day trips from Saranda Albania

75 Reasons You Must Travel to Albania ASAP

For too long, Albania has been ignored as a tourist destination. I get it. The country has had to bounce back from a lot. For years, Albania was under one of the most repressive communist totalitarian regimes in history – even North Korea has more trade partners and diplomacy than Albania did thirty years ago. I’m about to drop some serious Albania facts on you, so if you’re into history, get excited.

It emerged from the shackles of totalitarianism in 1991 with basically no GDP and virtually no economy. A countrywide pyramid scheme in which Albanians lost a total of 1.2 billion dollars (a fortune, considering how Albanians had only had six years of free market in order to actually obtain money to invest) in 1997 sent the country into chaos.

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But things are way, way different now, and while the country still has far to come to catch up with its neighbors in Europe, it’s making great strides towards lasting progress. Albania is a country with an unfathomably long history, almost 5,000 years, with influence from Greeks, Illyrians, Romans, Venetians, Byzantines, and Ottomans.

To sum up Albania as just what’s happened in the last century is myopic. Yes, Albania has suffered, but it’s bouncing back with incredible fortitude and rightfully emerging as a tourist destination.

Seeing as I’ve unofficially become an Albania travel guide, telling everyone who’ll listen about this beautiful place, I figured I’d put it in writing and save myself the trouble. Without further ado, here are 75 reasons why you should plan your holidays to Albania as soon as possible!

1. It’s off the beaten path. Can you imagine going to 2,000 year old Roman ruins and not having to wait for people to get out of your shot constantly? Well, visit Albania, and it’s not only possible – it’ll happen all the time.

day trips from Saranda Albania

2. It’s not just affordable – it’s cheap. Budget backpacking anywhere in Balkans, with the exception of Croatia, is inexpensive compared to Western Europe. But Albania is leaps and bounds cheaper than its neighbors, especially when it comes to transit and food costs. A six hour bus ride will set you back only $7 USD; a gyro, $1 USD; a 3-course meal with an espresso, $8 USD.

3. The beaches are the best in Europe. Sorry, Croatia, Italy, Greece, and Montenegro, I know you’ll disagree, but Albania has got the best beaches in all of Europe. The stony beaches make the water a gorgeous, crystal-clear turquoise that feels like your real life has been Photoshopped. Ksamil, Albania as well as the beaches of Himara and Dhermi are outstanding. The weather in Albania is comparable to the rest of Europe, so you’ll have hot sunny days all summer long.

copyright Janet Newenham - drone over Albania
Drone shot courtesy of Janet Newenham of Journalist on the Run / Your Irish Adventure

4. … And they’re not crowded.

Unlike their more famous Northern and Southern neighbors, you’ll have plenty of space to yourself when you go to the beach in Albania.

Albanian riviera gjipe

There are also tons of hidden beaches that you can have basically to yourself with a little creativity (or a little guts!). Himara is an excellent hub close to the best Albanian beaches in the Riviera. Plus, accommodations in the Albanian Riviera are incredibly cheap!

5. Albanian people are insanely generous. I’ve never been offered more things in my life – whether it was cake on the side of a road from someone I asked directions, half of someone’s lunch who we hitchhiked with, an espresso at a cafe, or rakia (so much rakia), then when traveling in Albania.

6. The sunsets along the coast are incredible. The whole time you travel Albania, you’ll be treated to breathtaking sunsets, just as beautiful as Greece’s or Croatia’s — at a fraction of the price.

travel Albania and discover the natural beauty of the coast line!

7. You need to learn the love-hate relationship with rakia. Rakia is basically moonshine, distilled typically from grapes or plums, popular all throughout the Balkans, but especially loved in Albania. The best nights (and the worst mornings) usually are courtesy of rakia.

8. Besa, which is loosely translated as “faith” or “trust”, is extremely important to Albanians. For centuries, Albanians have abided by the code of “besa” which basically means it’s their duty to look after the people who visit Albania. That means that even if you’re traveling solo through Albania, you’ll never really be alone.

Albania travel is tiring but amazing, worth every minute
Besa means that my friend’s cousin – who I had never met before – took two days to show me around her hometown, beautiful Korca.

9. Albanians are keen to change their image. Albanians are aware that they’ve been associated with mobsters and gangsters, and more than a few Albanians bitterly remarked me that “we’re not all like Taken.” Which is true – I never once felt unsafe or unwelcome in my month spent traveling in Albania. Besides, as one local slyly remarked me to me, “All the Albanian mafia has left. Who would they make money off of here?”

10. Albanians are honest. I’m always on my guard for scams, having been ripped off and nearly pickpocketed within 12 hours in Hanoi. It turns out I didn’t have to worry at all when in Albania. In Pogradec, a man who changed money for a friend ran down the street to the bus station to find us, panicked that he hadn’t given us the right change (but he had). For Albania, tourism increasing holds huge potential to lift its citizens out of poverty, so Albanians will be sure you are well taken care of.

11. Albania is safe. While tourism in Albania is just beginning, traveling Albania is just as safe as going pretty much anywhere else in Europe. You’re less at risk for petty crime in Albania than you are in, say, Madrid, Barcelona, Rome, or Paris, and violent crime is extremely rare.

Note: While Albania is very safe, that doesn’t mean you should go without travel insurance in case of an emergency or accident. I use World Nomads travel insurance on every trip as it’s easy to book online and offers extensive coverage at low prices. Get a free quote here.

My Albania travel buddies!
Ok, this photo is of Albanians in Kosovo, but you get the idea. So threatening with their rainbow umbrella and bear phone. Definitely shouldn’t travel here.

12. Street harassment is extremely uncommon. As a woman who travels alone, I’m often subjected to street harassment, which makes me feel uncomfortable, unsafe, and irritated. In my entire time in Albania, not one man bothered me on the streets, even when I walked home alone late at night to my hostel in Tirana. It was such a breath of fresh air to be around such polite, respectful men.

13. Albanians give the best directions. Which is to say they’re either extremely detailed if they speak English, or oftentimes they’ll just walk with you to your destination because they’re afraid of you getting lost. After a flurry of hand gestures did nothing, I once had an old lady in a robe and house shoes pull me by the sweater tied around my waist, leading me up on a ledge, in order to show me how to get to the Berat Castle via the back way. You can’t say Albanian people don’t try!

14.There are countless fortresses and castles that you can explore. Most castles have limited infrastructure, such as informational plaques or warning signs, so you get to feel a bit like Indiana Jones as you explore castles totally on your own. If you’re more the tour kind of person, you’re in luck: lack of tourism in Albania has made tours insanely cheap.

see beautiful castles like this when you travel in Albania

15. Albanians love Americans. Okay, so this is maybe only exciting for me and my fellow countrymen, but we’re a bit of an unpopular lot in some parts of Europe. And I get it, I really do – I definitely cringe whenever I see the telltale shorts-and-fanny-pack of a clueless American tourist speaking loudly and slowly at someone who speaks perfect English like they’re an idiot.

But when traveling in Albania, I discovered that Americans are actually quite well-liked – so much so that they’ve even named a street after George W. Bush in Tirana (cool your jets, guys, even we don’t like him!). The town of Fushe Kruje which he visited even has a statue of him! You’ll also find a Hillary Clinton statue in Saranda, Albania, close to SR Backpackers, where I stayed while in Saranda. Fingers crossed we never need to find out if they’d erect a Trump statue. (edited to add: UGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH)

16. But really, Albanians just love all foreigners. You’ll never feel more special as a tourist than when you visit Albania. I was traveling around with a lot of Australians and you should have seen the look on locals’ faces when they found out people from Australia were visiting their country. It was the most delightful mix of confusion, excitement, and pride.

17. Forget buses and planes – Albania is all about the furgon. Furgons are minibuses, which are often Mercedes vans converted to fit the most human life possible inside them. They’re democratic institutions – first come first served, they’ll pick you up and drop you off anywhere along the route, and they’ll charge you based on the distance you travel.

Sure, some of the seats aren’t that comfortable, especially the ones above the wheels, but I actually quite love the humble furgon. It’s the most authentic way to travel in Albania.

The closest thing to a bus station I encountered when traveling Albania

18. Honestly, the public transit is actually quite reliable – it’s just different. Furgons will get you basically everywhere you need to go, although you do sometimes have to make a transfer rather than going direct. Occasionally, on less popular routes, a minibus won’t run every day, and as the season winds down, minibuses are less frequent.

Still, I visited for the second time in mid-October as the summer season was done and gone, and even some less popular routes were still roaring. I traveled from Korça to Berat and Berat to Vlora no problems, perfectly on time – in fact, often early, so be sure to get there at least 15 minutes before your bus is due to leave.

19. Infrastructure is improving. I had heard that the roads in Albania were awful – I was happy to find that it really wasn’t the case. Of all the routes I took, I only really encountered one road that was pretty rough and tumble, and it was only because they were working on the main road and re-routed us another way.

If you travel Albania in the more rural parts, you’ll encounter some rough roads I’m sure, but the main roads connecting the coastal cities, Tirana, Shkodra, and some of the southern Albanian cities like Berat, Gjirokastra, and Korca were all fine. That said, there are still some flaws hampering this otherwise beautiful country.

There is no national recycling program and litter continues to be a major issue. Tirana and other Albanian cities have an admirable program to neuter and vaccinate the stray dogs in the cities, but it’s a slow process. Still, considering the country’s economy started from basically nothing in 1991, I think they’ve made tremendous strides.

20. You can even drink the tap water now in many parts of the country. I had heard that Albania’s tap water was totally undrinkable. This was far from true! I drank the tap water without incident in Saranda, Tirana, Shkodra, Berat, and Korca – always after asking a local first just to double check. I recommend bringing a Life Straw water bottle, which removes over 99.9% of waterborne bacteria and parasites, to cut back on your plastic use (there is no recycling program in Albania, sadly).

day trips from Saranda Albania

21. They make excellent Italian food. Albania is so close to Italy, and they’ve absorbed a lot of their culture. Pizza in Albania is top-notch, probably the next best thing to Italian pizza itself.

22. The coast has amazing seafood. You can eat delicious fresh prawns, mussels, fish, calamari… all for bargain prices and fresh as can be. Up north near Lake Shkodra, the lake trout is also incredibly delicious – so make sure you try that if you’re visiting Shkodra (which I highly recommend — stay at the Wanderers!) or other cities up north.

try the seafood when traveling through Albania!

23. Local dishes are delightful. Traditional Albanian food like tavë kosi (baked lamb with yogurt) and patëllxhanët mbushur (stuffed eggplant) are unique and delicious, always cooked with local ingredients and fresh produce.

24. A lot of the cuisine is vegetarian. Many of their dishes incorporate veggies in a way that other countries in the Balkans don’t. Their stuffed peppers and grape leaves are almost always vegetarian and filling, they offer a wide variety of salads, and grilled vegetables are available everywhere.

love the food in albania - a reason alone to travel to albania

25. But they also make a mean grilled meat plate. Enough said.

Ahh, a well-balanced meal...
Ahh, a well-balanced meal… look, there’s even lettuce!

26. They make excellent coffee. Albanians love their coffee, especially espresso, and you can get an espresso for as little as 50 lek – about 40 euro cents. I will say that sometimes their definition of a cappuccino would make Italians shudder, as they sometimes come topped with whipped cream, but there are worse things than free whipped cream, right?

27. The produce is fresh, delicious, and often organic. Of course, it won’t be labeled as such, but most produce in Albania comes from small, local farmers who frankly probably don’t have enough money to spend on pesticides. For that reason, the tomatoes and cucumbers are some of the best I’ve had in the world. Perfect for…

28. Albania has amazing Greek salads and gyros, thanks to its Greek minority population. Yup, in addition to rocking Italian food and traditional Albanian food, you can get delicious Greek food like grape leaves, tzatziki, gyros, and Greek salad. The two cuisines share a lot in common and the line between what’s Greek and what’s Albanian vary on where you are and who you ask (as many things do in the Balkans…)

food in Albania, one more reason to travel there!

29. The mountains are absolutely beautiful. My biggest regret about Albania is that I didn’t get to do the hike from Valbona to Thethi that I had planned on. Crazy storms were raging when I was in Shkodra, making the hike I was planning to do the next day impossible, so I rerouted to Kosovo and traveled through the rest of the Balkans.

By the time I returned to Albania, it was mid-October and reaching below freezing at night, so a hike didn’t feel like the best idea. But seeing the same mountain range in Montenegro and Kosovo, I can only imagine how beautiful it is in that part of Albania. But you don’t need to travel to Valbona to see mountains – they’re everywhere, even leading right down to the beaches in some cases.

Another Janet
Drone shot courtesy of Janet Newenham of Journalist on the Run

30. The Albanian language is unlike any other. Albanian (called Shqip, which is pronounced “shchip”, which gives you a little preview of the beautiful chaos that is the Albanian language) is one of the oldest living languages. Some consider it a language isolate, some think it’s related to Illyrian or Armenian… let’s leave it to the linguists and just say it’s incredibly difficult – though beautiful to hear – and, to my totally untrained eyes and ears, reminds me of Dothraki on GoT. (nerd alert)

31. That being said, locals will love you if you try to speak Albanian. Albanians know how difficult their language is, and they really appreciate it when you take the time to learn a few words of Albanian. Mirëdita (meer-deeta) – good day, faleminderit (fah-le-min-DER-it) – thank you, diten e mirë (deet-en ay meer) – Have a good day, and of course, gëzuar (guh-zoo-ar) – cheers: master these four and people will be delighted.

32. The rural parts of the country are stunning. I haven’t seen many Albanian villages or rural life, which I’ve been told is where the real heart of the country is. But my method is to always leave a stone unturned, so I know I’ll come back. What I’ve seen of rural Albania from the furgons is incredible, and I’d love to discover it more deeply.

The calm before the storm in Shkodra, Albania

33. The Albanian flag is so dope. A double-headed eagle…  god, could a flag get any cooler? Albanians are obsessed with their flag, and honestly, so am I. So epic.

34. On a similar note, Albanians are really patriotic. While sometimes this patriotism can border on nationalism (which is not unique to Albanians, of course), what this means in practical terms for the traveler is that Albanians will do anything to make sure you love their country just as much as they do. If you tell them you love their country, most will beam with pride.

35. Hitchhiking is incredibly easy and safe throughout Albania. The combination of a lack of a centralized public transit system, the Albanian hospitality and belief in besa, and an outsized love for their cars all merge to make it probably one of the easiest places to hitchhike in the world and definitely in Europe. It’s also quite safe, which you wouldn’t expect if you take your travel advice from Liam Neeson, but it’s true!

hitching in albania

36. In fact, hitchhiking is an amazing experience there and I recommend it to all who travel Albania. During my hitching experience, I was picked up by a trucker who didn’t speak a word of English but was all smiles, two young college students who brought us all the way to Kosovo even though they weren’t planning on crossing the border, and more than a couple Mercedes Benzes.

37. Mercedes Benzes are the national car. OK, not really, but it’s kind of ironic that one of Europe’s poorest countries has more Mercedes Benzes than anywhere else I’ve been – including NYC and California. For a more detailed explanation, read on here.

38. It’s easy to travel to and from other countries in the region. There are frequent public buses from Montenegro via Ulcinj and Shkodra as well as direct buses run by hostel companies from hotspots like Kotor to Tirana. Going from Tirana to Prizren or Prishtina in Kosovo is also quite easy.

If you’re thinking of going onto Macedonia, there are Tirana to Skopje buses and in peak season direct buses between Ohrid as well, which can also be accessed via Berat, Elbasan, or Korca. Greece is close to Saranda and Korca, and you can take a ferry to Corfu in about thirty minutes.

nearby Prizren, Kosovo - easy to travel to Albania from here
Nearby Prizren, Kosovo – just a few hours away from Tirana by bus

39. Oh, and Italy is only a short boat ride away, too!

If you’re in Italy and want to make your way over to travel Albania, it’s actually really quick and affordable to catch a ferry to Albania. A bonus? The views are beautiful.

Vlora, one of the prettiest places to travel in Albania

40. Tirana, Albania’s capital, is unlike any other capital city I’ve seen. It’s chaotic and exhilarating, unique and intriguing, improvised and improving. There’s a sense that it’s stuck in the past at the same time that it’s accelerating towards the future, and it’s fascinating to be right there with it. The best way to get a sense of Tirana is by walking or biking through it.

41. Tirana was more influenced by communism than other cities in Albania, making it ideal for history and Communist architecture geeks. There are some absolutely strange pieces of architecture in Tirana, in particular, Piramida, the abandoned memorial to deceased dictator Enver Hoxha that is now a TV station/slide/tourist oddity.

The quirky communist art and architecture is a great part of traveling Albania

42. The nightlife in Tirana is really fun. I loved going out in the Blloku neighborhood, the old heart of the communist party loyalists. This has turned into a hipster/upscale neighborhood of sorts, where a draft beer goes for (*gasp*) 2 euros.

If you’re traveling solo and but want to experience the best of Albanian nightlife, you can do a cocktail and communism tour through trendy Blloku accompanied by a local!

Getting my hipster on at Radio in Blloku (I promise these glasses are medically necessary.)

43. The bunkers offer a fascinating, if unsightly, look into the past. I enjoyed visiting Bunkart in Tirana, which used to be the former dictator Enver Hoxha’s bunker in case of attack. It’s a fascinating insight into the psyche of a sick, paranoid man. An estimated 700,000 smaller bunkers dot the countryside, in places you’d never think would be at risk of attack.

If you’ve got bunker fever, you can even do a full-day bunkers and beaches tour! Only when you travel Albania, guys.

bunkart quirky things to do in tirana

44. In fact, there’s no country quite comparable to 20th century Albania. Under Enver Hoxha, even Tito’s Yugoslavia, Mao’s China, and Khruschev’s USSR were all just too liberal and not purely communist enough. As a result, Albania had no external ties with other countries from 1978 until 1991.

When the dictatorship finally fell, things like bananas and blue jeans were totally brand-new phenomena. Even today’s North Korea has a more open economy than pre-1990s Albania. Luckily, Albania has been quite quick to take to modernization.

45. But there’s so much more than just the Communist past. I understand (and share!) the fascination with Albania’s insane communist past. But before that, Albania has almost 5,000 years of history, with influence from Greeks, Illyrians, Romans, Venetians, Byzantines, and Ottomans. That all has shaped the country so much more than its Communist era, even though those have the most obvious visual influence.

day trips from Saranda Albania - a great thing to do when traveling Albania
Albania is home to some of the best-preserved Christian mosaics in the world, like Butrint

46. The 400-year occupation of the Ottoman Empire forever changed Albania in unique ways. As a result of the occupation, Albania became a majority Muslim country — approximately 60% — although most Albanians follow a very loose interpretation of Islam – if they follow anything at all.

Most Albanians, even if they’re of Muslim origin, eat pork and drink alcohol (in fact, I think your Albanian citizenship is revoked if you don’t drink rakia. I kid, I kid), and very few women wear headscarves, regardless of origin (although those who do don’t get any odd looks).

47. Yet for years, Albania was the only country in the world to have an outright ban on religion. That’s right. In 1967, the practice of religion was completely banned within the country of Albania. As a result, unfortunately, many churches and mosques throughout the country were destroyed. Albanians have been working hard to rebuild these places of worship throughout the country. Precious few remain of the pre-Communist era – only those that party leaders deemed worthy of cultural preservation, such Et’hem Bey mosque in Tirana, pictured above.

48. Albania is a true cultural mixing pot. Throughout time, Albania has had the influence of Greeks and Romans, Slavs and Italians, Muslims and Christians. These divisions don’t really seem to faze Albanians, and the unifying fact of language, tradition, and above all — patriotism — seem to be more important than ethnicity or religion.

49. Albanians are incredibly tolerant of other religions. Interfaith marriages are quite common in Albania, and friend groups are typically well-integrated and have little to do with religion. Religion appears to be more of a cultural or hereditary signifier than any deeply held convictions.

Unlike countries like Bosnia and Herzegovina, where ethnic strife was in large part exacerbated by religious differences, Albanians really don’t seem to care that much about religion. In fact, Albania is the only country in which the population of Jews increased during WWII, as average citizens took in thousands of Jewish refugees at great risk to themselves, despite having virtually no ties to Judaism.

travel to Albania and see the Korca caethedral
The Orthodox cathedral in Korça was only built in 1992, replacing the church that communists had destroyed in the late 1960s.

50. In fact, for many, “the only religion of Albania is Albanianism.” This quote was co-opted by Enver Hoxha to justify his religious ban; however, it originally appeared in Shkodra’s beloved poet Pashko Vasa’s nationalist poem “O moj Shqiperi”. Basically, that is to say, Albanians are much more concerned with sharing an ethnic and cultural legacy based on the concept of being Albanian, rather than being concerned with any religious ties.

51. Albania is a UNESCO darling, with three major sites having UNESCO Status.

day trips from Saranda Albania

52. One of them, Butrint, is a 2,000 old set of Roman ruins. It has alternately been ruled by Romans, Byzantines, Venetians, and Ottomans. It’s set on a beautiful lake near the border with Greece, and it’s almost always completely deserted, making it a beautiful place to wander, snap photos, and imagine a simpler world taking place exactly where you stood over two millennia ago. Definitely one of the best points of interest in Albania.

53. Gjirokastra is another UNESCO site, just as breathtaking as Butrint. It is an Ottoman-era “museum city” complete with a gorgeous ruined castle perched atop a massive hill surrounded by houses with layered flat stone roofs. (Note: I just did a day trip to Gjirokastra, but friends raved about Stone City Hostel, open seasonally)

gjirokaster awesome day trip from saranda

54. In fact, Gjirokastra is also home to iso-polyphony folk music, which is a uniquely Albanian tradition honored by UNESCO’s intangible heritage designation. Every year, performances are held in the castle, keeping the tradition alive. To be honest, the music isn’t my cup of tea, but it’s incredible what they are able to do with their voices, creating unique, haunting sounds without the use of a single instrument.

55. Berat is twinned with Gjirokastra, though it’s worth visiting totally aside from Gjirokastra. It is the more famous twin, and equally gorgeous in my opinion, yet quite different. Berat is marked with only white paint and large square windows that look almost like eyes, giving it the nickname “City of a Thousand Windows.”

Honestly, I think UNESCO made a mistake by twinning these cities together, which suggests that you can see one of the two and “get the idea.” They’re both incredibly unique places, and each warrants its own visit. It’s definitely worth visiting for a few days, but you can also visit Berat as a day trip from Tirana as well.

When in Berat, I can’t say I recommend staying at Berat Backpackers. Everyone there was incredibly kind and the rooms were clean and comfy… but the wifi was practically nonexistent, but the shower pressure was the worst I’ve ever experienced in 10 years of traveling. You can get a cheap hotel for as little as $10-15 a night, so treat yourself.

56. There are many other places on UNESCO’s tentative list that are also worth a visit. The Durrës Amphitheatre, Apollonia, and Ohrid, among others, are all on the list for consideration.

57. But historic cities aren’t all Albania has to offer – it has incredible lakes. Lake Komani is the gem of Albania, followed closely by Lake Shkodra (which it shares with Montenegro), Lake Ohrid (which it shares with Macedonia), and Lake Butrint. All so different, yet so beautiful. Check out the video below to get an idea.

Thanks to Dan Flying Solo for letting me use his epic video of Lake Komani.

58. Aside from its lakes, Albania has deep-flowing natural springs. These springs are called “Blue Eyes,” and while there is an incredibly famous one in the south (called Syri I Kalter in Albanian), there is an equally beautiful though lesser known one in Thethi as well.

blue eye syri i kalter day trip from Saranda

59. It has gorgeous waterfalls as well that locals love to swim in. The waterfalls in Begova near Berat are a favorite of locals when the summers get hot — with rakia, of course! It’s too bad I was in Berat in mid-October so I didn’t go to these waterfalls.

60. It even has a wine region with surprisingly delicious wine. I did, however, sample the surprisingly excellent local wines in Berat, made by Cobo Wineries. Wine tasting tours are available as well!

61. It’s yet to be Westernized with American fast food chains… well, except the one. I love the fact that the country’s first international chain, KFC, is opening literally across the road from Enver Hoxha’s old mansion. I believe that’s what we call “throwing shade”, Albania. Nicely done.


62. You’ll meet a lot of like-minded travelers in Albania. I guess because not many people travel to Albania, the tourists who do go there are really interesting, easy-going, and open-minded. I never met more interesting and fun people than I did when traveling in Albania! The hostels in Albania are fabulous as well – I know it may sound scary to the uninitiated, but hotels are one of the best ways to travel Albania if you’re solo. Check out top-rated hostels here.

63. Sometimes, it seems as if parts of Albania are stuck in a time capsule. You’ll be driving along a surprisingly smooth highway when suddenly, hey! There are goats and cows wandering the roads.


 64. Albania is squarely outside the Schengen zone, making it perfect if you’re staying in Europe for over 90 days. Many countries in the Balkans, including Montenegro, Macedonia, Serbia, Kosovo, and Bosnia are also outside Schengen, so it’s easy to plan a little detour to travel in Albania if you’re close to using up the 90 days out of the 180 days on your Schengen visa and need to spend time outside the zone to keep your visa valid.

65. It’s quite easy for foreigners to get visas. 77 countries and territories, plus every EU country, can visit Albania visa-free for 90 days. But even if you’re not one of those countries, if you’ve had and used a valid UK, US, or EU visa, you get the same 90-day visa policy as all other qualifying countries.

66. Though hostels are new the country, they are surprisingly excellent. Every single hostel I stayed at in Albania was great (with the minor exception of Berat Backpackers), and far better and cheaper than a lot of hostels I’ve stayed at in Western Europe, including cities like Rome and Barcelona.

In fact, Trip’N Hostel in Tirana is probably the best hostel I’ve stayed at, period. They even brew their own beer! Be sure to book in advance if you go during the high season. I was so lucky as a walk-in to get the last bunk — everyone after me had to find another place.

The best hostel I've ever stayed at for $12 a night, with this delicious omelette and Albanian coffee included.
The best hostel I’ve ever stayed at for $12 a night, with this delicious omelette and Albanian coffee included.

67. Albania is a delightful mix of discovered and undiscovered. You can really choose your own adventure here… whether you want to stick to the slightly-well-trodden path of Tirana and Saranda, or if you want to get a little more off the path and visit the quaint smaller cities of Shkodra and Korca, there are tons of options, all within furgon distance.

68. Albanian wedding parties are the best parties. I stumbled across one happening in the street next to the gyro restaurant in downtown Himara. It was just a giant circle dance that got bigger and bigger, more and more intricate throughout the night.

69. Albania will teach you patience. I will admit that travel in Albania is not the most straightforward, though I don’t think it necessarily makes it difficult. Sometimes, your bus will be late, or it will be unclear where you’re supposed to go. However, things always have a way of working out here. Give yourself some extra time and enjoy the ride.

But patience is easy when your surroundings are this gorgeous. Photo courtesy of Janet Newenham yet again

70. Albania will also teach you trust. Because Albania isn’t the easiest place to travel, especially since the public transportation system is run mostly by word of mouth and there’s no online timetable, you’ll have to learn to trust strangers. But that is actually a blessing in disguise, because it’ll show you just how kind and caring most people in the world are. And even moreso in this special little corner of the world.

71. English is actually fairly widely spoken – followed closely by Italian. The second language of Albanians tends to fall on strictly generational lines. Those who grew up under communism likely stole television and radio signals from Italy as the only way of having contact with the outside world; therefore, the older generation by and large speaks Italian to some extent. Younger people, and anyone who works in hospitality, has a fairly good understanding of English.

72. But what Albanians may lack in language skills, they’ll make up for in doggedness, body language, and effort. It’s not like an Albanian to shrug their shoulders and ignore you – they will do their damnedest to either answer your question through dramatic gesturing, dragging you down the street to finding someone who can help you, calling a friend on their phone and having you speak to them, or walking you right to your destination.

73. In short, Albanians are resilient and resourceful. They survived the most oppressive communist regime in history, saw the other end, and are now welcoming to outsiders from around the world. It’s astounding to me, a one-time New Yorker who hasn’t suffered anything more than the indignity of being trapped on a sweaty train car with five breakdancing teenage boys shouting “Showtime,” how people who have dealt with so much can be so welcoming, but they are.

74. Albania is changing… fast. With foreign investments coming in and the slow march of tourism coming down from the Croatian coast through Montenegro, it won’t be long until Albania changes. When cruise ships start regularly stopping at Albania… I must admit, I’ll be a little worried about what’ll happen to the precious beaches of Himara and Dhermi.

75. Albania is never boring. No matter where you go in the country, I can guarantee you, you’ll have never seen any place quite like it.

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Travel Albania and be astounded by the food, history, picture opportunities, beaches, and culture. From the capital of Tirana to the Albanian Riviera, there’s so much history and wonderful people to be found. Need convincing? I’ve got 75 reasons why this is literally my favorite country I’ve ever been to.

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  1. Thanks for shedding light on places less traveled that are worthy of tourists exploring and falling in love with! Kudos to you for coming up with such a comprehensive list, now Albania is on my map! 🙂

    1. Thank you for reading! I do hope this post encourages at least one person who never would have considered traveling to Albania to go there. I hope you get a chance to go soon!

      1. Dear Allison, I’m an Albanian woman who lives far from Albania since last year. Just read your article and I’m truly in tears. I want to thank you from the depth of my heart!
        Now that I don’t live anymore in my homecountry I can fully understand how unique visiting Albania can be.

        1. Awww, thank you Ola for your sweet and thoughtful comment. I think distance can make you appreciate a place even more, and see its flaws and its beauty in one glance instead of just focusing on the negatives as you can sometimes tend to do when you live somewhere. I feel that way about New York, at least 🙂

  2. This is amazing, Albania has never entered my head as a place to visit and after reading this I really want to go there. Thanks for literally broadening my horizons!

      1. Hi. I am an American of 50 per cent Albanian decent. I am turning 50 and going for my birthday in June. I am planning the trip now. Sadly we only have a week — travel included and had planned on Tirana Dhermi Saranda and Blue Eye area. Anythg I should add or change? Your article was so fun and descriptive

        1. Hi Suzi! I think that is a good itinerary for one week, actually, if you move quickly. I’d do 2 days in Tirana, 3 days in Dhermi, and 2 days in Saranda. The best would be to fly into Tirana and then out of Corfu, Greece. More time would be nice, of course, but we can only work with what we’ve got! Congrats on your upcoming birthday and I hope you enjoy your trip ‘home’ 🙂

      2. Hey Allison i am a 25 year old boy who has been living in the US for five years now. As you probably know by now the education and work opportunities in Albania are limited. I go back every summer as i will do this summer again. This is by far the best and most detailed article i have read about Albania (written by a tourist). I have to say i am speechles! This made me laugh and it also put tears in my eyes. I want to thank you for taking your time to visit Albania and write about it so other people can learn about my country as well. I have traveled a lot myself and you can get in trouble just everywhere. There is still many things that need to improve in Albania. Transportation wise, infrastructure wise, recycling etc. But i am pretty sure that it is a very safe place for tourists. I am from Korca and i saw you had been there during your time in Albania. I don’t know if you ever heard of the “beer festival” but last summer there were about 20,000 people who visited Korca during those days. Maybe one day you will be able to check it out.
        Best regards and thanks again. This world definitely needs more people like you!

        1. Hi Dor! Funny enough, I am reading this from a cafe in Tirana, where I’ve just returned to Albania after 3 years away – so happy to be back. I’m so glad you enjoyed my article. I loved Korca but didn’t have the chance to go the beer festival – I did get a chance to see the one in Shkodër, though, and it was quite a bit of fun. Maybe I will return to Korca during the beer festival one day 🙂 Thanks again for your kind comment!

  3. Oh this neverending growing bucket list, damnit. Thank you for this absolutely wonderful post! I adore your writing and view on things, really. Keep up the good work! Great to see, what fellow eager bloggers achieve in just a one week’s challenge <3

    1. I feel the same about that bucket list — the more I read, the more I want to go everywhere! Thank you so much for your incredibly kind comment and encouragement. I’m off to give your Epic 100 in NZ list a read now — I’m going to be there for two months starting next June!

  4. I am from Albania and I moved to USA 2 years ago. I’m glad that people like you bring out the best of Albania because it really is a beautiful place( not trying to be biased)
    This got me homesick. Thank you for this beautiful post.

    1. Thank you Irina for your lovely comment. It is a stunning place, full of natural beauty. I get why people move to the USA for more opportunity (many of my Albanian coworkers in NY have done the same), but it is truly a beautiful place to be from and you’re right to be proud of it 🙂 I hope you get to go back and visit soon <3

  5. Thank you to everyone who is not in dilema anymore about our safety nature culture and all oportunities . No because is our country but the summer in Albania is much better than the majority of places in Europe outside Spain. Once you come here you all understand what we are talking about. 🙂

    1. I definitely felt very safe the entire time I was in Albania – I think fears are about two decades behind the times 😛 And yes, I actually think the beaches in Albania are way better than the beaches in mainland Spain (haven’t been to any of the Spanish islands, which I’m sure are incredible). Glad you enjoyed the article!

  6. Thankyou Allison for seeing (and writting) the best of my country. It is funny to read the way other people see the things, you probably not like. I am very happy that you had a good time (and Food) in Albania (even without seeing Valbona and Theth)
    Hope you come again soon during Summer time so you can enjoy swimming on the great beaches of Drymades, Gjipe, Dhermi, Livadh, Jala. After doing this, you will write some other 75 reasons
    Thankyou again for this amazing article,
    Huge hug (I am albanian, I dont need to know you to do that )

    1. Hi Frida, I really hope to come again soon in the summer and enjoy all the beautiful beaches you named. Gjipe especially is one of the best beaches I’ve ever been to. And also to finally succeed in seeing Valbona and Theth! So glad you enjoyed the article and thank you for the virtual hug 😉 Sending one back!

  7. Great read! You wrote about a lot and it seems you have seen a lot of places, but there is still so much more to see! If you haven’t been to Kruja, you must. Also, if you go to Lezha, they have this huge sand dune at their beach, it is called Rana e Hedhun. Amazing scenery from there too. Elbasan also being a nice city to visit with their interesting castle in the middle of the city. Anyways, how did you like the music, newer and traditional music if you heard any?

    1. I absolutely agree with you that there’s so much to see! I would love to see Kruja, Lezha, and Elbasan – my Albanian friends did recommend these all to me but even with three weeks in the country I didn’t get a chance to see these all 🙁 On the plus side, that means I need to return! The sand dune at Rana e Hedhun sounds amazing and now it’s jumped to the top of my list for a return trip 🙂 Thanks for all the suggestions, they are duly noted!!

      As for the music – the newer music was fun and really catchy! When I was there “Shake it” and “Like Rihanna” were really big (don’t know if those are their actual titles or just the catchy parts). I heard the traditional music on the buses as well, and I thought it was quite nice – it actually reminded me a lot of Turkish traditional music, which I suppose would make sense given the Ottoman occupation? Do you have any music recommendations for me?

      Thank you again for your comment!

      1. Yes, Rana e Hedhun is actually amazing, I wish I could post a picture I took to show you! And yes, Alban Skënderaj is one of the best Albanian artists in my opinion and you can definitely search him on YouTube. I’m sure you would enjoy his music, especially if you love actual singing in songs. And a few traditional songs that is most popularly known are Shota and Valle Kosovare. I’m sure you’ll like both those too. And actually, yes “Shake It” and “Like Rihanna” are the actual names.

        1. Email it to me! allison at I will definitely check out Alban Skënderaj and those traditional songs you recommended – I’m sure they’re better than the silly pop stuff on the radio and TV 🙂

      2. For really unique “jazz albanian” try song “i dehun” from Zig zag Orchestra….you will love it. i did show this bad and kind of music to my american friends from Neshwille ad they loved it. Thanks for the post.

  8. So pleased you enjoyed your stay in my country and of doing a much better job at describing it than I could have ever done, perhaps because guests notice things that we take for granted and indeed at times fail to appreciate.

    So here’s another grateful Albanian wishing to thank you, and since I read in one of your other posts that you are thinking of going to Cyprus, and I happen to have been posted here, feel free to email me if you fancy a free pic-up from the airport or any other help whilst over here.

    On the downside, you would have to settle for a boring car rather than a “furgon”.

    Best of luck and keep enjoying your travels!

    1. I definitely agree with you – it’s much easier to describe a place as a guest. I used to live in NYC and when people ask me what it’s like living there, it’s so hard to give them a good answer… I mostly go with “sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad” — not super informative or interesting haha.

      Thank you so much for your kind offer regarding Cyprus! My travel plans don’t have me going there soon, but that’s always subject to change 🙂 If I’m ever planning on going to Cyprus I’ll get in touch – even if it means settling for a boring car ride (as long as it’s a vintage Mercedes :P)

      Thanks for your well wishes and taking the time to comment!

  9. Spot on summary, whether socially or geographically.

    I feel bad you did not get the chance to see Theth, Valbona, the forest is breathtaking.

    A few tips, info and trivia i’d like to share for any traveler.

    Do not get fooled by the “Accursed Mountains”, they are called so due to their high inaccessibility, the place is completely safe, if you manage to spot any small village, you’ll most probably be treated with a meal :).

    Mount Tomorr is incredible as well, with ancient tales (all friendly ones) and stunning form, it has been even reported to help people with various illnesses such as asthma.

    Sea wise, head for the Ionian, which is the southern part of Albania. The “Karaburun Peninsula” (known as The Finger, just in front of Vlora, next to Sazan Island) is a newly opened up from the military zone with untouched beaches, although only accessible through long walks or expensive boat trips.

    Any beach that resides next to a mountain has unprecedented water quality, that is all due to the washed down Calcium. The beaches are deep right after 10m distance, are slightly more salty and barely have creatures. This ensures for perfect visibility, so good that your own shadow may scare you. Not to forget, the pebble beaches are very hygienic, and lovely for back problems.

    Top Beaches: All the ones in the Karaburun Peninsula, Sazan Island*, Gjipe
    Very good ones: Dhermi, Palasa, Drimadh, Borsh, Bunec, Kakome
    Very good ones but more family oriented: Ksamil, Qeparo.

    None of the above locations are big cities, so houses around should be cheap to rent.

    All Brown Traffic signs indicate historical sights, and there are quite a lot of them.

    If you are camping, although there are camp sites, nobody will bother you whether you camp in near forests or even on the beach, not even the police.
    There are no animal dangers, the Balkans fauna is very peaceful, and i bet you wont even encounter any.

    People wise, as the article says, every 3rd can speak a second language, every 5th is fluid at it. Helping is part of our culture so don’t hesitate to ask if you need it.

    1. I’m glad you agree with my summary! It’s quite a challenge to capture a place like Albania in so many words so it’s an honor to hear I did it justice. Thank you so much for all the additional information. It’s my big regret that I didn’t get to see the Accursed Mountains. I did get to see parts of the Dinaric Alps in Montenegro and Kosovo and they were truly stunning; I can only imagine how beautiful they are near Valbona and Theth. And thanks for all your wonderful beach recommendations. I went to Gjipe beach and it was truly stunning. Ksamil was lovely but as you say quite family oriented and very crowded. I had never heard of the Karaburun peninsula or Sazan island before so those have moved right up to the top of my must-see list! You are right that the visibility is stunning and the seas are lovely and salty – it’s so calm and easy to float, perfect for a lazy swimmer like me. Aah, what I wouldn’t give for a sunny summer day in Albania right now!

  10. Complimenti Allison. Bellissimo articolo. I am Italian thath says he has known for many years Albania, and that having a tour operator fatigue a lot to make it known and to bring tourists in this beautiful country. I do everything conferences in Italy, internet, news letter, fairs ect. also tourists … Brava continua così and if you come in Durres, I offer you a coffee.
    Ciao Alberto.

    1. Grazie mille per i tuoi complimenti 🙂 I’m glad you enjoyed the article. I went to Italy right after Albania, and many Italians I met hadn’t even been to Albania, which I think is funny because the countries are so close. Even my Airbnb host in Brindisi hasn’t been, and the ferry to Vlora is right there! Thank you for your offer for a coffee – I hope to come back to Albania one day soon to take you up on it! Ciao!

  11. I have been to Albania before and this post just brings back so many lovely memories. I hope the country gets more tourist so they can develop their tourism infrastructure.

  12. I really appreciate your writing and can’t thank you enough. Being an Albanian makes me proud that you enjoyed your stay and took the initiative to write about it. We as Albanians have never been into writing and although our language is one of the oldest it’s been always a spoken language. To the point that my granny is 92 and can’t read or write. My aunt is in her late 60s and can’t read or write. So again thank you for your post and I am glad you enjoyed your stay and hope you do come back to experience the rural Albania. It’s in the rural Albania that you get to see the real tradition, besa, the most kindness and a taste of dishes with ingredients taken straight from the garden.

    1. Interesting point about reading and writing… I didn’t know that! I definitely plan to return to Albania soon and I’m hoping to get more off the beaten path and visit rural Albania, it seems absolutely magical. And thanks for posting that awesome video! So nice to now the science behind what gave me all those rough mornings 😛

      1. well im albanian and i didnt know that either. my grands are 70+ and they know how to write 😛 i mean, thats normal.

  13. wow, 75 is a lot. But so much needed especially for us Albanians. We are often blinded by the negativity of media so we forget where we live and what we have. We love Albania too though, as you rightly say, we are patriotic, and sometimes nationalists – but we often get mad at each other and especially to those who lead/serve. We often get mad at ourselves too but that’s a longer story :D. Rrofsh! Faleminderit!

  14. Wow!!! Now i get why foreigners love Albania! You made me have another understanding of my country love it in its best and in its worst! I am very glad you enjoyed it but even more promoting it, in the best way possible. It happens to me as I have a consider number of international friend who think yet Albania is in its1997′, civil war, unsafety… We need more people like you, out true ambassadors all over the world. You and every one is more than welcomed in our Albania!

    1. Thank you so much for your kind comment Greta, I’m really glad you enjoyed reading and feel that I was able to represent your beautiful country fairly and accurately. It really is a special place in this world, I can truly say I’ve never been anywhere else like it and I’ve traveled to 38 countries so far 🙂 I hope to come back next year and write more!

  15. GREAT POST ALLISON! Can’t believe that for only 3 weeks you have captured the spirit of Albania so nicely. BIG WOW! And you are right. You are not considered an Albanian if you don’t drink raki ( alcohol).
    I agree with you about the beaches. I have been in Croatia, Montenegro and I genuinely think our beaches are way better, even though we do have our problems with rubbish and illegal buildings. I wish you could have seen communism Albanian beaches. They were a real heaven on earth,super clean, toilets, showers, not a single building, pure nature. I had the privilege to go on most of those beaches at those timing, but we never thought we had to appreciate them. Now when I see them I feel like crying. The magic has gone, human greed is too much for nature to survive.
    As for the beaches,Memli and Xhuliano are right. For the moment Karaburun and Sazan Island are yet the untouched beaches. Fingers crossed they stay that way longer. As for the North of Albania, Shengjin area at Rana e Hedhun is just the best for me at the moment. Small little bays with curative sand for children and family and crystal clear waters due to the proximity of the stony mountain covered in dense pine forest. I still have one or two secret beaches under my sleeve which only us locals know, but I think I’ll keep it to myself.
    As for the mountains I can assure you wherever you go,you’ll see majestic views, even though some of the most beautiful parts are known only on local terms.
    Albania may have many flaws but is never boring. PERFECT IS BORING.
    About safety I feel much safer in Albania than in London where I live. When I was in Rome someone tried to snatch my bag in the middle of the city, but nobody say that Rome is dangerous.
    Thanks Allison for promoting my country, even though my selfish side sometimes makes me happy that tourists stay away from it due to our bad reputation.


    I’m glad tourists stay

    o t

    1. Thanks so much for your sweet comment Liljana! I’m so happy that you think I was able to capture the spirit well 🙂 I’m really hoping to come back next summer… I’m inspired by your comment and everyone else who has commented with great suggestions on what else to see. I’ve raved about it so much to my aunt and uncle that they may even join me too! I can’t say I blame you for keeping some of the best secrets to yourself. Unchecked tourism can be devastating, especially on developing economies. It’s hard because I want to see the country succeed and tourism dollars can really help, but I also don’t want it to change too much. I absolutely agree that I felt much safer in Albania than in many Western cities. The way people perceive risk and travel is really odd to me… but hey, maybe it keeps the boring travelers out.

    2. Anyone that has good sense of life admire Albania! Why do you think numerous foreigners do harbour here buying properties? But times are going to change soon, as everybody wants to be here at least once. Once they taste albanian honey, they ll do land in horryfying idea of modernisation. No! Let Albanians do their job step by step, any rush like in Saranda will only demolish the beauty of this land!

  16. Hello Allison!
    A big thank you for taking your time responding to our comments.
    Last time I touched the button by mistake and the message got sent without finishing my comment,but I have to finish it now.
    Allison for the way you have been writing about Albania with an open mind , I would make a recommendation to all Albanians in Albania to give you PERMANENTLY FREE HOLIDAYS whenever you come to my country. YOU DESERVE IT..
    I wish you all the best in your travels and in your daily life.!!!
    Take care
    Liljana xox

    1. Of course! It’s the least I can do to thank people who take the time out of their day to read my writing and have something to say 🙂 And hey, I certainly won’t say no to permanently free holidays in Albania 😉 Sounds like a dream come true!

      Thanks for all the well wishes, I wish you all the same!! <3

  17. I try not to take my travel advie from Liam Neson. I’m crazy I know. Great photos of Albania. Can’t wait until I’m back in that part of the world

    1. Totally crazy, I usually make him approve all my itineraries first ;D

      I can’t wait either! As soon as winter blows over, I’m hoping to head back to Eastern Europe and that part of the world again <3

  18. Allison you have an incredible post about this lovely country! Never though it was stunning as you described it! I read every single point you mentioned here! I am nature lovers and my passion is History, so I focused my attention to some of those points you wrote above!! Like you said Albania has been ignored for long time but I am sure they are making everything possible to becoming quickly a hot travel destination!
    Just one note, I am absolutely disagree to your point n°3! I have been in Greece, Spain and along Adriatic Sea, my home is Sardinia, take a look some pics on google 😀 thanks for sharing, great post and have a wonderful Christimas

    1. Thank you so much, I’m so glad you liked the post and even happier that it kept your interest all the way through! I too love nature and history, which is why I feel so compelled to go back to Albania.. there’s so much I missed even in 3 weeks there. I am actually planning to return next year 🙂

      Fair enough – in all honestly, I’ve never been to Sardinia (which is huge on my travel wishlist!) or the islands of Spain, so I’m comparing to my experiences in mainland coastal Italy/Spain and Corfu. Albania beat them out for me – but now I have to go visit Sardinia just to investigate for myself 😀 y’know, for research purposes.

  19. So informative! I had no idea about the cuisine, safety, beaches, and well most of these! I knew it was pretty inexpensive and close to Italy, but that was the extent of my Albanian travel knowledge.

  20. I really enjoyed this post and have recently watched a documentary with Eliza Dushku exploring her routes in Albania and it sparked my interest to visit, but your post as confirmed that I want to visit there, it so beautiful. I loved the passion you have written this with and your photo’s are fab as well.

    1. Ooh I will have to look into this documentary! I had heard she was Albanian but I didn’t know she had done a documentary about it. Amazing, thanks so much for the heads up 🙂 I hope you get a chance to visit soon!

  21. Super useful for planning our spring/summer holiday to Albania – thank you! How long would you say we ideally need to spend in Albania to get a good enough taste of coast/mountains/cities? (Bearing in mind we can’t take too long off work but want to do it “properly”!)


    1. Hi Lucy! I think that you probably need a minimum of one week. I would spend 2-3 days in Saranda or Himara, then take a bus to Tirana for 2 days (6 hours from Himara), then take a bus to Berat (3 hours) or Lake Komani (not sure exactly on the time, but I would guess 3-4 hours?), also for 2 days. I’d minimize time in Tirana in favor of time other places, though, to be totally honest – it’s interesting to be sure, and I happily spent 4 days there, but if you’re pressed for time I think there are far more beautiful things to do and see in Albania 😀 You’ll have to figure out bus times once you arrive as there’s no online or central bus system. Hope that helps!

      1. 5 months later….we’re off on Monday for 2 weeks! Taking your advice but doing it backwards – flying into Pristina and then doing Valbona, Lake Komani, Shkodra, Berat, and down to Himara, with a couple of days in Tirana before we fly home. So excited! I really can’t tell you how many times I’ve come back to this page to reread your blog over the past 5 months so thank you!!!! Now just fingers crossed for the weather…;)

        1. You have no idea how happy this comment made me!! That sounds like a perfect schedule, you will see all the best of Albania this way! I’m glad this has been a great resource for you and hope Albania lives up to your expectations (though I’m sure it will!) Keeping my fingers crossed for good weather for you as well, especially once you get down to Himara — those beaches are INSANE! Enjoy your trip <3

  22. Firstly as an Albanian i want to say that It is one of the best posts that i have read about my country. It is a pleasure for us when we read and hear such nice words for our country.

    Secondly as i read you have been around only for three weeks. What i like is that you have lived , seen , touched and felt it all the time …I want you to beliave that you have learn a lot (but you still got to learn )

    To end it I have to much to say but I thing you have to much to discover
    P.s one of rules never take the first or the last cigarette from somebody who has the packet..
    2) when the packet is in the table
    you don’t ask to take cigarette , just take them If you wanna smoke. but not the first or the last.

    1. Oh, it warms my heart to hear that! I’m so glad that you feel I was able to understand your country well after only three weeks. I definitely intend to visit again next summer – in fact, I talked about Albania so much my aunt and uncle want to join. I’ll keep the cigarette rules in mind (I’m actually not much a smoker but something about being in the Balkans brings it out of me). Thanks for the lesson!!

  23. I am so glad I found this site. I am now planning to go to Albania to visit the homeland of my father. I’ve wanted to go for my entire life! Now, I plan to take my 11 year old son, and my husband to discover my heritage. I can’t wait. Beautiful post. I wish my father could see what it is like today.

    1. Oh you will love it so much Donika! It’s a beautiful country and your special connection to it will only make your experience all the more special. I wish he could have seen it too – the country seems to be looking forward 🙂

  24. Hi Allison, great article. My wife and I are planning a trip there at the end of May/early June and we were wondering about renting a car from Sarande to Tirana. What are your thoughts? We plan on driving the coast for 4 days and then heading up to Tirana and Theth (at this point we would return the car). Any tips would be greatly appreciated.

    1. Oh you will love it! I think you have a good plan! Renting a car is definitely a great way to experience the Albanian coast and gives you more freedom. The road from Saranda to Tirana is in good condition, though often narrow and windy. Albanian drivers are a bit… speedy shall we say 😛 so you do have to take caution when driving. It’s good to return the car in Tirana and take public transit to Theth as the roads there are not so good, I’ve heard. I wouldn’t miss Lake Komani if you can help it! You can take a minibus from Shkodra (another city worth seeing) to Koman, take the ferry across the lake, and then go to Valbona and hike to Theth from there. But I don’t know how much time you have 🙂

  25. God what a surprising description of my country! it looks like you have been raised in Albania. I enjoyed it a lot and sometimes laughed because it was so vivid and realistic! I am proud of being an Albanian!

    1. Aw Mirel that is so good to hear and I’m really honored that in my short time visiting I was able to paint such a vivid picture 🙂 I’m glad you enjoyed and laughed a bit!

  26. Thank you so much Allison! This is beautiful! You expresses everything I feel home and so eloquently, you made my day! This is a great help also :D, I will fw this to my friends bcs I don’t this I can give a better introduction to my country. Thank you!

    1. Thank you so much Lucia! It’s really great to hear you think I’ve managed to capture your country properly 🙂 I’m glad you enjoyed reading and thanks so much for sharing!

  27. I suggest u open a travel agency. I like to be a critic but in what read I can’t. You might think you are good well no hell nooo cause you in fact are brilliant. Everything u said Is accurate. This is what I call a real tourist journalist.

  28. The last twenty minutes that I’ve been reading this article has been simply magical. I’m a Bangladeshi in love with an Albanian, and I can surely say that this vividly describes her! . In fact, this article has made me realize that I have become quite patriotic towards Albania because of the love of my life.

    Thank you so much for the wonderful post!

    1. Ishfer, that is such a high compliment – I am so glad you enjoyed the article and feel like I was able to describe someone I’ve never even met. I’m really flattered 🙂 Albania is such a lovely country, I hope you get a chance to visit soon and experience ‘besa’ for yourself 🙂

  29. Allison you wrote this article like you were an Albanian. I am really proud to hear such good words for my country and the people of my country.
    Reading these sentences from an American means a lot to us.
    I hope years later you will come back and see how much we have changed.
    Thank you!

  30. This was refreshing to read. It brought back so many childhood memories. Thank you for the beautiful pictures and detailed summary of your sightseeings..

    I am from Lezha and Rana e Hedhun is a “must see”. When you go back to Albania, let me know. My parents still live there and they would love to host you (if they aren’t traveling themselves as they are now retired). Big hugs!

    1. Hi Klorida! Thanks so much for your kind comment and the invite! Now I’m kicking myself for never visiting Lezha and Rana e Hedun! I will definitely let you know when I go back to Albania, hopefully it will be soon… fingers crossed for this summer 🙂 Will let you know when I return!

  31. Actually, the communists built the country from nothing… I’d like to say from the destruction of 2 WWs, but there wasn’t much to be destroyed after Albania broke from the Ottoman Empire little more than a century ago, and a period when the ancestors of these so called democrats turned it into a colony of Italy.

    Before the 90′, 1 $ was worth 7 Lek, and a few years later it was worth 140 Lek, which means that the economy of Albania shrank 20 times, with about 95% of infrastructure looted and destroyed, hydro centrals being among the few things that were spared.

    Even today, 27 years later, Albania is several times poorer than what it was before the 90′. If Italy and Greece would expel all Albanian emigrants, without their remittances and with 1 million extra mouths to feed, some good part of Albanians literally would have to die of starvation, and this, despite the money from illegal drugs and tourism, that before the 90′ didn’t exist.

    1. I’m sorry you feel so negatively about what’s happening in Albania. I didn’t get this sense from anyone I spoke to there, nor from any of my Albanian friends living in the U.S. While there are certainly economic problems, I don’t feel the situation is quite as dire as you paint it, and I believe there’s good reason to be hopeful for the country’s future. But thanks for contributing your two cents and taking the time to leave a comment here.

    2. So wonderful of you Gerti to speak of your country in such a way. I have to say, little information you have about Albania.
      Maybe you like to throw dirt instead of speaking the truth and reality.
      I am an emigrant for 19 years and I can tell you one thing, Albania has developed way faster than any other ex-communist countries in Europe. Before 1949 Albania had a good economy. Communism did a great damage on the country and got it to be 3rd world country, and can’t expect that in 27 years to be like Other European countries which have decades of democracy. The poverty that was left by communism was so deep that people had to survive by any means possible. With poverty come crimes and other illegalities. But Albania managed to get out of it quite fast. Because it’s not in Albanians to destroy their own kind and country.
      Every time I returned in Albania a saw a big progress. Corruption and illegalities exist in every country, in some are more obvious in others less. The past 10 years it has been very safe in Albania and people live in harmony.
      Albanians are very loyal and very kind hearted, they love tourists and treat them the best. In summer times a lot of Albanians return home for vacation and it’s just a wonderful atmosphere where everybody is so happy to get together from different parts of the world and reminiscing of their wonderful, joyful, poor but most happy times of their childhood and youth. At the end money is not everything for Albanians, but family, relatives, old friends and new friends are definitely very important to an Albanian.
      Gerti I hope soon you see it in a different view and you are proud of Albania just like 99.99% of Albanians are.

      1. Thanks for weighing in. Your opinion is closer to the impression I got from most Albanians. I understand life is still hard for many people, and poverty is hard to get out of, but I generally got the feeling that most people think life is improving and feel proud to share their country with visitors. I’ve never felt more welcome in any country than in Albania, personally.

    3. I don’t know what you want to achieve with this comment Gerti. If you are waiting for Enver Hoxha (the communist dictator) to get up from the grave and make you work in the field, just for a piece of bread like our grandparents have done, it is a bit late. The communists built the country from nothing, using ‘voluntary’ work. Get up and work for free every weekend in building a new railway station for the COUNTRY. 😉 I did not live in that time, but I have heard enough to understand that dictatorship is not the answer. I don’t know how much was worth 1$ at that time, all I know is that my dad had to work 2 months to buy a normal watch in 1979. He can buy a lot of watches with the wage of 1 month now (same profession- teacher). If you don’t know how to make the maths, I will tell you the result: before ’90 people were more poor. Ah and maybe Dictator did something very good: not letting people learn any foreign languages. People like you, wouldn’t have been able to comment and spit venom for their country. I wish you all the best and good luck. Be more positive and positive things will find their way to you. Gezuar!

  32. Beautiful post! I’ve been to Albania and it is truly wonderful! All your 75 points reminded me of how unique it is compared to the mainstream European destinations. Thank you for supporting an underestimated vacation spot!

    1. It really is a special destination, isn’t it? There is really no place like it in all of Europe, or all the world really. I’m so glad you enjoyed the read and that it brought back lovely memories!

      1. Its Amazing the way how you described everything with so much caution and so honesty! I am so Glad you enjoyed my beautiful place and so happy you shared it with us! You Rock Girl! Xoxo

  33. Thank you for this great article!! I have a trip to Albania planned in August – well, just booked the flights, nothing else planned yet. Reading this got me even more excited! 🙂

    1. Oh you will absolutely love it – August is a perfect time to go, in fact, that’s where I was in August last year 🙂 Be sure to make it to the beaches of the Albanian Riviera, and read some of the comments in this section from Albanians who popped in with some extra tips for awesome beaches I’ve never been to!

  34. Dear Alison,

    Thanks for your thoroughly and beautifully written blog on Albania, i totally enjoyed reading it. i live in the UK and my family goes to Albania every year for summer holiday. To me, Albania is Europe’s hidden treasure, one would love the raw, peaceful, friendly and back in time nature of Albania. The Albanian people’s hospitality and respect for foreigners and friends are something i have never seen. I treasure that place, for it is somewhere your inner pace can be reached and life can go back to simplicity again.


    1. Hi Yan, thanks so much for your thoughtful comment and for reading it all the way through – no small feat considering how long it is! That’s amazing that your family goes back every year. I was hoping to go back this summer but it looks like I have too many other commitments to make it there this year, but I may try to shuffle things around to at least get a week back in Albania… It definitely is Europe’s hidden treasure, and I agree with you so much about the people… Dang, now I really really want to go back!

  35. Amazing post! So much info and positivity! I’m going to Albania in September as a solo female traveler. Very much looking forward to experience it all!

    1. Oh you will love it!! It’s one of the places I’ve felt safest as a solo female traveler anywhere in the world. You’ll absolutely love it, I’m so excited for you!

  36. Hi

    I stayed in North Corfu, woke up in the morning and after seeing those mountains of Albania I knew I had to visit. It was only a day trip but what an amazing place! The day will stay with me!


  37. Hello! This post couldn’t be written any better!
    Reading through this post reminds me of my old room mate!
    He always kept chatting about this. I will forward this page to him.
    Fairly certain he will have a good read. Thank you for sharing!

  38. This is a great list — thanks so much! We read it as we headed down through Albania in July, as the rest of the coastal Balkans were getting way more expensive. I loved it there, too! Just in case you’re ever back in Berat, I loved Hostel Mangalem. It was more like a guesthouse than a hostel — Bertie and his mom Kalliope were totally lovely. She kept slipping us little extra things — sour plum juice, or a bit of her secret stash of homemade cherry jam — and it was nice to be the recipients of a little mom-fussing after so long on the road. I’d totally recommend it.

    1. Stories like this are exactly why Albania is one of my favorite countries in the world! I definitely hope to go back to Berat because it was cold when I went, so I didn’t get to see the Bogove Waterfalls 🙁 I’ll definitely add Hostel Mangalem to my list for when I return, thanks so much for the tip 😀 I love that kind of treatment when on the road. Reminds me of one of my casa owners in Cuba. Homemade muffins, rum cocktails, knocking on our door every 30 minutes to check on us…. so sweet.

  39. My girlfriend and I are want to go to Albania, Croatia, and Slovenia on our next trip to Europe. I’m researching Albania and I’m really looking forward to visiting! This article really paints a beautiful picture of Albania. I can’t wait to visit.

    1. Oh, I hope you have so much fun! That sounds like an amazing trip – you should visit Montenegro too as it’s just down the coast between Albania and Croatia. I haven’t spent much time in Croatia or been to Slovenia yet, those are two places I’m really hoping to visit in the future 🙂

  40. What an awesome post 🙂 I traveled to Albania this summer and absolutely loved it – but you have me wanting to return for the beaches (didn’t get to visit). Love all your pictures too 🙂

    1. Thank you, and I’m so glad you loved Albania as much as I did! Such a shame you didn’t get to see the beaches, I’m wanting to return too because I didn’t get to see the mountains (storms came in just as I was planning to leave for my Valbona-Theth trek!). Hopefully next year I’ll be back 🙂

  41. Technically, #64 is only partially good advice. Schengen area allows you to stay 90 days in a 180-day rolling window. You can’t do visa runs like for some other countries. If you travel outside of Schengen zone, it only buys you as many “additional” days as you stay out of it, it doesn’t reset the counter. Just mentioning this so people don’t get in trouble by overstaying 🙂

    1. Hi Harry. Thanks for commenting. Yes, I knew this (been in Schengen exile many a time, and currently am now!) but I don’t think I made it clear in the post… I think I assumed the reader knew the 180-day window policy. I just edited the post to reflect that. Thanks 🙂

    1. Thanks Iman! Unfortunately, I think it would be quite hard. The infrastructure is improving but still not great, so things like sidewalks and roads are not well paved. I think if someone in the family had a car it would be doable, but if you are relying on public transit it would be quite difficult.

      1. I see…thanks Allison…I guess if we ever decide to go there with a wheelchair we’d just stay in one location and enjoy it 🙂 or wait a couple years for things to be better

  42. Wow!
    I just finished to read all the 75 reasons to visit Albania (my country) and I hade a big smile on my face for all the time 🙂
    The way you describe everything with such a positivity by being realistic at the same time is precious! I loved it 🙂

    Great jobb Allison!

    1. I printed this article of yours tonight and gave to an American couple, friends of mine and told them: She is not biased 🙂

  43. Thanks SO much for this review! I’m considering Albania only because it’s near Greece, where I plan to travel, and I want to try someplace new. You’ve convinced me to give Albania a go.

    1. Nancy I’m so glad you say that! I chose Albania because of its proximity to Greece as well, and let me tell you – it’s soooo worth it. Shoot me an email if you need any help planning your itinerary — allison at eternalarrival dot com

  44. These reasons are more than enough to convince me that I should add Albania to my bucket list, Allison! Albania seems like an excellent travel destination which I can explore without breaking the bank!

  45. What a great review. You have convinced my wife and I to travel from Canada to Greece and on to Albania.
    Thanks again

  46. I have had the good luck [and hard work] to live in 5 countries and to visit another 35 countries. I cannot get to Albania but I will do my best to help my son who is 23 to do volunteer work in Albania next year. Illya spent a year in the Borneo jungle in 2015 and 6 months in south Portugal last year. teaching the Bible. Your blog report is fantastic and many thanks for it. I always wanted to see Northern Albania ever since the Awake magazine had an article on it and the beauty of the photos was breathtaking. BTW my favorite country was where my Ukraine wife had our honeymoon …Slovenia. Put it on your bucket list. :o)
    From down under Tim

    1. Hi Tim, that’s amazing! I hope your son loves his volunteer experience there, it sounds like he has had some amazing experiences already. Slovenia is definitely on my bucket list! I hope I can make it there this year. Thank you for your comment.

  47. Alban Skenderaj is my cousin lol not a fan of traditional albanian music but i do like his stuff, great melody to it.

  48. I am an Albanian and although I’ve left the country 27 years ago, my heart was always there. I read and appreciated every word of your blog. I thank you not only for visiting and seeing the outer beauty of Albania but for also understanding the Albanian. I was always deeply in love with my country but you make me fall for it all over again. Thank you

    1. Thank you so much Eda, that means so much to me to hear that. It is a beautiful country that’s suffered a lot but the ingenuity and kindness of the people ensure that it will always come back stronger. I’ve never felt more community than in Albania and that’s why even in just 4 weeks I felt I was able to understand it as well as I did. Thank you for your comment!

  49. What a wonderfull post. Reading this I get to know my country better, from another point of view, things that for us might look perfectly normal, look so funny when read here.
    It feels really good when tourists like our country and the people. Thank you very much for including it in your blog.

    1. It’s so interesting to read someone’s perspective from outside the country! I’ve read a few non-American perspectives on the U.S. and it is always so different than I see it. But I also learn a lot from it. And yes, a lot in Albania does seem strange to an outsider, but the people are so welcoming that you can’t help but go along with it 🙂

  50. This was a very enlightening blog, thank you Allison!
    I have only just re-visited early in February, which was also just a week, slightly too short. Really want to go to the south as I have heard it is beautiful!
    Thank you for all your tips, which will definitely help for my next trip.
    I spent 8 months in Lezha in 1999 and whn I visited in February there was so much change!
    I would encourage anyone to visit this amazing country!
    I hope your next trip goes well, I look forward to reading your next instalment of Albania.

    1. Hi Clive, thanks for your kind comment! The south of Albania is really beautiful and very different from the north. Both are stunning. I can imagine the change between 1999 and 2018… whoa! I bet that was a really interesting time to visit 🙂 I’ve been meaning to visit Lezha — it’s on the list for my next visit!

  51. Having been able to spend two 6-month stints there, I’m still certainly no expert, but your views, descriptions, and explanations of this beautiful country are spot on from what we experienced! I’d go back in a heart-beat! I, too, regret not having taken the trek through the Alps from Thethi to Valbona, but at least we were able to visit both spots. So beautiful! Next time… There’s certainly a big part of me that would hate to see the country develop too much further and become more westernized, as a big part of it’s appeal is the “old country” feel and attitude. But, I’m sure so many would disagree with that – particularly those who live there! Anyway, thanks so much for such a great article!

    1. Wow, two 6-month stints, you’re probably more of an expert than I am 🙂 I’d also go back in a heartbeat and hope to soon. I understand what you’re saying, but I think Albania is such a unique country that even as it modernizes, the kindness of the people and the welcoming attitude will remain. At least, I hope! Thanks for your kind comment.

  52. I just came across this article, although its published a year ago. I am really happy to read all these words about my country, from a person that has traveled a lot and knows what being a tourist means. I am impressed how many things you have learnt from Albania in such a short period. I am also impressed the way you write and explain things, exactly as they are. As you mentioned in your article, I am also concerned how Albania will change when becoming more touristic place, but I also want the world to see the beauty of it, hear about our history and enjoy our beaches/alps. Another characteristic of our culture is being grateful. So, thank you Allison and keep up with the good work!

    1. Thank you Ortenca, I’m really glad you enjoyed reading this, and I take your kind words to heart 🙂 I hope that Albania’s tourism will grow but not develop too quickly. Better to progress at a pace that is sustainable, that keeps the nature as beautiful as it is, while improving the economy over time. Too much tourism too fast can be dangerous. So, I am hoping Albania can make the transition in a way that benefits everyone. But I have a lot of faith in the young people of the country 🙂

    2. Hi Ortenca,

      Sometimes the least thing you want to hear is about an army of foreigners invading your beautiful country! That’s really what happened to my country, Costa Rica and it is the inevitable fate of beautiful places, especially in this very globablized world we live in, so, I just embrace the changes, after all, I am a traveler myself. I hope to be in Albania this summer, June. I came across this blog looking for information about how to approach it and how to move around. I still do not know what my plans are exactly, but looking forward to being there!

      1. This is true — but I think Albania is a long, long way from becoming Costa Rica. I think Croatia is already the “Costa Rica of the Balkans” if I can make a strange statement :P. I think travelers tend to pick one place in a region as being the primary tourism hub, such as Costa Rica in Central America, and even the countries surrounding it don’t get spoiled quite as much from tourism. Having spent 5 weeks in Nicaragua I definitely found it to have a more healthy relationship between tourists and locals, although the garbage situation in Nicaragua is pretty bad — Costa Rica is definitely leading the game there. Anyway, really thoughtful points you bring up. I can’t wait for you to enjoy Albania! If I can be of any help, feel free to e-mail me.

  53. I agree with most of what you have written, but Albanian is certainly not a language isolate. It is its own branch of the Indo-European language family tree. Greek is also its own branch, as is Armenian. Actual language isolates (such as Basque) are different in that they have no “genetic” relationship to another language. Albanian, on the other hand, clearly has shared ancestry with Romance languages, Germanic languages, Slavic languages, Armenian, etc. It has just been developing on its own track for quite a while now. In addition, because of intense trade and cultural contact with speakers of other Balkan languages (like Turkish, Greek, regional Slavic and Romance languages…) it also shares a lot of features that have spread amongst the languages in the region.

    As for the origins of Albanian and its connection to Illyrian, from an unbiased historical linguistic perspective there’s really not enough evidence to say if they are related closely. Ideologically, many Albanian speakers align themselves with the Illyrians byt the linguistic evidence is shaky, to say the least.

  54. Hard to explain to any body.
    Going there again after 20 years.
    I’ve got the advantage to speak the language…
    Albania takes you; you don’t take Albania….;

  55. Besa…..
    basicly means promise…
    Whatrever is promissed, an Albanian is in debt with you if not forfilled the promise….
    Which mean: promise is promise, nomather what!!

  56. As a photographer, going again with a collegue and a very good hobby photographer.
    A Pic sais more than 1000 words…..
    I leave for Just 6 days on the 9th of may.
    Will copy the pics and / the www link.
    Kruje, lezh, tirane, vlore, llogara, dhermi, berat, pogradec.
    Gezuar, per shendet.

  57. Hi Allison,
    My family of four (kids aged 4 and 2) will be spending 30 days on the Camino del Norte, 10 days in San Sebastian, Spain, and 11 days in Crete. We will then have 3 weeks before heading back home to Doha, We would like to minimize travel time and expenses, spend time in a village on a beach and in a village in the mountains. We are quite active, and want a good home base to come back to every day. What do you think about this plan?
    -7-10 days in Shkoder/Valbone/Theth
    -7-10 days in Himare
    Questions- do we need to rent a car? WIll the beaches/mountains be accessible enough with public transport, keeping in mind that we have young children? Would you recommend other small towns/villages?

    1. Hi Joe! That sounds like an excellent plan. I actually didn’t make it to Valbona or Theth but if you want mountains, I’d pick one of those two — Shkoder is lovely but it is most definitely a city and not mountainous. I would say you don’t need to rent a car for Valbona or Theth if you just want to hike and hang out in the mountains. But to experience the beaches of the Albanian Riviera around Himara, I’d definitely recommend renting a car. The only way to realistically get around that area is hitchhiking or catching one of the very few, very unpredictable daily buses 🙂

  58. Allison,
    Thanks a lot for shedding light into a country which for the most of foreigners who has not been there, have strong prejudices (thanks to some certain Albanian people living abroad).
    I haven’t kept track how many times I have printed your article or have spread around as a link to foreign colleagues and friends.
    For celebrating the 105th Anniversary of Albanian Independence, I invited an American, a German and a British couple for dinner in a restaurant (in UK). I said them: You do not have to pay… All I ask you is: Read the article while the meal will be served 🙂
    Right now I am sending the link to a Finnish colleague and I am printing it again to give it to a Turkish colleague who wants to visit Albania too.

    BTW: You have done a lot more than Albanian Embassies around the world and you have done better than the Ministry of Tourism in Albanian Government.

    ps. American colleague “accused” you: She is being biased 🙂

    1. Hi Miri, thanks so much for your lovely comment, it really means a lot to me!! I’m so glad you’ve shared it with your friends and feel like it’s a good resource to introduce people to Albania. I had such a fantastic time in the country and need to go back. Hard to believe it’s almost been two years since I was last there. As for bias, it’s hard not be biased positively towards a country that treated you so warmly when you visited 🙂 Anyway, thank you again!

  59. Thank you so much for this extensive description, yes you are the best travel guide on Albania so far!! Who wouldn’t go after reading your post!! I am (thanks to you) planning to go this summer (but still have to book everything) with husband and 3 children 11, 10 and 3. I hope we will not suffer too much from the heat end of July…
    I will let you know how it went. So exiting!

    1. Glad you found it useful!! That’s so great to hear it was helpful for you in planning a trip. I think July is a great time to go. I would stay more on the coast (Saranda, Himara, Dhermi, etc.) and in the mountains (Theth, Valbona) to beat the heat. Tirana, Berat, and Gjirokastra will be kind of miserable during those times of year, I’d think. I went in September and Tirana was still boiling!

      1. Hello Allison,
        Thank you for your tips. Is there any off beat place you would recommend between Himara and Saranda to stay with the kids a couple of days? I think I want to avoid what they call the Riviera, I’m a bit worried of big beach crowds! Also the further south we go, the longer the trip back to Tirana airport…
        Thank you, Laetitia

        1. Well, Saranda is very far south, about as far south as it goes, so maybe you mean somewhere between Tirana and Himara? There are lots of small towns between those two cities, such as Dhermi, and then you can take smaller trips to quieter beaches at places like Porto Palermo, Gjipe, etc. The whole coast is called the “Riviera” but it is all pretty offbeat. Lezhe / Shengjin may be a good option, but it’s north of Tirana, so not on the way if you head towards Saranda, but if you just want beach + proximity to Tirana airport that may be an option. I haven’t been but heard good things.

          1. Thank you so much for your reply, basically I will be travelling with friends who will be travelling from Shkoder all the way down to Ksamil and then back up to Tirana via Gjirokaster within 10 days. As I think this will be too much for my kids I wanted to stop somewhere on the coast. Probably somewhere near Borsh. But I find it difficult to organize accommodation. Any site you would recommend except airbnb and booking 😉
            I did not know the riviera was the whole coast, I thought it was between Saranda and Ksamil!! Thanks for your help so far 🙂

          2. No problem, I think then in that case maybe you could try the Karaburun peninsula, which I haven’t been too personally but is between Dhermi and Vlora. Borsh is a great choice also though, quieter than many other places along the Riviera (which I think is between Saranda and Vlora, roughly, but I’m not certain either!)

  60. Wow. So much! I am planning on going for about 10 days beginning June 20th or so. I live in Bangkok, but will be based in Munich by then. I am breaking my head about how to approach Albania. Should I fly into Tirana first and then out from the coast into Italy? or the other way around or should I book a round trip from Munich to Tirana and do what I can in 10 days or so? I can stay longer or shorter, but finding it really hard to decide what to do. I love the mountains and the countryside, the history and the coast, so Albania seems awesome from all angles to me! If you can give me advice, I surely will appreciate it!

    1. That’s awesome, 10 days is great! So, I’d say that flying into Tirana, possibly visiting either Berat or Valbona/Theth if you’re super into hiking, then going down south to the Riviera is a great idea and possible in 10 days or so if you keep a good pace. I’d either exit via ferry from Vlora –> Brindisi, Italy or Durres –> Bari, Italy, or you could also go all the way down south to Saranda (there’s a great ruins there, Butrint, and it’s near the Blue Eye and Gjirokastra). From Saranda you can easily go to Corfu. I’d check out what the cheapest way to get back to Munich is but really, any of those ways should work and it’ll be high season so I’m sure everything should be running 🙂

  61. Hi Allison,

    Awesome blog. It has me super excited for my visit to Albania which is starting this Monday! I’m Australian and have been doing a trip of the Balkans. I’m thinking about hiring a car in Tirana and driving down to Saranda and exploring places along the way. I plan on getting the ferry to Corfu and then flying back to London from there.

    I’ve read a lot of really negative things about driving in Albania. I’ll be travelling by myself and while I have driven on that side of the road a few times, it’s not an everyday habit.

    Do you think it’s worth doing? or should I just take the bus down and do some day excursions?


    1. Hi Britt, great to hear you’re planning a trip! I think that hiring a car is an excellent way to do it, and that’s definitely a logical route. Honestly, I don’t think the driving in Albania is that bad anymore, a lot of what people are comparing it to is the 90s, etc. when everyone suddenly got cars after not being able to drive during communism and suddenly overtaking the roads and driving like maniacs. Albanian drivers are still a little reckless but I don’t think it’s that bad (and certainly not as bad as Georgia where I am now — good god the drivers here are insane). I took a lot of buses and minibuses during my time in Albania and always felt safe.

      That said, the road from Tirana to Saranda is full of twists and turns. Drivers do tend to drive fast, so be careful on any blind turns, as cars aren’t always great with the lanes… Basically, if you’re used to driving in foreign countries and feel equipped to handle hilly, coastal roads with some slightly reckless drivers, you’ll be fine in Albania. If it’s your first time driving in a foreign country, it may not be the best bet. I didn’t drive and instead I hitchhiked around and that was fine… but I understand that for other people, they’d think that was more dangerous! Ultimately only you can make the call 🙂

  62. In Albania right now, not a good place for kids or people with mobility issues. Ensure you have good medical coverage and tetanus shots. Article is good, and people extremely helpful and friendly. Streets and sidewalks in coast towns broken disrepair manhole covers missing watch your step. Very few unique shops, very few shops.
    Great boat tours in private sector. Nothing wheelcgair excessiible. Glad I experienced, would I go again? Maybe in ten years.

    1. Thanks for sharing your opinion. I agree on Albania not being great for mobility issues and super young kids (although obviously, people have kids in Albania and do just fine, but I wouldn’t exactly plan a family trip there…) But for me, the friendliness of the people, the natural beauty, and history made up for the quirks. To each their own!

    2. The roads now are even better. Totally no problem if you drive yourself or alone. One place any tourist should never drive is….Napoli, Italy. Besides Afghanistan and maybe some places in India, Naples city in Italy is insane but of course beautiful.
      Nothing compares to visiting Albania! ❤️

      1. Great to hear that things are improving 🙂 In my 4 weeks in Albania in 2016 I felt like the road quality was pretty good everywhere and the only place the road was truly bad was exactly because they were repairing it and re-paving it. Never been to Napoli but having just driven in Italy I will take your word for it! Balkan drivers are a bit crazy to be sure (I live in Bulgaria) but if you drive carefully and defensively, I don’t think there’s any reason not to drive in the Balkans, plus it gives you so much freedom.

  63. Hi Allison,
    My family and I (husband, two daughters 21, and 18 are planning our trip to Albania from June 12-June 26. We will be visiting a child in Duress through world vision after flying into Tirana. We then plan on renting a car and driving to Berat, Girokaster, Sarande, Dhermi, Vlore, and then back to Tirana. Any advice or more information that you could give us would be appreciated.


    1. Hi Liz, that’s great to hear. I have articles on my site about the Albanian Riviera, the area around Saranda (articles on Ksamil + The Blue Eye), as well as a general post on things to do in Albania. Just check out for my full archives. If you have a specific question I can help you with, though, please let me know!

  64. A great post! Me as albanian have learnd a lot from the post too! 🙂
    If someone need an appartament in Saranda can contact me in Messenger/ FB Ledi Bella..

  65. Not a lot of people write about Albania. I’m quite intrigued, it looks interesting. Would love to visit soon.

  66. FIrstly thanks for visiting Albania and then writing and article for the country secondly i think you should visit Albania again because it has changed(once more)and this time i think you should visit Vlora i saw that you did not mention it a lot and is the third biggest city in Albania and the second most important after Tirana also it is the tourism center of Albania i suggest visiting Vlora because well its my city (Albanias also take pride of their cities and villages) and because it has everything it has a lot of tourists but it has some great places and beaches with no tourism also it has history it is the most ancient city in Albania and it has ruins from that time also it has modern infrastructure and its vibrant there you can really see the history of Albania it was the dominant city in Albania for centuries and it was its first capital there you can see old buildings new scyscrapers ancient ruins communist buildings italian buildings(such as the townhall) also there it will be build the second international airport wich fisrtly it will make Albania easier to visit ans secondly it will make Albania the cheapest country in the Balkans but i want to thank you again for writing an article about my country

    1. Thanks! I did visit Vlora very briefly since I stopped there before taking the ferry to Italy. That’s awesome that it will eventually have an airport – that will make future trips to the Riviera so much easier 😀

  67. I like your post but despair of so many people inserting their political views into every situation. If I follow you it will be because you give information on traveling. I don’t need (or want) to hear you OPINIONS on policital issues. You are young so I’ll give you a break. But please listen to my motherly advice.

    1. If you want a vapid travel blog without opinions, feel free to follow any number of the generic blogs out there who just regurgitate information available on Wikipedia, without learning anything on their travels except how to take a pretty selfie. I’ll keep on doing what I’m doing, providing free travel advice through my perspective and making a living doing so. So, take your condescending motherly advice back to Gilead and go ahead and unfollow.

  68. Hello Allison,

    I am an Albanian from Berat and I just want to thank you for this wonderful article. The way you have gathered such information about my country is amazing. Next time you visit Berat, you have a friend here and I don’t know if you have tried “Vienez” before but it will send you to the heavens for a dinner with Zeus LoL.

    Thanks again.

    1. Hi Favio, thanks for your kind comment! I’m glad you enjoyed the post. I’ve never tried Vienez before but I’ll have to keep an eye out for it on my next trip to Albania… thanks for the tip! Take care!

  69. Headed to Albania at the end of this week! I’m starting in Saranda and making my way up the coast, then I will head to Berat and finish in Tirana. Then it’s off to Kotor, Montenegro!

  70. Can’t argue with all the other comments. Great post. Rarely happens that a ‘so many reasons to visit…’ article actually has good information throughout. Putting Albania on the agenda!

    1. Thank you Thijn! I tried to make the article both inspiring to people who are considering going, and informational for those who are already convinced! Hope you get a chance to visit soon. It’s a beautiful country.

  71. I’ve never thought about Albania as a touristic place, but I’ve explored Croatia and Slovenia, and many friends are heading there for cheap holidays with nice feedback.
    Your photos are amazing and tell the true faces of the country.

    1. Thanks Toti! I think after visiting Croatia and Slovenia, you will be pleasantly surprised by Albania. It is definitely not as developed as either of its two neighbors to the north, but its proud culture, friendly people, and affordable prices more than make up for any “hiccups” along the way 🙂

  72. I enjoyed reading all of this, Allison. I was in Albania for 2 weeks this July and enjoyed the country immensely. Even after 2 weeks, there is much more to see and do, and so I am looking forward to a return, maybe for an extended stay. My highlights were Pogradec/Lake Ohrid and a 7-hour hike from Valbona to Theth, which I was happy that I could accomplish at age 57. Tirana was also pleasant and surprisingly interesting.

    1. I’m so glad to hear you enjoyed Albania. Agreed that 2 weeks is not quite enough to see it all – it’s a country that really begs for more time. Lake Ohrid is beautiful and I really wanted to do that Valbona to Theth hike but the weather beat me to it twice! Loved Tirana as well. Thanks for reading!

  73. I just wanted to say something regarding the food it is not true that we got tzatziki, gyros, and Greek salad from the Greek minority because there is a very small one in the south and we had the tzatziki from long time ago but we use another name for it we just call it Salce Kosi ( it means yogurt sauce) and had been for a long time part of our cuisine for centuries together with the cheese that Greeks call feta. The same is valid for the salad. Gyros are a new thing in our country that had arrived after 1991 when a lot of Albanians emigrated in Greece and some of them learned how to prepare them and we got the first fastfods that prepare them. The salad and the Yogurt sauce it is something that we all prepare at home from generations and gyros is something that we it sometimes in the fastfoods.

  74. I LOVED this post about my country Albania. This is so true and I feel so bad most of foreigners think of Albania as a country controlled by mafia or with huge rates of street crime, or even think Albania as a third world country with no progress. I see that this blog post is written a few years ago. I ASSURE you, everything has changed for the better in Albania. In the past 2 years it has gone like 20-years-forward. Us in Albania would love if you visited again, and for every one hoping to visit Albania anytime soon, we organize personalized and group tours around, 1-day or more, cultural, adventure and city tours. Check us on Instagram @why_not_albania for more and ask us about anything on IG or [email protected]

    1. Hi Enea, I’m so glad you enjoyed the post. I’m sure so much has changed, it was clearly transitioning towards the better when I went. and now that I live not so far away (Bulgaria) I’ll be sure to visit Albania next summer if I can make the time. It’s been too long!

  75. Who are you referring to when you say “WE” don’t like him either? Who is the either? You could have done one iota of research to find out why Albanians like Bush and Clinton instead of being disrepectful. It’s nice to be appreciated for our peace efforts and as a veteran of the Kosovo conflict, I found your comments to be insensitive and ignorant. Don’t use “WE” because it’s simply not true. Your political commentary ruins otherwise good articles and framed you as the dumb American traveller you are trying hard not to be.

    1. We being…. Americans. As in me. As in my country. As in, you know, the people who when polled after George Bush exited office, gave him a 33% approval rating. I’m going to say that 67% of the people who don’t like him merit a general “we.”

      Further, I said “even we don’t like him.” Don’t know where you’re getting the ‘either,’ or why you’re getting your panties in such a twist about a word that I didn’t even say? Spending quite a bit of time traveling Albania and Kosovo and now living in the Balkans (Sofia), I know quite well that Albanians and Kosovars both like GWB and Clinton for the military and diplomatic support the US lent them over the years. I’m not trying to say they don’t or shouldn’t like Bush. I don’t really care if that they do. It is literally just a joke because Americans generally don’t like GWB. As for Albanians/Kosovars, they can like or dislike or put statues up of whoever they want. Not my place to judge, just making a… joke, which seems to have been lost on you.

      On a general note, I think it’s bullshit when people tell me not to share my political beliefs or make jokes on a website that I run… independently… to give travelers free advice and entertainment. Frankly, I don’t give a shit about your political beliefs and you shouldn’t give a shit about mine. If one offhand joke in a post of 7,000 words full of travel advice ruins my articles, feel free to fuck right off and read a stripped down generic post elsewhere (or if opinions bother you, try an actual news article or an encyclopedia, and not a blog… whose entire purpose is to be SUBJECTIVE). I won’t miss your pageview. Have a blessed day, signed – a dumb American traveler.

  76. Thank you for this article! Just booked return flights from Manchester to Corfu with my bf this August and deciding how long to spend in Albania out of the 2 weeks… Sounds fab from your description, just not sure how well I’ll take to it after a lifetime of visiting countries really geared up for tourism! Danielle

    1. Oh that sounds great! I’d do about a week in Corfu and a week in Albania. To be honest, if you stick to the coast, you’ll find it’s actually pretty well suited for tourism. I’d spend ~3 days in Ksamil or Saranda and ~4 days in Himara, Vlora, or some other town further up on the Albanian Riviera, and I’d rent a car for that portion of the trip if possible (it’s not really necessary for the time in Saranda/Ksamil as public transit is frequent and taxis affordable as well).

  77. Fab, thanks so much for the help. I’m sure I’ll have more questions closer to the time, you’re pretty much the only blog out there on Albania! Are there any places you recommend staying in those places that you haven’t already mentioned? Thank you

    1. Sure, happy to answer questions as they arise! I know very well how it can be trying to find information on Albania 😛 I personally followed the Balkan Backpackers route ( when staying in Albania and just hopped from hostel to hostel on their route since I was solo, but if you are traveling with your boyfriend I’d opt for staying in a hotel or rental apartment as it’s really cheap and offers way more privacy 🙂

  78. This was absolutely brilliant! I have an opportunity to live in Saranda for 3-4 months and this really tugged on my heartstrings. Malta was my first big change from the US and it was such a humbling experience. I currently live in Charleston, SC and feel the need to experience more in life. I felt this blog was very similar to my time in Malta and I loved every moment there. I’d be moving to Saranda around August and would potentially want to ask you more question if I pull the trigger. Thank you so much for this article!

    1. I would definitely take up that opportunity! Saranda is wonderful and 3 months there would be a dream. It is a little similar culturally to Malta I think so I think you’d love it. It is definitely a big change from the US, but one worth taking I think! Let me know if you have more questions 🙂 I haven’t been back to Albania since 2016 but hopefully going back sometime this year!

  79. Hey. I read this post on Albania, it is really great for learning about the country itself. I am planning to go myself. I’m going there in the end of May. Could you please maybe give some advice on what to bring home as a souvenir? Never have been there so it would be nice to maybe know something. And do they accept euros there or their national money?
    Thank you already!

  80. Hi Alison,

    Your article touched me. It is the first time I read such a honest and passionate review of my country.
    Thank you very much, and who knows, maybe meet you in Korca 🙂
    Regards, Paula

  81. There’s a company in Albania taking blogger’s content and publishing it on their website, your post is one of them. 🙁 Unfortunately a few dozen affected

    1. Hi Stan, thanks for your message. I filed a DMCA takedown request; hopefully others will as well and they will be taken off the internet (I removed the URL from your comment so as not to give them any traffic). Thanks for letting me know!

  82. I love your independent spirit and was enjoying this article, intending to read the entire article on Albania until you scoffed at both Bush and Trump….I’m not a huge fan of either but we don’t need Americans dissing our presidents who are honored in a foreign country. I can put politics aside, and I definitely do when I travel, but I just don’t appreciate the unnecessary jabs.

    1. Frankly, this is my travel blog and my business which I run, where I provide honest and opinionated travel information for free. If you want to read sanitized, opinion-free, politics-free travel guides, buy a guidebook. I’m not going to censor my thoughts because someone may get offended that I think Trump and Bush are trash. Because I do.

      1. Great article!! I am planning on visiting Albania for 3 weeks in August. Just wondering if you would recommend renting a car and driving or doing buses and hitchhiking? I’m traveling as a solo woman so would hitchhiking be safe?

        1. Hitchhiking in Albania is relatively safe but there are always risks. I’d suggest only hitchhiking with a travel buddy, I’ve never done it solo. If you can rent a car, I would 🙂

  83. Great article and indeed very detailed. Next time visit Gjipe bay in Ionian coast of Albania and it will truly be magic. The crystal water and the beautiful rocky beach has a beauty beyond words. Of course, you will make a beautiful article about it 🙂
    Best Regards

  84. Thank you, Allison!
    Was able to pick up a few things here that I’ll definitely visit!
    Went to Albania this past September with my wife (who is from Albania). Spent a couple weeks traveling the country as ‘natives.’
    As this was my first trip, I was very apprehensive. After we arrived, it took NO TIME to feel comfortable, safe, and I genuinely felt that people were happy I was there (very different feeling, compared to trips to other European countries in the past).
    I was blown away on a daily basis. The country is absolutely beautiful! The people are warm, friendly, and extremely helpful. Also, our American dollars went a LONG way (couldn’t believe how inexpensive things were).
    I’m currently planning a trip back next September (this time for a month). If our next trip is as wonderful and amazing as it was this year, I will definitely consider purchasing a condo in Tirana and do the ‘snow bird’ thing (we live in SW Florida), spending spring/summer in Albania, and Fall/Winter in Florida.
    Words cannot do this country justice. My biggest fear is that one day, after more people see what I have, so many tourists (like myself) will fill the country, making it overcrowded. BUT, if that’s my only worry, I’m in GREAT shape!

    1. That’s so wonderful to hear! I came back from my second trip to Albania a few monthes ago and feel the same. Luckily I think the overcrowding is a long way to come, and if it ever does, I expect it’ll be limited to a few places on the Riviera and Tirana and not take over the entire country. I’m so curious to see how it changes in years to come!

  85. Albania was never on my bucket list but you have motivated me to add it there. Very nicely covered with such natural pictures.

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