Imagine cruising along winding serpentines while you gaze at the loud blue sea, the windows down, and the breeze of the Ionian Sea dancing through your hair. A sun-salt smell runs up your nose. As you stretch out your hand you can feel the freedom! Soon, you’re driving next to turquoise rivers and can’t believe your eyes as you see the massive canyon right beside you. You’ll be surprised at what spectacular nature awaits you on your Albania itinerary.

Still a secret highlight in Europe, Albania welcomes you with open arms. Its stunning mountain landscapes, paradisiacal seaside and warm people make your Albania itinerary a special adventure.

Many people have no clue how beautiful this country is. Especially the dictatorship that lasted until 1985 held back the development of the country. So tourism is also still not widely spread. This, however, brings in the chance to experience Albania in a very authentic way, far from mass tourism. No matter if you’re backpacking in Albania or doing a road trip through the country. Who knows how fast this may change within the next few years.
So let’s dive into this Albania travel guide full of travel tips that give you an overview of the best places to visit in Albania, its culture, history, and wonderful nature.

Sunset in Albania

Cities to visit on your Albania itinerary


A weird contrast of historic buildings from Ottoman times, Italian influences, a bunch of plain communist concrete blocks in between, and many many construction sites. Those were my first impressions of Tirana.
Well, accompanied by the traffic chaos. We had been warned before that driving into Tirana can be an adventure. And I totally agree.
In-between thousands of honking cars and red lights that are more or less respected by drivers, policemen try to keep track of the chaos, blowing their whistles.
But once you’ve gotten through to the center, there’s a lot of history waiting to be explored. And it’s easy to get around on foot, as Tirana’s center isn’t that big.

ToDo in Tirana:

  • Join a free walking tour – The best way to learn about Albania’s and Tirana’s history and some fun facts
  • Visit a bunker museum – Further out of the city there’s BUNK’ART 1, and BUNK’ART 2 right in Tirana’s center. Both are important museums that deliver insight into the dark past of communism and war in Albania (BUNK’ART 1 giving a broad overview of the history, and BUNK’ART 2 displaying a dark human point of view).
  • Skanderbeg Square & the old Mosque – A historical place named after the Albanian national hero during Ottoman times. On the square, you can find the beautiful old Et’hem Bej Mosque, one of the few that had survived war times.
  • Pazari i Ri – The large bazaar full of groceries in one of the oldest parts of Tirana.
  • Tirana Castle – A medieval castle of which only a wall from the Ottoman era remains today, nowadays housing handicraft stores & cafes.
  • Hoxha Pyramide – a lost place right in Tirana that used to be the most expensive building in Albania (named after the dictator) that’s currently under construction to become a museum.

Stay in Tirana:

  • Hotel/Apartment: Rooftop Tirana – Beautiful, modern apartments in the heart of Tirana with everything you need (especially parking which is important on an Albania itinerary by car).
  • Hostel: Tirana Backpacker Hostel – The perfect place to meet fellow travelers with a funky backyard and awesome breakfast.

Hotel recommendation for Tirana: Rooftop Tirana

These small but modern apartments in the heart of Tirana have everything you need (especially with parking, which can be tricky on a road trip in Albania’s capital). From here you can walk everywhere and enjoy the view over the city in the evening. In my opinion, also an unbeatable price! But be sure to contact the host before you arrive, because the apartments are hard to find.

Rooftop Tirana

If you’re cruising through the country with a camper on your Albania road trip, check the public parking lots. Even around Tirana’s center, there are a handful of parking lots where you can stay overnight in a camper.

Contrasts in Tirana


“The town of 1001 windows”, according to an old legend. Spread along the hillside, all the old houses of Berat’s center are covered with hundreds of wooden windows. This well-preserved Ottoman architecture makes it not only one of the oldest and prettiest towns in Albania but also a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2008.
On top watches an old castle across the valley and river Osum – a spectacular view worth the short hike up.
Good to know: Berat is right in one of Albania’s nicest wine areas, so if you drive into the countryside for a bit, you can visit some nice vineyards.

ToDo in Berat:

  • Castle – Walk up to the castle and enjoy the view
  • Stroll through the old town and cross the bridge – for a great view of the old town and its windows
  • Join a free walking tour – for great insights into the history and myths of this town
  • Head to the beautiful vineyard Alpeta – for a wine tasting and a tour for only 15 Euros
  • Osumi Canyon – A perfect day trip into Albania’s most stunning nature

Eat in Berat:

  • Temi Albanian Food – Authentic, homemade food in an old alley up the hill with many vegetarian options and unbeatable prices
  • Lili Homemade Food – A great place to try traditional food close to Berat’s center

Stay in Berat:

  • Alpeta Agroturism – A short drive from Berat you can stay in the vineyard’s lovely rooms in the middle of hills covered with olive trees
  • Xho’s Forest – A small B&B with four rooms close to Berat’s historical center with a lush garden where you can have breakfast in the shade of the trees among many cute cats and extremely welcoming owners
  • Berat Backpackers Hostel – It was the second hostel in Albania and has a beautiful outdoor area in a traditional building
  • Maya Hostel – Another gem with a lovely garden right in the center of Berat

Hotel recommendation for Berat: Alpeta Agroturism

Just a short drive from Berat, you can stay in the beautiful rooms of this winery set amidst hills covered with olive trees. A super beautiful, authentic experience in the middle of the vineyards of Albania. Don’t miss to join a Wine Tasting there in the evening – when the welcoming father joins in, it can quickly turn into a Raki Tasting as well. We had a super nice evening there that felt like a vacation at friends’ homes.

Alpeta Berat

If you’re short on time you can visit Berat on a day trip from Tirana.

Berat & its surrounding vineyards


Some call it “Stone City”, some “the city of 1000 stairs” and some say it’s one of the steepest towns in the world. In any case, it’s a cute old Albanian city worth seeing during your Albania itinerary. Steep cobblestoned alleys lead you through traditional cafes, carpet shops, and a (somewhat touristy) Bazaar.
Still, it’s one of Albania’s most beautiful cities with great views anywhere you walk. Especially from the castle that watches across the timbered houses. Just be prepared to walk a lot of steep paths.

ToDo in Gjirokaster

  • The castle – for a spectacular view across Gjirokaster
  • Old Bazaar – Climb the steep alleys around the old Bazaar and stroll through the carpet and handcraft shops
  • Ali Pasha bridge – an abandoned bridge in the countryside just a short hike (around 20 minutes) from town
  • Day trip to Lengarica Canyon & Bënjë thermal baths – one of my favorite spots in Albania

Stay in Gjirokaster

Hotels /Guesthouses:
  • TeArra – A bit up the hill, but led by a loving host Adi who loves to bake treats for her guests and prepares a large breakfast on her beautiful cozy terrace
  • Grandpa’s Home – A guesthouse that awaits you with the warmheartedness you’d expect from this name. With a beautiful garden and terrace and view of the castle.
  • Stone City Hostel – a lovely hostel in a traditional house right in the center of Gjirokaster with a garden, roof terrace, and great breakfast

Hotel recommendation for Gjirokaster: TeArra

Located a bit further up the hill, this little guesthouse is run by the lovely hostess Adi, who loves to bake goodies for her guests and prepare a great breakfast on her cute, cozy terrace. The view from up here is really great and it’s easy to walk into the center. The picture shows her sweetly furnished terrace.

A cute guesthouse in Albania

Gjirokaster & Ali Pasha Bridge


Not very touristy yet, Kruja offers you an amazing view of the surrounding landscape and the sea. What’s especially beautiful is the view of the Patok Lagoon.
There are a few cute cafes, a medieval castle, and a historical Bazaar (with more and more touristy souvenirs, unfortunately) in Kruja. So it’s a great stop on the way to spend an afternoon.

Albanian Riviera

As beautiful as Greece or Croatia, the Albanian Riviera welcomes you with stunningly blue water. A very loud blue that shines even when it’s super cloudy and that I’ve rarely seen anywhere else. So don’t miss the seaside between Dhermi and Ksamil on your Albania itinerary.
Especially when you’re on a road trip in Albania, you will love the coastal road between Dhermi and Borsh. Here, you cruise along serpentines that wind through mountains, cute villages and the coast while almost constantly gazing at the sea beside you.
Also the Llogara Pass on the way to the Riviera (if you’re coming from the north, e.g. Tirana or Berat) is a very scenic drive!

Places to see in the Albanian Riviera

  • Dhermi old town & the church (Manastiri i Shën Marisë) – with amazing sea view
  • Vuno – A cute, small hillside village
  • Butrint National Park – Ruins of an ancient city (with an old Roman theatre, old church, gates, a castle, and many more) in the southernmost part of Albania
  • Heads-up: In my opinion, avoid Saranda and Ksamil which are the most touristy places in Albania with one hotel bunker next to the other

Hotel recommendation for Dhermi: Roots

What a beautiful hotel in the sweet old town of Dhermi! The location is truly unique. And the rooms are stylish and modern yet authentic with a stunning sea view from their balcony. What else could you ask for? In my eyes, the dream accommodation on the Albanian Riviera!

Roots Dhermi

Dhermi & ruins of Butrint

Beaches in Albania

My top recommendation for beaches in Albania: Stay further north (around Dhermi)!
Even though there are some paradisaical beaches and bays around Ksamil and Saranda (because there’s blue sea and clear water all around the Albanian Riviera), I just can’t recommend them.  First, they’re super touristy and crowded with beach chairs and umbrellas to rent. If that wasn’t enough, for most beaches around Ksamil and Saranda you’re not allowed to enter if you don’t pay for an overpriced sunbed.
I couldn’t believe it when I first heard about that. You can’t just bring your own towel and lay down on the beach. So, as ridiculous as it sounds, these beaches can only be accessed by wealthy tourists. It’s actually a sad fact, especially for the locals who are surrounded by this stunning nature but can’t enjoy it.

So here are my recommendations for free beaches:
  • Gjipe Beach – Maybe one of the best beaches in Albania, but still kind of hidden gem in Albania (maybe not so hidden, as there are also sunbeds down there) but an extremely beautiful bay that you can reach after around 30 minutes walk from the parking
  • Gjiri i Akuariumit – Just a 20-minute walk from Livadi beach (where you can park) you reach this small bay which is a natural paradise
  • Borsh Beach – A super long beach (over 7 km!) that will never seem crowded, as there’s enough place to find a private spot for you.
  • Grama Bay – Far away from any other beaches, it’s best to take a boat to Grama bay (e.g. from Himare). It’s also a very historic place where sailors used to escape storms and left inscriptions on the walls.

A bay near Ksamil & Borsh Beach

In general, you have to be prepared to encounter a lot of trash in Albania, and this is also true for the beaches. They could be so picture-perfect, if it wasn’t for the trash that often destroys any paradisiacal vibes. This is really something, Albania has to work on. Providing trash cans on parking lots would be the first step to keeping the beaches clean.

Stay in the Albanian Riviera

I’d say avoid Saranda, Ksamil, and other towns with hotels right by the beach. These are the places where all the authentic Albanian charm is lost. Rather look for a base in the countryside and a bit further from the sea and use your car for day trips to explore different bays and beaches.
Here are a few recommendations:
  • Roots (in Dhermi) – Located in Dhermi’s cute old town, this small hotel offers beautiful rooms with a stunning view from their balconies
  • Guesthouses Luiza (in Borsh) – An authentic guesthouse with lemon trees in their garden and walking distance to the beach

Hotel recommendation at the sea in Borsh: Guesthouses Luiza

An authentic, simple guesthouse, where you can relax among lemon trees in the garden, enjoy the sea view from the balcony and even walk to one of the longest beaches in Albania in just a few minutes. Here you don’t need much more to get to know and love a slightly less touristy part of Albania.

Luiza Borsh

Eat in the Albanian Riviera

There are many small taverns along the Albanian Riviera. Many however are dominated by meat dishes. So you have to search a bit to find good vegetarian options.
  • Green Life Market – The first all-vegan restaurant in Albania, run by warm-hearted owners who basically cook in their home. Great atmosphere and even better food that is organic and as local as possible. Highly recommend visiting (probably the only place worth visiting in Saranda)!

Vegan food at Greenlife Market & Albanian Fruit stalls

Canyons, rivers, and lakes

One of the true wonders of Albania is its incredible nature created by rivers and springs. Often set in national parks, these spots offer amazing opportunities for hiking, gazing at these natural wonders, and relaxing with a cool refreshment during the heat. There’s so much to experience in the Albanian countryside. I’d even say the country shows itself from its most beautiful side over here.

Osum Canyon (Kanion Osumi)

As one of the longest rivers in Albania, Osum has managed to create a spectacular canyon that spreads across several kilometers. The winding road along Osum Canyon may be one of the most beautiful rides during an Albania road trip.  You can drive pretty much above the canyon and stop every now and then as you pass a viewpoint to catch breathtaking views into the depth. One of the highlights over here is the Osumi Canyon Bridge.

When you drive from Berat to the Canyon, you will pass by Hotel Kanione. This is a great starting point because soon after you reach all the beautiful viewpoints. You can also take one of the small paths to walk down to the river.
There’s also the option to book a guided tour through Osum Canyon for an adventure with a local.

Lengarica Canyon (Kanioni i Lengarices)

Especially when you visit Albanian in summer or early autumn, there’s not that much water in Lengarica Canyon. What may sound unspectacular at first brings an amazing opportunity: The low water of river Vjose is perfect for a hike into the canyon! Especially where the canyon gets really narrow, the surroundings are incredible.
Start at Kadiut Bridge where the thermal baths of Bënjë are located and walk upstream along the river deeper into the canyon. Bring waterproof shoes or walk barefoot, as it can get really muddy. The scenic little hike will leave you speechless. It was one of my favorite spots on our Albania itinerary.
As the canyon is close to the town of Permet, you can easily do a day trip from Gjirokaster.

Lengarica Canyon

Bënjë Thermal Baths

You can perfectly combine a hike into Lengarica Canyon with visiting the natural thermal baths (they’re in fact the starting point of the canyon). This place is right where the warm water comes out of the earth, creating bubbly natural whirlpools. Collected in stone pools, the sulfurous baths have nice, warm temperatures of 22 – 28 °C (be aware: they’re warm but not really hot, and they smell like sulfur). Both locals, as well as travelers, love this place. And there’s not even an entrance fee or a parking fee. Let’s see how soon this changes within the next few years.
By the way: Driving towards Bënjë from Gjirokaster is an especially beautiful part of your Albania itinerary. You pass Tepelene – a large valley where the blue river spreads into several arms.

Bënjë Thermal Baths

Lake Ohrid

As one of the oldest lakes in the world (an estimated 2-5 Million years old), Lake Ohrid partly belongs to Albania as well as to Northern Macedonia. Surrounding the lake you can find vast mountains, a large natural reserve, and one of Europe’s oldest settlement areas. So make sure to stop in one of the old communities, such as Lin or in Ohrid on the Macedonian side.
Both the reserve and the town with the same name Ohrid are listed by UNESCO.  Feels like time travel back there.
There’s even the option to dive into this special lake. The “Bay of Bones” is supposed to be spectacular, as the remains of an old settlement have been found here. During your dive, you can spot stilts, old jewelry, and as the name suggests, bones down there.

Syri i Kaltër (Blue Eye)

Another spring but with remarkably colder water can be found close to the Albanian Riviera (around a 45-minute drive from Saranda as well as from Gjirokaster). With only 10 – 12 °C this spring isn’t really a nice option for a bath. But it attracts many visitors due to its extremely blue water (giving it the name “Blue Eye”).
It’s not even known how deep the spring actually is, because no diver ever managed to get to the bottom (they had to give up at 50 meters depth). Crazy, isn’t it?
The place is the perfect stop halfway between Saranda and Gjirokaster on your Albania itinerary. Already on your way you drive next to the clear channel that’s filled with the fresh water of the Blue Eye. And it’s only a 50 LEK entrance fee per person (less than 0.50 US $).
If you’re not driving yourself, there are hourly buses from Gjirokaster as well as from Sarande.

Blue Eye & its clear river

Albanian Alps (Prokletije)

Theth and Valbona Valley

Do you feel like a retreat from the hustle and bustle? To just be surrounded by mountains, pristine landscapes and an idyllic national park that awaits you with hiking trips, stunning views, and clean, fresh air?
That’s exactly what you can expect in the valleys in the Northern Albanian Alps. Barely touched by tourism, Theth, Calbona, and Vermosh offer you a completely different perspective of Albania.
Even though, there’s a proper road by now (a few years back you could only reach the valleys on an adventurous gravel road), this part of the country is still off the beaten path.

ToDo in Theth:

  • Calm down – The area around the cute village Theth with its iconic church, free-roaming horses and cows and scenic mountain landscape is truly a place to recharge
  • Waterfall hike – You can take a bus that brings you close to the waterfall. Then it’s just a short hike
  • Blood Rage Tower – It used to be a safehouse for those who had to hide and can be visited nowadays
  • Blue Eye – Yes, there’s also a well with the same name as the spring in southern Albania
  • Hike to Valbona or even Montenegro – If you’re a fan of hiking further, there are several routes that cross through Valbona and even Montenegro. But you should be an experienced hiker and willing to walk around 20 km a day for these tours.

Stay in Theth National Park:

You can find many authentic, family-run guesthouses in traditional stone houses in the village Theth. This is also the perfect starting point for many hikes and day trips.

  • Guesthouse Gjin Thana – A small, family-run guesthouse with mountain views and a lush garden
  • Guesthouse Marashi – Perfectly located right by the river (what a view to wake up in the morning!) and run by warm-hearted hosts

Hotel recommendation in Theth: Guesthouse Marashi

With its unbeatable location directly on the river, you have a stunning view as soon as you wake up in the morning! In addition, you do not have to go far to the waterfall. The beautiful wooden guesthouse is also run by super warm hosts who will make your stay in Theth very special. A place you will always want to come back to!

What is truly amazing about Valbona and Theth, is that tourism grows slowly and sustainably over here. A few years back, the locals prevented the construction of a large chain hotel. So there are mostly small guesthouses around here and a responsible, conscious mindset for the surrounding nature.
So if you love hiking, don’t miss this part of Albania! You also have the option to book a guided 2-day trip through Theth National Park, so you’re accompanied by a local.

Theth National Park (pictures by my friend Jule)

Lake Koman

When asking fellow travelers for one of the best highlights on their Albania itinerary, many of them agreed on the ferry across Lake Koman. With more than 30 kilometers, this lake sits right in between Albania’s most spectacular mountain landscape.
You can stay in an accommodation right by the lake or next to the beautiful Shala river valley “Lumi i shales”.
With good weather, you get constant amazing views. Unfortunately, we were surprised by heavy rains and storms when we wanted to head to Koman, so we couldn’t make it. I hope, you’re luckier!
This ferry used to be the only way to reach the Valbona valley if you wanted to avoid the adventurous gravel road. So you can perfectly combine the ferry ride with visiting Valbona.
Heads-up: It only runs once a day at 10 a.m.

If you’re short on time you can visit Lake Koman and the Shala River on a day trip from Tirana.

Route along the Black Drin

If you love driving off-road, then you should think about driving along the Black Drin. This route in Albania’s northeast leads you along winding serpentines and adventurous bridges with spectacular views of the Black Drin river valley.
You should definitely have a proper 4×4 vehicle and love traveling off the beaten path. But I’m sure this route can be an amazing adventure on your Albania itinerary.

Albania itineraries

How many days do you need for an Albania road trip?

To get a nice overview of the country with its different parts you should plan at least 2 weeks in Albania. The country is quite diverse and you should see some of its different regions (seaside, mountains, national parks, cute towns).
Also, be aware that the roads aren’t the best everywhere and there are many mountains in Albania. So you have to take some time to drive from one place to the next.
If you’ve got more time, three weeks are even better. This gives you the opportunity to dive deeper into the local culture and to slow down a bit.

How to get to Albania?

If you’re planning your Albania itinerary with your own car or a camper from Central Europe, you can drive all the way down passing through Austria, Slovenia, Croatia and Montenegro (all amazing countries worth seeing as well). So driving down to Albania (or up again) can be an adventure in itself.
As we were in Italy before, we decided to drive down through Italy and take a ferry from Bari (Italy) to Durres (Albania). The overnight ferry took around 9 hours and was quite comfy (book a bed in a cabin! — it’s not that expensive. We paid around 200 Euros for a car and a cabin for two people).
On the way back to Germany, we took it slow and stopped in Montenegro and Croatia. This was well worth it!

The ferry from Bari to Durres

How to get around Albania?

Well, you can travel through Albania by public transport, as there’s quite a good bus network. And it’s not expensive at all.
Also within the capital, Tirana, you can easily get around by bus for 40 LEK (around 0.30 US $) no matter how long the ride. You don’t have to buy a ticket in advance, just pay on the bus. But Tirana is easily walkable as well. And it’s more fun, don’t you think?

In my opinion, driving around Albania yourself is a highlight itself.
There are so many panoramic roads, such as the coastal road between Dhermi and Borsh, the Llogara Pass, the ride next to the blue river on the way to the Blue Eye, or passing through Tepelene on the way to Lengarica Canyon. And of course, the road along the viewpoints next to Osum Canyon.
During the last few years, more and more roads have been renewed. So an Albania road trip isn’t as exhausting as it used to be with the many gravel roads just a few years back.

Just Tirana has stayed the same and is still full of traffic jams. And well, you have to get used to the Albanian way of driving. It can happen that someone passes by five cars with their warning lights on, no matter if it’s a windy road.
By the way, there are no tolls to use Albanian highways, fuel was a bit cheaper than in Central Europe, and we never had any issues finding accommodation with free parking.

Ferry to Durres & driving in Albania

Driving around Albania

Suggested Albania itineraries

2 weeks Albania itinerary

Arrival in Durres (by ferry) or in Tirana (by plane):
  1. Tirana (2 days)
    • drive Tirana ⇨ Berat (1.5h / 100km)
  2. Berat (2 days)
    • drive Berat ⇨ Gjirokaster (2.5h / 180km)
  3. Gjrokaster (2 days), with a day trip to Lengarica Canyon
    • drive Gjirokaster ⇨ Blue Eye ⇨ Riviera (1.5 – 2.5h / 90 – 115km)
  4. Albanian Riviera (3-4 days), with a day trip to Butrint
    • drive Riviera ⇨ Kruje ⇨ Koman Lake (5.5h / 320 km), add a night in Kruje if you’d like to avoid the long drive
  5. Koman Lake & Albanian Alps (3-4 days)

Arrival by land in the north of Albania:
Take the same route, just start in Koman Lake & Albanian Alps, and then head to Tirana

Albania itinerary 2 weeks map / Albanien Roadtrip 2 Wochen Karte

2 weeks Albania itinerary (click for interactive map)

10 days Albania itinerary

If you’ve only got 10 days in Albania, I’d suggest skipping one stop of the 2 weeks itinerary (e.g. the north of Albania, even though it’s such a stunning landscape).
Otherwise, it can get quite stressful. Here’s an example:
  1. Tirana (2 days)
    • drive Tirana ⇨ Berat (1.5h / 100km)
  2. Berat (2 days)
    • drive Berat ⇨ Gjirokaster (2.5h / 180km)
  3. Gjrokaster (2 days), with a day trip to Lengarica Canyon
    • drive Gjirokaster ⇨ Blue Eye ⇨ Riviera (1.5 – 2.5h / 90 – 115km)
  4. Albanian Riviera (3 days), with a day trip to Butrint
    • drive Riviera ⇨ Kruje ⇨ Koman Lake (5.5h / 320 km), add a night in Kruje if you’d like to avoid the long drive

You could also decide to visit either Berat or Gjirokaster and add a stop at Koman Lake in the end.

3 weeks Albania itinerary

With 3 weeks in Albania, you’ve got enough time to dive deeper into the culture. Take the 2 weeks Albania itinerary and extend your time in the places you’d like to see more in-depth. Alternatively, I’d suggest visiting Lake Ohrid or adding an overnight stop in Llogara National Park.

Llogara Pass & Riviera

Llogara Pass

Good to know

When is the best time to visit Albania?

As a huge fan of the low season, I’d say September-October and May-June are perfect for setting off for an Albania itinerary. In July and August, it can be really hot and quite crowded, especially along the coast. You can perfectly avoid these crowds a few months before and after the high season. But don’t wait too long, as many parts of the country are located above 1000 meters above sea level, so it gets very cold in winter (with lots of snow).
We were in Albania end of September and had perfect warm weather, a few nice days by the beach, and experienced a very authentic country without the tourist masses.

Where to sleep on your Albania road trip?

While cruising through Albania, you can see campers parking everywhere. There are some campsites, but wild camping is allowed in most places. And isn’t it just perfect waking up next to a canyon, river, or lake?
Just be aware that you need permission to camp in national parks.

But you can also plan your Albania itinerary with a car and stay in guesthouses. We only booked our first nights in Tirana in advance and didn’t have any issues booking our accommodation just 1-2 nights in advance. This way, we were super flexible and were able to stay in one place as long as we liked.

Accommodation in Albania

How expensive is traveling in Albania?

Traveling in Albania is quite cheap. We mostly stayed in cute, nice guesthouses for around 3500 – 6000 LEK (30 – 50 Euros) per night for two people in a nice double room. There are even cheaper options (and of course more expensive ones as well).
Food is also really affordable. Most dishes cost around 400 – 700 LEK (4 – 6 Euros). So with two mains, one side to share and two drinks we usually paid around 1700 – 2500 LEK (15 – 22 Euros) for a dinner.
Be aware that you mostly have to pay cash. Only few accommodations, restaurants, and shops accept card payments. So always have enough cash at hand.

Tip: Credins Bank is the only bank in Albania where you can withdraw money without a fee. So look out for the yellow bank.

Is traveling in Albania safe?

You may have heard that Albania has a bad reputation when it comes to safety. Maybe it’s due to their dark past and those many horrendous crimes during communism, or due to Mafia activities. Maybe it’s just the media exaggerating.
From what I learned and from my own experience, however, this reputation is entirely wrong.
It even seems like many Albanians are aware of their country’s reputation and want to convince you of the opposite. Especially our hosts in different guesthouses welcomed us with open arms and extreme helpfulness. In some areas, they even told us that they don’t lock their doors because the neighborhood is so safe. So we felt safe during the whole time in Albania.

Of course, there are also pickpockets in Albania. This happens everywhere. So use your common sense and have an eye on your valuables, just as you do in any other European country. And during a road trip in Albania, try not to leave any valuables openly visible in your car. Then you’ll be fine.

What about Internet? Can you use EU roaming in Albania?

As Albania isn’t part of the EU, you can’t use your EU mobile data (that’s free within the EU if you’ve got an EU simcard). You can buy an Albanian Simcard instead. Go with Vodafone, as they provide the best network across the country. There are tourist packs for 1 week, 2 weeks, or a month for a few Euros. As I had to work remotely I decided on a large data pack with 28 GB for 1700 LEK (15 Euros). If you’re traveling through other Balkan countries such as Montenegro, you can also use that simcard there.

Food in Albania

Albanian food is a nice mixture of Mediterranean, Greek, and some Italian influences.
Often you can share small plates (just like Meze in Greece or Tapas in Spain). We never had any problems finding vegetarian options.
Here are some examples of traditional Albanian dishes:
  • Stuffed vegetables (e.g. eggplant, peppers, or pumpkin) – often stuffed with rice, mixed vegetables and sometimes cheese on top
  • Ferges – Like a vegetable casserole with cheese
  • Pispili – Spinach cake
  • Byrek – Like a pie with a soft pastry
  • Qifqi – Rice balls (A special from Gjirokaster)
  • Sarma – Stuffed wine leaves
  • Qofte – Fried vegetable balls
  • Petulla – The typical Albanian “pancakes”, but they’re fried, more like donuts
  • Raki – There’s no way of leaving Albania without having some Raki (locals often even drink a glass with their coffee in the morning)

Byrek | Stuffed peppers | Albanian “pancakes”

The Albanian language

Most Albanians don’t speak English, or just very very basic. But usually, you’ll find your way around communicating with hands and feet.
If you speak Italian, this can help you a lot (they Albanians watch a lot of Italian TV, so their Italian ist better than their English).

Did you know that the Albanian language is one of the oldest languages in the world? And even more peculiar, there is no similar language (as it’s neither part of the Roman nor the Slavic family).
So here are a few words that are helpful on your Albania itinerary. I noticed that whenever we spoke a few words in Albanian (just a simple “hello” or “good night”) often changed the atmosphere completely. We received huge smiles and waves, just because we were trying to speak a few words. So give it a try (the way I wrote the words is not correct, it’s just to make it easier for you to pronounce them):
  • Yes – “Po”
  • No – “yo”
  • Hello – “Pershendetje”
  • Thank you – “Faleminderit”
  • Good night – “Naten e mire”
  • Cheers – “Gezuar”

Sustainable travel in Albania

Oh, dear. As spectacular as Albania could be, there’s a huge downside that you constantly encounter during your time in Albania: The amount of trash!
Albania has an enormous garbage problem. You come across trash everywhere you go: On the way to the beach, on the streets, while hiking. And you can desperately look for litter bins in most places.
While you drive through the country on your Albania itinerary, you may see someone in the car in front of you opening their window and throwing out the packaging of their snack. It’s horrible!

Also, you see many suffering animals across Albania – from dogs on way too short chains, to sick stray cats, and donkeys held in terrible conditions. As an animal lover you have to realize, that animal welfare has not yet reached many places in Albania. And most of the strays live in between all that horrible trash.

Why does Albania have such a huge trash problem?

The issue is rooted in history: After the country was largely isolated from the development in Western countries during communism, Albania was almost overrun by new products and all that plastic packaging.
Product marketing reached people faster than any awareness of the consequences that waste has on the environment. Thus, rivers and nature were flooded with garbage even before people had ever heard terms like “landfill” let alone “waste management”.
Even today, the infrastructure for proper waste disposal simply doesn’t exist. To create such an infrastructure (e.g. with comprehensive waste collection or garbage cans) would imply tax increases. However, the population is rejecting this because people do not understand its benefits and are very skeptical of the authorities, communities, and the state (due to the long history of corruption in the country). People simply don’t believe that higher taxes would make for an improvement but instead fear that the money won’t be used for that purpose at all.
However, there is one positive example in the country: the city of Shkodra. Here, a candidate for mayor has announced that she would raise taxes but has also made clear that the population will benefit from that. She was indeed elected and has already been able to make a difference. So far, unfortunately, she remains a rare individual example.

Recently, however, a National Waste Management Strategy was introduced, which provides a roadmap to 2035 through which principles such as “circular economy” are to be advanced. In my eyes, there is still a long way to go and it is high time before people, the environment, and animals drown in waste.

Albania’s nature & animals drowning in trash

What can we do as travelers?

Be aware that your trash as a traveler may also end up on the side of the road or in a river, even if you dispose of it in a proper garbage can. That’s why it’s even more important to cause as little waste as possible.

Try to stick to a few rules to avoid waste:
  • Avoid any plastic packaging (say no to any plastic bags but bring your own tote bag instead)
  • Buy fresh fruit or freshly prepared snacks instead of packed snacks like chips or cookies
  • Bring your own cosmetics instead of using the shampoo samples in any accommodation
  • Say no to plastic straws, plastic cups etc.
  • Bring a water filter bottle, so you don’t have to buy any plastic bottles

And give some love to stray animals! Many dogs and cats yearn for some cuddles more than for food. If you give them some water or a bit of food, you can make them even happier. In case you see an injured animal, bring it to the closest vet!

Besides the trash problem, a large part of Albanians live in poverty. When living on less than 100 Euros per month for a whole family, they have other issues than proper waste disposal. That’s why it’s important as a sustainable traveler to support locals whenever you can. Buy groceries at local shops, eat in local restaurants and stay at local’s accommodations.

When you’re cruising around in a camper, make sure to only use biodegradable products for showering and washing your dishes. This way you can make sure to leave as few harmful substances as possible in the environment.

Lost places & bunkers

Another thing that catches your eye in Albania is the large number of abandoned houses and bunkers that you see everywhere.
These traces of communist times are still spread across the entire country – over 170.000 bunkers will surprise you on the most random spots while you’re hiking, on the beach, walking past a backyard, or a field. Like large, gray mushrooms they’re leftovers of a dark past.
I can definitely recommend visiting one of the two bunker museums in Tirana to learn more about the history of Albanian bunkers and its communist past.

Bunkers & lost places in Albania

Bunkers everywhere in Albania

Albania – a wrap-up

Albania in three words: Byrek | canyons | trash (yes, sadly that’s one of the things that left a mark)

Did you know? The most famous Albanian is … Mother Theresa. Yep, she was actually Albanian!

Favorite photo spot: The most narrow part of Lengarica Canyon. Those steep walls are just incredible!

Favorite food: Stuffed eggplants

Can’t miss: Going for a hike, no matter if it’s in a canyon, in the Albanian Alps, along the coast or in a national park

Did I inspire you for your Albania itinerary? Or is there anything else you’d like to add to this Albania travel guide? Let me know and leave a comment below!

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