Albania is slowly becoming the jewel of the Balkans due to its sparkling crystal waters, impressive mountains and affordability for all types of travelers. Come with an open mind and a rough plan, and be ready to be submerged in a rich culture like no other in Europe.

If you’re planning a trip to this magnificent destination and are looking for the most beautiful places to visit but have no idea where to go in Albania, we’ve got you covered.  

Descending from the Qafae Pëjes pass towards the village of Theth, Albania
Descending from the Qafae Pëjes pass towards the village of Theth © Justin Foulkes / Lonely Planet

1. The village of Theth

Best place for hiking and adventure lovers

Theth might just be the most peaceful place to visit in Albania. This small village nestled in between the Albanian Alps is perfect if you’re looking for the best hiking in the country and dramatic landscapes to enjoy.

There are two hikes you must do while visiting Theth. The first is the hike to the Blue Eye, which leads you through a forest, over rivers and finally to a vibrant blue natural spring. This hike is easy to moderate and perfect if you’re not an experienced hiker.

The second is one of the most popular in the country and one of the most beautiful: the Theth to Valbona hike. This trail starts from the top of Theth village, near Guest House Gjelaj, and it leads you through the Albanian Alps to breathtaking views at the top. It’s not for the faint-hearted, as it will take roughly six to eight hours to complete – but you will be glad you did it! 

Planning tip: Make sure you bring cash with you, as ATMs can be hard to come by, and almost everything will need to be paid for in cash.

Old houses and orthodox church in the old city of Korce
Korce is filled with beautiful villas and religious centers, such as the Resurrection Cathedral © Uwe Seidner / Shutterstock

2. Korce

Prettiest place in Albania

When you visit Korce, make sure to stroll through the Pazari i Vjeter, which is the old bazaar of the city. Here, you can admire the bazaar’s 13th-century style in the form of old cobbled streets and Ottoman-style architecture. 

When you visit this area, be sure to pop into The Kooperativa, a communist-themed cafe that gives you a glimpse of Albania’s communist history from 1944 until 1991. 

Try the traditional alcoholic drink called raki, made from distilled grapes and very popular in Albania. You might even catch someone having a glass of raki with their morning espresso!

Streets of Old Town Gjirokaster, Albania
Wander the well-preserved streets of the fairytale-like Old Town Gjirokastra © Pintai Suchachaisri / Getty Images

3. Gjirokastra

Best city for Albanian traditions

Known as the city of stone, Gjirokastra is a UNESCO city in the south of Albania. It was the birthplace of the former communist dictator, Enver Hoxha. 

One of the best things to do here, apart from walking the bazaar and visiting the castle of Gjirokastra, is to wander around Zekate HouseThis traditional family home was built between 1811-1812 and is a beautiful example of some of the most fascinating Albanian home and marriage traditions. When you visit, one of the family members will show you around and explain the different rooms and their purposes.

If you love wine and want a foodie experience, then you need to take a trip to Te Fucite (The Barrels). This family restaurant and winery specializing in smooth handmade wine offers platters of local cuisine for you to try while overlooking their vineyard and the surrounding mountains.

Planning tip: Try the dish called pasha qofte, which is essentially a cream soup made from milk with small meatballs inside. It’s a delicious dish you can only find in Gjirokastër.

People enjoy time on the beach, play snooker or having good food in the reataurant
Relax on Dhermi's beaches by day and hit the beachside bars by night © Franz Aberham / Getty Images

4. Dhermi

Best place to go for beaches 

If you’re looking for a destination where you can lay about, get a sun tan and enjoy a dip in the sea, then you need to visit Dhermi. It’s one of the pearls of the Albanian Riviera and home to many summer music festivals, including the Kala festival and ION festival.

With idyllic beaches, trendy beach bars and views that might make you never want to leave, Dhermi is a hotspot for younger generations looking for the hottest parties and the best vibes of the summer. 

Try Restaurant Luciano for delicious food overlooking the water, or head to Alevra restaurant and beach bar to try some mouthwatering seafood with a twist.

Planning tip: Make sure you book well in advance if you’re visiting in July and August, as hotels can be booked out due to the festivals mentioned above.

5. Përmet

Best for white-water rafting and mountain biking

On a bend in the fast-flowing turquoise Vjosa river, about 32km (20 miles) from Greece where the river springs, is the hub town of Përmet. From here you can organize adventure activities from white-water rafting to camping, hiking and mountain bike riding in the region. Once an Ottoman-era commercial center, Përmet is "one of the greenest and cleanest parts of the country" today. The Vjosa River was recently designated as a wild river national park, Europe's first. 

Detour:  A 29km (18-mile) taxi or bus ride away is the Bënjë thermal baths next to an Ottoman-era bridge on the Lengarica River (a tributary of the Vjosa). In summer, you can pick up supplies from small vendors here; in the off-season, bring your own food and drinks. 

6. Shkodra

Best northern city in Albania

The city of Shkodra is a breath of fresh air and is unlike any other city in Albania. When you arrive, you’ll notice most of the population peddling around the city by bike. While you’re there, do as the locals do and hire a bicycle for the day. Then head down to Liqeni i Shkodrës to enjoy the beautiful lake views. 

While you’re in the area, make sure you visit Rozafa Castle and ask one of the guides about the legend of Rozafa. Also, when you reach the top, you’ll experience a magnificent 360-degree view.

Planning tip: If you would like to do the Theth to Valbona hike and don’t fancy taking your luggage with you, a popular option is to leave your bags in Shkodra at your accommodation. Shkodra is a great city to base yourself in, as transfers will leave from there to take you to either Theth or Valbona.

7. Lin

Most peaceful village in Albania

Lin is a quiet village positioned on Lake Ohrid, which means there is excellent fishing here. If you’re looking for a lake getaway and craving silence and tranquility, this is a perfect choice. 

One of the best things to do is walk to the archaeological site on the hilltop, where you’ll get to see the well-preserved mosaics of a Paleo-Christian church built in the 6th century. If you visit in the summertime, the mosaics will be uncovered, and there should be a guide who can tell you all about their history.

You also get an incredible view from the top of Lin and can see North Macedonia as you look over Lake Ohrid.

A boy jumps off a pier into the Mediterranean Sea in Sarande (Saranda), Albania
Saranda's proximity to beautiful beaches and the Albanian River make it the perfect spot to stay outside © Joel Carillet / Getty Images

8. Saranda

Most visited place in Albania during summer

Saranda is the southern gateway to the Albanian Riviera and one of the best cities to visit, not least because it’s close to one of the region's best beaches, Ksamil Beach. 

Get a hotel in Saranda, where you’ll be close to some of the best restaurants in Albania and the city’s buzzing nightlife. Then explore the beaches of Saranda and Ksamil during the day.

One of the best things to do from Saranda is to hop on one of the day trip boat tours that leave from the boulevard and go to the beaches of Kakome and Krorez. Tickets start from €30.

Planning tip: The best time to visit Saranda is in May, June or September when the crowds are not crazy but the beach bars and restaurants are open. As this is a summer destination, most businesses close during the off-season.

Fishing boats in the harbor of Porto Palermo
Porto Palermo's position on the Riviera makes for excellent swimming spots © Viktor Prymachenko / Shutterstock

9. Porto Palermo

Most underrated Albania Riviera destination

The triangle-shaped castle is a great reason to stop at Porto Palermo castle, as are the beautiful, unspoiled and peaceful beaches you'll find here – making for an excellent camping spot along the Albanian Riviera coast. 

You can also rent a kayak and paddle along the beaches and quiet bays. As you kayak, you’ll see the old military submarine bunker situated on the hill not far from the main beaches of Porto Palermo. 

Porto Palermo is filled with history and spectacular swimming bays and has a peaceful positioning along the Riviera.

This article was first published Oct 3, 2022 and updated Nov 18, 2023.

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Ksamil in Albania; Shutterstock ID 1266913741; GL: 65050; netsuite: Online Editorial ; full: Where to go in Europe in August; name: Alex Butler
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