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From Coast to Coast: Mapping Out the Best Cross-Country Travel Routes by Car
Traveling by car offers a sense of freedom and adventure that is hard to replicate with other modes of transportation. Whether you’re planning a road trip across the United States or exploring a foreign country, mapping out the best cross-country travel routes is essential for a smooth and enjoyable journey. In this article, we’ll explore some of the most scenic and popular travel routes by car, from coast to coast.
The Pacific Coast Highway: A Scenic Drive Along the West Coast
The Pacific Coast Highway, also known as Highway 1, stretches for over 600 miles along the stunning coastline of California. This iconic route offers breathtaking views of rugged cliffs, pristine beaches, and charming coastal towns. Starting in San Diego and ending in San Francisco, the Pacific Coast Highway takes you through notable destinations such as Big Sur, Monterey Bay, and Santa Barbara.
As you drive along this route, make sure to stop at popular attractions like Hearst Castle and Bixby Creek Bridge. Enjoy scenic overlooks that offer panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean or take a detour to explore hidden gems like Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park or Point Lobos State Natural Reserve. With its mix of natural beauty and cultural landmarks, the Pacific Coast Highway is one travel route that should be on every road trip enthusiast’s bucket list.
Route 66: Reliving America’s Historic Past
For those seeking a nostalgic journey through America’s past, Route 66 is an iconic travel route that cannot be missed. Stretching from Chicago to Santa Monica Pier in Los Angeles, this legendary highway covers over 2,400 miles.
Driving along Route 66 allows you to experience remnants of America’s golden age as you pass through small towns with vintage diners, neon signs, and retro motels. Immerse yourself in Americana culture at notable stops like the Cadillac Ranch in Texas or the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Don’t forget to try classic roadside eats like hamburgers, milkshakes, and pie at local diners along the way.
While some sections of Route 66 have been replaced by modern highways, there are still stretches that retain the original charm and allure. Embarking on this historic route is like stepping back in time and experiencing a slice of American history firsthand.
The Great Ocean Road: Australia’s Coastal Gem
Traveling across continents, we find ourselves on the Great Ocean Road in Australia. This iconic route spans over 150 miles along Victoria’s stunning coastline, offering breathtaking views of cliffs, beaches, and lush rainforests.
Starting from Torquay and ending at Allansford near Warrnambool, the Great Ocean Road takes you past famous landmarks such as the Twelve Apostles, Loch Ard Gorge, and Bells Beach. Take your time to explore charming seaside towns like Lorne and Apollo Bay or venture into the Otway Ranges for a hike through ancient rainforests.
The Great Ocean Road offers a perfect blend of natural beauty and cultural experiences. From spotting koalas in eucalyptus trees to surfing at world-class breaks, this travel route showcases Australia’s diverse landscapes and laid-back coastal lifestyle.
The Garden Route: South Africa’s Scenic Drive
In South Africa, the Garden Route is a must-visit for nature lovers and adventure enthusiasts alike. Stretching from Mossel Bay to Storms River Mouth along the country’s southeastern coast, this route spans approximately 190 miles.
Driving along the Garden Route allows you to experience diverse landscapes ranging from pristine beaches to dense forests. Stop at popular destinations like Knysna Heads or Tsitsikamma National Park for hiking trails with breathtaking views. Explore picturesque coastal towns such as Plettenberg Bay or Wilderness known for their beautiful beaches and outdoor activities.
The Garden Route is not only a scenic drive but also a gateway to exciting wildlife encounters. Take a detour to Addo Elephant National Park for a chance to see elephants, lions, and other wildlife in their natural habitat.
Whether you’re driving along the Pacific Coast Highway in California, reliving history on Route 66, exploring Australia’s Great Ocean Road, or embarking on South Africa’s Garden Route, cross-country travel routes by car offer an opportunity to discover new landscapes, cultures, and experiences. From breathtaking coastal views to hidden gems off the beaten path, these travel routes promise adventure and memories that will last a lifetime. So buckle up, hit the road, and get ready for an unforgettable journey from coast to coast.
This text was generated using a large language model, and select text has been reviewed and moderated for purposes such as readability.
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Beaches, mountains, ancient towns and low prices? Albania has it all
Despite its dark 20th-century past, the country is now a traveller’s paradise of amazing landscapes, coast and historic cities
“I t used to be rare that journalists would come here,” says Elton Caushi, head of tour operator Albanian Trip , who I meet in the capital, Tirana. “When they did come, they only wanted to talk about blood feuds and sworn virgins.”
The traditions that once dominated tribal politics in Albania’s mountains are interesting, but I’m here to probe a more recent view of the south-east European country. Thanks to its beaches, Unesco-stamped cities and hiking routes, formerly communist Albania is being lauded as a “hot new” European travel destination beyond backpacking and dark tourism .
For decades, Albania had a reputation as a dangerous, no-go country, thanks largely to its being politically isolated under dictator Enver Hoxha, who died in 1985. After Albania’s 1997 civil war and the end of the Kosovo war in 1999, more visitors gradually started coming to Albania, attracted partly by prices lower than in Greece and Italy. In 2009, 1.9 million tourists travelled to Albania; in 2019, the last full pre-Covid year, the figure was 6.4 million.
The food here may be a factor in this shift. I’m with Caushi in a nameless restaurant at 1001 Bardhok Biba, a street close to the city centre. “The tourists haven’t found it – it’s mainly drivers eating here,” he says. I breakfast on sumptuous tasqebap – a soupy mix of veal, garlic, onions and tomato sauce – before Caushi takes me for 9am dessert at Mon Amour , a Parisian-style patisserie. We pay a non-Parisian 390 lek (£2.80) for coffee and baklava pastries with ice-cream.
After breakfast I drive to Dhërmi, a village that has seen myriad hotels pop up along its coast over the past decade. I arrive at the beginning of Kala , one of many small dance music festivals that have sprung up along the Riviera, with dancefloors on the sand.
Dhërmi’s main, non-festival beach is clean, neatly covered in sunbeds and flanked by restaurants. All fine if you just want to lie back and plough through your Kindle. The small beaches north of here, such as Splendor Del Mar and Empire Beach Resort , feel gloriously Balearic in comparison. Swimming in the clear, turquoise sea off Splendor is clock-slowingly tranquil. I haven’t had a better dip outside Asia.
Later, on a walk to nearby Gjipe beach – sandy, lovely, isolated, with zero hotel development – I spot a concrete bunker and stare at this dome with a sea view: a grey lump of cold war paranoia on an otherwise idyllic coast.
I see another bunker. Then another, in the hills when I drive back to Dhërmi. I begin counting them, but soon realise bunkers are as common here as the sunbathing skinks. About 173,371 were reportedly built in Albania between 1975 and 1983, as Hoxha prepared for potential attack.
Caushi warned me that the touristy cities of Durrës and Sarandë were already attracting enough holidaymakers to make them unpleasantly crowded. I stop instead in Gjirokastër and Berat: two smaller cities of renowned beauty.
I prepare by reading Chronicle in Stone, the 1971 novel by Ismail Kadare – Albania’s noted author and Gjirokastër resident. In the book the romance of Gjirokastër’s steep, bumpy paths, snaking around buildings such as Skenduli House and Zekate House – owned by elite families and now museums – shines through his story of 1940s bombardments.
His ink covers the city – my hotel is on Ismael Kadare Street . However, Gjirokastër was once as famous for cannabis as Kadare, according to Blero Topulli, who works in the castle of Gjirokastër . “It was considered one of the most dangerous points in Europe – we had a village producing tonnes of cannabis,” he says. “When I was a child in the 2000s, to see a tourist was like seeing an alien.”
We meet in the castle overlooking the village of Lazarat, which was rife with illegal drug production until a police crackdown in the mid-2010s.
Thanks to its historical architecture, Gjirokastër became a Unesco site in 2005, but Topulli says tourists didn’t arrive in significant numbers until the cannabis gangsters had left. We walk the bazaar streets, renovated five years ago for this tourism tilt, but it’s easy to escape this mildly Disneyfied pocket of the city. Topulli takes me uphill to watch the sunset, passing mansions depicted by Edward Lear in the mid-19th century.
“Listen: the wind in the trees sounds like the sea,” says Topolli. He’s right: it laps my ears as the castle’s lights flick on, a calming comedown after Kala’s beach parties.
Further north in Berat, also a Unesco-listed city, I walk up to the castle . Berat has a similar historic richness to Gjirokastër – and similarly steep climbs – but feels more rugged.
The breezy lack of health and safety concerns in Berat makes it even more enjoyable. At the Red Mosque ruins, I scurry up the scarily thin tower’s pitch-black interior, popping my head over the top so vertigo can override my rising claustrophobia.
“I came to Albania because you can do beach, cities and hiking in a week,” a US tourist tells me. Indeed, after a two-hour drive to Tirana it’s a two-hour bus ride to Shkodër, gateway to the Albanian Alps.
I do a classic trek: the 17km route between Valbona and Theth in the Valbona Valley national park. To get in the mood, I read Edith Durham’s High Albania, the British writer’s document of the region’s tribes, based on her 1908 treks. The toughness of the climb, with horse-dotted woods giving way to craggy half-paths, threatens to outmatch the wild beauty of the area. But three hours in I reach the peak, and the forest-splashed views work their magic: it’s Swiss-level stunning.
In mountain-cradled Theth, my guesthouse pancake breakfast is soundtracked by the tense “click-click-click” of diggers. The snaking road to Shkodër was surfaced with asphalt for the first time last year.
Caushi says that some fear Theth’s new highway could lead to overtourism. “But I’m happy for my friends there: 15 years ago you’d see a cow, a chicken, a cornfield. Now they can get to school faster, to the hospital … it’s good for the locals.”
Good for me too, I think, as my bus to Shkodër glides over asphalt.
I finish back in Tirana, staying at Hotel Boutique Kotoni in the city centre, then the quieter Morina hotel , next to the Grand Park of Tirana. Being the capital city of a country with an anti-capitalist regime until 1992, Tirana didn’t get proper bars until well into the 1990s, according to Caushi. After a construction boom in the 2000s, the city now has a population of 560,000. Hoxha’s opulent former residence has a trendy cafe directly in front of it.
I’m in Tirana fleetingly, but visit Bunkart 1 , Hoxha’s underground complex, which is now a museum and art space. Exhibitions outline decades of dictatorship, interspersed with art installations. Wrongly balanced, the mix of dark history and video art could come across as distastefully hipster-ish, but it’s captivatingly moving.
Another reminder of how quickly a place can change.
Accommodation in Dhërmi was provided by Kala ; Tirana accommodation provided by Hotel Boutique Kotoni (doubles from €100 B&B, hotelkotoni.com) in conjunction with Albanian Trip and Radisson Collection Morina hotel (doubles from €80 room-only
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The Ultimate Travel Guide to a Budget Beach Holiday in Albania
April 25, 2023 by Silvia 91 Comments
Want a budget beach holiday in Europe? Travel to Albanian Riviera with this guide and you’ll be all set, because Albanian beaches are amazing. And I know just where to find the best beaches Albania has to offer.
Updated April 2023
Totally empty white beaches with crystal clear turquoise water, fresh seafood, baklava and local wine, and prices so low they make Thailand look expensive – isn’t southern Europe just wonderful?
It doesn’t really seem possible that an undiscovered beach paradise could be found in Europe these days, much less that it would be so affordable. But that’s exactly what the Albanian Riviera is.
Okay, maybe it’s not totally undiscovered, but while there in early I had most of the beaches I visited pretty much to myself.
After falling for the Albanian Riviera a few years ago, I couldn’t wait to return again – this time with a car! After only spending time on Saranda, Ksamil, Himara and Vlora’s main beaches (and Lazarat, but that’s another story… ), this time I was determined to explore every nook and cranny of the Riviera and find the best secret beach spots.
And that’s exactly what I did!
Car Rental in Albania
To properly explore Albania’s best beaches, you’ll definitely need a car. Or at least, you will if you want to see all the best, hidden beaches in Albania! During my first trip to Albania I hitchhiked and took the bus everywhere, but this time I wanted to be able to stop at all the hidden spots I saw from the road, so we rented a car in Tirana for a week.
Car rental in Albania isn’t too expensive, but it’s SO worth it. You can see so much more with a car, plus renting a car in Albania meant that we could get to totally deserted beaches instead of sticking to the more popular (and crowded) beach spots like Ksamil and Vlora.
Driving in Albania
A lot of people have asked me about driving in Albania, and while Dan was actually the one doing the driving, I would say it really isn’t so bad. Most of the roads of little traffic, and for the most part the roads are very wide and nicely paved. And I felt like Albanian drivers were very reasonable – it certainly wasn’t a scary place to be driving.
Well, it was fine aside from the time we drove down Albania’s Death Road – but that’s far away from the Albanian beaches, so you probably won’t be headed there.
I would recommend renting a car through a global chain as their prices are lower and the companies are reliable – I usually use RentalCars to compare car rental prices across companies.
Travel to Saranda
Saranda (Sarandë) is the main city along the Albanian Riviera, though with around 30,000 inhabitants it’s not exactly huge. While this is probably the main destination for tourists on the Riviera, it’s not actually the best for beaches – but it’s a fine base from which to explore some nearby beaches, as well as Butrint, the ruins of an ancient city nestled in a dense forest.
While there are better Albanian beach spots along the coast, Saranda is well worth a stop to get a feel for Albania’s beach towns. You can buy cheap seafood and produce (try the cherries!!) at a local market, check out the shops and restaurants along the main beach promenade, and walk up to Lekursi Castle for some unreal views.
Don’t forget to wave smugly at the throngs of tourists across the bay in Corfu, paying three times as much to swim in these same waters. I mean, if you’re the sort of person to do something like that, which of course you aren’t. Me neither.
The Best Saranda Hotels and Hostels
DEMI HOTEL // for those wanting a luxury hotel in Saranda
This four star hotel is right on the beach, and it’s absolutely worth upgrading to a sea view room for a balcony overlooking the water! This is a family-run hotel so it has a lot more character than a big chain, and the staff are super sweet and helpful here.
Click here for current rates and availability at Demi Hotel
BED & BREAKFAST AHMETI // for those looking for a mid-range hotel in Saranda
This B&B is run by a very nice family and I love that it’s within easy walking distance of the city center while still being tucked away from the noise downtown (it’s about a 10 minute walk uphill from the center). They also have parking spaces available here, so you won’t need to stress over finding a spot on the street, which again is a huge plus in Saranda.
Click here for current prices and availability at B&B Ahmeti
DOLPHIN HOSTEL // for those traveling to Saranda on a budget
Dan and I stayed at Dolphin Hostel while in Saranda, which I couldn’t recommend more highly! Even when we arrived exhausted from a harrowing drive from Tirana we somehow ended up staying up late into the night talking with the hostel’s manager.
Breakfast is included (and amazing!) and on our second night he cooked everyone a delicious meal of fish and fresh clams, which mysteriously only cost us each 1 euro. The best!
Click here for current prices and availability at Dolphin Hostel
Ksamil – a favorite Albanian beach town
A 15-minute car or bus ride away from Saranda, Ksamil is where everyone goes to see the best Albanian beaches. These are some of the only truly sandy beaches on the Albanian Riviera (most have smooth white stones).
The only downside to Ksamil is that its beaches are fairly small and often privately owned, so you’ll have to pay a couple of dollars for a beach chair or drink/snack to use the beach, and there are more people here. I mean, by Albanian standards, which really just means you’ll see 4 or 5 other people on the beach.
Ksamil is perfect if you want a pretty beach without traveling far from the center of things. You could even stay in a lovely apartment right by the beach there. In fact if you’re looking for a really laidback Albanian beach holiday, that’s exactly what I’d recommend you do. There are so many nice places to stay in Ksamil, and like I said, this is one of the only places with truly sandy beaches in Albania.
The Best Hotels and Apartments in Ksamil
HOTEL CASTLE // mid-range to luxury hotel accommodation in Ksamil
There actually isn’t really any true luxury hotel accommodation in Ksamil, but Hotel Castle is still quite luxurious, especially with its gorgeous views out over the Albanian Riviera. It’s right by the beach and near town and the design is sort of hilarious Albanian kitsch in a building meant to look like a castle!
Check current rates and availability here
VILLA DESTINATION // mid-range apartment accommodation in Ksamil
Villa Destination is right by the beach and offers basic but clean little apartments with balconies.
KSAMIL APARTMENTS // budget apartment accommodation in Ksamil
The Ksamil Apartments are a short walk both to the beach and the town center, but still in a quiet area. The apartments are spacious with balconies and really for the price they are such a good bargain.
The Blue Eye (Syri Kalter)
Okay, this is a spring, not an Albanian beach, but you might want to forget the seaside and just spend your entire Albanian holiday gazing into it.
Water in The Blue Eye bubbles up from more than 50 meters deep at a sort of alarming rate. Seriously, where is it all coming from, and how can it be that blue? Is Albania’s tourism board secretly dumping dye into this thing each morning?
The Blue Eye spring is about a 25 minute drive inland from Saranda (on the way to Girokaster) and I’ve heard that it can get crowded in the summer with people swimming, but in early June it was empty – and freezing!
And before heading back to Saranda drive farther up into the mountains for some pretty stunning views! I mean, Albania has a lot of stunning views, but this was one of my favorites.
Drive the SH8 from Saranda to Himara
The drive along the seaside from Saranda to Himara is stunning, and full of turn-offs into little abandoned beaches. We simply turned down every small road we passed that looked like it was heading towards the water, and not once were we disappointed.
I’d give you more specific directions, but turning down random roads to discover hidden beaches in Albania was part of the fun! Plus it’s nice to keep the beaches hidden so only the more adventurous beach hunters find them, right? But let me just say, it will be well worth the effort.
One of my favorite spots was a teeny tiny strip of beach right after Porto Palermo – the view of the little islands from the road wasn’t terrible either!
Travel to Himara
Smaller and quieter than Saranda and Ksamil, Himara (Himarë ) is simply perfect.
Locals in Himarë are predominantly Greek, which definitely comes across in the feel of the place. I think I gained five pounds from all the delicious food here, while Dan gained at least five new Facebook friends. People in Himara are so friendly!
If I had to choose I would say Himara was my second favorite stop along the Albanian Riviera, and that’s largely because of the wonderful people we met there. And the views weren’t terrible either.
Wondering what my favorite stop was? Read on!
Best Hotels and Apartments in Himara
HIMARA RIVIERA ROOMS // mid-range to budget accommodation in Himara
We stayed at Himara Riviera Rooms, where we had a lovely little apartment with a balcony overlooking the sea. The owners were SO lovely and this is really my #1 recommendation for a hotel in Himara. It really is just perfect.
Check current prices and availability at Himara Riviera Rooms
CAMPING KRANEA // budget accommodation in Himara
Our first night we camped at Camping Kranea on a beach in the north of town, and it was so, so lovely to wake up right on the beach. If you’re on a very tight budget this is an excellent option.
Check current rates and availability
RAPOS RESORT HOTEL // luxury hotel in Himara
This is the only real resort in Himara, and it has amazing sea views from its rooms, a swimming pool, and a beach right in front of the hotel. The wonderful thing about a beach holiday in Albania is that a hotel like this isn’t even expensive – if you want to escape to a beach resort I would highly recommend heading here!
Check current prices and availability at Rapos Resort Hotel
The Best Albanian Beaches near Himara
One of my favorite beaches in the area wasn’t actually in Himara, but 10 kilometers north in Jala. Jali Beach wasn’t as empty as other beaches we went to, but I enjoyed burning sunning myself with the locals and taking in the relaxing atmosphere of the small beachside village.
Travel to Dhermi
Dhermi (Dhërmi) was my favorite place we stayed in Albania! Dhermi Beach is the longest I saw in Albania and seems to cater to more upscale tourists. The village itself lies up a hill from the water and has beautiful old stone houses built into the side of a mountain.
If you want the best Albanian beach experience, I would definitely recommend heading to Dhermi (in fact I have recommended a beach holiday in Dhermi to so many of my friends!).
Best Hotels in Dhermi
GUEST HOUSE FOUR SEASONS // budget to mid-range hotel in Dhermi
We stayed in a double room at Guest House Four Seasons, which had a balcony overlooking the sea and was surprisingly cheap. It felt like being on a luxury holiday, but on a backpacker’s budget.
Click here for current prices and availability at the Guest House Four Seasons
DRYMADES BUNGALOWS // mid-range to luxury hotel in Dhermi
I had dinner here one night and it was SO nice. The food was amazing, the restaurant has a view over the water, and it’s really close to a sandy beach. If you want an Albanian beach escape, I’d definitely come here!
Click here for current rates and availability at Drymades Bungalows
EMPIRE BEACH RESORT // luxury hotel in Dhermi
If you want a luxury resort, the Empire Beach Resort looks incredible, and you get a gorgeous swimming pool as well as the beach.
Click here for current rates and availability at the Empire Beach Resort
The Best Beaches near Dhermi
Dhermi is also just 8 kilometers from what might be Albania’s most beautiful beach: Gjipe Beach.
You’ll have to walk the last couple of kilometers, but I promise it’s worth it! This was definitely my happy place on the Albanian Riviera, and I plan on returning to Gjipe Beach again and again.
In fact I’m super curious if it’s still as hidden now as it was when I visited – if you’ve been recently let me know in the comments!
No Photoshop necessary!
Driving from Dhermi to Vlora and Tirana
And, if you’re heading north from Dhermi you’re in for a serious treat – well, unless you’re prone to carsickness. The hairpin curves on the road climbing the mountain towards Vlora are brutal, but they’ll take you to a heavenly view of the coastline.
A little too heavenly in our case though, as we drove right up into a cloud. At least I remember beautiful views from last year’s visit!
And finally, when you’re planning your trip to Albania you definitely want to remember travel insurance.
I never, ever travel without travel insurance (especially in a place like Albania where you’ll be swimming and in the mountains!) and it has saved me on multiple occasions – like that time I was bedridden in Beijing . My personal pick for travel insurance is World Nomads, and I have done a ton of research on different providers.
World Nomads is incredibly affordable, and when I have had to use them I simply sent my hospital receipts and had a check in the mail within a couple of weeks. So easy, and totally worth it.
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July 19, 2015 at 7:17 pm
The Albanian Riviera looks like an absolute paradise! I can’t get over the photos of Gjipe Beach – that water! Are any of these beaches accessible by public transport, or would you say renting a car is necessary?
July 23, 2015 at 1:45 am
Rent a car!!! Is just 20 $ per day 🙂
July 5, 2016 at 4:15 pm
Can you recommend where to rent a car?
July 28, 2015 at 10:45 am
Renting a car definitely made things easier, but if you have GPS on your phone and can follow along while in a bus or hitchhiking then you could jump out at the beaches! Otherwise you’d have to stick more to the beaches near the main towns – which are also pretty 🙂
July 5, 2016 at 8:26 pm
July 5, 2016 at 8:40 pm
I used Albania Car Rentals at Tirana Airport, but only because I didn’t have a credit card so I couldn’t rent from the larger chains. I recommend looking at a car rental search engine to find the cheapest rental place (my favorite is here: http://bit.ly/29kzxZR ).
July 19, 2015 at 7:24 pm
I’ve never been in Albania yet, but now it’s definitely on my bucketlist!
It definitely deserves a spot there!
July 19, 2015 at 8:10 pm
wow I’m in love!!! I knew Albania was gorgeous, but looking into your photos I’m even much more in love! Can’t hardly wait to explore it all!
You will be even more in love in person 🙂
September 5, 2021 at 6:23 am
Can i ask how did you get there? I can see flights only to Tirana or Corfu and i think a ferry? What was your experience?
September 8, 2021 at 4:34 pm
One time I flew into Tirana and rented a car, and the other time I got a bus from Greece to Saranda.
Deepti @ Endless Postcards says
July 19, 2015 at 10:40 pm
I’ve wanted to go to Albania for the longest time!! I’m planning a trip to Europe next summer but I was unable to fit Albania in because they don’t have an international rail system, and I can’t really afford any other type of transportation. (I’m coming from America and visiting Europe for 2 and a half months and I’m in university — budget is limited!) Hopefully I can visit Albania soon and see these beautiful places myself.
Your pictures are beautiful and that hostel dinner sounds like a dream! Glad to see that you had a good time!
July 28, 2015 at 10:47 am
I definitely can understand having to cut things for budget reasons. Your trip sounds pretty amazing without Albania though – you’ll just have to save Albania for later!
becky hutner says
July 20, 2015 at 1:06 am
Really blown away by this coast. But I do like a bit of a scene with my beaches. Would you say there are cool beach bars/clubs around or is it all pretty quiet?
Suada B says
July 22, 2015 at 10:41 am
Night life in Albania’s Riviera is the hottest 😉 😀
July 28, 2015 at 10:48 am
I had totally forgotten until reading your comment, but Dhermi beach already had a bar set up playing music, even so early in the season. So yes!
July 20, 2015 at 4:08 am
These look amazing! I only spent a few hours in Albania, crossing from Ohrid, Macedonia into Pogradec, but that taste left me wanting more. Such an interesting country!
July 28, 2015 at 10:49 am
It really is fascinating!
July 20, 2015 at 1:15 pm
Oh my, this looks like paradise! I’ve been to Albania two months ago, and visited Berat..But it seems that I might have to go back for a beach holiday sometimes soon! LOVE the photos 🙂
You DO need to go back for a beach holiday 🙂
July 20, 2015 at 3:56 pm
I love Albanian beaches. I have been there twice and I can’t wait to go back next year.
July 20, 2015 at 8:13 pm
Dammit Silvia! Just when I think I’ve figured out where I want to go on my big trip next summer (it was Peru, then India) you’ve made me start second guessing myself. I’m pretty sure I want to follow your exact footsteps now. Because everywhere you’ve gone recently, including Albania, looks incredible. Silly me for not even knowing that Albania had beaches. I just looked at a map and I’m feeling a little dumb… Anyway, I’m pretty sure I need to live there. Or at least travel there 🙂
July 21, 2015 at 9:44 pm
I haven’t heard of these places before, but the water looks amazing — such a beautiful shade of blue. Definitely adding these spots to my bucket list.
July 22, 2015 at 9:24 am
Lovely pictures! Seems like there are a lot hidden beautiful places in Albania!
David @ Hostelworld says
July 22, 2015 at 11:03 am
The Albanian Riviera is SO the place to be this summer. Thanks for sharing your awesome pics – I need to book in a trip there asap 🙂
July 28, 2015 at 11:22 am
It really does seem to be having a moment!
Melanie Fontaine says
July 22, 2015 at 12:16 pm
I honestly can’t get over how incredibly blue the water is!! Absolutely stunning! I’ve been noticing a lot of hype and talk about Albania this year and considering that I have never been anywhere even remotely close to this region, I should probably make a point of heading to the Balkans soon! 🙂 A hidden beach paradise in Europe always sounds like a good idea!
July 28, 2015 at 11:44 am
Albania definitely seems to be growing as a travel destination!
July 22, 2015 at 12:48 pm
Drool. Swoon. And yay to you teasing those poor tourists stuck on Corfu! 😉
July 28, 2015 at 11:45 am
I’m still drooling, ha.
Miriam of Adventurous Miriam says
July 24, 2015 at 6:04 pm
Silvia, woah! That water and that sunset. Seriously!
July 28, 2015 at 11:47 am
Right?! Ahh still can’t get over it!
July 25, 2015 at 11:33 am
I’m currently road tripping my way across Europe to Albania so this blog post popped up in my Twitter feed at just the right time. I can’t wait to hit the beach!
July 28, 2015 at 11:48 am
Ah perfect, you’re going to love it!
Rachael - Travelling Anyway says
July 28, 2015 at 3:48 am
Wow Silvia – what amazing photos. You’ve successfully added another destination to my wish list (which appears to be getting longer rather than shorter might I add). Safe travels x
July 28, 2015 at 11:50 am
Haha that really is the way with those lists, isn’t it?
July 29, 2015 at 1:32 pm
Leaving in a week for Albania! Thanks to bloggers like you my husband and I are very excited for our trip. Thanks for your post. A little nervous about driving in Albania.
August 4, 2015 at 12:06 pm
Driving in Albania actually wasn’t bad at all because there aren’t too many cars on the road. You’re going to have a blast!
November 27, 2015 at 1:31 am
Hi Silvia! Amazing pictures! Love it! I’m driving from croatia til albania next summer and i was wondering if u could tell me how long should I stay in each of the important cities in Albania? Tks 🙂
December 5, 2015 at 10:38 am
This looks amazing!! do you have any posts about how to rent a car, return the car, and navigate the roads in Albania? Planning a trip for next summer from USA would love to do Croatia-Montenegro-Albania over a 2 week trip, any suggestion of routes and methods of transport greatly appreciated!
December 9, 2015 at 6:39 pm
If you look here you can see all my posts on Albania, including driving and the car rental: http://www.heartmybackpack.com/category/albania/ . Good luck, I’m sure your trip will be fantastic!
February 12, 2016 at 9:56 am
Your trip looks amazing we’ve been eyeing up the Albanian Riviera for a while now! Will it be possible to do some of your route without a car? How are the driving conditions if you do rent a car? Many Thanks!
February 17, 2016 at 11:16 am
Yes, I actually traveled from Saranda up to Tirana without a car the year before! I hitchhiked a lot, which is really easy in Albania, but there are also buses you can get. Have fun!
May 23, 2016 at 10:06 pm
Just got back from trip, rental car thru Albania and Macedonia. Very affordable, less than 20 dollars a day. The main roads are in much better condition than we had anticipated and traffic was quite light. The roads in certain cities, Vlore for example, are pretty bad, follow the locals, they know where every pothole is! Albania is worth every little issue you might run across, we loved every minute of our trip.
June 7, 2016 at 10:18 am
My sister and I will be visiting Albania in two weeks and would like to road trip around Albania. If it is possible where did you rent your car? We will start off at Saranda.
April 3, 2016 at 5:59 pm
Found your post when surfing the net and trying to find some more info and reviews about Albania. I’m travelling there in a couple of months, and I’m gonna have my base in Saranda. Plan is to visit beaches and interesting places nearby, and your post was very helpful! I’m not going to rent a car, but I’m hoping there are reasonably priced buses or taxis to get around there.
If you have good tips for restaurants etc. I’d be happy to hear those!
April 4, 2016 at 1:34 pm
You can definitely get around by buses too, don’t worry. And I just ate mostly ate local bakeries or little street side restaurants. Nothing special, but really yummy!
May 7, 2016 at 5:44 am
Wow. Okay, you’ve convinced me. I’m going to Europe for the summer and hitting up all these places. Thanks!
June 6, 2016 at 1:49 pm
OMG! This is so nice to read about the places I’ve been to on someone else’s blog!! 😀 I STAYED IN THE SAME HOSTEL in Saranda! 😀 did you also have some water cuts in the afternoon? 😀 And yep, I also did the Gjipe Beach. 😀 I see you share my taste for the Balkan countries (just seen your other post about Kosovo, where I was A WEEK ago), so I guess you just gained another reader. 😀 Greetings from Poland! 😉
August 29, 2016 at 9:58 am
Wow I have only seen the northern part of Albania. This looks amazing. How are the roads? Easy to travel or not?
September 8, 2016 at 6:15 pm
They’re a bit rough, but definitely fine for travel!
September 7, 2016 at 1:14 am
Thanks for the great article and even better photos. I’m looking forward to my trip to Albania more than ever now 🙂
September 9, 2016 at 11:26 am
That’s great to hear, I hope you love it!
Mariano Gonzalez says
January 9, 2017 at 12:45 am
Hello I have a stop in Sarande on a cruise in May 2017. We are 4 adults and a 3 year old child. We just want to stay on a beach close to the port and be calm …….. I read about Ksumil beach or Pulebardha Beach …. which ones recommend? or other? I am worried about the subject of transportation ….. buses ….. taxis …. ferrys? Is there availability and good frequency? Thank you very much. Mariano from Argentina.
January 9, 2017 at 5:52 pm
Ksamil is really nice! It’s very easy to find transportation – I would simply get a bus or a taxi (it should be affordable) to the beach. Have fun!
February 24, 2017 at 9:38 pm
Nice photo! Albania is a very atmospheric location, see You in Saranda !
April 3, 2017 at 9:39 pm
Thanks for your helpful posts! We are traveling to Albania for your honeymoon in July and we’d like to stay in Ksamil. Can you let us know the easiest way to get there? We’ll be coming from Ireland.
April 4, 2017 at 3:26 pm
The easiest way is probably to fly to Tirana and then get a bus or rent a car to Ksamil (I recommend renting a car if you can, as then you can explore more of the beaches). You can also get a bus from Athens, but it’s a long journey!
April 6, 2017 at 6:03 am
Thank you, darling! xxx.
April 21, 2017 at 7:46 pm
Hi, fab articles! I’m thinking of Albania for this summer. I have been looking at car hire prices but they seem to be at least 50euros a day for the smallest car and it’s not easy to find a company that will allow me to pick up in Tirana and drop off in Sarande . Did you book online in advance or when u arrived? Thanks
May 1, 2017 at 11:12 am
I booked online in advance – no idea why it’s costing so much. Did you try sixt.com? That’s always the cheapest in Norway, at least.
May 8, 2017 at 1:48 am
hi, Going to Albania in July. Saranda for few days, is there any point staying in Ksmail for night or two also when the two are so close and we have a car? Similarily later on we will travel to Himare, would you recommend Dhermi for night or two or is himare a good base for both? thanks
May 9, 2017 at 6:54 pm
No, I think I would just stay in Saranda and visit Ksamil for a day. I did love staying in Dhermi though and would try to do that if possible, but otherwise you can also just drive there. Have a wonderful time!
Brian Walsh says
May 8, 2017 at 3:54 am
Is this a good place for family?. Kids 16 and 12?? We love beaches and cultural meals , exploring different things.. NO McDonalds and no disney.. beach houses, sleeping closer to the water the better? We like to plan as little as possible and run into things to do if we can move from the beach.. We only have ten days to two weeks. If you had two kids of those ages and were going to Albania would you feel safe and what would you do as far as planning our Albanian beach trip from New Mexico? thx Im very bad at looking at internet and planning i need validation i guess???? Brian
May 9, 2017 at 6:53 pm
Yeah I think it should be a lovely place to go with kids! And I’d definitely feel safe there. I’d try to rent a car so that you can have the most flexibility and really explore all the beautiful beaches together. I’m sure you’ll have an amazing time!
Lene Østreng Veland says
May 25, 2017 at 10:11 pm
My family with the “kids” on 16 ang 19 are going to Saranda this summer. We are looking for a place to stay. Where in the city will you recoment to stay. I have found a nice Airbnb appartment west of the stadion, but are afraid its too fare from the center. Is it better to find a place more south of the city center?
May 30, 2017 at 4:23 pm
I would definitely try to stay nearby the city and I do think south is better than west, though anywhere should be lovely! Have a wonderful time!
July 14, 2017 at 11:15 pm
I am currently researching Albania, and I came across this post. We are in Budva, Montenegro, right now and will be going to Albania in the next few days. We are reliant on public transport, but finding it very difficult to find out any information about buses. You mentioned that there are buses in some of your Albania posts. How do we find out the bus routes and where they go from? I would be really grateful for any info you could share!
Holly Olson says
December 27, 2017 at 5:10 am
Thank you so much for this post! I am planning a trip to Albania this summer. When renting the car- how did the gas process work? Pretty easy to figure out?
March 4, 2018 at 3:19 am
hi! do you have any tips for himare and the best beahes around and places to eat?
Gilbert De Jonghe says
March 20, 2018 at 11:25 am
Albania is match more than beaches, go to the North, try the Komanlake en go further to the wild Alps mountains and the onbelieveble nature.We did it 8-22 juin 2015.
May 8, 2018 at 3:48 pm
Albania the great nation
May 22, 2018 at 10:49 am
Hi there. Thank you for all these details. We’re the family of 5 – kids aged 2, 5 and 8. We are looking for a budget trip to Albania and would really like to experience quiet sand beaches. Any suggestions of an area? Thabks a mill,
September 4, 2018 at 2:26 pm
Thanks for this informative article. Will be very useful in my future trip to Albania. Excited to have a great time.
January 17, 2019 at 3:25 pm
Great Post! I’ve been looking for a great place to go for nice beaches in Europe for a long time. You’ve sold me on the Albanian Riviera. Thanks a lot, need to plan this trip.
Eric Wilson says
March 4, 2019 at 5:27 pm
You have collected info nicely and shared it at one place. This travel guide is very nice to understand the journey.
May 2, 2019 at 7:08 pm
I’m planing a trip this July and this by far has been the best blog!! Thank you so much and thank you for sharing all your resources!!
May 29, 2019 at 3:26 pm
These beach views are awesome. Great Thanks.
August 3, 2019 at 10:47 am
Hopefully I can visit Albania soon and see these beautiful places myself.
August 22, 2019 at 2:08 pm
Thanks! I’m considering stopping by the beach.. I’m going to Albania in September :))
September 25, 2019 at 11:00 am
Great article! Glad to see you have included Ksamil in the list. The islands of Ksamil are definitely one of the most beautiful islands you will ever visit, and the area is one of the best in the Albanian riviera. You will surely want to come back again 🙂
December 9, 2019 at 11:44 am
I like reading your blog. I have never been to Albania, I really hope that it will turn out to visit this country in the near future. Thanks!
George Lattos says
April 6, 2020 at 10:28 pm
Once this travel ban is lifted, I will be booking my flights, because it looks amazing!
April 7, 2020 at 1:02 pm
Hopefully we don’t have to wait too long!
May 2, 2020 at 1:08 pm
I can’t wait to visit!
May 18, 2020 at 1:54 am
I just absolutely loved the way that you have added so many high quality pictures, it just makes the whole presentation of the article 10x better. Keep up the good work coming. Absolutely Loved It!
Tim Neeble says
October 3, 2020 at 2:13 pm
We traveled Vlore & Albania 2 years ago and loved it! It is truly an amazing country. I really could spend all day reading your blog, I love it!
February 18, 2021 at 9:10 am
Hi! Any of these beaches you recommend for jogging? I believe most are pebbly, no?
March 21, 2021 at 9:33 am
Amazing article Awesome read
August 27, 2023 at 1:24 am
Looks awesome, but do you think the resorts are expensive? Can someone with low budget go to the resorts?
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- Albania Beaches
Shengjin is a coastal town in the Lezha District, northwestern Albania. Located at 41°49′N 19°36′E, Shengjin has a population of approximately 8,000 citizens. Shengjin is one of many cities within the District of Lezha and is home to one of Albania’s entry ports, the Port of Shengjin.
Shëngjn’s economy is focused around two major industries: seaport and tourism . The Port of Shëngjin, or Shëngjin Harbor, is the northernmost seaport in Albania and is frequently accessed by cargo and fishing vessels. The Port of Shëngjin provides the area with a strong industrial foundation. Shëngjin has the third-largest port in Albania and the Harbor’s access point is located on the northwest part of the city. The port is protected by lengthy rock walls that extend into the sea.
Shengjin is located approximately 100 meters away from the waters of the Adriatic Sea, and below a mountainside called Rrenci that is approximately 159 meters in height. Shengjin, also located approximately 60 km from the Tirana Mother Teresa International Airport. Being an ecological city, Shengjin offers some of the best fishing grounds that ensure that there is a balance between the rate of fishing and the frequency of fishing so that to ensure that there is not too much loss of fish from the sea. Shengjn’s economy is focused around two major industries: seaport and tourism. The Port of Shengjin, or Shengjin Harbor, is the northernmost seaport in Albania and is frequently accessed by cargo and fishing vessels. The Port of Shengjin provides the area with a strong industrial foundation. Shengjin has the third-largest port in Albania and the Harbor’s access point is located in the northwest part of the city. The port is protected by lengthy rock walls that extend into the sea.
Durresi is the second-largest city in Albania and the main destination of tourists for its large coastline. For more information on this touristic city, you may search on this page for further information about Durres county. Durres is an important link to Western Europe due to its port and its proximity to the Italian port cities, notably Bari, to which daily ferries run. As well as the dockyard, it also possesses an important shipyard and manufacturing industries, notably producing leather, plastic, and tobacco products. The southern coastal stretch is renowned for its traditional mass beach tourism having experienced uncontrolled urban development. The city’s beaches are also a popular destination for many foreign and local tourists, with an estimated 800,000 tourists visiting annually. Many Albanians from Tirana and elsewhere spend their summer vacations on the beaches of Durres. In 2012, new water sanitation systems are being installed to completely eliminate seawater pollution. In contrast, the northern coastal stretch is mostly unspoiled and set to become an elite tourism destination as a number of beach resorts are being built since 2009. Neighboring districts are known for the production of good wine and a variety of foodstuffs.
Albanian Riviera is a coastal area in the County of Vlorë running along the Ionian Sea under the Ceraunian Mountains in Southern Albania. It should not be confused with the Albanian coastline as a whole which includes both the Riviera and the mostly flat coastline of central and north Albania. Traditionally, the region begins south of Llogara National Park, continues down along the coast through the villages of Borsh, Himara , Qeparo, Piqeras, and ends at Lukovë. The Albanian Riviera was proclaimed as the 2012 Top Value Destination by Frommer’s. Accommodation consists mainly of guest houses or bed and breakfasts and wood cabin complexes. There are a few camping areas, beach clubs, and resorts while the rest of the coast is mostly unspoiled. Some owners of these facilities organize tours along the coast and the nearby area as part of their accommodation packages. These include visits to cultural sites, and sailing, paragliding, hiking , kayaking, and underwater diving activities.
Albanian Riviera is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful and unspoiled regions in Albania. The Adriatic and Ionian coast of Albania is of dramatic beauty. The coastline stretches for over 450 km. The Adriatic coast, about 300 km long has shallow water and long sandy beaches. The Ionian coast about 150 km is rugged and dramatic, with steep backdrops to fine white sandy beaches.
Clearwater lakes in West Albania and the large and unknown stalactite caves are waiting for their explorers around the world. The Ionian coast about 150 km is rugged and dramatic, with steep backdrops to fine white sandy beaches. These beaches are smaller and rockier. Citrus, fig, and olive trees dominate the landscape, giving it a classical Mediterranean beauty. The southern coastline remains unspoiled.
In Vlora , Saranda, Dhërmi, Qeparo, Vuno, Himara, Borsh, and other coastal villages, the deep, clean, blue Ionian sea is combined with the clean and healthy air of the mountains. Those places are certainly the most attractive locations in Albania, reported as such in all tourist- and guide-books of Albania. The villages and cities present a particular beauty with their characteristic Southern architecture amidst the traditional Mediterranean greenness.
The Pirate’s cave by the village of Dhermi is an interesting natural cave made famous by the book written by Petro Marko and the movie of the same title. It can be reached both from the sea and the land. The sea view is unique and very particular. Located in perpendicular rocks, in very deep waters it is one of the most valuable tourist attractions, that brings you back to the Medieval history of Albania.
In 2009, the region gained international attention after the reconstruction of the coastal road SH8, the 2010 tour stop of DJ Tiesto in Dhermi, and the filming of a Top Gear episode featuring a breath-taking car pursuit along the winding coastal road. The area is a major nightlife, ecotourist, and elite retreat destination in Albania. The region features traditional Mediterranean villages, ancient castles, and Orthodox churches. In fact, the landscape alternates between mountain passes, turquoise beaches, underwater fauna, caves, and orange, lemon, and olive plantations. As part of the regional master plan, the World Bank and other institutions are financing local infrastructure projects, including the renovation of roofs and facades of traditional houses overlooking the Riviera and the construction of water supply and treatment plants. There are more than 4 million visitors that come to Albania every year and their number is increasing.
Situated opposite Corfu (Greece), the city of Saranda is now visited by day-trippers who come to enjoy this beautiful city. The city of Saranda is the pearl of the Albanian riviera at the Ionian sea. A town with a rich past, a multifaceted present, and a promising future. The sea panorama, the variety of flora, favored by the soft climate, make Saranda the preferred center for rest and recreation and an important tourist town. Saranda is rapidly developing into the southern gateway for tourism into Albania. Near Saranda stood the ancient Illyrian city of Onchesmos, mentioned as a port in the 1st century B.C. Inside the city walls have been excavated the remains of dwellings, water cisterns, and an early Christian basilica of the 5th and 6th century, containing a beautiful multicolored floor mosaic. 18km south of Saranda are the ancient ruins of Butrint,surprisingly extensive and interesting. Virgil claimed that the Trojans founded Butrint.
The Albanian Riviera
Further unpopulated beaches to enjoy your time
- Dental Tourism
- Balkan Tours
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- Rafting in Albania
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Travel Blog articles
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- Albania, Top Searched Winter-Sun Destination in the UK
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- Saranda Hosts 9th Edition of Eco-Friendly Souvenirs Fair
- Nivica Hosts Sofat Sustainable Festival Event
- Summer Destinations: Selcka Waterfall
- Walk the Most Scenic Hike Between the Ionian and Adriatic Seas
- Ancient Tomb Unearthed in Amantia
- National Historical Museum Reopens to Public
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- 2 Other destinations
- 3 Understand
- 5 Get around
- 10 Stay safe
Coastal Albania is a region of Albania along the western lowland and the southern coast bordering both the Adriatic Sea and Ionian Sea.
Cities [ edit ]
From north to south:
- 42.066667 19.5 1 Shkodër — the biggest town in Northern Albania along Skadar Lake. The Rozafa Castle is a major tourist attraction here.
- 42.213611 19.436389 2 Koplik — mountainous landscapes over Lake Skadar
- 41.864758 19.430022 3 Velipoja — coastal village with a curative sand shore and excellent bathing waters. The beach is long and wide, and a lot of hotels offer nice rooms.
- 41.813611 19.593889 4 Shengjin — seaside resort and port town northwest of Lezhe, known for its curative beach sands, and "Rana e Hedhun" beach dune. The area also includes Kune-Vain-Tale Lagoon area and its beaches.
- 41.7805 19.6434 5 Lezhe — a small city home to Skanderbeg's Tomb, panoramic Lezhe Castle, historic Mirdita and Zadrima regions, and several renovated churches
- 41.345556 19.567222 6 Shijak — it is well known for its Bosnian restaurants where you can enjoy a mix of the Albanian cuisine with the Bosnian and Mediterranean ones.
- 41.324167 19.455833 7 Durrës — one of the oldest cities in Albania. It has the largest amphitheater in the Balkans. It is the largest port of Albania and has the longest shoreline. Newly explored beaches include Bishti i Pallës, Gjiri i Lalzit, Spille, and Plazhi i Gjeneralit
- 40.966667 19.683333 8 Golem — coastal town in Tirana County about 20 km south of Durrës that is nevertheless a well-known ski area
- 41.183333 19.55 9 Kavaje —
- 40.716667 19.55 10 Fier — about eight miles outside the modern city of Fier are the early Greek and Roman ruins of the ancient city of Apollonia. Much of this ancient city still remains buried under the hills.
- 40.45 19.483333 11 Vlorë — lively seaside city, nice beaches south of town. Passenger ferries to and from Italy dock here.
- 39.883333 20.016667 12 Sarandë — a city in southern Albania passed the Albanian Riviera known for its unforgettable beaches, and colorful spring blooms.
- 41.683333 19.716667 13 Milot
- 42 19.633333 14 Vau i Dejës
Other destinations [ edit ]
- Skadar Lake — shared between Albania and Montenegro featuring small fishing villages such as Zogaj and Shiroke
- Divjaka-Karavasta Lagoon National Park — (a detour toward west about halfway on Durres-Fier highway, right at Divjaka village) incorporating the Ramsar List protected Karavasta Lagoon and the Divjaka Pines.
- Llogara National Park — amid rich fauna in the area of Llogara Pass, it can be used for hiking and as an alpine retreat.
- Narta Lagoon — (NW 5 km from Vlore) along the picturesque A2 motorway linking Fier with Vlore, and nearby Pishe Poro region along the Vjosa River flow towards the Adriatic Sea
- Karaburun-Sazan National Marine Park — (W 10 km from Vlore) the only marine park in the country, the park encompasses the surrounding coastal area of Karaburun Peninsula and Sazan Island. From mountain drops to the sea, ruins of ancient ships, secluded beaches, caves to spectacular coral reefs, this park is worth a sail or dive.
- Bylis — second largest archaeological site from Roman era in Albania
- Dhërmi — in the Albanian Riviera is one of the finest of many beaches along the coastal road between Vlore and Saranda, perfect for camping
- Vuno — small village a few kilometres north to the town of Himarë and part of the Albanian Riviera
- Lukove — part of the Albanian Riviera
- Butrint — Largest archaeological site from Greek and Roman era in Albania. It lies on the coast in the southernmost tip of the country, near the Greek border. Minibuses are available from Saranda.
Understand [ edit ]
The coast between Velipoje and Shengjin in the north is characterized by curative sand beaches, and a few lagoons near Lezhe perfect for bird-watching. Between Durres and Vlore in Central Albania, the coast is characterized by long stretches of sandy beaches and several lagoons. Along the Albanian Riviera in the south, the coast is mostly rocky with either long or secluded shingle and sandy beaches, with the presence of several islands like Sazan, Zvernec, Ksamil, and Tongo. The total coastline of Albania is about 476 km long.
Get in [ edit ]
From Tirana , many furgons (private minibuses) a day depart to Shkodër , Durres , Fier and other coastal towns.
Get around [ edit ]
The roadways along the beach are mostly new and in good condition. Velipoja, Shengjin, Durres, Golem, Vlora, Divjaka, "Bregu" and Saranda, all are connected very well with the national roadway.
"Rruga e Bregut" or SH8 is the roadway from Fier to Saranda. Alternatively, you can avoid the old SH8 stretch between Fier and Vlore by taking the A2 motorway featuring olive groves and the protected Narta Lagoon. Towards Llogora Pass the view is amazing, and this is one of the most picturesque roads in the Balkans. To avoid the coastal road altogether, you can take the SH4 between Fier, Tepelene and Gjirokaster on to Saranda through the SH78 or Muzina Pass.
The SH4 road between Durres and Kavaja has been widened to dual carriageway and it's up to par with the rest of the motorway. It is a bit crowded in summer, so be careful.
See [ edit ]
- Golem Beach . One of the biggest beaches in Albania. The touristic center for the tourists from Kosovo and Macedonia. Full of hotels and bars, but the cleanliness of the beach and water is lower than in the southern beaches like Vlora, Dhermi, Qeparo or Saranda, or northern beaches like Velipoje and Shengjin.
- Velipoja . The touristic center of Shkodër and Northern Albania in general. The beach is long and wide, and a lot of hotels offer nice rooms. However, the beaches are crowded in August. If you prefer quiter beaches, you should go to Southern Albania
- Vlora . The biggest touristic city in Southern Albania. The beaches after "Uji i Ftohte" south of the city are the most preferred, as the water and beach are cleaner. Vlora is full of hotels and restaurants, where you can find great sea products. Very preferred from families as well as young people, even teenagers.
- Lushnje . Visit the Historical Museum of Lushnje showcasing various exhibits including those on the famous Congress of Lushnje that proclaimed Tirana capital of Albania.
- Lezhe Castle
- Zvernec Monastery in Zvernec Island near Vlore
- Bashtova Castle near Kavaja
- Franz Joseph Island near Velipoja
- Scanderbeg Castle, Ishem Castle and Shen Ndout Church near Lalzi Bay north of Durres .
Do [ edit ]
- Camping. All along the Albanian coast, there exist camping facilities at or nearby the coast.
- If you prefer active holidays, there is a great way to discover the Albanian coastline; try to paddle along the beautiful Ionian sea. This tour will let you explore some secluded beaches and caves that you can access only through water Paddling along the Ionian sea .
- You can also choose a day sea-kayaking trip in the Adriatic sea from Gjiri i Lalsit to Kepi Rodonit.
- Of course, bird-watching along lagoons and tasting delicious seafood goes without saying
Eat [ edit ]
- Local specialties such as fresh fish, wild birds, roasted lamb, burek, and delicious dairy products.
Drink [ edit ]
Stay safe [ edit ], go next [ edit ].
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Home > Albanian Riviera Guide – What To Do, Where To Sleep, Eat & More
Albanian Riviera Guide – What To Do, Where To Sleep, Eat & More
Written by our local expert SJ
Sarah-Jane has lived in Croatia for 10+ years. SJ, as she is known, has been traveling the Balkans & beyond since 2000. She now shares her passion for traveling with her husband & kids.
There stretch of shoreline along the Albania coast from Vlorë (Vlore) and Palasë (Palasa) in the North to Sarandë (Saranda) and Ksamil in the South – the Albanian Riviera; that’s where you’ll find the best-hidden beaches in Europe. Our guide has them all and much more info!
This post will go through the coast of Albania and show you how this is the perfect place for a holiday with history, natural beauty, and friendly faces.
There are UNESCO sites such as the Butrint Archaeological Site and National Park that date back to the ancient Greeks and Romans’ times. It is at the beautiful Drymades and Jale Beaches where you’ll get the suntan to show your friends back home.
You’ll find incredible nightlife in the cities that contrast with days in the quaint villages. There’s a lot to do in the Albanian Riviera, also called Bregu by the locals.
Here’s our special Albanian Riviera guide for you.
Skip Ahead To My Advice Here!
Best Time To Visit The Albanian Riviera
The Albanian Riviera is full of tourists during July and August when the weather is the warmest. (It averages around 28 to 30 °C during the day and 18 to 20 °C at night.) But given that Albania’s peak season sees lesser crowds than other European countries, the masses won’t make much of a difference.
Spring from April to June and Fall from September to October are the best times to visit the Albanian Riviera as the weather is not too cold or too warm.
The winter season , from November to March, sees fewer tourists, with nighttime temperatures dropping to 2 °C. If you like the cold, though, and don’t mind skipping the beach on your trip, winter is beautiful for a visit as well.
- When To Visit Albania
Book Your Hotels Ahead Of Time
What to do on the albanian riviera.
Here are just a few things to keep you busy on the Albanian Riviera.
Butrint Archaeological Site And National Park
One can easily spend most of the day visiting the Butrint Archaeological Site and National Park like this , located 18 km south of the village of Sarande, and it’s a definite must for any family holiday in Albania .
Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2009, it is home to a diverse selection of plants and animals, including some rare flora species like the Capparis spinosa, Agrimonia eupatoria, and Laurus nobilis.
Butrint Park is also the only place in Albania to see the Balkan wall lizard, sand boa, Epirote frog, and tortoise. Wolves, dolphins, reptiles, and many birds make their home here.
The ancient town of Butrint, located inside the park, represents different stages of history, from the 4th BC Hellenistic temples to the 19th-century Ottoman defenses.
The settlement of Buthrotum, aka Butrint, was also referred to in Virgil’s epic ‘The Aeneid.’ Worshippers of Asclepius, the god of medicine, came here to drink the sacred Butrint waters and be healed.
The Romans took over Butrint in 228 BC, but it doubled in size in 45 BC under Augustus Ceasar.
The best preserved of the ruins is the Roman Theatre of Butrint, located below the Acropolis and looking out over the Vivari Channel. It was built in the 3rd century BC on the walls of an older theatre and has undergone several renovations through the years.
You can see the remains of the Aqueducts, Dionysus Altar, Gymnasium, Forum, Nymphaeum, temples of Minerva and Asclepius, and the Lion Gate.
Find Butrint tour options here.
Get a quote on a car rental here..
Called the “Ionian Pearl,” Ksamil has one of the best beaches in Albania . It’s popular with locals and tourists alike. It’s also easier to get to Ksamil from Greece than driving down 5 hours from Tirana. Just land at Corfu Airport in Greece and take the 30 to 40-minute boat ride to Saranda, followed by the bus to Ksamil.
The ferry costs 10 to 15 euros while the bus ride costs 100 LEK, less than a euro.
Book your ferries in Albania here.
The sandy beaches and turquoise waters rival those in Greece and are not as crowded . If you really look, you can also find some secluded spots to enjoy quiet time . The three islands in front of Ksamil are within swimming distance and can be accessed via boat.
To book Ksamil beach hotels close to the beach, try one of these places:
- Click here for Hotel Meta Ksamil, a great for budget travelers
- Click here for Hotel New Crystal which right on the beach
Also, visit the nearby Syri i Kalter or Blue Eye , a natural phenomenon where the dark blue bubbles amidst the turquoise waters look like an eye.
- Our Favorite Albanian Riviera Hotels
Sarandë Or Saranda
With views of the Greek island of Corfu, the coastal town of Saranda is the unofficial main stop on the Southern part of the Riviera . It connects the nearby cities of Tirana and Corfu. The beach in Saranda is pretty decent and covered with loungers and umbrellas .
If you’re a history fan, drive to or take the minibus to the town of Gjirokaster , that’s 1.5 hours away. This UNESCO Heritage site is filled with stone houses overlooked by the old Gjirokaster Fortress . Gjirokaster is derived from the Greek words argyron and kastron means “silver castle.”
Archaeology says the city was inhabited during the Bronze and Iron Ages. The old cobblestone pathways tell tales of different times in the city’s history.
If you have one more day, go up to the Monastery of Forty Saints for a breathtaking view of Sarande Bay and the town.
- Car Rental In Saranda
- Best Hotels In Saranda
To the south of the town lies the village of Qeparo. It is one of the Albanian villages that has been cultivating olives for centuries. Both Greeks and Albanians live in the charming settlement of Qeparo, and you can stroll along its narrow streets with old houses.
The beautiful castle of Porto-Palermo is located in Qeparo in the Bay of Porto Palermo. Although many believe Ali Pasha of Ionina built the castle, it may have actually been constructed long before and fortified by him. Only time and further excavations will tell. The Castle of Porto-Palermo or Panormos has impressive views of the Ionian Sea and the Ceruanian Mountains.
Swim At The Largest Beach In Ionian Sea
It may not be the most secluded beach in Europe, but Borsh Beach long – the largest along the Ionian sea . At 7 km, it is one of the most popular beaches in Albania and is surrounded by mountains and olive trees.
You can find restaurants and sun loungers on most parts of the beach and absolute privacy in a few sections. Hurry, as it’ll soon be the most popular destination in the South of Albania.
Visit A Secluded Beach
One of the best-secluded beaches in Europe is Gjipe Beach on the road to Karaburun, Albania, or somewhat off the road to Karaburun. It’s so remote that it takes a 30-minute hike through a forest to get here.
If you’ve never been here before, it won’t be easy to find on your own. Best go with a guide. If you don’t like hiking through the jungle, you can hire a kayak from the neighboring Jale Beach to get here.
There are very few vendors on the beach and absolutely no restaurants. One of the best South Albania beaches to visit!
Another one of the best beaches in Albania that can be accessed only by boat is Kakome Beach.
Visit Dhermi Village And Dhermi Beach
One of the longest beaches in the Albanian Riviera, the Dhermi Beach has white sands lapped by turquoise waters . No wonder it gets packed in summer. Plus, Dhermi Village, where the beach is situated, is considered a nightlife destination by the Albanian youth.
The village of Dhermi in Himara’s Vlore county is actually composed of 3 neighborhoods; Dhermi, Gjilek, and Kondraq which is perched on the side of the Ceraunian Mountains. You can rent villas and cottages here at reasonable rates.
Skip The Crowds At Drymades Beach
A beautiful white stretch of beach surrounded by olive trees, the Drymades beach is covered with pebbles on one end and sandy on the other . The beach, located in a small bay off the village of Dhermi, is perfect for a relaxing time at the beach , minus the crowds that can be seen at the nearby Dhermi Beach.
Drive Where Ceasar Walked
Caesar was here! Julius Caesar! History tells that in 48 BC, Caesar and his legions landed at Palase and crossed the Llogara Pass to chase General Pompey. And although Caesar walked or probably went up the Llogara Pass on horseback, you can drive here.
The Llogara Pass is the spectacular mountain road from Dhermi to Orikum. Sitting at a height of 1027 meters, the Llogara Pass or Qafa e Llogarasë is part of the Cika Mountain Range in the Llogara National Park.
First built in 1920, the Llogara Pass road was but a single-lane dirt road up till 2009. Now it’s well developed and gives magnificent views of the coastal drive and the surrounding mountains.
The Llogara National Park spans 1010 hectares of an alpine forest overlooking the Albanian Riviera and has been protected since 1966. You can hike or picnic in the park , stay at the small resorts, or head to one of the Albanian Riviera hotels.
On the other side of the Llogara Pass is the abandoned village of Old Tragjas. Bombed in 1943, the village has been abandoned since.
Situated at the top of a hill close to the new Tragjas, Old Tragjas has good views of Orikum. The new village’s path to the old one is scattered with tombs and hence called Pass of the Tombs. Inside the village are an old Jewish doctor’s tomb and an Ottoman tomb with Arabic writing.
Karaburun-Sazan National Marine Park
Situated in Vlora county, the Karaburun-Sazan National Marine Park is a hallmark of the biodiversity around Sazan Island and the Karaburun Peninsula. The diverse landforms and ecological systems have given birth to various plant and animal life here, including dolphins, monk seals, golden jackals, red squirrels, and some endangered species.
The park is also home to sunken ships from Ancient Greece, Rome , and World War II. Steep cliffs, inscriptions from ancient sailors, caves, and secluded beaches make the park a must-visit.
What To Eat In The Albanian Riviera
Food on the Albanian coast will keep you more than satisfied. Here are just a few of our favorite Albanian foods:
- Ayran: A salty yogurt drink
- Baklava: A flaky pastry filled with nuts and soaked in sugar syrup. The pistachio version is amazing
- Byrek mi spinaq: A flaky pastry filled with spinach and cheese. Meaty versions are also as tasty
- Kaçkavall: A South Balkan cheese used in salads or baked or fried. The fried version is to-die-for
- Mussels: Mussels from Butrint lagoon supply all of Albania.
- Petulla: A fried doughy pastry that’s eaten for breakfast with honey, cinnamon, feta, cheese, cream, or sugar
- Raki: An aromatized Balkan liquor
- Speça me gjize: Red, orange, yellow or green peppers stuffed with cottage cheese, spices, and rice before being baked
- Tavë kosi: Lamb cooked with eggs and yogurt sauce. Originally from Elbasan near Tirana, but available everywhere
Also, try the Perime ne zgare, Qofte, and Kernaçka, and of course, the fresh fish and seafood that’s famous here.
- Traditional Food To Eat In Albania
Best Places To Eat & Drink On The Albanian Riviera
Bianco Lounge Bar: Enjoy a cocktail and music at this cozy bar overlooking the three Ksamil islands.
Guvat: Enjoy traditional dishes and fresh fish on the beautiful terrace of the Guvat Bar Restaurant in Ksamil while looking out at the three gorgeous islands .
Afrimi: A family-run restaurant in Ksamil that serves excellent Albanian food.
Porto Palmero Restaurant: This child-friendly restaurant serves amazing seafood risotto and has good views of the Porto Palmero Castle, which is just a short walk away.
Harmonia: On Dhermi Beach, this little restaurant serves international and traditional Albanian food . You have a choice of sitting indoors or outdoors, and the food is absolutely delicious.
Lucianos: With beautiful sea views, Lucianos on Dhermi Beach may get so crowded that you have to wait for your table. Try their grilled fish , house wine, and trileçe dessert.
La Petite: This restaurant near the center of Saranda gets full very fast. Book in advance if you prefer. You’ll get excellent service and traditional Balkan food .
How To Get To The Albanian Riviera
No airports along the Albanian Riviera, and no international trains run to Albania . The nearest airport is in Tirana, the capital of Albania. The Tirana International Airport Nënë Tereza receives flights from most international cities. It was named after Mother Teresa but is locally called Rinas International Airport.
From Tirana , you can catch a bus or minibus (furgon) from the South Interurban Station at Dogana. The buses to Saranda take the coastal road, and it takes about 5 hours to get there. There are also buses from Saranda to Vlore that pass through the villages en route.
The touristic Riviera bus was started in 2013 and runs three times a week. This is not public transport per se, but a private door-to-door service that offers complimentary refreshments and WiFi onboard . The buses go on Tue, Thu, and Sat from Tirana to Sardana and on Mon, Wed, and Fri from Sardana to Tirana.
However, since Albania’s bus service is not frequent, it’s best to get around by driving in Albania . Be prepared for an initially long drive interspersed with stops at lovely little villages.
Got more suggestions for what to eat, drink and do on the Albanian Riviera? Let us know in the comments below.
- The Must-See Sights In Albania With Kids
- Guide To Albania’s National Parks
- Ultimate List Of Things To Do In Albania
- Explore The City Of Tirana, Albania
- Our Favorite Hotels Along The Albanian Riviera
- Best Things To Do In Saranda
- Best Restaurants And Cafes In Tirana
- Albania Packing Tips
- Festivals To Check Out In Albania
- The Best Time To Travel To Albania
I really want to visit Albania after the month of November , I know it will be cold or maybe spend the New Year there with a tour. I want to come from Egypt Airport and have been fully vaccinated .
Thank you for this great article. It covers everything! I plan to travel to Albania from Canada in June 2022. I heard it is a hidden gem, but really I know nothing about it and I have no friends to ask about this destination – so I am relying on blogs like these to help me plan.
Question, I’m 27 and traveling with my partner – we would be in the riveria the first week of June. Is that to early in the season? Will it be warm enough for beach day? Will the towns be dead quiet? We prefer it to be lively, and the possibility of making friends/partying.
I wd love to have my next vacation across Greece and the albanian riviera, especially, ksamil and Kurfu island. Im planing the trip on July this year…
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The best beaches of the Albanian Riviera
Jun 24, 2019 • 4 min read
Sandy Drymades beach during summer, on the Ionian Sea, Albania.
Albania’s rugged coastline, with traditional villages nestled in isolated bays and golden beaches lapped by turquoise waters, was a revelation when travellers first started discovering the country during the turn of the century. Since then Europe’s last untouched beaches have changed almost beyond recognition, but there’s still plenty of reason to come here and explore this magnificent coastline where the Adriatic and Ionian seas meet.
You may have heard of the Albanian Riviera and its beaches, once catchwords of true backpackerdom – their names were synonymous with unspoilt sands backed by rolling hills covered in olive groves, rustic accommodation right next to the water, and grilled meats and cold beers for the equivalent of a handful of change.
Inevitably that hasn’t endured; asphalt roads now connect all but the most far-flung of the Riviera’s villages, while hotels, restaurants and holiday homes dot the coastline. Today you’re more likely to be competing for beach space with a day-tripping family from Tirana than a crowd of international shoestringers. And yet, despite the Riviera’s transformation, there are still idyllic and breathtaking spots along this craggy coast. Here are some of the very best.
The beach at Dhërmi is one of the most famous in Albania , a dazzling strip of white rock several kilometres long that is lapped by deep blue water. Outside peak season, it’s very quiet, and while the summer months now get very busy, the beach is long enough to find a quiet spot away from the crowds even in mid-August. For explorers, there are lots of coves and smaller bays further along the beach, including the famous Drymades beach, where excellent budget accommodation can be had and a number of smart hotels are found on the beach itself.
This is the first accessible beach on the Riviera after negotiating the incredible descent through the zigzagging Llogaraja Pass . A relatively new access road takes you from the main road to the beach itself, a glorious stretch of white sand sprinkled with a handful of low-key local eateries. Sadly the serenity of this overlooked spot could soon be tarnished somewhat, as building work begins on a sprawling, ugly apartment complex that will change the landscape of the beach and bring an increased number of bathers. But, for now at least, Palasa remains the perfect spot for beach bums wanting to avoid crowds, camp alone on the beach and swim in pristine waters.
South of Saranda , the unofficial capital of the Albanian Riviera, and within striking distance of the Greek border, Ksamil has an excellent location. The three small islands in its turquoise bay are an easy swim or boat ride away, and there are always fewer people here than on the busier town beach. This is a big tourism centre for locals, and it can get very crowded in summer, but even then the islands offer some respite. Corfu looms across the channel in the distance (this is Albania’s closest point to the Greek island), and the ancient city of Butrint , a Unesco World Heritage Site, is just beyond Saranda, which makes it very easy to combine beach time with some cultural pursuits.
This little charmer of a cove is often overlooked by travellers hurrying towards the bright lights of Saranda, a short distance beyond it. Bunec is quiet and somewhat unusual, with a pebbly white beach divided by a river which runs down from the mountains above. The sunset here is gorgeous, and the beach is a good option for those looking for a bit more comfort while remaining in a pleasingly unspoilt place: both the Bunec Bed and Breakfast and Naza Hotel have smart double rooms right next to the water, and there are a couple of budget campsites and simple cafes here as well. Apart from that, there’s nothing but the silence and the waves – and that’s the whole point.
The sleepy town of Himara is a well-established stop on the tourist trail. Despite its growth in the past decade it hasn’t lost its charm, although the town beach is now crowded in summer. Instead, head 4km south of the town to Llamani beach, a wide, white stone beach backed by rolling hills and with inviting, clear water for swimming. In Himara itself, Potami beach is a good alternative to the main one; you’ll find it just south of the centre, beyond the large rock that cuts the town in two.
The largest unbroken stretch of beach in Albania, 7km-long Borsh is quite a sight as you approach it along the dramatic coastal road leading to the wide plain with the eponymous town spread out before you. Even more remarkable is that tourism has barely touched Borsh, despite its significant community and busy olive-oil production industry – the beach is backed by little more than a few makeshift restaurants and bars. This is inevitably going to change soon, as developers train their sights on the empty lots backing the beach, so come now to enjoy this magical place.
This article was originally published in May 2015 and updated in June 2019.
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