It’s amazing how close Albania is to us and how few of us have visited it. In recent years Albania has become a destination for alternative travellers, because it has many beautiful places that have not yet suffered the effects of over-tourism.
On the other hand, Greece in 2019 set a record for arrivals, which seems to be repeated this year. But this seems to be gradually excluding Greeks themselves from the Greek summer.
So while Greece is becoming unattainable, why not holiday in the neighbouring country that combines the Ionian Sea with the beauty of the Albanian Alps?
So we did our research and gathered in this article the most important attractions and the most beautiful cities in Albania.
To get to know a country, you should definitely start from its capital. Or maybe not, but anyway in our tribute we’ll start here. Tirana stands out for its colourful buildings, but also for how green they are. Inside the city there is even the Great Park, in which you will find a very beautiful artificial lake.
Something you’ll notice very quickly once you set foot in any part of Albania is that it’s filled with concrete artillery batteries, which were built during Enver Hoxha’s communist government.
They no longer function as firehouses, and most of them are completely abandoned, while others have become places for the expression of art, the most common being graffiti. One of Tirana’s largest artillery batteries functions as a museum, exhibiting artifacts from the World War II era and from the Hoxha era.
Another museum to visit is the Archaeological Museum, which has finds from the Paleolithic period, from the Illyrian civilization, from the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman eras to the independence of Albania from the Ottoman Empire in 1912.
Tirana International Airport “Mother Teresa” (Albanian: Aeroporti Ndërkombëtar i Tiranës Nene Tereza, IATA) is currently Albania’s only international airport. It is commonly known as Rinas International Airport, as it is located in the village of Rinas, 11 kilometres northwest of Tirana by the Tirana airport taxi.
From Tirana you can take the cable car and climb up to Mount Dajti. There you can find Ballkoni Dajtit, one of the most popular destinations near the city, which is what the word says: A balcony with an incredible view of the entire city.
There is a hotel, a restaurant, a playground, and activities such as a skating rink and mini-golf. Nothing, of course, compares to the view you see. You can also take a relatively easy hike another 500 meters to the accessible top of the mountain.
Durrësi, the Miami of Albania
Durrësi, also known to us as Durrësi, is the second largest city in the country after Tirana. It’s called the Miami or L.A. of Albania, because of the palm trees that dominate along the avenues, but also because it’s seaside. That’s why it attracts a lot of people to its beaches. It has Albania’s largest port and is connected by ferry to Bari, Italy, in case you want to plan a more grandiose roadtrip.
In addition to its Miami side, Durrës also has historical attractions. In the city there are also the Ancient Walls, also known as the Castle of Durrës, and near the harbour a Roman Amphitheatre from the 2nd century AD, which is one of the largest in the Balkans.
The Albanian Riviera
A stone’s throw from Corfu is Ksamil, which apart from being an idyllic little village, has one of the most beautiful beaches in Albania. In recent years it has experienced a lot of tourist development, so it is one of the places you will enjoy the most off season. Nearby is also Butrinti, one of the most important archaeological sites in the country.
About an hour and a half away by car is also Chimarra, one of the most famous cities of the Albanian Riviera and a favourite tourist destination.
The artificial lake Komanit in northern Albania was created in 1978, after the construction of a dam on the Drin River. Now, it is one of the most beautiful places in Albania thanks to the magnificent mountains surrounding it, which is often compared to the Scandinavian fjords. There are also ferry boats operating at the lake for tourists through which you can enjoy the scenery.
Shkodër, one of the oldest cities in the Balkans
Shkodër is one of the oldest and most historic cities in Albania, as well as an important cultural and economic centre of strategic importance. There stands the imposing Rozafa Castle.
Today it is one of the richest cities in the country and architecturally it looks more European than any city in the country. From the city you have access to the Albanian Alps.
Paradise is located in the Cursed Mountains
The Albanian Alps, also known as the Cursed Mountains, have two national parks that are paradises on earth. Valbonë National Park is the best known in the country and in recent years there has been an effort by the government to develop it for tourism.
The Valbonë Pass separates the two National Parks. Thethi National Park is known for the Grunas waterfalls, but also for the Blue Eye.
The Blue Eye
In Thethi we find the Blue Eye, but even more famous is the Blue Eye of Saranda on the other side of Albania. A few kilometres before Aghios Saranda near the village of Muzinë is the famous Blue Eye. It is one of the 18 springs of the Bistricë River, which has the most distinctive blue colour.
The depth of the spring is estimated at about 50 metres, the strong water pressure does not help divers to calculate it accurately. The water temperature is about 13 degrees Celsius all year round. The spot attracts many tourists as the spectacle is amazing.
Legend has it that there was once a dragon living in the area, who used to cause trouble for the inhabitants and kidnap girls. The villagers decided to stop the evil by ambushing the dragon and setting it on fire. At that moment, the dragon invoked the help of his mother in order to save himself and put out the fire. The Bistricë River immediately erupted, but its waters failed to extinguish the fire and save the dragon.
Berat, the city with a thousand windows
For many, Berat is the most beautiful city in Albania. According to Albanian mythology, Mount Tomorr, which surrounds the city, was once the giant Baba Tomorr who fought with another giant, Shpirag, the opposite mountain that is, claiming a young girl. They were both killed, and the tears of the young girl formed the river Osum, on whose banks the city is built.
Berat is beautiful architecturally with a special feature being the very many windows in the houses.
A major attraction of the city is Berat Castle, a 13th century Byzantine castle, which encloses Byzantine churches and Ottoman mosques.
Gjirokastër, the city of stone
Gjirokastër, also known to us as Argyrokastro, rivals Berat in beauty. Gjirokastër’s nickname is the “city of stone”, because most of the old houses have roofs covered with stone carved slabs, which will remind you of the villages of Pelion and Zagorochoria. The streets are also made of stone so the town lends itself to endless walks in its alleys.
Enver Hoxha was born and lived his childhood in Argyrokastro and his family home has been turned into a museum. Of course, a town called Argyrokastro could not be without its own castle, which is open to visitors.