In recent few years, Albania tourism has been blooming.
While it’s not so safe anymore to travel to some of the favorite holiday destinations on the south-east shore of Mediterranean Sea people were looking for a good alternative and many have decided to visit Albania. I’m definitely a big supporter of that idea!
Albanian coast is spectacular and Ksamil beach is already a world famous gem but the country has so much more to offer, some of the best Balkan highlights!
Beautiful stone towns, spectacular wonders of nature, breathtaking mountains and the funky capital – you can see it all if you decide to visit Albania!
I’ve been twice to the country (the first time when the Albania tourism was still just crawling) and even if slightly challenging I loved my time there!
I’m already thinking of the return as my list of what to see in Albania is getting longer and longer! I really hope the next year will see my visiting Albania again and seeing more of its beauty!
Table of contents
- 1 How to get to Albania?
- 2 How to travel around Albania?
- 3 Is Albania safe?
- 4 Solo female travel in Albania
- 5 Albania tourism – what to see in Albania
- 6 Further reading
- 7 Travel resources
How to get to Albania?
Traveling to Albania has always been the biggest issue.
Fortunately, it is changing slowly and now you can easily find charter flights to Tirana, also Wizzair started to operate on Budapest-Tirana route (hopefully it’s just the beginning and there will be even more options of direct flights to Albania soon!).
When I visited Albania twice it was more challenging to get there but not impossible.
Both times I flew to Thessaloniki, Greece and then I took the bus.
When I was going to Berat it was supposed to be a direct bus but we had to change somewhere at 5 am – overall it was a crazy and absurd journey that took me 50 hours from Poland but eventually I got exactly where I wanted to.
When I was going to Gijokastra I first took the bus from Thessaloniki to Ioannina (which was surprisingly beautiful and made a perfect stop along the way) and from there it’s only 2 hours by bus to Gijokastra (including crossing the border).
Since there’s a huge Albanian population living in Greece there are daily connections from Athens to Thessaloniki to probably every city in Albania.
Another option (that my friend did recently) is flying to Corfu island in Greece and then taking the ferry to nearby Saranda.
Albania makes a popular day trip destination among tourists from Corfu and there are few boats to choose from – the fast one takes only half an hour.
From Ohrid you might use the southern border crossing and you will find yourself in the town of Pogradec that already offers decent connections to Tirana or other places in Albania.
How to travel around Albania?
That’s where the challenging part starts.
In most of the places, there are no bus stations and no schedules – you need to go to a certain place from where the minibus to your destination goes.
Sometimes it sounds scary (like “big tree on the left side of the roundabout”) but in reality, it’s not so bad – local people will direct you and the drivers will find you – that’s what happened to me in Elbasan or Tirana.
Just like in former USSR minibusses wait to fill up so sometimes it might take a while for the bus to depart.
Between some big cities like Saranda and Tirana, there are regular connections with a schedule which makes everything so much easier.
The road condition isn’t very good so sometimes the journey takes much longer than you’d expect from the distance.
The Albanian drivers, just like in other Balkan countries, are a little bit crazy.
Is Albania safe?
For some reason, Albania doesn’t have the best reputation (but that’s also changing slowly). If you are wondering is Albania safe I can assure you there is nothing to worry about.
This is just a normal country (with more difficult language than anywhere else) so if only you use your common sense you will be fine.
During my both trips I always felt safe and there wasn’t even one situation when something was wrong.
Cities are always full of people, especially in the late afternoons and evening as walking around seems to be the favorite pastime activity of Albanians.
The fear of Albania comes from the unknown but it really is a safe country, like many others in the area.
Solo female travel in Albania
My first trip to Albania (to Berat only) was with a friend, the second time I’ve spent a week there traveling solo.
I felt really safe for all the time, no one bothered me or harassed me, people were really friendly, welcoming and helpful when needed.
Some of my friends have been traveling solo around Albania too and they say only good things about it!
Albania tourism – what to see in Albania
During my two trips to the country, I could see some of the best places Albania tourism has to offer. I can honestly say I’ve enjoyed them all and can recommend them!
Both times I went to visit Albania in autumn (beginning of October and mid-November) and I can definitely recommend this time of the year!
The weather is still really good but the summer crowds are gone and you can easily find cheap accommodation or travel between places.
I’ve heard so many people complaining about Albanian beaches being overcrowded in the summer but what I saw in early autumn at Ksamil beach was amazing – crystal clear blue waters, sand and hardly anyone around!
Autumn is the time to visit Albania!
And when you finally decide to go there here is a list of what to see in Albania
The infamous capital city, hated by many. On the contrary, I found it super cool and funky and really enjoyed my time there!
Tirana is not a beautiful city, you will not find many (or any at all) historical monuments there. But the vibe is one of the best I’ve ever encountered!
The main tourist attraction of Tirana is a big concrete pyramid – a rather intriguing structure that now serves as the broadcast center of the local TV station and the major hangout spot for youngsters.
And that’s how Tirana is – quirky yet fascinating. And super colorful!
Even if the paint slowly comes off the buildings and colors are fading the overall impression is still great!
Tirana, and especially its neighborhood Blloku, is home to one of the best cafe cultures I’ve ever encountered and that’s already a good reason to spend some time there!
Berat was the first place I’ve visited in Albania and I couldn’t ask for a better introduction, especially since it’s on the UNESCO list.
The city is often called “the town of thousand windows” and it has this title for a reason – numerous beautiful houses with big windows pile on top of each other making one of a kind view.
It’s especially beautiful from the promenade (where locals hang out) or from across the river.
It’s also worth to climb all the way to the castle as the views of Berat and the surroundings are really spectacular and this area itself is pretty charming too!
While Berat is called the city of thousand windows Gjirokastra has a title of the town of thousand stairs.
Walking around might be a little exhausting as the streets can get pretty steep but then the views from the castle (and the abandoned plane that looks so random there) are the great reward for the effort.
Gjirokastra itself is a beautiful stone town that kind of looks like the time has stopped there. I really enjoyed wandering around as the place definitely lives up to its hype.
Together with Berat Gjirokastra is part of UNESCO World Heritage List.
A real gem of Albanian seaside – Ksamil is considered to have one of the most beautiful beaches in Albania and I can see why everyone thinks so good of it.
Turquoise water, sandy beach, and nearby islands make Ksamil look like a paradise.
I was there at the very beginning of October and it was blissfully empty but I’ve heard many horror stories about visiting Ksamil beach in the summertime.
My advice – go there in the offseason and you will love it!
Only 5kms away from Ksamil you will find Butrint – another UNESCO listed place in Albania.
This ancient site, dating back to 8th century BC, is a truly fascinating place with so many remnants of the past that it will keep you occupied for few hours.
It can get busy with day trips from Corfu but it’s not too difficult to escape crowds here.
If you’re a fan of the history you will love it!
At first, it looks like an unattractive seaside resort with nothing but concrete but Saranda might be much more interesting than it seems.
If you’re looking for the lively holiday destination this is your Albanian answer.
But the town is more than just the place to have a good time in. You can find some monuments too in Saranda, including ancient ruins right in the middle of the city.
Saranda also makes a perfect base to explore the area (that includes Ksamil, Butrint, Gjirokaster or the Blue Eye).
Lake Ohrid is one of the most beautiful place I’ve seen in the Balkans.
But while everyone goes to the town of Ohrid in Macedonia (that I just adore!) Pogradec on the Albanian side of the border is also a great place to visit.
The lake looks just beautiful in here, with magnificent mountains in the background. The numerous restaurants’ jetties are a great opportunity for the lunch with the stunning view.
If you go for a walk along the beach (which is one of the main activities in Pogradec) you will for sure stumble across some bunkers around.
And now comes my bucket list part of what to see in Albania. But I will make it there soon, no doubts about that:
The journey across Lake Koman is on top of my Albanian bucket list.
Some call it the most beautiful in the world and while I’m usually a little bit skeptical about such titles this place really looks amazing on the pictures!
With all the twists, cliffs and waterfalls it must have looked similar to Norwegian fjords!
Valbona and Theth
These are two of the most important and most beautiful mountain villages in Albania, located on both sides of Albanian Alps.
I’m just dreaming of visiting them as they look so untouched, so pure and so pretty!
Once I almost made it to Valbona but the weather turned out for worse and there was no point in going all the way there! Next time, Albanian Alps!
pictures taken by my friend Osmól
I’ve been to Lake Skadar only on the Montenegrin side but this biggest lake in the Balkans has stolen my heart. It was so peaceful and pristine I could have stayed there for weeks!
Now I’m more than tempted to see the Albanian side of the lake and Shkoder would be a perfect base for that. But the town itself is really interesting too, with Rozafa Castle (offering great views around the lake) and the revitalized center.
The Blue Eye
Hidden a few minutes away off the Saranda – Gjirokastra road, this pristine spring is a true paradise with clear blue waters and oak trees giving the shadow.
It must be especially pleasant in the hot, summer day – a perfect nature getaway.
Kruja makes a perfect day trip from Tirana (that I had in my plans but didn’t do because I enjoyed the capital way too much).
There’s the castle with a really impressive location, surrounded by mountains but the main reason why you might want to visit Kruja is the bazaar – it is considered to be the best one in Albania for souvenir shopping.
Kruja is also a birthplace of the national hero – Skandenberg.
I wrote many articles about Albania and the Balkans that you might find interesting and useful when planning your trip to the region:
- Visit Tirana – the funkiest capital in Europe
- Berat, the highlight of Albania, in pictures
- Gjirokaster, Albania – the stone gem of the Balkans
- Your ultimate Balkan travel guide
- Balkan highlights – your ultimate list of what to see in the Balkans
- Solo female travel in the Balkans
- and more!
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