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Planning a trip to Albania? I had an INCREDIBLE trip in 2022 and can’t wait to share my Albania itinerary with you. This was my favourite new country of the year even though it had destinations like Slovenia and Montenegro to compete with!
I was amazed by the diversity of Albania. There are well-known beach towns like Sarandë and Ksamil, lesser-known beach towns like Himarë, incredible hiking near Shkodër and adorable small towns like Gjirokastër and UNESCO-heritage Berat. Then, there’s the capital city, Tirana, with everything from sushi to cocktails and third-wave coffee.
Accommodation: Booking.com / Hostelworld
Getting there: flight / car / bus
Activities: GetYourGuide / Viator
Read next: my Balkans trip itinerary for 2-8 weeks
How long to spend in Albania?
Well, I spent almost a month in Albania but I think that says more about me and my slow, remote working lifestyle!
I would recommend at least 2 weeks in Albania to get a real feel for its diversity, visit the key places and eat lots of yummy food! With 1 week in Albania, I would suggest visiting a maximum of 2-3 places.
How to get to Albania (and where to start your trip)
The capital of Tirana is one of the most popular places to start an Albania travel itinerary. Flights from other European cities start from as little as €15. Browse flights to Tirana with Skyscanner, selecting ‘whole month’ (if you can be flexible) to get the best prices. If you’re coming by land, get the Flixbus to Tirana.
The other popular way to begin an Albania trip is by flying into Corfu island, Greece and taking the ferry to Sarandë. This is good because you’re starting at the bottom of the country and can travel up. If you start in Tirana, there are attractions both south and north so you may have to pass through the capital more than once.
Getting around Albania
Car – this is your best option for an Albania road trip. I recommend Rentalcars.com for hiring cars abroad; they have agencies in Tirana and Sarandë (consider collecting it in one and returning it in the other so you don’t have to go back on yourself).
Bus – if you choose to take public transport like I did, you’ll be taking the bus. However, I will warn you that these can be super crowded and VERY hot in summer. Also, there will often be long, uphill walks between bus stations and your accommodation with no taxis available in small towns.
Buses are best paid for in cash (like everything in Albania) usually to a member of the bus company who walks up the aisle collecting fares when the journey has begun. I made the mistake of booking my first journey (Lake Ohrid in North Macedonia to Sarandë) online and, not only did I pay double what other passengers did but the staff were confused by me even having a pre-booked ticket!
Getting around towns and cities – most are small enough to walk between the main attractions. Even Tirana is walkable unless you travel to the base of Dajti Cablecar, in which case you can take a city bus. Tirana has taxis but most smaller places don’t… Or at least not ones you can easily hail on the street or via an app.
Tip – to check bus timetables, your best bet is the Gjrafa Travel website. I didn’t always find it totally accurate so I’d suggest double-checking with your accommodation before travelling.
Albania itinerary overview
1 week itinerary:
- Day 1 – Tirana
- Days 2-3 – Berat OR Gjirokastër
- Days 4-5 – Himarë or Sarandë
- Day 6 – Blue Eye day trip
If taking this itinerary, I’d pick Gjirokastër and Himarë over Berat and Sarandë. But I’d advise doing some research to pick the best one for you.
2 week itinerary:
- Days 1-2 – Tirana
- Days 2-3 – Berat
- Days 4-5 – Gjirokastër
- Days 6-7 – Sarandë
- Days 8-9 – Himarë
- Day 10-11 – Shkodër
- Days 12-13 – Theth hiking.
Slow travel alternation – I did the above itinerary over 3 weeks. Although you can squeeze it into two, if you like slow travel it may be better to omit 1-2 places so you can travel slower and spend longer in places. You could choose between Sarandë and Himarë beach towns; I’ll discuss their differences later.
Tirana: 1-2 days
Tirana isn’t my favourite city but that’s okay. I found a few fun things to do and learnt about the country’s gripping history. I ate at great cafes and restaurants in the Blloku area south of the river which, in my opinion, is the best place to stay. It’s a pleasant and residential neighbourhood with only a short walk required to reach the city centre.
Read next: the best things to do in Tirana, Albania
Where to stay in Tirana:
- Budget – for a fun and social hostel, stay at Trip’n’Hostel or for a quieter more luxurious hostel, pick Vanilla Sky Boutique.
- Mid-range – Deluxe Tirana has breakfast, hot tub, free parking and aircon from €50 a night.
- Splash out – Arte Boutique hotel is a 5* hotel with a reasonable price tag of €170.
- Browse Tirana hostels and apartments on Booking.com and hostels on Hostelworld.
Things to do in Tirana during your Albania itinerary:
- Take a free walking tour – departing at 10am and 2pm daily, this informative walking tour is one of the best I’ve been on. To understand Albania better and its communist past, it’s a must. Give €5-10 if you enjoy it.
- The House of Leaves Museum – easily my favourite attraction in Tirana, this old house is dedicated to mass surveillance technology (aka spy equipment) used during the Communist era. You can learn stories, watch propaganda movies, and see old footage from devices planted in houses, embassies and even fridges!
- Bunk’Art 2 – despite having ‘art’ in the name, this is not a gallery but a museum located in one of the old military bunkers built by ex-dictator Enver Hoxha when he closed borders and communication with the rest of the world. It tells the story of Albania’s harrowing past in a confronting way, underground. Although history is important and I liked the way bunkers have been repurposed, I found it slightly distressing and claustrophobic.
- Dajti Cablecar (and Bunk’Art 1) – for the best view of the city, catch a bus to the cable car lower station and board a 20-minute ride to the top of Dajti Hill. You can see for miles! Also, at the bottom is the other Bunk’Art which is bigger and more informative than the city centre bunker with interactive exhibits and even some art. I preferred this one. If you visit both Bunk’Arts, there’s a discounted ticket.
- Shop and eat at Pazari i Ri Bazaar – this market sells fresh produce and has a few popular cafes and restaurants around it. Most of the options are meaty so if you’re veggie, grab lunch in Blloku instead.
- Skanderbeg Square – attractions surrounding the main square include the National History Museum, Et’hem Bej Mosque and Kulla e Sahatit tower offering city views.
- Take a city and food walking tour or a 3-course Albanian cooking class.
Food and coffee in Tirana:
- Gjelber – this healthy cafe has loads of options including avo toast, bowls, salads, wraps, burgers and smoothies. Most of it is vegetarian. It’s open from 7am to 11pm so it’s good for any meal of the day.
- Happy Belly – my first meal in Tirana was the healthiest. The owner is lovely and serves healthy veggie meals with grains and loads of organic veggies, plus great smoothies. It’s a bit expensive for Albania but typical for this kind of food.
- Pastaria Tirana – honestly some of the best and cheapest pasta I’ve ever had. There are so many combinations. The truffle shrimp tagliatelle was so delicious I came back at 11am for another serving before my bus leaving town!
- Antigua Specialty Coffee – this third-wave coffee shop is THE place for coffee snobs in Tirana. From V60 to Chemex and espresso-based coffees, you won’t be disappointed. There are lovely cakes, too.
- Coffee Lab – great coffee and cannoli. Definitely the best coffee in town after Antigua.
Drinks & nightlife in Tirana:
- Radio Bar Tirana – this is a cool place for drinks that gets busy at weekends. The cocktail list is huge with regular and creative options like the basil smash. The bar is full of retro clutter and old movie posters.
- Nouvelle Vague Tirana – this is a nice bar with outside seating and unique cocktail options with an Albanian theme, like iced mountain tea with local honey.
For a 2-day Tirana itinerary, I’d suggest a free walking tour on the morning of day 1 followed by an afternoon exploring the main attractions such as the House of Leaves. For day 2, catch the bus to Dajti Cablecar for fantastic city views, then spend the afternoon in Tirana’s Blloku district enjoying speciality coffee and cocktail bars. Dinner at Pastaria is a must!
Berat: 1-2 days
Tight on time? Take a Berat day tour from Tirana
The UNESCO heritage city of Berat is nothing short of enchanting, although if you only have time for one small city during your Albania itinerary, I’d suggest Gjirokastër (keep reading).
Known as the City of a Thousand Windows, the distinctive Berat houses built in the 18th-19th centuries are stacked upon the hillside… If you hate hills, it’s worth checking if your accommodation is near the bottom level!
Things to do in Berat:
- Climb up to Berat Castle (make sure to take the shortcut) and the Holy Trinity Church – if you can handle the hike to the top, there are no better views for miles around.
- Go for an evening walk along Boulevard Republika – summer daytimes are too hot for long walks but, as the sun starts setting, locals come out for a xhiro (walk), bringing the city to life.
- Wine tasting at Alpeta Agroturizem – we had a fun evening (organised by our hostel) sampling Albanian wines and rajika at this beautiful countryside winery surrounded by mountains. It’s also a restaurant and, although we didn’t eat a full meal, I can vouch for the cheese, olives and fresh figs served with our wines. Çobo Winery is another popular one.
- Wander the Mangalemi quarter finding historic buildings and traditional restaurants.
- Cross the bridge over the river to the Gorica quarter known for its tight alleyways. Climb to the top of the hill for the best sunset view in town.
Where to stay in Berat
- Budget – Maya is the most social hostel in town while Mangalem is a nice, chilled base. Both cost around €12 a night.
- Mid-range – Amalia Boutique hotel has rooms from €30 while Berat Castle Hotel has rooms for €40.
- Splash-out – Hotel Colombo is one of the fanciest buildings in town and surprisingly affordable with rooms from €70.
- Browse all Berat hostels and apartments on Booking.com and hostels on Hostelworld.
Day trip to Osum Canyon & Bogove Waterfall
One of my favourite days in Albania was spent exploring the countryside around Berat. From waterfalls to canyons, the captivating landscape is yet another reminder of how beautiful and underrated Albania is!
Our first stop was Bogove Waterfall. After a 30-minute nature walk to the parking area, we reached the 20m waterfall cascading into pools of freezing water. Although I wanted to jump right in, my skin was screaming at me to stop. A few very brave people made it in although I’m not sure how!
Next, we stopped at the incredible Osum Canyon where the waters are a much more manageable temperature. We spent a good hour swimming through the canyon and admiring the incredible views. Around the top level, there are several striking viewpoints and spots for daredevils to cliff jump.
Book a day tour to Osum & Bogove from Berat for €65
Where to eat in Berat
Easily my most memorable meal in Albanian was eaten at Lili Homemade Food. Lili is a character! Not only does he freshly prepare local dishes, but he gives a presentation on them during the two evening sittings held in the garden of his home.
There are just a few tables that are always booked a couple of days in advance. I’d suggest going to his place when you first arrive in Berat and securing a table within the next couple of days. We ordered burek, tomato rice, stuffed aubergine, and a rich sheep’s cheese dip, washed down with local wine. It was delicious and affordable.
Getting to Berat
Driving from Tirana to Berat takes around 1 hour 40 minutes. The bus takes approx. 2 hours and costs 400 lek at the time of writing. From Berat bus station, we jumped on a local bus to the city centre.
Gjirokastër: 1-2 days
There’s no doubt about my favourite stop during my Albania itinerary. Gjirokastër took my breath away (in more ways than one: the walk from the bus station to my hostel was a KILLER) and I could have easily spent a week there.
The charm of Gjirokastër, also known as Stone City, is its quaint cobblestone streets, colourful craft markets and views of the Gjerë mountains. The regional cuisine made it memorable for me; I tried plenty of dishes not found elsewhere.
Getting to Gjirokastër
The drive from Berat takes 2 hours 40 minutes. There’s an 8am and 2pm bus taking 3 hours. If you’re coming from Tirana, the drive is 3 hours 15 minutes and the bus ride is just under 4 hours with several daily departures.
Things to do in Gjirokastër
- Climb up to Gjirokastër Castle for the best views over the city and mountains. Inside, there are eerie tunnels filled with weaponry and a small museum dedicated to the city’s history. Castle entry and museum entry cost 200 lek each.
- Gjirokastër Bazaar – in the oldest district of the city, the bustling bazaar has over 500 years of history. Colourful goods spilling out of the shops onto the streets include jewellery, rugs, cushions, tapestries, clothing, chinaware and more.
- Skenduli House – one of the most impressive buildings in Gjirokastër is preserved as it would have been in Ottoman days. A ticket includes a guided tour during which you’ll learn about the previous residents, their customs and ways of life. Entry is 200 lek.
- Zekate House – requiring an uphill walk, this period house offers a similar experience to Skenduli with panoramic views and fewer tourists.
- Cold War tunnel – hidden below Gjirokastër lies a maze of 59 rooms connected by 800 metres of tunnel. For a fascinating insight into Cold War history, head to the Tourist Information office beside the tunnel opening and jump on the next tour for 200 lek.
- Hike to Ali Pasha’s Bridge – this countryside hike to a huge aqueduct built is a fun way to get out of the city. Remember sun protection, water and comfy footwear.
- Visit the Bazaar Mosque – pop inside the city’s main mosque and learn how Islam was prohibited during communist rule.
What & where to eat in Gjirokastër
I thoroughly enjoyed the food scene in Gjirokastër. Like most Albanian food, it has Middle Eastern influences using fresh produce like figs and vine leaves. Other Balkan dishes like burek reminded me of my foodie adventures in Split, Zagreb and Ljubljana.
Plenty of dishes are veggie-friendly such as stuffed aubergines and spinach borek. A few regional dishes I didn’t see elsewhere in Albania were:
- Pashaqofte – soup with meatballs
- Qifqi – rice balls fried with herbs and spices and served with a sour cream dipping sauce
- Oshaf – yoghurt mixed with fresh figs and topped with cinnamon
- Japrak – grape leaves stuffed with rice and meat.
Some restaurants I can vouch for include Kujtim, Mapo and Odaja. These are all in the city centre with tasty, homecooked food and pleasant surroundings overlooking Gjirokastër’s cobbled streets.
Where to stay in Gjirokastër
- Budget – Stone City comes to mind as one of the best hostels I’ve EVER stayed in… Which is a lot, by the way! The interior looks like a boutique hotel, the beds are comfy, the staff are fantastic (leading informative daily walking tours) and there’s free breakfast.
- Mid-range – Hotel Kalemi has grand, beautiful bedrooms with city views for €45.
- Splash-out – you’ll get a luxury resort with a pool for €90 at Kerculla Resort!
- Browse all Gjirokastër hostels and apartments on Booking.com and hostels on Hostelworld.
Sarandë: 2 days
Sarandë is a popular beach town. Despite its popularity, Sarandë wasn’t my favourite stop on my Albania itinerary. With overpriced beach bars and crowded beaches, it doesn’t have a lot of charm. It’s more a place for holidaymakers than backpackers and travellers. I was happy to move onto Himarë, a beach town I’ll discuss next that I preferred.
Getting to Sarandë
One way is by flying into Corfu and getting a ferry across to Sarandë. If you’re mid-itinerary, arrive by bus or car. Between Sarandë and Gjirokastër, the bus takes 1.5 hours and costs 400 lek.
Tip – if travelling by car, you could visit the famous Blue Eye en route between Sarande and Gjirokaster.
What to do in Sarande
- Hike, drive or take a taxi to Lëkurësi Castle for sunset – I walked and it took around an hour. The views of the Albanian Riviera and Corfu are spectacular. You can stop for a sundowner drink at the top although it’s quite pricey. The wine was terrible so I recommend a beer instead!
- Enjoy the Sarandë beaches. There are a few within walking distance of the town and plenty more a short drive away as you head towards Ksamil.
- Soak up the history at 40 Saints Monastery and the Ancient Synagogue remains.
Where to stay in Sarandë
- Hostel – I stayed at the friendly cosy Backpackers SR run by the legend that is Tony. The other hostels in Sarandë are party hostels without great reviews so I would advise booking in advance to stay here.
- Mid-range – Hotel Mano boasts comfy double rooms and beachfront access from €50.
- Splash out – a stay at Hotel Oasis includes bedroom terraces with ocean views and 4* comfort.
- Browse all Sarandë hostels and apartments on Booking.com and hostels on Hostelworld.
This is the exclusive, upmarket area of the Albanian Riviera located down the peninsular from Sarandë. It’s mainly known for beautiful beaches but, at the bottom, is Butrint Archaeological Park, an ancient city with Greek and Roman influences surrounded by olive groves. Nearby, Ali Pasha’s Castle (Porto Palermo) is an 1800s Ottoman ruin on an island accessed by boat. Entry to the park is 700 lek (€6.10).
You could consider staying in Ksamil rather than Sarandë, or spending a night or two in Sarandë then moving here so you can properly experience them both. I didn’t feel I needed THAT much beach time so I chose to just visit Ksamil as a day trip from Sarandë. You can do this by car or local bus.
Although the beaches are undeniably idyllic, I didn’t love Ksamil as I found everything quite expensive and crowded. There’s nowhere to relax on a beach for free as they’re packed with sunbeds charging around 2,000 lek for a set of loungers and an umbrella. Not great value for solo travellers like myself who don’t need two beds!
Where to eat in Sarandë
- Taverna Fredi – we had fantastic, affordable seafood here including sea bass and grilled shrimp. Even the green veggies we ordered as a side were perfectly seasoned, plus there was great wine. Taverna Laberia is another lovely seafood spot.
- Proper Pizza – there are a couple of these pizza joints around Albania. They serve a huge range of toppings and combos, alongside alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.
- Hashtag2 – as a coffee snob, I was disappointed by the coffee options in Sarande. Your best bet is iced coffee at this place, although sadly everything is served in plastic.
- Baci A Tutti – this is a cute deli with desserts, pastries and iced coffee. Great for grabbing a picnic to-go when heading out for the day.
The Blue Eye – day trip
A 30-minute drive from Sarandë is the Blue Eye, a must for your 2 week Albania itinerary. In unbelievable shades of blue and green, Syri i Kaltër is a natural spring pool with sections up to 50m deep.
Due to its popularity, the main viewing platform is very crowded so I suggested walking to the area near the restaurant where you can go for a swim or paddle. I warn you the waters are FREEZING. Getting in up to my knees was the most I could handle!
Entry is just 50 lek (€0.50).
Related activity: day tour from Sarandë to Butrint Park & the Blue Eye
Getting to the Blue Eye
My hostel, Backpackers SR, organised the trip for us with a return taxi ride. Do the same and agree a price with a local driver or, alternatively, take an organised trip with GetYourGuide, or hire a car in Sarande. There’s also a local bus but it drops at the road junction, a 2km walk to the Eye.
If possible, I would advise going early because it gets very busy and hot in the summer months. The walk from the parking area takes about 20 minutes with no shade.
Tip – there’s nowhere to buy food at the Blue Eye apart from the restaurant which is overpriced with poor reviews. Bring a picnic and enjoy it in nature, or leave Sarandë early and arrive back in time for lunch. You only need a couple of hours at the Blue Eye.
Himarë: 2 days
Himarë is a quieter and lesser-visited beach town on the Albanian Riviera, a 1.5-hour drive from Sarandë. There’s tasty food with Greek influence, beautiful beaches and boat trips around the region.
As with Sarandë (and any other beach town), spend as many days here as you need to chill. My Albania itinerary was busy, so I used my time in Himarë to rest and recoup.
There are plenty of beaches to find in the area if you’re feeling adventurous. I say adventurous because many not only require a car to reach but also involve a trek down to the beach once you’ve parked.
Where to stay in Himarë
- Budget – the best hostel is Sun Bakers. For €12 a night, you’ll get a home-cooked breakfast each morning. The hostel’s garden area is a great place to meet other travellers, and the sunsets are the best!
- Mid-range – Aphrodite Gardens has fantastic reviews and even better sea views from the balcony bedrooms.
- Splash out – Sea View Hotel is a luxe option with a pool and ocean views.
- Browse all Himarë hostels and apartments on Booking.com and hostels on Hostelworld.
Things to do in Himare
- Visit Himare Castle – take an hour’s uphill walk or hail a taxi for beautiful views of the coastline.
- Take a boat trip – from Plazhi i Himarës, you can book daily boat trips that visit beaches and islands for swimming and snorkelling. Arrive in the morning to reserve a spot.
- Explore the beaches – the main one is Himarë Beach but there are plenty of better beaches if you’re happy to travel. Mateus Beach near the Old Submarine Bunker is a nice spot, a 15-minute drive away (with a 15-minute walk down to the beach).
- Take a trip to Gjipe Beach – although it’s a 30 min drive away, it’s one of the most beautiful beaches in Albania. It requires a 2km walk from the car park and there are a couple of restaurants and beach beds for hire.
- Visit Dhermi – this adorable hilltop town has quaint churches and amazing coastal views. Spend an afternoon and stay for sunset. You can drive there from Himarë in 30 minutes or catch a local bus. There are nearby beaches but these require a short drive or 40-minute walk from the town.
Where to eat in Himarë
- Taverna Stolis – my hostel friends and I ate affordable, homecooked Greek food here almost every day. The tzatziki, garlic bread, garlic mash, feta salad, moussaka, fresh fish and stuffed aubergine were all delicious.
- UMI Sushi & Cocktail – for a break from traditional food, try the best sushi and cocktails in town here. It’s not especially cheap but everything was great.
Getting to/from Himarë
It’s easily reached from Sarandë. You can drive or take a bus in 1.5 hours. There are several daily bus departures.
If you’re coming to or from Tirana, it’s a 3.5-hour drive or a slightly longer bus ride. You’ll want to be a confident driver because the mountain pass you’ll need to make it over is intimidating. As a bus passenger, I felt VERY sick on this journey!
For the next section of this Albania itinerary, you’ll need to take your longest travel day yet. If you have time, you may wish to spend the night in Tirana to break up the journey. Alternatively, take the very windy 4-hour bus from Himarë to Tirana followed by a 2-hour bus to Shkodër.
Shkodër – 2 days
Shkodër is a pleasant town in the North of Albania near the border with Montenegro. Most people who visit are using the town as a launching point for hiking adventures in the Albanian alps, something I HIGHLY recommend if you have time.
The Theth Pass hike is stunning, usually requiring two overnight stays, one in Valbona and one in Theth with a day hike between the two. The accommodation and transport can be organised in Shkodër. Before we get into this, I’ll run through what to do in Shkodër before or after your hike.
What to do in Shkoder
- Take the free walking tour – it begins at City Hall (Bashkia) at 10am daily between mid-June and mid-October and lasts 2 hours. If you enjoy it, give what you think it’s worth.
- Hire a bicycle and cycle to Lake Skadar on the border of Montenegro through beautiful landscape. Swim in the lake, stop for a picnic and spot birds and other wildlife. Hire a bike in Shkodër or take a guided tour for €11.
- Hike to Rozafa Castle – it takes 30 minutes on foot to reach this 14th-century castle with fantastic views.
- Check out some museums – the History Museum, the Site of Witness and Memory and Marubi National Photography Museum are worth a visit.
Where to eat in Shkodër
Stolia Coffeehouse & Brunch – after a lot of heavy (but delicious) Albanian food, I was thrilled to find this healthy cafe with serious Bali vibes. Think excellent coffee, smoothie bowls, salads and avo toast. The cafe is cute with good Wi-Fi and outside seating. I ate there every day!
EKO Club – this is another cute cafe with indoor murals, colourful cushions, books stuck to the walls and even indoor swings! They serve local produce like cheese & meat platters and traditional Albanian desserts. I tried sheqerpare: shortbread soaked in syrup. It was delicious but very sweet!
Restaurant Pizzeria Italia – a friend and I had a real feast here of garlic bread, pasta and wine. I remember marvelling at how cheap it was!
Getting to Shkoder
Every 30 minutes between 6.30am and 5pm there’s a departure from Tirana regional bus station taking 1 hour 45 minutes. If you’re arriving from the Albanian Riviera and getting straight on a bus to Shkodër, you’re in luck because they depart right next to one another.
You can also depart and arrive in Shkodër for Montenegro. My hostel (Wanderers) organised a shuttle over the border which dropped me at Ulcinj Bus Station but there are also buses to the capital, Podgorica.
Where to stay in Shkodër
- Hostel – Wanderers is easily the best budget accommodation. They organise regular activities like €2 cocktail nights and €2 buffets, plus there’s a bar and ping pong table. Organising the Theth Pass hike is a massive plus.
- Mid-range – Hotel Bicaj has comfy rooms, free bikes for hire, a shared lounge and garden area for €35.
- Splash-out – Hotel Treva has a terrace, bar and tasty daily breakfast for €60 a night.
- Browse all Shkodër hostels and apartments on Booking.com and hostels on Hostelworld.
Theth hiking – 2 nights
The highlight of my Albania itinerary was hiking in the mountains in the region of Theth. I’d heard little about this area before planning my trip. It’s so underrated and beautiful, much like my other favourite hike in the Balkans, the Rila Lakes trail near Sofia, Bulgaria.
Although I started the hike in Valbona and finished in Theth, you can do the hike in either direction. If you do it my way, I’d advise travelling the day before the hike. From Theth, you can get a bus back to Shkoder (note that the last one is at 1pm so unless you’re super speedy, you’ll need to stay overnight in Theth).
Since the Valbona Pass hike I booked included 2 overnight stays in different towns, I left my luggage in Shkodër and trekked with minimal belongings. I packed pyjamas, a couple of lightweight outfits, underwear, suncream, toothpaste and facewash. You’ll also want hiking snacks and a water bottle. There are a couple of points on the hike where you can fill up.
How to organise the hike
It all sounded complicated but I had learned that Wanderers Hostel organise the service for you. I simply paid them the money (I believe around €20) and they gave me the boat and bus tickets for the Shkodër-Valbona leg and the bus ticket for the Theth-Shkodër leg, and booked both my guesthouses for me at €25 a night inc meals. Pick-up was from the hostel so there was no organisation needed.
You don’t need to worry if you’re doing the hike solo. If you book with Wanderers, you’ll be in the same group the whole time including at the guesthouses at the start and end of the hike. Whether you decide to hike solo or with the group is up to you. I did most of the hike solo and didn’t find it unsafe or too difficult.
- Shkodër to Valbona leg #1: shuttle taking 1.5 hours
- Shkodër to Valbona leg #2: Komani Lake ferry taking between Koman and Fierze (3 hours)
- Shkodër to Valbona leg #3: shuttle bus to guesthouse (20 minutes)
- Theth to Shkoder: 2.5-hour shuttle bus.
Valbona Pass hike stats
- 800m elevation
- 5-10 hours average (someone in my hiking group did it in under 5 but he was very experienced).
- Difficulty level: medium.
- Best season: June to late September.
Other Theth hikes
After hiking with terrible shoes and getting blisters, I didn’t do any other hikes in Theth but there are several you can do. A few people in my hiking group did these other hikes after the main hike and during the following morning before catching the bus back to Shkodër. Not quite sure where they got the energy!
Blue Eye – Albania’s other Blue Eye is much more tranquil than the one near Sarandë thanks to its secluded location. It’s a 2 hour 45 minute walk from Theth or you can hire a driver to take you to the final parking area, then it’s just a 45-minute walk to the eye.
Qafa e Pejës – this 7-hour trek is a hard but beautiful one with striking views from the pass. It starts with 2 hours of flat land before a tough 1.5-hour ascent.
Other places to visit during an Albania itinerary
If any of the above places don’t appeal to you, here are a couple to swap into your Albania itinerary.
Kruje – just north of Tirana is an adorable medieval village that you can visit as a day trip, or stay overnight for some R&R. Dating back to the 12th century, there are historic sites like the castle, museum, old market and medieval tower offering views over the rolling countryside.
Durrës – on the coast close to Tirana, this is an option for a beach break without travelling too far. Durrës is one of the oldest cities in Albania with 3,000 years of history and countless ancient ruins.
In a rush? Take a Durrës and Kruje Castle tour from Tirana
Vlorë – lodged between the sea and mountains just north of Himarë, this is a popular destination in Albania. I didn’t visit myself because I heard that Himarë and Sarandë were nicer, cheaper and safer… That was enough for me!
Budget for Albania travel
Albania is so affordable! Here are a few average costs:
Accommodation in hostels: €8-15 per night.
Accommodation in hotels: from €20.
Transport: €4-10 per bus journey.
Meal in a restaurant: €5-10 including a drink.
Here’s some useful info to help you plan your Albania itinerary…
What’s the best time of year to visit Albania?
The summer months (June-August) have the best weather but it’s also the most expensive and busy time to visit. Shoulder season (April-May and September-October) offers bargains on accommodation and activities, and a better chance of getting the beach to yourself.
In the winter, most things will be closed and the weather is cold.
Is Albania worth visiting?
100%! Albania is worth visiting for its beautiful beaches, hiking opportunities in the northern mountains, charming historic towns, affordable prices, friendly people and tasty cuisine. It was my favourite place I visited in 2022 which is high praise because I had a travel-packed year.
Is Albania safe?
Yes, as a solo female traveller, I felt very safe in Albania. The locals are super friendly; I’ll always remember chatting to a shopkeeper about his family and him giving me my groceries for free!
I had no problems anywhere in Albania and even felt safe walking in the evenings.
Albania shares a border with several other fantastic Balkan countries including Greece, North Macedonia, Kosovo and Montenegro. Some fantastic spots I’d suggest are:
Lake Ohrid: this stunning lake borders Albania and North Macedonia but it’s most popular to visit from the Macedonian side. The crystal-clear waters are the perfect swimming temperature in the summer. It’s such a hidden gem!
I also enjoyed visiting the Macedonian capital, Skopje, and taking a day trip to Matka Canyon.
Bar/Kotor/Budva, Montenegro: the country’s capital of Podgorica doesn’t have a very exciting reputation but the coastal cities are spectacular. I spent a wonderful week in Stari Grad, Bar in one of the best hostels I’ve ever been to, The Grove in an old mill beside a river and olive grove. During my Montenegro itinerary, also had an amazing trip to Kotor taking boat trips on the lake and day trips into the mountains.
Thanks for reading my Albania itinerary!
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Read more Balkan & Eastern Europe posts:
- Tried & tested itinerary for travelling the Balkans
- Things to do & places to see in Tirana
- 2 week Romania road trip
- Things to do during 2 days in Sofia, Bulgaria
- 30 things to do in Belgrade, Serbia
- 32 top attractions in Pristina, Kosovo
- The top things to do in Skopje, North Macedonia
- Things to do in Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina
- What to do in Mostar, Bosnia & Herzegovina
- The ultimate Croatia itinerary
- 5, 7 or 10 day Slovenia itinerary
TRUSTED RESOURCES FOR VISITING ALBANIA
Getting around by air – I use Skyscanner and search by month to see the cheapest dates.
Driving in Europe – use Rentalcars.com to compare car rentals in European countries (and all around the world).
For buses around Europe, I use Flixbus. It doesn’t connect cities in Albania but it does connect Tirana to other European capitals.
For hotels and self-catering apartments, I use Booking.com. You can filter by review score and price to find the best-rated budget places. For hostels, I use Hostelworld.
To save money on accommodation, I use Trusted Housesitters, a website that connects homeowners going away and travellers who can sit their homes & pets.
Browse tours and activities on GetYourGuide and Viator.
Need travel insurance? I use True Traveller (for UK & Europe residents) since it’s affordable but covers everything you’d need including various activities, valuables and pre-existing conditions. Unlike some companies, they insure you if you’re already travelling / don’t yet have your flight home booked. Get a quote.
For travel insurance for other nationalities, I recommend Hey Mundo and for long-term digital nomad travellers, I suggest Safety Wing.
Check out my resources page for more travel discounts and budget tips from my 10+ years on the road!