Like the other Balkan countries you might only hear about Albania’s political history and didn’t hold high expectations. But I can safely say that after visiting it you can’t speak highly enough of all the fabulous things to do in Albania.
The nature in Albania is phenomenal including mountain ranges, rivers, lakes, and some of the most beautiful beaches. Top that off with a couple of quirky cities, UNESCO world heritage old towns, and ridiculously affordable prices and you’ve got the stuff dreams are made of… or just really great holiday destinations.
Hike Theth to Valbona
Historically a mule trail through the Albanian mountains, a wild landscape of jagged summits, deep valleys, and forested slopes, the route links two villages Theth and Valbona which are the gateways to their respective national parks.
You can hike this one-way trail in either direction, from Theth to Valbona or from Valbona to Theth. This is one of the most spectacular day hikes in the Balkans, a popular trek that requires a bit of planning and preparation. Even though it’s “just” a day hike, that doesn’t mean the whole journey is a day trip, too. The Theth-Valbona hike is actually a part and the highlight of a multi-day trip around the Albanian Alps.
Visit Rozafa Castle in Shkoder
Rozafa Castle, also known as the Shkodër Castle is a castle near the city of Shkodër, in northwestern Albania. It rises imposingly on a rocky hill, 130 meters (430 ft) above sea level, surrounded by the Buna and Drin rivers. Shkodër is the seat of Shkodër County and is one of Albania’s oldest and most historic towns, as well as an important cultural and economic center. Definitely, a worth visit and you might get amazed by the local legends, one that relies on the story of a woman half-buried half on the wall to keep the wall from collapsing. You can read the full story here: Rozafa Castle Legend!
Skanderbeg Monument and Square
Skanderbeg Monument in Skanderbeg Square has been regarded for more than half a century as the very center of Tirana. It commemorates the 15th-century nobleman and hero of the nation for resisting the Ottomans. He is our King Arthur, our William Tell. The sculpture, created by Odhise Paskali, is 11 meters (36 ft) tall and was inaugurated in 1968 on the 500th anniversary of the death of Skanderbeg. The square that bears his name is a meeting place for all Albanians. It is the place where many of the most important cultural sites of Tirana and Albania are located—the National Museum, the Clock Tower, Et’hem Bey Mosque, Palace of Culture, National Library, Theatre of Opera and Ballet, and Bank of Albania—while at his back are lined up most of the government buildings.
Drink a Beer in a Rotating Bar in Tirana
Yes, you read right, have a beer whilst rotating a full 360° to see the views of Tirana from all angles. The Sky Tower bar is open all day but sunset is a magical time to sit and be gently rotated. One of the weirder things to do in Albania but definitely worth it!
Visit a Museum in an Abandoned Bunker
You’ll never run out of quirky things to do in Albania but visiting BUNK’ART in Tirana is a must. Originally one of the many bunkers built by dictator Hoxha, this is now a museum all about the history of Albania. It’s kind of creepy but really interesting and very informative. They’ve even opened the second one in the city. Entry to the museum costs 500 LEK and there are also options for an audio guide. You’ll need to take a bus or a taxi from the city center to get out here but it is also close to the cable car so you can combine the two for an oddly Albania day out!
Take a Cable to See the Best Views of Tirana
Just outside the city is Mount Dajti with some pretty awesome views over the city. There’s plenty of hiking in the area and the restaurant up there has some decent food and more than decent sunset views.
Eat Burek (for breakfast, lunch, and dinner)
This wonder food is available all through the Balkans (in varying shapes). It’s basically a pastry filled with meat, cheese, or spinach. Simple, delicious, and cheap (around 70c). You’ll find it in bakeries all over Albania.
Spot the Bunkers
A trip to Albania would not be complete without learning something about its past. BUNK’ART is a great way to do this and to be introduced to the bunkers of Albania. They are everywhere! Dictator Enver Hoxha built over 170,000 bunkers throughout the country in case of an attack. So everywhere you go, look out for them. Some are accommodation or cafes, some have been decorated and some are home to hundreds of goats like the one above!
Take a Ferry on the Komani Lake
This beautiful trip is a must if you’re in the Shkoder area. The views are really stunning and it made a much more leg-friendly alternative to doing the hike back the next day!