Albania can best be described as a brewing pot of modernistic and traditional architecture that combine to form perfect postcard scenery. These are a list of some of the most beautiful small towns in Albania. What is there to see in Albania? This was the typical reaction of any person when I told him about my next destination. Many things! I answered. And I went on to list the benefits that this gem treasures on the banks of the Ionian and Adriatic. Albania has pristine beaches, has beautiful mountains, a super happy and colorful capital, and impressive architectural and cultural heritage. An explosive combination that is slowly making it one of the favorite destinations of European tourists. Korca has a collection of gigantic buildings and state of the art museums. The museums showcase different exhibits that are the proud heritage of Albania. Korçe is one of the largest cities in Albania, one of the most pleasant and one of the most modern. And although it is the most “Europeanized”, it is not the least Albanian, far from it! Here modern Albanian was developed and in 1887 the first Albanian language school was created. Furthermore, Korçe is well known for Korça, its local beer and the most famous in the country. Every year, in mid-August, they organize the largest festival in Albania: Festa e Birrës. This party attracted more than 100,000 attendees in 2019. Of course, nothing to envy the well-known Oktoberfest. Click the next ARROW to see the next photo!
On the shores of the Lake Shkodra lies one of the oldest cities in Albania with the same name. One of the popular attractions in Shkodra is beautiful ruins of Rozafa’s Castle. Another is Mesi Bridge. Shkodra is one of the oldest cities in Albania, founded in the 4th century BC. It was the country’s capital until 1920, when Tirana took away his post. Mostly Catholic, and a gateway to Western Europe, it became the first focus of rebellion against the communist dictatorship that disappeared in 1992. It is a deceptive city. Many people consider it a springboard city to visit two of the jewels that Albania has, Lake Koman and the Valbona Valley. But don’t let yourself fall into the trap, Skhodra has much more to offer you than being a logistical point, or a resting place before entering the Albanian Alps. Shkodra is an easy city for the traveler. Prepared for tourism, but without masses of tourists, with a more than interesting gastronomy, and many places to visit and activities to enhance. If you are out of time, one day is enough, with two you will enjoy the city life, when the heat stops pressing and the streets fill up with people. And if you can add one more day, you can take advantage of doing activities near the lake and getting to know nearby towns. Click the next ARROW to see the next photo!
Known for its breathtaking Ottoman buildings and beautiful peaks is Gjirokastra. The pretty location popularly referred to as the ‘City of Stone’ features enchanting cobbled streets that slither around the city and ends at the castle. The attractions of the town include Zekate House and the peaks of the Drino Valley which can be sited from a distance. In Chronicle of the Stone City, Ismail Kadare stated that Gjirokaster “was a sloping city, perhaps the steepest in the world there are places where if you extend your arm a little, you can hang your hat on the tip of a minaret.” And he didn’t exaggerate a hair in his definition. The small old town of this city is perched on top of a hill, where we find the citadel that dominates the entire city. That when you arrive at a city located on the top of a hill you are wrong when you must choose the path that takes you to its historic center, it can do two things. You end up walking on steep slopes much longer than you originally planned. And two: that thanks to that you discover a dazzling and lonely part of one of the most visited and famous cities in Albania –such as, for example, its semi-hidden Church of Saint Sotir, a small Orthodox temple that barely survived the communist era– . Well, this way – fulfilling both theories -, the journey of a servant began in Gjirokastra, a beautiful city with views of the Drina valley declared, for many reasons, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Click the next ARROW to see the next photo!
Tucked in a tiny peninsula along the shoreline of Lake Ohrid is the breathtaking town of Lin. Lake Ohrid is a prominent lake that separates Albania from Macedonia. The perfect postcard town of Lin has a captivating lakeside, which serves as its main attraction. The gorgeous town has an abundant sand beach filled with pebbles that are perfect for picnics. Lin is located on a small peninsula that juts out onto the shores of the famous lake that separates Albania from Macedonia. Its streets, its location, the peacefulness of its environment and the Ohrid lake, give the beautiful town of Lin a beautiful picturesque image. Wander through its streets, enjoy its fish, watch the locals come and go with their donkeys and without them, watch the boats go into the lake, listen to the church bells, or watch the children play on the street without some concern more than enjoyment, without wanting to remind me that not so long ago life was like this or similar, at least those of us who grew up in a town. In Lin, time has not stopped, but it is a different life than what is known elsewhere. The towns are what they have, and if they are beautiful and bathed in a lake, then much better. He had not found where to spend the night with what he had to return to Pogradec to spend the night. The Albanian journey was coming to an end, and the passage through the east had undoubtedly been one of the pleasant surprises of the trip. Soon I would return to Tirana, where everything is different. Click the next ARROW to see the next photo!
Kruja is located very close to Tirana, the capital of Albania. The quaint town is located at the foot of the Kruja Mountain, which is one of the notable sites to visit in the country. Other side attractions in the town include; a castle that was built in the medieval era and the Skanderborg Museum. Walking through the alleys of Kruje, one has the feeling that one has moved to another country without knowing it. It is almost as if we are inside a Turkish souk. While the call to prayer sneaks through every nook and cranny, it’s best to just let go. The historical center of Kruje is very small. Tiny but bully. We can start with a walk through the old bazaar. A set of unique craft stalls and tourist trinkets, with clear Ottoman influences. But the real reason for our visit is the vestiges of the old medieval city. A city within the city itself. It is completely walled and inside you can visit the Castle, currently it houses the Skanderbeg museum, and also the Ethnographic Museum. A magnificent example of well preserved Ottoman architecture. Click the next ARROW to see the next photo!
Nestled at the southern tip of the Albanian Riviera is a stunning town called Saranda. The boisterous town known mainly for eco-tourism is one of the tourist meccas in Albania. Saranda’s major point of attraction is an alluring waterfall that is sprinkled with pretty bays and lots of classy restaurants, pubs, and cafes. Another great hotspot for tourist is Lekuresi, a hilly region to watch the sunset. Saranda is a city often overlooked by travelers on a trip through Albania, but I see no reason why. In fact, for me it was “gold on blue”! After a few hours’ drive from Meteora, Greece, reaching that modern and sunny waterfront and eating a wonderful seafood pasta, accompanied by a very cold beer, was all I needed. My first feeling when I arrived in the city was very good. Saranda, considered by many to be the unofficial capital of the Albanian Riviera, is a city full of life, especially during the summer months. From beautiful beaches and vibrant nightlife to archaeological sites and natural treasures, there is much to do and discover in this “capital” by the sea planted. Click the next ARROW to see the next photo!
Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site is Berat. Berat is one of the few regions in the world where Ottoman architecture still stands to date. The lovely banks of the Osumi River are one of the most visited places in the country. This history hub welcomes countless of tourists for exploration. Do not miss other amazing sites like the Berat Castle and some opulent structures of churches built during the Byzantine Era. Founded in the 4th century B.C. by the Illyrians, it is one of the oldest cities in Albania. One of the peculiarities of the historic center of Berat is that it has three old towns: Mangalem, Gorica and Kalaja. It is very easy to fall surrendered to the charm of its messy white facades, its picturesque cobbled alleys or its viewpoints around the corner. It is, without a doubt, a must-see place in Albania. Berat Castle is the main attraction of the city. Located on the top of the mountain it contains 8 medieval churches (in the past it contained more than 30 (Albanian)) and two of the oldest mosques in the country. Today people still live and it is the soul of the city due to its rich history that dates back to the 4th century BC. It contains restaurants and numerous churches, highlighting the Cathedral of the Dormition of Santa Maria that contains the Onufri national iconographic museum (next monument on the list). To get to the castle you have to climb a steep hill of about 15 minutes, many people stop and in summer it can be very long. Click the next ARROW to see the next photo!
Theth is a beautiful town in Albania that shares a border with Montenegro. The gigantic Albanian Alps surrounds it. One of the beautiful side attractions in the city is Nikoll Koceku’s tower. It is also home to the Grunas Canyon and a lovely waterfall. In this valley everything seems to fit like a puzzle of a thousand pieces. The beautiful traditional stone and wood houses, the extensive meadows in an electric green hue, the rocky peaks, the jumping rivers, the canyons, the waterfalls, the natural pools… Everything fits! Obviously, Theth is not just the end of a beautiful hiking trail, it is the starting point to explore another spectacular valley, Theth National Park. Precisely for this reason, the ideal is to stay at least two nights in one of the hotels or guesthouses that dot the valley floor. There are many options but I want to recommend a very special one. What else can we do in Theth besides being amazed by the landscape for hours? First of all, I advise you to visit the most beautiful corners of the town itself such as the beautiful stone and wood church, or the mysterious lonely tower, or the crystal pools of the River Theth. But I wanted more and, therefore, I reserved a full day to take another hiking route and continue to hallucinate with the Albanian Alps. I opted for two of the most famous corners of the area: the Grunas waterfall and the Blue Eye natural pool. Both places can be linked together on a full-day walking tour or visited separately. Click the next ARROW to see the next photo!
Ksamil lies close to Greece border, and it is a picturesque village which lies on the coastline of a sea. The pretty town is tucked in the Butrint National Park. It is home to some of the most enthralling beachside bars and bespoke restaurants. It also boasts of four little islands that have transparent waters, which are perfect for snorkeling. The entire Ksamil coast is dotted with small beaches, each more beautiful than the last. In fact, they are considered some of the most beautiful beaches in the Mediterranean. From early in the morning until sunset, they are the most photogenic beaches we have found. Now comes the regular part. If Saranda is overflowing with tourists, Ksamil follows in her footsteps. It is June and the avalanche of tourists has not yet arrived, so you can be comfortable on almost all the beaches, but they are complicated for the coming years if they do not impose any sustainable tourism system. Most of the beaches are private and belong to bars and restaurants. For a small fee (between 500 and 800 lekes, depending on the beach and the access to the water) they rent you a pack of two sun loungers and an umbrella throughout the day. It is worth taking a stroll through them all and choosing the most peaceful one. Click the next ARROW to see the next photo!
On the foothill of Acroceraunian Mountains lies Dhermi. The charming village boasts of the most amazing stretches of the landscape along the Albanian Riveria. It houses some of the most stunning European architecture you will ever come across. At Dhermi, you can find a natural cave; the Pirate Cave which is perfect for spelunking. Between Vlora and Saranda, the city of Dhermi, at the foot of the Acroceraunios mountains, is located in southern Albania, on the Albanian Riviera. Small town of Balenario, Dhermi has a coast with both wild and very tourist areas, you choose! The narrow alleys and the stone houses are the charm of this calm and pleasant town. Nestled on a hillside, Dhermi is a most spellbinding stop during a trip to Albania. Nestled among the mountains, walking through its old town is a pleasure. Climb up to the church on the top of the hill, the views of Dhermi and its coastline are breathtaking, and also inside the church, its murals are worth it. Walking you will meet a few people, some ruined houses, churches and silence as a company. The narrow, cobbled streets give this town a certain charm, as do the pretty stone houses. The winding and steep paths allow you to enjoy beautiful views.