Park. The Canyon has rocky carbon formations and is around 2 km long. Visiting the canyon during your Albania holidays is trilling. Because you can look down into the 60 meter deep canyon from the top. The width of the canyon varies between 2-40 meters. The canyon can be reached from the Grunas Waterfall, go back on the trail from the waterfall a few meters and follow the sign to the left for the Grunas Canyon. Locals do advice through that it is best to visit the canyon with a local guide, as it requires a significant climb. The canyon is absolutely gorgeous and the water is crystal clear. If you are up for an adventure you can canoe through the canyon.
45. Shkodra City
Shkodra is the largest city in the North of Albania and it is very popular amongst tourists. The city is a very cultural place, as it is the home to many artists, musicians, painters, photographers, poets and writers. It also has a rich cultural history and throughout history it was ruled by the Romans, Serbians, Venetians and the Ottomans. Therefore, Shkodra is a great place to visit during your Albania holidays, if you are a creative person.
The main historic highlight is the Rozafa Castle on the hill, which was built by the Venetians in the middle ages. But Shkodra has a lot more to offer tourists. The center of the city is like little Italy, since it has a beautiful boulevard with little cafes. Moreover, Shkodra is the biking capital of Albania. This is partially due to the communist history when few people owned a car and partially because it is a flat city. The city is also the home to the beautiful Lake of Shkodra, which you can visit by bike if you wish.
46. Boulevard of Shkodra
The boulevard is the main touristic highlight when you visit Shkodra. The promenade in the centre of the city is paved with cobblestones and along the street there are traditional houses from the 1800s. The promenade has beautiful two story Venetian-style houses and it has a very Italian feeling. In the afternoon and evenings the boulevard is bustling with people, who are gathering in the cafes and their terraces. The street was created by a famous painter from Shkodra called Kole Idromeno. He was a student in Venice and brought some of the magic to his home in Albania, where he became the creative force behind the design of the boulevard.
47. Marubi National Museum of Photography
The Marubi National Museum of Photography has an impressive collection of photos about Albania’s history. The museum shows photographs of three generations of the photographers from the Marubi family. The first generation was Pietro Marubi, who was an Italian photographer who emigrated from Italy to Shkodra. He started a photo business and was assisted by Rrok Kodheli and Kel Kodheli. After his death his assistants took over the photo business. Which was later passed on to Kel’s son. The collection inside the museum shows the history of Northern Albania. It shows tribal leaders, highland upgrisings, town life in Shkodra and photographs of public events.
48. Rozafa Castle
The main tourist attraction in Shkodra is Rozafa Castle. When you drive from Tirana to Shkodra, you will see the Rozafa Castle on the top of the hill. The castle is famous for a local legend. According to the legend, the castle was built by three brothers. During the day they would built the walls, but overnight the walls would fall down. A wise old man told the brothers that they should sacrifice one of their wives to ensure the walls would not fall down. The brothers made a pact that the wife, who would bring lunch the next afternoon, would be sacrificed. The two older brothers told their wives, therefore, the wife of the youngest brother Rozafa brought the lunch. She agreed to be built into the wall of the castle. But only under the condition that her breast would be exposed to feet her baby, one foot exposed to rock the babies cradle and one arm to sooth the baby.
Whether you believe the legend or not, the castle is a beautiful place to visit. The top of the hill gives you a panoramic view of the rivers and the lake of Shkodra. And there is a lovely café on the grounds, to relax after the climb up the hill.
49. Mesi Bridge
The Mesi bridge is about 5km north of Shkodra. It is the largest bridge in Albania from the Ottoman period. The bridge was built in the 18th century by a local leader. It was built to connect Shkodra to the city of Drisht on the other side. The bridge is made of round rocks and stone plates and it crosses the Kir river. The bride is 108 meters long and 3.4 meters wide. The bridge has 13 arches, but none of them are equal they all have different shapes and sizes. This actually makes the bridge very picturesque. The Mesi bridge was voted the top bridge to visit in Albania by TripAdvisor.
50. Explore Communist History in Tirana
Tirana is one of the best places to visit if you are interested in Albania’s communist past. After the second world war, the communist dictator Enver Hoxha came to power. He ruled the country from 1944 until his death in 1985, after which the communism regime was continued for 5 years by his successor Ramiz Alia. During the communist period, Albania was isolated from the rest of the world, similar to North Korea today. There was no opposition, because the wrong opinion or action could lead to torture, imprisonment or death. Due to the isolation, the country went through extreme poverty. The communist dictator was obsessed by the idea of a foreign nuclear attack. Therefore, he constructed 750.000 bunkers all across the country to protect the population in case of an attack, but the attack never came.
The dictator died and the regime ended, but the heritage remains in Albania and some of the history you can explore as a tourist. The Bunk Art Museum in Tirana was a large bunker built for government during an attack, but has now been converted in a museum about communism. Moreover, the National History Museum has a gallery about the terror of communism. Furthermore, the former headquarters of the secret police was converted into the Museum of Secret Surveillance. And then there is the Pyramid building constructed during communism as a museum about the dictator. And finally, the Blloku Area which was closed off for the public during communist and it could only be accessed by the communist elite.
51. National History Museum
The National History Museum is the largest museum in Albania and definitely worth a visit during your Albania holidays. The collection shows Albania’s history in chronological order. Starting from the ancient Illyrians until post-communism. The museum has many treasures; It has statues and mosaics from the Greeks and Romans. A replica of national hero’s sword. And a gallery about the terror of the communism period with pictures of prisons, concentration camps and political murders.
There is also a gigantic mosaic above the entrance of the museum. The mosaic tells the story of all the foreign countries that occupied the Albania in the past. The artwork shows that the Albanians fought against many invasions from abroad. The display shows one person from each invasion. Including the Roman empire, the Byzantine empire, the Bulgars, the Turkish Ottoman empire, the national hero Skanderbeg, the Italian occupation, the German occupation and finally the communists.
52. Pyramid of Tirana
The pyramid of Tirana is a landmark for Albania, and therefore, a must during your Albania holidays. The Pyramid of Tirana was designed to be a museum about the communist dictator Enver Hoxha. The communist dictator ruled Albania in a strict communism regime from 1944 until his death in 1985. The Pyramid building was created by the dictator’s daughter and son-in-law to honour his memory. After the death of the dictator in 1985, the communist regime was continued until 1991 by his successor. However, in 1991 the communism ended, and the Pyramid was converted into a convention centre. Afterwards, the Pyramid has served many different purposes. It was used by NATO and humanitarian organizations during the Kosovo War. And it was also a broadcasting station for Albanian media. There were also proposals to demolish the Pyramid, but as you can image this is very controversial. The pyramid is a piece of heritage of Albania, but at the same time it reminds its inhabitants of the communist regime. The latest plan is to change the pyramid into a technology centre for youth.
53. Bunk Art, The Bunker Museum
Bunk Art a massive bunker that has been opened to the public. The former dictator of Albania was paranoid and afraid of a nuclear attack. Therefore, he constructed tens of thousands of bunkers all over Albania. One of the largest bunkers, for the protection of communist elite and the dictator, was built just outside Tirana. The bunker has now been converted into a museum about the communist regime.
Visiting the Bunk Art Museum is an exiting experience during your Albania holidays. Before the entrance, you walk through a long, dark tunnel in the hillside with scary music in the background. Then upon entering the bunker, you see a bathroom where you can wash off the nuclear material from your clothes. And when you wander further inside, you see a dozen of rooms that take you back to Albania’s former communist regime; There is the dictator’s office, where you can hear him speak trough a phone. Then there is a wall displayed that kept Albania’s population from leaving the country. There is information about nuclear tests on animals. And then there is information about the terror, the concentration camps, the prisons and the murders. In short, Bunk Art gives you an amazing insight into Albania’s sad history. You will leave Bunk Art, both impressed as well as a little scared.
54. The Museum of Secret Surveillance
The Museum of Secret Surveillance is the newest museum in Tirana and therefore a great place to visit during your Albania holidays. The building was the former headquarters of the Sigurimi, which was Albania’s secret police during the communist regime. The same building was also used by the German secret police (Gestapo) during the second world war. The museum is located in the centre of Tirana, just of the central Skenderbeg Square. The collection of the museum included the surveillance equipment of the secret police including radios, phones and special bugs. The bugs were placed in clothes, bags and closets to collect intelligence. Moreover, there is also a display about the people in Albania who were opposed to the communist agenda. Many of whom were arrested, prosecuted, convicted and executed.
55. Blloku Area
The Blloku is the most upscale neighbourhood in Tirana, with lively restaurants and bars. The area became popular after fall of the communism. During the communism, the area was restricted to the public. Because it was the area where the communist leader Enver Hoxha and communist elites lived. Ordinary Albanians were not allowed in and the area was unmarked on most maps. However, after the fall of the communism the are has changed drastically. Today it is also called “the playground for young Albanian elite”. In the area, you can still walk past the former residence of Enver Hoxha, which is closed to the public. If you like to enjoy yourself in one of the many nice cafes, restaurants and night clubs, be sure to visit Blloku during your Albania holidays.
56. Kruja Castle
The castle of Kruja is only a 45-minute drive from Tirana, and therefore, it is a popular destination for a day-trip during Albania holidays. Although the castle was built in the 5th or 6th century, it is mostly known as the home of Albania’s national hero Skanderbeg. Skanderbeg rebelled against the takeover of Albania by the Ottoman Turks. He had great military skills and fought against the Turkish Ottomans for 25 years. The castle is located on the top of the hill and it has a stunning view of the Albanian landscape all the way until the Adriatic Sea. Furthermore, there is a medieval tower, a lovely garden and a restaurant on site. If you have time, there are two excellent museums inside the castle walls: the Skanderbeg Museum and the Ethnographic Museum.
57. Skanderbeg Museum
The Skanderbeg Museum is a museum dedicated to Albania’s national hero Skanderbeg. Albania was invaded by many neighbouring countries throughout the centuries. During the middle ages, Albania was under the Turkish Ottoman rule for more than 400 years. Skanderbeg was an Albanian national, who fought against the Ottoman Rule for 25 years. He also united the leaders of local Albanian communities to fight together against the Ottoman regime. Skanderbeg was from Kruja and the fortress of Kruja was his base of operation. Therefore, the Skanderbeg museum is built on the grounds of the old castle. Inside the museum you can see the weapons, paintings, sculptures, documents and a library. These objects tell the story of Skanderbeg’s life and his struggle against the Ottoman Turks. Skanderbeg became a hero because of his efforts to fight for freedom for Albania. If you are interested in Albania’s history, be sure to visit the museum during your Albania holidays.
58. Ethnographic Museum
When you visit the Ethnographic Museum, you get the opportunity to walk around in a traditional home built in 1964. The house is well-preserved, and it was owned by the wealthy Toptani family. The home has the traditional set-up, where the downstairs is for the livestock and the upstairs for the family. The museum gives you a unique insight into how people lived their lives in the 18th century in Albania. You can see how they produced olive oil, wine and raki. How they prepared themselves for marriage. How they processed wool, to make traditional hats. And the house is even equipped with a small Turkish bath, which helped to heat the entire house. There is also a room which displays the traditional clothes used throughout Albania.
59. Kruja Bazaar Market
The Old Bazaar of Kruja is a lovely place to stroll around after your visit to the castle. The Bazaar is an Ottoman-style market place and it is more than 400 years old. The market has a narrow cobble-stone street with wooden boutiques along the side. You can find handicraft products like embroidered items, silver objects, copper items, colourful textiles and traditional clothing. Of course, the market also offers many souvenirs, like wallets, key hangers, post cards etcetera. Reviews on Trip Advisor vary massively. Some describe the Bazaar as too touristy, but others really enjoy the charming little market place. It is personal really, but it is easy to visit as it is on the hill just next to the Kruja Castle.
60. Dajti Mountain Cable Car
Just outside Tirana, you can take the Cable Car up the Dajti Moutain. It takes only 15-20 minutes to reach the lower station of the Cable Car. From the station the Cable car takes you up the mountain side to a height of 1000 meters above sea level. The journey with the cable car take only 15 minutes, but the view is impressive. From the Cable Car you look down on farm houses, bunkers and treetops. Once you reach the upper station of the Cable Car, you will be impressed by the breathtaking view. From the balcony you can see Tirana city, the beach of Durres and the Adriatic Sea.Dajti is also a great attraction in the winter, when the mountain is often covered in snow. Do not forget to bring a jacket, because it can be warm and sunny in Tirana city, but a lot cooler on the mountain.
61. Activities at Dajti Mountain
Once you have reached the upper station with the Cable Car, there is a variety of activities to choose from. There is a Cliff-top restaurant built on the edge of the Dajti mountain. The restaurant was built in wooden cabin style, which gives it a warm and homey ambience. You can have a seat by the window and enjoy lunch while taking in the view over Tirana. There is also a rotating bar on top of the Tower hotel, which rotes 360 degrees in 45 minutes. Moreover, there are also activities outside, like horse-back riding, target shooting or a children’s playground.
62. Adventure on Dajti Mountain
If you are looking for a more adventurous day during your Albania holidays, you can use upper station of the Cable Car as a starting point. From the Dajti balcony, you can hike to the highest peak of the Dajti mountain. The hike takes around 2-3 hours. There are routes and maps available, but it is also possible to hike together with a guide. Furthermore, you can book a rock climbing trip on the Dajti mountain. And do not be afraid if you have never climbed before, because the instructors will provide you will professional equipment and expect instruction. Moreover, it is possible to book a half day or a full day mountain biking trip across the mountain trails. And finally, if you are up for the ultimate adventure you can book a paragliding experience. The paragliding instructors will take you from the platform to the bottom of the mountain.
63. Petrela Castle
The castle of Petrela is only a 20-minute drive from Tirana, therefore, it is a lovely destination for an afternoon trip during your Albania holidays. The castle is in a beautiful setting on the top of a hill surrounded by olive trees and holiday villas. The fortress was built during the rule of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I. During the Ottoman period, the sister of the national hero Skanderbeg oversaw the castle. Skanderbeg used the castle for his resistance. Once the Ottoman forces were approaching, Petrela castle could signal the other castles in the area by lighting a fire. To reach the castle you must drive up the winding road through the valley. Bring good food wear, because you must climb the cobble stone steps on the path to the castle for about 10 minutes. There is a lovely restaurant inside the castle which overlooks the olive groves, the Petrela village and the river in the valley.
64. Preza Castle
The Preza Castle is a medieval castle on a hilltop close to Tirana. The castle was constructed in the 14th and 15th century at it belonged to the Thopias family. It was used by the national hero Skanderbeg between 1443-1468, in his resistance against the Ottoman Turks. The castle is only a 45-minute drive from Tirana, and it is an excellent place for a picnic or a relaxing coffee during your Albania holidays. Due to its hilltop location, it has a breath-taking panoramic view. From Preza Castle, you can see the castle of Kruja, a mountain lake, the Adriatic Sea, the airport and Tirana city. The castle has four towers and you can walk on the remains of the castle walls. There is also a clock tower on the grounds and a lovely little café.
65. Durres Amphi Theatre
The Roman Amphitheatre of Durres is in the centre of the city Durres, therefore, it is easy to visit during your Albania holidays. The theatre was built in the 2nd century AD and it is the largest amphitheatre in the Balkan Peninsula. You can walk where the spectators used to walk and you will be impresses by the dimensions of the theatre. The theatre could hold 15000 – 18000 spectators, which is roughly a third of the capacity of the Colosseum in Rome. You can get the best view of the entire theatre when you stand on the pathway above the theatre. Archaeologists discovered the monument was in the 1960s. The theatre is on the tentative list for UNESCO World Heritage. Moreover, there is also a Byzantine chapel on site with beautiful mosaics.
66.Castle of Bashtova
The castle of Bashtova is a fortress close to Tirana (76 km) and Durres (30 km). The fortress is gigantic size, 60 meters by 90 meters, and a rectangular shape. Historians believe the castle was built by the Venetians in the 15th century. Simply said, historians do not believe the national hero Skanderbeg or the Turks would construct a new castle as they were more focussed on repairing existing castles. However, the castle was not owned by the Venetians for long, because in 1478 the Turkish took over the castle.
Bashtova castle is in a very strategic position, because the fortress is near the mouth of the Shkumbini River and just a few kilometers of the Adriatic coast. Moreover, the fortress is on the tentative list for UNESCO World Heritage awaiting a decision on it’s future.
67. Pogradec & Lake Ohrid
Lake Ohrid is a gigantic lake, which is located on the border between Albania, Macedonia and Greece. The lake is one of Europe’s deepest and oldest lakes, the lake is 30 km long and 288 meters deep. Therefore, Lake Ohrid was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1979.
On the Albanian shores of the Lake Ohrid, you can visit the lake side town Pogradec. The town offers beautiful views over the lake and towards the mountains in the distance. You can visit one of the many lake side restaurants or enjoy a day on the sandy beach. One of the traditional dishes is the backed trout, called “Koran fish” in Albanian. You can also rent a canoe or a boat for a trip on the lake. Or you can make a trip to the nearby Springs of Drilon.
68. Springs of Drilon
The Springs of Drilon are a relaxing resort, close to Progradec. The natural springs of Drilon are the origin of the Drin River. Surrounding the springs is a lovely garden. The park has a calming river with swans and ducks. And it is surrounded by green lawn and weeping willow trees. There is a Chinese-style wooden bridge across the pond. On your visit you will be amazed by the natural beauty. It is possible to rent a rowboat and paddle around the little island. Drilon is a calming and relaxing place. No wonder the lake side resort was popular with Kind Zogu and the former dictator Enver Hoxha.
69. Royal Tombs of Selca
Close to Progradec, in the hillside you can visit the Royal Tombs of Selca. The tombs are 2300 year old graves that belonged to the Illyrian Kings. The grave site was discovered by archeologists in the late sixties. You can walk between the tombs and enter the graves. There are English explanatory boards on site. Although the tombs are weathered from the outside, they give you a unique look into the glorious history of the Illyrians. The site is on the tentative list for UNESCO World Heritage.
Korca is a lovely historical city in the south-east of Albania. The city is close to the borders of Greece and Macedonia. Korca is also called the “little Paris of Albania”, because of its beauty. The city has French-style villas, historical quarters and a coffee culture. The streets are narrow and made of cobblestones. There are colourful buildings all around, lovely boutiques and nice cafes. Korca has historical importance as it was the home to the first Albanian language school. Moreover, in the centre of Korca you will see the gigantic Resurrection Cathedral, which is the largest Orthodox church in the country.
71. National Education Museum
Korca is an intellectual city and the home of the National Education Museum of Albania. The building of the museum was originally the first school of Albanian language. The language school opened in 1887, before that the Albanians only learned their language at home. In the museum, you can learn about the unique Albanian language. It introduces you to the different alphabets up to the alphabet that the Albanians use today. There are books and texts that were used in the school. Moreover, it has pictures of the first students and an interesting display about modernization in the Albanian education. The museum is inside a beautiful building from the Ottoman period. Entry to the museum is free of charge.
72. Albanian Language
Many historians believe that the Albanian people are descendants from the ancient Illyrians. The Illyrians were Indo-European tribes who lived in the western part of the Balkans around 1000 B.C. The Albanian language is one of the oldest Indo-European languages. The language was standardized a lot later with a first standardization in 1908 and the second time in 1972. The Albanian alphabet has 36 letters and the words are spelled phonetically. Each letter has a specific sound and the sound does not change in the context, therefore, reading and writing Albanian is rather easy. The Albanian language is spoken by 10 million people of which 3.5 million people in Albania and 3 million in the neighbouring countries: Kosovo, Macedonia, Serbia and Montenegro.
73. Resurrection Cathedral of Korca
The Resurrection Cathedral in Korce is the largest orthodox church in Albania. The Cathedral is hard to miss because it is gigantic, and it dominates the centre of Korce. The building was constructed in 1995 on the foundations of the old church, because during the communist regime it was destroyed as all faith was forbidden. It is worth having a look inside because it has beautiful mosaics, paintings and wooden lamps. The Cathedral is conveniently located near the central promenade in Korca.
74. Korca Brewery tour
Korca is the hometown of the Korca Beer factory. Korca beer is a famous beer producer in Albania and the Balkans. The brewery was established in 1928 and you can take a lovely tour around the brewery. There is also a gorgeous beer garden next door with delicious food. You can visit and taste several of the beers on the tap.
75. The Coastal Road – Vlora to Saranda
The coastal road is a link between the city of Vlore to the city of Saranda. The winding road has a new surface and it offers beautiful views over the Albanian Riviera. Moreover, the drive takes you across the Llogara Pass up to a high of 1043 meters above the sea level. The road has spectacular view over the Adriatic and Ionian coasts and there are many photo opportunities along the way. The best part about driving yourself, is that you will have the opportunity to stop at any of the beaches of the Albanian Riviera along the way.
76. Vlore City
Vlore is a seaside city in the South of Albania. The beach of the city is in the beautiful Bay of Vlore. You can visit the nearby Kanine Castle from where you have an amazing view of the Bay of Vlore and the surrounding valley. You will see that the beach is surrounded by rocky piers that surround the bay. Vlore is a large city, therefore there are many restaurants, hotels and apartments around the beach. The weather is lovely, as the city has 300 sunny days per year. The beach is for you if you are looking for a vibrant city with a sandy beach.
Vlore also has a lot of history to offer. It is the city, where Albania declared its independence in 1912. After nearly 400 years as a part of the Turkish Ottoman empire, it became independent. In Vlore you can visit the Independence Monument on Flag Square. And there is a lovely little Independence Museum about Albania’s road to independence. The museum has rooms set-up just like when the ministers claimed the independence.
77. Llogara Pass
The Llogara Pass is the highest point (1027m) on the coastal road between Vlore and Saranda. When you drive up the road, you will be awarded with a spectacular view. From the pass, you can see the Ionian Sea below, the beach side of Palase and the Dhermi mountain village. There is a parking space and some restaurants from where you can stop for refreshments. In the past, the mountain range isolated the south part of the coast from the rest of the country. The locals in the south had easier contact with Greece and Corfu, then with the North of Albania. Once you drive down the pass towards Saranda, you will arrive on Palase beach. From the beach, you can look upwards to the mountain range and you will see the road winding all the way up to the clouds. And finally, you can watch an episode of Top Gear Car show, where the presenters race each other on the Llogara Pass.
The Llogara Pass is a popular starting point for Paragliding down towards the Ionian Sea. Experience is not necessary, because most participants choose for Tandem Paragliding. In fact, you will receive a brief introduction before take-off. After which you and your flight instructor will both wear a harness, and both will be connected to the glider together. The experience is breath-taking, but also scary if you realize you start from 934m above the sea level. The paragliding experience will last between 15-30 minutes depending on the flying conditions.
79. Palase Beach
Palasa beach, is the first beach you will see, when you drive down the zigzag road off the Llogara Pass. Just turn to the right onto the new road, just after the Llogara Pass. The beach is incredibly private, and it has beautiful clear blue water. The village of Palasa has traditional stone roads and quaint white houses. The village’s pride is the 400-year old plane tree in the middle of the village. You will not be able to resist the azure blue water and the white beach, once you see it on your descent down from the Llogara Pass.
80. Dhermi Beach
Dhermi Beach is 42 km south of the city Vlore. The village of Dhermi, is one of the first villages you will see, when you drive down from the Llogara Pass. The Dhermi village is built on the slope of the Ceraunian Mountains. The beach itself has lovely clear water and a pebble stone beach. If you go snorkelling, you can see some fishes swimming close to the rocky parts. On the beach you will find sun loungers, parasols, a volley ball field and jet ski rent. There are also several restaurants around who serve Albanian, Italian and Greek cuisine. In the village, you can visit several monasteries and old churches. Or you can take a boat trip to the nearby Pirate’s Cave.
81. Jala & Gjipe Beach
Jala Beach and Gjipe beach are hidden paradise beaches of the Albanian Riviera. If you are driving down from the Llogara pass, and you have passed Palase and Dhermi, the next beaches are Jala and Gjipe. The water at Jala beach is crystal clear and the plants have an exotic look, therefore it feels almost tropical. The intense azure colour of the sea and the big rocks along the cliff make it look unreal. Moreover, from Jala Beach you can take a boat ride to Gjipe beach. The beach of Gjipe is hidden between the high cliffs of the canyon. However, the fact that Gjipe is more difficult to reach, makes it more private. If you are looking for a hidden beach with no other tourists, Gjipe is the place for you.
82. Himare Beach
Himara is a small seaside town along the Albanian Riviera. The town is mostly known for the seaside promenade, the old town on the hill and the Greek tavernas. Since Himare has a large Greek community, there a wide choice of small Greek restaurants. The town has two beach sides; The beach to the north has the main promenade with cafes and bars. And the beach to the south, which is larger but less developed. You can also visit the old town on the hill. In the old town you can visit the ruins of a castle. The ruins date back to the Bronze Age, and many houses were built within the old castle’s walls. The highlight of the visiting the castle are the stunning sea views from the hill. Himara has a very Mediterranean feel, as the hills are covered with olive and citrus fruit trees.
83. Bay of Porto Palermo
When you are driving along the coastal road in the South of Albania, it is worth making a stop in the Bay of Porto Palermo during your Albania holidays. About 8 km south from Himare is the Bay of Porto Palermo. The bay is mostly known for the Castle which is set on a little peninsula. The Castle is almost on an island, because it is only connected to the mainland by a narrow strip of land. There is no beach here, because the bay is naturally rocky. As a result, it has been used as a natural harbour since antiquity. More recently, it served as a submarine base during the communist regime. The bay is very picturesque, from the hill you can look down on the bay, the castle and the beautiful landscape with bright red oleanders.
84. Castle of Porto Palermo
The main attraction in the Bay of Porto Palermo is the castle. The triangular-shaped castle was built on a little peninsula. The castle was most likely built by the Venetians, because its triangular shape which is similar to the Venetian fort in Butrint. Moreover, in the early 19th century the castle was owned by Ali Pasha of Tepelena. During this period, Albania was a part of the Turkish Ottoman empire and Ali Pasha was the Albanian governor of south of Albania. You can explore the castle for a small entry fee of 2 euros. The inside of the fortress is dark, as it has no courtyard. However, from the roof of the castle, you will have a superb view of the sea. You can also hike down through the bushes to reach the ocean.
85. Borsh Beach
Borsh is the largest beach in the Ionian Sea, and therefore, a highlight in the Albanian Riviera. The beach of Borsh is 7 km long and it is one of the loveliest beaches to visit during your Albania holidays. The sea has light blue water, the hillside is covered in Olive trees and there are little restaurants along the shore. Borsh does not have resorts or beach clubs, and therefore, it is a great place to visit with a family. The village of Borsh is very picturesque and has a maritime character. The locals mostly live of tourism and olive oil production. Do not be surprised if one of the locals invites you in for a glass of wine or raki, because they are known for their friendly behaviour. Another highlight in Borsh is the waterfall in the centre of the village. The waterfall is extremely beautiful, and the water is pure and drinkable. And finally, you can the Borsh Castle on the top of the hill, which dates back to the twelfth century. From the castle, there is a breath-taking view across the Ionian Sea.
86. Saranda City
Saranda is the largest beach city in the south of Albania. In the summer, it is the biggest destination in the Albanian Riviera. Saranda is a lively, young city with a variety of night-life. Along the beach, there is a promenade with ice cream stands, restaurants and palm trees. If you rent a car, you can use Saranda as a base to explore the more private beaches in the area. Moreover, the Blue Eye of Albania and UNESCO World heritage Butrint are nearby. There is also the small castle of Lekursi, which offers a stunning view across the town and sea.
87. Monastery Beach
Monastery beach is a lovely beach close to the city Saranda. Before you reach the beach site, you will first see the St. George Monastery on the top of the hill. After a quick visit to the monastery, you can descend the hill towards the beach. The beach is surrounded by cliffs, and therefore, the enclosed beach has a very private and secretive atmosphere. There are some springboards by the sea, that you can use to dive and splash into the water. And there is a small restaurant to serve you drinks and simple food. If you have the time, try to stay until sunset.
88. Mirror Beach
Mirror beach is one of the highlights of the Albanian Riviera. The small beach site is very quiet and private, and therefore, a great place to visit during your Albania holidays. The beach is surrounded by a wild landscape and it is enclosed by cliffs. The reflection of the sun on the water of the sea, makes it look like a mirror. You can reach the beach by driving from Saranda along the road towards Butrint for a few kilometres. From there you must walk on a descending dirt path to reach the beach. The beach is very suitable for scuba diving and snorkelling. You can also walk through the low sea water to a second bay, which can only be reached via the sea. It is well worth the effort as the second bay is pristine and untouched by tourism.
89. Sea Kayaking
If you want to be active during your Albania holidays, sea kayaking in Albania is a great way to explore the country. By kayak you can paddle along some of the untouched beached of the Albanian Riviera. Apart from being on the water, it gives you the opportunity to stop on one of the pristine beaches to go for a swim or to go snorkelling. The little villages give you the change to read your favourite book, to go fishing or to explore a picturesque village. Moreover, some of the most secluded beaches can only be reached via the sea. And as a highlight, you can enjoy the most magical sunset from the beach site.
90. Pellumbas Cave
The Pellumbas Cave is only a 45-minute drive from Tirana, and therefore, a lovely day-trip destination during your Albania holidays. After the drive, you will arrive in the Pellumbas village, which is beautiful with amazing mountains around. In the village’s visitor centre, you can hire a guide, rent a helmet and headlamp. Then the adventure starts, from the village you will take a 2 km trail towards the black cave. The path is steep and requires some climbing, but it is well marked with red and white markers. The view from the trail is spectacular. You can look upwards towards the mountains and downwards into the canyon of the Erzen River. Once you reach the cave, be careful because it is dark and slippery inside. The cave has stunning stalactites and stalagmites. Moreover, the cave was one of the earliest prehistoric settlements. Several tools, artefacts and fossils have been found in the cave. Afterwards, continue onwards to the canyon of the river or return to the village for a lovely lunch.
91. Canyon of the Erzen River
The Canyon of the Erzen river is a beautiful place to visit during your Albania holidays. From the Pellumbas village, you can hike to the Canyon of the Erzen river. You will start on the same trail that goes to the cave. Do not worry, you can get detailed instructions in the visitor centre in the village or hire a guide. Bear in mind that you must wear good hiking shoes, because the path down towards the river can be steep and slippery. The canyons of the Erzen river are spectacular. The water is bright blue and crystal clear. Moreover, the canyon is surrounded by cliffs and beautiful nature. Along the river you will pass several natural bathtubs and there is a beautiful waterfall. In the summer, you can swim in the ice-cold water of the Erzen river. After your swim, you can taken another trail that brings you back in a loop to the village.
92. Sotira Waterfall
The Sotira Waterfall is about 30 km from the city Berat. The waterfall is the most beautiful waterfall in the south of Albania. The view is impressive, because the water falls down from a height of 100 meters. The waterfall originates from the top of the Tomorr Mountain and falls down the limestone cliff, therefore the view is breath-taking. To reach the Sotira Waterfall, you must travel to the town of Gramsh. From Gramsh, you drive onwards to the Sotira village. Which is where you park the car and set-off on an hour long hike to the waterfall. It is best to bring some food and drinks along on the hike, so that you can have a picnic once you arrive at the waterfall. The hike is a true adventure, and one of the best places to visit during your Albania holidays.
93. Osum Canyon
The canyon of Osum is a great place for a rafting or kayaking trip. If your tour trough Albania brings you to Berat, you can plan to travel southwards to the Osum Canyon afterwards. The rafting experience is best in the spring, because the water level is high due to snow melting into the river. Moreover, the water from the mountains creates high waterfalls in the river, which is lovely to see on your rafting journey. The rapids of the river are Class II, which means that you do not need prior rafting experience to navigate through them. But most of all, the canyons of Osum are a beautiful place to visit. The 26 km long canyons are impressive and a great place for an adventure.
94. Aqua Park
Aquapark Blue Magic Water is the largest swimming paradise in Albania. The aquapark is located next to the City Park Shopping Mall. You can reach the aquapark by driving along the road between Tirana and Durres. The aquapark is impressive in size, and it offers six swimming pools of which the largest is 1800-meters. The park also has seven slides and a separate pool for toddlers. There are parasols and chairs along the pool side to relax and there are tropical bars and restaurants on site.
95. Traditional Clothing
All Albanian people own a traditional costume. The traditional clothing from Albania is different from the other Balkan nations. Moreover, in Albania there are more than 200 different kinds of traditional costumes, because every region has its own clothing design. During your trip through the country, you will most definitely see the traditional clothing in touristic locations. Moreover, Albanians usually dress up traditionally for a wedding, and as you will see, weddings are incredibly popular throughout the country.
96. Traditional Dancing
The Albanian love their national music and the traditional dances. In fact, they are proud of preserving their history and traditions. The Albanian folk music is something really special. The iso-poliphony style of Albanian folk singing was crowned by UNESCO as an intangible cultural heritage. Gjirokastra has a traditional Folk Festival in May.
97. Travel by Furgon
The most popular way to travel in Albania is travel by furgon or minibus. Tourists are often amazed by the way the furgon buses works. The minibuses don’t really have a timetable; they simply depart when the minibus is full. Therefore, you should get on the minibus with the most people, because it will depart first. Plus, the drivers usually stop along the way to let more people on the bus or to drop people off. Therefore, be sure to tell the driver where you want to go exactly, so you can get a special stop of your own. But travelling by furgon is a unique Albanian experience; The driver usually plays traditional Albanian music during the ride; The locals will offer you food or ask the bus driver to stop along the way for some food; And everyone will try to talk to you and tell you their life story. And best of all, travelling by furgon is very cheap.
98. Albanians love foreigners
The Albanians have a very welcoming culture. I still remember one of my first trips to Albania, when a family I did not know invited me to their home to celebrate New Year’s Eve. Simply said the Albanian people have great hospitality. And do not be surprised, when they will invite you to their home. When you will walk through the country, the Albanians will be exited to talk to you, because simply said there are not that many foreign tourists. And if you need any help or you have a question, they will be incredibly eager to help you during your trip.
99. Albanian is safe
Albania is an unknown travel destination; therefore, a lot of people ask: Is it safe in Albania? To answer your question: Albania is most definitely a safe country. Because Albania is still new as a tourist destination and unknow to you, that does not mean it is not safe. As a matter of fact, Albania has not been in any war since the Second World War. Moreover, the last unrest in Albania was after the fall of the pyramid scheme in 1997, it is therefore more than 10 years ago. Furthermore, Albania is really save compared to other European countries. Pickpocketing and petty crime are practically non-existent. As you will see, Albania is a very welcoming and family-oriented country. The Albanian people still have those old-fashioned, traditional values and they value honesty.