Eternal Arrival
Albanian riviera gjipe
Albania

Inside the Little-Known Beaches of the Albanian Riviera

Note: This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure page for more details.

The Albanian Riviera very well may be the most underrated summer vacation spot in Europe. From its cheap, delicious seafood to its friendly locals and stunning beaches, I was wondering: why the hell had no one told me about how amazing Albanian beaches are?

I almost don’t want to spoil the secret of the Albanian Riviera and just how amazing it is… but I can’t keep these beaches in Albania to myself. Albania is a country which has so much potential for tourism, yet people seem to be blinded either by ignorance or by stereotypes from enjoying just how beautiful the country is.

I visited two years ago and was blown away by how spacious and beautiful the beaches were, even in peak summer season. But who knows how long things will remain this way? Tourism by Albania’s seaside is growing quickly – go now, before everyone else does and turns it into another Croatia or Montenegro.

Picking Your Home Base on the Albanian Riviera

You have quite a few choices when it comes to deciding where to stay on the Albanian Riviera, depending on your budget, comfort level, and the number of amenities you want around you.

For me, Himarë (Himara) is the Goldilocks home base: not too big, not too small, not too basic, not too flashy. This is where I based myself during my time in the Albanian Riviera and I found it perfect.

Love the Albanian Riviera

A virtually private beach near Himara

If you want a little more upscale, try Dhërmi, which is as close to luxury as you’ll find in Albania (though I can safely say you won’t find any 5-star resorts here). For more bare bones accommodation, try the tiny village of Vuno. If you really want to really rough it, you can camp on the beach in Himara, Gjipe, Livadhi, and I’m sure at plenty of other amazing Albanian beaches right along the Albanian Riviera. Wild camping is permitted in much of Albania, and there are several “hostels” that provide tents and campground amenities for a cheap price, so you have a lot of options.

Saranda is another popular place due to its proximity to Ksamil beach, but honestly – I think Saranda’s a bit overrated, and I much prefer the Albanian beaches an hour north or so. You can also go up north to the area around Vlora beach, but in my opinion, the best parts are in the stretch between Himara and Dhermi.

Albanian riviera gjipe

Gjipe Beach: Blissfully free of cruise ships and fanny packs… for now

Himara

This sleepy little seaside town is my top pick for a base when visiting the Albanian Riviera.

It has it all: central location, a fantastic hostel, and delicious food. I’m talking the best pork gyro I’ve had in my life, which is not a crown I bestow lightly, right next to the best gelato I’ve had outside of Italy, where you can get a scoop for a mere 50 lek (about 35 cents).

The beach in Himara proper can be a bit crowded (for Albania) but for the convenience to beauty ratio, it does the trip. If you walk along towards the south end of the beach, it gets less and less crowded and you can find a secret beach – but more on that later. All in all, Himara is one of the best places to visit on Albania’s coastline.

Where to Stay in Himara

For a hotel, I recommend Margarita Guesthouse (9.2 rating on Booking.com): Comfortable rooms, breakfast included, excellent hospitality, and stunning sea views – this would be my top choice for where to stay in Himara, and it’s quite affordable as well.

For an apartment, I recommend Ionian View (9.1 rating on Booking.com): Affordable apartments with kitchenettes, balconies and terraces overloooking the sea, and an on-site bar, plus rave revies for the host. Affordable prices.

For a hostel, I stayed at and highly recommend Himara Downtown hostel (8.8 rating on Hostelworld): Amazing and super kind staff, great outdoor garden and socializing area, a combination of private and shared rooms, and excellent free breakfast every morning.

Himara, one of my favorite Albanian beaches

Himara from above – not too shabby.

Vuno

If you really want to get off the beaten path, check out even sleepier Vuno. This village is nestled in the hills, so there’s no easy beach walk, but you’re close to some great choices, with Jale Beach and Gjipe Beach on each side of you.

Where to Stay in Vuno

There’s just one hostel here, and it comes highly recommended by Tomi from SR Backpackers, the great hostel I stayed at in Saranda. However, I didn’t stay at it so I can’t speak for it personally. It’s called Shkolla Vuno (8.7 rating on HostelWorld) and is located in a former school building.

Dhermi

I chose not to stay near Dhermi beach because I heard from locals that it’s a little more upscale and expensive than the rest of the Albanian Riviera.

However, like I said above, “upscale” is relative. Don’t expect crazy luxury to be available; however, you will find plenty of nice restaurants and shops, and you’ll have more choices when it comes to accommodations.

Where to Stay in Dhermi

For a hotel, choose Royal Blue Hotel (8.8 rating on Booking.com). Right in front of the beach, next to amazing restaurants and has a great in-house seafood restaurant, sea views, and great staff are the reasons this is one of the most-loved properties in Dhermi.

There are no hostels to my knowledge in Dhermi, but Villa Blue Drimadhes (8.5 rating on Booking.com) is the best budget offer. If you’re backpacking in the Albanian Riviera, I’d recommend staying at one of the hostels in Himara or Vuno instead.

The Top Must-Visit Albanian Beaches

Gjipe Beach

The hike is worth it with views like this!

The hike is worth it with views like this!

This is easily one of my favorite beaches of all time, let alone of Albania. However, it doesn’t come easily. It’s a 3-kilometer hike down to the beach, and it’s worth every bead of sweat.

The views going down the hills make the perfectly lukewarm water that much sweeter. Once you arrive there, the water is crystal clear – you can see what seems like 30 feet to the bottom. There’s an awesome network of caves you can explore too, if you swim to your left if you are facing the beach. I’m not a great swimmer and am terrified of getting stuck in a cave in the water… but my friends were really enjoying this.

You can also camp on the beach if you want. They provide the tents and mattress pads. Friends who did the camping spoke highly about it, so an overnight here is a must-do when I return to this beautiful part of the world. Just be aware that you’ll have to bring all your stuff up and back the giant hill, which can be really rough in the heat. I’d recommend avoiding mid-day if you choose to do this hike with all your stuff!

Himara Beach

Would you do it?

A ride in a flying death trap can be yours for only 50 euros!

This is not only a great home base but also just an all-around great beach. The main beach near the town center can get a bit crowded, but walk even just 15 minutes to the south end of the beach and you’ll have it almost all to yourself.

If you’re a daredevil with 50 euros burning a hole in your pocket, you can pay a guy to fly you in a boat/plane contraption all along the coast of the Albanian Riviera. It’s just as odd as it sounds, and I’d be curious if any brave souls have taken the journey! I took a pass.

Livadhi Beach

Besides the main beach in Himara, this is the closest one to town (except for the hidden beach of Himara, which I’ve saved for the end!). You can get there by foot, which takes about 30-4o minutes, depending on how fast you walk and how often you stop for photos.

It’s popular with locals, so it can be a bit crowded in the peak season, but it’s still one of my favorite beaches in the Albanian Riviera. There are beach bars, restaurants, and lounge chairs and umbrellas for rent, so it’s one of the best-equipped beaches. It also has a camping grounds if you’d like to stay overnight here. If you prefer a more hotel-style option for accommodations on Livadhi beach, Scala Bungalows has excellent reviews and low prices.

Jala Beach

By Micimitro [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

This beach is sometimes called “Glass Beach” for its crystal clear waters. Next after Livadhi, this is one of the closest beaches to Himara, and as such, it’s often a bit crowded. Though, again, this is Albania and crowded is relative! Even the most crowded Albanian beach (Ksamil) doesn’t come close to the crowdedness you’ll find in Croatia or Montenegro.

Jala Beach is also a common camping spot, with a campground you can rent a tent and foam mattress pad from. However, don’t expect a peaceful night’s sleep if you choose to camp here; it’s common to have people playing music, dancing, and chatting into the night.

By Pero Kvrzica  [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

While the party scene at night may not be what you’re after, Jale Beach is a great place to watch the sunset — just look at that sky!

Porto Palermo

By Pasztilla aka Attila Terbócs [CC BY-SA 4.0], from Wikimedia Commons

If you want a side of castle with your beach, you’ve got to check out Porto Palermo. Located just a few kilometers south of Himara, this castle dates back to the times of Venetian rule in Albania, and was refurbished during the 19th century. During the communist regime, the fort served as a submarine base.

Now, its semi-abandoned state makes it a tourist curiosity, and its proximity to Himara make it a common day trip for travelers staying in Himara proper.

By Krzysztof Dudzik [CC BY-SA 3.0], from Wikimedia Commons

It’s located on the bay of Porto Palermo, which has crystal clear waters the likes of which you’ll find all over the Albanian Riviera. Don’t be surprised if you share your beach with some curious goats, either – they tend to run around in these parts.

Borsh

By Decius [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Just a bit further south of Himara, Borsh is one of Albania’s best-loved beaches, partly for the fact that you can enjoy a castle and a beach in the same day (similar to Porto Palermo).

Borsh Castle is also known as Sopot Castle and used to be an acropolis in the Byzantine era and has been reconstructed several times. The subsequent Ottoman conquest added a mosque to the fortifications, which is the most visible feature of the castle now.

By Decius [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Hidden beach of Himara

This beach doesn’t appear on any map, nor do I know its actual name, but it’s my favorite of all the great places on the Albanian coast. Getting here is not easy, which is why it’s so amazing. You have two options, one smart one and one stupid one. I’ll let you guess which one I did.

If you want to go by foot (the stupid way), walk to the southern edge of Himara beach and climb the hill. When you get to the restaurant gates, turn left off the dubious “path” edged with prickly bushes until you reach a rope to help you get down. This is not necessarily safe, nor do I have any better directions than this, so do so at your own risk.

The smart way: hire a boat for about 2000-2500 lek roundtrip ($15-20). All the boats were busy so, undeterred, I did the former. I managed it and I have the hand-eye coordination of a drunk toddler; your comfort level may vary.

To get to this....

To get to this….

 

You're gonna have to do this.

You’re gonna have to do this.

Getting Around the Albanian Riviera

This is Albania, a country that’s changing so quickly that anything I write is virtually outdated by the time I put a period on a sentence. Take my recommendations as a mere frame of reference, and confirm with your Albanian hosts once you’re here.

You won’t get far in Albania unless you’re willing to ask questions. People make a big deal about how difficult the transit here is; in my three weeks in the country, I found it really quite easy given that I was willing to ask for help. Luckily, Albanians love to help outsiders.

If you’re staying in Himara and you want to head north to Jala, Gjipe, Livadhi, or Dhërmi, you can hop on the coastal bus headed towards Vlora or Tirana, which leaves around 11 or 11:30. Again, ask any Albanian because this will have likely changed. A bus in the reverse direction tends to go by around 6; again, ask to confirm. If you want to go south, you’ll have to seek out a bus headed towards Saranda.

Buses will pick you up anywhere along the way, even if you’re just on the side of the highway, so don’t worry about trying to find bus stops. As long as you’re on the right road that they pass (which, considering there’s only really one road that constitutes the Albanian Riviera, is pretty easy) and you wave them down, you’ll get picked up.

The easiest way to get around would definitely be renting a car. I found the horror stories about the quality of Albanian roads to be overblown. The coastal road is well-paved and well-maintained, and while there are plenty of twists and turns, I think it would be fine for any confident driver. However, the rumor about Albanian drivers being a bit maniacal is pretty true. So if you choose to rent a car, make sure you’re properly insured and drive carefully, especially around turns.

If you don’t have a car rental and want to get to and from the best beaches in Albania, I recommend hitchhiking. It’s quite safe, extremely easy, and incredibly common. Albanians are really friendly and hospitable people, and even if they don’t speak much English, most will be more than happy to drop you off at your destination.

In my time hitching in the Albanian Riviera, I never waited more than five minutes for a ride. I was always traveling with someone from my hostel, which gave me an added sense of security. First-time hitchhiker? Check out these great hitchhiking tips from an experienced solo female hitchhiker.

So there you have it! Visit the Albanian beaches before the crowds and cruise ships do!

The Albanian Riviera isn't widely known, but that'll change soon enough. A quick hop from the Greek island of Corfu, travel to Albania and be rewarded with turquoise waters, budget friendly food, and amazing culture. A gem in the Balkans!

Note: This post contains affiliate links. That means that if you purchase something using one of these links, I will receive a small commission at no added cost to you. 

 

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30 Comments

  • Reply
    Anne Slater-Brooks
    October 11, 2016 at 8:30 pm

    This looks fabulous. May have to change my plans for our trip next year and include some of these destinations.

    • Reply
      Allison Green
      October 11, 2016 at 9:05 pm

      I would highly recommend it! I visited the coast of Montenegro and it was totally swarmed with tourists. Logic only says that Albania will be next… Go soon before it changes too much!

  • Reply
    Ryan Biddulph
    October 11, 2016 at 8:58 pm

    Hi Allison,

    Stunning! We have Albania on our travel list. Never knew it had a Riviera and hell yeah it’s an undiscovered gem! Amazing. We planned to stop by Albania after a recent trip to Cyprus and Turkey but cut our travels short. Headed back to the US to see the fam. And we landed a cool house sit in the city too, which was neat. Thanks for sharing the eye-popping photos 🙂

    Ryan

    • Reply
      Allison Green
      October 14, 2016 at 1:57 pm

      Hey Ryan! Cyprus and Turkey don’t sound too bad either! I’d love to see both (I’ve only ever been to Istanbul, which I loved, but there’s way more to Turkey than just Istanbul I’m sure). I hope you get to make it to Albania soon, hopefully next summer so you can enjoy the gorgeous beaches! Glad you liked the photos! Thanks for dropping by 🙂
      Allison

  • Reply
    Christina from Happy to Wander
    December 14, 2016 at 2:45 am

    I’ve had a few people tell me how underrated Albania is but this post really sold it for me. How unbelievably gorgeous! Looks similar to Croatia but I’m sure much less crowded and touristy. That photo of Himara from above is pure magic.

    • Reply
      Allison Green
      December 14, 2016 at 3:01 am

      It really is underrated! Honestly, I went to Dubrovnik on a day trip from Bosnia, and the crowds were enough to put me off Croatia for a little bit… I think I’ll go back sometime in the off season or when it’s a bit passé!

  • Reply
    Nadine Rohner
    December 14, 2016 at 3:54 am

    wow I didn’t know albania had such nice beaches! looks very good and I am sorry you got sunburned. I love your pictures

    • Reply
      Allison Green
      December 14, 2016 at 5:23 am

      The beaches there are beautiful! Unfortunately getting sunburned is just part of the deal of being a melanin-challenged lady like myself. Still have the tanlines from that burn, though! haha

  • Reply
    Stacey
    December 14, 2016 at 12:35 pm

    Those beaches look amazing. I have a friend who’s from Albania and her pics are stunning. It’s always sparked my curiosity, clearly I need to go visit!

    • Reply
      Allison Green
      December 14, 2016 at 1:06 pm

      You should! Be sure to ask her for advice — locals give you the best tips!!

  • Reply
    Iza Abao, Two Monkeys Travel Group Writer
    December 14, 2016 at 12:51 pm

    I am impressed by your photos. I would love to go here someday. The beaches do not look crowded which I like very much. I have been to Caribbean countries beaches but they were crowded. I like the food pic too. It looks so fresh and delicious.

    • Reply
      Allison Green
      December 14, 2016 at 1:05 pm

      Yeah, I’m a bit of a beach grouch… I hate it when there are too many people on the beach!! Nice deserted beaches like these are right up my alley <3

  • Reply
    Natalie
    December 14, 2016 at 2:12 pm

    What a beautiful place!!! So sorry about your sunburn. I never leave home – even day to day, without slathering in my favorite. A sunburn can really ruin the fun for travelers, especially kiddos. Adding Albania to the bucket list! We also love the sunscreen materials for shirts and rash guard stuff for swimming.

    • Reply
      Allison Green
      December 14, 2016 at 9:51 pm

      Thanks! You know, I try to be good about sunscreen, but I’m really bad about remembering to reapply after I go into the water. Although this sunburn is 100% to blame on the “sunscreen” as I reapplied it constantly! I’ll have to look into sunscreen materials for shirts… that sounds really useful!

      I hope you enjoy Albania when you go!! Just remember to bring your own sunscreen ;D

  • Reply
    neha
    December 14, 2016 at 3:55 pm

    Your photos, particularly of the beach are stunning. I would love to visit here right away. The sand looks soft and the water such perfect blue

    • Reply
      Allison Green
      December 14, 2016 at 9:44 pm

      Actually the “sand” is made of pebbles and rocks, so it’s not exactly that soft, but that’s exactly why the water is so turquoise blue and gorgeous. In my book it’s a good trade off since I actually hate getting all sandy!

  • Reply
    Meg Cale
    December 14, 2016 at 5:25 pm

    The water looks so beautiful! That blue is pretty stunning. I haven’t been to Albania yet but it’s definitely on my wish list.

    • Reply
      Allison Green
      December 14, 2016 at 9:43 pm

      The water was so incredible at every beach we went to — hope you can go there soon! Albania is one of my favorite countries I’ve ever been to <3

  • Reply
    The Travel Ninjas
    December 15, 2016 at 4:09 am

    These Albanian beaches are so attractive. Are some more rocky? Are beach loungers needed or is the sand soft enough to lay on?

    • Reply
      Allison Green
      December 15, 2016 at 4:19 am

      Yes, they’re all rocky. They’re fine to lounge on with a towel but most beaches have beach loungers for rent for cheap (about $3 a day)

  • Reply
    Diana - MVMT Blog
    December 15, 2016 at 4:38 pm

    Albania is at the top of my bucket list! And it’s no wonder because I just keep hearing about these great places there. Himara sounds lovely – I’d love to stay there. Thanks for the tip that the hostel there’s only open in the summer. Hopefully these areas stay relatively remote and void of tourists at least until I get a chance to visit 🙂

    • Reply
      Allison Green
      December 15, 2016 at 9:40 pm

      I would go soon! I think in 3-4 years time it’ll be as crowded as Montenegro (which I found really jam-packed this summer!) Glad you enjoyed the read!

  • Reply
    Rachel
    September 16, 2017 at 9:32 am

    Great, informative post 🙂 Do you know what campsite it was that provided the tents and mattress pads?

    • Reply
      Allison Green
      September 16, 2017 at 5:09 pm

      Hi Rachel! As far as I know, there’s only one campsite on Gjipe beach, and you can’t miss it. No name that I could find, but don’t think you’d need to book ahead.

  • Reply
    Suzanne Eynon
    October 10, 2017 at 3:27 pm

    Hi Allison, I came across your blog when doing a bit of research on our current trip around Albania and the riveria where we are now. Whilst the landscape is underniably beautiful, if anyone is considering visiting here I think some honesty is required about the level of fly-tipping and rubbish that is EVERYWHERE which people will have very different comfort levels about.

    • Reply
      Allison Green
      October 11, 2017 at 12:31 pm

      Hi Suzanne, there are definitely major problems with rubbish in Albania and the Balkans in general, especially in the cities. However, in my own personal experience, the beaches I went to were quite clean (in Himara and Gjipe particularly). Where did you see a lot of rubbish on the beach? I saw a few cigarette butts on the beach but nothing more than that.

  • Reply
    Suzanne Eynon
    October 11, 2017 at 5:28 pm

    Hi Allison, I’ve sent you an email with a couple of photograph examples. Depressingly it’s an issue at every beach we’ve been to (Dhermi, Jal, Livadhi, Himara and at today’s arrival in Ksamil) in addition to roadsides and open spaces all along our route.

    • Reply
      Allison Green
      October 12, 2017 at 12:52 pm

      I didn’t receive your email – checked my spam folder and everything. I’m sorry you found the rubbish to be such an issue – that can definitely ruin a beautiful landscape. I definitely noticed a lot of rubbish in other parts of Albania, especially near Tirana, but I didn’t think the Riviera had much trash and I visited many of the same places that you did.

  • Reply
    Carrie @ Two Small Potatoes
    May 3, 2018 at 12:13 pm

    Super useful post, thank you! We’re planning a 2-week road trip through the Balkans this summer/fall, and we plan to camp and kayak as much as we can. I had no idea wild camping is allowed in Albania, even on beaches. We’re so excited!

    • Reply
      Allison Green
      May 3, 2018 at 1:22 pm

      That is awesome!! The Balkans is one of the best places for road trips, and Albania’s beaches are perfect for it. Yes, wild camping is really common, and there are tons of campsites where they provide the tent and mattress pad and it’s only a few dollars a night to stay there — a great deal 🙂 Let me know if I can be of more help, I know the Balkans quite well!

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