Stop raising your eyebrows at Albania and just visit already

I didn’t actually want to see Albania.

I had planned to be in Europe until the end of June, but Schengen visa requirements prevented that from happening. I could only spend 90 days in Greece or any other Schengen country within the European Union. I needed to get to Croatia for Yacht Week, and the best way to do so was to make my way up through the Balkan countries along the Adriatic Sea/Ionian Sea. Flying from Greece to Croatia was nearly as expensive as my flight to the UK.

This meant going through Albania. I lucked out and won a Bosnia tour with Med Experience, a fun backpacking bus tour group, and then their wonderfully helpful customer service folks secured me a route from Athens to Kotor, Montenegro. Most of this trip took place in Albania.


Members of my tour in Saranda!
Honestly, Albania was never on my radar. It’s not that I didn’t WANT to see it. I just didn’t know anything about it.

I’ve been in Kotor for a week. Every time I tell someone I got here via Albania, they raise their eyebrows at me. “Really?”

REALLY. Stop believing media hype. Here. A few good reasons to go.


My first night in Saranda, I had a platter of lamb chops (I’m still coming to terms with how much I love eating baby sheep), two beers, and a bottle of water for the equivalent of 10EUR. My mind was blown.

You could live like a queen (or king) for ages in Albania. And I didn’t have a crappy meal the whole time I was there.

Plus the corner stores serve latte in a can. What more could you want?

2. The people are ridiculously wonderful

I’m not sure why Albania has a reputation for being harsh. People bent over backwards for me the whole time I was there. Always eager to please, always ready with a smile.

The country is relatively new in its freedom, and it just escaped the grip of communism in the early 90s. You can imagine the transitioning process is bit of a challenge.

Dennis, our lovely guide

Dennis, our guide!
There’s still extreme poverty, but tourists are welcomed with open arms. Religious freedom is very tolerated here. Our guide Dennis was an incredibly knowledgeable, kind person. He certainly introduced us to a softer side of the country.

3. Ruins galore, including the largest Roman ruins in the Balkans

From Saranda, Dennis took us to Butrint, the largest Roman ruins in the Balkans still with only 5% excavated. It served as a popular port city from Hellenistic to Ottoman times, and is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Butrint Ruins

I thought I was all ruined out after being in Greece for three months, but these were lovely. Dennis pointed out the minor details that make a place so special, like the grooves in the marble around the well where the buckets’ ropes strained to pull up the water. The Byzantine baptistery has a floor of mosaic, although it’s protected under canvas. And inside the entrance of the fortress walls are two sets of foot grooves from where the guards once stood.


My favourite part of this: Manumission, or the freedom of the slaves. For awhile women could free slaves, and if a woman’s husband died she would profit from his land rather than the eldest son.

In Berat there is also Berat castle, where locals still live dating back from the 13th century. It used to contain over 40 Byzantine churches, as well as Ottoman mosques.

Berat Castle

You’ll get a killer view of Berat city from the fortress tower. Berat is the prettiest city I’ve seen in Albania. The university and its modern dome is especially attractive.

Berat City

4. Epic coastline and mountains

I loved Saranda and all its beach-town promises. It was quiet when I was visiting, but the place explodes in the summer. The boardwalk along the beach is littered with carnival rides and restaurants, pubs, and clubs. Young folks with shaven heads popped bicycle wheelies on the promenade while shopkeepers politely let us browse their wares without harassment. The Ionian Sea stretches across to Corfu Island, and from here you can opt for a day trip (or a full-on trip).

Saranda Beach

One of the most memorable stops on the road trip was through Logora Pass, in Logora National Park. I slept through much of the ride, happily, because the road to the top of the mountains was dizzying. Flag pines bent to the wind’s will can be found all along the hillside, and every now and then you’ll see a war bunker left over from communist times. Apparently there are 70,000 around the country.

Logora Pass

By the time we reached the peak of the pass, the clouds had wrapped themselves around us and wouldn’t let go. It was kinda terrifying to be so close to them, but man, the view was worth it.

  • May 21 2014

    Aw, Albania is number one in my heart. I only made it to Seranda and around, but bloody hell, it has everything good in life – good people and fine beaches, traditional dancing under the taverna fairy lights and Albanian haggis… living the dream. Glad you enjoyed your time out there and are spreading the Albania love!

  • May 21 2014
    Naomi Todd

    I really want to go to Eastern Europe, Serbia, Bosnia and Macedonia have been particularly high on my list beforehand but now Albania will have to feature on it too!

  • May 21 2014

    I’ve never even thought of travelling through Albania but it looks wonderful! Hopefully they have other options then lamb chops! I just cant eat something that cute! Chicken? no problem.

    • May 27 2014

      Hahaha, oh don’t worry…plenty and plenty of meat options.

  • May 21 2014

    Albania had never really been on my travel radar before, but it looks like a really nice country – I’d for sure travel there if I get the chance.

  • May 21 2014

    Yep, it is SO on my list. Though I’ve only done Hungary, Slovakia, & Slovenia, eastern European countries are so much better to travel than Western ones IMO. Definitely a much more authentic experience.

    <3 Daryl

    Current Post: Foodie Travel – Let’s Talk About Buffalo Wings.

  • May 21 2014

    I also went to Saranda and Butrint and I love how different it feels to Greece, with the half finished houses and lack of tourists. We just did a day trip while cruising around the Ionian Islands but would love to see more of the country now.

    • May 27 2014

      Yes! Butrint was so wonderful. I’m glad I went through the country on a bus tour. I was completely clueless about the place.

  • May 21 2014

    I always had fun in Albania, that’s why I keep going. yeah yes, AMAZING food! yumm yumm and ice cream in Tirana on a summer day. a dream! :)

  • May 25 2014

    It’s certainly somewhere that interests me to visit someday. I use to work with a lady from Albania and she talked her country down so much that I had to do some research to see why she was negative about it. I couldn’t find anything I didn’t want to see and that didn’t look beautiful or interesting.

    • May 27 2014

      Ah! Isn’t that crazy?! All the Albanians I met in Greece were SO unkind to their country. It’s a shame.

    • June 23 2014

      It’s still pooorest country in Europe but soon it will be the paradise of Europe.Trust me.

  • May 26 2014

    Albania has been on my radar for a while (together with Macedonia and Kosovo that I still have to visit) and your post just proved me I have to go there as soon as possible!
    btw, have you seen this: (25 proofs that Albania doesn’t exist)? I find it pretty funny but it just shows how little people know about this country

    • May 27 2014

      Hahaha, that is PERFECT. Love it. After being in the Balkans for awhile I’ve become fairly obsessed with the place. Can’t wait to go back.

  • June 23 2014

    See this site for some places in Albania from the air

  • May 10 2016

    I love Albania too, The food is great , the people always friendly and any city you’re visiting you always will have something beautiful to fill your day .

  • May 10 2016

    Albania now is in the hands of thugs and gangsters. Edi Rama and his band of thugs are stealing the lands for their own personal investments. Albania is a lawless society and not a safe place for anyone but criminals.

Leave a Comment

CommentLuv badge

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.