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Gjipe Beach, Albania: A Stunning Hidden Gem

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Gjipe Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches in Europe, easily rivalling anything that Greece or Sardinia has to offer.

This remote hidden gem on the Albanian Riviera is located in a tiny bay at the mouth of the dramatic Gjipe Canyon. Surrounded by steep-sided cliffs, and with some of the clearest, calmest electric-blue water in all of the Mediterranean, it’s simply stunning.

If you’re looking for a world-class, off-the-beaten-path beach destination, Gjipe Beach is definitely worth checking out. It’s also a perfect stop on an Albanian road trip.

Getting to Gjipe Beach can be a little tricky, which helps to ensure that it never gets too busy, even in the height of summer. But it’s more than worth the effort.

Those that make it here are rewarded with an incredible off-the-beaten-path beach destination.

In this guide, I’ll explain everything you need to know to enjoy an amazing day trip at one of my favourite beaches in Albania.

Where is Gjipe Beach?

Gjipe (pronounced “gee-pay“) Beach is located on the Albanian Riviera, in southern Albania, not far from Greece. From here, you can clearly see across to the Greek island of Corfu, which is only about 40 kilometres away.

It’s about a 4-hour drive south of Tirana, the capital city, or a 2-hour drive northwest along the main coastal road from the town of Sarandë.

How to get to Gjipe Beach

There is no asphalt road that leads all the way to Gjipe beach. To get there you have a few different options.

By car + walking

There’s a parking area about 1.5 kilometres away from Gjipe Beach. If you have your own car, look up directions to this point on Google Maps.

sign-for-gjipe-beach-on-main-coastal-road-in-albania

The road up to this point is paved and easy to follow, but here the road ends. You need to pay in cash to park here (it’s currently 300 Lek, or €2.50, for the day), and the attendant will watch your car for you.

The drive to this car park takes about 15 minutes from the village of Dhërmi, and 30 minutes from Himarë.

From here, you’ll need to walk for about 20-30 minutes along a dirt path to get down to the beach itself. It’s not obviously signed, but the parking attendant will point you in the right direction.

walking-down-the-trail-to-gjipe-beach

Along the way, you’ll pass the remains of several defensive bunkers. There are more than 170,000 of these bunkers throughout the country, dating from the era of Albania’s paranoid communist dictator Enver Hoxha who ruled from 1944 until 1985.

The views along the Albanian coast from this path are really wonderful. It’s not a particularly difficult hike (I did it in flip-flops), but the ground is fairly uneven and rocky.

By 4×4

I’ve seen people drive their 4x4s all the way down to the beach along the track described above. I have no idea whether this is technically permitted, but people do seem to do it.

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

By bus

Minibuses (“furgons” in Albanian) drive up and down the southern Albania coastal road semi-frequently throughout the day. These connect the little towns and villages to larger places like Sarandë and Vlorë.

The only tricky thing is that timetables tend to be a little erratic, so you’ll need to head to the bus station in whichever town you’re coming from to ask for the updated times. Or ask the hosts wherever you’re staying, they might know. (Just don’t believe timetables that you find online – they’re often wrong!)

If you do manage to take the bus, ask the driver to stop at the turnoff for Gjipe Beach.

From here, you’ll need to walk about 2.5 kilometres along a single-track road that’s marked with a sign to the Manastiri i Shën Theodhororit monastery, until you reach the parking lot described above.

sign-for-monastery-of-saint-theodor-gjipe-albania

A passing car might offer you a lift if you smile and wave, but you should bring enough water for the walk, just in case.

Hike (from Dhërmi, or Himarë)

If you’re already in Dhërmi, there’s a great 4-kilometre hiking trail to Gjipe that starts here (Google Maps).

If you’re looking for a longer coastal hike, there is an amazing 11-kilometre trail that runs all the way from Himarë to Gjipe, via Livadhi and Jale beaches. From Livadhi (another place you can park if you have a car), it’s 7 kilometers.

coastal-hike-from-livadhi-beach-himare

It’s fairly easy to follow the path – just keep an eye out for the red and white stripes painted onto the rocks. But if you don’t have mobile phone internet in Albania, I recommend using the app Maps.me for offline maps, in case you get lost.

Pack plenty of water and be sure to stay hydrated.

sign-on-hiking-trail-from-himare-to-gjipe-beach-and-canyon

By boat/water taxi

In Himarë, there is a water taxi service that runs throughout the summer. You can use this to access Gjipe, as well as a number of other beaches in the area. At the time of writing, tickets cost €20 per person for a return journey. See their website for further details.

Another company that offers boat tours along this section of the coastline is Himara Seas The Day. I’ve never used this, but they have great reviews online.

A few other local individuals and companies operate boat trips and private transfers to/from the major towns and villages in the area (Himarë, Dhërmi, etc.). Ask wherever you are staying and they’ll probably be able to hook you up with someone who owns a boat.

You’ll have to agree on a price in advance. 2,000 Lek (€17) per person is a fair price for a roundtrip journey from Himarë. Dhërmi is closer, so you should pay less from there.

By kayak

If you’re feeling adventurous, it’s possible to hire a kayak and paddle along the coast to Gjipe Beach.

From Himarë, this would be about 10 kilometres of paddling in each direction (so a 20-kilometre round trip) and the trip would take the best part of a day.

From the far end of Dhërmi beach (the one closest to Gjipe), it would be about 3.5 kilometers each way.

This great video gives you an idea of some of the gorgeous scenery you’ll paddle past on your way to/from the beach:

Hitchhike

Hitchhiking is common in Albania and you probably won’t struggle to find a ride.

While Albania is a very safe country overall, of course, this method of transport isn’t totally risk-free. Try to avoid hitchhiking as a solo traveller, and always use your judgment.

What to do at Gjipe Beach

There’s plenty to keep you busy at Gjipe Beach. You can explore the many caves, swim and snorkel in the turquoise waters, kayak or paddleboard, camp, or simply relax on the beach.

Swimming and snorkelling

The water here is just incredible.

Gjipe-beach-aquamarine-blue-water-ionian-sea

Warm and aquamarine, it’s some of the clearest and calmest in all of the Mediterranean and is perfect for swimming and snorkelling. There’s almost no current, lots of interesting rock features, and the water gets deep quickly.

You’ll see loads of fish of all sizes and colours, plus a whole host other marine life, like urchins and starfish.

Explore the sea caves

Another amazing natural feature of Gjipe Beach is the numerous sea caves that are found close to the beach. Many of these are large enough to swim inside and explore.

Facing out to sea, walk to the far left-hand side of the beach and swim out alongside the rocks until you reach the caves.

gjipe-beach-caves

Some of these are quite big inside. As the water rises and falls, in some places the air inside the caves is sucked in and out with a whoosh and a gurgle. At one point, I couldn’t help but imagine that I was swimming into the throat of a giant monster… It’s a bit spooky, but really fun!

Note of caution: Unless you’re a strong swimmer, I’d only recommend doing this if the sea is particularly calm, and ideally go with at least one other person.

Cliff jumping

Near the caves, there are a few good spots for cliff jumping, if you can manage to scramble up out of the water.

The sea is fairly deep here in most places. But, there are a few rocks here and there, so obviously you need to be careful and check out the area underneath where you want to jump beforehand.

Kayaking and paddleboarding

During the summer season (May-September), you can sometimes rent a kayak or a paddleboard from one of the guys down on the beach. If you have your own paddleboard, even better.

You can use these to explore the caves, or just take a peaceful paddle along the coast.

There are many other tiny beaches that can only be accessed from the water. This is one of my favourites, especially in the late afternoon, as the sun starts to set.

Facilities

There are a few basic facilities at Gjipe Beach, but one of the best things about this place is that it is remote and, largely, untouched.

You’ll find a couple of little beach bars/restaurants that sell simple food (including fresh seafood, salads, and sandwiches), cold beers, and other drinks during the summer. One of these was even open when I visited at the end of October.

simple-restaurant-and-bar-at-gjipe-beach

These places have basic toilets (bring your own toilet paper).

There isn’t much shade on the beach itself, but during the summer you can rent umbrellas and beds for 500-1,000 Lek (€4-8).

Explore Gjipe Canyon

There is a 3-kilometre trail that runs from the turning off the main road all the way down through Gjipe Canyon to the beach. There’s a sign showing you where the route begins, and on Maps.me it’s labelled “Gjipe Canyon Path”.

sign-showing-trail-from-road-to-gjipe-beach-near-gjipe-canyon-in-albania

This hike mostly skirts along the edge of the canyon, but doesn’t really go inside the main section of the ravine. It’s very pretty though, and the path is easy to follow.

gjipe-canyon-albania-and-surrounding-mountains-and-scenery

There is another “trail” that actually goes down into and through Gjipe Canyon. However, you can only safely do this if you have ropes and abseiling equipment. In several sections, there are giant rocks and vertical drops of 5 metres or more.

It’s basically more of a rock climbing and canyoning expedition than a hike, and it would be dangerous to attempt to descend into the canyon without the necessary equipment and experience.

If you’d like to tackle it safely, check out this guided expedition through Gjipe Canyon. You’ll need a decent set of walking or hiking boots.

Very important: this canyon regularly floods without warning when it rains. Do not attempt to go into the canyon if there is rain forecast and/or if you think there’s a chance it might rain.

Where to stay close to Gjipe Beach

There’s not really anything at the beach itself in terms of accommodation, other than camping (see below section).

There are a few small towns and villages nearby where you can stay though.

Himarë

In Himarë, I strongly recommend that you stay at this place (Maria Apartments). I’m currently writing this post from there and love the place so much that I decided to stay for a month.

The hosts are really welcoming, it’s incredibly peaceful, and the view of the Ionian Sea from the terrace is out of this world.

view-of-himare-and-livadhi-from-himare-fshat-castle-old-village

If they’re full, try Alex Bed & Breakfast next door – also great.

Dhërmi

If you want to stay in Dhërmi (which is quite a bit more expensive in general), Ionian Pearl is one of the best cheap options.

See here for my pick of the best hotels in Dhërmi.

Camping at Gjipe Beach

If you have camping gear, Gjipe Beach is a really incredible place to spend the night. The stars are amazing, and you can enjoy the sounds and smells of the ocean all night long.

There’s a tiny campsite on the beach (called Gjipe Eco Campground), which has a few simple facilities. You can usually rent a tent from these guys during the summer, if they have any available.

gjipe-canyon-from-the-beach

However, I’d recommend bringing your own tent and pitching up on the opposite side of the beach where it’s quieter (and free). Just be careful not to camp at the entrance of the canyon, which can flood if it rains.

Check out this article on the best tents for wild camping. (My favourite is the MSR Hubba Hubba 2.)

Best time to visit Gjipe Beach, Albania

Gjipe is a beautiful beach year-round. The most popular time to visit is during the summer months (May to September), when the weather is hot and sunny almost every day.

However, that’s also the busiest period. This is Albania, so it never really gets that crowded. But still, you will need to share the beach with a fair number of other people.

Personally, I think the best time to visit Gjipe Beach is in late September or October. The sea is still warm, the sun is pleasant but not too hot, and the beach is much quieter.

gjipe-beach-in-october-blue-sky

I was there at the very end of October, and there were only about 10 other people on the whole beach.

What to bring to Gjipe beach

Don’t forget to bring the following things:

  • Sunglasses, hat, and suncream
  • Swimming gear
  • Water (bring plenty)
  • Snacks
  • Dry bag (so you can take valuables with you when swimming and exploring the caves)
  • Cash (to pay for parking, and/or drinks and food at the little restaurants)
  • Friends 🙂
path-to-gjipe-beach-and-the-albanian-riviera-coastline

Final thoughts on visiting Gjipe Beach, Albania

Gjipe Beach is one of my favourite beaches in the world.

If this place was in Greece (or any other destination that’s more known about), it would be overrun with people. You’d see it all of the time on Instagram, and it would feature in every travel magazine under the sun.

Happily, that’s not the case, and you can enjoy this stunning place (almost) entirely to yourself. For now…

To enjoy Gjipe at its best and least spoilt, you should come soon though. Every year Albania receives more and more foreign visitors, and it’s only a matter of time before the secret’s out about this magical place.

And if you’re heading further south along the Riviera, check out this post on the 10 best hotels in Ksamil.

IMPORTANT: Never travel without travel insurance!

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  • SafetyWing – if you’re a digital nomad like me, it’s essential that you have suitable insurance. It’s super flexible and affordable, you can sign up for as little or as long as you want, and can activate and deactivate it whenever you need to.

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  • I’m Alex Tiffany.  Former corporate city robot; lifelong travel addict.

 

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