Albania is a mystery to most of the world. Many people are not aware of what wonderful experiences the country has to offer you. I didn’t know much about it either until I started delving into it.
What is Albania famous for? Albania is most famous for its touristry. The unspoiled beautiful beaches of the Albanian Riviera, the natural environment, mountains, lakes, cultural villages and archeological sites etc, attract more and more people each year.
Also, one question that most people who’ve never been to Albania ask is whether Albania is safe to visit? Yes, it is completely safe to visit.
Tourism in the country has been rising every year and it wouldn’t if the country was not safe. Plus Albanian people are very welcoming to tourists.
And to add to that, apparently, Albania is also one of the cheapest countries to visit in Europe. But don’t let that dim your hopes about Albania, incase you think cheap means low quality.
Check out my list of the best places to visit in Albania and you will know why.
Most of the world is still discovering the hidden gems of Albania. And because of that, I would say now is the best time to visit the country to see it in its natural state before overdevelopment occurs.
Butrint National Park
A beautiful combination of the natural environment and cultural moments, Butrint National Park is located in the extreme south of the country in Vlorë County. The summers here are hot and dry while winters are mild.
There are freshwater lakes, wetlands, open plains, salt marshes, reed beds as well as islands in the park. The entire area of the park is 9,424 hectares. So as you can see there is a lot to see here, you probably won’t be able to complete the journey in one day.
Butrint also has important medieval, Greek and Roman ruins remaining that give proof of the area’s rich history. Some of the noted ruins here is a Roman theatre, the temples of Minerva and Asclepius, the Lion Gate, a Baptistery, Aqueduct, Dionysus altar, Forum, Gymnasium, Nymphaeum, Acropolis and Thermae.
The 3rd century BC Roman theatre is one of the most well-preserved buildings in the park.
And there is also the Castle of Ali Pasha Tepelena that is located on a small island in the Vivari Channel.
Then there is the Lions Gate, one of the entrances to the city from the 4th century BC.
Sometimes bottlenose dolphins and short-beaked common dolphins can also be seen in the water.
Blue Eye, Albania
This is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Albania. Why wouldn’t it be?
Blue Eye is a water spring that is situated in the south of the country, near the village of Muzinë in Finiq municipality. It is a natural phenomenon.
The actual depth of the hole is still unfound, but divers have managed to go as deep as 50 meters.
You will not be bored on the foot-journey to the Blue Eye, as there are the lush beautiful surrounding forest and the beautiful turquoise water of the river that flows through to keep you occupied.
TIP: There is a small metal balcony erected above the Blue Eye that enables you to get a better look at the natural phenomenon. The water here is such a light clear blue that you can see to the bottom of it.
The area surrounding the water spring is a Nature Monument that is home to oak and sycamore trees.
This place is like paradise and I just can’t wait to see it.
Castle of Krujë
This is a popular tourist attraction spot and a source of inspiration to the Albanians. This small castle in Krujë city was once able to withstand multiple massive sieges from the Turks under the leadership of the “Dragon of Albania” Gjergj Kastrioti, also known as Skanderbeg.
Today the Castle of Krujë has a museum dedicated to Skanderbeg, the National Skanderbeg Museum.
The museum has exhibits that show Skanderbeg’s life and military achievements. The time of this great leader is one of the proudest periods in the history of the country. The replica of the Arms of Skanderbeg is a significant display in the museum.
There is also the Ethnographic Museum that is based around a traditional house of the 19th century Albania.
In addition to the two museums, there is also the remains of the Fatih Sultan Mehmed mosque and its minaret (named after the man who eventually broke down the castle’s defenses Mehmed II) and a Turkish bath.
The Gjirokastër Fortress has existed since the 12th century.
Situated at a height of 336 meters, the fortress is a prominent sight of the town.
Some of the points of interest in the fortress are its five towers and houses, church, clock tower, cistern, military museum (which also has a captured United States Air Force plane) and also the stage of the National Folk Festival.
This is the home of the Gjirokastër Fortress.
Why I put the castle and the town separately is because the castle is a sight all on its own. You will be able to separate the visit to the castle and the town as two different experiences. Because at the castle you will be sight-seeing and with the town we are living the experience.
The entire town of Gjirokastër is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is an old Ottoman town that is well-preserved even to this day.
It is situated in a valley between the Gjerë mountains and the Drino River.
The castle, old limestone, and shale paved roads, slate-roofed houses and spectacular views of the Drina Valley all attract many visitors here.
Founded in 588 BC, the once prosperous ancient Greek city of Apollonia, today lies in ruins.
It is located in the Fier County in southwestern Albania. Part of the city has been excavated but much of it still remains covered even today.
If you visit Apollonia, to get a better knowledge of the city and its history you have to visit the Apollonia Museum.
Straddling the border between North Macedonia and Albania lies one of the oldest and deepest lakes in Europe.
Lake Ohrid has a unique aquatic ecosystem with more than 200 endemic species. This ecosystem has worldwide importance.
On the Albanian side of the lake lies Pogradec city.
Llogara National Park
The evergreen forests, diverse flora, and fauna, pastures, and cliffs of the Llogara National Park make it a prime destination for leisure.
The park and the surrounding mountains are used for hiking and trekking tours.
There is also a paragliding site to the south of the park.
Caesar’s Pass (obviously named after Julius Caesar) is also near the Llogara Pass.
Put on your hiking boots and take a hike through the Albanian Alps.
The hike through this high mountainous path takes you from Valbona to Theth.
The Valbona Pass has a lot of stunning views along the way and it is not all the same.
That is to say, you’ll find the scenery changing throughout the 9.5 km hike, from rocky mountain paths to green pastures, to village roads with grazing cows, and dense beech forests.
The best spot of the hike is when you come to the point where you can look out at the Valbona valley on one side and the Theth valley on the other.
Standing on a rocky hill near the city of Shkodër, Rozafa Castle is an impressive sight.
The castle plus its surroundings make up an Archaeological Park of Albania.
The castle apparently got its name, Rozafa, from the woman who was walled into the ramparts as a sacrifice to the gods so that the building would stand.
Rotating Bar in Tirana
Enjoy a nice drink while admiring the beautiful city of Tirana from the top floor of the Sky Tower.
All you have to do is sit in one place and relax, while the rotating bar takes you on a visual tour, a 360-degree panoramic view of the city.
INFO: The rotating bar is open from 7 am to midnight every day.
The 13th-century fortress overlooking the city of Berat is a magnificent sight despite the considerable damage it had received over the years.
Berat Castle (also called Citadel of Berat) once had about 20 churches but only some of them are remaining today. And it also had one mosque.
This is a popular spot for visitors to the city.
This is probably the most attractive beach in Albania.
Tucked between the magnificent Gjipe Canyon, the Gjipe beach is like your own personal paradise.
The lukewarm water is crystal clear, that you can see almost 30 feet to the bottom.
Also, if you stand facing the beach, there are some splendid caves to your left that you can explore.
You can also camp at the beach, you will be given tents and mats for that.
It is a remote beach, almost secluded, which means that there won’t be any restaurants or hotels or cafes.
There will be a few amenities, however, such as a snack seller and a few straw huts.
TIP: Be sure to take any refreshments you need before heading to the beach.
Bask in the hot water of the natural hot springs of the Benja Thermal Baths.
While you take a soak, the natural sceneries around you are stunning to look at.
The thermal baths are located near the town of Përmet and another attraction is the ancient medieval bridge that has been around since the time of the Ottoman Empire that allows you to cross the sulfur-rich waters of the river.
The heated water of the river is diverted into small man-made pools off the main path so that you can enjoy a bath in some amount of privacy.
Also, one more thing is that the area has a strong smell because of the sulfur in the water, but don’t let that bother you, you’ll get used to it.
Lake Bovilla is a reservoir that was built to provide the city of Tirana with water.
Now the lake with its stunning teal colored water and the surrounding mountains is a popular tourist spot.
The water is very tempting but sadly you are not allowed to swim in the lake.
However, there are loads of other activities that you can do there like mountain biking, hiking, climbing or trekking.
The entire city of Berat is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is known as the Museum City of Albania.
In addition to the Berat Castle, I mentioned before, the city itself is a spectacular site for visitors. It is more than 2000 years old.
The culture of Berat is a mix of the people that ruled the city over the years of the past, ancient Greeks, Byzantines, Romans, Slavs, Bulgarians and the Ottomans.
The houses built along the steep hill of Mangalemi neighborhood has earned the city another name, the City of the Floating Windows.
Some other attractions in the city are the 1780 Gorica Bridge, the Ethnographic Museum, Saint Mountain of Tomorr, etc.
At 2,694 m above sea level, Maja Jezercë is the second highest peak in Albania.
Those who like some tough physical activity taking a hike or mountaineering or climbing the Maja Jezercë is suited for you.
Built in 1537, Lëkurësi Castle in the village of Lëkurës, lies overlooking the town of Saranda.
Today only the ruins of the once-grand castle remain.
There are facilities for tourists built next to the castle, such as restaurants, in a similar architectural style to the castle.
This is one of the most frequented tourist attractions in Albania. Its popularity seems to be growing every year, so please note that during the season Ksamil will be pretty crowded.
Ksamil is a small village in the riviera of Southern Albania.
The main attractions here are the small Ksamil Islands that you can swim to from the mainland. The mainland beach is small but incredibly beautiful and peaceful.
At Ksamil you can delight yourself with some time in the clear waters and the sandy beach, and enjoy the local seafood.
The best thing is that when you visit Ksamil you will be able to visit other attractions nearby too, like the Butrint National Park, and Blue Eye.
Theth is a place of incredible natural beauty. It is a small village in Shkodër County and is located at the center of the Theth National Park.
It’s the hidden gem of Albania, which is exactly why you should visit Theth now while it retains its traditional beauty in all forms before it also faces the problem of overdevelopment.
There are other incredible sites to see in Theth such as the 400-year-old lock-in tower, working watermill that is still used by the locals, a small ethnographic museum, Gruna’s waterfall and Blue Eye of Kaprre.
Tirana is the capital and the largest city in Albania. The entire city is worth exploring, I feel it is the best place to feel the modern Albanian life. It is a very colorful city.
One fantastic fact is that the locals of Tirana are very welcoming to foreign visitors. You will be invited to have a coffee or a plum brandy called rakija, as per the local custom.
Tirana’s main historic site of attraction is Skanderbeg Square. There is also the 18th-century Et’hem Bey Mosque, Bunk’Art, and the National Historic Museum.
Blloku or The Block is where you’ll find the high-end shops, restaurants, cafés, and hotels. This is also where you’ll find the Rotating Bar of Sky Tower I mentioned earlier.
Tirana’s nightlife rises every year.
TIP: It is advisable to experience it with a local so that you know where to go and where not to. Tirana may be modernized but Albania is still a traditional country.
Known for its blue deep Mediterranean waters, Sarandë has grown from a sleepy fishing village to a thriving city.
This is a famous tourist attraction in Albania, in fact, its fame is increasing each year as more and more people discover what a lovely place this is. Most of the tourists apparently arrive by cruise ships. But you don’t have to take a cruise to go to Saranda, it’s quite close to Ksamil, so when you visit one you could also visit other easily.
The archaeological sites and the natural environment in and around Saranda are what persuades people to come here.
Saranda is a prosperous land that has a variety of attractions, mountains, flora, rivers, lakes, springs, beaches, citrus plantations, vineyards, olive groves, woods, pastures, fish and shellfish farming, etc.
The ancient city of Butrint is close to Saranda too.
A highlight in the city of Tirana, Bunk’Art used to be a secret underground war bunker. It takes a space of almost 3000 sq meters. It has five stories and over 100 rooms.
It was built under the orders of the communist leader of Albania, Enver Hoxha, for the Albanian political elite in the 1970s.
The aim of the bunker was to protect Hoxha and his cabinet in case of a nuclear attack. However, Hoxha died before the bunker was completed and it was never actually used.
Present-day it has been converted to a history and contemporary art museum.
In addition to that, the old bunker theatre is used for events such as concerts and lectures.