Alyssa has been writing about exciting travel topics for Trips to Discover since 2013. After living the big city life in Chicago, Washington, DC, and Atlanta, Alyssa sold the bulk of her possessions and became a digital nomad, living full-time in her camper and working from wherever she could find an outlet and an internet connection for her laptop.
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Only recently have travelers begun to regard Albania as a top vacation destination in spite of its perfect location along the idyllic Mediterranean Sea. This is budget-friendly Balkan getaway typically sees fewer crowds than the surrounding areas and is full of nature, charm, and history. Albania has emerged as a place to learn about architecture, relax on the beaches, try new cuisines, and meet friendly locals.
Transportation can be a challenge for travelers visiting Albania for the first time since it’s not well-connected by international rail systems like many other places in Europe. So it’s a good idea to plan at least some of your itinerary in advance so that you don’t miss out on the sights you really want to see. These are some of the most unforgettable places to visit in Albania that made our list.
Nature lovers will fall in love with Albania’s Ionian Coast because it’s rugged, wild, and beautiful. The coastline offers some great opportunities for going diving and doing water sports. One of the best ways to see this area is to kayak in the Ionian Sea. This is a great area for bird-watchers along the lagoons. You can set up camp at many places along the Albanian coast at the end of adventurous days.
Albania’s other coast is the Adriatic Coast, which is an ideal pick for families traveling with children. The beaches on the northern end of this coast are popular for family vacations because the waters are safer and shallow. Sea kayaking trips are also available in the Adriatic Sea between Kepi Rodonit and Gjiri i Lalit.
Located in southern Albania, Berat is the place to visit historic Ottoman architecture, especially in the houses that line the area’s rolling hills. Berat is in the middle of Albania and home to the Kalaja castle, which has a district with churches and mosques. The buildings on the hillsides of this town are well known for having large windows that overlook the rest of the city and provide excellent views of the landscape. Mount Tomorr also looms over this Albanian city.
Albania’s capital city is Tirana and a typical starting place for most travelers. You can view examples of modern architecture here, as well as cultural attractions and small cafes. There are museums, historically-relevant statutes, government buildings, parks, and gardens to check out while staying in the city. Most of the city’s sites can be viewed in a single day.
One very popular place in Albania to visit on holiday is the Albanian Riviera, which is in the southwestern part of the country. Here you’ll find many accommodations to please tourists, such as luxury hotels, pristine beaches, and a scenic steep coastline. This destination provides a less crowded and more affordable alternative to Greece, Italy, Croatia, and Montenegro.
Apollonia is the place to visit in Albania to see ancient ruins and learn about the country’s important role in ancient history. Nestled among the hills, you can also visit libraries and theaters to learn more about the ruins and their significance.
Many people who visit Albania choose not to drive because the roads are often undeveloped and difficult to navigate without first-hand experience. However, if you do drive, make sure to travel along the Llogara Pass. One popular route stretches from Vlora to Saranda and offers lovely scenic views of the mountains and beaches. Road trip lovers will definitely enjoy this route because there are lots of scenic spots to pull off the road to snap photos along the way. Just be prepared for goats and other animals crossing the road, and keep in mind that safety railings are rare along steep cliffs.
Along the Albanian coastline, visitors will find Durres, a city known for hosting cultural events all year long. Before your visit, check local news sources to see if any festivals or cultural events are going on in Durres while you’ll be in the area. This is the second largest city in Albania and home to the country’s main port and railway station. Durres Castle and the large amphitheater are worth seeing, and the Aleksander Moisiu Theatre hosts events in the city.
Another place in southern Albania worth visiting is Gijrokastra, which is perhaps best known as the birthplace of the dictator Enver Hoxha. It is on UNESCO’s list of world heritage sites and has a colorful bazaar worth visiting during your stay. Gjirokastra Castle is worth a visit and set aside some time to wander around the city streets for a unique glimpse of local culture. The city is located on the eastern side of Wide Mountain, and it is said to have the greatest castle in all of Albania. Check out the Museum of Weapons inside the fortress to learn about battle tools used through World War II and the archeological site, Antigonea.
This is a town situated northeast of the capital city and best known for being the home of the Kruja Castle. This is where you can go to visit the Skanderberg museum to learn about the war and also see the Skanderberg Mountains. The tomb of Sari Saltiks and Qafe Shtama National Park are located in this area to learn even more about Albanian history and the nature that surrounds it. Kruja has traditionally held bazaars with antiques and locally-made crafts, such as baskets, shoes, and woven décor.
Blue Eye Spring, also known as Syri i Kalter, is a natural spring in the forest of Albania that is between Saranda and Gjirokastra. It is part of a national park and a beautiful city break to appreciate the natural landscapes of the country. This is a popular attraction and natural phenomenon in Vlore County, as the pool of water is bordered by bright blue colors that resemble the iris of a blue-colored eye. Visitors like to take a dip in the summertime, but beware that the water is chilly. The “eye” remains a bit of a mystery still today because divers haven’t been able to determine its depths or why it exists.
Another city in Albania is Shkodra, which has a long and interesting history with the military and battles. One of the top sites to see here is the Rozafa Castle, which is said to be founded by the Illyrians and rebuilt by Romans, Ottomans, and Venetians. St. Stephen’s Church dates back to the 1300s, and the town is bordered by the Buna and Drini rivers and Lake Shkodra. Other sites to see are the Ebu Bekr Mosque, the Parruces Mosque, and the Mother Teresa statue, which was built in 2006 to honor the charitable and Nobel Peace Prize-winning Catholic nun. It’s become an important cultural center in Albania in recent years as well.