Things to see and do in Albania
Attractions in Albania
Berat: Stand in awe at the religious art
Berat is a must-see spot for the fresco-frenzied. St. Todri’s Church, one of the ten surviving churches built since the 15th century inside Berat Castle, boasts paintings of post-Byzantian grandeur by the famous 16th-century Albanian artist Onufri. The Dormition of Saint Mary Cathedral, built in the 18th century is also home to the Museum of Medieval Art.
Butrint: Reclaim the abandoned city
Don't miss the UNESCO-listed, ancient city of Butrint, with archaeological remains and inhabitancy dating back to prehistoric times. Embark on one of the suggested walks through the forest 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.
Durrës: Explore ancient archaeological sites
See interesting and accessible archaeological sites in Albania’s second-largest city, such as the abandoned ancient Greek city of Apollonia and the steep-sided Roman amphitheatre in Durrës. The city also boasts a second-century bathhouse and a marble Byzantine forum from the fifth and sixth centuries. Near the coast of the Adriatic Sea, find preserved historical remnants at The Archaeological Museum.
Gjirokastra: Explore the Ottoman architecture
Explore the well-preserved Ottoman city of Gjirokastra for its unique domestic architecture. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the ‘Stone City’ of Gjirokastra features cobblestone streets, the Bazaar Mosque, unique 17th-century assembly houses and Albania’s largest castle. The fortress sits imposingly on its hill with views of the city and Albanian alps. Visit the Museum of Weapons inside, established in 1971.
Karavastaia: 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. The birds and their nests cover the 22,230-hectare area, basking in lagoons of sand dunes and deltas.
Kruja: Meet Albania's national hero
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 Gjergj Kastrioti Skanderbeg Museum and the Ethnographic Museum, the latter an immersive view of the Albanian home and customs throughout history. The restored Ottoman bazaar just outside the castle is one of the best for souvenir shopping in Albania.
Lake Komani: Set sail on the 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, the Lake Koman Ferry cruise (komanilakeferry.com/en/) is an enchanting introduction to northern Albania, running from Koman to Fierza.
Porto Palermo: Cycle to a submarine bunker
Cycle from the Borsh village to Porto Palermo peninsula, a former restricted military zone. This 13km (8 miles) trip leads you through views of the Ionian sea and with moderate ascents it is easy on the thighs and pleasant on the eyes. A special detour at the start of the peninsula region leads to a hidden submarine bunker worth taking a break from the pedal for.
Shkodra: Uncover the legend of Rozafa Castle
Built before the Roman conquest, this castle in Shkodra was last used for military purposes as recent as 1913. Rozafa was the last fortress in Albania to fall to the Ottomans in 1479. Legend has it the castle was named after a woman who was walled into the bulwark as an offering so the castle would stand.
Skrapar District: Raft down the Osumi River
With an impressive network of inland waterways, Albania has an abundance of rafting opportunities. In the Skrapar district of Berat, white-water rafting through the spectacular Osumi River canyons is the ultimate adrenaline rush. Zoom from a UNESCO World Heritage Site, enjoy views of waterfalls and carved rock, and prepare to get wet.
Tirana: Delve into Albania’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' Cemetery, with its statue of Mother Albania.
Valbona: Hike through the Albanian Alps
Hike in Albania's magnificent mountains. Outdoor Albania (www.outdooralbania.com) organises hiking, skiing and mountain-biking tours throughout the country, but boating to Valbona to trek through the peaks of the Balkans to Theti is a sure favourite. You’ll be accompanied by mountain goats on the trail and eagles overhead.
Voskopoja: Find fantastic frescoes
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.