In this article, you will read about the Best Places you can visit in Albania. There are many reasons why you should visit Albania. It is a truly unique and authentic country. In every turn, you will face a beautiful landscape or a beach. Also, the locals are very friendly and hospitable.
One of the questions anyone that visits Albania asks himself is: “which are the best places to visit?” In fact, Albania has many excellent cities, towns, and villages. Therefore, we have mentioned some of the best places to visit.
Read below about the main points to visit in Albania:
In the southern region of Albania, along the banks of the Osumi River, you will find one of the most ancient towns in Albania. The innumerable monuments and characteristic architecture of the houses have proclaimed Berat a “Museum Town”. The city is on the UNESCO list. It has over 2,000 years of history to be explored. That is why this place is on the top of this list of best places to visit in Albania.
The most famous is the Berat fortress dating from the 13th century. It includes some of the Ottoman era churches and mosques. From the top of the castle, you can see an amazing view.
The town itself has three distinct parts: Gorica, Mangalem and Kalaja.
Within Gorica you will find the well-preserved ruins of a castle. It dates from the 4th century BC. Then, on the other side of the river, you will find the old district of Mangalem. The Gorica Bridge leads you from Mangalem to Gorica. Both are well-preserved areas containing buildings with characteristic architecture from the Ottoman Empire.
As you walk through on narrow, charming paths, you will see a great number of windows overlooking the town. The large number of windows gave Berat the name “Town of a Thousand Windows.” This living piece of history abounds in cultural and religious heritage. It also abounds in historic architecture and natural beauty. It is a remarkable scenic town. Today it is just as important as it was over two thousand years ago. That is due to its rich history, architecture plus its political and commercial significance.
Berat is a small town that can be explored easily by foot.
Berat offers amazing walks on the ancient and beautiful streets. You will likewise enjoy the relaxing atmosphere. For those seeking to become part of the adventures, this city offers rafting sports through the Osumi river canyons. Plus, you can stay in an excellent hostel. There are also four wineries where you can enjoy local wine.
(Click the name to go to the wineries page)
Himara is a few hours’ drives away from Saranda. It is an entry gate much less active than Saranda. The view is extremely beautiful and is the right place to calm down near the sea. We recommend you make a trip to the old part of Himara. This one is located on the hills behind the castle. There you can see the magnificent views of the Riviera as well as a traditional village. It’s very beautiful.
Shkodra is the fourth largest city in Albania. It is located in the north of Albania. Shkodra is an ancient city and a famous place where the Ottoman Empire lost about 30,000 warriors. Shkoder is known as an old artisan center. In the 3rd century B.C., it was the capital of the Illyrian Kingdom of the Ardians. It has been an important center of industry. Its economy was built on producing electric wire, cable works, wood, paper, fabric, and food processing.
The most beautiful place in Shkodra is an impressive but threatening castle that represents the whole panorama of the city. The Rozafa fortress was built by the Illyrians and rebuilt by various inhabitants. Such as the Ottomans that over the years, kept it in good shape. Rozafa Castle offers fantastic views over the city. It also includes an excellent museum. It is one of the most fascinating places because of its location and the history it holds.
What to visit in Shkoder
In Shkodra you can visit important places like “Shkodra Historical Museum”, “Shkodra Cathedral” and “The Museum of Evidence and Commemorative Memory of Communism”. This one is an impressive museum about the crimes of the Albanian communist regime. Besides nearby is one of the biggest lakes in the Balkans, the Lake of Shkodra.
The city of Shkodra is considered to be the bicycle capital of Albania. That’s due to its flat terrain and the compactness of the urban area. One of the simplest ways to explore the city is by renting a bicycle. Shkodra is also an extremely cheap place.
Architecture is different from other cities in Albania. You can take yourself back in time as in an old movie. This is the magic of Shkodra.
Interesting fact: South Albania speaks in a dialect different from Albanians in the north as in Shkodra and Kosovo.
Gjirokastra is one of the most attractive towns. With cobbled roads and a fortress on top, Gjirokastra is worth a visit. Gjirokastra is one of the most ancient cities in Albania. Called the “stone town”, it is of particular interest for its native architecture. The characteristic houses are built one above the other around the fortress, which looks like a huge battleship. In fact, even the houses look like small fortresses. From the outside they perfectly combine roughness with the beauty of windows, small rooms, and small light pillars supporting the roofs. Their most attractive and unique feature is the intricate stonework. UNESCO has included Gjirokaster as a world property of cultural heritage and protection, reflecting even more this city’s cultural significance.
Why you should visit Gjirokastra?
The main reason why the city of Gjirokastra should be visited is the opportunity to explore the historic places within. These include the Old Bazaar, Ottoman historical houses, old churches and mosques, and the Gjirokastra Castle. The Gjirokastra Fortress is also worth visiting. Included in the National Armaments Museum; it represents weapons of World War II. In the castle, if you climb in the army water tank you can enjoy stunning views. There’s plenty to see, including underground tunnels, a gun museum (where you can hold the guns yourself!) and abandoned castle rooms.
We also suggest visiting the Cold War Museum. This museum is located in an underground bunker. The bunker was built to preserve the security of the communist government in war cases. During your stay in Gjirokastra, you should try the traditional local dish: qifqi. The ingredients of this dish are eggs, rice, and spices.
Gjirokastra has a lot of reputation! If you are a tourist for adventure, we recommend that you stay in the “stone town” guesthouse. It’s an impressive guesthouse.
Tirana is not only the capital of Albania, but it is also the main economic and cultural center of the country. Life in Tirana revolves around the beautiful Scanderbeg Square, located in the center of the city. This retreat in the middle of the bustle of the biggest city in Albania boasts museums, an Opera house, the Palace of Culture, countless shops and cozy cafes. Do not forget to visit the cafe-bar “Committee”. You can try all kinds of raki there. Furthermore, it’s a bar that looks like a museum! It’s a great place to spend time.
The buildings you will see as you walk around the square are a reflection of the periods that have influenced Tirana’s architecture. Only the Clock Tower and Et’hem Bey Mosque remain as a reminder of the city’s Ottoman past.
You can also see the home of former communist leader Enver Hoxha. We especially recommend going to the “House of Leaves”. There you can discover more about Albania in communism.
What to do in Tirana?
Tirana is unquestionably the dynamic center of Albania. Experience the theaters, restaurants, and clubs. Most of them are open all night. Bars and clubs are located throughout town, particularly in the “Blloku” area. There, you can listen to all kinds of live music: jazz, house, funk, even Latin. Tirana’s museums and theaters in recent years, have hosted many artists and world-famous performers. If you can visit only one place in Albania, Tirana would give you the most well-rounded view of our country.
In our opinion, Tirana is one of the most entertaining cities in Europe. There are many things to see. In the summer, when many people go to the beaches of Saranda and Durres, the city is not very popular. But in winter the city is vibrant again.
Kruja, was the most important Balkan town during the 15th century.
It successfully withstood at least three major sieges by the Ottoman Empire. The medieval hero Gjergj Kastrioti (a.k.a. “Scanderbeg”) had a base of operations there. The Albanians consider him a symbol of resistance and a savior. Even the Ottomans believed that a supernatural force dwelled in him. Because of this, after his death, they destroyed his tomb in order to take parts of his bones as good luck charms. Visit the fortress dating from before this time. As well as a museum (nestled inside a castle!) dedicated to Scanderbeg’s life and military exploits.
Kruja is characterized not only by special geography and the impressive castle. But also by many traditions that are inherited from a predecessor. The history of the ancient city makes us proud every time we visit it. Kruja is further known as the “white city”. When the weather is nice, the mountains of this city can be seen on the Adriatic coast of Durres.
Durres, located half an hour from Tirana, is the city of ancient culture. Archeological excavations have uncovered sections of the thick protective walls that used to surround the city. Lively modern restaurants and shops now surround it. They integrate with these beautiful ancient reminders.
Durres was the site of one of the largest harbor cities of antiquity
Despite the devastations that the city had suffered through the centuries, people have inhabited it up to the present day. The construction of the new city on the leftovers of the old one has made it difficult to discover the relics of antiquity. Urns dating from various epochs, as well as Illyrian ornamental objects and gravestones, have brought to light the very important role played by Illyria in the lifestyle of the city.
During the 1st two centuries B.C, the Romans built some very magnificent works such as the “Egnatia Road”, the aqueduct, amphitheater, the public baths, library, temples, mosaics and beautiful sculptures. All can be found dotted around the city.
Saranda, with its pristine waters and beaches is one of the largest tourism centers in Albania. Every year tourists from around the world consider it the best opportunity to relax and entertain. The various nearby beauties and the pleasant atmosphere of the city make it one of the top best places to visit in Albania.
Saranda’s natural attractions include the deep blue waters of the Ionian Sea, the natural spring of pristine water, called the “Blue eye,” and the nearby sandy beaches of Ksamil. Its historic attractions include the characteristic small villages, plus the cultural and historic archeological park Butrinti (UNESCO). Because of its strategic position, near the island of Corfu, cruise ships covering the Mediterranean have enlisted Saranda’s port as an important destination.
* From the bottom of the tunnel, through which the water rises to the surface, the source gets the blue color, resembling the baby’s eye. The vegetation surrounding “the eye“ in its upper part looks like eyelashes. So it is best to call it the “Blue Eye”. It is the largest and most interesting watering source among the 18 water sources at the foot of the Broad Mountain (Mali i gjere). Today it has the status of the monument of nature. Its depth is too great; it reaches up to 45 meters. It is located opposite the village of Krongj, 45 meters below the level of the Drinos valley. The Blue Eye is a source of fresh and sweet waters, surrounded by evergreen vegetation.
Apollonia, city of the sun
Unlike the other cities we’ve mentioned on this list, Apollonia isn’t a modern, occupied city. Instead, it is the ruins of a city that used to be a major port and departure point for travelers along the Via Egnatia. Today it is an archeological park and museum open to the public with footpaths and sights spread over several hectares.
Apolonia is the oldest city in Albania
Once upon a time here began one of the most important streets connecting the West with the East, or Rome with Constantinople. Apolonia is the oldest city in Albania, one of the largest in the Adriatic basin and the most famous among the 30 other cities of the same name, of ancient times. Apollonia is one of the largest archeological centers in Albania. Written testimonies show that the ancient Illyrian city was built in the first years of the 6th century BC in 588 by colonists coming from Corinth and Korkyra after they found the Epidam – Dyrrah. Earlier in this area was an Illyrian settlement, with the arrival of colonists the city was named Apolloni in honor of god Apollo. The geographic position of the city has played an important role, so Apollonia was erected not far from the sea, communicating through the Vjosa River (Aoos) in a rich area of southern Illyria inhabited by the Illyrian tribes of Taulants.
On the way to Apollonia, you will notice traces of communism dotting the hillside. During the communism, Enver Hoxha built 173,371 bunkers throughout the country. Many of the most impressive can be found in the hills around Apollonia. Nowadays they function mostly as a touristic attraction.
Those who love Mountain-hiking can make a wonderful trip to this season at the Valbona Valley National Park, which fascinates us with his nature. Already it has been visited not only by tourists but also by many Albanians, who want to explore mountain beauty. The Valbona Valley National Park is located in the Kukes Region and in the district of Tropoja, 25-30 km northwest of the city Bajram Curri. It has an area of 8,000 hectares and is considered the miracle of the Albanian Alps.
Caves, southern Albania
A cave on Karaburun is called Inglis. During World War II the SOE, the Cairo-based Special Operations Directorate, established a naval base for its missions operating in Albania to support anti-fascist resistance. “Inglez” is the pronunciation of the word “English” in that time, and from that word, the cave holds her name. At that time, the provincial men would get closer to the black cave to grab some clothes or food. They used to take plasmas more because the shepherds would make an umbrella for the sheep in the rain, or a yellow and very tasty sugar that was not known to us until that time.
Castle of Petrela
This castle is located on the national road Tirana – Elbasan, 18 km away from the capital. It arises on a rocky hill above the village with the same name. It has a triangular shape with two watchtowers. Its first construction belongs to the period of antiquity, while today’s form dates back to the 15th century. Discoveries show that the Castle of Petrela is the medieval fortress built during the rule of Justian I, in the 6th century AD. This was one of the castles raised by him as a defense system of the Empire.
It is a fortress set up on a terrain with steep slopes, even from the southeastern and south-eastern sides, which have protected the castle. It arose when the Castle of the Villa, the antique fortress, located opposite the Petrela Castle, lost its importance. She was raised mainly for military purposes. The Petrela Castle controlled the Egnatia road, the Durrës-Tirana-Elbasan branch, which at the time had a special importance. Today, there is a restaurant service and from there you can see a beautiful view over the Erzen valley, the olive groves, and the surrounding mountains.