• best of albania

Best of Albania From a Local: Beaches, Bars, and UNESCO sites

This will contain a guest post from the wonderful Bena Mero, who was my tiny little superhero in Albania; she will let us in on the best of Albania, from a local’s viewpoint. 

After leaving Corfu Island drunk as can be, and taking a very sickening ferry ride, Megan and I were in Albania. I usually keep close tabs with my parents while traveling, but decided I shouldn’t update them on this stop. For some reason they’d made me swear not to go there. In Barcelona while couchsurfing, two different hosts warned us not to head to Albania. A guy on a train told us we’d be “asking to be kidnapped” as “no girl who gets on a train in Albania gets off on her own”. We were told we would absolutely be sold into a sex slavery ring.

Well, it was cheaper to get to Croatia through Albania, and when you’re on a budget that sort of becomes the main decision maker, not safety. A girl on the ferry, Bena, told us she was headed to Tirana, the capital, by bus and to go with her. She would help us get to Montenegro. We stayed with her at her dad’s house, went out to a couple bars, and then got a mini bus to head out. We switched rides from car to car throughout Albania, Montenegro, and finally Croatia. My regret wasn’t going somewhere unsafe, hitchhiking for 2 days, having nowhere to sleep, nor any correct currency to buy food and water… my regret was not having time to stay in Albania with Bena. The one night we were there showed a side of Albania that we were not told about. It seemed to be a modern, fun, and safe place to explore.

Bena, has graciously given Werkenntwen some tips on what to see in Albania!

The Best of Albania from a local

best of albania

Sightseeing & Nature 

There are two don’t miss archaeological sights; one Durres is near the port, and the other, Butrint is near Ksamili in Saranda. You can see the Kruja Castle and museum of their National hero, Skenderbej: Kalaja e Krujes dhe Muzeumi i Skenerbeut. Want to see another castle? No problem. Kalaja e Rosafes (Rosafa castle) in Shkoder is amazing!

best of albaniaArcheological site,  via flickr 

best of albaniaButrint, the other main archeological site, via

best of albaniaview from the Kruja Castle on

Between Gjirokaster and Saranda. Syri i kalter is a beautiful fresh water spring with stunning blue and green color. How about a visit to a small village to see how locals really live? Thethi, a village in the mountains of Northern Albania. A 4×4 vehicle is required to get there, but it is beautiful. The villagers have rooms set up for visitors and make home cooked food, which they grown.. If hiking is your thing, this is a great place to visit.  Another beautiful large lake, Valbona, near the border with Macedonia is a easy to get to by ferry.

best of albania

best of albaniaSyri i kalter on

best of albaniaValbona Lake on

best of albania

Eating & Nightlife

best of albaniaPiceri Era, Tirana

Piceri Era (Tirana) is my favorite restaurant in Tirana. Everything is amazing.  Liro’s Hotel (Vlore) has good food and lots of water sports/activities, located on the edge of a cliff and right by the water. Other great restaurants are Sofra e Ariut (Dhermi) and Beer House (Saranda). Three great bars to check out are Sky (Golem), Folie (Tirane), and Mumia (Tirane).

Sand Beaches (Adriatic Sea) worth a visit:

Velipoje, Shengjin, Golem, Vlore

tirana albania best ofVelipoje

White Rock Beaches (Ion Sea) you must see:

Dhermi, Jale, Himare, Ksamili — small island beaches near Saranda

best of albaniaHimare beach on

There are three UNESCO Heritage sites

They are the cities: Berati, Gjirokastra, and Kruja (where the castle is mentioned above).

best of albaniaBerati on

Thank you to Bena for this helpful information, I hope someone finds it beneficial on their Albania trip!

 

2017-07-01T16:36:54+00:00

About the Author:

Rachel Jones left a career in nursing and lived on the beaches of Goa, India for the five years. Now she lives in Mexico where she gives advice on the 40+ countries she’s visited in the last 10 years. She’s the author of two India travel e-books: Guide to India and Insider’s Guide to Goa. Her blog, Werkenntwen, like its name, is a contradiction combining off-beat adventurous places with glamorous and bespoke travel. Werkenntwen has been featured in ELLE, Marie Claire, Grazia, and Cosmopolitan magazines. She’s a writer for Bravo TV.

20 Comments

  1. Agness January 3, 2014 at 3:01 am - Reply

    I really gotta make it there soon – the local cuisine and these stunning beaches are totally worth it!

    • Rachel January 3, 2014 at 9:13 am - Reply

      yes!! and then just combine montenegro into the trip :)

  2. Silvia January 4, 2014 at 6:45 pm - Reply

    Ha everyone told us we’d be sold into sex slavery while hitchhiking through the Stans – definitely did not happen. I have been dying to go to Albania and Montenegro. I think this post is telling me to make it happen!

    • Rachel January 5, 2014 at 11:37 am - Reply

      HA! that’s exactly what they told us!

  3. Jessica Wray January 5, 2014 at 11:40 pm - Reply

    Southeastern Europe is really on my radar recently. The closest I’ve gotten is Budapest, which I just came back from today, but I’m itching to get to Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia and maybe even Albania! All these places intrigue me so much!

    • Rachel January 6, 2014 at 6:00 am - Reply

      ohh yes you should! croatia is one of my favorites too, it’s like italy but less expensive :)

  4. Jessica Wray January 18, 2014 at 10:22 am - Reply

    Rachel, could I use one of these photos for an upcoming post? I’ll link back of course!

  5. Alexis Kensey March 19, 2014 at 11:14 am - Reply

    These are great tips on Albania. I followed the exact same path as you, going to the palace on Corfu and then choosing to travel my way up to make it to croatia and of course ignoring all advice ever about not going to Albania, and not telling my parents. I saw some of the beauty but also the parts that were the reason we were given such stringent advice. I came extremely close to being abducted when I jumped from a moving cab. So, the advice stands for a reason. But southern Albania is really really beautiful, especially the Island beaches and the Brutrint ruins. Don’t let your fear of safety keep you from visiting the south of this awesome country, but be safe and aware- and probably don’t go entirely alone with no plan.

    • Rachel Jones March 19, 2014 at 12:13 pm - Reply

      wow that’s really crazy and scary that happened to you! I’m so glad you’re okay. I agree Albania was amazing and I feel so lucky to have met a girl my age to show me around! So funny we took the same route- most people wouldn’t!

  6. Cortney April 10, 2014 at 11:46 pm - Reply

    I lived in Tirana, Albania for a year and I absolutely didn’t see anything approaching danger the entire time I was there- it was always so funny to hear the shock and fear from people when they heard I was moving there, because when I got there it was so safe and quiet. It was a fantastic year spent renting cars at least once a month and driving out in every direction to explore the countryside of Albania and the surrounding countries (Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Greece).

    I currently live in Laos and have heard more stories than I can count about muggings and purse snatchings; in Albania, I didn’t know a single person (local or expat) who had been robbed or attacked. I’m glad you made it out for a visit to see for yourself!

    Funnily enough, I hosted three couchsurfers who worked for Pink Palace in Corfu via Help Ex… and they hated it and referred to it as a prison, haha. Just goes to show everyone will have a different experience.

    • Rachel Jones April 11, 2014 at 1:29 am - Reply

      I’m glad you can agree that it is safe! I get e-mails asking sometimes, as if they don’t believe me! Pretty cool that you lived there as an expat, it’s such a cool place. I’ve never heard of Help Ex , I’ll have to look that up.

  7. Marysia July 27, 2014 at 12:45 pm - Reply

    Albania is really on my radar! It looks like an amazing and very very beautiful place! Have heard much good about it, it is a big shame that I can’t do it this summer, next one it is :)

    • Rachel Jones July 28, 2014 at 12:48 am - Reply

      Yes, Albania is beautiful, even I wish I had stayed there longer!

  8. Andrei June 29, 2017 at 8:11 pm - Reply

    Hello Rachel, don’t want to say that Albania is a bad country to visit but I know crazy stories from friends who have been there. The only thing that can get you in to trouble is to be flashy, with anything. I know people who lost their car or everything inside the car, from laptop, money, clothes even car radio.
    I have been to Albania and I liked it but there where things that scared me, like chickens on the highway or people trying to steal my wallet.
    The beaches are nice but there are safer countries close to Albania that are way safer.
    I’m from Romania by the way and I don’t want to scare anybody just want to say that there are things happening and you have to be aware, the same in Romania and Bulgaria.

    • Rachel Jones June 30, 2017 at 12:13 am - Reply

      Hi Andrei, thanks for the tips. It’s always good to hear people’s opinions :)

  9. Rachel October 5, 2017 at 1:17 pm - Reply

    Hi! I’ve lived here for 3 years and have never had an issue at all! I walk around by myself, I never feel like someone’s going to steal my wallet or abduct me, (like have you seen Taken??) and the people are truly nice!! Yes they have issues with garbage, stray dogs and really bad infrastructure but I’ve seen so many improvements over the years! It’s cheap, the food is AMAZING, the beaches and mountains are impeccable, and the nightlife is a ton of fun! It’s a muslim country but the style is super laid back and sometimes I get really jealous of all the cute outfits I see on a daily basis lol. I just don’t want people getting the wrong idea that this place is dangerous because of what the media or others say. Getting your stuff stolen can happen anywhere in the world. Just be smart and you won’t have an issue :)

    • Rachel Jones October 6, 2017 at 11:10 am - Reply

      Hi Rach, yes I agree I felt safe when I was there too :)

  10. Elia May 6, 2018 at 9:05 pm - Reply

    Thank you Rachel for writing about beautiful Albania. I am from Tirana and live in the states , i have to tell you , i was in tears when i started reading the blog in the beggining of how bad they have described it to be .. I am so glad that you continued on and did not let fear get in the way of exploring Albania. Thank you again for visiting and i love your page! Xoxo E

    • Rachel Jones May 7, 2018 at 1:49 pm - Reply

      Hi Elia, I’m so glad you liked it! I’d love to go back again and really take more time to explore as this time I was just passing through. It was lovely!

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