I’ve really fallen in love with Himarë. I’ve been living here for a month now and don’t want to leave.
As I write this, I’m sitting on a hill overlooking the electric-blue Ionian Sea. The air is soft with the scent of sage and honeysuckle. All I can hear is the tinkling of goat bells, bees buzzing, birds singing, and an old couple picking olives.
It’s November, and I’m wearing a T-shirt.
If you’re looking for an idyllic and picturesque little town on the Albanian Riviera, Himarë is one of the best.
Every year, more and more people are discovering this little corner of Europe. But today, it still feels wonderfully off-the-beaten-track.
In this detailed travel guide, I’ll provide all the information you need to plan your trip to this amazing place.
Where is Himarë?
Himarë is located in southwestern Albania, on the Albanian Riviera. The town is situated in a beautiful bay surrounded by mountains and olive groves.
It’s a 4-hour drive south of the capital city of Tirana and is located on the main coastal highway that links the cities of Vlorë and Sarandë.
Himarë is fairly close to Greece, and the small town has a sizeable Greek population. On clear days, you can clearly see the Greek island of Corfu, a mere 40 kilometres away.
- Basic words and phrases in Albanian
- How to visit the Blue Eye (a beautiful natural spring near Saranda)
History of Himarë, Albania
Himarë has a rich history that dates back to antiquity.
An ancient Greek tribe called the Chaonians settled in this area over 2,500 years ago. They founded Himarë (or Chimaera/Χίμαιρα as it was then known), which quickly became an important trading post and fishing port.
Throughout history, Himarë has been fought over by various empires. It was occupied by the Romans, Byzantines, Ottomans, and Venetians.
In the early 20th century, the area was part of the Illyrian Provinces of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. After World War I and the breakup of Austria-Hungary, Himarë became part of the modern state of Albania.
During World War II, Albania was occupied by the Italians, and then the Nazis. After the war, the country was closed off to the outside world under a paranoid and despotic communist dictator, Enver Hoxha.
Happily, those days are long gone. Since the 1990s, Himarë has undergone a transformation, and its stunning natural beauty is attracting more and more visitors every year.
What to see and do in Himarë
Himarë is the perfect place to relax and enjoy the Mediterranean lifestyle. There are plenty of things to do in Himarë, whether you’re looking to go hiking, snorkelling, kayaking, visit historical ruins, or simply relax on the beach.
Here are my top picks of the best things to do in Himarë, Albania.
1. Visit the castle of Himarë
The first thing you should do when you arrive is to visit Himarë castle.
The castle is located on a hilltop overlooking the town and its bays. From here you can enjoy stunning views of the surrounding area, and it’s a great place to get your bearings.
Himarë castle was built by the Byzantines in the 12th century and was later expanded by the Venetians. Today, it’s in a state of ruin and is really atmospheric.
2. Explore Himarë Old Town (Himarë Fshat)
The old town of Himarë, or Himarë Fshat, was built around the castle, and is a lovely place to wander around. It’s a maze of narrow, winding streets lined with beautiful old buildings. Some lie in ruins, others have been restored.
Around every corner, you’re greeted with a beautiful view, whether an amazing old church, a cottage draped in bougainvillea, or a jaw-dropping vista out over the Ionian Sea and across to Corfu.
Some of the houses up here are really gorgeous. I’d love to live here one day.
Once you’ve finished exploring, check out my favourite bar and cafe in the area, Bar 300, which is located on the main road. It’s owned by a lovely guy who’s incredibly friendly and serves great coffee and tasty food.
3. Swim and snorkel in the Ionian Sea
The Albanian Riviera has some of the clearest, calmest water in all of the Mediterranean. Honestly, most days it’s like being in a giant swimming pool. But with loads of fish, starfish, urchins, and cool caves and rocks to explore.
The water gets deep quickly in most places, and there’s almost no current. It’s an amazing place to swim, even if you’re not the most confident swimmer.
If you don’t have your own snorkelling gear, you can either buy or rent a set from various places in town.
4. Relax on one of the many beaches
Beach lovers are spoilt for choice in Himarë. There are plenty of beaches to choose from, whether you’re looking for a quiet secluded spot, or a beach with more of a party vibe.
If you’re looking for a more active beach day, there are plenty of water sports on offer too throughout the summer months, from jet skiing to parasailing.
My favourite beaches in the area are Livadhi, Aquarium, Gjipe, and Dhërmi beaches. (More on these below.)
5. Rent a kayak or paddleboard
With electric-blue water, countless tiny coves and beaches (many only accessible by water), and an unreal mountainous backdrop, the coastline around Himarë really is stunning.
And what better way to explore it than by kayak or paddleboard!
You can rent these throughout the summer season (May-September) from the main waterfront in Himarë town, as well as from Livadhi beach and a few of the other beaches in the area.
If you’re feeling really adventurous, you can kayak all the way from Himarë to Gjipe Beach, via Livadhi, Aquarium, and Jale beaches, not to mention a whole host of other little hidden bays and sea caves.
Just bear in mind that this would be about 10 kilometres of paddling in each direction (so a 20-kilometre round trip) and would take the best part of a day. (If you have camping gear, you can also camp at Gjipe Beach, turning this into a multi-day expedition.)
6. Hike along the coast
There are several excellent hiking trails in and around Himarë.
My favourite is the one that runs northwest along the coast, from Himarë to Jale beach, via Livadhi and Aquarium beaches, and a few other little secluded bays. The route is 6 kilometres and takes about 2 hours, each way.
Alternatively, if you have your own car, you can park at Livadhi beach and start from there, which cuts off 3 kilometres and only takes 1 hour each way.
The sea views along this scenic route are incredible, especially on a clear day. You can see all the way along the Albanian coast and across to the Greek islands of Corfu, Soukia, Othonoi, and Mathraki.
If you’re feeling really energetic, you can continue along to Gjipe Beach (11 kilometres from Himarë; 8 km from Livadhi), or even all the way to Dhërmi beach (15 kilometres from Himarë; 12 km from Gjipe).
The route is (mostly) well-marked, with red and white markers painted on rocks at semi-regular intervals.
However, the easiest way to ensure you don’t get lost is to download the offline maps app Maps.me. This is an amazing app for hiking in general, and shows most of the hiking trails in the area (including this one).
If you have camping gear, there are also several fantastic spots where you can set up a tent and wild camp along the way. Watching the sun set over the sea, then falling asleep to the sound of the waves… I can’t think of many things better!
7. Take a boat trip
I highly recommend taking a boat trip at some point during your time in Himarë. It’s a great way to see the coastline from a different perspective, and to visit some of the more inaccessible beaches.
There are several boat operators in Himarë offering a variety of different boat trips, from short 1-hour trips around the bay, to all-day excursions along the coast to places like Gjipe Beach and Dhërmi.
Himara Water Taxi is a convenient service that runs throughout the summer and can be used to access a number of beaches in the area. At the time of writing, tickets cost €20 per person for a return journey to Gjipe Beach.
Himara Seas The Day is another company in Himarë that offers boat trips and has a good reputation locally, as well as great reviews online.
Most boat trips leave from the main waterfront in Himarë town, but you can also arrange something directly with a boat captain if you’re staying at one of the beaches further along the coast.
8. Stroll along the promenade at sunset
In Albania, taking an early evening walk and catching up with friends and neighbours is an important ritual. So important, it’s even got a name: xhiro.
Taking a sunset stroll along the promenade is one of my favourite things to do in Himarë. You’ll see people of all ages enjoying the last rays of the day, and the atmosphere is wonderful. Quiet and calm, but at the same time buzzing and alive.
There are a number of restaurants, shops, and snack vendors along the waterfront. This is a great place to pick up a beer and enjoy it on the beach while you watch the sunset, then head out to dinner once it’s dark.
Best things to do near Himarë
Visit Porto Palermo Castle
Porto Palermo is an impressive castle located on a little “island” that’s connected to the mainland by a narrow strip of land, in a sheltered and beautiful bay.
The castle was built by the notorious Albanian ruler, Ali Pasha Tepelena, in the early 19th century. It was used as a base for his naval operations in the Ionian Sea, and later served as a prison.
During the communist regime of Enver Hoxha, the bay was home to an important submarine base. You can still see the entrance of a secret submarine bunker dug into the side of a headland just across the bay.
Sadly, the submarine bunker is off-limits to the public (it looks like this inside though – super cool!). However, you can still visit Porto Palermo castle and enjoy the spectacular views.
The castle is located just off the main road that runs along the coast, 8 kilometres from the centre of Himarë, in the direction of Sarandë.
There’s a small car park next to the castle and admission costs 300 Albanian Lek (about €2.50).
Drive to the top of the Llogara Pass
The Llogara Pass is one of the most scenic drives in southern Albania. The road winds its way up the side of the towering Mount Çika, from sea level to a height of 1,043 metres.
At the top of the pass, there are several viewpoints offering incredible panoramic views of the coastline of the Riviera, and the surrounding mountains.
On the other side of the Pass, the landscape looks completely different. The rocky and arid Mediterranean scrubland instantly turns into the dense green forests of the Llogara National Park.
This amazing place is home to a wide range of animals, including deer, wildcats, otters, wolves, vultures, and golden eagles, as well as numerous species of pine, fir, oak, and ash trees.
From the centre of Himarë to the top of the pass, the drive takes about 1 hour, although you’ll want to stop several times along the way to enjoy the breathtaking views.
Even if you don’t have your own car, you can still enjoy the ride. The Llogara Pass is part of highway SH-8, the main coastal road that runs between Sarandë and Vlorë. Most buses that run between Himarë and Vlorë (or Tirana) go this way.
Hike in Gjipe Canyon
Gjipe Canyon is a dramatic gorge located just 12 kilometres from Himarë by road.
There’s a 3-kilometre hiking trail that starts from the turning off the main coastal highway. This skirts along the edge of the canyon and goes all the way down to Gjipe Beach. (See this post for more details, including how to get there.)
The hike isn’t overly strenuous and would be suitable for most people. On Maps.me it’s labelled “Gjipe Canyon Path”.
Bear in mind that this route doesn’t actually go deep inside Gjipe Canyon itself. There is another “trail” that does, although this has some very steep sections and large vertical drops, and I’d only recommend attempting this if you have ropes and abseiling equipment.
If you’d like to go canyoning here safely, check out this guided expedition through Gjipe Canyon.
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.
Dhërmi is a picturesque village 16 kilometres northwest of Himarë along the main coastal road.
The village is known for its beautiful whitewashed buildings, with orange tile roofs and colourful flower boxes.
Dhërmi’s population is a mere 1,800 people. Most live in the main part of the village, which is located on a hill about 200 metres above the sea.
At the end of a fairly steep road just the other side of the village, Dhërmi Beach is one of the most popular and scenic beaches on the Albanian Riviera (see below).
See here for my pick of the best hotels in Dhërmi.
Himarë has several excellent beaches located within the town itself.
Himarë Beach (/Spile Beach)
The main Himarë Beach (also called Spile beach) is located just a few minutes’ walk from the centre of town.
It’s well-equipped with sun loungers and parasols which you can hire, and there are many cafes, bars, and restaurants along the promenade.
The water is clean and clear, good for swimming – just keep an eye out for people fishing off the pier!
Just past the main Himarë Beach, Maraçit is a slightly quieter alternative.
The beach itself is wide and sandy, with crystal-clear water that’s usually very calm and great for swimming.
It also has a few cafes and restaurants nearby, and is definitely worth a visit, especially during the height of summer (July-August), when the main Himarë beach can become a little crowded.
The next beach along, Prinos Beach is located near the edge of Himarë, on the road leading towards Sarandë.
It’s fairly similar to Maracit beach, though tends to be even quieter. Even in high season, this place rarely feels crowded.
It takes about 10 minutes to walk to Prinos beach from the centre of Himarë.
Potami is the last beach in Himarë, and is located on the very edge of the town. It’s usually the quietest of the Himarë beaches, and the best one for swimming.
This pebbly beach has a few bars, but is otherwise very peaceful. If you like snorkelling, check out the rocks along the side of the beach which are home to loads of marine life.
It’s still within fairly easy walking distance (20 mins) from the centre of Himarë though, and is an amazing sunset lookout point.
Best beaches near Himarë
There are some even more stunning beaches in the area around Himarë, Albania.
Here are some of the best beaches nearby.
Livadhi Beach is my favourite beach in the area.
It’s about 1 kilometre long and is tucked away behind dramatic cliffs and green hills dotted with olive groves, pomegranate trees, sheep, and goats.
This mostly-pebbly beach has several sandy areas where you can rent beach umbrellas. Although it’s a fairly popular spot, the beach is large enough that it never feels crowded.
Off-season, the place is even quieter. Throughout October, I came here most days and was virtually the only person there. Although most of the bars and restaurants had shut down by then, I really loved the peace and quiet (and the free sun loungers).
The best spot for snorkelling is the right hand side of the beach (as you look out to sea). In the area around the rocks at the bottom of the cliffs, there are so many incredible fish and other marine creatures, it’s really fantastic.
A beautiful beach in an untouched spot, Aquarium beach is located in a tiny crescent-shaped cove surrounded by steep rocky cliffs.
To get here, it’s a 1.5 kilometre hike from the right-hand edge of Livadhi beach, along the main coastal footpath. This is fairly well-marked with red and white painted symbols (see the above section on coastal hikes) – though you can use Maps.me to find the way if you get lost.
The water here is so clean and clear, and there are so many fish, especially if you venture a little further out to the rocks around the entrance of the cove. It really does feel like you’re swimming in an aquarium!
Jale Beach (/Jala Beach)
Jale beach (also spelled Jala beach) enjoys a secluded natural setting, in a gently curved bay between Himarë and Dhërmi.
It’s one of the busier beaches in the area and is becoming increasingly popular due to the great range of hotels and other accommodation to be found here (everything from simple campsites to luxury hotels with fitness centres and private beach access).
Personally, Jale beach isn’t my favourite of the beaches near Himarë, Albania. In the summer, it can get quite crowded, and the newly-built beach clubs play loud music and serve overpriced drinks.
However, that’s totally a matter of preference. I just prefer beaches that are quieter and a little less developed. In fairness though, it is much quieter off-season.
To get to Jale beach from Himarë, you can either hike along the main coastal path (6 kilometres/2 hours), or drive.
If driving, be sure to take the route that goes via the main coastal highway (SH-8). Google Maps might try and take you along the coastal path, which would be totally impossible unless you have a very sturdy 4×4 (or a dirt bike).
I love Gjipe Beach so much that I wrote a whole post on it! See here.
The largest beach on the Riviera, Borsh beach is 7 kilometres long. It’s popular with backpackers and budget travellers and has a great range of accommodation options, restaurants, and bars.
Parts of the beach can get quite crowded during the summer, but it’s big enough that you can usually find a quiet spot as long as you don’t mind a bit of a walk.
Dhërmi beach is one of the most popular and picturesque beaches close to Himarë. It’s a 2 kilometre-long stretch of mostly-pebbly beach that’s framed by the dramatic mountains of Llogara National Park and Mount Çika.
This is also one of the most developed beaches in the area. There are many beach bars and restaurants dotted along its length, ranging from simple to fancy, as well as a large number of hotels and guesthouses.
Dhërmi is a fairly upmarket place, and prices here are somewhat higher than in Himarë.
Dhërmi village is built into the surrounding hillside, and to get to Dhërmi beach you need to take this exit off the main road – which is also where most buses stop – and drive/walk all the way down to the bottom of the steep-ish road.
From the centre of Dhërmi village, it’s a 30-minute walk (2.5 kilometres), mostly downhill. You can also try to flag a taxi or (if you’re lucky) a minibus heading in that direction.
See here for my pick of the best hotels in Dhërmi beach.
Palasë beach is located just along the coast from Dhërmi. It used to be much quieter and more secluded than its neighbour, but is currently undergoing a transformation.
When I last visited (October 2022), a huge construction project was underway both here and on next door Drimadhë beach, with a large number of luxury hotels and apartments being built.
How to get to Himarë
Why not include Himarë on a wider epic road trip through Albania?
The easiest way to get to Himarë is by car. The drive takes about 4 hours from Tirana, the capital of Albania. It’s 2 hours from the city of Vlorë, and 1.5 hours from Sarandë.
You can also take a bus to Himarë from Tirana (5 hours), Vlorë (3 hours), or Sarandë (2 hours).
Bus schedules tend to be a little erratic in Albania, so I’d recommend heading to the bus station in whichever place you’re coming from ahead of time, and ask for up-to-date departure times.
If you’re coming from Corfu in Greece, you can take the ferry to Sarandë and then hire a car there or catch the bus.
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. Click here for the latest prices.
Where to stay in Himarë
There are plenty of accommodation options in Himarë, including a range of hotels, guesthouses, and campsites.
Best hotels in Himarë
There are many hotels in Himarë, ranging from simple budget places to luxury resorts. Breakfast tends to be included in Albanian hotels, but it’s worth checking either way.
Some of the best Himarë hotels include:
Another place that’s worth mentioning here is Palermiti Luxury Rooms. It’s located in Porto Palermo, just down the road from Himarë, but is a great location if you’d prefer to be closer to some of the other beaches in the area, including Porto Palermo beach, Llamani beach, and Filikurit beach.
Guesthouses in Himarë
If you’re looking to stay somewhere a little more personal, there are also plenty of guesthouses in Himarë.
Here are the ones I’d recommend.
Himarë main town
- VIAL Rooms (comfortable rooms, close to Himarë beach)
- Guest House Solive (perfect location for Potami beach)
- Himara Hostel (fantastic hostel with dorms, private rooms & bungalows)
Himarë Fshat (old town)
- Villa Maria (I rented this place for a month and loved it! The guy who manages it is extremely helpful and his parents who live upstairs are so lovely.)
- Alex Bed & Breakfast (amazing sea view & great breakfast)
- Persephone (spectacular views from here too)
- Philoxenia Guest House
- The Grandfather’s Room
Campsites in Himarë
There are several excellent campsites located in and around Himarë, offering pitches for caravans/motorhomes as well as tents, and decent facilities.
- Pine Side Camp (Himarë, close to the main beach)
- Camping Moskato (Livadhi beach)
- Camping HIMARA (Livadhi beach)
Wild camping near Himarë
If you have the necessary gear, there are many incredible spots for wild camping in the area around Himarë.
I recently found an epic spot on a little headland, right above the sea. I want to keep it semi-secret so won’t publish the location here (though if you really want to know, drop me a message and I can share 🙂 ).
Best restaurants in Himarë
There are loads of great restaurants in Himarë (as well as a few not-so-great ones), and I’ve eaten in most of them.
In my opinion, the best restaurants in Himarë are:
- ELÉA (Greek, really superb – probably my favourite restaurant in Albania)
- Lefteri’s Tavern (fresh seafood)
- Merkur Merkuri (seafood & grill)
- Zgara Te Cunat (traditional grill & Albanian dishes)
- Enigma (pizza)
- Piazza (Italian)
Check out this post on the best restaurants in Tirana.
Best time to visit Himarë
The most popular time to visit Himarë is during the summer months (May to September). However, during July and August especially, the weather is really hot most days and the area is at its most crowded.
I think the best time to visit Himarë is either at the beginning or the end of summer or during the shoulder seasons, so May-June or September-October. It’s warm but not too hot, there will still be plenty to do, but you will avoid the crowds. (And you’ll have a much easier job finding free parking.)
As you’d expect, the sea generally tends to be warmer at the end of the summer than at the beginning.
Note that from about mid-October onwards a lot of places (restaurants, hotels, bars, boat operators) start to shut down for the winter. A few places do stay open over the winter, but the choice is much more limited.
Other useful information for Himarë, Albania
Banks & ATMs
All of the ATMs in Himarë charge for cash withdrawals. The only place that doesn’t charge is Credins Bank, in Sarandë.
(It’s probably not worth a day trip just for that, but I’d definitely recommend looking for Credins Bank ATMs whenever you need to withdraw cash in general. They’re the only ones I’m aware of in Albania that don’t charge fees for withdrawals from foreign bank accounts.)
Supermarkets & shops
- Market Himara (the best value supermarket in Himarë, with excellent fresh produce & one of the only ones that let you pay with card)
- Alpha Supermarket (more expensive but also more choice)
- Pasticeri Delight (excellent little patisserie)
- Big Market (not recommended, they often overcharge you)
Mobile phone shops (where you can buy a local SIM card)
- Located on one of the roads leading down to the main Himarë beach, here.
Final thoughts on visiting Himarë, Albania
I hope this guide to visiting Himarë has inspired you to check out my favourite beach town in Albania.
It’s an amazing place, especially the area around Himarë castle and Livadhi beach. I know I will be returning here, hopefully soon.
I’m sure you’ll have a wonderful time in Himarë. If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below.
And if you’re heading further south along the Riviera, check out this post on the 10 best hotels in Ksamil.