Albania travel guide


This forgotten country was once in the middle of great empires Roman, Greek and Ottoman. Although staunchly communist, it escaped the clutches of the USSR and was instead ruled by its own Stalinist despot. Under his dictatorship Albania was cut off for almost half a century, and even today it remains a travelers enigma. There may be clear cultural differences (nod head for no, shake for yes) but the awesome scenery transcends language. The Accursed Mountains, once the land of blood feuds, rise up in the north, a haven for hikers and cyclists in summer and snow shoers in winter. Ottoman architecture tumbles down a hillside in the Town of a Thousand Windows, the bunker-dotted coastline is lapped by the Mediterranean, and inland, ships steer between sheer cliffs, carrying white-capped villagers back to the lands they have tended for centuries. With Albanians clamoring to show guests the beauty of their country and culture, wed put money on this secret not being kept for much longer
Find out more in our Albania travel guide.
Albania is...

Europe, but not as you know it.

Albania isn't...

just the place where Hollywoods bad guys come from.




Cycling holidays Albanian food Snow shoeing Crossing borders

Cycling vacations

Albania is tiny but its landscapes are diverse enough to delight mountain bikers, fans of flat roads and those who like to combine cycling with culture. Pedal in from Montenegro or Macedonia, or stay in Albania. Relax on the flat, paved roads around Lake Skadar, as you ride alongside horses and carts or take on the mountains outside Tirana, staying with local families and crossing high passes.

Albanian food

You may have visions of bland, Communist stodge, but Albanian cuisine is more than a pleasant surprise. The varied climate, coastline, pastures and Greek-Turkish-Balkan influence result in a mouthwatering mix of succulent lamb, bean stews, fresh kebabs, fried sardines and stuffed peppers with rosemary, basil, oregano, garlic and olive oil the dominant Mediterranean flavours.

Snow shoeing

Snow shoeing is a sneaky way to immerse yourself in alpine life; in rural, northern Albania, snow shoeing is used by farmers simply to get around their land; Accompanied by a farmer, youll learn about life in this traditional and still rather isolated region, once characterised by blood feuds and fortresses but now a peaceful winter wonderland of beech and pine forests and incredible rural hospitality.

Crossing borders

Albania would fit into the UK over eight times. This means you are never far from an international border with Kosovo, Macedonia and Montenegro all top countries for combining with Albania. Cross over from Montenegro via the beautiful Lake Skadar, which straddles the border, cycle across from Macedonia, cross the mountains into Kosovo or go for a full Balkans tour from Croatia to Greece.


Walking holidays Bunkers History & culture Accursed Mountains

Walking vacations

Walking vacations in Albania are no cosy, inn-to-inn experience. The landscapes here are wild and isolated; this is bear and wolf territory inhabited by hardy shepherds and wood cutters. Luggage can be transported by horse, you can wild camp, stay with local families or in little guesthouses. Take in Alps, lakes and forests, fuelled by hearty, home cooked meals and Albanian hospitality.


There are around 700,000 of these unsightly, domes squatting around the country on beaches, in the middle of the street, in graveyards The former dictator ordered their construction to save Albania from an invasion which never took place, and they are seen as a symbol of his hatred of the outside world. Today, their purpose has flipped rumour has it that they are used as covert meeting points for young lovers

History & culture

Ottoman, Greek and Roman Empires have all played their part in Albanias history and present day archaeology fans will marvel at astonishing ruins, as fabulous as anything that exists in Greece but with a fraction of the tourists. Explore the UNESCO-listed Ottoman town of Gjirokaster, and beautifully restored bazaars, or explore more recent history in Tirana with its crumbling, communist murals.

Accursed Mountains

Storytellers no doubt look to the Albanian Alps for inspiration but the scary names and brutal topography belie their gentler side. Youll barely believe youre still in Europe as you pass traditionally attired villagers, deep blue rivers and farmers leading donkeys through this astounding, wild landscape. Multi-day hiking or cycling tours explore deeper or snowshoe here in winter.


Public transport Saranda Homebrewed raki Cruising

Public transport

Normally were big fans of public transport. Its one of the best ways to travel like a local, meeting people as you go, reducing your carbon footprint AND your costs. But Albanias buses are so unreliable that only the strongest willed should attempt this as a way to get around. The exception is the public ferry which serves the length of Komani Lake three hours of astonishing scenery as it stops at remote villages.


Its not quite Benidorm, but you get the picture. This former fishing village has transformed beyond all recognition in the past few decades, with whitewashed, high rise blocks overlooking this strip of beach the gateway to the Albanian Riviera. Dont expect to see the sand in summer, as its hidden beneath the towels of Tirana, as the city decamps here to make the most of the sea breezes and raucous nightlife.

Homebrewed raki

The locals may be able to handle their home brewed, grape-based moonshine, but rude as it may seem to decline their hospitality, if youre offered raki from an unmarked bottle, declining a shot is probably still better than the undignified alterative. Opt for a glass or two of Albanian wine instead, made from indigenous grapes.


Albanias sudden openness to the outside world along with its proximity to Corfu have made it the hottest new stop on Mediterranean cruises. Saranda is the port in chief, meaning that in summer the town, the surrounding beaches and archaeological sites are overwhelmed by passengers. Visit outside peak season, or explore before and after the ships leave port.



Eating & drinking

Youll recognise Turkish, Greek and Eastern European influences in Albanias cuisine, such as lamb kebab or kofte served with a side of yogurt. Fish is also popular along the coast and the inland lakes.
Be sure to order a bottle of Albanian wine to wash it all down with. It may not be well known, but this is one of the oldest grape-growing regions in Europe.
Albanian sweets are sublime. Think crystallised fruit, honey, rice puddings and sweet pastries, with ripe cherries, pears, peaches, figs and persimmons.
Albanias currency is the lek named after Alexander the Great who is often referred to as Leka in Albanian. He appeared on the first lek coin.


Albanian is the official language, with the Gheg dialect spoken in northern Albania, and Tosk in the south. Its a unique Indo-European language other related languages have since died out. Youll hear quite a bit of Greek and Italian too, as a result of Greek immigration and the Italian occupation as well as the Albanians tuning into Italian television channels during the oppressive Communist era. The minority Aromanians (aka Vlachs) live mainly in the south and speak their own language. Confusingly, Albanians shake their heads for yes and nod for no be prepared for mix ups!
Po = Yes
Jo = No
Tungjatjeta = Hello
Faleminderit = Thank you


Handmade tablecloths, woven on looms, are some of the most typical Albanian crafts decorated with traditional designs. Or go even more traditional with a qeleshe felt cap.
Carpets, known as qylym (similar to the Turkish kilim) arrived in Albania in around the 1500s, during the Ottoman Empire. Traditional, often geometric, designs are woven into the flat, wool rugs with red, black and cream/white the most typical colours.
It might not be your taste, but it seems that few tourists manage to leave Albania without an ashtray in the shape of a bunker a modern classic when it comes to souvenirs.

Fast Facts

Albania is one of only two countries in Europe never to have had a branch of McDonalds the other being Armenia. Tirana, however, has succumbed to KFC.


Komani Ferry, Shkoder-Koman-Fierze-Valbone = 15
Pint of Albanian beer = 75p
Bottle of water = 35p
Entry to ruins at
Butrint = 4.50
Handmade kilim
rug = 120 200


Squished between vast Greek, Roman and Ottoman empires, Albania has a long and rich history, much of which is well preserved and can be seen today, from prehistoric remains to Greek and Roman archaeological sites and Ottoman architecture. But its been a place of much conflict, too as its fortresses, bunkers and castles still testify.Read more ▼
Photo credits: [Top box: Angerdan] [Cycling vacations: Olly Pemberton, Exodus] [Albanian food: Kj1595 ] [Snow shoeing: godo godaj] [Crossing borders: Toma Koma ] [Walking vacations: NH53] [Bunkers: SarahTz] [History & culture: Krzysztof Dudzik ] [Accursed Mountains: Tobias Klenze] [Public transport: Pero Kvrzica] [Saranda: Artur Malinowski] [Homebrewed raki: Evan Blaser] [Cruising: Stephen Daniel Kellett ] [Eating & drinking: Violetamyftari ] [People & language: NH53] [Gifts & shopping: Dave Proffer] [How much: Tobias Klenze]
Written by Vicki Brown
Small group Albania vacation

Small group Albania vacation

An incredible history set against a rugged landscape

From US $1205 10 Days ex flights
Albania walking holiday

Albania walking vacation

A wild and rugged landscape with historic folkore

From US $1235 8 Days ex flights
Albania, Kosovo and Montenegro tour

Albania, Kosovo and Montenegro tour

National parks, historic cities and rural traditions

From 1799 15 Days ex flights
Albania small group vacation

Albania small group vacation

Explore the charming country of Albania.

From 1075 9 Days ex flights
Albania cycling holiday

Albania cycling vacation

A wild and rugged corner of the Balkan Peninsula

From US $1435 8 Days ex flights
Holiday to Montenegro and Albania

Vacation to Montenegro and Albania

Multi-activity adventure vacation to Montenegro and Albania

From 1095 11 Days ex flights
Self guided biking vacation in Montenegro and Albania

Self guided biking vacation in Montenegro and Albania

Stunning cycling tour around the biggest lake of the Balkans

From 620 8 Days ex flights
Albanian Alps walking vacation, tailor made

Albanian Alps walking vacation, tailor made

Self guided walking vacation in the stunning Albanian Alps

From 665 8 Days ex flights
Albania hiking vacations

Albania hiking vacations

Trek in the little visited Albanian Alps

From US $1120 8 Days ex flights
Montenegro Kosovo Albania ski touring vacation

Montenegro Kosovo Albania ski touring vacation

Enjoy 10 Days of Adventure in the Western Balkans

From 1390 10 Days ex flights
Budapest to Dubrovnik cultural tour

Budapest to Dubrovnik cultural tour

Experience the best of Eastern Europe in two weeks

From US $1729 15 days ex flights
Western Balkans tour

Western Balkans tour


From US $2525 12 Days ex flights
Kosovo, Albania & Macedonia vacation

Kosovo, Albania & Macedonia vacation

Travel through the valleys, towns and mountainscapes

From US $2485 15 Days ex flights
Adriatic tour, Zagreb to Athens

Adriatic tour, Zagreb to Athens

Indulge in sailing, hiking, beach & social life

From US $2229 15 Days ex flights
Photo credits: [Page banner: ]