Albania: Explore the Forgotten Side of Europe – 15 Best Things to Do in the Albanian Lands
Updated On: May 29, 2023
The Balkan Peninsula is home to the paradise-like country that is Albania in the southeastern part of Europe. It is one of the Balkan countries that is totally worth a visit. Albania falls in the middle between the crystal waters of Italy and the northern part of Greece. This small country stretches over the Mediterranean Sea, offering picturesque sceneries to behold.
Unlike the majority of European countries, Albania is rather a poor country. The reasons behind that go way back in history to World War II. However, this was never a reason for tourists to keep flocking to this beautiful country. After all, there is so much history to learn here, amazing places to explore, and fascinating culture to get acquainted with.
Did we mention that the Alps range stretches over to find its way through Albania? Not a lot of people are fully aware of this fact, but the Albanian Alps spot is one to die for. It is one of the best spots in the country that offers splendid views and breathtaking landscapes.
Let us walk you through an exhilarating list of all the things you can do and the best places to see while spending some quality time on the Albanian lands.
1. Hike from Theth to Valbona
If you happen to fall on the adventurous side, we believe this famous hiking trail will intrigue you. The Theth to Valbona trail is the most popular hiking spot in the North of Albania, drawing lots of fitness gurus and other nature lovers every year. The hike route is deemed moderate, so it fits people of all fitness levels. The trail extends for almost 17 kilometers long, taking around 7 to 8 hours to finish.
Along the way, you will be fascinated by the impressive views of the Alps. This route features picturesque scenes of raw beauty, alternating between the sceneries and leaving you quite spellbound. Lush forests, green terrains are some of the included views on this eccentric journey. You will also spot amazing animals living on the farms on the sides of the village roads.
2. Check the Albanian Riviera (Bregu)
The Albanian Riviera is a true slice of heaven where different elements of nature come together, featuring a captivating scenery. It falls in the southwestern part of Albania on the Mediterranean Sea, forming a coastline that stretches along the districts of Sarandë and Vlorë.
Being one of the most popular tourist attractions in Albania, it is also commonly known as Bregu, so you may get this a lot while finding your way around. This spot is the perfect holiday getaway if you are looking for some time to relax and chill on one of the world’s most beautiful coastlines. There are many villages nearby to explore in case you need to rev up your energy before going back to your chilling spot.
3. Take a Tour to Berat
Berat is an impressive town located in central Albania. You can easily hop on a bus from Tirana that will take you directly to Berat. The town is rather known as the town of the thousand windows, for it is home to lots of archaic buildings, that possess large windows. It is one of the places designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site thanks to its well-preserved ancient buildings.
Those buildings feature Ottoman styles, given that Berat was one of the first settlements where the Byzantines made home. Besides the great history of this place, there is a lot of attractions to discover, with the Berat Castle sitting on top of the list. The town is home to many museums that will interest the history buffs. It also embraces historic mosques that you would like to explore for a new culture experience.
4. Soak into the Osumi Canyon
One of the natural attractions in Southern Albania that offers spectacular views is the canyons of the Osumi river. It courses through the whole town of Berat, providing more options to consider while wandering the historic town. The canyons surrounding the river are dazzling to look at. Interestingly, the adventure doesn’t just stop here, but you can also get to enjoy a nice dip in the river.
The most popular activities around this spot are hiking and swimming. It is always interesting to have more than a few options when it comes to observing a breathtaking view. Guided tours are arranged if you prefer exploring the area with experts. They will help walk you through significant areas and astounding viewpoints that you wouldn’t want to miss.
5. Wander the Streets of Shkodra
Shkodra is one of the oldest inhabited cities, not only in Albania, but in all of the Balkans region. It is located in the northwestern part of Albania and, given its archaic existence, is rich in history and heritage. Shkodra has always been a popular stopping point among tourists who travel between the Albanian cities. However, there is so much in this city that you will be happy to learn about and explore.
Lake Shkodra is not to be missed. This vast lake is deemed the largest around the whole Balkans region. You can enjoy the fascinating panoramas on the shore while biking, hiking, or just sitting there relaxing. The Rozafa Fortress is among the most prominent attractions in the city. It has always been a strategic spot and a sturdy stronghold for so many centuries. Another great spot in which you can unravel history is the Shkodra Historical Museum. This impressive building sits on a steep hill, offering breathtaking views to absorb while exploring its different parts.
6. Discover the Hidden Gems of Tirana
It won’t make any sense if you were in Albania and missed visiting its capital city, Tirana. This city is home to impressive panoramas, colourful towns, and interesting historic spots. Wandering the street of Tirana will show you why this long-ignored city merits a visit on its own. Many tourists tend to skip this part of Albania and just head straight to the renowned Riviera and the Alps.
Embark on your journey by starting off at Skanderbeg Square; this splendid plaza is the core of the city and the end of every road in Tirana. Several attractions are found around the famous square, including the eminent Et’hem Bej Mosque. The Clock Tower is also there for you to climb and have an elevated view of Skanderbeg Square and the surrounding streets.
7. Dip in the Thermal Baths of Benja
Albania is home to several natural attractions with that irresistible spellbinding effect and its thermal baths are no exception. The thermal baths of Benja have always been a major tourist attraction that Albania visitors rarely seem to miss, which is a great thing. These natural hot pools are located in the Petran region, around 14 kilometres south of Përmet.
While dipping in those hot relaxing pools of nature, you will also be enjoying some scenic landscapes of the Albanian hills, mountains, and forests. The black mud found around is also great baths to soak into, given the healing properties of the skin. Not only will you take off Albania with a new cultural experience, but also with radiant hair and skin, thanks to its hot springs and healing muds.
8. Stop at Kruja
Kruja is one of the beautiful towns located in north-central Albania. It is one of the most eminent attractions and home to the best sightseeing in the country. Interestingly, it is only 20 kilometres away from Tirana, which makes it a quite accessible town. Kruja used to be home to the ancient tribe of Illyrians, and that makes it an important spot with great historical significance.
Besides the rich history of this area, it embraces a wide range of charming landmarks that are worth a visit. The Kruja Castle sits on top of the list of attractions to explore while stopping at Kruja. It goes back to the 5th or 6th century. You should also pay the Ethnographic Museum a visit. It walks you through the different customs and traditions of Albania throughout different centuries.
9. Visit the Blue Eye
The Blue Eye is a famous attraction in Albania that attracts a great number of tourists from all around the world. It is a nature reserve that should totally be on the top of the list of every eager traveller. Located near Muzine, you can only get to the blue eye by renting a car and taking off from Saranda town for the shortest and easiest routes.
It sits in the middle of lush forests in a heavenly looking scene that will make your jaw drop. The reflection of the dense forests in the water creates a breathtaking scene, especially given how crystal clear the water is. You can even see deep down to more than fifty metres while standing on the banks. Many signs read that swimming is not allowed, yet many people still dive into the waters for a quick dip into this natural phenomenon.
10. Unravel History at BUNK’ART
The BUNK’ART is one of the most popular destinations in Tirana that every traveller makes a stop at it. This impressive building speaks loudly of history and past times, and that made it a booming destination in the capital city of Albania. It used to be a bunker during the Cold War, and you can’t help but sense the presence of history in every corner.
Nowadays, all of its floors house a museum, featuring contemporary art and history. While this is a site suitable for history buffs, it won’t hurt to take a quick tour inside even if you are not that much into history. The former bunker is an exciting experience that would be a shame to miss. Every room that exhibits forms of art or history was once a shelter to struggling soldiers.
11. Explore the Pearl of Albania – Gjirokaster
Gjirokaster is one of the enchanting towns in Albania that was claimed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is also referred to as the pearl of Albania, given the fascinating treasures, it holds within its charming lands. Gjirokaster is one of the oldest and first inhabited towns in the country. You will know that as soon as you realise the archaic buildings that feature an outstanding style of the Ottoman era.
There are so many places to visit in Gjirokaster, with the old bazaar standing out the most. The Old Bazaar is an impressive area in Gjirokaster that display a line of Ottoman-styled houses, vintage shops and boutiques, and some really old cafes.
While these simple streets speak of great history, you can dive deeper into the past at the Gjirokaster Castle. It is among the oldest and largest fortresses in Albania ever. This castle is also among the prominent spots that have witnessed long centuries of rich history.
12. Ride the Ferry Across the Lake Komani
Ferries are fun to ride and get to observe amazing parts of the world from a point that high. In Albania, ferry rides are more than just fun rides to enjoy the Albanian landscapes. As a matter of fact, they are used for travelling from and to Albania, known as the International Ferry Crossings. There are ferry ports that allow you to arrive at other ferry ports in either Italy or Greece. Quite interesting, isn’t it?
However, since you are probably having the Albanian lands as your main destination, you can still use the ferries to observe the country’s raw beauty. One of the most famous spots is the Lake Komani ferry. This ferry operates on a daily basis, commuting between Fierze and Koman towns and has been around for decades now.
The tour takes around two hours, allowing you to observe the magnificence of the Albanian Alps. The Lake Komani Ferry doesn’t only take you through fascinating landscapes of the mountains and the ocean, but it also passes by many other destinations that you may be interested in if you want more than just the views. This includes the prominent hike of the Valbona to Theth, where the ferry drops you to the nearest point to start your trekking journey.
13. Drive Down the Llogara Pass
Renting a car and taking a ride down the llogara pass is an ultimate experience that you should try. The llogara pass is a path road that passes within the Ceraunian Mountains on an elevated level, overlooking the Albanian Riviera and stretching along it.
This mountainous road is a quite experience and the addition of the impressive landscapes and scenic views add more to your experience. The pass connects between towns and cities in Albania that you can easily access through that road.
One of the popular attractions around this area is the Llogara National Park. It is situated deep in the Ceranuian Mountains adding a beauty edge to the already mesmerising area. The park is home to several trails suitable for hiking and fits all fitness levels. You can go on an adventure within the mountainous park and snap nice picture of the vast natural landscapes.
14. Go Wild Camping
One of the greatest activities that make Albania stand out among many European countries is the free ability to camp in the wild. This activity is pretty legal in Albania, with no stated laws against it no matter what spot you decide to stay at for the night. With the vast landscapes of nature that the Albanian lands possess, you can choose your preferable spot with your buddies and chill.
Whether you decide to set up tents or not, it is totally up to you. Just make sure you don’t leave any disposable items behind and be responsible. Don’t disturb the wildlife that you can occasionally spot roaming around freely. If you happen to have any toilet emergencies, we should warn you that no cabinets are set nearby, but you can check out the nearest local bars for that matter.
15. Chill on Ksamil Islands
Ksamil Islands is a group of islets that sits near the shores of the Ionian Sea just South Albania. It is one of the most popular and hottest tourist destinations, given its tranquil vibes and its secluded location away from the bustling cities.
This spot is quite perfect for chilling and relaxing to enjoy your holiday in peace. Moreover, the village of Ksamil sits on the eastern side of the islands, you can freely explore it and get closer to the Albanian culture and traditions of the locals.
Albania is one of the most forgotten countries in the Balkans region in Eastern Europe. It is also one of the most affordable places compared to many other European countries. Pack up and fly all the way to Europe and make your vacation really count. Go on some unique adventures, explore new spots, and get to live a brand new cultural experience, all within the Albanian lands.