Is Albania worth seeing? Untouched & fascinating places in Albania
If you have never been to Albania, you might be wondering if Albania is worth seeing. I am a private tour guide in Albania and in this blog post, I will give you the reasons why Albania is worth seeing so that you can decide for yourself.
Is Albania worth seeing? Albania is worth seeing, because:
1) It has stunning untouched nature in the Albanian Alps
2) The historical UNESCO cities, like Berat and Gjirokaster, are highlights
3) It has a fascinating communist history to explore
4) There are hidden beaches along the Albanian Riviera coastline
5) Meet the friendly people of Albania & learn about the local culture
I am a private tour guide in Albania and in this blog post, I will describe why Albania is worth seeing. I will touch on beautiful untouched nature, hiking routes, historical cities, mesmerizing boat trips, deserted islands, fascinating communist history, local & authentic places to visit and places that are off-the-beaten-path! Let’s see if I can convince you to visit Albania!
Why is Albania worth seeing?
Albania is worth seeing for these five reasons:
1) Untouched nature of the Albanian Alps
2) UNESCO Heritage cities in Albania
3) Fascinating communist history
4) Albanian Riviera
5) Local culture of Albania
In the below paragraphs, I will describe the travel experience you can have in Albania. And I will also describe the highlights of places, that you cannot miss on your journey.
1) Untouched nature of the Albanian Alps
One of the most beautiful areas in Albania is the Albanian Alps. The Albanian Alps are a mountain range in the North of Albania. This mountain range is on the border of Albania, Montenegro and Kosovo.
What really sets the Albanian Alps apart from other mountainous areas in Europe, is that it is so incredibly remote. The Albanian Alps do not have a ski lift or train rails, so the only way to reach this area is via a winding mountain road.
Because the Albanian Alps are so remote it is like going back in time. You will see the local people live a very rural and authentic lifestyle. People have farm animals, kids play outside and there are beautiful hiking routes through untouched nature.
Visiting the Albanian Alps is like leaving your busy life being and going on a great adventure!
Highlight: Lake Koman Ferry
If you are travelling to the Albanian Alps, you cannot miss the Lake Koman Ferry. Bradt Travel Guides described the Lake Koman Ferry as “one of the world’s greatest boat trips”. You board the ferry in Koman and go on a three-hour boat trip through the mountain landscape. Lake Koman is a very long river-like lake that turns and twists through the mountains. And every turn reveals another beautiful panorama. This boat trip is absolutely breathtaking!
Highlight: Blue Eye of Theth
Another highlight in the Albanian Alps is the Blue Eye of Theth. Theth is a remote mountain village, where you can stay in a guest house. From the guest house, you can take a 4 wheel drive to the trailhead and then go on a 1-hour hike to the Blue Eye of Theth. The Blue Eye of Theth is a natural mountain pool with a rushing waterfall. The pool is surrounded by beautiful cliffs. You can swim in the ice-cold pool if you are up for it. There are some beautiful pictures of the Blue Eye of Theth online, but none of them do justice to the real-life beauty of this mountain pool.
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2) UNESCO Heritage cities in Albania
Another great reason to visit Albania are the historical UNESCO cities. There are two cities in Albania that are known as “museum cities”. These are Berat city and Gjirokaster city.
Both of these cities have old town centres with houses that date back to the period when Albania was a part of the Ottoman Empire. Each of the cities has a hilltop castle from where you get an excellent view of the old town centre and the surrounding hilly landscape. Visiting Berat and Gjirokaster is truly like walking in a museum, every corner reveals another beautiful view!
If you are making your itinerary for Albania, then Berat should be on the top of your list! Berat is without a doubt the prettiest town in Albania.
Berat is also known as the “city of a thousand windows”. Because it has two old neighbourhoods with little white houses on the slopes of two hills. And when you are standing in the valley, you see a thousand little windows look down at you from the hills.
Of course, Berat is a very beautiful town, but it is also a lively and thriving city. You can visit the hilltop Berat Castle and you will see that people are actually living inside the castle! I am sure you will have a great day trip to Berat, that will make you feel relaxed and in awe of the beauty, so be certain to add Berat to your itinerary for Albania!
Gjirokaster is the second UNESCO city of Albania. This historical town is located in the South of Albania, close to the Greek border and the coastal city Saranda. Gjirokaster is also known as the “stone city”. Because it has these beautiful two story stone houses that date back to the Ottoman period.
During the Ottoman empire, Gjirokaster was the town where the local governor ruled Albania. Therefore it was a rich and thriving city with many elaborate houses. Visit the Gjirokaster Castle, right on the top of the city and look down at the beautiful historical centre of the city. And stroll through the Old Bazaar Market for handicraft products and souvenirs.
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3) Fascinating communist history
If you are visiting Albania, you can also explore its fascinating communist history. From the end of the Second World War until 1992, Albania was a communist country. Albania was ruled by dictator Enver Hoxha. The dictator isolated Albania from the rest of the world, similar to North Korea today.
Visit the capital city Tirana to see the massive Pyramid of Tirana, the government boulevard, pass by the house of the former dictator, learn about spies in the Museum of Secret Surveillance and enter a communist bunker.
Highlight: Bunk’Art 1 Bunker Museum
Bunk’Art 1 is the most fascinating museum in Albania. It is a museum inside a massive bunker just outside the city centre of Tirana. Albania’s former dictator Enver Hoxha was paranoid and convinced that a foreign country would attack Albania. Therefore, he started a massive bunker construction project and built 173.000 bunkers all over Albania.
Bunk’Art 1 is set inside the bunker that Enver Hoxha built for himself and the government elite. In the Bunk’Art 1 museum, you get to experience what life was like during communism in Albania. You learn about the communist ideals, the wire fencing that was constructed on the border, the nuclear experiments and the end of religion in Albania.
You also get to see the room of the dictator in the bunker, a typical Albanian house and TV footage of parades in the city centre. All in all Bunk’Art 1 will certainly leave you impressed, speechless and a little scared of course.
4) Albanian Riviera
One of the most beautiful areas of Albania is the Albanian Riviera. The Albanian Riviera is a 120-kilometre long stretch of coastline in the South of Albania. You can make a beautiful road trip along the coastal road to see all the pretty little beaches of the Albanian Riviera.
Although there are beautiful beaches in the South of Europe, Albania still has many hidden coves and untouched beaches, which is a great reason to visit Albania. You can stay in Vlore or Saranda if you prefer a large coastal city with all the facilities and nightlife.
However, if you prefer a smaller place with a more relaxed vibe, you can certainly stay in a small village, like Jale beach, Himare beach or Ksamil beach. Then from your accommodation, you can make trips to the hidden coves and rugged beaches to experience the real beauty of Albania!
Highlight: Zvernec island
Zvernec island is a beautiful sightseeing spot along the Albanian Riviera. From the coastal city of Vlore, you can drive for about 20 minutes to get to Zvernec island. Zvernec is a tiny island in the Narta Lagoon. The island is covered with pine trees.
The small island is connected to the mainland via a long wooden footbridge. You can walk across the footbridge to the island to visit the small monastery. Mostly Zvernec is a very picturesque location. You can take stunning pictures from the mainland of the island and the wooden bridge. It is certainly worth making a stop at Zvernec island if you are on a road trip along the Albanian Riviera or if you are staying in Vlore.
Highlight: Castle of Ali Pasha in the Bay of Porto Palermo
The Bay of Porto Palermo is not really a beach, think of it more as a natural harbour. In the middle of this harbour or bay, there is a little island, which is connected to the mainland via a narrow strip of land. On this little island, you can visit the Castle of Ali Pasha. If you are making a trip along the Albanian Riviera, the Bay of Porto Palermo and the Castle of Ali Pasha are definitely worth a visit. You can climb up to the rooftop of the castle for a fantastic view of the Ionian Sea.
Highlight: Llogara Pass
The Llogara Pass is the highest point on the coastal road between Vlore and Sarande. This high mountain pass is also known as an excellent viewpoint. There is a beautiful restaurant with floor to ceiling windows, from where you can see the Ionian Sea below.
If you are driving from Vlore to Saranda, the Llogara Pass will be your first sneak peek of the beauty of the Albanian Riviera and the Ionian Sea. You can see the little village of Dhermi, Dhermi Beach and Palase beach from the Llogara Pass. The Llogara Pass is certainly worth a stop for a coffee break or lunch break on your trip to the South!
Highlight: Gjipe Beach
Gjipe Beach is one of the hidden cove beaches, that truly sets the Albanian Riviera apart. Gjipe Beach is completely surrounded by high mountain cliffs. These cliffs make Gjipe beach one of the most isolated beaches in Albania. You can get to the beach with a boat from the nearby Jale Beach or you can park the car and hike to the beach. But once you get there, this hidden beach will be your private beach to explore!
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5) Local culture & friendly people in Albania
When you visit Albania, it is certainly worth exploring the rich local culture. Albania is a very authentic country. And the number of tourists visiting Albania is relatively low, so the Albanian people are very excited and interested in foreign people. You will be impressed by how hospitable and friendly the Albanian people are and how generous.
Highlight: Kruje Castle
One of the best places to get to know the Albanian culture is at Kruja Castle. Kruja is also known as the city of Albania’s national hero Skanderbeg.
Skanderbeg was a military commander and leader, who defended the Albanian people. When the Turkish Ottoman Empire was invading Albania, Skanderbeg united the different Albanian tribes and lead the fight against the invasion successfully for 25 years. Skanderbeg and his castle in Kruja are a famous destination in Albania.
As a tourist, you can visit Kruja Castle on a day trip from Tirana. Kruja Castle is located on a hilltop and therefore it has a stunning view! Inside the castle, you can visit the beautiful Skanderbeg Museum and the Ethnographic Museum. The Ethnographic Museum is essentially a traditional Albanian house, so it gives you a unique insight into Albanian culture. There is also a beautiful bazaar market on the slope of the hill that leads to the castle, where you can buy Albanian handicrafts and souvenirs.
Is Albania a beautiful place?
Albania is a very beautiful place. Albania has stunning untouched nature both in the mountains in the North, as well as along the coastline in the South of Albania.
The North of Albania has an impressive mountain range, known as “the Albanian Alps”. In the Albanian Alps, you can see rugged and untouched nature. The most beautiful places in the Albanian Alps are the Blue Eye of Theth, the Grunas Waterfall, the Shala River and Lake Koman.
In the South of Albania, you can visit the beautiful Albanian Riviera. There is a coastal road between Vlore beach and Saranda beach, which leads you to all the most stunning beaches of Albania. The Albanian Riviera still offers some hidden beaches and coves, so you get to see untouched, natural beaches!
Albania also offers some beautiful historical places. The highlights are the UNESCO cities of Berat and Gjirokaster. And the archaeological park of Butrint, which is also a UNESCO site.
Highlight: The Blue Eye of Saranda
The Blue Eye of Saranda is one of the most beautiful places in Albania. In essence, the blue eye of Saranda is a natural freshwater spring. This freshwater spring has become a famous place to visit because it is so beautiful. The spring is incredibly bright and blue and it resembles a human eye. People from Albania and abroad visit the Blue Eye spring, and simply stand on the edges of the spring in awe! Although there are pictures of the Blue Eye online, none of these pictures truly capture how mesmerizing and beautiful this natural spring is.
Highlight: Ksamil beach & islands
Ksamil beach and its islands are without a doubt the most beautiful beach in Albania. Within Albania, Ksamil beach is known as “the pearl of the Albanian Riviera”. Although the Albanian Riviera has many beautiful beaches, Ksamil is the highlight.
Ksamil beach is a paradise-like beach. The beach is set on a little peninsula and alongside the peninsula, there are these little wooden shutters that lead into the water. The beach itself has perfect white sand and the water of the sea is turquoise and incredibly clear.
From the beach, you can swim or take a boat to the four little islands in front of the beach. The four Ksamil islands are uninhabited, so this is your chance to visit a true deserted island.
Highlight: Boat tour on the Shala River
Another very remote and beautiful place in Albania is the Shala River. To get to the Shala River, you must start from Shkoder city in the North of Albania. From Shkoder city, you take a four-wheel-drive taxi for 2 hours to the Koman village. In Koman, there are two types of boats that depart. There is the Lake Koman Ferry, which brings people to Fierze (and back). And there are small boats that travel to the Shala River.
If you want to go for a one day trip by boat, it is best to choose the Shala Riverboats, because you will stop at the Shala beach for a relaxing swimming & lunch break.
The small Shala Riverboats depart from Lake Koman and sail to the Shala River. The Shala River is also known as “the Thailand of Albania” because it is such a beautiful and untouched natural place. Alongside the river, you will see stunning cliffs. The boat stops at Shala Beach where you can go for a swim or have lunch at one of the guest houses, before sailing back to Lake Koman.
Highlight: The Grunas Waterfall
The Grunas Waterfall is a beautiful place to visit in the Albanian Alps. The Grunas Waterfall is a hiking destination that you can visit if you travel to the Theth village. You can start a trip to Theth from Tirana city or Shkoder city.
Theth is a remote mountain village, so it is best to stay at least 1 night in a guest house so that you have enough time to travel to and explore the village. From the Theth village, you can hike to the Blue Eye of Theth and the Grunas Waterfall. The Grunas Waterfall is an impressive 30-meter high waterfall. The waterfall is surrounded by rough nature and a beautiful blue-green pool. It is a very picturesque location!
Highlight: The Cape of Rodon
The Cape of Rodon is one of my personal favourites! From Tirana, you can drive for approximately 2 hours to visit the Cape of Rodon. In essence, the Cape of Rodon is a natural pier that leads into the Adriatic Sea. It is like a finger of mountains that points into the rough sea.
You can hike through the hills for approximately 30 minutes to get to the Cape of Rodon. There is a beautiful viewpoint at the end of the trail, from where you get to see the Cape of Rodon from above. You can descend to the Cape of Rodon to visit the ruins of Rodoni Castle. And you can wade with your feet along the coastline to visit some wild and untouched beaches. The Cape of Rodon is a natural beauty and it is certainly off-the-beaten-path.
What is the best time to visit Albania? The best time to visit Albania is between May and September. The high-season in the Albanian Riviera is in July and August, so take a taxi to some smaller and more remote beaches for privacy. May, June and September are quieter, but these months still offer beautiful weather to visit beaches, go hiking or go on a city trip.
What is Albania famous for? Albania is famous for the 173.000 bunkers and communist history, the untouched nature of the Albanian Alps, the hidden coves of the Albanian Riviera, for its unique language and the historical UNESCO cities of Berat, Gjirokaster and Butrint.
I am an Albania Tour Guide, who organizes 1-day, 2-day or multiple day private tours in Albania. I arrange your transportation and I am your English speaking guide. So that, you get to experience the most beautiful places in Albania!
Kind regards, Manon
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I am a Tour Guide in Albania
I am an Albania Tour Guide, who organizes 1-day, 2-day or multiple day private tours in Albania.
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