Albania things to see and do
Be on the look out for birds of prey
Pack the binoculars and bird watch in the coastal wetlands of Karavastaja. Part of the Divjake-Karavasta National Park, the lagoon is the westernmost breeding site of the Dalmatian pelican. For further twitching take to Kune-Vaini, the nature reserve bestrides the Drini River and is home to spotted eagles, spoonbills and herons.
Cycle the mountains for unbeatable views
Cycle through the Gramoz mountains from Korça to Përmeti. The moderate ascents are easy on the thighs and the resulting views easy on the eyes. Allow time to enjoy the dramatic landscape of sweeping valleys, rivers and snowy peaks. To refuel, sample the local food in restaurants along the way.
Delve into Tirana’s communist past
For nearly 50 years, Albania was under Communist rule. Although the regime collapsed in 1990, many of Tirana’s communist sights remain, including the murals and statues in the city centre; the house where Enver Hoxha lived; and the Pyramid, built as his mausoleum. Take a bus or taxi up to the Martyrs’ (Partisans’) Cemetery, with its statue of Mother Albania.
Explore ancient archaeological sites
See interesting and accessible archaeological sites, such as the abandoned ancient Greek city of Apollonia and the steep-sided Roman amphitheatre in Durrësi. Byllis may be a little harder to get to, but the Greek ruins, mountain surrounds and views over the Vjosë River valley make it well worth the effort.
Explore the Ottoman architecture of Gjirokastra and Berati
Explore the well-preserved Ottoman cities of Gjirokastra and Berati with their unique domestic architecture and their imposing hilltop castles. Both listed as World Heritage Sites by UNSECO, the former features unique 17th-century houses, while Berati, with its hillside of neat, whitewashed buildings, was declared a “Museum City” under dictator Enver Hoxha.
Find fantastic frescoes in Voskopoja
Admire the vibrant colours of the frescoes in Albania’s little-known churches. Voskopoja, near Korça, was once the largest city in the Balkans, full of churches and basilicas, and with its own academy where artists were trained. Although the church buildings look a little tired, the fantastic frescoes still flourish.
Hike through the Albanian Alps
Hike in Albania’s magnificent mountains. The two areas with the best infrastructure, in terms of accommodation and guides, are the Albanian Alps in the far north and the Tomorri massif in the southeast. Outdoor Albania organises hiking, skiing and mountain-biking tours throughout the country.
Meet Albania’s national hero at Kruja
Make the easy day trip from Tirana to the family seat of Albania’s 15th-century hero, Skanderbeg. Within the medieval castle’s walls are two interesting museums, the larger dedicated to aforementioned heroic noblemen. The restored Ottoman bazaar just outside the castle offers the best souvenir shopping in Albania.
Raft down Albania’s rivers
With an impressive network of inland waterways, Albania has an abundance of rafting opportunities. For beginners, the Vjosë River offers a gentle introduction whilst white-water rafting through the spectacular Osumi River canyons offers more in the way of adrenaline. Outdoor Albania has qualified guides, or the Castle Park Hotel in Berati organises rafting weekends.
Reclaim the abandoned city of Butrint
Don’t miss the UNESCO-listed, ancient city of Butrint, with archaeological remains spanning 2,500 years. Embark on one of the suggested walks through the forest below and seek out the public baths and Roman theatre or explore the ruins of the city abandoned in the Middle Ages at your own leisure.
Set sail on the Lake Komani ferry
Cameras at the ready; take the ferry up the jade waters of Lake Komani. Hemmed in on both sides with rugged and verdant towering cliffs, this peaceful cruise is an enchanting introduction to northern Albania. Wildlife enthusiasts will want to look out for pygmy cormorants, herons and golden eagles.
Stand in awe at the religious art
The national collections of religious art in Tirana, Korça and Berati contain wonderful icons painted by the 16th-century artist Onufri and his successors in the 18th and 19th centuries. For fans of more modern work, the Tirana Institute of Contemporary Art is a must, whilst Korça’s National Museum of Medieval Art is a good counterpoint.
Uncover the legend of Rozafa Castle
Built before the Roman conquest, this castle in Shkodra was last used for military purposes as recently as 1913. Rozafa was the last fortress in Albania to fall to the Ottomans in 1479 and legend has it the castle was named after a woman who was walled into the bulwark as an offering so the castle would stand.