The Ultimate Albania 2-Week Itinerary
Traveling in Albania is magical, as you discover a country home to the last wild river of Europe, incredible mountains, and white sandy beaches.
Despite this well-preserved nature, the country is developing fast, and the infrastructure continues to go from strength to strength. Because of this, the roads are good, so we recommend completing your Albania itinerary by car.
If you don’t have a car, it is possible to travel by bus, but it does take more time. Plus, you’ll have a lot more flexibility if you choose to do a 2-week Albanian road trip.
On day 1, fly into the colorful capital city of Albania: Tirana. We recommend finding a morning or early afternoon flight, so you have time to collect your hire car and drive directly to Berat (2 hours). Don’t worry about missing out on the beautiful sights of Tirana, as you’ll come back to the city on your final day.
How to get from Tirana to Berat
Rent a car from the airport and drive directly to Berat. The drive takes approximately 2 hours, and the roads are in good condition (with most of the journey on the highway).
Buses in Albania are reliable and very cheap. The only downside is that your journey might take a little longer than by car.
From the capital city, buses to Berat are very frequent (run roughly every 30 mins) and cost 500 LEK (4.30 USD). The bus ride takes 2 hours and 15 minutes.
When you reach Berat, book yourself into a traditional guesthouse. We recommend staying in the neighborhood of Gorica as it’s more affordable and only just across the bridge from the town center. See all your hotel options here.
Unusually, two neighborhoods face each other across the water with bridges connecting them, so it’s fun to move between the areas, wandering the charming cobbled streets.
Make sure to also walk up to the impressive Byzantine Church and the castle ruins, which are left at the top of the hill—it’s the perfect place to go for views of the valley below, especially at sunset.
How to get from Berat to Gjirokaster
First, you need to drive to the city of Fier before continuing your route along the beautiful Drino River. Google Maps might suggest a shorter way via Komar, but this is a route only accessible for 4×4 cars. In total, the drive will take around 3 hours (longer if you’re taking regular breaks).
There is a direct bus to Gjirokaster from Berat, which takes approximately 3 hours. However, the bus makes many stops along the way, so be aware it could take a little longer. There are 3 buses daily, 2 of which leave at 2 PM (the last bus of the day).
Stay centrally in Gjirokaster, within the old town which sits high on the hill with beautiful views. It’s definitely worth it, even with the walk! See all your hotel options in Gjirokaster.
Day 4: Gjirokaster
Gjirokaster is one of the most memorable towns on your Albania 2-week itinerary. This beautiful town is full of houses with white facades, complete with wooden balconies and stone roofs in the typical Ottoman style. There is also a magnificent fortress that sits high on the hill.
Because of its history, everything is carefully preserved, and it’s been awarded UNESCO World Heritage status. If you want to learn more about the town’s interesting past, there is a museum within the fortress.
Spend your day in Gjirokaster wandering among the characteristic houses and browsing the cute shops selling carpets and ceramics. You can even visit inside the homes to see the interior of what a traditional Ottoman house would look like. The most beautiful thing of all, though, is the scenery; the town is surrounded by mountain ranges and towering ridges.
Day 5: Gjirokaster to Ksamil (via Syri i Kaltër/Blue Eye)
On day 5 of your Albanian road trip, begin your journey to Ksamil, a beautiful coastal town on the ‘Albanian Riviera’. On your way, break up your trip with a stop at the Blue Eye (Syri i Kaltër), a crystal clear emerald pool that is perfect for swimming.
It takes just 30 minutes to drive here from Gjirokaster and then a 15-minute walk from the parking spot. When you arrive, you’ll be met by the most gorgeous sight: beautiful blue and green colored water that comes fresh from a natural spring.
The water is numbingly cold but so refreshing, especially in the summer! It does say that you’re not allowed to swim, but plenty of people do so (there was a guard there patrolling, and he only asked people not to jump from the platform). We recommend arriving as early as possible in the morning to avoid the summer crowds.
After your swim, dry off and head back to the car for the rest of your trip. Follow the road to Saranda, and continue on to Ksamil from there. From the Blue Eye, the journey takes approximately 1 hour.
How to get from Gjirokaster to Ksamil
The drive from Gjirokaster to Ksamil takes around 1 hour and 20 minutes. However, that doesn’t include time for your stop at the Blue Eye. Allow for 2 hours at the Blue Eye to relax, have a swim, and enjoy walking through nature.
There are no direct buses running from Gjirokaster to Ksamil. Instead, you will need to take a bus to Saranda and, from there, take a taxi to Ksamil. Buses leave Gjirokaster every 20-30 minutes and take about 1 hour.
If you’re traveling by bus, you won’t be able to make a stop off at Syri I Kaltër (Blue Eye). However, tours run regularly from Gjirokaster and Saranda and include return transport.
Once you arrive in Ksamil, choose to stay close to the beaches, ideally within 10 to 15 minutes walk. See all your hotel options here.
Day 6: Ksamil
The beach paradise of Ksamil is a must-see on your Albania itinerary. Sitting on the coast of the Albanian Riviera, it’s home to incredible beaches, which aren’t dissimilar to the south of France (hence the name!). Turquoise ocean backs onto soft yellow sand that’s covered in a sea of multi-colored beach umbrellas—bliss!
There are also 4 small islands on the coast which are perfect for exploring. Hire a kayak or a SUP and paddle out to explore the rocky outcrops, jumping off into the water to cool off at any opportunity. You can also do boat tours to some of the bigger islands and even take a ferry to Corfu, Greece!
By day, choose a private or public beach, and hire day beds from chic beach clubs. By night, do as the locals do and enjoy promenading along the seafront, stopping for a bite to eat in the warm evening air.
Day 7: Butrint National Park
Day 7 is all about history as you embark on the next part of your Albanian road trip! Stay in Ksamil for another night, but venture away for a half-day trip to Butrint National Park (one of the most important historical sites in the whole country). Discover this remote national park, full of roman ruins and now a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.
As you wander between the unique stone monuments, you’ll be shaded by many beautiful trees, and you’ll never be far from the clear turquoise water that sits nearby. Because of this, it’s doable to visit in the middle of the day (although we advise visiting in the morning for fewer crowds).
Spend 1.5 to 3 hours in the park, finishing your walk at the beautiful castle where there is a great view.
How to get from Ksamil to Butrint National Park
Butrint National Park is only a maximum 15 minutes drive from Ksamil, so it’s straightforward to reach by car.
There are 3 small squares by the main road where you can catch a bus to Butrint National Park. You must request the bus as otherwise, it’ll just drive on. Because of this, it’s safer to get a taxi to give you more flexibility.
Organized tours to Butrint Park run from larger cities like Saranda and normally include other locations like the Blue Eye and Ksamil.
Castle Palermo (Optional Stop)
If you have time, make a stop at the incredible Castle Palermo. This mammoth, triangular-shaped fortress sits on top of a cliff on a peninsula overlooking the most beautiful blue ocean.
Park for free close by and wander towards the castle, looking out over the dazzling sea and beautiful olive groves. Once you’re in the castle, you can learn more about its history (it was built for an Ottoman governor as his home and defense fortress). You can even walk upstairs to the rooftop for fantastic views!
If you have time, there is also a beach underneath the castle where you can relax and swim for a few hours.
How to get from Ksamil to Himarë
By car is the best way to get to Himarë, particularly if you want the flexibility to make a stop at Palermo Castle. The journey in total between Ksamil and Himarë is just under 2 hours. The journey time is more or less the same if you make a stop at Castle Palermo (it’s 1.5 hours to the castle and 25 minutes from there to Himarë).
There are no buses from Ksamil to Himarë. You must travel by taxi or book a private transfer.
Once you’re in Himarë, you have two bays to choose from. One has many hotels and restaurants, and the other is quieter as it’s still in development. Wherever you choose, you’ll find both smaller guesthouses and beautiful luxury hotels.
Ideally, stay for 1 or 2 nights, choosing accommodation close to the beach. See all your hotel options in Himarë.
It is home to wide sweeping bays with the most perfectly calm, clear ocean, and it’s not as busy, so you won’t find the beaches packed with parasols and beds.
Spend the Afternoon in Dhermi
However, although we recommend basing yourself in Himarë on your Albania 2-week itinerary, you should definitely try and make a visit to the nearby town of Dhermi. Not only is it close to some of the most fantastic beaches, but it’s an authentic hillside village in Albania.
Walk through its cobblestone streets with pretty houses and churches, stopping to take photos of the beautiful coastal views. It’s a great place to visit in the afternoon or evening for sunset.
As you go, you’ll pass through the luscious Llogara National Park, riding along the high coastal road, which provides you with epic views of the cliffs, beaches, and Adriatic sea. Vlore itself is very green and luscious and, surprisingly, is famous for being home to the spotted deer.
When you finally arrive in Krujë, you’ll be blown away by this beautiful medieval town—home to one of the most colorful bazaars we’ve ever seen. Gorgeous ruby red textiles hang from the market stalls, and it’s lovely to walk around and buy souvenirs, antiques, and handmade carpets. The afternoon is the perfect amount of time to explore the old town and bazaar.
Alternative Stop: Shkoder
Alternatively, you can spend the night at Shkoder, which is closer to Theth (the next stop on your Albania itinerary). This is a bigger city with beautiful old town pedestrian streets and loads of great food and drink options. Especially at the weekends, this city is vibrant and lively and an enjoyable place to hang out.
We recommend spending time in the Gjuhadol neighborhood, where you’ll find the nicest streets. Find a hotel in Shkoder.
Stay as close as you can to the old town and bazaar, particularly as you’re only in Kruje for the afternoon/evening. Here are all your hotel options in Kruje.
How to get from Himarë to Kruje
Traveling by car from Himarë to Kruje is the easiest option and takes between 4-5 hours.
There are no direct buses from Himarë to Kruje. Instead, you’ll need to take a bus to Vorë or back to Tirana and take the bus from these destinations. In total (including changing bus), both these journeys will take you approximately 5-6 hours.
Please note: If you want to travel on to Theth the next day, you’ll need to stay the night in Shkoder because that’s the only town where transfers leave for Theth (Albania’s answer to the Alps).
Day 11: Kruje to Theth
If you haven’t already explored Kruje’s Bazaar (one of the oldest markets in Albania), then spend the morning here taking in all the sights and senses of this beautiful area. (Just note that most shops opens at 10 AM) There is also a castle in Kruje to explore if you have time.
After breakfast and a morning exploring Kruje, start on one of the most beautiful journeys of your Albanian road trip: the drive to Theth. Along the way, you’ll share the winding roads with goats, cows, and pigs and stop off at beautiful viewpoints with panoramic views of the mountains; you’re now arriving in Albania’s version of the Swiss Alps!
People come to Theth to camp and hike, so it’s popular in summer with tourists. However, you’ll notice that authentic local life continues, with the farmers still herding their sheep and horses along the roads.
Witnessing this with the majestic mountain peaks in the background is truly like something from a movie. You’ll spend a few days here, enjoying the town, and hiking famous trails like the Peje Mountain Pass or the Valbona Peak.
How to get from Kruje to Theth
The journey from Kruje to Theth takes around 3.5 hours. Along the way, you can stop at Shkoder if you’d like a break; there are lots of beautiful things to see here, including Lake Shkoder, which forms a natural border between Albania and Montenegro.
As Theth is very remote, there are no buses from Kruje to Theth. You’ll need to get to Shkoder and arrange a transfer or organized tour from there to Theth.
Along the way, you’ll pass through forests, gorgeous grasslands that look across onto the mountain peaks, bubbling brooks and streams, and meadows full of flowers and boulders. You could really feel as if you were in the Alps, with dramatic scenery all around and only birds, crickets, and butterflies to keep you company along the way.
How long does the hike take?
Start at 8 AM, and you should return to Theth around 3-4 PM. It takes around 7 hours to hike the trail (15 km in total), and it’s doable but definitely a challenge! Please be aware that on some parts of the trail, there are (very) steep gravel paths, so make sure you’re wearing proper hiking shoes.
Spend the Afternoon in Tirana
Once you’ve checked into your hotel, make the most of the city’s cultural hotspots, enjoying all the museums, art galleries, and interesting restaurants. You’ll find the National Museum of History here, which is a plot of former underground bunkers now turned into an exhibit on Albania’s communist history.
Aside from seeing the city’s museums, it’s lovely to just walk around for a few hours, witnessing the interesting architecture of Tirana—a reflection of its historical and cultural heritage.
You’ll find a mix of older and newer buildings, some in a more Mediterranean European style and some in an urban fascist style. Best of all, it’s earned a reputation for its colorful buildings due to the major being an artist and painting the buildings. These colored buildings are spread across the city, but two of the must-sees are:
It’s possible to take a bus from Theth to Tirana. You’ll need to first take a shared shuttle bus to Shkoder (or taxi). From there, there are buses running every 30 minutes to Tirana. The journey takes 2 hours and costs 400 LEK (3.60 USD), so it’s very cheap.
The Blloku neighborhood is the most colorful and trendy of all and a great place to stay in Tirana. Alternatively, anywhere close to the city center is good. See all your hotel options in Tirana.
Day 14: Drive to Tirana Airport (Departure)
Day 14 is the final day of your beautiful 2-week Albania itinerary, and time to pack your bags and leave with some incredible memories of this underrated country in Europe!
If you have a hire car, drive the 30 minutes to the airport and drop your rental car there before you fly. Alternatively, take the airport shuttle bus, which leaves the city center regularly (from Skanderbeg Square). A ticket costs 300 LEKE (2.70 USD) and can be purchased on the bus.
How to Visit Albania in 2 Weeks
Albania is one of the most unexpected treasures, home to everything from epic mountains and natural spring pools to beaches that would rival some of the best in Europe. This 2-week Albania itinerary provides you with various activities, hotel options, and transportation.
Getting to Albania
The main airport in Albania is Tirana, and international flights arrive here from all around the world. Most of the public transport leaves from the capital city too, and you can collect your car hire there.
Getting Around on Your Albania 2-Week Itinerary
The easiest way to get around Albania is definitely by car. In the past, it had a reputation for bad roads. However, these days, most roads are safe and paved (especially when sticking to the highways). Even in the mountainous region of Theth, the roads are newly paved, so you can use a normal rental car. The only thing to be wary of on the roads is other drivers (Albanian drivers have a bit of a bad reputation, although we didn’t experience this ourselves).
Use Waze or Google Maps as your navigation app.
Getting around by bus in Albania is a little trickier, as many destinations don’t have direct bus connections. Because of this, you may have to make multiple changes, and the journeys can be long. The upside, though, is that tickets are very cheap!
Alternatively, base yourself in bigger cities like Tirana and Saranda and use those as jumping-off points to explore other areas by organized tour.
Our Favorite Accommodations in Albania
There are many fantastic accommodations in Albania, from charming guesthouses and B&Bs to more luxury beachside hotels. There is even the option to camp! Below are our favorite places to stay for each destination on this 2-week Albania itinerary:
- Berat: Hotel Mangalemi, Tradita e Beratit Hotel
- Gjirokaster: SS Kekezi, Argjiro Traditional, Hotel Argjiro
- Ksamil: Ionian Hotel, Summer Point Hotel, Hotel Meta
- Himarë: Scala Bungalows, Filoxenia Holiday, Guest House Solive
- Kruje: Mervin Hotel, Hotel Panorama
- Shkoder: Çoçja Boutique Hotel, Atelier Boutique Hotel
- Theth: Guesthouse Marashi, Bujtina Miquesia Hotel, Gurra Family Guesthouse
- Tirana: Hotel Theatro, Hotel Boutique Vila, Crown Boutique Hotel
Food in Albania
Albania has a mix of history, cultures, and religions, all coming together in one big melting pot. This makes for some delicious cuisine, whether it’s traditional Albanian dishes, Italian, or Middle Eastern.
You can enjoy all sorts of delicacies, from stuffed peppers and eggplants to olives and baked local cheeses. If you’re brave enough, you can also try Raki, the traditional alcoholic beverage in Albania.
Fun Fact: In Albania, the head gesture for ‘yes’ and ‘no’ is the opposite of most countries (something you might need to know when you’re asked to try Raki!).
Albania is super cheap; you can get a huge meal for 2 people (with salad and 2 main courses) for just 10 EUR (10.15 USD). You can also stay in incredible hotels for 50 EUR (51 USD) per night, although you can find good hotels for as little as 15 EUR (15.20 USD).
Best Time to Visit Albania
Albania has very hot summers and mild winters (although you’ll find lots of snow in the mountainous regions). In the summer, locals and tourists head for the beach, and it can get very busy. Because of this, we recommend visiting in the shoulder seasons: May/June or September. This is the perfect time to enjoy warm weather, sunny days, and the beaches of the Albanian Riviera without the crowds. It also has slightly cooler temperatures, which are perfect for hiking in the mountains.
Is Albania Safe?
There is some dispute about whether Albania is safe, and its communist history has slightly tarnished its reputation. However, in our personal experience, it’s very safe. The locals are warm, friendly people who are always eager to help, and the towns feel very safe and inviting. We walked around with our phones and cameras the entire time, zero issues! Albania truly has our hearts.
We’ve met a lot of solo (female) travelers who had the best time. Yes, they got some heads turning but never experienced anything negative. Obviously, take care of yourself and stay inside the main tourist areas. Here are our tips on how to travel safely.
What to wear in Albania?
Even though over 60% of Albania is Muslim, there are no specific guidelines on what to wear; You’ll see a huge mix of different clothing styles, and especially the younger Albanians dress in a very western style. When entering a religious site, always wear a cover-up. However, at most places they really allow everyone. One Albanian said to us that due to the country’s history, Albanians are now one big family, all living together no matter what their religion is. That’s how the world should be if you’d ask us!