Albania is one of the most underrated and misunderstood destinations I’ve ever visited and when planning our itinerary in Albania, I really underestimated how much there is to see in this beautiful country.
With beaches and turquoise water like Greece, mountains like Austria and ancient history like Rome or Athens, Albania blew me and my expectations out of the water.
We spent 5 days in Albania as part of a longer Balkan road trip, however we wished we had been able to stay longer to enjoy the beaches more, do more hikes and spend longer in some of the National Parks.
So if I had to make a recommendation, I’d suggest 7 days in Albania or maybe even 10 days in Albania if I was to go back and do it all again!
This Albania road trip itinerary can be added to if you are planning to visit for more than 5 days. You can also do this itinerary for Albania in reverse; I’ve done this itinerary from Tirana as I’d imagine that’s where most people will be starting from, however we actually drove into Albania from Greece, so we did this itinerary in reverse from the south of the country and worked our way up to Tirana.
My first trip to Albania was in 2018 during the shoulder season and there was significantly less tourism than there is now, so make sure you book in advance (I also highly recommend going in September!).
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Is Albania safe?
In one word, yes.
Obviously you should exercise proper safety precautions as you would in any country when travelling but Albania and Albanian people are so friendly and we mostly experienced excitement that we were there as tourists.
Albania was cut off from the rest of the world by its government’s communist regime until the early 1990s, tourism is a valuable and growing industry in the country and huge developments in infrastructure and facilities are ongoing.
People question if Albania is dangerous for tourists but we always found people incredibly willing to help us and young people in particular were very open and honest about their positive hopes for the future.
Driving in Albania
I won’t go into too much detail as I have a whole post on driving in Albania.
However, driving here was interesting…
Driving outside the cities was very easy because there was little traffic, no traffic jams and actually nothing to worry about at all, Albania roads were basic but Google Maps served us well.
We did not see a traffic light for 4 days until we arrived in Tirana! Tirana was the most stressful for driving just because it had the highest concentration of vehicles and we saw many incidents like a petrol tanker turning around in the middle of the motorway and driving the wrong way on the carriageway because they missed their exit!
We later learnt from our walking tour guide that many older generations who grew up in Communism never needed a driving licence because they didn’t need to drive. Now many will drive but don’t have a valid licence. I’m sure this situation is changing very fast but this was the reality of what we found and were told on our trip.
So in short, exercise caution. Although we saw some questionable driving behaviour, we never saw an accident and we were not involved in anything worrying either.
Albania travel tips
Most of Albania still operates with cash only, so many sure you have plenty of cash on you at all times
Albania uses the Albanian Lek currency
Tipping is not compulsory but like with most places in Europe, you can tip if you receive great service
Make sure you carry your International Driving Permit if you plan to hire a car
Interactions in Albania can sometimes feel abrupt but this is often just a difference in communication styles between cultures
I’d recommend travelling during the shoulder seasons if you plan to visit coastal resorts as the coastal areas of Albania have become very popular
Albania is not part of the EU or Schengen area to it’s a great option to hop to if you’re reaching your 90-day limit in Schengen
Albania travel itinerary: 5 days, 7 days and 10 days
Day 1: Tirana
Extending your itinerary (1 day) - Depending on your arrival time to Tirana Airport, you may want to add an additional day to your time in Tirana to see everything.
I loved Tirana and learning about the history and rapid change happening there.
I highly recommend doing a free walking tour - we learnt so much during the 3 hours from our guide. He was a student studying sociology and politics and his insights into the history and future of Albania taught me more than any museum could have!
I also love free walking tours as a way to get to know a city when you first arrive, plus the guide always knows the best food and drink spots to help you plan later in your day too!
You can read my full 2 days in Tirana itinerary here and I highly recommend doing the following:
Bunk’Art 1 and 2 - visit the art and history museums in these converted nuclear bunkers
Pazari i Ri neighbourhood for food and drinks and see the colourful buildings
See a colourful aerial view of Tirana at the Sky Tower
Visit the National History Museum
See the famous Pyramid of Tirana
Explore the Blloku neighbourhood for upmarket bars, cafes and restaurants
The reason that buildings are so colourful in Albania is because the former mayor of Tirana and now Prime Minister of Albania, Edi Rama, wanted to transform how Albanians felt about their city which was full of soviet style concrete block buildings. He believed he could restore people’s pride in their city and how they look after their neighbourhoods if he made the city look more attractive - and it worked! This is why you’ll see the colourful buildings everywhere in Tirana.
Day 2: Berat
Extending your itinerary (1 day) - If you are planning 10 days in Albania, I would suggest an extra day here. If you are planning 7 days and would prefer to spend an extra day here, rather than the beach, you can add an extra day here.
The drive from Tirana to Berat is around 1 hour, 45 minutes.
Berat is a protected UNESCO heritage site thanks to its unique white painted Ottoman houses built onto the hillside. The city has existed here for over 2000 years.
The town is often referred to as the Town of a Thousand Windows, because of all the windows on these houses that look out across the valley.
Berat was a real standout on our Albania trip and I’d say it was my favourite of all the places to visit in Albania. The town is so full of character and its position in the valley between the hills is the perfect blend of nature, city and incredible views.
We also stayed in the most stunning hotel which was SO CHEAP. The roof terrace for breakfast with views over the city is one of those core travel moments I’ll never forget. You can read about which hotel I stayed at in Berat and the prices here.
Here are my suggestions for things to do in Berat:
Walk up to Berat Castle - the walk up is worth it for the views. The fortress is located at the top of the hill above the city. I’d recommend doing the walk in the early morning or evening if it’s hot.
Walk across the Gorica Bridge - from this vantage point you’ll get the best view of the famous town of a thousand windows. You can take a stroll along the river on the other side too.
Visit the Ethnographic Museum - to learn about Berat’s fascinating history
Walk through the old Ottoman houses and streets
Explore the bazaar in the Old Town - the antique stores, souvenirs and Albanian trinkets we found here were beautiful, I wanted to buy everything!
Absolutely do not miss Berat on your Albania itinerary.
Day 3: Sarandë via the Blue Eye
Extending your itinerary (1 day) - If you’re on a 10 day itinerary, I highly recommend exploring more of the northern Albanian Riviera, list of my favourite beaches are below. Alternatively you could add an extra stop and visit Gjirokaster - another popular option for places to see in Albania.
The drive from Berat to Sarandë is around 2.5 hours and on the way you’ll pass the Blue Eye, not long before you reach Sarandë.
The Blue Eye is a stunning and surreal mountain spring which is vibrant blue in colour. It’s surrounded by lush greenery and honestly feels like you’ve stepped into a fairytale.
The best part is that you can swim here, making it the perfect option for a stop on your drive - just don’t forget your swimsuit!
Parking at the Blue Eye is a bit limited but there is a parking area at the entrance to the park and it’s a short walk down to the spring. There’s also a viewing platform and a cafe nearby if you don’t fancy a swim!
From the Blue Eye to Sarandë, it’s just a short 30 minute drive, meaning you have the rest of the afternoon to start enjoying the Albanian Riviera.
Sarandë is a resort town, full of hotels, beaches, restaurants, bars and cafes - the perfect place to spend an afternoon at the beach or extend your trip a day or so longer to enjoy the vibe here!
If you do choose to extend your time here, I highly recommend exploring the other towns on the riviera such as Lukovë, Himarë, Jala or Borsh.
Here are some of my favourite beaches out of Sarandë, some are more off the beaten path or were recommended by locals.
Krorëza Beach - hike down or take a boat trip.
Lukove Beach - one of the few designated beach camping spots and it’s stunning
Jali Beach - part of Jala town and easily accessible
Gjipe Beach - our favourite beach but a bit of a hike down, only suitable for off road vehicles.
Day 4: Ksamil
Extending your itinerary (1 day) - If you’re ready for some beach relaxation, you might want to extend your itinerary 1-2 days here if you’re visiting Albania for 10 days, or if you’re visiting for 7 days, you may want to add an extra day here instead of Berat.
While Sarandë is a great option for families with plenty of resorts and safe beaches, I personally preferred the coastline at Ksamil.
Ksamil is just a 30 minute drive south from Sarandë and another stunning coastal area with some of the best beaches in Albania.
Here are my recommendations for things to do in Ksamil:
Enjoy the stunning Plazhi Ksamilit beach
Bora Bora Ksamil (Beach Bar & Restaurant)
Take a short boat trip to the island - Isole Gemelle di Ksamil
Escape the town and visit Pulëbardha Beach
Enjoy the fresh seafood, mussels at The Mussel House are a must!
Go on a lake tour
Visit Butrint National Park
Day 5: Butrint National Park and onwards journey
After a day or two of relaxing, plan 2-3 hours to explore the completely unique and stunning Butrint National Park.
Just 10 minutes drive south of Ksamil, you can add this to your itinerary earlier if you’re not fussed about beach time, but I would suggest allowing 2-3 hours to explore this phenomenal historic site.
Butrint National Park is another UNESCO World Heritage Site and the history here is truly mind blowing - there are artefacts and structures here from the Iron Age!
The ruins here are not as well-preserved as you might see at other similar sights around the world, but it’s a truly memorable and unique experience to be able to walk among the ruins here and experience the paths and lives that were lived here thousands of years ago without barriers.
Being able to wander wherever you wish makes this site feel amazingly authentic and it’s probably one of my favourite historic and cultural experiences ever, made better by the fact that it’s nowhere near as busy or crowded as other similar historic sites like the Colosseum or the Parthenon!
You will have seen the surrounding lake from your time in Ksamil, the same lake is in Butrint National Park and the huge ecosystem here is why the National Park is a protected area.
Most of the information signs are in English and entry is around 5 euros.
Summary: Albania itinerary 5 days
Whether you’re spending 5 days or one week in Albania, I hope this Albania travel guide has given you plenty of ideas and inspiration for the best of Albania and how much beauty, history and culture Albania has to offer.
Albania is still an underrated tourist destination and now is a great time to visit as more flight options become available to fly into the country.
Pin this for later to plan your future trip!