The humble destination known locally as “Land of the Eagles” is garnering the attention of intrepid travelers worldwide, and it’s well-deserved. With its coastal villages, old-world charm, and lively people, Albania is an authentic Mediterranean experience.
Explore the villages hidden in sparkling coves strung along the coastline leading from the Adriatic to the Ionian Sea. Intoxicate your senses in the capital city of Tirana with its infamous culinary culture, monuments, and electric nightlife.
Indulge your cultural curiosity by exploring the ancient remains of Greek, Roman, and Ottoman cities. Discover some of Europe’s best hikes and secret sites of antiquity that reveal Albania’s multifaceted heritage.
Ways to Discover Albania | Must-See Attractions
This little country holds within its borders chronicles spanning thousands of years and miles of unspoiled ecology. There’s something on offer for every type of traveler, even the thrill-seekers, with rafting tours, paragliding, skiing, and rock climbing.
In this guide, we will give you an overview of Albania’s best places to visit to appreciate its culture, cuisine, and scenic wonders.
Tirana | the Heart of Albania
Suppose it’s your first time visiting Albania. In that case, we recommend beginning in Tirana, the capital. A museum named “Besa,” meaning “promise” or “trust,” was erected in early 2024. This was to honor a socially significant moment in Albania’s history: the rescue of the Jewish community during World War II.
The city’s architecture and vibrant street art are an eclectic mix of ancient and new worlds. People from both Sunni and Bektashi Muslim faiths, the Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania, and Catholics all peacefully reside in the capital. This perfectly demonstrates the Albanian respect for cultural inclusivity.
Top Attractions to See in Tirana
In the nation’s efforts to shed the bland architecture of the Communist era, graffiti commissioned by the government brightens gray walls across the city. A detailed walking tour of Tirana will offer you a series of art installations detailing the Communist rule.
And there are other historic moments to discover at the infamous bunker-turned-gallery BUNK’ART. This popular tourist attraction will give you a broad understanding of the country’s path to becoming a liberated nation.
If you’d like to probe further into the city’s history, a free guided walking tour embarks daily from the entrance to the Opera house to all the iconic landmarks in Tirana. Your guide will happily answer your questions, so come prepared.
For a night out with dinner and dancing, visit the trendy neighborhood of Blloku. This is a region where bakeries stay open all night and day, so the mid-party cravings can be solved in no time.
Butrint | A Place of Antiquity
Albania’s ancient city, Butrint, occupies a section of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Butrint National Archeological Park, between the Ionian Sea and Lake Butrint.
This underrated tourist destination, featured in Homer’s Iliad, is home to ancient ruins from the Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Venetian, and Ottoman periods. Walking through the various proudly preserved sites, you can deeply appreciate Albania’s cultural development over the centuries.
Top Attractions to See in Butrint
The Butrint Ancient Theatre is set against lush Mediterranean flora, first built in the 3rd Century. Performances are hosted on its stage each July during the Butrinti Summer Festival. Make sure to time your visit to the baptistery so you can view the intricately-designed mosaic floor. This is because it’s only uncovered from its sandy shroud for a few days per year.
A day trip to Butrint doesn’t have to end there, though. You can arrange a boat ride with some local fishermen to see the Ottoman-era castles established by Ali Pasha of Tepelenë. Unfortunately, you can’t swim in the park’s tranquil lakes. However, 4.4 km (2.7 miles), about an hour’s walk away, beckons the idyllic vision that is Plazhi Ksamilit (Ksamil Beach).
Sarandë | Paradise in Albania
Curled in a half-moon-shaped bay by the Ionian Sea lies the popular tourist destination Sarandë. The once-sleepy fishing village with its 16th-century Lëkurësi Castle still standing quietly above now hosts many visitors enamored by its paradise-like beauty.
In the evenings, you can get swept up in the town’s spirited nightlife with the vibrant music and people dancing together. Everyone will welcome you with a smile, so don’t be afraid to join the festivities!
Top Attractions to See in Sarandë
Ksamil Beach, or “the Ionian pearl” as it’s known, delivers a more secluded getaway with its inviting beach and idyllic offshore islands, a couple of which you can swim to. Rent an umbrella for the day from the nearby restaurants and relax while the Ionian Sea glitters in your view.
Are you interested in touring aquatic scenery? Go scuba diving in the warm waters of the Ionian Sea to explore the six ex-navy shipwrecks. These were sunk in 2002 by the Albanian government as part of an underwater park project. They have attracted an exotic array of marine life you can observe along your underwater tour.
Vlorë | An Archeological Treasure
A seaside town that greets both the Adriatic and Ionian Seas, Vlorë houses the Albanian Declaration of Independence from 1912 within the National Independence Museum.
Views of the iridescent oceans accompany you as you learn about Vlorë’s intriguing history, wandering past artifacts that tell of the many cultures Albania has seen.
Top Attractions to See in Vlorë
If a tranquil setting for your daytime dip is more appealing, the Narta Lagoon near the old town of Vlorë is a perfect half-day excursion. Various watersports are available on the lagoon, like kayaking, which is a great way to enjoy the scenery from a different perspective.
If you’d prefer to stay ashore, you can spot exotic birdlife from the wooden watchtower overlooking the lagoon while enjoying a packed lunch al fresco. Wander over the ancient bridge to the larger of the Zvërnec Islands, where the medieval Byzantine St Mary’s Monastery stands. Surrounded by pine forest, it is now a quiet place of worship after a tumultuous era.
Përmet | A Multicultural Marvel
Discover Albania’s “city of roses” in Përmet, a town proud of its heritage and numerous cultures that call it home. Albania is known for its artful extraction of rose oil into various products enjoyed worldwide. Përmet is graced with roses throughout the town’s historical houses.
One of these historic homes from the 1800s is called Villa Përmet and is well worth a visit. Having been lovingly restored by its owners, the villa has the cozy, intimate atmosphere of a family home.
PS: If you visit in July, attend the multicultural Përmet Festival, which celebrates the many different ethnic backgrounds of its citizens
Top Attractions to See in Përmet
You can hike from the nearby village of Përmet, approximately 13 km (8 miles) away, to a site reputed for its healing properties, the thermal Springs of Bënjë.
Refreshing thermal mineral waters meander from the mountain beneath an Ottoman-era bridge into several heated pools. Take in breathtaking views from one of the many hiking trails that weave through this mystical place. The water is a tension-releasing 26 – 32ºC (79 – 90ºF). Each pool is said to heal different health ailments, from rheumatism to stomach, kidney, and skin conditions.
FAQs | What to Know Before Visiting Albania
Albania only recently opened its doors to the world, undoubtedly appealing to a traveler seeking the novel. But it does leave a lot of unanswered questions. This section will answer some frequently asked questions before embarking on your adventure.
Can I Get By Speaking Only English?
Yes, especially with the younger generations (under 30). The country has achieved leaps and bounds in accommodating tourists from all over the globe, so English is welcome. The most commonly spoken languages in Albania besides English are Italian and Greek.
Is Albania Safe?
Having shed its reputation for being a dangerous location during the Communist regime, tourists can now feel confident and relaxed, especially when traveling to Albania’s main cities. As with any major city, though, I advise you to stay aware of pickpockets, as there have been some reports.
Can I Get Around Albania Without a Car?
You can get around Albania using its various forms of public transport, but the most efficient is a “furgon.” These are privately owned minibusses. Fares can cost anywhere from L113.64 (1.12 USD) to L1,724.85 (17 USD). The official city buses also make for efficient and safe transport between and within major cities.
Final Thoughts on Visiting Albania
Having been shrouded in mystery for the better part of a century, Albania has emerged triumphant as one of the top up-and-coming Mediterranean holiday destinations today. Touring Europe has never been so exciting!
You can still enjoy its unspoiled ecology, sights, and world-class cuisine on a modest budget. Moreover, you’ll be in relative solace from the flock of sun-seeking tourists who frequent the more established Mediterranean hot spots of Greece and Italy.
With so much to explore, from the hilltops to the ocean floor, surrounded by such friendly, accommodating locals, this remarkable experience is well worth repeating. Better get started before everyone else turns on to this gem, too!