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ALBANIAN RIVIERA GUIDE -- Free 2021 itineraries, hotels, packing lists, and more! (summer 2021)

Sarandë, Albania
Lettia Posing with Beaches, Homes, Places in Albania




Aerial View of Stunning Beach in Albania

Imagine yourself on the beach, feet buried in hot sand while waves lap over your toes. You hold a tall cocktail to your lips and what you see are blue waters dancing with white painted boats that edge the coast of this paradise.

This is Albania, a land full of natural wonders. It has managed to retain its charming old town architecture on a coastline that is unspoiled by concrete hotels and hideous skyscrapers. It's one of the few places in Europe where you can enjoy sunbathing on the beach and walk into a fine art gallery with just a few steps.

This article is a guide for those who are looking to visit this country in the near future. It's not my intention to compare this country with any other European destination, but I will give you an insight into what it really has to offer as a holiday destination.

How to Get To the Albanian Riviera?

By Sea: In the southern part of Albania, there are three major seaports that link it with Italy. These include Durres, Vlore and Sarande. The most common way to get down south is by taking a ferry from Bari or Brindisi in Italy. This is also the fastest option to get down to the Albanian Riviera.

By Road: The most scenic ride down south begins with a trip from Tirana or Korça to Fier. Fier serves as an intersection between travelers going to Vlora, Durres, and Sarande. From Fier, you can continue south to Vlora.

However, if you are going further south than Vlore, driving this route may be very inconvenient. The best way of getting down to the Albanian Riviera would be through the national roads. If you travel by car, watch out for speed cameras, because they monitor this area very closely!

By air: The quickest, easiest and safest way is by air. You can fly from a multitude of Western and European cities into Tirana International Airport located just 17 kilometers from the city center.

Once you get into the airport, there are many options to take you to the Albanian Riviera such as minivans, taxis, buses and even ferries. 

Getting Around the Albanian Riviera

The best way of getting around the Albanian Riviera is by car. It is much more convenient than public transportation and allows you to stop wherever feels right at any given moment. If you're not planning on going far from your starting point, it might be a good idea to rent a one-way car. This will save you a lot of time and stress.

If you don't have your own transportation or renting a one-way car is too expensive for you, taking the bus is the second-best way to get around. Buses in Albania are not exactly cheap, but they are relatively reasonable. You can cover most of the Albanian Riviera by taking a bus or a shared taxi from Vlore to Sarande and then from Saranda to Borsh or Tirana.

Taking the bus is also an excellent way to meet other travelers who are going in your direction and who can show you cool places on your way. Sharing a taxi is cheaper, but it might not stop in the places that you want to visit. 

If you want to get from one beach to another quickly without spending too much money, water taxis are there for you! These can be found on Vlora Bay and Borsh Beach, and you can try to negotiate the price with them.

Best Time to Visit the Albanian Riviera

Summer is the best time to visit the Albanian Riviera, as the glorious sunshine gives you the chance to make the most of the beautiful beaches. The weather is best during July and August as temperatures can exceed 30 degrees Celsius.

It's also a good time for both beach parties and other activities because there are many young travelers around at this time of the year.

Try to avoid the first two weeks of September, when most Albanians still have time off work as the hotels are often full of families on vacation.

In spring, you will be able to enjoy warm weather and possibly snowy mountains. This is the best time for a refreshing getaway when you don't want to travel too far but still want to see new things.

Best Places to Visit in the Albanian Riviera

Sarande or Saranda

It's a city with fine beaches and an old town that dates back to the 15th century. This is the best place to start your journey in Albania. It's a bustling city that does not have many historical buildings, but it has an incredible atmosphere and some beautiful things to see.

It is the perfect place for those who want to experience new things, as it has many interesting sights that tourists definitely shouldn't miss out on.

Public Beaches in Saranda

Sarande is an ideal place for those looking to do some beach vacationing. You can also enjoy a swim in one of the city's public beaches, which are free to enter. However, the water can be very cold, so it is best to pack your bathing suit and a towel just in case.

Sarande has some of the best public beaches in Albania. They are not crowded, especially during the summer months when most people head to the southernmost part of the country that is more populated.

The water is crystal clear and shallow, making it ideal for families with small children as well as for people who are not particularly confident in the water.

Private Beaches in Saranda

Privately-owned beaches are not as numerous, but they provide the same services and benefits as public beaches in terms of water quality, safety standards, and infrastructure.

You can book a hotel with a private beach in advance, or you can ask to check its availability when you arrive. Many hotels here have their own beaches and pools, which are often located near the hotel.

Hotels with a Private Beach in Saranda

Today, there are many hotels in Saranda and the Albanian Riviera where you can rest or stay during your vacation. Some of them are located near the sea, but others offer breathtaking views. Let's take a look at some of these choices:

Hotel Apollon

It is a relatively new hotel that has quickly become one of the most popular ones in Sarande. It provides a great combination of luxury and service that is hard to find in the city at this price.

It has a private beach, as well as various water activities available, including windsurfing, jet skiing, and canoeing. It has thatched umbrellas and sunbeds, a pool with bar service, as well as some amazing views of a nearby bay.

The price per night is around $116.

The Buze Boutique Hotel

This is one of the newest hotels in Saranda. It is located right on the beach, only a few steps away from its main pool and bar service. It offers all of the amenities that you could ask for at this price, and it also includes a restaurant where you can enjoy the freshest fish.

The price per night is around $204.

Dream Hotel Saranda

This is a 4-star hotel located on the beachside. It has one of the best views in Sarande, and it's also equipped with several types of rooms, including family suites.

The price per night is around $94.

Beaches of the Albanian Riviera

The beaches of Sarande and the Albanian Riviera are truly unique. Here you will find thatched umbrellas and sunbeds, as well as lots of services. It's easy to spend a whole day on the beach here without spending too much money. Some of the beaches you can visit in Albania are the Spile, Gjipe, and Drymades beaches.

Ksamil

Set within the natural, untouched beauty of the Ksamil Islands, you are taken back to an age where life was a simple pleasure. There is nothing better than standing on your private terrace and gazing at the crystal blue sea.

The islands attract many tourists and are renowned for their tranquility and pure nature.

How to Get There To Ksamil

You can fly directly to Durres airport and then take a taxi or have it organized for you. You can also get there by boat from Saranda, Vlore, Durres or Shengjin.

Ksamil has a harbor for its visitors' convenience. You can take a boat from Durres or Saranda in Albania, and the journey will last around 20 minutes.

Ksamil Hotels

Tourist accommodation in the area is plentiful, with an array of hotels and private apartments to suit all budgets. There are luxury hotels available, as well as a camping site for those looking for a more low-key holiday. They include Hotel Meta Ksamil, Hotel New Crystal, and Mondi's Guest House.

The town also has a couple of restaurants where you can enjoy some delicious seafood, Albanian dishes, and Italian food if that is more to your taste. The town also has a small shop where you can buy some groceries and other necessities.

Beaches in Ksamir

Ksamil has numerous stunning beaches, amongst which include Spiaggia Di Ksamil, Monastery, Rovanjska, and Margelli. Each beach is unique in its own way and will surely find the perfect spot to enjoy a swim on a sunny summer's day or to get some sun whilst relaxing on the pebble beach.

Ksamil can be accessed by bus from Tirana and Durres. The journey is approximately 4 hours. You can also come via Shkodra or Gjirokaster by taking a bus to Saranda. From here, the boat trip will take around 15 minutes to get you to Ksamil.

The Best Time of Year to Go?

Ksamil has a Mediterranean climate which makes it popular all year round. However, if you are planning a visit in August, you need to be sure that you have ample sun protection.

Blue Eye

While there are a lot of beaches around Albania, Blue Eye is considered one of the most beautiful ones. Due to its crystal blue water and white sand, it made the top list for best holiday destinations in Europe.

Blue Eye has all the ingredients to make your stay unforgettable: excellent restaurants with fresh fish dishes, bars, clubs, and villas that are available for rent. If you are looking to have a nice time with your friends or family, Blue Eye should be on top of your list!

Blue Eye is located in the northeast part of Albania. It takes about an hour and a half to get there by car from Tirana. There are some local buses that run from Tirana to Blue Eye, but the best way to get there is by car.

The beach is open 24/7 and all year long! You can also drive a car from Saranda to the Blue Eye. The bus drives every half an hour.

Gjipe Beach

Gjipe is located in the southwest of Albania and it’s known as one of the best beaches in Europe due to its crystal clear blue water and white sand. It made the top list of best holiday destinations in Europe.

It has all the ingredients to make your stay unforgettable: excellent restaurants with fresh fish dishes, bars, clubs, and villas that are available for rent. If you are looking to have a nice time with your friends or family, Gjipe should be on top of your list!

Gjipe is surrounded by cliffs which protect this sandy beach from strong winds blowing in from the sea. It has soft white sand, clear water, and a wide range of restaurants where you can enjoy fresh fish dishes while looking at the sea.

There are also some fun boat tours which are available for rent from Gjipe so make sure to ask around! Gjipe Beach is open all year round and available for private rent!

Himare

Albania's best kept secret is Himare, in Vlora district. The city offers crystal clear waters, with almost 20 km of coastline and white sandy beaches that are lined with pine trees.

The old stone houses have been turned into hotels and restaurants.

Water sports such as canoeing, jet skiing or water skiing are very popular on the beaches. Himare is also famous for its nightlife. There are many clubs as well as traditional music and dance performances, depending on the season. The city lies opposite Vlora, a large town that is very close to the Greek island of Corfu.

Gjirokaster

Gjirokaster is a colorful town with narrow cobbled streets, which are adorned with flower baskets and numerous fountains reflecting the sun in their shiny mosaics.

Gjirokaster town is in the southern part of Albania, and is home to some fantastic views. The old city has narrow streets with stone houses that climb up steep hillsides.

Basic sightseeing here includes the Old Bazaar, which dates back to the 15th century and contains many historic buildings, including a mosque and churches from different periods.

The Citadel, on the top of a hill, is well worth visiting and provides exceptional views. The cathedral of Gjirokaster was built in the 18th century and has an old bell tower. For lunch stop at one of the local restaurants and try the 'Gjuvele' pie filled with chicken or lamb. 

There are three ways to get from Saranda to Gjirokaster: The easiest and most expensive way is by taxi, which should cost about $15 per person. You can also take the bus in front of Hotel Iliria that will leave you at the last stop (yacht station) in Gjirokastra from where you can take a taxi to the Bazaar. The bus will cost about $3 and it leaves every hour in the morning until noon.

The cheapest way is to buy a ticket for a shared taxi (Marshutka), which leaves at 7:00 AM every day, and costs $5 per person. You will have to leave at the yacht station in Sarande.

Drymades Beach

This stunning beach is located in Sarande's center, and it is only a few steps away from the city's main attractions. It has crystal clear water that is great for swimming, as well as various restaurants where you can enjoy the freshest seafood. It also offers amazing views of Mt. Tomorr, Albania's highest mountain.

Drymades Beach has many hotels and plenty of nightlife. The very clear waters are ideal for snorkeling, due to the abundance of underwater life such as turtles and jellyfish. You can also go for a walk in the very green pine forest that accompanies you along most of your way on the beach.

Largest Beach in Ionian Sea

The largest beach in the Ionian Sea is the Borsh Beach. It has very clear turquoise water, which is ideal for swimming. The area also offers great opportunities for diving and has provided habitat to a number of rare species, including dolphins and monk seals.

Borsh beach is often visited by tourists from all over the world and is a great place to rest if you are travelling around Albania.

The beach has beautiful views of the mountains surrounding it, and there are plenty of opportunities for hiking in the pine forest that accompanies it along most of its length. You should definitely try some of the local fish cooked over a fire on the beach, or some of their famous 'shark' pasta.

It is just 45 minutes away from Saranda by car and there are taxis that will take you there for around $10 per person.

Best Albanian Riviera Hotels to Stay In 2021

Where to Stay In Ksamil in 2021?

Ionian Hotel

This is a great option for those that are looking to stay in Ksamil. The hotel offers wonderful views of both the sea and the mountains. It has many facilities including tennis courts and a spa. You can enjoy afternoons by the pool or relax in their garden area with an outdoor bar. There are rooms with sea views or you can also stay in one of the family suites.

You can reach it from Saranda by car in 30 minutes or, if you prefer public transportation, take a bus that will leave you at the entrance of the village. The return journey can also be done by bus, but there will be fewer departures.

The price for 2 persons per night stay will range from $45 to$ 85, depending on the season and whether you have a sea view or not.

Poseidon Hotel

The Poseidon Hotel is located just 5 minutes from the center of Ksamil, in a very quiet area by the sea. It has a large pool and many rooms with both sea and mountain views. It offers all types of facilities including restaurants with incredible food, bars, shops, tennis courts and entertainment areas for children. They have an outdoor pool and there is also a spa, which offers massages.

The hotel is often visited by tourists from all over the world as well as many celebrities. You can reach it on foot in 10 minutes or take bus 6 that will take you to Bar Street just outside of Sarande where you get off.

Villa Klinti

This is a great option if you are looking for accommodation in Ksamil. It is located just outside of the village in a very quiet area with an enchanting view to the sea. It has many facilities, including a swimming pool, restaurant facilities, beach bar and many other features that make it ideal for families or groups of friends.

It is a very good option for those that enjoy relaxing on the beach because it has many studios and apartments with large balconies. You can reach it from Saranda by car or public transport but will be within walking distance.

It is located just 15 minutes away from Saranda by car, so you can easily visit some other areas of Albania such as Berat, Gjirokastra or Valbona. The prices of accommodation in Villa Klinti depend on the season, whether you have sea view rooms and the size of the room. In general, you can expect to pay between $50 and $100 per night.

Himare

Castle Hotel

Himare Castle is set amidst an unspoilt and pristine coastline of Albania's southern Ionian Coast. The hotel rooms are situated around the stone walls of the castle built during the middle ages, which gives a traditional and historical touch to the building. Guests can lounge on loungers in front of their own private patio or can alternatively enjoy a drink in the castle's bar.

Additionally, the upper terrace of the hotel offers spectacular views of nearby beaches that encircle the oasis. The hotel's facilities include tennis courts, two swimming pools, one heated in winter, and a sauna, massage service, and play area for children.

Dining is done at the restaurant where guests can enjoy Mediterranean cuisine and international dishes made with fresh fish.

The hotel is set amidst a particularly beautiful place, with its proximity to the sea and an abundance of greenery lying around it.

Geo & Art Boutique Hotel

This hotel offers private suites, all having wooden floors, décor with paintings of Albanian artists, and hues of red that make for a uniquely charming ambience. The rooms are equipped with modern amenities like mini-bars, cable TVs, and telephones.

The hotel's restaurant serves traditional food based on recipes handed over by the owner's grandmother. Guests can enjoy the view of Tirana city from a small balcony attached to their room. The hotel offers a place for relaxing amidst olive trees and mountains with an area to play badminton, volleyball, and basketball.

Dhermi Resort

With so many sandy beaches and crystal clear waters, one cannot just stop at enjoying these pleasures on a beach. Dhermi Resort in Albania lets you enjoy the water right from their own private pool with turquoise blue colored infinity pool opening to the sea. You can alternatively take out your yacht for some sailing experience, where you can dip into clear waters and mingle with starfish and dolphins.

Dhermi Resort not only offers you a relaxing vacation but also lets you participate in an array of activities like scuba diving, waterskiing, or do some fishing as well.

This resort is made for the summer lovers who can easily combine their rest time with adventure, making for one of the most interesting vacations that they would have.

Elysium

Elysium hotel is surrounded by a vast olive grove offering excellent honey and olive oil that can be availed at the shop inside the hotel. The rooms of Elysium are just like any other luxury four-star hotel with a bathroom, air conditioning, free Wi-Fi, mini-bars, satellite TV and views of the hotel's gardens.

The rooms are surrounded by food outlets such as a pizzeria, kabob restaurant, bar etc. The cost of the rooms is around $100 and $150.

Saranda

Buze Boutique Hotel

The Buzz Buku Hotel is located in the small northern Albanian city of Sarande and offers views over the Adriatic. It has both indoor and outdoor swimming pools with sauna, steam room, indoor lounge area, game room, football pitch etc.

The apartments are also clean and stylishly furnished, having modern amenities like mini bars, satellite TV, cable TVs and air conditioning with sea views from the balcony.

The cost of the room is about 150 Euros and for triple occupancy it goes up to $200.

Hotel Seaside Saranda

The apartment-style rooms have air conditioning, satellite TV, free wireless internet access and balcony. Apart from that, the hotel also offers its guests a variety of water sports like snorkeling and scuba diving in the Adriatic Sea, spa services along with restaurants and bars to enjoy their leisure time relaxing on a comfortable bed.

This four-star hotel is located close to the sea providing a view of both Albania and Italy. This beautiful hotel in Saranda, has also been awarded for its hospitality, friendliness and overall cleanliness which are essential qualities of any five star hotel that really deserve such perfect rating and scores.

The cost of the stay will be about $100 and $150.

The waters of Sarande are so inviting that you won't want to leave this place. You can sunbathe by the pool or around the beach while watching dolphins play in the waves.

Hotel Butrinti

The rooms are very spacious and elegantly designed, boasting of wooden floors and large windows that offer views to Albanian Riviera or the inner parts of the park.

Placed on a hilltop, Hotel Butrinti is one of the most beautiful hotels in Albania situated near the Albanian Riviera.

The hotel has wonderful suites that are very well furnished with all modern facilities like air conditioning, satellite TV, mini-bar etc. With its amazing views of the Albanian seashore and sea from the balcony, Hotel Butrinti is one of the best hotels in Albania.

Albania Riviera Guide- What to Do, Where to Sleep, Eat & More!

Traveling to Albania? You're not alone. I will reveal some of its true treasures, which include: things to do, where to sleep and eat as well as interesting facts about Albania Riviera.

The Butrint Archeological Site and National Park.

The first thing that comes to my mind when I think of Albania is the Butrint Archeological Site and National Park.This reveals  the full potential of the Albanian Riviera.

This UNESCO World Heritage site contains both a National Park and an Archeological Site that will leave you breathless,and filled with wonder.

The park is located in Lakes Butrint and Ohrid in the southwestern part of Albania.  The great thing about this place is that it offers the perfect mix of nature and culture.  The town of Butrint is located at the edge of one of these two lakes, which makes for an awesome view.

This place has been around for thousands upon thousands of years! It's been occupied by the Greeks, Romans, Venetians, and Turks, just to name a few.  It's also been claimed by the Illyrians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines and Venetians during its long history.

Things to Do Here

This place has so much to offer! You can swim in Lake Butrint or explore and enjoy being outdoors on one of its many trails.  There are several ruins to explore, but the Acropolis is a must! It's one of the oldest archeological sites in Albania and was once home to one of the biggest temples in the entire Greece.

There are also boat rides you can take for close up views of Lake Butrint as well as kayaks you can rent.  You can even buy a fishing rod and try your hand at catching some fresh fish to cook up!

Butrint seems to exceed every other archeological site I've ever seen. It's certainly one of the best I've ever been to.

LLogara National Park

The Llogara National Park is a wildlife reserve with some great walks and hikes that can take you through waterfalls, rivers, lakes, mountains, and gorges.

The park is home to big game, rare flowers, centuries-old trees and a glacial lake only accessible by boat! This place has certainly given me one of the most stunning views I've ever laid eyes on.

The park has signs of human presence throughout history, but mostly remains are those of Illyrian tribes who lived here. They used to worship the mountain and offered sacrifices on top of it.

The Old Tragjas Village

This village is situated on the stone steps of Albania. It's one of the oldest places in the country and looks like a medieval back lot from an action movie.

It was built on top of a hill that overlooks nearby valleys, which makes it feel like you're looking at the world from another place. The historical buildings are scattered around the top of the mountain and offer a unique atmosphere to whoever visits it.

One of the highlights is its location which makes you wonder if time has stopped there and left it untouched in modern society.

For any curious traveler looking for an off-the-beaten-track destination, this village is an absolute must-see. You can have a look around the houses, explore the community center and even find a stone which locals believe has healing powers!

FOREST BATHE + HIKE + SWIM

Gjipe Beach

This is one of the most beautiful beaches I've ever been to. The crystal clear water looks as if it was extracted from a delicious fruit cocktail with its vivid colors and distinctive flavor.

It's the ideal place to relax after exploring nearby villages like Qeparo and Tivar, but I'm sure it will be equally inviting for someone who just wants to unwind during their vacation.

Kakome Beach

Kakome Beach is one of the biggest in Albania. It's a long beach with pebbles and stone sand that offers entertainment to both children and adults through activities like fishing, sailing, windsurfing and snorkeling.

Karaburun-Sazan Marine Park- National Parks in Albania

The Karaburun-Sazan Marine Park offers a range of activities for people who want to indulge in nature. Visitors can explore the park on foot, by boat or by dive. There are also guided tours which explain about the marine area and offer information about its animals and plants.

It has a wide variety of marine life, from fish and dolphins to turtles. It's one of the best places around Albania for people who want to observe marine life up close.

Best places to eat and Drink in Albanian Riviera

Bianco Lounge Bar: is a must-visit for anyone who loves cocktail bars. The drink menu is huge, and the bartenders are extremely knowledgeable about their recipes, so tell them what you like or let them go wild with your imagination!

Afrimi: It is a cozy family owned restaurant that serves delicious Albanian cuisine.

Porto Palmero Restaurant: It has some of the best seafood in town, and their desserts are to die for! This restaurant has great ambiance and equally good food.

Harmonia: It serves international and Albanian dishes. Their food is delicious!

La Petite: If you're looking for a romantic place with delicious local dishes, then this is the right place for you!

Foods to Try In Albania

If you are looking for something new to try on your next vacation, look no further than the foods of Albania. This country offers up some delicious and unique foods you won't find anywhere else.

Ayran. A yogurt drink, Ayran is made of yogurt and water. It is usually served cold. Baklava. This is a popular dessert, made of filo pastry stuffed with pistachio or walnut paste.

Byrek me Spinaq. A pastry dish made with cheese, spinach and eggs. It is mixed and then fried.

Kackavall. This is a type of pizza. It has cheese topped with an egg and then baked in the oven.

Mussels. Albania is a very popular spot for mussel enthusiasts. The high quality of the mussels found here, and their low prices make them some of the best in the world.

Petulla. This is a cake made with yeast dough.

Raki. This is a clear liquor.

Speca me Gjize. This is a type of skewer made with vegetables and baked.

Tave kosi. This is lamb, beef or veal cooked in a pot with coal.

Other types of meals include Perime ne Zgare, Kernacka, fresh fish, Qofte and seafood.

Bottom Line

Albania is truly a hidden gem. It still has lots to offer!

A tour through this beautiful country will reveal an abundance of amazing beaches, picturesque mountains, and pristine lakes making this one of the most relaxing vacation destinations around! The weather is really favorable, and there are lots of outdoor activities to enjoy. The food will leave you with a taste for more!

So are you looking for something new to spike your adventures? Albania is the place to be. It’s a place like no other! It offers something for everyone, whether you're looking for a romantic getaway or an adventure tour.

I hope I could help you find your perfect vacation in Albania!

Do you have any other suggestions on what to do during your stay in Albania? Please comment below and let others know about it!


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Letitia

Letitia Elizabeth is the author of EUROPE NOMAD, the travel blog for daydreaming fellow travelers who love cheap countries in Europe, beautiful countrysides, and magical quality of life. Here you'll receive packing lists + guides, Europe travel tips, digital nomad working life advice & living in Europe as an American stories. Welcome!