Is it worth going to Albania?

If you have never travelled to Albania, you might be wondering: Is it worth going to Albania? In this blog post, I will describe the highlights of Albania, so that you can decide if it is worth going to Albania for you!

Is it worth going to Albania? It is worth going to Albania for these reasons:
1) Albanian Riviera, highlight: Ksamil beach
2) Untouched Nature, highlights: Cape of Rodon, Shala River
3) Freshwater springs, highlights: Blue Eye of Saranda, Blue Eye of Theth, Springs of Drilon
4) Hike in Albanian Alps & stay in a remote mountain village
5) Explore communist history, highlight: Bunk’Art 1 Bunker Museum
6) UNESCO sights, highlights: Berat and Butrint

I am a private tour guide in Albania, so let me take you through the most beautiful places and best experiences in Albania. I hope I can convince you that is it definitely worth going to Albania!

Albanian Riviera & Ksamil beach

Ksamil beach is a paradise. Just Google some images of Ksamil, and you will no doubt agree with me, that Ksamil beach is worth a visit!

Albania has a beautiful stretch of coastline in the South, which is known as the Albanian Riviera. There are many pretty beaches, but Ksamil beach is the absolute highlight.

Ksamil beach is perfect! The beach of Ksamil is set on a little peninsula. The different stretches of beach are divided by wooden walkways that lead into the sea. The water of the sea is turquoise green and super clear.

In front of the beach, there are four little islands. The Ksamil islands are uninhabited and all-natural. From the main beach, you can swim to the nearest island. Or you can rent a boat or a kayak to visit the Ksamil islands that are further away.

The highlight are the twin islands, which are connected to each other via a narrow strip of land.

You can rent a chair and a parasol on the beach, go snorkelling or have lunch in a restaurant with a beautiful view of the islands.

The Ksamil area is also known for farming mussels. From Ksamil, you can go on a mussel tour, visit a mussel farm and taste some of the Albanian mussels.

Ksamil beach can be quite busy in July and August, so if you are travelling in the high season, get there early in the morning! Actually, the best months to go to Ksamil are June and September, because you are just before or just after the high season.

Shala River boat trip

My top recommendation for Albania is to take a boat trip on the Shala River. Even if you only have 1-2 days in Albania, a boat trip on the Shala river in the North of Albania is absolutely worth it!

The Shala river is an isolated and untouched river in the North of Albania. It is a bright blue river that runs through lush nature. The Shala River is also known as the “Thailand of Albania”.

The boat trip starts in the Koman village, which is a two-hour drive from Shkoder city or a four-hour drive from Tirana city. You can take a local bus or hire a 4 wheel drive to take you to Koman.

The only way you can visit the Shala River is by taking a small boat from the Koman village. There are no roads to the Shala River. So you must buy a ticket for one of the little boats, that will bring you to Shala beach.

The boat trip on the Shala river is so beautiful. You will turn and twist along the river. The water is a bright blue-green colour. And along the river, you will see gigantic cliffs, mountains and wild nature.

The boat will stop at Shala Beach. At Shala beach, you can go for a swim or sunbathe. There are some restaurants and guesthouses at the remote spot. So you can have a nice traditional lunch or drink a coffee.

Going to the Shala river is an experience. You go on a great adventure and you completely forget about the stress of your everyday life.

Untouched Nature at the Cape of Rodon

If you are staying in Tirana, then the Cape of Rodon is definitely worth going to!

The Cape of Rodon is a beautiful natural sight. It is actually a long pier or peninsula that points into the Adriatic Sea.

The Cape of Rodon is one of the favourite spots of the locals in Tirana and Durres. It is not a very tourist spot, so if you like travelling off-the-beaten-path and visiting hidden gems, you will really enjoy the Cape of Rodon.

You must drive for approximately 2 hours from Tirana. Initially, you will drive along the motorway that connects Tirana to Durres beach. Then you get off the motorway at Maminas. And you drive along this turning and twisting road through lovely local villages. The Cape of Rodon is at the end of the road.

From the car park, you will hike for about 45 minutes through nature. At some points, you get a little sneak peek of the sea. Then at the end of the trail, you will have a breathtaking view of the Cape of Rodon.

From the hills, you look down onto the peninsula. You see the wild waves of the sea crashing into the Cape of Rodon. On the cape, there are beautiful wild plants. And in the distance, you see the sunset over the Adriatic Sea.

You can descent from the hill towards the Cape of Rodon and visit the ruins of Rodoni Castle, which was once built by Albania’s national hero Skanderbeg. Then to get back to your car, you must wade with your bare feet through the sea. And along the way, you will pass by little wild beaches.

Unique Blue Eye Spring

The Blue Eye of Albania is definitely worth going to! When you are visiting Albania, the Blue Eye should be on the top of your list, because it is a highlight.

In essence, the Blue Eye of Albania is a freshwater spring. What makes this spring special is its beauty.

The Blue Eye is a round pool with extremely bright blue water. When you stand next to the pool, you won’t believe it is natural.

The spring is called “the Blue Eye”, because from the top it looks like a human eye.

In the middle, there is a dark spot. This dark spot is an underwater cave that pumps the water to the surface. The underwater cave looks like the pupil of a human eye.

Then surrounding the pupil, there is the bright blue water. And underneath the surface, you can see the leaves of the underwater plants. This looks like the iris of a human eye.

The Blue Eye is a very deep spring. The underwater cave that pumps the water to the surface is more than 50 meters deep.

Many tourists like to jump into the spring from a wooden plateau above the spring. There is actually signage that says it is forbidden. However, that does not keep many people from jumping into the Blue Eye!

It is also a popular spot for divers, who like to get to the origin of the spring. However, no diver has succeeded to reach the bottom of the spring. It is a very dangerous mission because a diver must push against the enormous water pressure to descend. It is known the spring is at least 50 meters deep, but nobody knows how much deeper.

You need about 30 minutes to drive to the Blue Eye spring from Saranda or from Gjirokaster. And then you spend 1 hour admiring the spring, taking pictures and relaxing in the middle of nature. One thing is for sure, you have never seen such a beautiful and unique spring in your life.

Hike to the Blue Eye of Theth

There are actually two natural pools in Albania, which are called “the blue eye”. Just above, I described the Blue Eye of Saranda, which is in the South of Albania. However, in the North of Albania, there is another natural pool, called “the Blue Eye of Theth”.

The Blue Eye of Theth is a mountain pool. This mountain pool is located in the Albanian Alps in the North of Albania.

The Blue Eye of Theth is an exciting destination for hikers and adverturous travellers. It is quite a journey to get there, so let me take you through the steps.

First, you must travel from Tirana city to Shkoder city by bus, by taxi or by car. This journey takes 2 hours. Then from Shkoder, I recommend you hire a local driver with a 4 wheel drive car to take you to the Theth mountain village.

Theth is a 3 hours drive from Shkdoder city. The first two hours of the road are in a good condition. However, the last 1 hour of the drive is a dirt track with big stones and steep cliffs.

Then from the Theth village, you must get to the trailhead. You can either hike for 3 hours to get to the trailhead or if you hired a local driver with a 4 wheel drive, he can drive you to the trailhead in about 30 minutes.

Then from the trailhead, you hike for approximately 1 hour through the mountains to get to the Blue Eye of Theth.

When you arrive at the Blue Eye of Theth, you will be amazed. The mountain pool has the clearest fresh water. From the top, you can see all the little plants on the bottom of the pool, because the water is so clear.

There is a little waterfall, that fills the pool from the top. And you hear the relaxing sound of rushing water. And the pool is surrounded by high cliffs and greenery.

There is a wooden terrace on the river, which gives you a beautiful view of the Blue Eye of Theth. Or you can climb up the wooden stairs to the restaurant on the cliff, which is high above the Blue Eye of Theth.
Although it is certainly not easy to get to this remote location, the Blue Eye of Theth is absolutely worth it!

Bunk’Art 1 Museum

Bunk’Art 1 is a museum in Tirana, that is definitely worth going to! Whenever you check TripAdvisor for the best things to do in Tirana, Bunk’Art 1 is always number 1 or number 2!

Although Bunk’Art 1 is a museum, it is completely different from any traditional museum you have ever seen.

Because Bunk’Art 1 is a museum inside a massive communist bunker! This communist bunker is a gigantic underground complex underneath a mountain. The communist bunker was built by Albania’s former dictator Enver Hoxha.

Albania was a strict communist country from the end of the Second World War until 1992. Basically, Albania was isolated from the rest of the world, similar to North Korea today.

During the communist period, the dictator Enver Hoxha was convinced that a foreign country would attack Albania. So as a measure to protect the Albanian population, he constructed 173.000 bunkers all over Albania. The gigantic bunker was intended to accommodate the Albanian government and party elite in case a foreign attack on Albania took place.

In short, the foreign attack never happened, the bunkers were never used, the dictator died and communism ended. However, Albania still has thousands of bunkers!

The gigantic bunker near Tirana, has been converted into the Bunk’Art 1 museum. Going to Bunk’Art 1 is worth it!

You will walk through the massive underground structure and experience Albania’s history. There is an art installation, which show the fencing around Albania, built to keep the Albanians from leaving. You can visit the room of the dictator and the room of the minister of defence. And you can see the quarter of an officer.

There is a sanitation room to wash the nuclear waste from your body with water (very effective!). And you can see the large auditorium built by the dictator to hold meetings with his government underground.

I must say that Bunk’Art 1 is a little creepy, but it will certainly leave an impression on you!

Stay in a remote mountain village

Many people do not realize how remote some of Albania’s mountain villages really are.

The Albanian Alps in the North of Albania are a popular destination for hikers and adventurous travellers in the summer months. However, in the winter the Albanian Alps are completely closed off from the rest of the world.

Basically, the population is literally snowed in during the winter months. Hiking tours to the Albanian Alps cannot take place until late May / early June, when the locals work hard to make the mountain road snow free.

At the same time, the remoteness of the Albanian Alps is its beauty! Because the roads leading to the mountain villages, like Theth and Valbone, are dirt tracks. This area remains very untouched and wild. It makes it feel like a true adventure!

When you stay in a guest house or with a local family in the mountains, the daily world feels literally miles away. In the Alps, you can hike and forget for a few days about all the pressure and stress of your daily life.

Some travellers did ask me, why skying is not a “thing” in the Albanian Alps. And the simple answer is that Albania did not build ski lifts and construct ski slopes etcetera.

But I would say in most cases, the wild and untouched nature. And the remoteness of the little mountain villages is exactly what attracts travellers to this region.

Exploring the coastal road between Vlore and Saranda

One of the prettiest places in Albania to explore is the coastal road between Vlore and Saranda. This is the road that leads by all the beaches of the Albanian Riviera.

I get the question “Where is the Albanian Riviera?” quite frequently. And basically, the Albanian Riviera is the coastline in the South of Albania. The riviera starts at Vlore beach in the “middle of Albania” and leads to the Greek border in the South of Albania.

Along the Albanian Riviera, there is a stunning coastal road, which leads by all the little beaches of Albania.

This means you do not have to decide before your holiday, which beaches you would like to visit! You can rent a car and make stops along the coastal road wherever you like. Or you can book a driver, who stays with you for 1 day on your way to the South!

You can, of course, book a hotel in Vlore or Saranda, which are the big cities of the Albanian Riviera. But you might also really enjoy a smaller place, like Jale, Himare or Ksamil, if you prefer a relaxed village vibe.

If you make a journey from Tirana to Saranda, I recommend you plan a full day. Although the inland road to Saranda is much quicker and it will only take you 5-6 hours to get to Saranda. I do highly recommend taking the coastal road and seeing the beauty of the Albanian Riviera, whilst making your way to the South of Albania.

The coastal road in Albania is a destination worth going to, for sure!

Beautiful Nature at Lake Bovilla

If you are staying in the capital city of Tirana, then I highly recommend you visit Lake Bovilla. Lake Bovilla is a stunning national park with beautiful views, so it is definitely worth going to!

From the capital city, you must drive for about 1 hour to get to Lake Bovilla Park. This is actually an artificial lake that was created by a dam. The lake is a drinking water reservoir for Tirana’s population.

When you arrive at Lake Bovilla, you will immediately have a stunning view of the gigantic lake. But for an even better view, you can drive up the zig-zagging track to the Bovilla Balcony.

At the top of the track, there is a restaurant with the best view! Lake Bovilla is surrounded by gigantic mountains. You see the massive mountains rising up from the Lake and the sparkling blue water at the bottom.

At the restaurant, you can have an amazing BBQ style lunch and locals specialities. They grill the meat right in the garden next to the restaurant!

Afterwards, you can climb up the staircase to the iron balcony. This balcony hangs right above the lake and gives you an even better view! Overall, Lake Bovilla is a very satisfying day trip from Tirana and definitely worth going to!

Try Albanian cuisine

During your holiday in Albania, I am sure you will really enjoy the Albanian food.

Albanian cuisine is a mixture between Greek food, Italian food and Turkish food. It is a very Mediterranean style cuisine.

The first thing you will notice is that you can get pizza absolutely everywhere in Albania because the Albanian people love their pizza!

Then, when you look closely you will see that every street has Byrek shops. Byrek is an immensely popular local pastry. It is a puff pastry filled with meat or spinach or cheese or potato or whatever really. It is kind of a Greek-style pastry, which Albanian people enjoy eating for breakfast or lunch.

Then when you go for dinner, you will notice that Albanian people love their grilled meats. And their dinner menus are quite similar to the Turkish restaurants around the world.

If you are staying in Tirana, I recommend you visit the food court in Murat Toptani Street. Murat Toptani Street is a side street of the main government boulevard and connects to the Toptani Shopping Mall. There is an old wall from Tirana castle, and inside there is a lovely food court with many great restaurants. The highlights are Tribe and Ceren by Ismet Shehu.

Explore the ancient city of Butrint

Butrint is an archaeological park in the ultimate South of Albania and certainly worth going to on your holiday!

Butrint is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. And it is actually the most important historical site in Albania.

At Butrint, you can see the ruins of an ancient city. Butrint started off as a Greek colony. However, it was transformed over time into a Roman city and later a bishopric. It was also a part of the Venetian Republic and during the Ottoman Empire, it was ruled by the local governor Ali Pasha. When you visit the archaeological park, you can see ruins from each period of the cities development.

But mostly, Butrint is a beautiful park. The archaeological treasures are set on a little peninsula and it is almost an island. This little island is surrounded by beautiful water for Lake Butrint and the Vivari channel.

It’s beautiful setting definitely makes Butrint worth a visit. From the entrance of the site, you will go on a circular walking route around the island. You walk through lush nature and get little peaks of the water surrounding the island.

Moreover, unlike many other archaeological sites, the ruins at Butrint are easier to piece together. Because many ruins are very well preserved, like the ancient theatre, the baptistery, the great church and the restored Venetian Castle.

Regardless of your level of interest in history, you will enjoy this beautiful archaeological site! So definitely add it to your list of things to do for Albania!

Berat UNESCO city

Berat is the most beautiful town in Albania and a UNESCO heritage site.

The city of Berat is a UNESCO World Heritage site, because of its old town centre. On the bottom of the hill, there are two neighbourhoods: Mangalem and Gorica. These neighbourhoods were built on the slopes of two hills across from each other.

The old neighbourhoods consist of little white houses, which were built when Albania was a part of the Ottoman Empire. Like many Balkan countries, Albania was a part of the Turkish Ottoman Empire for 500 years. The little white houses are typical for the Ottoman period. They used to be inhabited by merchants and craftsmen.

When you visit Berat, I guarantee you will be impressed. The two old neighbourhoods on the slopes of the hills are absolutely beautiful. The whole town has a very romantic and Italian feel.

Berat is also known as the city of a thousand windows. Because when you stand in the valley, you see all the little houses and their windows looking down at you. It is very pretty!

You can also visit the Berat castle at the top of the hill. Berat Castle offers stunning panoramic views of the old town, the new city, the Osum river and Mount Tomorr.

Even though Berat is a UNESCO heritage city, the old houses and the castle are still inhabited. So you will see the old town is still very much alive and thriving!

About me

About me

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

Welcome to Albania!

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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