Road Trip Albania: Ultimate Itinerary & Practical Tips

Albania is a hidden gem in the Balkans, ideal for an adventurous road trip. The country offers a stunning mix of nature and culture, with majestic mountains, historic towns, and idyllic beaches. As you travel, you’ll drive through picturesque landscapes and discover hidden treasures like the castle of Berat, the ancient streets of Gjirokastër, and the pristine beaches of the Albanian Riviera. Each turn in the road reveals a new breathtaking panorama. With its friendly people and authentic charm, a road trip through Albania promises a unique and unforgettable vacation experience.

In this blog, we provide practical tips for traveling in Albania and a complete itinerary for a road trip through the country by car or camper.

Albania Road Trip

Travel Tips for Albania: Preparing for Your Trip

#1 Withdraw Cash at Credins Bank

Albania uses the Albanian lek, not the euro. While euros are sometimes accepted, it’s best to always have Albanian lek on hand, especially in cash, since card payments are not common, even at gas stations.

Be aware that withdrawing money in Albania usually incurs fees, except at Credins Bank. Most ATMs charge significant transaction fees, but Credins Bank offers withdrawals without extra costs. Since you will need cash, it’s wise to find this bank and withdraw sufficient amounts. Credins Bank has branches in larger cities and tourist areas.

#2 Fly to Tirana or Corfu

When planning your trip to Albania, you might think to book a flight to the capital, Tirana. However, you can also fly via Tirana or the Greek island of Corfu.

Tirana International Airport (TIA) is Albania’s main airport, located 17 kilometers from the capital. Tirana is in the north, where you can find the Albanian Alps, the castle town of Krujë, and the beach destination Durrës.

Alternatively, you can start your journey in Greece! The island of Corfu lies directly off the Albanian coast. Corfu International Airport (CFU) is a great option if you want to visit the southern coast of Albania. From Corfu, you can easily take a ferry to the Albanian beach town of Sarandë. There are fast ferries (30 minutes) and slower ferries (1 hour and 10 minutes). This route offers the chance to explore both a Greek island and Albania, and potentially find cheaper flights to Corfu.

#3 Get a Local SIM Card

A European SIM card will not work in Albania without high roaming costs. Although Albania is in Europe, it is not part of the EU. Therefore, it’s wise to get a local SIM card.

You can get a SIM card from a local telecom provider or choose an eSIM for convenience. Note that not all phones are compatible with eSIMs, although most modern smartphones are.

Budget tip: The Western Balkans have a SIM card zone where you can use a SIM card from one country in other countries. A prepaid tourist card does not always cover this, but it’s worth checking with the provider’s customer service if you’re visiting multiple Balkan countries. We found a very affordable Montenegro SIM card that worked in Albania.

#4 Check Your Insurance

Although Albania is in Europe, it is not part of the EU. Therefore, it’s important to check your insurance coverage.

Travel insurance usually includes Europe coverage, which typically covers Albania. However, we recommend confirming this to be sure. If you are driving to Albania with your own vehiclefrom other parts of Europe, like we did with our camper, check your car insurance. We met other travelers who discovered that their car insurance did not cover all Balkan countries outside the EU they wanted to visit. They had to arrange alternative insurance on the spot.

How to check this? The green card from your insurer indicates which countries are covered. Albania was covered by our camper insurance, as were other Balkan countries.

Tip: Bring a printed copy of the green card from your car or camper insurance. You may be asked for this at border crossings.

#5 Learn About Albania’s Unique History

Albania has a unique history that is quite different from the rest of Europe and even the Balkans. Learning about Albania’s history will enhance your understanding and appreciation of the country.

From 1946 to 1992, Albania was a communist dictatorship, mostly under the rule of Enver Hoxha, who isolated the country from both the West and the Eastern Bloc. Hoxha’s paranoia about possible invasions led to the construction of over 700,000 bunkers scattered across the country. These bunkers, ranging from small shelters to large underground complexes, are still present. Some can be visited or have been turned into museums.

During Hoxha’s rule, Albania was completely cut off from the outside world, leading to a strict communist regime similar to North Korea. Religion was banned, and many churches and mosques were destroyed. A few have been preserved, and others have been rebuilt after the dictatorship.

Cars were also not allowed until the 1990s. Notice the abundance of Mercedes cars and car washes? After the fall of communism, everyone wanted a car. To make up for lost time, they chose luxury cars. So, Albanians didn’t just want any car; they wanted a Mercedes Benz.

#6 Be Aware of Prices

It’s good to be aware of the varying price levels in Albania. The country is known to be very cheap, but this is only partially true.

Restaurants and accommodations are indeed very cheap compared to Western Europe. You can stay in incredibly luxurious hotels in Albania for what you would normally pay for a hostel bed. You can also have a very extensive meal for under €10.

Supermarkets in Albania, on the other hand, are relatively expensive. You won’t find a Lidl or other budget supermarkets. It is cheaper to buy fresh products from local bakers, butchers, greengrocers, or markets. You will also find low prices there. However, you won’t find products like pasta, rice, cookies, and diapers. You may choose to stock up on these items before going to Albania.

#7 Albania is an Islamic Country

After World War II, Albania became an atheistic country. Religion was banned by dictator Enver Hoxha. After the fall of the communist dictatorship, religion was allowed again. Since then, most of the country has become Islamic, although you will see religions coexisting harmoniously in Albania.

Keep in mind multiple religious holidays when preparing for your trip. During Ramadan and Eid, (eating) establishments may be closed. During these periods, alcohol may not be served in restaurants and bars.

Albania Road Trip

Road Trip Itinerary in Albania for 2-3 Weeks

A road trip through Albania offers a fantastic mix of culture, nature, and adventure. After arriving, travel to the historic city of Berat, then visit the charming Gjirokastër. Next, discover the beautiful beaches of the Albanian Riviera, make a stop in the historic Krujë, and explore the rugged beauty of the Albanian Alps before returning to Tirana for a final exploration of the capital.

#1 Berat (2 Days)

Berat is the first stop on your road trip through Albania. As soon as you arrive at the airport in Tirana, drive directly to this historic destination. The distance is about two hours.

Berat, often referred to as ‘the city of a thousand windows,’ is a historical gem in the heart of Albania. This UNESCO World Heritage site is distinguished by its white Ottoman houses, elegantly draped against the steep slopes, creating a picturesque view against the backdrop of the Osum River and surrounding hills.

Read More: Best Things to Do in Berat

The Berat Castle dates back to the thirteenth century and majestically towers above the city. Within the old walls of this citadel, you’ll mostly find ruins of the old castle and Byzantine churches. However, people still live there, giving this historic place a unique atmosphere.

Visitors can also get lost in the narrow streets of the Mangalem and Gorica neighborhoods, each with their own unique character and architecture. Mangalem, the old medieval town, lies at the foot of the old castle. Across the river is Gorica, historically a Christian district. Both neighborhoods are characterized by typical Ottoman architecture, although Gorica is less visited than the more central Mangalem.

Read More: Where to Stay in Berat


#2 Gjirokastër & Blue Eye (2 Days)

After visiting Berat, drive for about 2.5 hours to Gjirokastër, one of Albania’s best-preserved Ottoman cities. Upon arrival, park your car on the outskirts of the old town, as the narrow and steep streets are difficult to navigate by car. From here, you can easily explore the city on foot. Plan to spend at least a full day in Gjirokastër.

Known as one of Albania’s most charming and beautiful cities, Gjirokastër is a must-visit on your trip. This small town in southern Albania, especially the historic part, has a unique character. It’s distinguished by centuries-old Ottoman houses with slate roofs and white plastered walls, nestled against the mountainside.

Read more: Best Things to Do in Gjirokastër

With its Ottoman architecture, Gjirokastër is a particularly photogenic destination and a UNESCO World Heritage site. One of the main attractions is the ancient castle, offering panoramic views over the city. It is the second-largest castle in Albania and dates back to the twelfth century.

Another must-see is a museum house. In the old town, you’ll find several well-preserved Ottoman houses like the Zekate House and the Skenduli House. These historic homes are now open to the public and provide a beautiful glimpse into traditional Albanian life in earlier times.

After your stay in Gjirokastër, continue your journey to the Blue Eye, a natural spring with crystal-clear blue water. This stop is about an hour’s drive south of Gjirokastër and is perfect for a short break. Afterward, head to your next destination on this Albanian road trip.

Read more: Where to Stay in Gjirokastër


#3 Albanian Riviera (2 to 14 Days)

After visiting Gjirokastër, head to the Albanian Riviera, one of the most beautiful coastal areas in Europe. The drive takes about an hour and offers breathtaking views as you descend from the mountains to the coast. The Albanian Riviera stretches for 120 kilometers, starting at the Llogara Pass south of Vlorë and extending to the Greek border.

This stretch of coastline is known for its stunning natural beauty: long sandy beaches, picturesque coves with crystal-clear water, and lush green mountains as a backdrop. Comparisons with the Italian and Croatian coastlines are easily made.

There is much to see and do along the Albanian Riviera. Highlights include the tourist town of Sarandë, the historic ruins of Butrint, the beautiful beach destination of Ksamil, and the charming town of Vlorë. There are also lesser-known spots to visit, such as Himare, Dhermi, and Porto Palermo. Don’t miss the popular Gjipe Beach, known as the most beautiful beach in Albania. Another highlight is the Llogara Pass, a mountain pass with stunning views.

Read more: Where to Stay in Vlorë and Where to Stay in Sarandë

There are multiple ways to plan your days along the Albanian Riviera. If you have two weeks and want to do a full road trip through Albania, opt for a few days or two short stops along the coast. Alternatively, you can easily spend an entire holiday of 2 to 3 weeks on the Albanian Riviera, taking day trips to Berat and Gjirokastër. In this case, consider flying into the Greek island of Corfu off the coast of the Albanian Riviera instead of Tirana.

Gjipe Beach

#4 Krujë (1 Day)

After exploring the Albanian Riviera, Krujë is a perfect stop to break up the long drive to the northern mountains. Krujë is a historic town in northern Albania, located at the foot of the Albanian Alps. This charming mountain town is best known for its deep historical roots connected to Skanderbeg, Albania’s national hero famous for his resistance against Ottoman rule. A half-day to a full day is enough to see all the main attractions.

Read more: Best Things to Do in Krujë

One of the main attractions in Krujë is the Castle of Krujë. This fortress towers high above the town and served as Skanderbeg’s stronghold during his resistance against the Ottomans in the fifteenth century. The castle offers a stunning view of the surroundings and is now home to the Skanderbeg Museum, where visitors can learn more about his life and struggle against the Ottomans.

Right next to the castle is the Old Bazaar, known as one of the oldest markets in Albania. This bazaar, with its authentic Ottoman architecture, offers a wide range of handcrafted products, from hand-woven carpets to traditional silverware. Despite its touristy nature, the market retains a historical atmosphere that makes it well worth a visit.

Travel Tip: Where to Stay in Krujë

Kruje Albania

#5 Valbona and Theth in the Albanian Alps (2 to 5 Days)

The Albanian Alps are a highlight of any road trip, offering breathtaking landscapes and challenging hikes. Depending on your schedule, there are various ways to explore this stunning region.

Read more: How to Visit the Albanian Alps

In the Albanian Alps, Theth and Valbona are the main villages, located in Theth National Park and Valbona National Park. These villages are the start and end points of the famous hike through the Valbona Pass, which offers stunning views of rugged peaks and deep ravines. The hike between Theth and Valbona is one of the most beautiful day hikes in Europe. In Theth, you can also experience traditional village life, which has been well-preserved due to its isolated location.

If you’re short on time, drive to the Koman Ferry for one of the most beautiful boat trips in Albania. The ferry ride, which lasts about 2.5 hours, takes you through narrow gorges and high cliffs to Fierza. From there, take a minibus to Valbona, where you can enjoy short hikes.

If you have more time, consider the full Albanian Alps loop. Leave your car in Shkodër and take a minibus to Theth. Spend two days in Theth, exploring sights like the Grunas Waterfall and the Blue Eye of Theth. Then, start the famous hike to Valbona. This 17-kilometer trek takes 6 to 8 hours and offers spectacular views. Afterward, travel back to Shkodër via the Koman Ferry.

Valbone Valley National Park Albania

#6 Tirana (1 to 2 Days)

Your road trip ends in Tirana, the hypermodern capital of Albania. It’s a city of contrasts that attracts both admirers and critics. Many travelers skip the Albanian capital, but we highly recommend stopping here to form your own opinion.

Read more: Best Things to Do in Tirana

Tirana is unique due to its mix of modern architecture and rich history. One of the most distinctive landmarks is the Pyramid of Tirana. Originally a monument to dictator Enver Hoxha, it has now been transformed into a center for art and technology, where you can climb the exterior. This building symbolizes the city’s transformation from a strict communist state to an open, progressive society.

However, not everyone appreciates Tirana. Many visitors find it lacking in character, especially if they are used to historic European capitals. We have heard Tirana described as an ugly city and a mess. That was not our experience, but we also understand that with many new buildings under construction, the city’s appearance changes yearly.

What should you not miss in Tirana? The impressive museums Bunk’Art and House of Leaves, which delve into the communist dictatorship, the large Skanderbeg Square, the two cathedrals, the historic Et’hem Bey Mosque, and the Clock Tower. Also, check out the trendy Blloku district, once the domain of the political elite and now the vibrant social heart of Tirana. Here you’ll find trendy bars, restaurants, and shops attracting a young crowd.

Read more: Where to Stay in Tirana