Albania Road Trip Itinerary October 18, 2022

1 – 2 week Albania Road Trip Itinerary – what to see

If you are hoping to visit the top sites in Albania you will need at least 7 days. My Albania road trip itinerary is for 9 days, but you could do it in 7 days by spending less time in each place. Read on to find out the top things to do in Albania.

Day 1 – Tirana

Start your Albania road trip in Tirana, the capital of Albania. It’s the perfect place to learn more about the history of Albania before exploring the rest of the country.

Top things to do in Tirana:
– Walk around the city and admire the colourful Ottoman-, Fascist- and Soviet-era architecture.
– Visit the National History Museum. It’s 400 LEK (€3.26) and covers prehistoric times through to Communist rule and the anti-Communist uprisings of the 1990s.
– Marvel at the colourful government buildings (notably the intstagrammable Ministry of Agriculture and the ones at Skanderbeg Square).
– Spot the many decorated electric boxes (I saw a Pikachu, Salvador Dali and Angry Birds).
– Visit the Pyramid of Tirana (Originally built to celebrate the life of ex-communist leader Enver Hoxha. It is currently abandoned.
– Admire the art at Bunk Art2. An old bomb shelter that has been converted into a history museum and contemporary art gallery.
– See the beautiful historical Et’hem Bey Mosque
– Walk around the trendy area of Blloku, here you’ll find lots of cool cafes!
– Go up the Sky Tower for a drink and beautiful views over the city.

Where to stay in Tirana – We stayed at the Villa 27 Apartments. It was just €14 a night for a double room! They had free parking just outside and are within walking distance to the town centre.

Albania Road Trip Itinerary Tirana Pyramid
Albania Road Trip Itinerary Tirana

Day 2 – Drive from Tirana to Ksamil with a stop in Gjirokaster

Your second day will be a long driving day whilst you road trip down 300km to Ksamil in the far south of Albania. The drive will take just under 5 hours, you can break it up by making a slight detour to the charming town of Gjirokaster.

Gjirokaster’s Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is a rare example of a well-preserved Ottoman town. The city is overlooked by Gjirokastër Fortress, the ruins of which you can visit and enjoy a nice view over the city and valley. The roads near the Old Town are steep and cobbled so I would avoid driving near here if you can (I saw one car sliding backwards down a hill!). Park just outside and walk in.

I would recommend leaving Tirana in the morning so you get to Gjirokaster by lunchtime. You’ll can stop to enjoy some local food before exploring the Old Town. I ate at the Taverna Kuka, which had a super cute terrace and tasty food!

albania road trip itinerary Gjirokaster
Albania Road Trip Itinerary Gjirokaster
Taverna Kuka

You’ll then need to drive 1 hour 20 minutes to reach your final destination of Ksamil.

Where to stay in Ksamil – I stayed at the Vila Renato. They offer little studios with a kitchenette and private bathroom, within walking distance of the main beaches. Our room slept 4 and was just €30 a night during the summer holidays.

Day 3 – Ksamil

Ksamil (pronouned Kuh-sar-mil) is a beautiful coastal town on the Albanian Riviera. It’s one of the cheapest beach holiday locations so is very popular with backpackers. It has beautiful crystal clear waters as well as 4 rocky Islands to explore, making a super instagrammable photo spot. If you are a strong swimmer you can swim to the closest two islands at low tide. Otherwise you can hire kayaks or pedalos.

Ksamil can get very busy in the summer holidays, so I would recommend going off season in June or September to avoid the crowds. If you are unable to avoid visiting during the summer holidays I would recommend booking a sun lounger the day before. There is hardly any ‘free space’ on the beaches in Ksamil and the sun loungers sell out very quickly. You can also escape the crowds by visiting the beautiful nearby Pulëbardha Beach.

Enjoy your time chilling out on the beach in Ksamil, as well as trying out the many rooftop (sea view) bars and restaurants.

Albania Road Trip Itinerary Ksamil beach
Photo by Polina Rytova

Where to stay in Ksamil – I stayed at the Vila Renato. They offer little studios with a kitchenette and private bathroom, within walking distance of the main beaches. Our room slept 4 and was just €30 a night during the summer holidays.

Day 4 – Ksamil, Butrint National Park and continuing your Albanian Riviera road trip

If you are staying in Ksamil for a few nights then make sure to check out Butrint National Park, just a 20 minute drive south of Ksamil and one of the most important archaeological sites in Albania. Butrint National Park contains different artefacts and structures, dating from the Iron Age up until the Middle Ages. Numerous monuments are still extant including the city walls, a late-antique baptistery, a great basilica, roman theatre and two castles. The entrance fee is 700 LEK (around €6) and there is a free parking there if you drive, otherwise you can get the local bus from Ksamil.

Albania Road Trip Itinerary Butrint National Park

After visiting Butrint National Park you can continue your Albanian Riviera road trip. Head north 30 minutes to the seaside town of Sarande where you can stop for lunch and to enjoy the beach a bit.

Next, follow the coastal road just over an hour north to Himare, another beautiful town on the Albanian Riviera. If you are backpacking on a budget you might want to consider staying in Himare, it is considerably cheaper than the nearby town of Dhermi, and the beach is mostly open space (no parasols to rent taking up all the place). If you’re in Himare make sure to grab some pizza at Pizzeria La Famiglia for the best view over Himare beach.

Albania Road Trip Itinerary Himare Beach

Where to stay – We decided to treat ourselves and stay at the luxurious Vila Kristi in Dhermi. We had a really nice clean and modern room with breakfast included for €80 a night. If you’re on a tighter budget you should look for accommodation in nearby Himare.

Day 5 – Dhermi, Himare and Gjipe Beach

Spend the day exploring more of Albania’s beautiful beaches including my favourite, Gjipe Beach.

Gjipe Beach is not accessible by car so it is one of the least busiest beaches in Albania. Even during the summer holidays there weren’t too many people here! You can either park near the top and walk down a beautiful panoramic path for 30 minutes like in the picture below (but it’s very steep) or you can drive to the parking at the bottom of the road and walk for 25 minutes along a less steep road (but it’s not as scenic).

I would also recommend checking out both Palasa Beach and Dhermi Beach in Dhermi. Picture beachside bars, colourful parasols and epic mountain landscapes!

Albania Road Trip Itinerary Dhermi Beach
Dhemi Beach
Palasa Beach

Where to stay – We decided to treat ourselves and stay at the luxurious Vila Kristi in Dhermi. We had a really nice clean and modern room with breakfast included for €80 a night. If you’re on a tighter budget you should look for accommodation in nearby Himare.

Day 6 – Drive from Dhermi to Shkoder via Kruje

Today will be another long driving day whilst you road trip 4.5 hours to Shkoder in the north of Albania. You can break up the drive by stopping at the Medieval town of Kruje. The bazaar selling lots of brightly coloured souvenirs makes for a great instagram photo opportunity.

If you have more time, you might want to consider a detour to Berat, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with very unique architecture.

Albania Road Trip Itinerary Berat
Photo by Mark de Jong

Once you arrive in Shkoder, be sure to head to Rruga Kolë Idromeno (a super cute street) and grab some food at the Rooftop Bar Restorant Piceri Chicago. Here you can enjoy a very reasonably priced pizza with a beautiful view, perfect for people watching!

Albania Road Trip Itinerary Shkoder
The view from rooftop Bar Restorant Piceri Chicago

If you want to go to Theth the following day you will need to book it today (we booked the jeep via our hotel).

Where to stay in Shkoder – We stayed at the Hotel Kurtabeg, it was super cheap at only €17 a night for a double room with a private bathroom, but the rooms were very old and basic.

Day 7 – Theth

One of the highlights of my Albania road trip itinerary was my time in the beautiful mountain village of Theth in the Albanian Alps.

How to get to Theth

The road into the valley is thin and broken so you will need a 4 x 4 to drive here. Most people opt to book a €10 jeep there and leave their cars in Shkoder (we left ours at our hotel). These jeeps tend to leave Shkoder around 7:30am arriving in Theth around 10:30-11am. They will pick you up from your hotel and drop you off at your Guesthouse in Theth.

Where to eat in Theth

Theth is very rural so make sure to bring a packed lunch with you, as there aren’t many restaurants (or shops) around. You can book to have dinner and breakfast at your guesthouses.

Most popular hike

Today will be your longest day in Theth so I would recommend heading off for a hike as soon as you can. The most popular hike to do in Theth is to the Blue Eye. It takes about 6-7 hour to hike there and back (or you can walk there and hire a jeep back). The hike will take you past sound beautiful waterfalls and scenery, find out exactly how to get to the Blue Eye.

Theth Church

Where to stay in Theth – Theth has a number of charming guesthouses which are all around €40-50 a night. We stayed at the Marashi Guesthouse as it is located right near Theth church (which I wanted to photograph at sunrise and sunset), had good reviews and was also one of the cheaper guesthouses.

Day 8 – Theth

Today you can either decide to go hiking, then back to Shkoder with the jeeps that leave at 11am. Or you can hike from Theth to Valbona. If you do the latter make sure to not bring too much luggage with you as you will be carrying it!

The hike from Theth is to Valbona takes around 8-9 hours (one way) and you will stay for one night in Theth and one night in Valbona (at least), you can then get a boat along the Komani Lake and back to Shkoder. You will need at least 3 full days to complete this loop from Shkoder.

If you go back to Shkoder from Theth you should arrive back around 2pm. Be sure to check out Rozafa Castle, an incredible ancient fortress that has really stood the test of time.

If you wish to visit Komani Lake and Lumi i Shales the following day you should book it today through your hotel.

Where to stay in Shkoder – We stayed at the Hotel Kurtabeg, it was super cheap at only €17 a night for a double room with a private bathroom, but the rooms were very old and basic.

Day 9 – Komani Lake and Lumi i Shales

Lake Koman (or Komani Lake) is a reservoir in northern Albania. It is located in a narrow valley surrounded by dense forested hills on vertical slopes. Sailing down the Komani Lake makes you feel like you’re in the Lord of the Rings, it really is a unique landscapes and worth a visit!

A minibus picked us up from our hotel around 8am and dropped us off at the Komani lake (€5 one way), they then helped us to get onto a boat (€5 each way). This boat took us on the most magical ride along the lake towards Lumi i Shales.

As we were there during a very dry summer the water levels were very low, which meant the boat wasn’t able to take us the whole way to Lumi i Shales. So we were dropped off and then walked up the river for about 45 minutes. At the time we had no idea where we were going or what was going on, but it was definitely worth it! Lumi i shales (or Shala River) is located in a lush green valley, with crystal blue water, it is absolutely breath taking! There are 2 basic restaurants there offering BBQ food, just be sure to bring cash.

Walking up the Shala River

You will then need to walk back to the boat (keep an eye on when your boat-mates are leaving) and from there you’ll be able to get the minibus back to Shkoder.

For more information getting here check out my blog post on how to get to Lumi i Shales.

Where to stay in Shkoder – We stayed at the Hotel Kurtabeg, it was super cheap at only €17 a night for a double room with a private bathroom, but the rooms were very old and basic.

I hope you enjoy this Albania road trip itinerary. My guide will allow you to discover all the must see sites in Albania. After Albania you might consider continuing your road trip in Montenegro.

Albania Road Trip Itinerary FAQ

Driving in Albania

What are the road conditions like?

I was very impressed with the condition of the roads in Albania. The main roads are all paved and a pleasure to drive on. You’ll only need a 4×4 if you decided to visit more rural parts of the country, like the road to Theth (you can also pay to take a taxi jeep there). My Albania road trip itinerary only includes covered roads that are in good condition.

driving in Albania road conditions

Driving safety in Albania

The roads in Albania are in a good condition, the main safety issue of driving in Albania is with the local drivers, who can be a bit crazy. In general I had no problem driving in Albania, there was just the odd moment when cars would overtake me incredibly fast (once when a car was coming in the other direction). As long as you stay alert whilst driving you will be fine.

Crossing the border from Albania to Montenegro

We hired our car in Montenegro and after spending a few days exploring the bay of Kotor we crossed the border by car into Albania.

There are two places where you can cross the border from Albania into Montenegro:
– Border Crossing Hani i Hotit – Bozhaj (north of Lake Skadar)
– Border Crossing Muriqan – Sukobin (south of Lake Skadar)

The border can get quite busy, so be prepared to wait (sometimes 1-2 hours). I recommend going early if you can to avoid the main bulk of cars.

If you want to drive across the border, you need to inform your car rental company in advance, as well as purchase a Green Card when you pick up the car. A Green Card is an international certificate, that shows you are covered by insurance. The price of a Green Card for one car is €42.35 (including VAT).

In order to avoid this cost and hassle you can also take a bus from Albania to Montenegro.

How much to budget for Albania

Albania’s currency

Albania is not currently in the EU however it is a “potential candidate country” and hopes to join soon. For this reason the euro (€) is widely accepted, even if the Lek (plural lekë) is Albania’s official currency. 100 Albanian Lek equals 0.81 Euro.

ATM’s are widely available in Albania, however we sometimes struggled to find ATMs that accepted Mastercards (they were Visa only).

Daily Costs

Albania is one of the cheapest countries to visit in Europe. You can enjoy a road trip around Albania from just €20 a day per person. It’s a great destination for budget backpackers.

  • Dorm bed: €5–15 a night
  • Double room: starting from €15 a night
  • Meal in a restaurant: €1–6 per person (we had a number of good pizza’s for just €5)
  • Car rental: starting from around €15 a day
  • Petrol: €1 – €1.40 / L

My 12 day Albania road trip itinerary cost around €500 per person.

Is Albania safe to visit?

Due to it’s history of communism and war, Albania does not have the best reputation. However, most western governments advise that crime and violence against foreigners is extremely rare. I personally found Albania to be very safe to travel around with the locals being very friendly and welcoming.

Best time to visit Albania

The best time to visit Albania is during the warmer weather from April to October. Peak season is during the summer holidays in July and August, the temperatures get quite high so you’ll find a lot of people by the Albanian Riviera. If you wish to enjoy the sunshine without the crowds I would aim for June or September.

I hope you have a wonderful time exploring Albania. It is definitely one of the most underrated countries in Europe, and well worth a visit! You might want to check out the 21 most instagrammable photo spots in Albania to help plan your trip some more.

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Car Rental in Albania