From fresh seafood and traditional delights to incredible beach towns that rival Greece, picturesque cities to traditional villages, Ottoman castles and UNESCO sites. Albania is a lesser known European destination but not for long as the country gains popularity to travelers and instagram feeds. Albania is a destination for every type of traveler with some of the world’s friendliest people.
Where is Albania ?
Albania is located in south-eastern Europe, a thirty minute speed boat ride to Greece from Saranda. Sharing a border with Macedonia, Montenegro and Kosovo, Albania rests on the Adriatic Sea and boasts of some of the best beaches on the Albanian Riviera.
Albanian or Shqip is the official language of Albania. No worries, though, for those who don’t speak the language. While traveling through the country, you can get by knowing basic Italian or French. In my experience, however, there’s usually a friendly local nearby who can speak English and is willing to help translate. When all else fails charades is a universal language!
During my trip to the Balkan country I visited quite a few cities. Here are some of my favorites.
Resting alongside the stunning location of Ionian sea, Saranda is a favored tourist destination and is one of my favorite beach cities in Albania. What makes Saranda beautiful are the seafront blocks with colorful pastel apartments as far as the eye can see. From Saranda you can take a thirty minute speed boat to Corfu, Greece and be back in Saranda by sunset to enjoy the best seafood on the Albanian Riviera. While roaming through this coastal town you will find bars, restaurants and souvenir shops. You can choose to relax on one side of Saranda and on the other side view the historic side of town.
Main Attractions: Lekuresi Castle, Blue eye, Port of Saranda, Monastery of the 40 saints
Tirana, the capital of Albania, is known for its colorful Ottoman-, Fascist- and Soviet-era architecture. This is a vibrant city where the pace moves a little faster but slows down when it comes to cafe culture. Pastel buildings surround the city’s focal point, Skanderbeg Square, centered with a statue of the country’s national hero. In the city’s square you’ll find the National History Museum, the largest museum in Albania covering Communist rule and anti-Communist uprisings of the 1990s. Within a short walk from the city square you will find Bunk’Art 2 Museum, one of the 700,000 bunkers in Albania. Don’t worry the bunkers were never used but were built as a precaution during communist rule. Most of these bunkers are abandoned but some have been remodeled to cafes, museums and even a tattoo parlor. Tirana is the heartbeat of Albania where you’ll enjoy shopping, museums and if you need a taste of western food you can find it here.
Main Attractions: Skanderbeg Square, Bunk’Art 2, Et’hem Bej Mosque, Grand Park Tirana, Cafes, Dajti Ekpres
Vlore is a bigger coastal city than Saranda. From historic castles to quaint islands and vast landscapes this coastal city has a lot to offer. Here you will find skies filled with paragliders. Water sports are big here and if you like a little quiet time there are lots of historical monuments to visit. Vlore is a city of historical importance, it is where Albania claimed independence in 1912.
Main Attractions: Albanian Riviera, St. Mary’s Monastery, Narta Lagoon, Independence Monument
One of the closest beach cities to Tirana, the country’s capital is a popular beach getaway. Durres has a history dating back to 3,000 years here you’ll find hiking spots, an historic Amphitheater, and even a 5th century castle with a rooftop cafe.
Main Attractions: Amphitheater of Durres, Durres Archeological Museum, Port Of Durres
There are many more popular villages, beach cities and mountainous nature trails to explore such as Gjirokaster the city of castles, Berat the city of windows and the Albanian Alps to name a few. Albania is an up and coming destination, a city of love at first sight.
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