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unique things to do in Albania

22 Unique things to do in Albania

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Albania is a small but vibrant country in the Balkans that offers a range of unique experiences for travelers looking to explore off the beaten path. From the stunning Albanian Alps to the pristine beaches of the Ionian Sea, Albania is a treasure trove of natural beauty and cultural heritage.

But beyond the typical tourist attractions, the Balkan country also offers a range of unique things to do in Albania that will leave a lasting impression. From exploring the Cold War era bunkers to hiking in the stunning Theth National Park, it offers something for every traveler seeking adventure, history, and culture.

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In this guide, we will explore some of the most unique things to do in Albania, ensuring that your trip to this hidden gem is unforgettable.

Read more: Albania travel guide.

1. Cross the Ali Pasha bridge near Gjirokastër

Ali Pasha bridge
Ali Pasha Bridge

In the early 19th century, the Ali Pasha Bridge formed a component of a wider aqueduct system. While there is no water, the site boasts a scenic canyon and the bridge itself. This bridge has gained popularity because local shepherds and their flocks use it regularly, typically crossing it about an hour before sunset.

However, even if you don’t encounter the shepherds, the area remains a breathtaking destination worth exploring. It is conveniently located just 30 minutes away from the center of Gjirokaster.

2. Stroll around Gjirokastër

Located in the southern region of Albania, Gjirokaster is an Ottoman-era city referred to as Stone City. Its old town area is particularly famous for its enchanting ambiance.

There are several unique things to do in Albania’s Stone Town. Visitors can enjoy various activities in the area, such as strolling along the UNESCO World Heritage-listed streets of the old town, perusing the artisan shops at the bazaar, taking in the breathtaking views from Gjirokaster Castle, and exploring the numerous fascinating museums.

Gjirokaster is considered a must-visit destination in Albania due to its well-preserved historical sites and relaxed lifestyle, as well as the hospitality of its locals.

Where to stay in Gjirokaster: Hotel Gjirokastra

3. Try hitchhiking in Albania

What would a trip to Albania be without any hitchhiking? The funny thing about that country is that hitchhiking is one of the main forms of transportation there. It’s relatively easy to do, and locals are super friendly, giving you a lift. You can also hear funny stories about local life and get some insider tips on what to visit and other unique things to do in Albania.

It was also one of the main ways for me to get around Albania. Even though they might not understand you (the older generation), they understand what you want when you put your thumb next to the road. You show them the location on Google Maps, and you’re ready to go.

Read more: Effective hitchhiking tips.

4. Visit Keq Marku Tattoo studio near Shkoder

Between the 1960s and 1980s, Albania erected more than 170,000 concrete bunkers nationwide. These bunkers were built under the notion that they would be used to fend off larger nations. However, they never served any practical purpose.

Today, the vast majority of these bunkers remain abandoned and can be found scattered throughout the regions and cities of Albania. This raises the question of what can be done with such many unused bunkers. One creative solution came from Keq Marku, who transformed a bunker into a tattoo studio.

His studio is just a few minutes away from Shkoder and it can be seen from the road. One unique thing to do in Albania is to get a tattoo from his bunker studio.

Where to stay in Shkoder: The Wanderers Hostel

5. Try local spirit raki

Albanian raki, also known as rakija, is a popular alcoholic beverage deeply ingrained in Albanian culture. It is a strong, distilled spirit from various fruits, including grapes, plums, and apricots.

Albanian raki is traditionally served as a welcoming drink to guests in Albanian households, and it is often offered during festive occasions and celebrations. It is also a common drink to enjoy with friends and family during social gatherings or after meals.

Raki production in Albania is a centuries-old tradition. It is typically made in small batches by local producers using traditional methods passed down from generation to generation.

One of the most popular varieties of Albanian raki is grape raki, made from the remnants of the winemaking process. It is often enjoyed as an aperitif before meals or a digestif after a heavy meal to aid digestion.

You can taste it in several bars, restaurants, and even cafes. If your unique experience in Albania includes being an authentic local, then trying it out should be on your bucket list.

6. Soak in the thermal pools of Benja

Benja Thermal Baths
Benja Thermal pools

Nestled in a stunning natural setting, the Benja Thermal pools are off the beaten path from major roads. Accessible by car, a road leads to several man-made pools, where the geothermal water maintains a steady temperature of around 30 degrees Celsius throughout the year.

This serene location also doubles as a popular camping site, attracting numerous nature enthusiasts seeking a peaceful retreat. Recognized by the iconic Ottoman-era bridge, visitors can hike along the gorge and discover breathtaking spots such as cascading waterfalls.

Where to stay in Permet: Funky Guest House & Adventures

7. Hike between Valbona to Theth

Theth National Park
Theth National Park

Hiking in Theth National Park is a must-do and unique thing to do in Albania, and the most picturesque and sought-after route is the trail that connects the mountain villages of Theth and Valbona.

This famous trail spans 12 kilometers and usually takes 6 to 9 hours, with moderate difficulty and a peak elevation of 1800 meters. The hike can be done in either direction and requires no specialized equipment.

The journey offers stunning mountain views over the Albanian Alps. Also, hikers can rest and enjoy cold drinks and hot food at numerous huts.

Read more: Best hikes in Albania.

8. Take a ferry on Komani Lake

Komani Lake
Komani Lake

Tourists exploring Theth National Park often enjoy taking a ferry ride from Komani to Firenza (and back), which lasts approximately 2.5 hours and provides stunning views of the valley. This ferry ride is considered a must-do activity when backpacking through the northern region of Albania and can easily be combined with a visit to Theth National Park.

Most visitors take a bus from Shkoder to Komani, where they can board the ferry that departs twice daily for Firenze. After the ferry ride, a shuttle bus can take you to Valbone, where you can hike to Theth before returning to Shkoder by bus, usually taking around 2-3 days. However, this itinerary can also be done in reverse order.

9. Visit a Blue Eye near Theth

Blue Eye Theth
Theth Blue Eye

Albania features two Blue Eyes, one near Gijrokaster and another near Theth. However, I highly recommend visiting the Theth Blue Eye if you have to choose just one.

The Theth Blue Eye is approximately 10 km from the heart of Theth village and is accessible on foot, taking roughly 2 hours each way. Alternatively, several taxis operate between two hotspots if you are tired after a long hike.

The hike from Theth to the Blue Eye is already an incredible experience, as longer trails take you along crystal-clear rivers and past stunning waterfalls, showcasing the beauty of nature. After the long hike, one of the unique things to do in Albania is to dip in the crystal-clear waters of the Theth Blue Eye.

Where to stay in Theth: Bujtina Terthorja

10. Hike around Lake Bovilla

Lake Bovilla
Lake Bovilla

If you want to venture outside the city, consider taking a day trip to Lake Bovilla reservoir, which is only 15 km from Tirana. Interestingly, this reservoir provides almost 50% of Tirana’s drinking water.

The mountainous region surrounding Lake Bovilla is a perfect place to go hiking or mountain climbing. A well-known hiking trail takes visitors to Gamti Mountain, where they can enjoy the breathtaking scenery of the water and mountains. This moderate trail takes about two hours to complete.

11. Visit the old military base on Sazan Island

Sazan island
Sazan islands

For years, the largest island in Albania was shrouded in mystery and off-limits to tourists. However, Sazan Island is now open to visitors and is worth visiting. Here, you can explore an abandoned island once home to military buildings designed to withstand nuclear attacks.

Despite being open to tourism, Albania still uses the island as a military base. Nevertheless, most buildings, bunkers, and tunnels have been untouched and inactive for years. To reach this “secret” island, you can take a trip from Vlore, and it’s one of the most unique things to do in Albania.

12. Eat local food

Albanian cuisine uniquely blends Mediterranean and Balkan influences, emphasizing fresh and locally sourced ingredients. From hearty meat dishes to fresh seafood, Albanian cuisine has something to offer every palate.

One of the most famous Albanian dishes is byrek, a savory pastry filled with meat, cheese, or vegetables. Byrek is often enjoyed as a breakfast food but can also be eaten as a snack or a main meal. Another popular dish is tave kosi, a lamb or goat casserole baked with yogurt and seasoned with garlic and paprika. Seafood lovers should try the traditional grilled or fried squid dish with freshly squeezed lemon juice.

Albania is also known for its delicious desserts. Baklava, a sweet pastry made with layers of phyllo dough, nuts, and honey syrup, is a popular dessert in the Balkans. Another famous Albanian dessert is kadaif, a pastry made with shredded phyllo dough filled with nuts and soaked in sweet syrup.

13. Hike around Osum Canyon

Osum canyon
Osum canyon

Osumi Canyon is a natural gem in Albania. It offers spectacular gorge formations, picturesque hiking trails, and exciting adventure activities. It’s located near the historic city of Berat and is a popular day trip destination.

Numerous activities and sights can keep visitors engaged for a full day or more in Osumi Canyon. The Bride’s Hole viewpoint is a must-visit spot for stunning canyon views.

When the canyon river is at its lowest in summer, you can stroll along the riverbed and take the scenic trails. However, during the spring months, when the water levels are higher, rafting tours are a thrilling way to explore the canyon.

14. Stroll around Butrint National Park

Butrint National Park
Butrint National Park

The charming Butrint National Park, located near the beautiful beach town of Ksamil, is an essential stop for anyone visiting Albania. The park is a crucial site in Albanian history and a picturesque destination for nature enthusiasts.

Among the park’s top attractions are the ancient Roman ruins, including the Roman Theatre, Roman Baths, Gymnasium, Fountain of the Nymphs, The Great Basilica, and Lion Gate. The Venetian Castle, one of the best-preserved ruins in the park, also houses an Archaeological Museum where visitors can learn about the Venetian civilization.

Apart from its historical sites, the park’s natural surroundings are breathtaking. The park is surrounded by water and captivating hills, making it a delightful stroll destination.

Where to stay in Sarande: Oceanic Overview Suites

15. Visit the Bunk Art Museum in Tirana

Bunk Art is a unique and fascinating museum located in Tirana, Albania. The museum is dedicated to preserving the history and legacy of the Albanian communist regime, which ruled the country from 1944 to 1991. The museum is inside a massive underground bunker constructed during the communist era to shelter Albania’s political elite in case of a nuclear attack.

Visitors to Bunk Art can explore the bunker’s maze-like interior, which consists of over 100 rooms and tunnels spread across five floors. Along the way, they’ll encounter a range of exhibits, artifacts, and multimedia displays that chronicle Albania’s political history, from the early days of the communist regime to its eventual collapse in the early 1990s.

In addition to its historical exhibits, Bunk Art hosts cultural events, concerts, and film screenings. The museum has quickly become one of Tirana’s most popular tourist attractions, drawing visitors from around the world interested in learning more about Albania’s complex political history.

Where to stay in Tirana: Rooftop Tirana

16. Participate in free walking tours

The best way to learn about the area is by joining numerous free walking tours in bigger places like Tirana or Berat. A guide will talk about local history, take you to the main sights and have really interesting stories to tell.

Not only does a free walking tour allow you to explore the local area, but it also allows you to meet other travelers and potentially form friendships when you are backpacking solo. It’s worth noting that while the tours are complimentary, it is customary to tip your guide in gratitude for their hard work.

17. Visit hidden Gjipe Beach

Gjipe Beach is a hidden gem on the Albanian Riviera, nestled between high cliffs and accessible only by foot or boat. It is about 25 kilometers south of Himara and 50 kilometers south of Vlore.

To reach Gjipe Beach on foot, visitors can park their cars near the village of Ilias and take a hiking trail down to the beach. The hike is approximately 30-45 minutes long and offers stunning coastline views and surrounding hills.

Aside from enjoying the beach itself, visitors can also explore the nearby Gjipe Canyon, a natural formation created by the Gjipe River flowing into the Ionian Sea. The canyon offers breathtaking views of the rocky cliffs and the turquoise sea.

Bring some cash; from there, you can find mini restaurants with fresh drinks in the summer. It’s also a good idea to bring lots of water and food with you on a journey to this hidden beach.

If you want to experience wild camping, one of the unique things to do in Albania is to spend a night on the beach. It doesn’t need to be exactly Gjipe Beach because you will also find more private beaches.

18 Discover Berat Old Towns

Also known as the “City of a Thousand Windows,” Berat is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. Its unique style of architecture and stunning mountainous setting make it a must-visit destination.

Also, there are several unique things to do in Albania’s famous towns. Explore the Old Town of Berat and stroll around its maze of narrow streets, stone houses, and historic buildings. It is a great place to wander and soak up the atmosphere.

Visit the Berat Castle, a well-preserved fortress that dates back to the 4th century BC and offers panoramic views of the city and surrounding countryside.

Walking along the Osum River that runs through Berat is a great way to see the city from a different perspective, and taking a stroll along its banks is even better.

Where to stay in Berat: Hotel Klea

19. Drink Korca beer in Korce

Korce is a charming city located in southeastern Albania, near the border with Greece. It is known for its beautiful architecture, cultural heritage, and lively atmosphere.

One of the main attractions in Korce is the Old Bazaar, a vibrant market filled with traditional Albanian crafts and souvenirs. Visitors can stroll through the narrow streets, sample local delicacies, and admire the beautiful Ottoman-era buildings.

The surrounding region offers plenty of outdoor activities for nature lovers, from hiking in the nearby mountains to exploring the Voskopoja Valley, a beautiful area dotted with ancient churches and monasteries. Visitors can also head to Prespa Lakes, a stunning natural area with birdlife and scenic hiking trails.

Korce is known for its lively nightlife and entertainment scene. The city has numerous bars, cafes, and restaurants, many featuring live music and traditional Albanian dancing. It is also home to the country’s most famous beer, named exactly after the town. So what would be a more unique thing to do in Albania than drinking Korca beer in Korce?

Where to stay in Korce: Boulevard Boutique Aparthotel

20. Explore Krujë Castle

Krujë Castle, also known as the Castle of Krujë, is a historic fortress located in the town of Krujë in central Albania. The castle was originally built in the 4th century AD during the reign of Emperor Justinian I. Later, the Albanian national hero Skanderbeg expanded and fortified it in the 15th century.

The castle served as the main stronghold of Skanderbeg’s resistance against the Ottoman Empire and played a crucial role in defending Albania’s independence. Today, it is one of Albania’s most visited landmarks and a symbol of its rich history and culture.

Visitors to Krujë Castle can explore the castle’s many towers, walls, and courtyards, which offer stunning views of the surrounding landscape. One of the most popular attractions within the castle is the Skanderbeg Museum, which displays exhibits and artifacts related to Skanderbeg’s life and the history of the Albanian resistance against the Ottoman Empire.

In addition to its historical and cultural significance, Krujë Castle is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts, as the surrounding area offers numerous hiking trails and scenic viewpoints. Visitors can stroll through the nearby bazaar, filled with shops selling traditional Albanian crafts and souvenirs, or sample local cuisine at one of the many restaurants and cafes within the castle’s walls.

Where to stay in Kruje: ROOMS EMILIANO Castle of Kruja

21. Drive through Llogara Pass

Llogara pass
Llogara Pass

Located in southern Albania near the Ionian Sea, Llogara National Park is a highly popular destination. The picturesque natural beauty of the park offers various hiking trails with stunning views of the mountains and the sea.

The Llogara pass, known as the coast roadway, winds through the park, providing a thrilling drive with panoramic views of the stunning natural beauty and the Ionian Sea. The road stretches for about 23 km with a maximum elevation of 1043 meters above sea level.

22. Visit Rozafa Castle near Skhoder

Rozafa Castle is a medieval fortress located in Shkodër in northwestern Albania. The castle sits atop a hill overlooking the surrounding landscape and is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the region.

The castle dates back to the 4th century BC, and its strategic location made it an important stronghold throughout history, with various rulers and conquerors occupying it over the centuries. The castle is named after Rozafa, a legendary woman who is said to have been walled alive inside the fortress during its construction.

Today, visitors can explore the castle’s ruins and enjoy panoramic views of the city and surrounding countryside. The castle complex includes several towers, walls, courtyards, and a museum displaying artifacts and exhibits related to the castle’s history.

One of the most popular attractions within the castle is the Venetian Tower, which offers breathtaking views of Lake Shkodër and the Albanian Alps. The tower was built by the Venetians during the 14th century and was used as a watchtower and a prison.


best things to do in albania
unique things to do in albania

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