In this article, you will find best ideas for road trips in Albania for those traveling by car. The article will help you not to miss the most interesting places and attractions. I’ll provide the timing of the trips, tips, recommendations, and these routes can become the foundation of your dream journey through Albania.
Routes in Albania for a self-guided car journey
Here are a few general points you need to know:
- All the routes in this article are specifically designed for travelers with cars. Traveling in Albania without a car can be challenging.
- Also, all routes start and end in Tirana, as most visitors arrive and depart through the main airport and rent a car right away.
- Details about car rental in Albania and all the pitfalls.
- I personally traveled each route myself, not just once. Therefore, their optimality and timing have been proven in practice. However, that doesn’t mean there are no other options. You can use it as a basis, omit places that don’t interest you, and add your own.
- Some people prefer spending more time by the sea, so we allocate more days for the beach.
- If you want to explore the mountains quickly, plan the itinerary to include more mountainous areas.
- You can find all the main attractions of the country and beyond on the Travel Map. It will greatly help visualize your independent route.
- A comprehensive overview of all the places from the route, as well as each individually, can be found in the article: List of the coolest places in Albania.
- Lastly, all the routes are designed for a relatively relaxed pace of travel. No rushing to cover 500 km and visit 4 cities in a day.
Interesting to know:For those gathering information about Albania and having doubts about their choice, read the article: Is it worth going to Albania. 🙂 I hope it will dispel all your concerns.
And remember, Albania has a large number of amazing attractions that are difficult or almost impossible to reach without a car. Public transport doesn’t reach every corner of the country.
8-day itinerary in Albania: covering 600 km
So, you only have a week for your vacation. It may be a little short for such an amazing country, but don’t be disheartened. You will get your share of impressions.
- Day 1: Arrive at Tirana Airport, rent a car, and head straight to the city of Vlora.
- Day 2: Spend the entire day in the city: beach, attractions, and the market. Vlora is the best city on the Adriatic coast of Albania.
- Day 3: In the morning, leave Vlora and visit the following attractions:
- Llogara Pass and an observation platform at the meeting point of two seas.
- Himara Castle, and nearby, a bunker for submarines carved into the rock.
- The village of Borsh.
- After lunch, you can reach either Saranda or Ksamil. Both cities are very close to each other.
- The rest of the day is for the beach, relaxation, and restaurants.
- Day 4: Visit the ancient city of Butrint and the oyster farms in Ksamil. And enjoy the beach.
- Day 5: From Saranda or Ksamil, head to the ancient city of Berat in the morning. On the way, you’ll come across:
- The Blue Eye Spring.
- The museum city of Gjirokastër.
- The most beautiful road in Albania, SH75 (or at least a part of it).
- You’ll be in Berat by dinner time.
- Day 6: In the morning, go to the Bogove Waterfall and have a wine tasting or simply get some wine from a private winery 15 km from Berat. You can buy some souvenirs if you don’t plan to drink it yourself 🙂
- The trip to the waterfall and winery will take about 4-5 hours.
- After lunch, return to Berat. You’ll still have a couple of hours until evening to explore the attractions, and there are plenty of them here.
- Day 7: In the morning, drive from Berat to Tirana, and you’ll be there by lunchtime. You have the remaining time, about a day and a half, to explore the capital of Albania.
- Day 8: Fly back home, happy and content.
Important to know:For all the cities and attractions on this itinerary, and the following ones as well, there are separate reviews in this guidebook.
10-day itinerary in Albania: covering 700 km
For this route, we use the previous one as a foundation. You must have noticed that the 7-day itinerary allows very little time at the beach, practically only 2.5 days. Well, what can you expect when you only have 7 days? Therefore, the route through Albania remains the same, but we add one location.
- This location is the city of Përmet, the thermal springs of Benje, the Langarica Canyon, and the thrilling rafting experience. Below are some photos from this location.
- It is convenient to include a visit to Përmet’s thermal springs between Saranda and Berat. Insert this location into your itinerary right here.
- Plan to spend a full day here.
And then, it’s up to you to choose:So, you’ve taken the 8-day itinerary, added Përmet and the thermal springs, and now you have 9 days. You have one more day in reserve. There are two options for you to choose from: either spend one more day at the beach, for example in Saranda or Ksamil, or allocate one more day to Tirana, as half a day in the capital from the previous itinerary is really not enough.
14-day itinerary in Albania: covering 900 km
The 2-week itinerary is already good. It might not be enough to cover the entire country, but you can definitely explore the entire south. You’ll have time to relax on the beach and switch between several resorts. By the way, to choose the perfect resort for your vacation in Albania, you can read detailed descriptions of each one in the article linked below.
- Day 1: Arrive at Tirana Airport, rent a car, and head straight to Durrës. Since 90% of flights to Tirana are in the evening, you’ll have time to check-in, have dinner, and take a stroll along the waterfront.
- Day 2: Though I’m not a big fan of Durrës, it is one of the oldest cities in Albania, and it boasts the largest and oldest amphitheater in the Balkans. Spend the entire second day exploring the old city and enjoying the sea.
- Day 3: There isn’t much to do in Durrës for an extended period. So, head straight to Berat, and you’ll be there by lunchtime. You’ll have the remaining half-day to explore the entire city, the fortress, and the old quarters.
- Day 4: Take a day trip to either the Bogove Waterfall or Sotira.
- Detailed information about both waterfalls is available here. The Bogove waterfall will take about 4 hours, while Sotira will require the whole day.
- On the way back, be sure to visit the country’s best private winery. There, you can buy and taste wines.
- Spend the second night in Berat.
On the 5th day of the itinerary, start your beach vacation on the Ionian Sea
- Day 5: In the morning, head to the coast and drive to Himara. It’s an excellent resort town on the Ionian Sea.
- On the way, you can stop for coffee on Vlora’s waterfront and take a one-hour walk.
- You’ll also pass the Llogara Pass at the meeting point of two seas.
- In Himara, make sure to rent apartments with a sea view; it’s incredibly beautiful here.
- Spend the evening strolling along the beaches of Himara and have dinner. The town is small, but there are many beaches.
- Day 6: Take a day trip to one of the best beaches in all of Albania – Gjipe. It’s 5 km from Himara.
- Some people go for the entire day, while others stay for half a day. In any case, within a 3-4 km radius, there’s another great beach, Livadhi, and a spot for cliff jumping. Detailed information about all these beaches can be found in the article: Best beaches in Albania.
- In Himara, there’s also a bunker carved into the rocks for submarines.
- Day 7: Leave Himara and head to either Saranda or Ksamil, your choice. Both places are fantastic, but they are different. Read about each one and decide which one appeals to you more. The distance between Ksamil and Saranda is only 7 km
- On the way, visit Porto Palermo fortress.
- Also, visit the village of Borsh, where there’s a fortress on the hilltop with a beautiful view. But what attracts our tourists the most is the city sign where everyone takes photos.
- After lunch, you’ll be in Saranda, enjoying a beer on the beach.
- Day 8: Go to Ksamil for the excavations of the ancient city of Butrint, and then visit an oyster farm.
- After lunch, return to Saranda for some relaxation.
Or maybe to Greece for a day? It’s only a 25-minute ferry ride!
- Day 9: The whole day on the beach on the Ionian Sea. Enjoy it; it’s truly one of a kind 🙂 And for those who don’t enjoy lying on the beach for more than 2 hours, it’s just an idea 🙂
- Here’s an idea that I’ll plant in your head, and you can decide for yourself: from Saranda, take a 25-minute ferry ride to the Greek island of Corfu. It’s an excellent maritime journey for a full day, and sometimes even two.
- Ferries run daily between Corfu and Saranda, and during peak season, there are up to 7 departures per day.
From the 10th day onwards, we head to the mountains, and there will be no more sea in this journey.
- Day 10: Bid farewell to the sea; you won’t see it again on this journey. From now on, it’s all about the mountains. Leave Saranda and head to Përmet. On the way, make stops at:
- The Blue Eye Spring
- Gjirokastër – the ancient museum city of Albania
- and, through the country’s most beautiful route SH75, arrive in Përmet by evening.
- Only dinner remains to be had.
- Day 11: In the morning, travel for the whole day to the Benje thermal springs and the Langarica Canyon, located 15 km away from the city. For the adventurous, rafting is also an option; just make arrangements in advance.
- Visiting the Benje springs, including trekking through the canyon, will take up most of your day.
- Return to Përmet for overnight stay and dinner.
Korça or Pogradec?
- Day 12: Leave Përmet and take the second part of the SH75 route through the mountains towards the border with Macedonia, reaching Lake Ohrid.
- There are two options for this leg of the journey. Either go to Korça or to Pogradec. I cannot say one city is better than the other; both are charming in their own way. However:
- Korça is the center of Albanian brewing. Besides the city center and fortress, there’s a brewery, and nearby is an excellent tavern. You can spend a lovely evening here. Plus, your journey is coming to an end soon.
- On the other hand, Pogradec is a half-hour drive from Korça. There isn’t much to see here, but the city is located right on the shores of Lake Ohrid, with a large waterfront. The views from here stretch to the Macedonian mountains. And you can swim in the deepest and oldest lake in the Balkans.
- So, decide for yourself: if you leave Përmet at 9 in the morning, with stops at SH75’s scenic viewpoints, you’ll arrive in Korça or Pogradec around 12 or 1 pm.
- You’ll have half a day for either of these cities, which is more than enough. And tomorrow, you’ll be in Tirana.
- Day 13: Leave in the morning for Tirana; it’s a 2.5-hour drive.
- On the way, be sure to stop by the Golica Bridge, which you can read about in the article about Elbasan.
- It’s a fantastic sight that not many know about, but you’ll be passing by, so it’s worth a stop.
- After lunch, you’ll be in Tirana, where you can spend the remaining half day or the whole day exploring the city. There’s plenty to see here.
- Day 14: Finish exploring Tirana and fly back home happy.
Useful to know:This 14-day itinerary in Albania covers almost the entire south of the country. You’ll see all the top attractions located south of Tirana. Southern Albania is much more popular than the north, with better infrastructure, tourist routes, and shorter distances. Covering 900 km in 14 days is a breeze 🙂
Itinerary for the Ultimate Adventurers: 20 days
But there’s one place in the north that’s worth the trip, and let’s talk about it now. So, after spending 14 days in Albania, completing the grand circular route in the south of the country, you’ve returned to Tirana, and now it’s time to return the car to the rental company. You won’t need it anymore. It will be much more complicated, expensive, and slower with it than without it. And most importantly, there’s still one unfinished business left.
The Cursed Mountains or the Albanian Alps
- Day 15: Wake up in Tirana, and from the main bus station, take a bus to Shkodër.
- Buses run every hour.
- Ticket price: 400 lek (4$)
- Travel time: 2 hours
- Check into a hotel for a one-night stay in the city and go for a stroll.
- There’s a comprehensive overview of things to see in Shkodër on this website, but trust me, half a day will be enough.
- Day 16: Rise at 6 am. Transfer from your hotel to the ferry crossing into the remote Albanian Alps.
- From Shkodër to the ferry, it’s only 70 km or 2 hours’ drive 🙂
- You’ll sail on the ferry across a rocky lake in the mountains. The ferry crossing is 50 km long! The journey takes 3 hours. You’ll have a million beautiful photos.
- By noon, you’ll be on the other side of this ferry crossing, where a transfer will take you to Valbona Valley.
- Valbona Valley is one of the most remote places in Albania. You’ll spend the night in one of the guesthouses with a view of the Alpine peaks.
- Spend the remaining couple of hours until sunset strolling through the valley, enjoying a beer, and going to bed early.
And now, strong and well-rested legs are required.
- Day 17: Rise and shine. Breakfast. And get ready for a mountain hiking adventure through the pass in the Alps.
- This is a hiking trail.
- It’s 10 km long with an elevation gain of 800 meters. The hike will take 5-8 hours, almost the whole day.
- On the other side of the pass lies another mountain village, Theth.
- Theth and Valbona Valley are separated by just a 10 km goat trail. However, if you were to drive from Theth to Valbona, it would be 260 km and take 7 hours. There’s no other road between the villages 🙂
- By dinner time, you’ll have crossed the pass and descended into the new guesthouse in the village of Theth.
- Day 18: I hope your legs are up for it! Today, you have a 20 km trek ahead, but with no significant elevation gain. You’ll walk through the Cursed Mountains and visit:
- The Grunas Waterfall.
- The Blue Eye 2. Yes, there are two Blue Eyes in Albania. But this one is lesser-known and less-visited, yet it’s even more stunning.
- The entire route will take you 6-7 hours.
- Spend the night again in the same place in the village of Theth.
- Day 19: In the morning, another transfer will pick you up and take you to the center of Shkodër.
- It’s a 3-hour drive to Shkodër.
- Then, a 2-hour bus ride, which runs every hour, will take you back to Tirana.
- By evening of this day, you’ll be back in Tirana.
- Congratulations! You’ve completed the route through the Cursed Mountains, a path that not many people take. And it’s not because it’s difficult – it’s actually not; it’s because tourists come to Albania for the beaches, and allocating 4 days for such a route with a mountainous ferry ride can be quite challenging.
- And tomorrow is the 20th day, and you can head home.
Useful to know:The Route through the Cursed Mountains – here you’ll find a detailed guide on how to replicate it. Where to stay, how to find transfers – it has all the answers about Valbona Valley and Theth.
Each person has their own ideal route through Albania. Some tourists come for 3 days, while others stay for a month. Above, I’ve provided four “templates” that will suit 95% of travelers exploring Albania by car. You can take any of these routes and customize them to your liking, or you can even leave them unchanged. All these routes have been personally tested and traveled by me. For me, they are optimal, but everyone is different.
I have friends who can spend two weeks on a beach lounger and thoroughly enjoy it. For them, traveling somewhere new during their vacation is unimaginable. Remember, every vacation is beautiful, even just lying on a beach lounger is far better than sitting on a couch!
Resources to help you plan your dream trip to Albania
- Flights at the best prices with juicy discounts
- Car rental in Albania (cheaper – only by bus):
- Hotels and apartments throughout the country: Booking
- Tours, excursions and activities (including extreme ones):
- Comprehensive travel insurance: EKTA
- eSIM virtual sim card in Albania
- Taxi and transfers: Intui.Travel