Berat, Albania Travel Guide - unique experiences to inspire your Albanian Trip

Albania

Albania Travel Guide

Albania is a travel destination for curious historical minds as well as outdoor adventurers. If you like offbeat places, Albania will more than satisfy your wanderlust. Though traveling through this Balkan country left us with far more questions than answers, we really valued our time here and what we absorbed. There is a great deal to learn, but it’s not packaged neatly for tourists. Few museums have information in English. Very few historical sites display clear explanations.

Albania offers a rare opportunity to hear directly from locals about their experiences living in a communist state, isolated from the rest of the world. With 750,000 concrete bunkers scattered across the entire country, the past is ever-present. However, now more than ever, Albanians are looking optimistically to the future and believe they can build a life in their own home country. Read on to discover the most unique things to experience in the land of eagles. 

 

Female Travel in Albania

Albanian culture is conservative, especially when it comes to gender roles. Outside of Tirana, you won’t see women socializing in public spaces (e.g. parks, bar cafés, etc..). We would ask ourselves nearly every day: where are the Albanian women? We were informed by a former Peace Corps volunteer that it’s stigmatized for women to socialize with men publically. And, it’s expected that women are home by 4:00 p.m. So, as two female travelers, we were often the only women walking at night, or frequenting restaurants and cafés. We received a great deal of stares. That being said, we never felt unsafe. But, we did feel uncomfortable.

 

 
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Albania Travel Guide - what to do and see, where to go, sample itineraries

Albania Travel Guide Overview

  • Getting Around Albania
  • Albania Travel Basics
  • Where to Go (Interactive Map)
  • What to Experience in Albania
  • Albania Itineraries: 2 Week & 10 Day sample itineraries
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Berat, Town of a Thousand Windows, Albania, Albania Travel Guide

Getting Around Albania

By Bus. Bus transit between large destinations is easy, on-time, and overall uncomplicated. We took a bus from Shkodër to Tirana and it was seamless. If you’re trying to reach smaller destinations, there may only be one bus that leaves per day.

By Shuttle (a.ka. Furgon). We took a furgon from Shkodër to Theth. The shuttle was organized by our hostel in Shkodër. The price was fixed and the pick-up was on time. We have no complaints, but the driver made many stops along the way. If you’re organizing a shuttle independently, do sufficient research about the price point. We met a few travelers, who were grossly overcharged.

By Car. We rented a car for half of our trip. The roads were in good condition and driving was not at all difficult. However, Albanians drive like angsty teenagers. So, it’s best to drive passively, because there’s a lot of reckless and inconsistent driving on the road.

 
Valbona Pass Hike, Albanian Alps, Northern Albania, Albania Travel Guide

Albania Travel Basics

Official Name: Republika Shqiptare

Capital: Tirana

Government: Unitary Parliamentary Constitutional Republic

Population: 2.9 million

Language: Albanian

Currency: Lek

Tipping Etiquette: Tipping isn’t common, but you can round up the bill.

Water Quality: Poor. Only drink filtered, or bottled water. Note: in the Albanian Alps, we drank the mountain spring water.

Something Interesting: The headquarters of the Bektashi sect is in Tirana, Albania.

 
Trail to the Blue Eye, Theth, Albanian Alps, Albania Travel Guide

Where to Go in Albania

Click the dots to explore specific destinations
Cities & Towns
  • Tirana
  • Berat
  • Shkodër
  • Gjirokastër
Hiking Destinations
  • Theth Valley
  • Valbona Valley
Top Culinary Experiences
  • Cobo Winery
  • Uka Farm
  • Mullixhiu
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He who is in a hurry is always late.

 

 

 

 

 

Albanian Proverb

The Book of Albanian Sayings: Cultural Proverbs by Flamur Vehapi

(Photograph: Lake Komani)

What to Experience in Albania

Our favorite things to see and do
Gjin Thana Guesthouse, Theth, where to stay in Theth, Albania Travel Guide
Gjin Thana Guesthouse, Theth

Going off the Grid in Theth

Theth (also spelled Thethi) stole our hearts in no time. Encircled by the Albanian Alps in Northern Albania, this tiny village is a perfect destination for outdoor lovers and hikers. Apart from the natural beauty, it’s the hospitality we received from our guesthouse owners that left the most lasting impression.

Though it’s common to stay one night in Theth, before tackling the hike to Valbona, we suggest extending your stay. We stayed three, and it felt like a retreat. And with no Wifi connection, you can easily unplug.

Theth Valley Hikes

  • Blue Eye
  • Qafa e Pejës (mountain pass)
  • Valbona Pass

Where to Stay in Theth

Gjin ThanaThis charming stone guesthouse weaves its own special magic. Positioned above the village center, Gjin Thana offers guests a tranquil place to relax, eat slowly, and converse with fellow travelers. All food is homegrown, plentiful and delicious. Because the guesthouse only accommodates a few travelers, we highly recommend making a reservation at Gjin Thana.

Look for accommodation in Theth.

 
Mullixhiu, best places to eat in Tirana, Albania Travel Guide
Mullixhiu

Culinary Treasure Hunting in Tirana

Albania’s funky capital is filled with tempting patisseries, cafés, grilled meat eateries and no shortage of Italian-influenced restaurants. To get you started on your culinary treasure hunt, we recommend visiting these two standout restaurants:

Uka Farm

This biodynamic vineyard and organic farm is located near the Tirana airport. The farm’s rustic dining space almost spills into groves of pomegranate trees and vines. The no-frills cuisine pays homage to traditional Albanian food. If you’re a lover of wine, make sure to try their ceruja white wine (2012). The ceruja grape is a wild grape that grows in Northern Albania. The vines are 60-100 years old and grow freely without any treatment or human intervention. Uka Farm is the the only place in the world where you can drink ceruja. If you like reds, their Chimaera (2016), a merlot, cabernet and kallmet blend, is also delectable.

Address: Rruga Adem Jashari, Laknas, Arnavutluk

Mullixhiu

Mullixhiu is evolving Albania’s culinary tradition one dish at a time. Upon entering the restaurant, you’ll feel transported to a realm that honors the dining experience as much as the food itself. The intimate, wooden, and dimly-lit interior coupled with an almost sensual playlist makes dining here a wonderful way to spend several hours. Mullixhiu offers an a la carté menu for lunch and a set menu for dinner. Reservation recommended.

Address: Shëtitorja Lasgush Poradeci, Hyrja e Parkut tek Diga e Liqenit Artificial, Tirana 1019, Arnavutluk

Look for accommodation in Tirana.

 
Berat, Albania Travel Guide, where to go in Albania
Berat

Staring into a thousand windows in Berat

With its distinctive Ottoman-style architecture, Berat is unquestionably the most charming town in all Albania. UNESCO agrees. The historical center of Berat is a World Heritage Site. Divided by the river Osum, the town’s two historical neighborhoods, Gorica and Mangalem, look like they are engaged in an unrelenting face-off. Whether you’re walking along the river bank, or wandering the castle ruins, every vantage point of Berat is bewitching.

Where to Eat in Berat

Antigoni – After a few mediocre meals, Antigoni restored our faith in Albanian food. This beautiful restaurant is situated in the Gorica neighborhood and boasts the best view of Mangalem.

Hotel Klea – Tucked away near the castle ruins, this hotel’s kitchen serves simple, but very good Albanian food.

Look for accommodation in Berat.

 
Wine Tasting at Çobo Winery, Albanian Wine, what to do in Albania, Albania Travel Guide
Wine Tasting at Çobo Winery

Wine Tasting in Çobo Winery

Albania might not be famous for its wine, but they certainly know how to make it. To taste a selection of top-quality wines, head to Çobo Winery near Berat.

Çobo Winery is a multi-generational family-run business. During the communist era, the family’s land was taken away and they were prohibited from making wine. Wine production didn’t resume until the 1990s. They’ve been bottling wine since 2000 and growing their business steadily ever since.

Wine tastings are accompanied by bread, homemade olives, and several kinds of cheese. In so many places, wine tastings are rushed. Not here. Seated under an olive tree, you’re invited to slowly sip Shesh i Bardhë, E bardha e Beratit (puls grape), Shesh i zi, Kashmer (blend), and a special Reserve (2012) that will intoxicate your soul.

We dropped by without a reservation and were accommodated very easily. Tastings start at 14 EUR.

Address: Ura Vajgurore, 1001, Arnavutluk

 
Valbona Pass Hike, Valbona Valley, Albanian Alps, Albania Travel Guide
Valbona Valley

Hiking in the Accursed Mountains, Albanian Alps

The Albanian Alps is a mountain range that extends from Northern Albania into Montenegro. These mountains are also known as Prokletije or the Accursed Mountains. The easiest way to access these epic mountains on the Albanian-side is by hopping on a shuttle from Shkodër to Theth, or by taking a shuttle from Shkodër, followed by the Komani Ferry and another shuttle to Valbona (organized by Berisha Car Ferry). Find out more info on reaching Valbona on the Journey to Valbona site. For those of you who are planning on also visiting Montenegro, here’s a guide to Prokletije National Park.

Here are a few hikes to consider:

  • Valbona Pass – Day-hike between Theth and Valbona. The trail can be hiked in either direction.
  • The Peaks of the Balkans – Multi-Day trek that traverses Montenegro, Albania, and Kosovo. Uncornered Market published an extremely thorough Beginner’s Guide to the Peaks of the Balkans Trek.
  • Blue Eye – Day hike in Theth Valley

If you’re planning on traveling or hiking to Montenegro, read our Prokletije National Park guide.

 
The Pyramid of Tirana, Learning about Albanian History, Albania Walking Tour, Albania Travel Guide
The Pyramid of Tirana

Unraveling Albania’s History

Having suffered centuries of conquest and invasion by the Romans, Byzantines, Visigoths, Huns, Slavs, and Ottomans, Albania’s history is one of a conquered people. Albania didn’t gain its independence until 1912.

Albania’s darkest historical era is perhaps the 20th century when the communist dictator Enver Hoxha cuts off the country from the entire world. Not only does Hoxha sever ties with the capitalist west, but he also cuts ties with communist allies like the USSR, Yugoslavia, and China. Controlled by fear, paranoia and secret surveillance, the Albanian people suffered tremendously during this time. Hoxha’s death in 1985 expedites the fall of communism in the country. By 1990, communism collapses and the country enters a period of predatory capitalism and pyramid schemes. Today, Albania’s economy is steadily improving and the country is looking fervently to the future.

To deepen your understanding of Albania’s tumultuous history, we recommend:

  • Gjirokastër Fortress – Inside the castle fortress, there’s a very good museum that explains the history of Gjirokastër and the country.
  • BUNK’ART 1 and BUNK’ART 2 – Two museums in Tirana that occupy communist bunkers. Here, you can learn about how the government controlled the Albanian population through surveillance and violence.
  • Tirana Free Walking Tour – Learn about the history of the capital as well as the country in this free 2 hour walking tour.
  • The Albanians: A Modern History by Miranda Vickers
  • Enver Hoxha: The Iron Fist of Albania by Blendi Fevziu
 
Gjipe Beach, Albanian Riviera, Best beach in Albania, Albania Travel Guide

Albania Itineraries

Albania 2 Week Itinerary

This travel itinerary takes you to the Albanian Alps, the Albanian Riviera, UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and Tirana. Read our full day by day Albania itinerary to help plan your trip.

  • Day 1: Shkodra (Shkodër)
  • Day 2: Shkodra – Theth
  • Day 3: Theth
  • Day 4: Theth – Valbona Pass – Valbona
  • Day 5: Valbona
  • Day 6: Valbona – Lake Koman – Shkodra
  • Day 7: Shkodra – Tirana – Vlorë
  • Day 8: Vlorë – Himara
  • Day 9: Himara
  • Day 10: Himara – Gjirokastra
  • Day 11: Gjirokastra – Berat
  • Day 12: Berat – Tirana
  • Day 13: Tirana
  • Day 14: Depart Tirana

Albania 10 Day Itinerary

This itinerary is essentially the same as the above but done at a faster pace. If you’re short on time, you can cut out the “rest days” we built into the 2-week itinerary.

  • Day 1: Shkodra (Shkodër)
  • Day 2: Shkodra – Theth
  • Day 3: Theth – Valbona Pass – Valbona
  • Day 4: Valbona – Lake Koman – Shkodra
  • Day 5: Shkodra – Tirana – Vlorë
  • Day 6: Vlorë – Himara
  • Day 7: Himara – Gjirokastra
  • Day 8: Gjirokastra – Berat
  • Day 9: Berat – Tirana
  • Day 10: Tirana
 
Gjirokastra, Albania Travel Guide

Albania Travel Resources

There are some affiliate links in this travel guide. If you make a booking or a purchase using the links, we’ll get a small commission at no extra cost to you. It’s how we cover the costs of running the blog!

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