Albania may be a little country but there is a lot to see and do in this exciting up-and-coming location. Bordering Macedonia, Greece, Kosovo and Montenegro, Albania’s long coastline is one of the most ruggedly beautiful in the world.
While Albania is slowly becoming more popular with tourists it remains extremely undiscovered, as well as almost completely unspoiled. Albania boasts some of the best examples of Ottoman architecture in the world, along with supremely clear Mediterranean air and stunningly fabulous beaches.
And, perhaps best of all, travelling to Albania remains an extremely affordable trip, even compared to much of the rest of this part of Europe. Let’s have a look the best places to visit in Albania!
1. Albanian Riviera
The Albanian Riviera is perhaps the most popular place in the country for tourists to visit. The riviera has a growing reputation as an important music location, with many international music festivals – including Turtle Fest and Soundwave Albania – having taken place here.
Nightclubs such as Folie Marine in Jale beach and Havana Beach Club near Dhermi draw young people from across Europe to the Albanian Riviera.
The seaside town of Himara is one of the riviera’s best places to visit, while Porto Palermo Beach, Llamani Beach and Filikuri Beach are some of the area’s finest sandy stretches, while Drymades Beach is one of the liveliest spots here.
The capital city of Albania, Tirana will be the starting point for many people exploring the best places in Albania.
The city is home to few must-see tourist locations, but the 18th-century Et’hem Bey mosque is well worth a visit.
Tirana’s people, like the vast majority of Albanian locals, are exceptionally friendly and the city is supremely affordable, with surprisingly excellent food and drinks both very cheap.
Skanderbeg Square is one of Tirana’s most important places and this is where the National Historical Museum can be found too.
At the heart of Skanderbeg Square – and therefore the heart of Tirana – is a statue of the historic Albanian national hero Skanderbeg.
3. Llogara Pass
The Llogara Pass is one of Albania’s most famous places, with the road providing one of the most spectacular drives in the whole world.
Located in the middle of the Llogara National Park, the road travels to over 1,000 metres above sea level and the scenery will take your breath away.
At the top of the pass there is a good range of restaurants, which are ideal places to enjoy some of the most stunning sights in Albania.
Llogara National Park itself is home to animals such as the golden eagle, European wildcat and fallow deer.
A drive from Tirana to Saranda taking in the Llogara Pass should take a few hours, but allow plenty of extra time to stop and take lots of photographs.
Berat is in the middle of Albania and it is believed to be one of the country’s oldest towns. Berat is often known by its nickname – the City of a Thousand Windows – due to its mix of Ottoman and Albanian architecture.
Berat’s main tourist site is the 140th century castle, Kalaja, which is still home to hundreds of people. Formerly among the most important Albanian cities of the Ottoman Empire, Berat was added to the list of Unesco World Heritage sites in 2008.
The Church of St. Mary of Blachernae is a must-see sight for anyone visiting Berat, as is the Mangalem Quarter.
Saranda is one of the hottest tourism locations in Albania, with the town having undergone a huge amount of development in the last 20 years or so.
Saranda is home to some of the most unforgettable beaches in Albania, while the Unesco World Heritage site at Butrint is located just outside of Saranda and is well worth a visit too.
Lekursi Castle is one of the best places to go in Saranda, with people flocking here to enjoy stunning sunsets. Saranda is located a short trip across the Ionian Sea from the popular Greek island of Corfu.
A Unesco city, Gjirokastra is without a doubt one of the best places to visit in Albania. Unique Ottoman period architecture – with houses designed like small castles – can be found all over Gjirokastra, which has a military museum and art gallery in its amazing castle that dominates the skyline.
A folklore festival also takes place in Gjirokastra’s castle every five years – the last one was in 2015. Visiting the old Ottoman bazaar in Gjirokastra should be on the agenda for anyone visiting this part of the country.
Gjirokastra is famous as the birthplace of world-renowned author Ismail Kadare and Albania’s former dictator Enver Hoxha – today their old homes are museums.
Located a short trip away from the capital Tirana, Kruja is a must-visit spot for anyone heading to Albania for the first time.
Kruja is home to the national ethnographic museum, but it is best known for being where the Skanderbeg museum can be found. Located in the Kruja castle, the museum is one of Albania’s most important and popular tourist attractions.
It was from this fortress that Albania’s hero – George Kastrioti Skanderbeg – defended the country from Ottoman invasion over a period spanning three decades.
The castle also offers staggering views of the Adriatic Sea. The national park Qafe Shtama and the tomb of Sari Saltik are also located close to Kruja.
Away from Albania’s biggest cities, in the north of the country, is Theth. Located high in the Albanian Alps, Theth is a designated area of outstanding natural beauty and it is easy to see why.
Theth National Park is perhaps the most beautiful place in all of Albania, with its Grunas Waterfall and the Lock-in Tower both extremely popular with visitors.
The mountain peaks of Thethi, Boga, Razma and Vermoshi provide an unforgettable experience of Albania in its most natural state.
Hikers and nature lovers will find Theth to be one of the best places to visit during a trip to Albania.
9. Ksamil Islands
The highlight of the Albanian Riviera is perhaps the Ksamil Islands, a remote group of three small islands located just off the coast, accessible only by boat from the small town of Ksamil.
Part of the larger Butrint National Park, the Ksamil Islands are a fantastic example of Albania at its most untouched and unspoiled.
Visiting the Blue Eye Spring is also a must for anyone who wants to experience what Ksamil has to offer during their magical Albanian break. July and August are the busiest time of year for the Ksamil Islands, but even then there are few tourists around here.
The largest town in the north of Albania, Shkodra is often considered the cultural capital of the country.
This is because it hosts events such as Carnival, Lake Day, the Children’s Festival and Shkodra Jazz Fest, while it is also home to a famous historic castle notable for its important role during the First Balkan War.
Shkodra has a simply gorgeous lake, while the medieval citadel of Drisht is only a few miles away. The famous Migjeni theatre is in Shkodra as well, along with an ace market that is well worth visiting. Shkodra’s Malazeze cuisine is perhaps Albania’s best too.
In the south-west of Albania is the popular coastal resort of Vlore, which has long been best known for its olive production – it is believed to house some 280,000 olive trees.
Vlore has many important historic sights, but perhaps the most famous of them is the Albanian Independence Proclamation Building, which is where Albania declared independence a little over 100 years ago.
Today, there is a monument dedicated to this defining moment in Albania’s history. The area of Cold Water in Vlore is popular with younger tourists due to its choice of hip bars and restaurants.
Apollonia was once one of the most important cities in the world, and as such it is a must for anyone visiting Albania for the first time.
Found in the heart of Albania, within easy reach from the city of Fier, Apollonia’s ruins are breathtaking and the views from this part of the country are superb too.
Once upon a time, Apollonia was listed among the dominions of Pyrrhus of Epirus. Those days are long gone, but Apollonia should still be on the itinerary for anyone who wants to learn more about Albania’s rich history up close.
Albania’s main port, Durres is also one of the nation’s oldest cities. Durres is most famous for being home to the biggest amphitheater in the Balkans, while the unspoiled northern coastal stretch of Lalzit Bay is one of Albania’s most beautiful places to visit.
Tourists should consider taking time out of their schedules to visit the Durres Archaeological Museum, the Aleksander Moisiu Theatre and the Royal Villa of Durres during their time in the second largest city in Albania.
Many cultural events and feastings are held in Durres throughout the year, while the city is also the birthplace of Bujar Nishani, the current President of Albania.
14. Lake Koman
For the most breathtaking scenery in the entire Balkans, visiting Lake Koman in Albania should be on anyone’s bucket list. Often described as one of the world’s great boat trips, the journey takes visitors from the hydro-electric dam at Koman to the port of Fierza.
While the locals that use the boat regularly may now take the rugged beauty of the Albanian mountains for granted, any first-time visitor will find the sights from the Lake Koman Ferry to be truly jaw-dropping. The trip on the ferry is also a great opportunity to see what life is like for many Albanians in remote areas.
One of the most up-and-coming places to visit in Albania is Pogradec, which can be found on the shores of Lake Ohrid in the east of the nation.
Lake Ohrid is the deepest lake in the Balkan region and while the Macedonian side of the lake is more popular, Albania’s shore is definitely on the up.
Pogradec is famous for its rich folklore, while its Puppet Theater Festival is one of the most interesting events on Albania’s tourism calendar.
The stunning Shebenik-Jabllanice National Park is around 30-45 minutes away from Pogradec as well, while the springs of Drilon are also close.