South Albania Itinerary: 10 Days in the Albanian Riviera!
South Albania has a lot to offer. From hiking in the beautiful mountains to relaxing by the most beautiful untouched beaches in Europe or visiting one of the many historic ancient sites that Albania has, there really is something for everyone. So I created this itinerary for those who only have 10 days to explore south Albania. I highly suggest you stay for longer of course, or maybe move here I like I did.
This south Albania itinerary is for someone who loves to be by the beach and wants to explore the Albania Riviera and its beaches! The Albania Riviera runs from the south (Saranda), to Vlora in the north. Between those two cities are the most beautiful Albanian beaches you will find. Many untouched and wild!
Map of South Albania Itinerary
Travel Insurance for Albania
Day 1: Tirana (1 night)
I recommend starting your Albania itinerary bustling capital of Tirana. You ought to spend at least one night in this up and coming city. Tirana has made leaps and bounds over the last couple of years. The first call of action is to visit Bunk Art. Just off the Skanderbeg square you can get a look into what communism was like and step back in time. This is a great place to get a feeling of what Albania was like during most of the 1900s under Enver Hoxha’s rule.
Carrying on with the theme of communism a stop to the House of Leaves is a must. It’s a new museum which looks into communism through the eyes of the government who were spying on the citizens.
After you have been drowned in communism history you may need something to eat and drink to process all that information! I highly suggest a visit to the Blloku area. Here you will find an abundance of bars, restaurants and trendy cafes. This part of Tirana is my favourite part. You can also find Enver Hoxha’s house here as the area was built only for the communist party during 1944-1990.
If you want to organise your own things to do in Tirana, then read my full Tirana guide here with some other recommendations.
Where to stay?
Backpacker: The best hostel, in my opinion, is Trip’n Hostel!
If you’re still looking for somewhere to stay, here are 11 of the best hotels in Tirana.
Day 2: 3 Nights in Saranda
It’s time to get up and travel to the seaside city of Saranda in the Albanian Riviera. This is a great base to start your south Albania itinerary. The bus from Tirana to Saranda goes from the north bus station and the journey will take anywhere from 4 ½ hours to 8 hours (depending on the driver and how much coffee he’s had that day).
The journey is very beautiful. You will go through villages, mountains and then finally reach the sea!
There is a lot to do in Saranda but after a few hours of travelling, I highly suggest relaxing at one of the beaches north of the main part of the city. The beaches next to the restaurants’ sunset and cocktail dreams are great beaches to experience your first taste of the Albanian Riviera!
After a relaxing afternoon, I highly recommend you take in the beauty of the centre of the city and go for an Xhiro. An Xhiro is a unique tradition to add to your Albania itinerary, where everyone comes out from their homes at around sunset and walks down the main boulevard/road. This is a way for people to catch up with each other. After a walk along the main boulevard, you should duck into a restaurant and enjoy a night of eating the best seafood! Saranda has amazing seafood which you need to try. In the centre, I recommend Anchor Bar and restaurant. They do great seafood!
Day 3: Saranda
It’s time to get up early and head to Butrint! Only a 20-30 minute bus ride from Saranda is the UNESCO site of Butrint. I recommend a quick trip to Ali Pasha’s castle before visiting the main site. After exploring the UNESCO site for a couple of hours it’s time to relax in what’s called the ‘gem of the Albanian Riviera’ Ksamil.
Ksamil has gained huge popularity over the last few years and is a must for any Albania itinerary. In summer this place can get super busy but for good reason, it’s incredible. I recommend having a bite to eat at the restaurant Givat then relaxing at one of the beaches.
If it’s too busy I recommend a trip to the nearby beaches like Mirror or Monastery. Monastery Beach is one of my favourites as it’s small and you also have the option to climb the hill and see an incredible view of the beach and surroundings by going to the monastery.
Did you know that south Albania does incredible Italian food? Tonight, you should see for yourself! There are a few great restaurants where I recommend getting a taste of Italian food: Italian Mattarello pizzeria, Maria Magdalena and A Casa Mia do DELICIOUS Italian food in Saranda.
Day 4: Saranda
On you last full day in Saranda and I highly recommend taking a trip to Blue Eye – a 20-minute drive away from Saranda.
Blue Eye is a natural spring which has an unknown depth. Divers have been down to 50 meters and were unable to go any further, so nobody has any idea how deep this spring really goes. The people who live here believe that the spring water has healing properties so many locals bring their water bottles to fill up from this spring. The water is a constant 10 degrees Celsius! Have a coffee at one of the restaurants at the blue eye and enjoy nature!
If you’re interested in adding Blue Eye to your south Albania itinerary, check out my post here.
On the way back from Blue Eye I suggest you visit Phoenice Archaeological park. This park is one of Saranda’s best-kept secrets. I recommend bringing a lunch picnic and enjoying it from there.
This park dates to the 5th century BC. You can see remains of an ancient theatre, a small prostylos temple, Hellenistic houses, Byzantine church and other important relics and monuments.
In the late afternoon either chill at the beach again or you can do a walk or drive up to the monastery of the 40 saints. This is where Saranda got its name. The monastery dates back from the 4th-6th century. The monastery is half in ruins now due to it being bombed in World War 2 as the British thought there was a German garrison hiding inside.
I highly recommend staying and watching the sunset from here, it’s a beautifully quiet spot and in my opinion, gives the best view of the city!
Another great sunset spot which is more popular is Lëkurësi Castle. Unfortunately, these days the castle has been turned into a restaurant but nevertheless, it’s still a beautiful spot to watch the sunset and enjoy the view.
Where to stay?
Day 5: 1 Night in Qeparo
It’s time to hit the road and drive towards the small south Albania village of Qeparo. On the way, I recommend a stop to Borsh Beach, the longest strip of beach along the Albanian Riviera. You can always find a spot for yourself here.
After a little relaxing at the beach, you can go to Borsh Castle. The castle is often missed by tourists, but I highly recommend adding to your Albania itinerary. The view from the castle is amazing. It dates to the 13th century. The castle is in ruins but in the 14th century when the Ottoman empire took over Albania, they built a mosque in the middle of the castle which still stands today. It’s a unique castle with a lot of history.
Now it’s time to reach the beach portion of Qeparo. Enjoy lunch at Hotel Riviera and soak up the rays. In the afternoon you must visit the half-abandoned village of old Qeparo on top of the hill. This is the most beautiful old Albanian village in my eyes. Cobbled paths leading around the village which was pretty much abandoned during the fall of communism. Unfortunately, there is no option to stay up here so after visiting make your way back to the beach front and settle for the night.
Where to stay?
Luxury: For a luxury accommodation option try FantaSea Apartments.
Mid-price: For a mid-priced hotel try Irini’s Garden Hotel.
Backpacker: There are currently no hostels in Qeparo but if you look at Booking.com you can get a room for as little as €20.
Day 6 & 7: 2 Nights in Himare
Today on your Albania itinerary, you will travel to the coastal town of Himara. On the way make sure you visit the unique castle of Ali Pasha – Porto Palermo castle. The castle is unique because it has 3 corners instead of 4. There’s also a small beach by the castle. When you get to Himare you can opt to stay by the beach or in the old village which sits on top of the mountain.
Spend 2 nights here enjoying everything that Himara has to offer. Walk down the boulevard, enjoy the beaches in the small town (There’s even a secret one which you can only rock climb or kayak too). You can lay out on the beach and soak up the Albanian Riviera rays. Another thing you should do is check out the old town on the hill if you are not already staying up there. The view is incredible, and the town lies within an old ruined castle. It’s one of my favourite spots in south Albania for some peace and quiet.
Where to stay?
Mid-price: Try Scala Bungalows, a boutique setting but at a very affordable!
Day 8: 1 Night in Jale
Jale is a small developing beach stopover, but still worth including in your Albania itinerary. You can find some amazing luxury places to stay here, a daybed can cost over 100 euros! In the summer it’s buzzing with people and in the other seasons, it’s completely empty. Depending on when you visit south Albania might affect if you stay here or not as in the summer the parties can be wild. If partying is not your thing then you can choose to stay in Dhermi for an extra night.
Whilst you relax or party in Jale make sure you hire a kayak and go to the nearby beach paradise of Gjipe. Nowadays it’s not so secret but it’s still such a beautiful place to visit in south Albania. You can go here by car (only 4wd) or by walking or kayak! This beach is set in between a huge canyon and is a popular choice for people who love to camp.
Where to stay?
Luxury: Try Folie Marine Beach Hotel and Club to lapse in Luxury!
Backpacker: There are no hostels but there is a great camping spot in Jale!
Day 9 & 10: 2 Nights in Dhermi
Dhermi is another popular place for holidaymakers coming to south Albania. It’s beautiful beaches, luxurious resorts, and great places to visit nearby make it a favourite part of many people’s Albania itinerary!
Apart from checking out Dhermi and relaxing near the seaside, you can also visit the nearby village of Vuno. This picturesque small village sits on the hillside and has an amazing view of the Albanian Riviera.
While you’re in Dhermi be sure to check our Drymades, a beach that’s not far from Dhermi. It’s one of my favourites! You can also opt to go to Llogara national Park which is not too far from Dhermi. At the top of the park, you can explore by doing a walk or if you’re a thrill seeker you also have the opportunity to do parasailing from here!
Where to stay?
Luxury: Try Golden View residence for a luxury hotel in Dhermi!
Mid-price: I recommend having a look at Airbnb for the best mid-range properties in Dhermi. Get your free $35 credit here!
Backpacker: There is currently no hostels in Dhermi however, if you look on Booking.com there are very cheap private room options.
Now it’s time to head back to Tirana for the finale of your Albanian Riviera holiday. From Dhermi it’s a 4-5 hour bus or car ride.
This Albanian Riviera itinerary can easily be extended and adjusted according to your wants and needs. Here’s a list of other great places to visit or stay in south Albania that I haven’t mentioned in this article:
Other articles you will love:
- Albania Travel Guide for First Timers: Everything You Need to Know!
- 14 Important Tips Before You Travel to Albania
- Albania beaches: 17 of the Best Beaches in Albania
- Locals Guide to the Albanian Riviera
- Albania Itinerary: 1 week in Albania (7 days)
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