Best things to see and do in Albania in one week. Discover the country’s most famous landmarks and tourist hotspots in our Albania 7-day itinerary!
This Albania 7-day itinerary is a part of our broader travel guide for the country. We recommend you check it out for the best travel tips and the most accurate information on transportation, hotels, restaurants and best beaches in Albania.
Let’s start by acknowledging that one week is definitely too short to experience the best Albania has to offer. Despite its small size, the country certainly packs a punch when it comes to extraordinary sights, lovely Ottoman towns, amazing beaches and breathtaking nature. Be that as it may, and if 1 week is all you got, then go for it!
If you find yourself with more time to spare, we warmly suggest considering our longer itineraries for a more comprehensive and fulfilling adventure:
So, without further ado, here are the cities, places and tourist attractions you should visit in a 7-day itinerary through Albania:
Whether you arrive in the country by plane, bus or ferry, your first day in Tirana will likely be a bit more on the shorter side. So, if you’re on the lookout for a great spot to have dinner, we highly recommend visiting the BLLOKU district, just a 20-minute walk from the city center. During the communist era under Enver Hoxha’s rule, this was the area where government officials and the Politburo lived, closed-off to the rest of the people. But with the fall of the regime, BLLOKU transformed into a trendy neighborhood, now home to some of the city’s best cafes, bars and restaurants. It will only take you a while to notice Albanians absolutely ADORE cafes, socializing and spending hours on end sitting at a coffee table.
On the other hand, and much like the Spaniards and the Italians, Albanians have the cultural habit of going out and meeting-up after work, before heading home for dinner. In fact, this practice is so ingrained in Tirana that they even have a term for it – “take a xhiro” (pronounced “dzhiró”). And when it comes to the coolest places for a “xhiro”, none is trendier than BLLOKU!
First day wrap-up:
With your energy fully restored after a good night’s sleep, it’s time to dive deep into Tirana! Today, you’ll explore the city center and visit some of its most renowned museums. By now, you will have noticed that Tirana is not a particularly pretty place. After Hoxha took power in 1944, this lunatic leader decided to demolish pretty much every classical or ancient building, replacing them with the stereotypical brutalist building blocks, along with other bizarre structures. Nevertheless, some remnants of old Tirana still exist – if only you know where to look! As such, let’s kick things off at Pazari i Ri, one of Tirana’s liveliest central neighborhoods. Translated as “The New Bazaar”, this district underwent a complete renovation in 2016 to become the city’s new main marketplace. Symbolically, the old and beautiful Ottoman bazaar, destroyed by Hoxha’s regime, used to stand precisely at this location. In this neighborhood, you’ll find the historic Kokonozi Mosque, one of the few that lasted to this day.
Next up, you’ll arrive at the grand Skanderbeg Square, the heart of the Albanian capital, where a statue of the country’s national hero stands tall. There are several points of interest spread around the giant square, including the National Historical Museum of Albania (500 LEK), the Clock Tower (200 LEK), an Ottoman symbol offering one of the most breathtaking views of the city center, and the Ethem Bey Mosque, the most important historical place of worship in the country, which was surprisingly spared from Hoxha’s destructive wave. In the vicinity of the square, you’ll also encounter Bunk’Art 2. Since the dictator had few allies (even the Soviet Union and China eventually cut ties with Albania), Hoxha lived in a perpetual state of paranoia, constantly in fear at the imaginary threat of chemical and nuclear attacks. Consequently, he ordered the construction of hundreds of thousands of bunkers throughout the country, and while most of these constructions are very small, Bunk’Art 2 was a government bunker, featuring an extensive network of tunnels and underground chambers. Today, this massive bunker has been transformed into the Bunk’Art 2 Museum (600 LEK), providing insights into this dark period of Albanian history, with a particular focus on the political persecutions carried out by the Sigurimi, the state police.
After your museum visit, take a leisurely stroll along Murat Toptani Street, one of Tirana’s few pedestrian streets, and explore the interior of the old Tirana Castle. Despite its name, only the castle walls remain, while the interior has been transformed into an upscale food court, to try to rival BLLOKU’s reputation. Just a short distance away, you’ll come face-to-face with two perfect examples of Turkish/Ottoman influence in Albania. First, the brand-new Namazgah Mosque, financed by Turkey and expected to be completed later this year. Once finished, it will become the largest mosque in the entire Balkans, with its façade reminiscent of the monumental mosques once can find in Istanbul. A little further down the road, you’ll see the tiny Tanners’ Bridge, an ancient pedestrian passage and one of the few architectural remnants of the Ottoman occupation dating back hundreds of years.
Finally, your first full day in Albania will come to an end at the Pyramid of Tirana. Erected after Hoxha’s death to serve as a museum in his honor, the original plan was abandoned following the fall of communism in Albania. Over time, it has served various purposes and its demolition has even been contemplated several times due to its deteriorated condition. However, in 2018, a mega-project was approved to transform the Pyramid into a hub for technology and innovation, preserving the building’s unique shape. Once completed, it will undoubtedly become one of the trendiest spots in Tirana. Close by, you can also visit the Postbllok Memorial, a small artistic exhibition featuring one of the many mini-bunkers you’ll come across during your adventure, a piece of the Berlin Wall and a set of beams from an Albanian political prison.
Second day wrap-up:
As you prepare to leave Tirana behind and start a new chapter in your journey, we recommend heading to the charming town of Berat, nicknamed the “City of a Thousand Windows”. Hailed as one of the oldest and most historical cities in Albania, Berat stands in stark contrast to the capital, having retained its old-world charm and preserved its historic character. In fact, it’s one of the two Albanian towns designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it’s not hard to see why! Cut in half by the Osum River, Berat was originally split between Christians and Muslims. To get the most out of your visit to Berat, start by crossing the Gorica Bridge and exploring the picturesque alleys of the Gorica District, known as the Christian quarter. Although there might not be any major landmarks here, it’s a delightful area to stroll around, soaking in the ancient architecture before heading to the busier Islamic district. While taking in the views of the whitewashed houses across the river, this is where you’ll start understanding how the city got its nickname!
Crossing to the opposite side of the river, you’ll reach the heart of the Mangalem District, the Islamic quarter. This is where you’ll start the steep climb up to the fabulous Berat Castle (300 LEK), the town’s main highlight. Once inside, you’ll be amazed to find a mini-village with locals living among the historical ruins, along with a few cozy hotels and charming restaurants hidden in between the alleyways, cobblestoned streets, ancient ruins (White Mosque and Red Mosque) and old byzantine churches (Church of the Holy Trinity and Church of Saint Mary of Blachernae). Plus, once you reach the castle’s viewpoint, you’ll have to pick up your jaw from the floor! On your way back down, take a moment to visit the King’s Mosque and the Lead Mosque. If you’re lucky (and brave) enough, you can even try ascending the former’s minaret for a stunning, albeit claustrophobic experience. Before bidding farewell to Berat and moving on to the Albanian Riviera, spending the night in either Ksamil or Saranda, take a stroll along Bulevardi Republika, capturing one last iconic view of the city’s whitewashed houses and countless windows.
Third day wrap-up:
On the fourth day of your journey, you’ve finally reached the enchanting Albanian Riviera –
probably the region that drew you here in the first place! It’s not surprising, as there’s simply no other spot in Europe that offers such breathtaking beaches and coastal beauty within this budget. If you want to put that reputation to the test, let’s start with Ksamil, the most famous coastal village in Albania. While, in my opinion, there are even better (and cheaper) places along the Riviera, you shouldn’t miss spending at least one morning exploring this charming spot. Apart from the well-known and bustling Bora Bora and Ksamilit beaches, you can also take a refreshing swim to the Ksamil islets or, if you prefer to save your energy, rent a kayak and paddle your way there.
Right next to Ksamil, just a stone’s throw from the Greek border, we highly recommend a visit to the Butrint National Park (1000 LEK), a fascinating natural reserve and the most important archaeological site in the country. Amidst the natural wonders of freshwater lakes, swamps, plains and jaw-dropping views of the surrounding landscapes, you’ll be transported back in time while exploring the Roman ruins of theaters, forums, temples, baths and aqueducts, as well as a full fortress and an acropolis dating from the Venetians. Trust me, it’s truly one of the most remarkable archaeological sites you’ll ever come across – and UNESCO-recognized!
As the day draws to a close, a short 18 km drive will take you to Saranda, the most important urban center in the Albanian Riviera and the largest city in southern Albania. While it might not have the same quaint charm as some of the smaller villages nearby, the location is simply magical, as Saranda is nestled in a natural bay between lush green hills and the crystal-clear waters of the Ionian Sea, with the Greek island of Corfu majestically peeking on the horizon. To catch the city in all its picturesque glory, make sure to witness the sunset from either Lekuresi Castle or the lesser-known Monastery of the 40 Saints (200 LEK). And after the night falls, watch the city come alive (and indulge in a delicious ice cream along the way) by strolling along the Saranda Beachfront Boulevard.
Fourth day wrap-up:
As you leave Saranda behind, get ready to explore a bit more along the stunning Albanian coast, discovering fantastic beaches, castle ruins and even some semi-abandoned villages, all while driving on the scenic SH8 National Highway, one of the most memorable road trips in Europe.
Your first stop will take place in Borsh, a place where you’ll find the most extensive beach along the entire Ionian Sea, stretching for over 7 kms. While you’re here, venture away from the coast and up to Sopot Hill, where you can visit the dramatic ruins of Borsh Castle and the Hajji Bendo Mosque. Hitting the road again, this time you’ll take a slight detour and follow a steep gravel path to the sleepy village of Upper Qeparo. This hidden gem was pretty much left abandoned after the fall of Communism, with most of its Greek-speaking population migrating to the Hellenic neighbors. While exploring its narrow streets, ancient façades and abandoned ruins, you’ll notice the curious and inquisitive gazes from the friendly locals who have in the meantime returned to help bring the village back to life.
And just when you thought the day couldn’t get any better, your final stop will be Himare, the main hub in this section of the Riviera. Stroll along the beautiful Stageio Beach and check out the fascinating ruins of Himare Castle, which offer some of the most breathtaking views along the entire coastline. If time allows, consider a quick visit to the Castle of Porto Palermo (300 LEK), the only one in the region that isn’t in ruins, located just 6 kilometers away from Himare.
Fifth day wrap-up:
As the sun rises on another beautiful day, get ready for yet another thrilling adventure along the Albanian Riviera! Today’s journey starts with a visit to the renowned Gjipe Beach, hailed as one of the finest in the entire region. The fact that this wonderful beach remains relatively hidden and somewhat inaccessible only adds to its allure! With the sea on one side and a stunning canyon on the other, reaching this secluded spot requires leaving your car in a designated parking area (300 LEK/day) and walking for about 30 minutes along a trail. Sure, it may not sound like the most glamorous approach, but trust us, once you catch that first glimpse of the beach, you’ll understand why this one is a can’t-miss.
Since Gjipe promises to be the highlight of the day, the rest of our planned destinations, Vuno and Dhermi, will be just quick stops. Offering breathtaking views of the Ionian Sea, these two picturesque little villages are perched on the slopes. Park the car, allow yourself some 30 minutes to meander through their streets and stairways, and check their orthodox churches and monasteries, before calling it a day.
Sixth day wrap-up:
As your adventure comes to a close, there’s one last breathtaking experience awaiting you along the SH8 – the Llogara Pass! This mountain gorge, nestled within the Llogara National Park, offers a mesmerizing drive through the stunning blues and greens of the Albanian Riviera, providing the perfect backdrop for your Albanian farewell.
Afterwards, you’ll have a 3-hour drive back to Tirana, where you’ll be catching the flight back home.
Seventh day wrap-up: