This one comes up high on our 10 things to do in Albania list. Walking in Northern Albania seamlessly combines experiencing nature and discovering culture. Take a boat tour through Koman Lake, sleep in guesthouses and experience the local hospitality of the North. Immerse yourself into the local traditions of the Albanian Highlands as you walk through the National Parks of Valbona and Theth. Do all of this while under the impressive panorama of the Albanian Alps.
Kruja was the most important Balkan town during the 15th century. Lead by Albania’s national hero, Skenderbeg, it successfully withstood at least three major sieges by the Ottoman Empire. Little has changed since then; you can still walk through the Old Bazaar full of shops that sell traditional handmade items as well as fresh fruits, vegetables, and spices. Experience the culture on an even deeper level by participating in the process of making wool folk hat, called “Qeleshe”. The cap is part of the traditional costume of the Albanian highlanders. During the Ottoman period, this cap was particularly characteristic of muslim Albanians, and has now become a national symbol of Albanian heritage. Nowadays, it is predominantly used by men during traditional weddings.
Tirana, the capital of Albania, is the main economic and cultural center of the country. While Albania was under the communist regime, its dictator of that time, Enver Hoxha, built a Museum called “The Pyramid”. After the fall of communism, the building was converted for use as an exhibition center and as the headquarters of a TV station. At the front of the Pyramid there are six ascents of different inclines that you can climb. The incline is not slippery, and at the top of it you’ll find a spectacular view of the city. Be sure to check out other hotspots in Tirana while your there; including the Palaces of Congress and Culture, Opera House and Ballet Theater, and the Sky-Tower complex.
Berat is one of the most ancient towns in Albania. The innumerable monuments and characteristic architecture of the houses have proclaimed Berat, Albania a “Museum Town”. While you walk around the old city, you will notice many elderly men playing Chess or Dominoes with each other. If you are a decent player, feel free to challenge them to a match, they’ll love the extra competition.
5. See the Bunkers in Apollonia, Fier
One of the most noticeable traces of communism that you will see in Albania is the concrete bunkers that dot the countryside. The communist leader Enver Hoxha constructed 173,371 bunkers throughout Albania. Although they were never used for the purpose they were built, they now serve as important links to the past and function mostly as tourist attractions. You can see many of them on your way to visit the ruins of the ancient city of Apollonia. Apollonia used to be a major port along the Via Egnatia, and today is the site of an archeological park open to the public with footpaths and sights spread over several hectares.
6. Bathe in the Thermal Springs in Bënje, Permet
Përmet is a small town with a picturesque landscape surrounded by mountains, hills, rivers. Known for its natural beauty, it has become one of the most visited destinations for outdoor adventure. There, you can raft across the Vjosa River before relaxing in the natural thermal baths nearby. Doctors recommend these baths for their health benefits, while fellow travelers do simply for how wonderful they feel! The sulfiric waters in Bënje are smooth and clear. Locals have formed some small rocky pools that are constantly circulating with natural spring water. We recommend that you visit during the winter so that you can luxuriate in the year-round warmth of these baths even while temperatures fall below 0 degrees celsius.
A castle, roads paved with chunky limestone and shale, imposing slate roofed houses and views over the Drina Valley define the hillside town of Gjirokastra. Immerse yourself in the local traditions and rhythms of this ancient town. You will have the chance to walk the narrow cobble streets of the medieval bazaar and Ottoman-style neighborhoods where artisan women will be making doilies as well as carving wood and silver. Following this, enjoy the unique experience of visiting the locals in their own homes while they treat you to traditional, stone-ground Turkish coffee.
Butrinti National Park is the most important archeological site in Albania, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1992. During the 7th century B.C., the ancient city of Butrinti itself was the most important city of Epirus. There are many sights to see within Butrinti. The most interesting ones are the Temple of Asclepius (dedicated to the 2nd century B.C. God of Good Health) and a 1,500- seat theater from the 3rd century B.C. Nestled within Butrinti Forest to the south of Saranda, this huge park consists of wildlife, a lake, and the ancient city of Butrint. Butrinti Lake is one of the largest marine lakes in Albania, with an area of 16.3km2 and a depth of 24 m. This watershed is characterized by clean water, fish, mussels and wild birds.
The coast of Albania, the beautiful Albanian Riviera, is amenable to a number of sports. It is a 450 kilometer long stretch of beaches, lagoons, and crystal-clear water. The largest part of the coastal area consists of the Adriatic seashore which begins at the mouth of Buna river in the North and continues up until the bay of Vlora in the South. The beaches of the Adriatic Sea are surrounded by shallow waters, making them attractive destinations for families.
10. Paraglide in Llogara
The landscape in Llogara, with its dramatic mountain-faces and pristine natural beauty is perfect for paragliding. The wind direction, the height, and the view make this one of the most suitable paragliding spots in the world. There are many companies in the area who specialize in giving you a safe and enjoyable paragliding tour so that you can experience Albania from a new angle.