It is strange to think that in this day and age there are parts of Europe that are overlooked by travellers, but one obvious candidate is the country of Albania. Only recently have international tourists realised how much this Balkan nation north-west of Greece has to offer. From beautiful beaches to epic mountain hikes and charming traditional towns, the most popular tourist attractions in Albania truly offer something for everyone.

To show you what we mean, we’ve put together this list of the best places and attractions to visit in Albania. When you’re done reading, you’ll no doubt want to start planning a trip there as soon as possible, which will be quite easy as you’ll have plenty of ideas of what to do in Albania when you go.

1. Tirana

When visiting Albania, it’s hard to pass over the national capital, Tirana. Not only is it Albania’s largest city and the easiest place to start your trip, but Tirana is a fun, vibrant place to immerse yourself in the country’s culture and history. Skenderbey Square is a worthy starting point as it is located right in the heart of the city and is home to the excellent National History Museum , recognised by the giant mosaic on its facade. Other fascinating historical attractions in the city centre include the 18th century Et’hem Bey Mosque and Bunkart 2, one of two Cold War bunkers in Tirana that were cleverly converted into art and history museums. The city is also full of cafes, bars and restaurants that create a rich but affordable nightlife for visitors to happily explore.

Tourist information

Tirana airport taxi (pre-bookable)

2. Barry

With its incredible Ottoman-style houses, it’s easy to see why the town of Berat is one of the most adored destinations in Albania. The charming buildings have given Berat the nickname The City of a Thousand Windows, while its millennia of history have earned the city a place on the UNESCO World Heritage List. As well as admiring its beautiful scenery, visitors will also enjoy exploring the ruins of Berat Castle and wandering up to the intricate Gorica Bridge. Other impressive historical sites and attractions around Berat include the 13th century Holy Trinity Church , the last remnants of the Red Mosque and the artefacts within the National Iconographic Museum Onufri .

3. .

Right at the southern end of Albania’s long coastline, you will find the resort of Saranda and some of Albania’s best beaches. Saranda combines great beaches, vibrant nightlife and interesting historical sites to ensure that it has something for everyone who visits. Mango Beach and Saranda Beach are the two main beach areas that come alive in the summer, although the beach at Pulëbardha Beach is also very pretty. In terms of attractions , Lekursi Castle tops the list, both for the hilltop ruins and the epic sunset views. Visitors to Aghii Saranda also have the option of heading to Greece for the day, as the popular island of Corfu is a short ferry ride away.

4. The Albanian Riviera

Although Agii Saranda may be the most well-known beach destination on the coast of Albania, there are a whole host of smaller towns and beach resorts in Albania that are collectively known as the Albanian Riviera. The region generally refers to the stretch of coastline in the Ionian Sea that starts from Saranda Saints and continues north to the Llogara National Park . Apart from Saranda Saints, Dhërmi is perhaps the most popular beach town in the Albanian Riviera thanks to its nightlife and the various music festivals it hosts. However, there are many quieter towns along the Albanian Riviera where you can easily spend a few days relaxing on the beach, such as Himara , Bors , Palace and Vuno.

5. Argyrokastro

Argyrokastro is one of the best places to go in Albania if you want to see the more traditional side of the country. This small inland town is the other historic town next to Berat that is recognized by UNESCO for its exceptionally well-preserved character. Walking down its cobbled streets, past the bazaar and the beautiful Ottoman architecture, you will definitely feel like you are being transported back in time. Things only get better when you climb up to the Castle of Argyrokastro , where you’ll find an arms museum and magnificent views of the nearby mountains. Argyrokastro has links to two great Albanian personalities: the acclaimed writer Ismail Kantare and the former communist dictator Enver Hoxha, whose houses are now museums.

6. Ksamil

While often included with other destinations as part of the Albanian Riviera, the seaside village of Ksamil certainly deserves its own mention on this list. Located in the south of Saranda, Ksamil is widely considered one of the most beautiful holiday destinations in Albania due to its idyllic seaside setting. The crystal clear waters, fine sandy beaches and four small islands just off the coast have made people make unlikely comparisons between Ksamil and the Maldives! Resting and relaxing is definitely risky with a visit to Ksamil, whether that means sunbathing, swimming or paddle boarding.

7. Scodra

For an Albanian town with a distinctly different look and feel, look to the northern town of Skodra. Generally considered the cultural capital of Albania, Skodra is home to several festivals, some enlightening local museums and the famous Migjeni Theatre . However, what often intrigues visitors the most are the pastel colours of the buildings in the city centre as they give the old town an unexpected Italian feel. In terms of attractions, the two most notable are Rozafa Castle with its local legends and the elegant Ebu Bekër Mosque . Just a few miles from the centre of Skodra is Lake Skodra , where you can take water tours. Scodra also often serves as a gateway for travelers to the Albanian Alps to the north.

8. Dyrrachio

As Albania’s main port, it could be easy to dismiss Durres as worthy of your hard-earned vacation days. But Durres certainly deserves a closer look, as it’s filled with impressive historical sites and is home to the closest beaches to the capital, Tirana. Without a doubt, the city’s most important attraction is the Dyrrhachio Amphitheatre , the largest of its kind in the Balkans, but the Dyrrhachio Venetian Tower and the Dyrrhachio Archaeological Museum are also quite interesting. As for the beaches, to the south is the popular Plazhi i Golemit beach , while to the north are the much quieter beaches in the bay of Lalzi .

9. Albanian Alps

Just as beautiful as Albania’s coastline are the incredible mountains that make up the Albanian Alps. These high mountains, often known as the Cursed Mountains , are located in the northern part of Albania on the border with Montenegro. The Alps are home to two of Albania’s most beloved national parks, Theth National Park and Valbona Valley National Park , which are widely accepted as two of the most beautiful places in Albania. These areas are ideal for travelers interested in hiking and nature, with many trails that pass through dense forests and past waterfalls and springs. For accommodation in the Albanian Alps, look to the small mountain villages of Theth and Valbonaas they make excellent bases for exploration.

10. Lake Ohrid & Pogradec.

Lake Ohrid may be best known as a popular destination in neighbouring North Macedonia thanks to the city of Ohrid, but the Albanian side of the lake is equally worth a visit. The city of Pogradec is the main Albanian destination on the lake, making it the obvious choice if you want to spend time cruising Lake Ohrid while in Albania. But Pogradec also has a few things to offer, from its generous beach to the magnificent views from the ruins of the hilltop castle. For something a little different, come in June to the city’s Puppet Theatre Festival , whose popularity has inspired further festivals in the Balkans.

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Those who really want to dive into the history and culture of Albania can’t miss the small town of Kruja. Located just north of Tirana, Kruja is home to some of the best museums in Albania and has deep ties to national hero George Castriotis Skenderbey. After all, it was from Kruja Castle that Skenderbeis fought off the Ottomans for decades, a feat that made him a national symbol. No surprise then that the city’s castle now houses the Scenderbey Museum , dedicated to the man. While in the castle, don’t overlook the Kruja Ethnographic Museum , located inside a beautiful Ottoman house that gives visitors information about what life was like for a wealthy family of the time.

12. National Park Account

Not all of Albania’s mountains are located in the northern part of the country, as the magnificent landscape of the Llogara National Park shows. If you follow the coast north of the Albanian Riviera, you will soon arrive at this mountainous national park and the magnificent view of the country’s coastline. And, however, the park is perhaps best known for the Llogara Pass , a mountain pass that reaches 1,027 meters (3,370 feet) in elevation and is home to the best parts of the Albanian road. Even if the road didn’t lead you to panoramic views, the drive through the Llogara Pass would be worth the trip. Other activities in Llogara National Park to keep you entertained include hiking and wildlife spotting, with goats, golden eagles and European bobcats indigenous to the area.

13. Vlora

Vlora is another place you should visit when on holiday in Albania because of the variety of things to do there. The popular resort is located on the southern coast of Albania and has plenty of beaches, plenty of nightlife and several interesting historical curiosities. For beaches, there is the large expanse of sand at Plazhi i Ri or the more central beach at Plazhi i Vjeter . Nightlife is not difficult in Vlora, but the cold water area at Uji i Ftohte has become particularly popular in recent years. Finally, on the history front, there is the Declaration of Independence Building , where Albania declared independence in 1912, and the ruins of Kanina Castle .

14. Apollonia

Albania is filled with fascinating historical sites, but easily one of its most impressive is the ancient ruins of Apollonia. The Apollonia Archaeological Park, located near the small town of Fier, just inland from the central coast, features the ruins of the ancient Greek and Roman city founded around 600 BC. Today, Apollonia is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that continues to feature archaeologists uncovering new ruins and artifacts. Notable landmarks in Apollonia include the theatre, the House of the Mosaics and the former facade of the Monument to the Agonaut , while the archaeological park museum is housed in an equally special and historic monastic building.

15. Vouthrotos National Park

Although the Bouthrut National Park is located just outside the town of Ksamil and is easily visited from it, this protected area definitely deserves its own entry on this list. Vuthroto is a national park on the coast of southern Albania that is home to a fantastic collection of historical sites from different eras of the region’s history. With a number of monumental relics from the ancient Greeks, Romans, Venetians and Ottomans on display around the national park, it’s no surprise that UNESCO recognized Vuthroto with World Heritage status in 1992. The main sights to see, such as the ruins of The Great Basilica and the Venetian Tower are located around the Ancient Theatre of Vouthrotos , but don’t miss the Ali Pasha Castle to the west.

16. Korytsa

One of the most beautiful cities in Albania that you will come across is Korytsa. What is interesting is that Korça is most famous among tourists as the home of Korça beer, which is commonly found throughout the country. Those who stray from a tour of the city’s brewery, however, discover that Korça is a low-key gem. Walking around the city you’ll find lots of traditional Ottoman architecture, making it a very pleasant place to explore on foot. Local attractions include the city’s old-fashioned bazaar, the deceptively modern Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ of Korytsa and the impressive exhibits within the National Museum of Medieval Art.

17. Pérmet & Benja Thermal Baths

A small, quaint town in the south of Albania, Yamet may seem an unlikely choice to include on this list. But Yamet has a secret weapon, right on the river from it – the wonderful Benja thermal baths. Here, water from the nearby geothermal springs is diverted into man-made pools, giving visitors the chance to soak in the soothing water while appreciating the bliss of the valley around them. The baths are located next to the Katiu Bridge , a beautiful old stone bridge offering stunning views of the distant mountain ranges.

18. Lake Koman.

If you think you already understand the amazing diversity of Albania, wait until you see the beauty of Lake Koman. This reservoir in northern Albania is surrounded by steep mountain walls and boasts vibrant, crystal clear waters, the combination of which has naturally encouraged comparisons to Norway’s majestic fjords. The best way to see the lake scenery is with a trip on the famous Lake Koman ferry , which takes you from the town of Koman to Fierza further along the Drin River. It’s a great way to slow down your sightseeing for a spell and just enjoy the splendour of the Albanian countryside.

19. The Blue Eye

One Albanian attraction that travelers will need to see with their own eyes is the country’s famous Blue Eye. Located in the hinterland of Saranda near the village of Muzinë, the Blue Eye is a water source with incredibly clear blue waters. The spring emerges through a karst hole that is over 50 meters (164 feet) deep, but visitors can see surprisingly far into the hole thanks to the impeccable clarity of the water. To reach the spring, visitors first walk through a forest of oak and sycamore trees before finally reaching a waterfront viewing platform. Although there are signs warning against swimming in the icy water of the Blue Eye, many visitors choose to dip their feet in.

20. Lake Prespa

Spanning the borders of Albania, North Macedonia and Greece, Lake Prespa is the third and final border lake on this list. Technically, however, it is a system of two lakes, with Megali Prespa and Mikri Prespa separated by a small isthmus. While there are various places to visit around the lake in different countries, in Albania the shoreline is dominated by the Prespa National Park. The park is wetlands, marsh, forest and nearby meadows, making it a particularly good place for birdwatching. One sight worth going out on the lake to see is Maligrad Island , where you will find the remote church of St. Mary in a cave.

There really is no way you can run out of places to visit in Albania, because even topping the places on this list will take some time. The good news, however, is that you now have somewhere to start when planning your visit there.

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