MOST BEAUTIFUL PLACES TO VISIT IN ALBANIA
Oh, Albania, you sure are a charmer! Anyone who has had the privilege of stepping foot in this splendid nation will echo this sentiment – but what truly are the must-visit hotspots in Albania? Well, you’ve landed in the right place!
Tucked cozily in the southeastern cradle of Europe‘s Balkan Peninsula, Albania is a riveting blend of vibrant towns, breathtaking natural wonders, and a cornucopia of historical sites just waiting to be explored. It’s the perfect choice for any traveler with a thirst for adventure and a passion for unraveling the mysteries of bygone eras.
If you’re currently charting out your Albanian escapade, I highly recommend taking a peek at this detailed Albania itinerary that I’ve carefully put together. And if you’re still in the early stages of travel planning and are on the hunt for some juicy inspiration on the crème de la crème of Albanian destinations, then buckle up my friend, you’re in for a real treat!
So, without further ado, let’s dive headfirst into Albania’s rich tapestry of beauty and culture.
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MOST BEAUTIFUL PLACES IN ALBANIA TO VISIT
Okay, here are my tips on where to go in Albania.
Let´s start with the country´s capital – Tirana is a fantastic place to visit in Albania. The city is bright and colorful with its stunning pastel-colored buildings, contemporary street art, and kaleidoscopic murals. It is full of culture, history, and distinctive architecture.
Just stroll through Skanderbeg Square in the center of the city to feel the lively and fun atmosphere. It’s Tirana’s focal point and home to places like the Et’hem Bey Mosque and Skanderbeg Monument as well as many restaurants close by.
Also, close by is Bunk’Art 1 – initially intended to be a hideout in the event of a nuclear attack, it is now a museum detailing Albania’s history through conceptual art, preserved rooms, and eerie sound effects. If you’re a history buff, consider this communism history tour which includes a tour of several museums and landmarks.
Tirana enjoys a central location surrounded by the Dajti mountains and hills to the east and a valley overlooking the Adriatic Sea to the west – thus, within a short amount of time, you can enjoy great mountain views as well.
Shkodra is another beautiful Romanian town with a rich and diverse background. Today, the town is a bustling hub of activity, with a vibrant art scene and many popular cultural attractions.
The Shkodra Historical Museum offers visitors the opportunity to learn about the region’s history and heritage. It’s set in a beautifully preserved Ottoman-style building and features an extensive collection of artifacts and exhibits.
The most iconic building in town is the enchanting Rozafa Castle, with roots dating back as far as the 13th century. Visitors to the castle can explore the grounds, and learn about the castle’s history through exhibits displayed inside the castle.
From the castle’s walls, you can see the beautiful scenery surrounding Lake Shkodra, another must-see when visiting the area. Its mix of natural beauty and outdoor activities makes it a paradise for nature enthusiasts. You can enjoy the scenery while sunbathing, hiking, boating, birdwatching, or biking.
A must-see in Albania is Berat in central Albania. It is home to stunning buildings, scenic natural surroundings, and vibrant culture. Berat is often referred to as “The Town of a Thousand Windows”. It got its nickname due to the gorgeous white Ottoman sandstone houses with antique window frames perched side-by-side on a hilltop overlooking the city.
Berat Castle is a must-see – it is an ancient fortress with roots dating back to the fourth century. Within its walls, you will find old Byzantine churches mixed in with ruins from other periods. Given its hillside location, the castle offers spectacular panoramic views of the city and its surrounding scenic landscapes.
Strolling along the Osumi River is another popular activity. The best museum might be the National Ethnographic Museum, an 18th-century building that details how life has changed since Berat’s beginnings.
In the south of Albania lies Gjirokastёr, fondly referred to by locals as “the City of Stones”. This ancient hillside town perfectly illustrates the country’s well-preserved Ottoman architecture and rich history. It is one of the most beautiful towns in Albania – maybe even THE best one.
Gjirokastër Bazaar is one of the several main attractions here- featuring Ottoman-style architecture throughout. Here, you can do some great shopping for new and second-hand treasures and souvenirs. While I rarely shop when I travel, I did buy a couple of items for myself and some family members/friends.
Gorgeous cobblestone streets wind their way to the city’s most dominant feature – Gjirokastёr Castle, a 13th-century fortress that was also used as a communist regime prison. It now contains many interesting and unusual artifacts, which you can visit for a small entrance fee. Inside the castle are two fascinating museums, an arsenal collection, crumbling ruins to inspect, and many more unusual communist-era relics.
Gjirokastër is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful towns on the Balkan Peninsula. Not only does the city have plenty of fascinating places to visit, but it also has a vibrant nightlife and evening scene. While I have not been nightclubbing, I did enjoy some nice evenings out in Gjorakaster.
The Albanian Riviera is one of the most popular seaside destinations in the country. The coastline along the riviera features rocky mountains, white sand, and clear blue waters. As such, it’s a paradise for beachgoers.
The stunning coastal town of Himarё was originally a quiet fishing village. But, it has steadily grown into a popular beach holiday destination. There is a lot of natural beauty in the area, from secret coves and golden beaches to crystal-clear turquoise waters ideal for swimming. Himarё is generally less crowded than neighboring Ksamil, which makes it a great spot if you are looking for relaxation and tranquillity.
Another gem at the Albanian Riviere is Ksamil in the very south of Albania. With its picturesque beaches and thrilling water activities, Ksamil is one of the upcoming destinations. These include jet skiing, kayaking, paddleboarding, and speed boat rides.
However, the most exciting and idyllic experience is swimming to one of the three stunning islands a short distance from the shoreline.
The town is also known for its vibrant nightlife, especially during the summer months (July to September). Its promenade is full of vendors selling local produce and souvenirs to take back with you.
BUTRINT NATIONAL PARK
Butrint National Park is one of the most significant archaeological sites in Albania. In 2009, it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its historical, archaeological, and cultural significance.
The ancient city that lies within the park boasts over 3000 years’ worth of Greek, Roman, Byzantine, and Venetian history. Elements of all these different time periods and cultures are visible, including ruins of a Roman theater, Venetian castle, and basilica. Many of these ancient structures have been well preserved over the centuries and remain intact.
Sitting next to a picturesque lagoon, the park also offers natural beauty that nature lovers are sure to enjoy. It is home to a variety of wildlife, including wolves, reptiles, otters, and jackals. The wide array of bird species and outlook points make it a paradise for avid birdwatchers.
Exploring the ancient city will take between two and three hours, allowing you lots of time to visit the nearby beaches and forests. It is a great place to spend the day and caters to nature enthusiasts and history buffs. With its variety of interesting sights, there is sure to be something for everyone to enjoy.
SOUTHERN BLUE EYE
The famous Blue Eyes are a pair of otherworldly water springs in Albania, one in the north and one in the south. This fascinating natural phenomenon is breathtakingly beautiful, and each one is unique in its own way. The southern one is situated just outside the village of Muzinë in Finiq municipality, approximately 120 miles from Berat.
This freshwater spring gets its name from its resemblance to the human eye. The outer part (“iris”) has distinctive turquoise and azure hues, while the inner part (“pupil”) is a darker cave well below the surface. Not only is it beautiful, but it’s also surrounded by lush greenery that makes it a natural masterpiece.
The Southern Blue Eye lies deep inside a forest, so you’ll also be able to enjoy a scenic stroll under sycamore and oak trees. However, this is a very popular place – while I visited in October – during the shoulder season – it was quite busy. According to reviews, it is very crowded in the summer months.
The scenic drive passes through spectacular mountainous landscapes, making the journey well worth it though.
This northern part of Albania could not be any different from the rest of the country – while there are many impressive places in Albania, the north is probably the most beautiful in my eyed. Beautiful. Stunning. Jaw-dropping. Beautiful as Switzerland.
Up in Albania’s northern reaches is the tiny mountain village of Theth. It has only a handful of residents and has the magnificent Albanian Alps in its surroundings. This makes it look like a village out of a fairytale.
And it is not only the village – it is the whole region. The traditional houses in Theth feature stone walls and wooden roofs, adding to the charming scenery. Its most iconic landmark is the small stone church with its astonishingly beautiful backdrop. This quaint, picture-perfect village is one of Europe’s best-kept secrets.
Stunning waterfalls and a dramatic canyon await in the surrounding Theth National Park. The park has two fantastic hiking trails leading you to various picturesque viewing points before meeting up at the stunning Grunas waterfall. Another can’t-miss sight here is the Church of Theth. It’s a small building with an awe-inspiring backdrop of mountains and lush greenery.
NORTHERN BLUE EYE
Similar to the Southern Blue Eye, this natural spring water pool with magnificent blue colors is a breathtaking sight. What sets the Northern Blue Eye apart is the beautiful small waterfall feeding into it and the many scenic hiking trails around it.
Jagged mountain peaks and a deep river valley surround the pool, which adds even more beauty to the picture-perfect scenery. Nature enthusiasts will enjoy the natural landscapes, wildlife, and variety of bird species that frequent the area. You’ll find the Northern Blue Eye about four miles from Theth Village.
There is an easy hiking trail that starts in the village and leads to the spring. If you’re brave enough to endure its cold temperatures, you’re free to jump in and swim in the azure waters.
Komani Lake is an artificial reservoir on the Drin River in northern Albania. Densely forested hills surround the lake, providing beautiful contrasting hues of blue and green. Although the lake is artificial, it doesn’t look or feel that way. The brilliant colors and scenery give it a mystical atmosphere that is sure to take your breath away.
Apart from spectacular scenery, the lake and its surrounding area also offer great hiking trails and water activities, like kayaking and paddleboarding. Its lovely environment attracts many wildlife and bird species, making it the perfect destination for nature enthusiasts and avid birdwatchers.
The best way to explore Komani Lake is by taking a ferry, which will also take you on a tour of the river. The Drin River’s emerald waters meander for over 43 miles through the majestic Albanian Alps. In some places, it gets very narrow, with vertical canyons towering on both sides, making it a thrilling experience you won’t forget.
The Lake Komani ferry runs every day between the northern Albanian cities of Koman and Fierze. This activity is weather-permitting, so be sure to check its schedule ahead of time.
Valbona Valley, ensconced in the Albanian Alps, is my top pick! What makes it so special? This is no less than one of the most spectacular natural wonders in Albania.
The Valbona National Park sprawls over an expansive 8,000 hectares, woven with 200 kilometers of trails. As you journey upwards into the valley, you’re greeted by the awe-inspiring Shoshani Canyon. Further along the route, you’ll find Dragobia Village, the gateway to the enchanting Valbona Village.
Here, the road bisects the valley, flanked by charming guesthouses.
At the valley’s end, the village of Rragami i Shales sits loftily beside the stony riverbed, marking the beginning of the renowned Valbona – Thethi trail. “Valbona,” Italian for “the Good Valley,” perfectly encapsulates the charm of this locale.
This district shares borders with Kosovo and Montenegro and is in close proximity to Thethi National Park. It’s a part of the formidable Accursed Mountains and a key spot on the “Peaks of the Balkan” cross-country journey.
To sum it up, if Valbona Valley isn’t already on your travel bucket list, you might want to reconsider.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON PLACES TO SEE IN ALBANIA
Albania a beautiful hidden gem nestled in the heart of Europe! For the beach lovers, the Albanian Riviera is an absolute must.
It’s teeming with pristine sandy beaches, crystal clear waters, and charming seaside towns. Historical buffs, head over to Berat, also known as the ‘town of a thousand windows’, or wander around Butrint National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site loaded with historical treasures.
Adventure seekers, the breathtaking Valbona Valley in the Albanian Alps is your playground. For a dash of urban culture, Tirana, the vibrant capital, and Shkodra, the cultural hub, will not disappoint. And don’t forget to take a ferry ride on the stunning Komani Lake – it’s quite an experience! Whether you’re after history, nature, or adventure, Albania is waiting with open arms to surprise you!
These were some of my absolute favorite places in Albania – there is surely more to see and do, but adding these places to your Albania itinerary is definitely worth it.