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The Albanian Riviera is fast becoming one of the most popular spots in Europe and for a good reason. The abundance of beautiful beaches, incredible scenery, delicious food and more than hospitable locals, means the Albania Riviera should be at the top of your must-see travel list. Finding information on the internet about Albania can be a headache though, which is why I decided to create this guide on the Albanian Riviera as a reference for you. In this guide, I cover transport, the best beaches in Albania, great accommodation and other highlights you shouldn’t miss on your trip here.
The Albanian Riviera runs from a city called Vlore, down south to the city of Saranda. The Riviera has one of the most beautiful coastal drives I have ever experienced. There is plenty to see and do here so let’s get into it!
How to get around the Albanian Riviera
Public buses and minibuses are the most popular option for many travellers coming to Albania. The main annoyance is the timetables so the best way to find out when a bus leaves is by asking a local. 9 times out of 10 the bus driver will be a cousin of the person your asking – this has happened to me more times than I can count (not even kidding).
Another great mode of transportation is to hire a car. Here you get freedom of where to stop off, and especially since there are many hidden spots within the Albanian Riviera, you will make plenty of unexpected spots I’m sure. The negative of hiring a car within Albania is driving. Driving in Albania is unpredictable. Half of the population speeds excessively and no one really sticks to any sort of rules. This can make it dangerous for foreign drivers as you may not be used to this sort of driving.
One of the most popular ways of getting around in the Riviera and all-around Albania is in fact hitchhiking. It’s extremely common practice between locals and foreigners. Most people never have to wait for more than 10 minutes to find a ride. It’s completely safe. Albanians are extremely friendly people and are always willing to help. You can read more about safety in Albania here.
The best places to visit in the Albanian Riviera
1. Palase Beach
Palase beach will absolutely take your breath away. This 1km beach will be a fantastic start to your Albanian Riviera trip. It is also said that Julius Caesar and his troops arrived in Palase during the Roman Civil War in 48 BCE. You can still find archaeological evidence of this today! Not only a beautiful place but lots of interesting history here too. This is one of the best Albanian beaches you will come across!
2. National Park of Llogara
If you have the time, you should explore more of what Llogara park has to offer. There are great hiking, restaurants, log cabins and you can even take part in paragliding! The Llogara pass is a fantastic drive and at the top of the pass, you get the most magnificent breath-taking view.
It is from Llogara that you can start hikes for Karaburun Peninsula – completely untouched and undeveloped part of the Albanain Riviera. Hiking here is not easy and takes around 4-6 hours one way so you have to be prepared!
Dhermi has beautiful beaches, coves and hidden bays. One of the most picturesque is Drymades which is my personal favourite. This has been named one of the top beach hangout spots. There are plenty of good beaches in Dhermi but this one especially!
This sleepy beach town is one you should plan to stay in for a few days at least. Himare also has some stunning beaches nearby. If you want a fantastic view over Himare and the surroundings, then make your way towards the castle. From here you get a stunning view!
5. Porto Palermo Castle
This impressive castle is regularly said to be built in the 19th century but it has been found that this castle was mentioned by ancient Greek and Roman authors in text dating back to the 5th century BC. The exact date is unknown but nevertheless, it is worth the stop. Nearby is a tunnel which was used during communism as a submarine bunker. The castle is located only a few km from Himarë.
This is the longest strip of unbroken beach in the Albanian Riviera, which means if you’re looking for a bigger scale beach then try this one! There are a few restaurants here too.
I highly recommend visiting Borsh Castle which is on the hill overlooking the beach. Not a lot of tourists bother or even know about this castle which is a real shame because I found it to be one of the most beautiful – even if it is mostly in ruins.
Lukove is worth the stopover. The village itself is small but the beach is lovely, and you can catch some of the best sunsets from here. The beach is called Shpella and is about a 5-10 minute drive from the village downhill.
There’s lots of room for camping here as there’s a field with trees behind the beach.
In Kakome there is not only another beautiful beach called Krorez Beach but also a monastery to check out too. You can only access the beach by boat or by horseback.
I am currently based in Saranda and I absolutely love it. In the summer months its extremely busy because a lot of cruise ships dock here and use it as a base to explore the surroundings. There are great restaurants, the best nightlife in Albania during the summer months, and some nice beaches if you search other than the centre. Make sure you read my complete guide on Saranda here, don’t forget to try the seafood – it’s mouth-watering.
Only 20km from Saranda is Ksamil, the place with the busiest beaches in all the Albanian Riviera in my opinion. During July and August this place is absolutely packed, and I would recommend avoiding it and picking somewhere nearby. Ksamil is absolutely stunning though and with (artificial) sand beaches.
You can also swim in the nearby 3 islands. Ksamil is super close to Corfu, Greece! The beaches in the centre are beautiful but you should also explore the other beaches nearby such as Mirror beach and Monastery beach. Read my full Ksamil travel guide here.
Only 20km from Saranda is the UNESCO site Butrint, which dates to prehistoric times. It has been the site of a Greek colony, a Roman city and a bishopric. If you want a taste of Mediterranean history, then you need to see Butrint during your trip to the Albanian Riviera. Nearby Butrint is Ali Pasha’s fortress which is actually one of my favourite secret spots around Saranda. Read this to find out the details on where exactly it is and how to see it!
12. Upper Qeparo
This is a new favourite village of mine. Upper Qeparo is located on top of a mountain overlooking the sea. The village is unique because its half abandoned. After communism fell many Albanians fled the village and the country leaving the buildings to crumble and become derelict.
Nowadays some properties have been refurbished but many still lay there soul-less. It’s a really incredible place to get a peek into a traditional Albanian village. The views are incredible and there’s a lot of history within the crumbling walls. You can read my Qeparo guide here.
Vuno is a sleepy village which sits on the edge of a hill. This is not a beach town but it has incredible views and is possibly the most quaint Albanian village ever. If you want to experience Albanian life and get off the tourist trail then stop here for a night or two. There are beaches close by which can be accessed by public transport or hitchhiking.
14. Gjipe Beach
Gjipe is a sort of hidden beach which can only be accessed by foot or by 4×4. The beach is unique because it is formed within a canyon. I would highly recommend a stop here during your holidays in Albania.
Jale is slowly becoming more popular as it’s a great choice if you’re looking for a relaxing beach getaway in Albania. Tourism for Jale has grown fast so the main beaches in the summer will a little crowded. The best thing to do is hire a kayak and explore the secluded beach coves. You can also kayak to Gjipe beach from here!
Let me know if this guide convinced you to visit the Albanian Riviera! If you have any questions, then do leave them below and I will try and answer them as best as I can for you.
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