What to see in Albania: 10 places to visit the first time you go there

What to see in Albania - The 10 places to visit the first time you go there In recent years, Albania has been experiencing an unprecedented tourist boom. The reasons are many. It is home to wonderful beaches. It offers possibilities for adventurous road trips. Satisfy lovers of history and culture with charming cities full of traditions. It's cheap and the local people are incredibly welcoming. In this post you will discover the 10 places to see in Albania but you will also find practical and first-hand details to better organize your holiday in splendid Albania!

  • The most beautiful places to see in Albania - Complete guide updated 2022

    If you have chosen theAlbania as a destination for your holidays I can only congratulate you, a really good choice! One of the first questions you will ask yourself is what to see in Albania the first time you visit, but also how much time you will need and what you should make sure you visit. If you are wondering these things you are in the right place.

    I have returned to Albania several times and have always felt at home and well liked, perhaps also due to the fact that the older generations.

    Neighboring of Corfu to the south and bordering Montenegro, North Macedonia, Greece and Kosovo, Albania gathers the best of the nature of the Southern Balkans.
    Gorgeous beaches, national parks, stunning mountains, historic cities and world record bunkers.

    All of this is concentrated in a small country full of lovely places and interesting, to the point that you can also consider it out of season because Albania is not just the sea. On the contrary!

    In this post you will find everything you need to know to organize yours vacation in Albania, a complete list of things to see and where to go.

    From the north to the south of the country, Albania will surprise you and leave you wanting to come back as soon as possible. At least, that's how it went for me.

    The 10 things to see in Albania - From North to South

    I thought I'd start writing gods 10 places to see in Albania starting from the capital Tirana continuing to the south and concluding to the north.
    This could make it easier for you to plan one itinerary to cover in 2 weeks also dedicating time to the sea, which is wonderful here, without forgetting other places, cities and hinterlands, which I recommend to visit.

    What to see in Albania: 10 places to visit the first time you go there

    Tirana the capital of Albania

    Tyrant, the capital of Albania, is a city that surprised me. I thought it was so ugly and gray and boring that I was considering skipping it altogether. Instead, I'm glad I changed my mind because I found a capital that was profoundly different from how I had imagined it.

    From the streets lined with communist buildings, from Ottoman times to contemporary Tirana has evolved into one festive city and vital, full of bars and restaurants, museums and art galleries.
    The capital reflects European culture and heritage in the best possible way and it does not surprise me to know that in recent years, with the growth of tourism in Albania, its capital is also one of the places not to be missed.

    Tirana is a small city and can be visited in one day, however, if you can, I recommend that you stay at least two.
    Among the things you absolutely must visit, consider the following:

    • Bunk’Art 1 & 2 – In Tirana you can visit the two most famous Bunkers in the country: Bunk'Art 1 and 2, a project born in 2014. Bunk’Art 2, which is the one I visited, is located near Scanderbeg square and reconstructs the history of the Ministry of the Interior of Albania by telling the secrets of the political police. Bunk’Art 1 is located near the cable car that leads to Mount Dajti and shows how the Albanians lived in the years of the regime and tells the stories of the army allowing you to explore the secret rooms. I visited the 2 which I understand is the bigger one. But I've read that 1 is also very nice and worth a visit, if I could go back I would visit both. Read more here.
    • Monumento Skanderbeg and Piazza Skanderbeg – Skanderbeg was an Albanian statesman and general who led a rebellion against the Ottoman Empire from 1443-1468. His rebellion gave birth to the notion of one independent Albanian state which would arrive in 1912 (444 years later). For his military prowess and creation of an Albanian identity he is considered a national hero.
    • Et'hem Bey Mosque – This small mosque is located nearby Skanderbeg square it is an important place of worship for the Muslim majority in Albania. Completed in the 19th century, it remained unused during the communist era when all religions were banned.
    • The former home of dictator Enver Hoxha – The former residence of dictator Enver Hoxha is not accessible, but an article in The Guardian that there is discussion about opening it to the public and in the article there are photos of the interior, and you can see it from the outside but it is still one of the things which is also worth seeing because during the communist era it was forbidden to walk along the surrounding streets.
    • The House of Leaves – This is one of the more unusual museums in Albania and is considered the equivalent of the headquarters of the Stasi from the former East Germany. In this museum you can see what has been hidden in the headquarters of the infamous National Intelligence Service, also known as the House of Spies. The original house was built in 1931 to be a medical clinic. During the Second World War, under German occupation, it was used by the Gestapo. Immediately after the end of the war it was used by the Albanian communist regime as security bureau for investigations. In this museum you can see the worst side of the dictatorial regime in Albania and learn the story of thousands of people persecuted because they fought against the regime.
    • Monte Dajti - The monte Dajti sovrasta Tirana and the summit can be reached with a cable car that takes you to the top in about 15 minutes. From here you can obviously see Tirana from above but if you are a trekking lover you can follow one of the many hiking trails.
    • At the Pyramids – In Tirana you will come across one Piramide which is located on the main road leading from Skanderbeg Square to the Presidential Palace on the banks of the river Lanë.
      This curious building was designed to be a museum of dictator Enver Hoxha. At the moment it is empty and it is not known what will happen to it. Street art aficionados might want to take a tour around the back and see the murals painted by local street artists.
    • Quarters Block – Blloku is a trendy neighborhood southwest of Tirana full of bars, shops and restaurants. This area has always been home to the city's elite. During the communist era the top party officials all lived here. Today this neighborhood is the one to party and have fun at night.

    Where to sleep in Tirana Vanilla Sky Boutique hostel. A centrally located hostel with beautiful common areas. There are private and shared rooms (between €11 and €55 euros).

    If you are short on time I recommend book a free walking tour.
    Choose among these and I recommend you book in advance to have the guarantee that it will not be cancelled. Once the request has been sent (you can choose from several suppliers) you will receive a confirmation email (or not).

    Dictator Enver Hoxha's obsession with bunkers

    The exact number of military bunkers scattered around Albania is not certain but it seems that they can reach 750.000. The bunkers that you will see everywhere, even on the beach, were built between the 70s and 80s by communist dictator Enver Hoxha who ruled from 1944 to 1985, obsessed with a nuclear attack.

    During his control of the country, Hoxha forbade religion, foreign travel and used his secret police to stop any dissent by dedicating a quarter of the budget to the army and in particular to the construction of bunkers.

    Fearing an invasion of his former Soviet or NATO allies, Hoxha had built thousands of bunkers of concrete and steel that can be seen practically everywhere and where you least expect it.

    The bunkers, which they have never been used since there has never been a nuclear attack, however, they have contributed to creating paranoia among the inhabitants.
    Decades after the end of the totalitarian regime of Hoxha, the bunkers remind us of the country's harsh past and are among the things to see during a vacation in Albania.
    Some have been turned into hotels or homes by creative Albanians, others have become museums, but most are abandoned and overgrown with weeds sprouting like mushrooms in the most unlikely of places.
    The bunkers that I recommend you visit are those of Tirana, Bunk'Art and that of Gjirokaster.

    What to see in Albania: 10 places to visit the first time you go there


    Kruja is a stop not to be missed when traveling in Albania even if too often skipped.
    This small town positioned on top of a mountain is known as the home of the Albanian national hero George Skanderbeg, which saved the Albanians from being conquered by the Ottoman Empire.

    The town is small so it can be visited in a morning or an afternoon and can be easily reached in 45 minutes from Tirana. In Kruje you have to visit the castle, ethnographic museum, the national museum and the beautiful and picturesque a souk.

    Pogradec (Orhid in North Macedonia)

    Lake Ohrid is one of the most beautiful places in the Balkans and is shared between Macedonia and Albania.
    But while everyone goes to the city of Ohrid in Macedonia (which actually in my opinion is more beautiful and I recommend you to visit) too Pogradec, on the Albanian side has its why.

    Located in a narrow plain between two mountain ranges and with a Mediterranean climate it is a destination that locals choose for their holidays.

    The lake is under the protection of UNESCO because it is the home of 17 species of aquatic animals that are mostly native to this lake with crystal clear waters. Before leaving the city make sure you take an excursion to the Drilon National Park.

    What to see in Albania: 10 places to visit the first time you go there


    Many people go to Berat or Gjirokastër (Gjirokastёr) because there is a misconception that they are similar. In truth the two cities are very different and both are worth seeing.

    I advise you to dedicate a whole day to Gjirokastra. In addition to discovering the center and its beautiful souk, go to the castle where you can see and climb, if you wish, on the old army tanks, as well as having an incredible view.
    Inside the castle, visit the underground tunnels, the weapons museum and the prisons. On Gjirokastra I wrote a dedicated post that I recommend you read.

    What to see in Albania: 10 places to visit the first time you go there

    The Albanian Riviera - The sea of ​​Albania not to be missed

    One of the reasons why Albania is chosen as a destination for one's holidays is certainly its sea. The Albanian sea it is truly spectacular, especially in the south of the country in particular in the region that is called the Albanian Riviera.

    In this section that begins at Walloon and ends the Saranda in addition to the beautiful sea there are also coastal towns and UNESCO World Heritage Sites that make the destination a “must do”!

    The Riviera is home to one of the most beautiful coastal drives in Europe, although the roads here and throughout the country are quite challenging given the poor condition.

    The region is full of history and beauty, an exceptional sea and truly remarkable road trip opportunities. In short, it is the perfect place for a beach holiday in Albania.

    I places not to be missed in the Albanian Riviera I'm:

    • Saranda – The main city of the Riviera where there is no shortage of bars and restaurants.
    • Ksamil – The small village with probably the most beautiful and famous beaches in Albania. To find out more, read the post What to see in Ksamil
    • The Blue Eye – A short distance from Ksamil and Saranda on the way to Gjirokaster stop at the Blue Eye a source of water. Read also The Blue Eye in Albania
    • Gjipe Beach – Gjipe is a hidden beach accessible only on foot or by 4×4. The beach is unique because it is formed inside a canyon.
    • Himare – This sleepy seaside town is one you should plan to stay in for at least a few days as there are so many gorgeous beaches nearby. Make sure you go to the castle from which you will have a beautiful view.
    • Palermo port – A beautiful bay in which to visit the Castle of Porto Palermo very well preserved and where you can find out more about Ali Pasha Tepelena. From the terrace of the castle you have a wonderful view of the coast.
    • Onions – Lukove is a small village with a beautiful beach (Shpella) which can be reached in 5 minutes by car.
    • Kakome – Kakome is one of the most beautiful beaches on the Albanian Riviera but it is difficult to reach by road because the road is private. The best thing is to take a boat from Saranda. Near Kakome visit Krorez beach accessible only by boat or horse.
    • Llamani beach – This is a 200m beach squeezed between rock walls. Pleasant and equipped, it is a nice place to relax.
    • Spiaggia di Filikuri – Filikuri beach is located between Potami and Llamana and is surrounded by high cliffs. It is difficult to reach, only by boat or kayak, and for this reason it is almost never crowded. Bring enough food and water with you if you plan to spend a few hours in Filikuri as it is not equipped.
    • The skin – Dhermi has beautiful beaches, coves and hidden bays. One of the most picturesque is Drymades considered one of the most beautiful on the Riviera.
    • Palase beach – Palase beach is simply beautiful. It is said that Julius Caesar and his troops arrived in Palase during the Roman civil war in 48 BC and archaeological remains prove this.

    What to see in Albania: 10 places to visit the first time you go there

    What to see in Albania: 10 places to visit the first time you go there

    Butrint National Park

    Located opposite the Greek island of Corfu, the Butrint National Park it is one of the places that I liked the most in Albania.
    The park is home to numerous ecosystems and an archaeological park that is truly beautiful and in excellent condition. The national park is also a refuge for around 1.200 different species of animals and plants.

    What to see in Albania: 10 places to visit the first time you go there

    Pass account

    Il Pass account it is one of the most famous places in Albania because here you drive along a route considered among the most spectacular in the world. The pass is located in the middle of the Llogara National Park and the road along which you travel reaches 1.000 meters above sea level with constant wonderful views.

    In the surroundings of the pass you will find many restaurants and also trekking routes during which with luck you could see some animals of the area including the golden eagle, the European wild cat and the fallow deer.

    Berat – The city of a thousand windows

    Regarded as one of the most beautiful cities in Albania, Berat, also known as the "city of a thousand windows" it is a UNESCO site and is famous for its wonderful ottoman style housesoe the Byzantine churches that make it different from other Balkan cities.
    The city is not particularly large and can be easily visited in one day.

    Among the must-see places in Berat be sure to see these:

    • Berat Castle – Berat Castle dates back to the 360th century, although most of the current remains are from the XNUMXth century. The castle still has examples of Ottoman and Byzantine architecture within its walls. Inside Berat castle you will see old houses, where people still live today, and explore the old churches and mosques on site. From the castle you have an almost XNUMX degree view of the surrounding landscape. To reach it, you have to go up a rather long climb or you can drive and park nearby.
    • Holy Trinity Church – Inside the Castle of Berat there are 10 churches but the best maintained is certainly the Church of the Holy Trinity which dates back to the 13th century and inside has beautiful frescoes. From here you will surely have the best view of the city.
    • Gorica – Gorica is the neighborhood just beyond the Berat bridge characterized by small alleys, cobbled streets and from here you can see very well the Ottoman houses that have earned Berat the nickname of the City of a Thousand Windows.
    • Ethnographic Museum – To learn more about the history of the city, I recommend visiting the ethnographic museum. Originally the building was a house and here you can see what traditional Berat houses looked like.
    • Cellar for wine tasting – One of the most popular things to do in Berat is a wine tour as the city is home to three wineries: Cabo, Nurellari and Luani.
      La Cabo canteen it is located just outside the city and is the most famous. The winery organizes wine tours and tastings.
      The Nurellari Winery is less famous than Cabo but produces excellent wines. The cellar is located in a former food depot during the communist years.
      Cantina Luani was born in 1960 as a state winery and has become private in the last 25 years.

    Where sleeping in Berat – Hotel Vila Aleksander a hotel in an old building that has been completely renovated and cared for down to the smallest detail.

    What to see in Albania: 10 places to visit the first time you go there

    His comment

    The trip across the Komani lake is one of the things to do in Albania that I recommend to everyone. I did it twice coming from Kosovo, and both times I enjoyed the 4 hours of sailing through the Albanian fjords.
    You can book the route online, highly recommended if you travel with a vehicle, on the official website: Komani Lake Berisha.

    What to see in Albania: 10 places to visit the first time you go there

    Scutari (Shkodër)

    Located right next to the Skadar lake, Shkodër is known as the cultural capital of Albania. Shkodër is the largest city in northern Albania near the border with Montenegro.
    This small town hosts very important events including carnival, lake day, children's festival and the famous Shkodra Jazz fest.
    The city is also home to the famous castello di Rozafa, la mosque Ebu Beker, the orthodox cathedral and an interesting history museum.
    Shkodra is a pleasant town if it weren't for the traffic fueled by cyclists in every corner who pedal regardless of the wild driving of the Albanians behind the wheel (in fact, in Albania the roads are largely in bad condition and the Albanians drive rather aggressively. Even cyclists as far as I've seen).
    If you take the ferry along Lake Komani, you will most likely spend the night here.

    The places to visit in Albania are obviously not only these 10, so if you have time available, make sure you also visit Walloon, Durres, the beautiful Capo Rodon and sleep at the Arbeni Resort or at the Privè Infinity villa and the route by car between Pogradec ed Gjirokastra passing through the mountains away Corks e allows.

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