We fell in love with Albania and its simple to see why, it is such a beautiful country, with wonderful people. There’s breathtaking beauty around every bend, the mountain drives will give you everything. River side and high cliff hugging roads that take you through local villages and display the endless vistas beyond.
We travelled from North to South in our Motorhome (Doris) with our dog (Alf) for 19 days from 1st – 19th October 2018. Considering the time of the year the weather was absolutely brilliant making it a Parfect autumn holiday destination.
Here are 13 things that we think, you MUST do whilst in Albania…
These are in order from North to South to make it easier to plan your travels.
1.) Shkodër Lake
Be sure to visit the largest lake in southern Europe, that stretches all way to Montenegro.
2.) Lake Koman
Hop on the local ferry and travel with the locals as they go about their daily lives. Whilst gazing at the mountains as they dramatically enter the water. This unique trip is one not to be missed!!
Ksamil, wow, what can I say ? A little piece of absolute paradise!!…
Spend the day kayaking around the beautiful islands of Ksamil and a day to kayak to the incredible Butrint national park.
Butrinta prehistoric UNESCO world heritage archaeology site, the biggest not only in Albania but all the Balkans.
12.) Explore on 4 wheels, or 2…
It is the only way to get off the beaten track and see the real Albania.
(If you haven’t got wheels, Albania is still a fantastic holiday destination).
13.) Get to know the locals
We found that Albanian’s were incredible welcoming and extremely kind and always had time for us. We were even invite into their home. To read more about the locals we met, please read: Northwest Albania – Albanian Hospitality
Plus, you get your very own local tour guide and a friend for life.
It was really, really hard to name just a few things to do in Albania as it really is an amazing country full off natural beauty and history.
If, I was you, I’d get there quick before it gets too discovered…
Please read my posts about our road trip starting in the north, heading south, the links are below:
We continued our journey south west, if you haven’t read about Central Albania, please click here: Central Albania
Please note – to travel the Albanian Riviera, you really need wheels as there is much distance between each beach. Please do NOT let this put you off. The spectacular mountain drive, as it corkscrews between them is a gift in itself.
We arrived in the coastal city Vlora mid morning. We headed north of the city, straight for the beautiful long golden sandy beach to find a place to call home for a day or two.
The beach is huge and undeveloped apart from a few wooden beach bars scattered along it . As we were there in October the bars were not open but this meant we had the whole beach to ourselves except for locals doing their daily exercises and a few beach dogs that Alf had fun playing with.
The next day we walked south along the beach, where we found a newly developed port. Just past here there is a newly built promenade with lots of bars, restaurants and hotels. I imagine in season this would be buzzing with life. We spent 2 nights here but we could have easily spent longer.
We then continued our journey south along the twisting and turning mountain roads, stopping at the picturesque pebble Drymades beach for a night. A lot of reviews that we read, say that this is the most beautiful beach in Albania, who are we to argue…
We even got to share the beach with a cow who had a paddle to cool down.
We climbed up through the split rock to find yet another beautiful beach, this one was sandy so you have the best of both.
Next stop was Hirmare, we liked it here and thought it would be a great location for a week holiday, we spent 2 nights. This seaside town is split into three sections. The 1st is a modern pedestrian promenade full of bars and restaurants. The 2nd, a small pebble beach with a campsite and a few apartments. We were lucky and the owner of the campsite let us stay for free as it was out of season. And the 3rd, a long pebble beach with more apartments and residents.
Continuing south, Porto Palermo Castle is well worth a stop, it cost 200 Leke each to get in. We just wandered around but you can get a guide. There is also a small beach here if you wish to have a swim.
Borsh beach is a very long unspoilt pebble beach. It would be rude not to stop and have a swim, so we did….
We popped into Ujvara Varander where we enjoyed a coffee sat amongst a natural spring as it cascade around the seating area.
(Reviews for food on trip adviser are not great, we only had a coffee so I can’t comment).
We then headed to Sarande, the main holiday destination in Albania. There are plenty of resorts and bars stretched along the promenade and 100s of shops. For 1st night we stayed in Camping Ecuador which is south of the city, we had the ocean straight in front of us and a river to our left.
From here we drove inland to Gjirokastër (it sometimes is spelled Gjirokastra) for the day, where we spent the day roaming the spectator Ottoman UNESCO old town.
The Castle is absolutely incredible and very well preserved. It is definitely worth pulling yourself away from the beaches of the Riviera to spend a day or two here.
We then parked for free closer to Sarande city with breathtaking views, I was very lucky and spotted dolphins whilst we were having a beer. We then enjoyed the evening having dinner and drinks along the promenade.
The following day we went to see the famous blue eye.
We should have incorporated this as a stop on the way to Gjirokastër as you do not need long here.
We continued our journey south to the stunning picturesque Ksamil, it really is paradise and in our top 12!! We spent a few days here, kayaking around the close by islands and eating at the local restaurants.
(Please bear in mind we were there in October so pretty much had the small beaches to ourselves, this may be very different in peak season).
Whilst here, we decided to be a bit more advantageous and kayaked along the coast to Butrint national park, leaving our kayak with some fisherman to look after. It sure was worth the energy as the archaeological site is very impressive! It’s one of the most important in the country and is still being discovered to this day.
We kayaked back to Ksamil via lake Butrint which is absolutely huge. At one point we had to get out and carry our kayak with the help of a fisherman around a fishing gate. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t see to many tourists and their dog doing this.
The following day after 2 weeks and 4 days, we said our farewell’s to Albania, a country that we loved and headed back to Greece…
Thank you very much for reading about our Albanian road trip. I really hope you enjoyed it and it helps you to plan your trip to Albania. I wouldn’t leave it too long…
Whilst chilling on the long sandy beach of Kune-Vain-Tale Reserve, a young guy (Ndue) and his Mum (Bardhe) came over to speak to us. Ndue spoke fluent English and translated for Bardhe as she spoke none. They invited us over to their house for the evening as they wanted us to experience Albanian hospitality.
We were very grateful, as we had a fantastic time, hearing all about how Albania has changed over the last 20 years. Whilst feasting on home made wine, goats cheese, bread, jam, vegetables and in fact everything we eat and drank were all grown in their garden.
They even made their own Raki, which was incredibly strong at almost 60%.
Bardhe thought it was funny that we could not drink much.
The following day Ndue became our local tour guide and took us out site seeing. We went to a town called Lezhë, had a coffee along the river and then went up the hill to see Lezhë Castle and its view of the Lezhë.
We then headed north along the coast to see the Thrown Sand at Rana e Hedhun at Shengjin Beach.
A beautiful, long sandy beach, where a mountain meets the beach and has deep sand half way up it. Ndue tells us that in summer a slide with water is put here and people slide really fast down it, crazy aye…
We stepped back in time, visiting an old bazaar town in the charming Pazari Krujes. The market sits on old cobble stone streets with traditional wooden houses above the stalls. As you wander the narrow lanes you cant help but imagine all the 1000’s of different people that have also wandered the same lanes through the centuries.
Make sure to buy your traditional Albanian clothing, rugs and souvenirs here, as we found them to be cheaper than most of Albania.
You will also find Kruje Castle , the center of Skanderbeg’s rebellion against the Ottoman Empire.
We then continued south deciding not to go to the capital Tirana as it was raining and getting late in the evening. (There is a cable car that takes you to the top of the mountain, we were told the views are spectacular on a clear day, so may be worth a visit).
We headed to Berat a city on the Osum River, known as the city of windows due to the white Ottoman houses.
Perched on a hilltop overlooking the city is Berat Castle, its worth the steep climb to see the beautiful view.
After a few hours of sight seeing we headed down to the new part of the city to mingle with the locals. We watched a premier league football game in a betting shop and was made to feel more than welcome and even put a few bets on, we didn’t win. There are many bars and restaurant’s, so the evening quickly went.
The following day we attempted to drive to Tomorr National Park unfortunately this was not possible in Doris (motor home) as you need a 4 x 4. So instead we stretched our legs with a long walk along the beautiful river at the base of the park in Polican.