Albania is a little known country in the Balkans that few would equate to being a holiday destination. However, for those who have visited and travelled across this beautiful country, it is a place they desire to return to again and again. Filled with spectacular natural scenery and beautiful historical architecture, once you visit Albania, you will question why you hadn’t been before. A trip to Albania will make you fall in love with travel, exploration and adventure and leave you thirsty for more.
Read on for our list of best things to see and do in Albania.
1. Ride a cable car across Tirana
Tirana is a unique capital city that should be on every traveller’s list. It is filled with the nostalgia of the past through buildings reminiscent of Ottoman rule, as well as the more recent Communist history. There are plenty of galleries and museums to be explored and enjoyed.
Taking a trip over Tirana will fill you with awe and wonder at the beautiful man-made and natural beauty this city has to offer. From the lush canopies of dense forests to the tall and proud city buildings, you will be dazzled by the breathtaking landscape below you as you sail along the cable line.
2. Explore Berat
This ancient city which dates back to around 2,400 years is under UNESCO protection. It is known as the pride of Albanian architecture. A formidable castle overlooks the Mangalemi neighbourhood, and it is this vision which brings Berat its second name: City of the Floating Windows.
The Mangalemi neighbourhood is where the houses are built along a steep hill, making it appear as though the windows are all stacked on top of each other. The picturesque scene only equates to something out of a fairytale book and is marvellous to behold from the other side of the river. It will capture your gaze and leave you transfixed as you take in the scene before you. This beautiful city is located around 120 km from Tirana and a day or two is enough to explore the spectacular sights of this historic city.
3. Take a trip to Gjirokaster
Gjirokaster is reminiscent of the age of Ottoman rule in Albania. It is a pretty little city that is impressive to behold at first glance. Travellers are welcomed by the bold structure of the fortress which sweeps across the landscape and is visible from nearly everywhere in the city. Around it there are narrow and quaintly cobbled little alleyways and streets. The slate grey rooftops are peculiar to the city.
In addition to the fortress, another place to explore here is the beautifully restored Skenduli House. It is a stunning building and a proud example of Ottoman architecture. All in all, a day spent exploring Gjirokaster will feel like an adventure through the history books.
4. Soak in the Benja Hot Springs
The Benja Hot Springs are amazing thermal baths. They are located under a bridge that was built far back in the Middle Ages. This shows that the Benja Hot Springs have been attracting visitors for centuries, and many locals believe that the crystal blue water has healing benefits. Take a trip to this glorious location in the Permeti region and experience a relaxing and therapeutic morning in a natural spa setting.
5. Go hiking in the mountains or along the coast
A great way to see nature and enjoy some of Albania’s natural highlights is to go hiking. One of the most popular is the Theth to Valbona Hike which takes several days including travel but will present you with beautiful views of Albania’s landscapes.
Other hikes include the Blue Eye and Denelle from Theth, or some of the coastal hikes around Himare such as to Filikuri Beach or through Gjipe Canyon to Gjipe Beach
6. Bunker spotting
One of the first things you will notice about Albania is all the grey bunkers dotted across the landscape. They were built by one of the country’s rulers, Enver Hoxha. There are around 170,000 bunkers all around the country due to his paranoia of an attack on his country. Many of these bunkers have been repurposed into museums, restaurants, cafes and even accommodation to stay in.
7. Enjoy the local cuisine
Food is a massive part of the cultural experience any country has to offer. Albania is no different. Amongst the wonderfully scrumptious fruits and vegetables to try out, it is worth following your nose and trying some local delicacies from the local bakery. Burek, in particular, is a tasty local snack. The freshly made crispy dough can be filled with cheese, spinach or mince and the resulting parcels are delicious hot or cold at any time of the day.
8. Visit the Blue Eye
Visiting the Blue Eye in this gorgeous country is an experience you will never forget. This amazingly spectacular natural phenomenon is a wonder to behold. No one truly knows how deep the Blue Eye goes and for this reason, which makes it a special experience. While you’re not officially allowed to take a dip in these beautifully clear waters, people often can’t resist taking a dive.
9. Relax on breathtaking beaches
Having been cut off from the world for decades during communist rule, Albania has only begun to emerge as a tourist destination in recent years. For this reason, much of the landscape and beauty in the country has a raw and untouched feel to it. The beaches are no different. While the larger beaches along the coast of the country have become crowded, there are some more secluded spots that can only be accessed on foot. Soft golden sands meet beautifully crisp and clear sea water to make a paradisial scene that you can only dream of.
Albania is a destination that is filled with unique and wonderful sights and experiences. From riding a cable across the capital to visiting a natural blue eye phenomenon deep in a lush green forest, it is a place worth visiting over and over again. Whether you want to spend the day relaxing on a beach or you wish to take a trip through history, there are ample things to do in this little Balkan nation which has, in recent years, opened its doors to visitors once again.
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