Off the Beaten Path: Exploring Albania’s Authentic Charm

Motherhood is like Albania – you can’t trust the descriptions in the books, you have to go there” ~ Marni Jackson

Albania is a small Balkan country located in Southeast Europe, bordered by Montenegro to the northwest, Kosovo to the northeast, North Macedonia to the east, Greece to the south and the Adriatic and Ionian Seas to the west. It is known for its beautiful beaches along the Ionian Sea, rugged mountains, deep river valleys and glacial lakes. The country’s landscape is diverse and often breathtaking. It has a rich and varied history, with evidence of human habitation dating back to the Palaeolithic era. The country has been influenced by various civilizations, including the Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, and Ottomans.

Albania is a parliamentary democracy and a member of the United Nations, NATO, the World Trade Organization, and the Council of Europe. The official language is Albanian and the capital city is Tirana. Albania is a developing country, but it has made significant progress in recent years in terms of economic growth, political stability, and infrastructure development. Tourism is becoming an increasingly important industry for the country, as visitors are attracted to Albania’s natural beauty, history, and culture.

Reasons Why Albania Is Worth Visiting: 

Natural Beauty

Albania is a country of stunning natural beauty, with rugged mountain ranges, pristine beaches, crystal-clear lakes, and unspoiled wilderness areas. It’s a great destination for nature lovers, outdoor enthusiasts, and adventure seekers.

Rich History and Culture

Albania has a fascinating history and a unique culture that blends influences from the Mediterranean, Balkans, and Ottoman Empire. Visitors can explore ancient ruins, mediaeval castles, and traditional villages, as well as experience the country’s rich culinary and artistic traditions.

Affordable Travel

Albania is an affordable destination, with low prices for accommodation, food, and transportation. Visitors can enjoy a high-quality travel experience without breaking the bank.

Friendly People

Albanians are known for their hospitality and friendliness toward visitors. Travellers can expect a warm welcome and a genuine interest in their experiences and stories.


Albania is still relatively undiscovered by mass tourism, which means that visitors can enjoy an authentic travel experience, away from crowds and commercialization.

Must Visit Places In Albania:


Berat is a historic city located in central Albania, about 120 kilometres south of Tirana. It is known as the “City of a Thousand Windows” because of its white-washed houses with numerous windows, which climb up the slopes of a hill and culminate in an impressive castle. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, with evidence of human habitation dating back to the 6th century BC. The city’s rich history is reflected in its architecture, with buildings and monuments spanning various periods, including the Byzantine, Ottoman, and Communist eras.

The most prominent attraction in Berat is the mediaeval castle, which sits on a hill overlooking the city. The castle dates back to the 13th century and is one of the best-preserved castles in Albania. Visitors can explore the castle’s narrow streets and alleys, visit the ancient churches and mosques, and enjoy stunning views of the city and surrounding mountains.

Another popular attraction in Berat is the Mangalem Quarter, a historic neighbourhood located on the opposite side of the river from the castle. Mangalem is known for its white-washed Ottoman-era houses and winding cobblestone streets.

Other notable attractions in Berat include the Ethnographic Museum, which showcases traditional Albanian culture and lifestyle, and the Red Mosque, an Ottoman-era mosque with a striking red brick facade.


Tirana is the capital and largest city of Albania, located in the central part of the country. It has a population of approximately 800,000 people and is the cultural, economic, and political centre of Albania.

Tirana has a rich history dating back to the Roman period, and its architecture reflects the city’s diverse cultural influences, including Ottoman, Italian, and Communist-era architecture. Visitors to Tirana can explore the city’s many museums, art galleries, and historic landmarks, including:

Skanderbeg Square: The main square of Tirana, named after the Albanian national hero Skanderbeg. It’s a popular gathering place for locals and visitors alike and is surrounded by notable landmarks, including the National History Museum and the Et’hem Bey Mosque.

National Museum of History: A must-visit for history buffs, this museum houses an impressive collection of artefacts dating back to the Illyrian and Roman periods.

Blloku: A trendy neighbourhood known for its bars, cafes, and restaurants, Blloku was once reserved for high-ranking Communist Party officials and is now a popular destination for locals and tourists alike.

Mount Dajti: A beautiful mountain located just outside Tirana, offering stunning views of the city and surrounding countryside. Visitors can take a cable car up to the mountain’s summit or hike up one of the many trails.

Pyramid of Tirana: A controversial Communist-era monument located in the centre of the city, the Pyramid of Tirana has been repurposed as a cultural centre and art space.


Saranda is a beautiful coastal city located on the Albanian Riviera in the southern part of Albania, near the border with Greece. The city is surrounded by stunning natural scenery, including crystal-clear waters, white sand beaches, and rugged mountain peaks. Saranda is a popular tourist destination, known for its laid-back atmosphere, beautiful beaches, and historical landmarks. Some of the must-visit places in Saranda include:

Butrint National Park: A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Butrint is an ancient Greek and Roman city that was abandoned in the Middle Ages. Visitors can explore the ancient ruins, including the amphitheatre, temples, and baths.

Ksamil Beach: A beautiful white sand beach located just outside of Saranda, Ksamil is a popular destination for swimming, sunbathing, and water sports.

Blue Eye Natural Spring: A stunning natural spring with crystal-clear blue water, surrounded by lush greenery. The Blue Eye is a popular spot for swimming and is considered one of the most beautiful natural landmarks in Albania.

Lekuresi Castle: A mediaeval castle located on a hill overlooking Saranda and the Ionian Sea. Visitors can enjoy panoramic views of the city and surrounding coastline from the castle’s walls.


Gjirokastra is a historic city located in Southern Albania, about 70 kilometres southeast of Berat. It is known for its well-preserved Ottoman-era architecture and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city’s name comes from the Greek language and means “silver castle,” referring to the fortress that dominates the city’s skyline. The fortress dates back to the 12th century and has played a significant role in the city’s history, including during the Ottoman era.

Visitors to Gjirokastra can explore the narrow streets and alleys of the historic bazaar, which is filled with shops selling traditional Albanian crafts and souvenirs. Other notable landmarks in the city include the 17th-century Ottoman-era houses, which have been well-preserved and can be visited as museums, such as the Skenduli House and the Ethnographic Museum.

Another popular attraction in Gjirokastra is the Cold War-era bunker, which was built during the Communist era to protect the country’s leaders in the event of a nuclear attack. The bunker has now been turned into a museum, providing visitors with a unique insight into Albania’s recent history.

Lake Ohrid

Lake Ohrid is a large, ancient lake located on the border between Albania and North Macedonia. It is considered one of the oldest and deepest lakes in Europe, with a history dating back more than three million years. The lake is known for its crystal-clear waters, which are home to a variety of fish species and other aquatic life. It’s a popular destination for swimming, fishing, and boating, and there are several beaches and resorts located along its shores.

In addition to its natural beauty, Lake Ohrid is also a significant cultural and historical site, with several ancient churches and monasteries located in the surrounding area. One of the most notable landmarks is the Church of St. Naum, a 10th-century Byzantine church located on the eastern shore of the lake. The church is known for its stunning frescoes and beautiful location, surrounded by lush greenery and overlooking the lake.

Other notable landmarks in the area include the ancient city of Ohrid, which is located on the northern shore of the lake and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city is home to numerous historic buildings, including the Ohrid Fortress and the Church of St. Sophia, which dates back to the 11th century.

Valbona Valley National Park

Valbona Valley National Park is a stunning protected area located in the North of Albania, close to the border with Kosovo. It’s known for its dramatic mountain scenery, pristine forests, and crystal-clear rivers.

The park is named after the Valbona River, which flows through the valley and is a popular destination for kayaking and rafting. The area is also home to a variety of wildlife, including bears, wolves, and eagles. One of the most popular activities in the park is hiking, with numerous trails ranging from easy walks to more challenging multi-day treks. The Valbona to Theth trail is a particularly popular route, taking hikers through stunning mountain landscapes and past traditional Albanian villages.

The park is also home to a number of traditional guesthouses and lodges, where visitors can experience local culture and hospitality while enjoying the stunning natural surroundings.


Kruja is a historic city located in Central Albania, about 30 kilometres north of Tirana. It is best known as the birthplace of Albania’s national hero, Skanderbeg, who successfully led a rebellion against the Ottoman Empire in the 15th century.

Visitors to Kruja can explore the city’s historic bazaar, which is filled with shops selling traditional Albanian crafts and souvenirs. The bazaar is also home to the Skanderbeg Museum, which is dedicated to the national hero and features exhibits on his life and legacy.

Another notable landmark in Kruja is the Kruja Castle, which dates back to the 5th century and has played an important role in the city’s history. The castle offers stunning views of the surrounding landscape and is home to several historic buildings, including the Skanderbeg Museum and the Ethnographic Museum.

Other places to visit in Kruja include the Hamam Museum, which is located in an Ottoman-era bathhouse, and the Dollma Teqe, a Sufi shrine that dates back to the 18th century.

Albania offers all of these great features that make it a wonderful travel destination. Its natural beauty, rich history and culture, affordability, friendly people, and off-the-beaten-path atmosphere are just some of the reasons why travellers should consider visiting Albania.

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