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10 Must-Sees in Albania | Hidden gems in a fascinating country

Still way off the beaten track, it gets European country Albania year after year an increasingly popular tourist destination thanks to its beautiful scenery, interesting historical sites and hospitable people. In this article we list the 10 must-sees of Albania for you. There are plenty of hidden gems to discover in this fascinating country!

Also read: World wise: The safest and most dangerous countries in Europe

Isolated and so long cut off from the world, Albania emerged from communist rule in 1991. Today, visitors are invariably surprised by all it has to offer; beautiful beaches along breathtaking mountain ranges and shimmering lakes. So it's high time for a top 10 with must-sees in Albania!

Thanks to its long and interesting history, Albania's towns and picturesque countryside are full of amazing ancient castles, Roman ruins and mosques and buildings from the Ottoman era, making the country fascinating to explore.

With picturesque towns such as Gjirokaster and Berat for visitors to enjoy, there is always something new to see and do. The now colorful capital of Tirana is full of monuments and museums that offer a glimpse into the country's communist past.

A fascinating country with many must-sees. Now is the time to visit Albania as the news spreads quickly. More and more world travelers are discovering what this hidden gem has to offer. Tourism in the country has grown considerably in recent years. Have you already visited Albania?

1. Dhermi

With its inviting turquoise waters and beautiful beaches stretching into the distance, the beautiful countryside of Dhermi is where many young Albanians go in the summer. It is also home to a vibrant nightlife.

Dhermi, Albania
Dhermi, Albania

Located on a mountainside overlooking the sea, the town offers some beautiful sunsets. Having a drink in one of the many bars and restaurants while watching the sun go down is a lovely way to spend an evening.

While there's a fun and festive atmosphere, with lively beach bars blaring music, there's plenty of beach to go around; you can always find a quiet place to just sit back and enjoy the scenery of the Albanian Riviera.

2. Durres

Durres, once the capital of Albania, is located not far from Tirana on the coast of the country. It is a very popular destination, so it can get a bit crowded in the summer.

Durres, a must see in Albania
Durres, a must see in Albania

With one of the largest ports in the Adriatic, the town is a bit cramped and overdeveloped, although there is a nice stretch of beach for visitors and locals alike to enjoy. Along the coast there are many restaurants selling delicious fresh seafood.

Fought for thousands of years by the Bulgarians, Greeks, Venetians and Ottomans among others, the wealth of historic sites attracts just as many people as the beaches. The spectacular Roman amphitheater and fantastic archaeological museum are undoubtedly highlights.

3. Sarah

With its beautiful location on the Ionian Sea, Sarande is blessed with year-round warm weather, sparkling waters and a relaxed way of life.

Sarande, Albania
Sarande, Albania

Although the coast is a bit overdeveloped with its series of identity-less apartment blocks, there are many nice parts of Sarande to walk around, and plenty of bars, restaurants and souvenir shops.

In addition to the ancient ruins found in the town, the Sarande area is full of historical sites and natural beauty, making it a great place to use as a base to explore the region.

4. Shkodra

Shkodra is just a stone's throw from the huge Skadar Lake that stretches across the border between Montenegro and Albania and is a very beautiful city to visit. The Buna River flows through the town and the Albanian Alps can be seen in the distance.

Also read: Vanlife in Albania | This is what you need to know about camping in Albania

Shkodra, a must see in Albania
Shkodra, a must see in Albania

The undisputed highlight is the castle of Rozafa. Over the course of its history, it was ruled by the Illyrians, Venetians, and Ottomans, just to name a few. The beautiful ramparts and ruins of the castle are fun to explore, and the view over Shkodra is a real must see in Albania, it is simply breathtaking.

Although the city center has recently undergone a major renovation, there are still plenty of beautiful old buildings and historic sites, such as the Ebu Beker Mosque and the Orthodox Cathedral. The History Museum showcases just part of the region's rich history and heritage.

With so many beautiful landscapes surrounding Shkodra for visitors to explore, there is something for everyone.

5. Berat

Berat is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful cities in the whole of the Balkans and is known as 'the city of a thousand windows' because there are so many windows looking at you from the front of the buildings on a hill so close together. Beret is fairly popular, so not so much unknown, but definitely worth a visit and therefore belongs firmly in every top 10 with must-sees in Albania.

Berat, must sees in Albania
Berat, must sees in Albania

Located on a hill, there are a number of Ottoman mosques and Byzantine churches scattered throughout the city. One of the best views of Berat is from across the Osumi River that flows through it.

Roman bridge at Berat, Albania
Roman bridge at Berat, Albania

While just wandering around Berat is a fun way to pass the time, the town also has an amazing 13th-century hilltop castle, which is worth a visit for its stunning views. There are also two interesting museums with some fascinating local costumes and artefacts on display and some beautiful 16th century icons.

Also read: Vanlife in Albania | This is what you need to know about the roads in Albania

6. Himare

With its stunning location on the Albanian Riviera, Himare's sparkling turquoise waters and spectacular hilly coastline make it a great place to go if you're looking for sun, sea and sand. A wonderful unknown gem in this list of must-sees in Albania.

Himare, a must see hidden gem in Albania
Himare, a must see hidden gem in Albania

Although most people flock to the beaches and quiet promenade, the historic old town is lovely to wander around; the atmospheric tavernas are full of Mediterranean charm and delicious local seafood.

On top of a hill overlooking the old town is a beautiful castle with stunning views over the sea. The nearby mountains also have some lovely trails and vantage points for visitors to enjoy, while the surrounding countryside is home to spectacular churches and monasteries, such as the Monastery of the Cross and Athaliotissa.

7. Gjirokaster

Gjirokaster, located in the south of the country, is a joy to visit. The beautiful old town sits on the slope of a hill overlooking a valley and the winding cobbled streets are full of quaint buildings and historic sites.

Gjirokaster, Albania
Gjirokaster, Albania

With over 500 houses and buildings protected and preserved as 'cultural monuments', Gjirokaster is full of beautiful architecture. It is often known as the 'City of the Stone' due to the distinctive local rooftops that can be seen throughout.

Above the scenic Old Bazaar is Gjirokaster Castle. The castle is said to be the second largest in the whole of the Balkans. It is a fascinating place to visit. The castle has an underground bunker from the Cold War and an Armaments Museum. As a visitor you can enjoy this, in addition to the impressive fortifications and ruins.

8. Kruje

Kruje – or Kruja, as it is called in English – is located just north of Tirana. It is known as the home city of Albanian national hero Gjergj Skanderbeg. In the 15th century, Gjergj managed to hold out against the Ottomans for 25 years from his base in Kruje.

Kruje, a must see in Albania
Kruje, a must see in Albania

Known as the 'Adriatic Balcony' by the locals, the steep mountain that overlooks the city is an absolute must-see in Albania. It is home to the majestic Kruje Castle, which was once the base of Skanderbeg. Today there is an interesting museum about the hero and a fantastic 15th century church within the walls. The panoramic view from the castle is simply spectacular.

The Old Bazaar in the center of the city is just as fascinating to walk around. Hidden between the atmospheric streets you will find a number of lovely little cafes and restaurants. In addition to the plethora of shops selling everything from souvenirs and craft goods to antiques and leather products.

A picturesque and peaceful place, Kruje is well worth a visit for its historical sites and beautiful natural surroundings. The area is equally enchanting to explore, with its lakes, canyons and mountains.

9. Butrint National Park

Butrint National Park is home to a number of different ecosystems and stunning archaeological sites. It is a popular tourist destination, largely due to its proximity to the Greek island of Corfu. Many people come to see the majestic blend of history and nature.

Must sees in Albania - Butrint
Must sees in Albania – Butrint

The natural beauty occupies a peninsula bordered on one side by the massive Lake Butrint and on the other the Vivari Channel. more than 1.200 different species of animals and plants live among the scenic swamps, hills and islands.

The main attraction, however, is the amazing archaeological site that spans over 2500 years of history; this includes ancient city walls, remains of a Roman theatre, a Byzantine basilica and two castles. Wandering through the ruins with the beautiful landscape around you is a delightful experience. This is undoubtedly one of the hidden gems of what Albania has to offer.

10. Tirana

Tirana, once full of grey, communist buildings, has undergone significant transformation since the early 90s and, of course, cannot be missed in the top 10 must-sees in Albania. The capital of Albania is now a fun, friendly and festive place to visit.

Must sees in Albania - Tirana
Must sees in Albania – Tirana

The now brightly colored pedestrian streets are bustling with life, displaying some beautiful Ottoman-era buildings and Italianate architecture that highlight the country's rich past. There are some great museums and art galleries worth checking out. Of particular note is BUNK'ART, which was once a huge government bunker but now houses art installations.

While it can be somewhat chaotic in the busy center of the city, the scenic Dajti Mountain is just a short cable car ride away. With fantastic views over the city below and beautiful nature all around, it's a lovely place to spend an afternoon.

With endless bars, cafes and restaurants in the trendy Blloku district, Tirana has a lively nightlife. Visitors to this under-visited capital are invariably impressed by all that the city has to offer.

Which of the must-sees in Albania is your favorite? Let us know in the comments!

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