The Perfect Albania Road Trip: This Place Is Epic!

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Albania is awesome.  Really awesome.  This little country in South-East Europe has everything.  Extremely varied scenery, mountains, forests, stunning beaches on the Adriatic and Ionian Seas, crystal clear waters, and beautiful architecture.  In this post I’ll set out some ideas for the perfect Albania road trip.

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Road trip Albania - stunning coastal views

Albania was a closed country for much of the twentieth century, under a strict and insular communist regime.  But that’s now very much a thing of the past.  Today, Albania is a fast-changing, modern democracy with a huge amount to see and do.  

The potential for tourism here is immense, easily equal to some of its better-known neighbours (Montenegro, Greece, etc.).  But whilst Albania is slowly creeping onto some people’s travel radars, for most it still remains a mystery.  That makes it a fantastic place to explore now!

** If you need a visa to visit Albania, I recommend using iVisa.com.  Their online visa processing service is quick, secure, and easy to use. **

Albania Road Trip Itinerary - Where To Go In Albania

With so many fantastic places to see and visit, it can be hard to choose where to go in Albania.

This is only a suggested Albania road trip itinerary, but I can highly recommend all of the below places.

It’s a circular route, so you could start and finish anywhere along it, depending on where you’re coming from.

You could squeeze this itinerary into one week at a push (especially if you didn’t spend too long at each of the beaches).  But it would be fairly rushed.  

I always prefer to travel slowly, and would recommend taking at least two weeks to do this Albania road trip, if possible.  That way you’ll get much more of a feel for the places you’re travelling though.  You’ll almost certainly meet more people too 🙂

Tirana

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Trips to Albania typically start in Tirana

Most flights to Albania go to Tirana, so you will probably be starting your Albania roadtrip here.

There is enough to see and do in this quirky capital city to spend at least a day or two here.

A great way to get a feel for the city is to go on a free walking tour.  These are organised by local people who are passionate about their city, its history, architecture and culture.  They usually depart from the steps of the Opera House on Skenderbej Square.  Check out their website for up-to-date departure times and further info.  Tips are always greatly appreciated at the end of the tour, and these guys are great!

One of the city’s most unusual, and interesting, sights is Bunk’Art 2.  This communist-era nuclear bunker was built by Albania’s paranoid former dictator Enver Hoxha in the 1980s.  Today, it is part history museum, part art gallery.  Well worth a visit.

My other top recommendations would include a visit to the Natural History Museum of Albania, and the beautiful Et’hem Bey Mosque

The Tirana Sky Tower’s top floor bar offers a panoramic view over the city.  It’s a perfect place for a drink at sunset, after a long day of sightseeing.

Vlorë

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You'll see many sunsets like this on your Albanian road trip

An easy 2.5 hour drive south-west of Tirana is Vlorë, on the Adriatic Sea.  The road from Tirana to the coast is in excellent condition and you shouldn’t have any trouble navigating this first stretch.

Vlorë is a coastal resort town with a good selection of hotels and restaurants.  The town itself is not particularly beautiful, but it has decent amenities and a laid-back seaside vibe.

There is a beach at Vlorë, but it’s nothing on the beaches you’ll be visiting later on this road trip in Albania.  So don’t worry about spending too much time here.

The Llogara Pass

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Seeing the best of Albania by car

South of Vlorë, the journey starts to get really beautiful.  In fact, the coastal drive between Vlorë and Sarandë is easily one of my favourite roads in the world.  Think Amalfi Coast, but without the other tourists (and a fraction of the cost).

As you approach Llogara National Park, on the slopes of the Ceraunian Mountains, the road starts to ascend fairly steeply.  There are many hairpins and switch-backs, as you snake your way ever higher.  Try hard to keep your eyes on the road, though I guarantee this will be difficult, as the scenery is stunning.

Finally, you will reach the Llogara Pass, the highest point.  Stop at the viewpoint and enjoy the the breathtaking view.  The azure sea sparkles in the sunlight as you gaze south over the Albanian Riviera, while Çika Mountain towers over you.  

I love this place and I’m sure you will too.

The Albanian Riviera

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The road from Tirana to the Albanian Riviera

Albania has some of the best beaches in Europe (fact), and most of them are on the Albanian Riviera.  This mountainous stretch of the Ionian Sea coast runs between Sarandë and Vlorë, and the drive is epic.

Dhërmi

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Shortly after you descend from the Llogara Pass, you will come to Dhërmi.  This picturesque little town is a great place to stop, either for lunch or overnight.  Just beware, it can get quite crowded in the peak summer months.

In Dhërmi you’ll find a range of options for food and accommodation, and it’s a stone’s throw from some great beaches.  The town itself enjoys a beautiful setting, with crystal clear blue waters and a backdrop of craggy mountains.

If Dhërmi beach is a little too crowded, Drymades beach is another great option, a 5 minute drive away.

Gjipe Beach

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Be sure to include Gjipe Beach in your Albanian Riviera itinerary

If you prefer your beaches more secluded, definitely check out Gjipe beach.  This idyllic stretch of sand is a definite contender for best beach in Albania.  

The car park for Gjipe beach is a 15 minute drive south of of Dhërmi.  This beach doesn’t have direct road access, and you’ll need to walk 1.5 km along a gravel track from the car park.  It’s definitely worth the walk though.  The little cove you’ll reach is beyond beautiful.  Outside of the summer months, you can often have the entire place to yourself.

If you have camping gear, this is an awesome place to spend the night.

Himarë

Once little more than a sleepy fishing village, Himarë is now a well-known (and much loved) beach town.  It’s also gaining a reputation as one of Albania’s best backpacker destinations.

In general, it’s quite a bit cheaper here than nearby Dhërmi.  There are a number of budget-friendly hostels and cheap guest houses in Himarë.  And you won’t struggle to find cheap but excellent bars and restaurants.  

The whole place strikes the perfect balance between being well geared-up for tourism, but at the same time not feeling overly commercialised.  

It’s a really cool place.  I’d recommend spending at least a day or two here.

Borsh Beach

One of the best beaches in Albania

Another great beach on the southern Albanian Riviera, Borsh beach is an easy 30 minute drive south of Himarë.

Borsh is one of the longest beaches in Albania, stretching for several kilometres.  It’s also one of the most beautiful.  The area has not been overly developed, adding to the charm.

Here the sea is almost impossibly clear and turquoise.  It’s perfect for swimming and snorkelling.  You can also hire kayaks or sailing dinghies from the vendors near the car park.

This is another fantastic place to camp on the beach.  Alternatively, there are many affordable hotels.  You can feast on fresh seafood in one of the many beachfront restaurants, or head to one of the more secluded sections and barbecue for yourself.

Sarandë

A good stop-off on your Albanian road trip

About an hour south of Borsh beach, you will arrive at Sarandë.  This medium-sized town is much busier and more developed than the idyllic little towns and villages that surround it.  

Sarandë is certainly not a quiet, peaceful place.  I also found it a bit too touristy.  But on the other hand, it does have a large range of accommodation options, from budget to high-end hotels and restaurants, as well as a variety of bars and other nightlife.

This is a personal choice, but I prefer to stay in smaller, quieter places.  If you’re like me, instead of Sarandë, I’d suggest spending the night in Ksamil, 14 km further south.

Ksamil

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Ksamil is a beautiful little village in the far south of Albania.  It is located in a sheltered bay, with white sands, crystal clear waters and a few islands offshore.  

Ksamil is a popular spot, due to its proximity to Sarandë, and its stunning setting.  Whilst some might be put off by the crowds in the height of summer, I still much prefer it here to Sarandë.  To me, Ksamil just feels more authentic and chilled.

This is another place with a fledgling backpacker scene, so you won’t struggle to find decent budget accommodation and places to eat and drink.  There are loads of beach bars and restaurants with terraces that are great places to sit and unwind.

A short drive (or 5 km walk) from the centre of Ksamil is the ruined city of Butrint.  This fascinating site has been occupied for thousands of years.  Today you can see the remains left by the ancient Greeks, Romans, Byzantines and Venetians.  It’s well worth a visit if you have the time.

Blue Eye

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Road trip Albania - the Blue Eye (optional)

20 kilometres inland from Sarandë is the famous Blue Eye (Syri i Kaltër, in Albanian).  This natural spring has extremely clear water and a pool that is more than 50 metres deep, which gives it the characteristic blue colour.

I’m going to be honest:  after hearing about how great this place was, I was a little disappointed.  It is pretty, and quite cool, but it didn’t exactly live up to the hype for me.  It was also fairly crowded when I was there.   

Verdict:  if you have time to include this in your road trip through Albania, it’s worth seeing.  If you’re pressed for time, I’d skip it.

Gjirokaster

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Heading back north, I’d definitely recommend spending at least a day or two in and around Gjirokaster, the “Stone City”.  This amazing old town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is incredibly atmospheric.  

Wandering through the maze of cobblestone streets, past carpet sellers and artisans making clothes and jewellery, feels like going back in time.  Here you will find some of the best examples of Ottoman architecture in Europe.  

The medieval castle perched on a hill offers fantastic views over the old town and its surroundings.  Bizarrely, inside the castle grounds you will find a U.S. Air Force plane which crash-landed in 1957.  The aircraft was confiscated by the communists, who believed that the Americans were using it as a spy plane.

If you have the time, and want to stretch your legs after all of the driving, there are several great hiking trails in the mountains surrounding the town.  Head to the tourist information centre in the main bazaar for maps and further info.

Berat

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Albania road trip - don't miss Berat

About three hours north of Gjirokaster, Berat is another well-preserved Ottoman city.

This historic town, known as the “City of a Thousand Windows”, is actually spread over two locations.  The lower area beside the river is called Mangalem, and this is overlooked by Kalaja which is dominated by a medieval castle.

Berat City Tours runs guided tours of the old city which give a fascinating insight to the history of the area, and the city’s inhabitants through the ages.

For accommodation in Berat, the castle itself contains a few guesthouses which are excellent and have fantastic views over the old town below.

From Berat, it’s an easy two hour drive back to Tirana.  On the way, check out Çobo Winery, a great family-run vineyard with beautiful grounds.

How To Get To Albania

Several airlines fly to Tirana from other European cities.  If coming from the UK, you can fly direct with either British Airways or Wizz Air.

I use – and recommend – Aviasales to find the best deals on flights.  Their search engine is really easy to use and often picks up on promotions and discounted fares that are missed by other comparison sites.  You can search across a range of dates, and it suggests the best dates and times for you.

Give it a try!  Click here to compare the cheapest flights available.

An alternative (and often cheaper) option is to fly to Corfu and then take the short (forty minute) ferry to Sarandë.  If you’re doing this, you can easily start your Albania road trip from here, and still follow the above route.

If coming from Italy, there is an overnight ferry from Bari to Durrës.

From Greece, there are daily busses to Tirana from Athens and Thessaloniki.

How to reach Albania by road (with your own car)

Albania shares land borders with Montenegro (north-west), Kosovo (north-east), North Macedonia (east), and Greece (south/south-east).

These borders are all open and straightforward to cross, making it relatively easy to reach Albania by road from other destinations in south-east Europe.

You can also take your car on the ferry from Bari to Durrës (above).  This is likely to be the most convenient option if you’re coming from Italy, or other destinations in western Europe.

(If you are also visiting southern Italy, spend at least a few days in Naples – it’s one of the best, and most underrated, cities in Europe.)

Where To Stay During Your Albania Road Trip

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Wild camping on the beach is usually my preferred option. It's also free!

Albania is still a very affordable destination, by European standards.

Most locations have a variety of budget hotels and guesthouses and you usually won’t struggle to find a double room for €30-40 per night, including breakfast.  They can be even cheaper in the less touristy areas, as well as during off-season periods.  Popular places fill up during the summer months, so it’s a good idea to book ahead if you’re travelling then.

Those travelling on a larger budget will find a number of luxury hotels and spas.

Booking.com is a good place to look for deals.

Click here to compare the latest prices.

Airbnb is becoming increasingly popular in Albania.  I’d always check out the listings on offer wherever you are planning to visit.  Sometimes the most beautiful places can be a steal.

Hostels can be found in the towns and cities which are popular with backpackers, including Tirana, Himarë, Sarandë, Gjirokaster and Berat.  These are usually high quality and you can often snag a dorm bed for around €10 per night.

Camping

The cheapest (i.e. free) option is to wild camp, which is possible on many of the country’s stunning beaches.  You shouldn’t have any trouble doing this as long as you steer clear of the busier places.  

If you have your own car, it’s usually straightforward to find a secluded spot and pitch up for the night.  Don’t expect many facilities, but this is an awesome way to keep costs down.  Plus you get to fall asleep to the sound of the waves 🙂

Check out this article where I review the best tents for wild camping.

In short… One of the best tents that money can buy is the MSR Hubba Hubba 2-person tent.

Best Time Of Year To Do An Albania Road Trip

You can visit Albania any time of year.  However, the winters are cold (icy, steep, winding mountain roads = bad), and the summers very hot (and crowded, especially on the coast).  

The best time to visit Albania is either during the spring (April-June) or autumn (September-October).  The weather is pleasant, making it ideal for outdoor activities.  You’ll also avoid many of the crowds, and may even be able to blag some off-peak discounts for accommodation.

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Best time to visit Albania: April-June or September-August

Albania Safety

Albania is a very safe country to visit.  Crime against foreigners is rare, and most Albanians are extremely welcoming and hospitable.

Petty crime does occasionally occur, though probably no more than where you’re from.  Take the same precautions as you would anywhere, and you’ll be fine.

Albanian roads are the only places where your safety is likely to be at risk.  (See next section.)

Car Hire In Albania - Localrent Albania

The best deals on car hire in Albania are usually found on localrent.com They compare the prices of local car rental companies, which tend to be significantly cheaper than the big international hire companies.

I definitely recommend that you check out Localrent Albania if you need to hire a car for your 

Click here for the latest prices.

Many countries’ driving licences are recognised in Albania.  If you’re coming from the UK, you can drive with your UK driving licence, without the need for an International Driving Permit (IDP)

Car hire companies may impose their own requirements, so it’s always best to check with them before arriving if you need to hire a car.

Driving In Albania

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Albanian roads

Okay, I know.  This is an article about how to plan an Albania roadtrip.  However, I ought to mention one thing:  

Driving in Albania is super fun, and the best way to see the country.  But it’s not for the faint-hearted.  Drivers can be aggressive (e.g. regularly overtaking on blind hairpin corners at three times the speed limit).  

If you’re a confident, competent driver you’ll be fine.  Stick to the limit, and if people are on your tail, just pull over and let the nutters past.

Some roads are in fantastic condition, others are not.  Beware of potholes, especially in rural areas.  And I’d avoid driving at night, as it’s much harder to spot animals/potholes in the road (and you’ll miss the amazing scenery).

Enjoy your Albania road trip!  Let me know how it goes in the comments below.

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I believe in transparency:  Please note that some links in this post are affiliate links.  This means that if you purchase something through them, I might earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you.  However, I only link to products and companies that I trust and honestly recommend.  The income goes towards keeping this site up and running.  Thanks for your support.

2 Comments

  1. Loved the articles. We’re planning to drive from Dubai to Oman in February and your road trip and advice is timely and helpful. We’ll let you know how it goes ????

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