Guide to travelling in Albania
in 1810, Lord Byron wrote of the beauty of Albania: Morn dawns: and with it stern Albania's hills. Robed half in mist, bedewed with snowy rills. Today, this small Balkan paradise referred to by Albanians as 'Shqipëri,' remains one of Europe's most picturesque and often overlooked countries, where even the most spectacular landmarks remain hidden gems. Thanks to its unique combination of natural phenomena, child-friendly activities, and significant historical sites, a tour of Albania is guaranteed to please every type of traveller. Better yet, for those looking to escape the stress of everyday life without having to travel too far, Albania’s convenient European location on the Balkan Peninsula, nestled between Kosovo, Montenegro, Macedonia, and Greece, makes it only a short flight away.
Travelling in Albania accompanied by a local expert means that you’ll get to experience all the adventure with none of the stress, secure in the knowledge that your local travel agent has been hand-picked by the Evaneos Team, is a specialist in organising holidays to Albania, and will be there 24/7 for help, advice or something as simple as a bar or restaurant recommendation. Whether you're looking for an itinerary covering the top highlights, or an exhilarating, off-the-beaten-track Albanian adventure in a 4x4, one thing is certain: you'll return home after your tailor-made tour having met welcoming locals, tried delicious delicacies, spotted postcard-worthy wildlife, and snapped up pristine wilderness.
Best things to see and do in Albania
What to see in Albania
Boasting more than 300km of coast, a third of its land covered by forests, and three quarters of the country comprised of mountainous regions promising breath-taking views, Albania's geographical diversity is unique. Add to that a rich historical and cultural heritage that's worth a visit in its own right, not to mention glistening coastlines and buzzing modern towns, and it'll all become clear why this small Balkan paradise has something on offer for every type of traveller. To help you work out what to include in your itinerary when planning a trip to Albania, here are a handful of the best places to visit that our local experts recommend:
- City sightseeing: first on your list of destinations to visit should be Tirana, the capital. It might only be a detour in your trip, but you'll find sufficient attractions there to warrant a few days of sightseeing before moving on. One of the major pulls of Tirana is its stunning architecture that you'll find scattered all over the city, including the popular main plaza, Skanderbeg Square, named after the Albanian national hero Gjergj Kastrioti Skënderbeu.
- Castles and ancient cities: next, move on to Sarande, sandwiched between the glistening blue of the Mediterranean Sea, and myth-like scenery lined with vineyards and olive groves. Stretching all the way to the Greek border to the south, this coast, which lies opposite to Corfu, is filled with sunny creeks and craggy cliffs where you can spend a good few days exploring gorgeous beaches, parks, mountains, springs, and lakes. If you have time, take a day trip to the archaeological wonders of Lekuresi Castle and the UNESCO-listed ruins of the ancient city of Butrint.
- Lakes: Any nature lover will tell you that one of the best places to visit in Albania is Lake Ohrid, a nearly 300m deep lake on the border of Albania and Macedonia. As well as holding the title of one of Europe's oldest lakes, this UNESCO World Heritage site is surrounded by untouched nature, small fishing villages, and lodges overlooking the water. A stroll around the area should give you a sense of why Albania is hailed for its natural beauty and biodiversity.
- Wildlife: for fans of photography, Lake Skadar is another hot-spot for holiday makers thanks to its abundant native wildlife, including one of Europe's biggest populations of bird, and its network of mini islands which can be reached by kayak or boat. With your camera in-hand, enjoy tranquil scenery and a variety of hiking trails around the shores of the freshwater lake, before sitting down to enjoy some delicious local wine and organic food at a nearby restaurant.
- Churches and mosques: As you journey further south on the Adriatic Sea, the city of Vlore is a fantastic stop-off point for any trip to Albania. Vlore's history is stepped in classical antiquity, harking back to the 6th century when the city served as a busy trading port for the ancient Greeks. Castles, churches, mosques, and lagoons are among the dozens of the region's sites to take in during your time there.
- National parks: lastly, head to Berat and its famous hilltop castle towering over the River Osum, a place bursting with history from the Romans to the Byzantine Empire. Berat is an ideal site to wind down on after days of sightseeing, but if you feel tempted to squeeze in some hiking, wildlife-watching, or horse-riding before you head home, Tomorr Mountain National Park isn't far away. Alternatively, end your coastal excursion with a trip through the charming little villages of Qeparo, perched on a small hill overlooking the turquoise waters and coves of the Ionian Sea.
What to do in Albania
It's no longer a secret that Albania is a haven for adventure travellers of all ages, and those seeking a holiday in which the majority of their time is dedicated to exploring the Great Outdoors. Trekking, kayaking, horse riding, rafting, cycling, gorge walking, visiting abandoned bunkers, diving into lagoons... You could spend a whole month travelling in Albania and still find a wealth of activities to get stuck into, but if time isn't on your side and you want to cover the main bases, here are some tried-and-tested experiences to request in your locally-made trip itinerary:
- Bathe in natural springs: jump into the pristine, colourful waters of the Blue Eye Spring near Muzine in southern Albania, or swim down to its depths on a unique cave-diving excursion. This is one of the most iconic places and most popular tourist attractions in Albania, with the surrounding area providing ample spots where you can relax in the water or stretch out in the sun on the banks.
- Delve into Albania's history: to balance out down time and local culture, add a visit to the National History Museum in Tirana to your itinerary. From there, you'll learn all about Albania's fascinating past and get to see world-renowned exhibitions including the famous Pavilion of Antiquity. Tirana's lively Ex-Block district (Ish-Blloku), Ethem Bay Mosque, and its orthodox and contemporary cathedrals are also well-worth a day trip.
- Spend an afternoon trekking: hiking in Dajti is the perfect option for walking enthusiasts and also doubles up as a great honeymoon activity for those who want more than a simple beach holiday; eat a picnic lunch in the wilderness, rove the huge forests, trek along the mountains, and feast your eyes on waterfalls, canyons, and caves.
- Head off-road in a 4x4: thrill-seekers who want to stay clear of touristy areas, why not sign up for an off-road adventure on a guided 4x4 tour around the shores of Northern Albania's Black Drin River? The course is a bumpy one so it's not for the faint-hearted, but the views are well-worth it, especially when you finally arrive in the city of Peshkopi where an evening soak and star-gazingsession await you in the hot sulphur springs nearby.
- Spend the night in a national park: Llogara National Park along the Albanian Riviera is a spectacular spot for family tours in particular, with friendly wildlife, spectacular views, and a range of trails fit for all abilities. Kids will jump at the opportunity to stay in a cabin within the park and wake up to the sight of deer grazing in front of the chalet.
- Relax on a white sand beach: lastly, any visit to Albania would not be complete without a visit to its amazing beaches. The Albanian Riviera is known as the country’s answer to the Amalfi Coast, with turquoise waters and clean beaches, perfect for relaxing after an adventurous one week tour. If white sand beaches are your thing, you'll want to visit the idyllic Ksamil Islands, located in the South of Albania, near the warm Ionian sea.
For the best tips, information, and inspiration to plan your holiday to Albania, ask the experts: Evaneos' hand-picked local travel agencies based there. As well as providing unparalleled local knowledge including access to hidden gems and advice on how to avoid tourist-traps, they'll organise the trip of a lifetime for you based around your needs and interests.
Best time to visit Albania
Deciding when to visit Albania is fairly easy since the climate is typically Mediterranean. The Albanian summer is by far the most popular time to visit for cycling and walking tours since the temperature is warm and dry, and it’s well worth braving a few other tourists to get to see this place at its absolute finest. Albania in May is also particularly breath-taking with the wild flowers of the country's numerous national parks in full bloom during this period. Albania’s southern coast, known as the Albanian Riviera, is at its best around Easter time, since the weather is still pleasant, yet the bulk of tourists that descend during July and August have not yet arrived.
Travel tips and advice for travelling to Albania
Visa regulations for Albania
Visa regulations for your visit to Albania are fairly straightforward. European citizens can enter the country with their passports for a maximum of ninety days before they need to make further arrangements. Those visiting from the USA can stay for up to a year without an Albanian visa. See government advice online for further information and advice regarding any other circumstances.
Safety in Albania
Albania is an incredibly safe country perfect for all visitors, including families travelling with young children. Crime is very rarely encountered and even pick-pocketing, which can be expected in most tourist destinations, is not at all common. The vast majority of travellers can vouch for the country's welcoming and friendly atmosphere, so you can enjoy a relaxing and unforgettable time in Albania without having to worry too much.