35 Unique Things to do in Albania
I have been in love with Albania forever now. It’s a destination which challenges your perceptions and stereotypes and allows you to relax in absolute paradise. There are so many things to do in Albania that I could make a list of thousands of things but for now, you will have to settle for 35 of them! I highly urge you to take a trip to Albania at least once in your lifetime to experience all that Albania has to offer. Here’s your big list on what to do in Albania!
35 of the best things to do in Albania
Visit the other beaches in Ksamil
Ksamil is the most popular beach destination in all of Albania. Its located in the south of Albania, only a 20-30-minute drive from the seaside city of Saranda. Tourist flocks her in the month between July and August but I urge you to take a trip in the spring or autumn. It’s a lot more beautiful in those times and its good to support the businesses in the low season.
Ksamil is popular for a good reason though. It’s extremely beautiful and mirrors paradise. There is more to Ksamil than the main beaches. Just north of Ksamil are two beaches which you should stop off at Mirror Beach and Monastery beach (Pictured above). Both are incredible!
See the blue eye
Also located not far from Saranda is a natural phenomenon that leaves scientists to his day baffled. Blue eye is a natural spring which is over 50 meters deep, except they have no idea how far down it goes and where the spring starts. Divers have checked out the blue eye and could only go down 50 meters before having to go back up again. This is protected so you are technically not supposed to swim in the spring however a lot of people do. Albanians are very relaxed with their rules.
Eat seafood in Sarandë
Being a seaside city means there should be good seafood, right? Hell yeah! In fact, before moving to Saranda I never ate seafood but now I can say I have (nearly) tried every seafood there is. I highly recommend Fishland which is right next to the fishing docks. The restaurants on this side of the city get the seafood first hence it being so damn good. You can also go to the docks at sunset and buy seafood from the fisherman there. It’s fresh and delicious.
Stay in the hairy lemon hostel
A highlight for me and a lot of other backpackers going to Saranda was the stay at Hairy Lemon Hostel. It’s only a 1-minute walk to the beach and countless beach bars. Its intimate but such a cool hangout spot and the atmosphere is always amazing.
Located right in the north of Albania is the city of Shkoder. It’s known for being one of the oldest cities in the Balkans. The hiking nearby is some of the best in the world! The lake nearby is the largest lake in southern Europe. If you love nature and then I highly recommend basing yourself here.
You haven’t experienced the Albanian culture until you try a glass of raki. It’s the local moonshine which nearly every family in Albania makes themselves. Beware it’s strong, it can sometimes reach u to 60%! It’s my favourite thing to drink because 1, it doesn’t give you a hangover (I swear!) and 2, its cheap. You can get a small glass of Albanian raki in a café for the price of an expresso (50lek, 37-euro cents) and make sure you never shot it. Although the taste is very overwhelming, so you will probably want to but traditionally it is sipped.
Also, I learnt something interesting last year too. When in a café, if you order another raki, the waiter will always bring it in the new glass but pour the raki into the glass you were using previously. This is because they believe that if you drink the raki out of a new glass then it means you will have a new relationship (meaning breaking up with your current).
Eat a meat grill plate
Along with a raki make sure you order a meat plate. Albanians food is simple but delicious. Everything is fresh and not filled with those icky perspectives. This also means that the meat is top notch! My favourite restaurant in Saranda is Laberia. He is the master of a meat plate. I also recommend his pork pancetta, it’s delicious.
Experience Albanian nightlife
My first experience of an Albanian nightclub was not what I expected, I didn’t really have any idea what to expect actually. If you compare it to nightlife in the UK or USA, then it’s totally tame. The locals usually just stand around drinking at tables rather than dancing erratically and questionable (like me). This means when you go, expect to be stared at. From personal experience, you get used to it and learn not to give a damn.
Hitchhike at least once
Despite Albania having all these stereotypes, it’s a safe country – safer than most other European countries in fact. Hitchhiking is one of the most popular ways to get around. You will see locals do it as well. The best thing? You usually don’t have to wait for more than 10 minutes to get a ride somewhere. Albanians are extremely friendly, and they love to talk to tourists, even if they cannot speak English you somehow manage to communicate. I used to hitchhike to the clubs in Saranda, always a lot of fun!
Wine tasting in Berat
Believe it or not, Albania has some great wine. There are 3 wineries in the town of Berat which you must check out. At Cabo, you can order a tasting platter of wine and you also get some cheeses all for a very reasonable price.
Visit the UNESCO town of Berat
Berat is also called the town of one thousand windows. The Ottoman styled houses in the old town are spectacular. Berat is a small place but a very quaint one at that. There are great restaurants and lots of things to see in Berat. Make sure you go stay at Berat Backpackers, it’s the best hostel in Berat!
Visit the UNESCO town of Gijrokastёr
Gjirokastër is a beautiful little place and a UNESCO site. You could spend at least a couple of hours walking around the castle exploring the secret tunnels, seeing the weapons and getting the best views of the city. If you can make sure you stop over at least a few nights in Gjirokastër. I loved the old town, cobbled streets and the friendly people. I can recommend staying at Stone City Hostel if you do come here. The hostel is beautiful!
This UNESCO site shouldn’t be missed on your travels to Albania. Butrint is an archaeological site dating back to the prehistoric ages. The site was home to a Greek colony, a Roman city and a bishopric. It’s well worth a look and is surprisingly in good condition. You also get a fantastic view of the castle tower. Visiting Butrint is one of the most popular things to see in Albania.
Learn about communist times at Bunk Art 1 & 2
Whilst you’re in the capital of Tirana, make sure you visit both Bunk Arts. Bunk Art 1 is located just outside of the city and gives you an insight on what communism was like for the Albanians. Not only that but you get to look inside Enver Hoxha’s luxury bunker. Obviously, it was never used, but still interesting nevertheless! Bunk Art 2 was home to the bunkers made for internal affairs. Both are super interesting and give you a real look into the dark times of communism.
Take part in an Xhiro
Every night in most locations you may notice around sunset time a lot of people walking the main boulevards and streets, this is called Xhiro. It’s the best time of day to catch up with your friends and neighbours. Many towns shut off the roads for the pedestrians too. It’s an Albanian tradition!
Drive the coastal route from Saranda to Vlore
This coastal drive is highly recommended by me! You will be blown away by the scenery and trust me, you will want to stop a least one million times to take pictures. This drive has got to be in my top 3 I have ever experienced. Just be careful, as driving in Albania is super hectic. Read my guide on the Albania Riviera to see where I recommend stopping on the way!
Visit the waterfalls in Bugove
Not far from Berat is one of the most beautiful waterfall trips you shouldn’t miss out on. Make sure you stay at Berat Backpackers as they do daily trips to the waterfall and other interesting sites along the way. It’s a great way to see the Albanian countryside and see something unique.
See Saranda from above at the castle
Okay, the castle isn’t that impressive but trust me, the view is. For me, it’s the most impressive view of Saranda. You also get a panoramic view all the way to Ksamil and then towards the mountains too. Prepare your camera because you will get some epic shots. There’s a restaurant at the top so you can enjoy the view with some food or raki.
Eat pizza until you can’t anymore!
Albanians are amazing at making pizza! I’ve had some of the best pizza in my life here. A lot of Albanians have worked in Italy and brought back the skills to make the perfect pizza.
Take a hike in the mountains
Albania has some extremely beautiful hikes, especially in the north. One of the most popular and beautiful hikes is through the Valbona Pass. The best way is to base yourself in the northern city of Shkoder and plan your adventure from there. There are also fabulous hikes just outside of the capital, Tirana.
Spend a few hours exploring Gjirokastër castle
Gjirokastër castle was one of my favourites in Albania. You are simply given free rein to the castle. You can climb on the tanks, go through the underground tunnels and climb just about anything you see. I would highly recommend coming here late afternoon and watching the sunset over the city and mountains. You get the most amazing panoramic view of the city.
Paragliding from the Llogara National Park
One of the most exciting activities to be had in Albania is paragliding in the Llogara national park! The national park itself is beautiful and the drive will blow you away so take it one step further and see it from the sky!
Learn some of the language!
The Albanian language is called Shqip and it’s one of the only languages in the world that has no relation to any other language! From an English speaker, trying to learn Albanian is a challenge. Many words have no translation at all. In fact, when I have asked people to translate something they say it’s just a feeling and cannot be translated. I guess I will never know what they said! I really love the language and regularly refer it to a ‘badass’ language.
Spend the night on a beach
There are many beautiful hidden beaches along the Albanian Riviera which I highly recommend you take advantage of and camp out for a night! It’s a popular thing to do in the summer as the nights are not so cold. It can get to over 40 degrees in the summer, so beach camping is sometimes essential to escape the heat of your home!
Visit the raki bar in Tirana
Komiteti is my favourite bar in Tirana mainly because they serve an abundance of different flavoured raki! From blueberry to honey, there are lots to try! If you don’t like the taste of a regular Albanian raki then you might prefer some of the ones here that have been flavoured to taste sweet or savoury. If you’re not a raki drinker, you should still come to hang here as it’s a unique bar filled with ancient knick-knacks!
Drink korca in Korca
Korca (the beer) is produced in Korca so it only seems fair to try it while you’re there right?! You can drink beer for a pittance here. Not only that but Korca is a nice little place to explore. There is also some good hiking nearby.
Look at the open-air museum in Tirana
It’s not the most impressive open-air museum but I think it is worth a look. In the small park, there are remains of the Berlin wall, a bunker and remains for a labour camp which was used during communism. If you want some more information about what to do in Tirana, then read my ultimate guide here.
Look in a bunker
During communism, there were over 600,000 bunkers built, and for no reason at all. There were never used. Albania was a peaceful country. Most have been destroyed or are crumbling but some have been turned into hotels and even tattoo parlours! During your travels you will come across many bunkers I’m sure! Make sure you look inside.
Just north of Saranda, there are some amazing beaches which include Lukove and Kakome. You will find the best local beaches to hang out in with crystal clear waters and not too many people!
Stay in the old part of Himare in the mountains
Himare is a sleepy coastal town famous for its beautiful beaches and relaxed vibe. I highly recommend staying up in the hills, next to the castle to wake up to the most magnificent view of Himare and the coast, it’s super beautiful!
Visit the monastery of the 40 saints in Saranda
This monastery was built in the 6th century and has a fascinating and sad history. The legend goes that the monastery was named after the 40 saints who were jailed here. The soldiers were being forced to change their religion however, they refused so they were tortured and left to die in the monastery. I recommend spending a few hours here taking in all the site has to offer as well as the amazing views from the top. This is one of the best things to do in Albania in my opinion!
Drink expresso with the locals
Drinking coffee is an important part of the culture here. All day long you will see the locals having their daily coffee/s. It’s extremely affordable as well. An expresso in the likes of Saranda will cost 50-70 lek (0-.38 –0.54 euro cents).
Go to the gypsy markets in Tirana
The gypsy markets all over Albania are amazing. If you’re a lover of second-hand clothes, then you will be in heaven here! The gypsy markets in Tirana are the best. So many options and very cheap. There are lots of different markets scattered around the city. Just ask a local where they are!
Get a tattoo
During my time in Albania, I have managed to gather 5 tattoos. My small tattoos have cost a total of 2000 lek each. There is also a guy who does tattoos out of a bunker in Shkoder! Just stay at the Wanderer’s hostel and ask one of the staff how to get there.
This beautiful town is located next to Borsh. It’s a village which is half-abandoned as after communism fell and the villages fled Albania. You can read more about the village here.
I hope you enjoyed reading about 35 unique things to do in Albania. There are plenty more top things to do in Albania, maybe I will have to make a part 2 one day! Tell me below what things you would love to do.
Other articles you will love:
- Your ultimate guide to Ksamil, Albania
- Top 8 Incredible Places to Visit in Albania
- 13 Facts About Albania You Didn’t Know
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