Albania, Europe

Castles, Canyons and Coastlines: A 7-day Albania Itinerary by Car

July 19, 2019

If you’ve read my last post, ’10 Things to Know Before Travelling to Albania,’ you’ll know that my recent trip to the country was a pretty last minute affair.  I knew I wanted to explore more of the Balkans, but I didn’t know what form my 2019 Balkan travels would take until around two weeks before I caught my flight out to Corfu.

It turns out that it’s really expensive to fly in or out of Albania’s only international airport, if you don’t book well in advance.  It is, however, much cheaper to fly into Corfu Town and out of Ohrid, Macedonia.  So, that’s exactly what we did, in order to facilitate our seven-day road trip around Albania.

If you’re considering a similar trip then hopefully this post will help you decide exactly where you’d like to travel to, what you’d like to see there, the practicalities of getting there by car (which, by the way, is not as easy a mission as you may anticipate) and the costs involved.  So, if you’re wondering what to do in Albania, read on!

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. All this means is that if you make a purchase through one of the links I have provided, I will earn a small commission as a result but the cost to you will remain exactly the same.

Ours was actually a 10-day trip altogether as we had an overnight stop in Corfu Town beforehand and tagged a couple of days in Ohrid on at the end, but our seven-day Albania itinerary looked something like this:

  • Day 1: Arrive into Saranda port, collect hire car, travel to Gjirokastër via Syri i Kaltër (Blue Eye).  Overnight in Gjirokastër.
  • Day 2: Explore Gjirokastër, travel to Dhermi. Overnight in Dhermi.
  • Day 3: Explore the Albanian Riviera (Dhermi, Gjipe Beach, Himara Castle, Palermo Castle).  Overnight in Dhermi.
  • Day 4: Travel to Berat via Apollonia. Overnight in Berat.
  • Day 5: Explore Berat, travel to Përmet via Benjë. Explore Përmet.
  • Day 6: Travel to Korça via Voskopojë.  Explore Korça. Overnight in Korça.
  • Day 7: Travel to Tirana, drop car off at Tirana airport.  Overnight in Tirana.

Day One: Arrival into Saranda Port, travel to Gjirokastër 

60 kilometres | 1 hour 30 minutes

We booked ourselves on to the 13:30 Ionian Seaways hydrofoil from Corfu Town to Saranda Port.  The journey takes just 60 minutes, and we were due to arrive in Albania at 13:00 hours (no, we didn’t travel back in time; Albania is an hour behind Greece on the Greenwich Mean Time Zone).  There is an earlier crossing at 09:00 hours, but seeing as though we had to check-in at least 60 minutes prior to our departure, this option would’ve seen us waking up at ridiculous o’clock on the first day of our trip and missing an enjoyable Greek breakfast down by the harbour.  So we opted for the lunchtime crossing, expecting to be able to pick up the car and be on the road by 14:00 hours.

However, there was a power cut in Corfu Town, which resulted in the closure of Passport Control.  For several hours.

Once the departure time of our ferry had been and gone, crowds of people began arriving for the next departure at 14:00 hours – crowds of people that were completely unaware that there were still people waiting for the previous (delayed) departure.  There was also a complete absence of any port officials informing people of this and ensuring that those booked on the earlier departure were first in the queue. As a result, when the doors finally opened there was a mass exodus of anxious, frustrated, hot and impatient travellers pushing and shoving their way towards the gate.  It was disorganised hell, and we almost didn’t make it on to the ferry we had reserved tickets for.

However, once we were on board the actual crossing was pretty pleasant and trouble-free.  As was collecting our car at Saranda Port.  We used Rentalcars.com to research and book our hire car. The local agent was Sicily by Car.

The delay to our journey meant that the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Butrint was definitely off the agenda (it was debatable whether we’d have time for it even without the delay), so we headed straight to Syri i Kaltër (more commonly known as the Blue Eye).  Located near Muzinë in Albania’s Vlorë County, the Blue Eye is an underwater spring, where the water bubbles up from rocks over 50 metres below the surface.  Its name comes from the colour of the water at the core of the spring.

Now, I’ll be honest with you here: I was expecting something amazing.  Culture Trip tells me that the Blue Eye

“should be on every traveller’s list,”

and Into Albania describes it as:

“perhaps the most breathtakingly beautiful sight in Albania.”

Similarly the photos I found online looked equally spectacular, with people diving into and swimming in the stunning blue waters.

The Blue Eye, Albania

However, I found the reality to be a little different.  There’s a lot of construction work going on at the site, and as a result the sound of drills and electric sanders somewhat ruin what would otherwise be a lovely peaceful spot amidst the lush forest vegetation.  There’s also large signs everywhere advertising the prohibition of swimming in The Eye (because the water is apparently freezing!), so all you’ll find is a bunch of people gazing into the not-so-rich-blue-as-you-see-in-the-pictures water spring for a few seconds, snapping the obligatory photo, and then walking away.  The whole experience was rather underwhelming.

I think the best thing about it was seeing so many vibrant blue damsel flies resting on the leaves at the water’s edge.

Damsel fly, the Blue Eye, Albania

Good to know: It costs 200LEK (the standard admission fee in Albania it seems) to visit the Blue Eye.  However, we hadn’t managed to find an ATM in order to withdraw lek by the time we arrived, which we explained to the gentleman collecting the money – who subsequently waved us through regardless.

We continued our journey on to Gjirokastër, a city that’s located in a valley between the Gjerë mountains and the Drino river and is famous for its castle (one of the largest in the Balkans) and for its UNESCO listed Old Town.

The same road on which you'll find Friends Hostel, Gjirokaster

We were staying at the centrally-located Friends Hostel, and we honestly couldn’t have asked for a nicer welcome on our first day in Albania.  We were immediately treated like friends by our host and his family, and even the resident dog and cat seemed interested in getting to know us (even if it was purely for the fuss we gave them).   The terrace offers amazing views across the city and up to the castle and is a lovely sunny spot to enjoy breakfast every morning.

Although there was also a lot of construction work being undertaken in the bazaar area of Old Town Gjirokastër, and the city’s mosque was almost completely hidden behind scaffolding, I could see that – without the rubble, the plastic tubing, the construction vehicles, the holes in the ground and the STOP signs – Gjirokastër would be (and still was, to a large degree) an absolutely delightful little city.

Streets of Gjirokaster, Albania

Day Two: Explore Gjirokastër, travel to Dhermi

118 kilometres | 2 hours 40 minutes

As soon as we’d finished our veritable feast of a breakfast at Friend’s Hostel (€2 but well worth it in my opinion), we made our way up to the city’s star attraction – its castle.  Originally constructed in the 12th century and added to several times since under the rule of Albania’s many political leaders, most recently it was converted into a prison in the 1930s by King Zog (yes, that is his actual name!), with the purpose of holding members of the various resistance forces acting in the country during his reign.

It’s a short 10-minute walk up to Gjirokastër’s castle and you’ll be rewarded with some fantastic views of the city’s old Ottoman-era houses along the way.

Gjirokaster

According to the information board at the castle’s entrance, the suggested amount of time for visiting is one hour but we spent 2-3 hours here! It’s no secret that I love castles.  I think it’s the explorer in me, and castles present so many opportunities for exploration – ruins to scramble over, tunnels to wander through, rooms to investigate, windows and doors to peer through; the list goes on!

They’re also almost always situated in an elevated position (one exception is Porto Palermo Castle; more on that later), which means spectacular views and photographic opportunities aplenty.

Views from Gjirokaster Castle

Gjirokaster Castle

Clock Tower, Gjirokaster Castle

Before we hit the road and headed towards Dhermi, we wanted to to check out one of the city’s traditional dwelling houses.  Owned by some of Albania’s most famous families, these beautiful 19th century buildings are unique in that no one house is quite like another.

We climbed right to the top of Palorto to visit the imposing double-winged Zekate House, following a recommendation from our host earlier that morning.  Zekate was built in 1810 by one of Ali Pasha’s administrators, Bekir Zeko, and restored in 2005.  It’s visible from almost everywhere in the city, and is equally impressive inside.

Zekate House, Gjirokaster

We’d actually planned to stop at Borsh and Porto Palermo on route to Dhermi, but we ended spending much longer than we’d planned exploring Gjirokastër, so both places were moved into the next day’s itinerary.

As we drove through Himarë, I felt glad that we’d chosen Dhermi as our base instead of this big, busy beach resort that seemed very far removed from either of our ideas of paradise.  Conversely, our home for the next two nights in Dhermi was a little oasis of peace and tranquility just outside the village and within easy walking distance of the beach. Penelope’s Rooms is run by the sweetest, most genuine couple who want nothing more than to make their guests’ stays as enjoyable as possible. It’s also surrounded by mountains that we could gaze out at from our private terrace.

Day Three: The Albanian Riviera

52.8 kilometres | 1 hour 35 minutes round trip

Stu’s primary goal, during our time on the Albanian Riviera, was to get some snorkelling in – preferably along some of the lesser-visited areas of coastline where there would hopefully be higher numbers of fish.

We’d read that – due to it not being accessible by road – Gjipe Beach was one of the quietest and most unspoilt (and possibly most beautiful) beaches in Albania, so that’s where we headed right after we’d grabbed some breakfast from the local bakery.  And although Gjipe is discovered enough for someone to be charging car parking fees (200LEK) at the top of the footpath, otherwise we found it to be exactly as it was described.

There were two or three people there when we arrived at around 10 a.m and only a few more (primarily Albanian families) when we left.

In the spirit of adventure, I decided to try a short cut on the route back to the car, which unfortunately turned out to be a long uphill hike over the headland (something Stu was NOT happy about). However, it did afford us some pretty amazing views down on to the beach below.

Gjipe Beach, Albania

Once we’d eventually made it back to the car we headed along the coast in the opposite direction towards Palermo, stopping off at the ruins of Himara Castle on route.  The castle is part of the – now very neglected and largely abandoned – Old Town, around three kilometres uphill from new Himarë.

Although it’s rather sad to see such a charming, traditional part of town simply left to decay, the crumbling walls and peeling paintwork do hold a definite appeal, and I kind of love the way in which the vegetation is attempting to reclaim what remains of the hilltop fortifications.

The derelict chapel is also rather beautiful, and there are some incredible views out to sea in one direction and towards the mountains in the other.

Stu admiring the views from Himara Castle

Abandoned chapel, Himara Castle

Himara Castle, Albania

Next up on the agenda was Porto Palermo, where – in a picturesque bay just south of Himarë – a Venetian-style fortress (known as the ‘Castle of Ali Pasha’) sits on an island that’s connected to the shore via a narrow – and easily defendable – causeway.

You can’t miss it when you’re driving along that stretch of coastline, especially considering its striking triangular design with bastions built on each corner.

Porto Palermo Castle, Albania

A former Soviet submarine base during the communist regime in Albania, Porto Palmermo’s castle is very well preserved, both inside and out.

The interior consists of a huge vaulted chamber with archways leading off to tunnels, which in turn lead to smaller rooms.  It’s a dark and confusing place and one where a torch would have come in very handy!

The dark and confusing interior of Porto Palermo Castle

I didn’t have one and before long I’d lost Stu.  So I wandered up to explore the battlements, and when I returned the chamber was filled with the dulcet tones of Albanian folk song, courtesy of Aleks Dhrami.  Aleks subsequently introduced himself to us as a local tour guide and member of a traditional Himarën folk group.

Porto Palermo bay is also a great place for snorkeling, and there’s a lovely cafe just across the road that offers excellent wifi (a rarity for Albania!) and views out to sea.

Unfortunately we didn’t find time to make it down to Borsh and to explore its castle (are you starting to notice a theme here?) because we wanted to be back in Dhermi before sunset in order to visit St. Mary’s Church.  St. Mary’s is located in an elevated position around 500 metres above the village of Dhermi. It’s possible to drive almost all the way up there, via a narrow winding road, and then to make the final 100-metre climb by stone steps.

Although we found church itself to be a bit neglected, we enjoyed being the only people wandering its grounds, and the views alone make the trip up here completely worthwhile.

St. Mary's Church, Dhermi, Albanian Riviera

Day Four: Travel to Berat via Apollonia

152 kilometres | 3 hours 18 minutes

Seeing as though we’d missed out on visiting Butrint, we were keen to drop by the ancient Illyiran city of Apollonia on route to Berat.  Although I use the term ‘drop by’ very loosely, because it was a very long drive down a very bad road to get there.  We didn’t see a single other vehicle after turning off the SH8 at Levan, and we had the pick of car parking spaces when we arrived.

Founded by the Greeks in 588 B.C, Apollonia was once a significant trading port and cultural centre for about 50,000 people.  However, an earthquake in the third century A.D caused the city to fall into decline.  It was re-discovered in the early 19th century and first excavated by the French Archeologist Léon Rey between 1924 and 1938.  But, 80 years later, it is estimated that a large chunk of the site (around 90%) still remains uncovered.  What has been uncovered is pretty impressive though – especially Apollo’s Temple and the Odeon Theatre.

The ancient Greek city of Apollonia, Albania

Odeon Theatre, Apollonia, Albania

There’s also a 13th century church and monastery on site, as well as a museum that houses many of the archaeological treasures found during excavations in the area.  And if you need a break from your explorations, the Léon Rey cafe is located at the summit of the tenemos hill and offers some stunning views of the surrounding countryside.

St. Mary's Church and Monastery, Apollonia

Opening times: May-15 October 09:00-18:00 hours 16 October-April 09:00-16:00 hours | Admission: 400LEK

We spent around two or three hours at Apollonia before continuing on to Berat.

I contemplated booking two nights in Berat, because I had a feeling it was going to be somewhere I’d fall in love with.  However, knowing how much Stu loves the coast and that Dhermi was the only coastal stop I’d factored into the itinerary, in the spirit of compromise I booked two nights in Dhermi instead.  As I suspected though, my intuition was spot on.  Berat was probably my favourite destination we visited in Albania, and one that I would return to in an instant.

Berat, Albania

Inhabited since the Bronze Age, over 4000 years ago, Berat is one of the oldest cities in Albania.   In 2008 it joined Gjirokastër on UNESCO’s World Heritage List, as a rare example of a well-preserved Ottoman town.  Traditional Ottoman houses are seemingly stacked on top of each other like steps climbing the hillside on both sides of the Osum river.  It’s a unique and beautiful sight that’s probably one of the most photographed in all of Albania.

In between these houses, narrow cobbled streets and stone steps form a veritable labyrinth, inviting exploration.

The streets of Berat, Albania

We were staying at Berat Backpackers a lovely little hostel that’s housed in a 250-year-old building in the Gorica neighbourhood – the old Christian quarter during the Ottoman period and also the most atmospheric part of Berat.  There are some incredible views from the hostel’s garden, across to the Mangalem quarter and up to the castle.

For dinner we decided to head to Home-made Food Lili, in the heart of Manglem’s maze, primarily because it received such glowing reviews online, and because we wanted to eat somewhere authentic, where we could sample some traditional Albanian food.

The entrance is fairly inconspicuous and unassuming but the welcome we received from Lili as we approached was anything but.  He is an exuberant, generous, energetic and attentive ‘character’ who we immediately warmed to, and right from the off-set we knew that this was not simply going to be a nice meal out; it was going to be a unique dining experience.  The restaurant – which consists of just five tables – is housed in a small courtyard at the back of Lili’s family home.  It’s a humble, rustic eatery where you’re welcomed like an old friend to a family feast.

Lili will bring you a (glass; no plastic here!) bottle of water and a carafe of his father’s home-made red wine (the wine’s not compulsory, but I’d thoroughly recommend you try it) to enjoy while he reads the menu out to you, accompanied by photographs of each of the dishes on a makeshift display board.

Pictured below is what we ordered for two of us but sadly couldn’t finish, despite our best efforts.  Our favourite dish was the aubergine (in the middle).  I honestly had never eaten aubergine as good as this before I visited Lili’s and will probably never do so again.  If you only order one dish, make it the aubergine!

Home-made Food Lili, Berat

Considering that we arrived at Lili’s at around 7 p.m, it was nearly four hours, two carafes of wine and a few complimentary shots of raki later before we left.

Good to know: Lili’s opens at 6:30 p.m every evening and the kitchen ‘officially’ closes at 9:30 p.m.  It also opens lunchtimes 12-3 p.m Sat-Wed.  Due to the size of the restaurant, it gets full very quickly so be prepared to be turned away (although Lili will do his utmost to accommodate you), and have a back-up eatery in mind before you set out.  Don’t leave it until your last night in Berat to to eat here, and arrive as early as you can.

Day Five: Explore Berat, travel to Përmet via Benjë

Was meant to be 91 kilometres | 2 hours 11 minutes

In order to maximise our short time in Berat, we decided to make the hike up to its castle before the complimentary breakfast was served at our hostel, in order to avoid the heat as much as we could. But then it occurred to us on the way up that, of course, it may not be open at 7 a.m!

We thought we’d made an epic travel fail and that we’d have to turn around and come back down, feeling frustrated and more than a little bit stupid.

However, it turns out that this is a perfect time of day to visit the castle. The gates were open, but there was no-one at the kiosk to collect our entry fee (we later found out that the 100 LEK admission fee is only applicable between the hours of 9 a.m and 6 p.m) and we had the whole place to ourselves save for a resident goat herder, gardener and maintenance guy.

It was absolute bliss 🥰

Berat Castle

Berat Castle (Kalaja e Beratit in Albanian) is unusual in the fact that the crumbling castle walls encircle a tiny hilltop village, which is still very much lived in.

Inside the castle complex, there were once 20 Christian churches (to accommodate the fortress’ residents, who predominantly identified as Christian) and a mosque (for use of the Turkish garrison).  Nowadays just eight churches remain (one of which houses the Onufri National Museum) and the red mosque is only identifiable by its minaret; the rest has been reduced to its ruined foundations.  You’ll also find an old underground water cistern on site, as well as a few cafes, restaurants and guest houses dotted around.  Be warned though: if you stay here, it’s a very steep climb home at the end of the night!

Berat Castle

Fun fact: Berat Castle is depicted on the reverse of the Albanian 10 LEK coin, issued in 1996, 2000 and 2013.

We left Berat at around 12:30 p.m, believing we had just a two hour 11 minute journey ahead of us – plus stopping time in Benjë.  However, we eventually arrived in Përmet nine and a half hours later, and that was without stopping in Benjë!  I’m not going to bore you with the details now, because this post is already over 4000 words long.  But you can read about our experience of driving between Berat and Përmet in more detail here, under the heading ‘Not all ‘roads’ in Albania are actually roads’ – which may give you a clue as to the reason for our massive detour.

In short, if you want to get off the beaten track here in Albania (which is what road trips are all about, aren’t they?), I’d advise hiring a 4 x 4 vehicle rather than a small car with a very low wheelbase.  Also, don’t place your trust in a road that starts off in good condition or in one labelled as a State Highway (SH) on a map, because they can (and do) turn into dirt tracks that are impassable for the majority of vehicles.

On the plus side though, we did pass through some beautiful, lush mountain scenery and deep canyons.

Canyons and mountain scenery, Albania

Fortunately we found a roadside cafe with wifi on route, so we were able to let our host at Funky Guest House and Adventures know we were running very late.  When we arrived he was sat outside in the attached bar, flashed us a broad smile and immediately offered to move his car so that we could park ours right outside.  He also recommended a nearby pizza restaurant that was still serving at 10:30 p.m – an absolute Godsend when you’ve not eaten since breakfast.

Day Six: Travel to Korça via Voskopojë

173 kilometres | 4 hours 7 minutes (without diversion to Voskopojë: 133 kilometres | 3 hours 13 minutes)

After our misadventures the day beforehand, we were keen to get on the road early.  So we cut our explorations of Përmet very short and hopped in the car shortly after checkout at 10 a.m.

Mosque in Përmet. Did you know that the majority of Albanians (59%) are Muslims?

Fortunately though, the road between Përmet and Korça was in reasonably good condition for the entire journey, save for the usual Albanian potholes.  And the scenery on this particular leg of the journey completely blew me away.

We drove along quiet winding roads amidst lush tree-covered hills and craggy snow-capped mountain peaks, we passed through tiny farming villages and vast forests, and the sound of flowing water – whether it be from a nearby waterfall or stream or from the Vjosa river or one of its tributaries – was never far away.

Admiring the beautiful Albanian landscapes didn't cost us a single lek!

Mountain scenery between Përmet and Korça, Albania

Mountain landscapes between Përmet and Korça, Albania

We even stopped for a coffee in Erseke – officially the highest town in Albania, at 1050 metres above sea level.

However, we decided against taking the turning towards Voskopojë when we noticed what poor condition the road appeared to be in.  Instead we continued on to Korça, arriving in plenty of time to have a good look around before nightfall.  Unfortunately though, the weather had other ideas, and before we’d been able to get further than the city’s old bazaar, the heavens opened and a huge thunderstorm was upon us.

Just before the storm arrived in Korça

We ducked inside the closest cafe-bar – “Kømiteti” (which actually turned out to be one of the coolest bars in town) – and watched the storm roll through.  We were staying at Old Bazaar Rooms – a lovely little apartment right inside Korça’s bazaar, so it wasn’t far to stumble home when we re-visited the bar for drinks later that evening.

Korça’s bazaar is an Ottoman-era bazaar that was established approximately 500 years ago, rebuilt in 1879 following an extensive fire and then renovated in 2015 in order to transform it into a tourist hub for those visiting the city.   It once housed over 1000 stores and operated like a city within a city.  Although it now exists on a much smaller scale, and the majority of units are cafe and bars as opposed to shops, it’s a lovely place to hang out when the sun is shining (and it was again once the storm was over).

In the evening, in an attempt to see a little more of the city, we walked out to Vila Cofiel for dinner, via the Cathedral of the Resurrection – the largest Orthodox church in Albania.

Cathedral of the Resurrection, Korça

Vila Cofiel had been recommended to us for its charming and traditional ambiance, amazing food, and live music on Friday and Saturday nights.

As luck would have it we were in Korça on a Friday evening, which swayed our decision to visit.  As it turned out, we were more preoccupied with the five-week old resident kitten in the end than we were with the music, but the food was lovely and it’s the first place in Albania where I’d been able to order myself a dark beer to enjoy with my food.  Brewed in Korça, no less.

Vila Cofiel, Korça

Although Korça is not big on tourist attractions, it’s worth checking out one of the oldest mosques in Albania (Mirahori Mosque, built 1494) and the National Museum of Medieval Art while you’re here.

Day Seven: Travel to Tirana

163 kilometres | 2 hours 49 minutes

After grabbing a very nice breakfast at one of the cafes on the main square in the centre of Korça’s bazaar, we hit the road again.  Our drive today would take us along the shores of Lake Ohrid on the Albanian side and through the city of Elbasan.  Our final destination was Tirana, where we would drop off our car and end our seven-day road trip around Albania.

Lake Ohrid, Albania

This was actually the one day when our route stuck to major highways and good, well-surfaced roads.  We even managed to find a small garage just outside Elbasan, where the kind mechanics helped Stu to re-attach the part of our car that had fallen off when it had a fight with a road on day five.  And, even though they’d potentially saved us our €500 deposit on the hire car, they refused to take any money from us for their efforts.

Once we’d passed Elbasan, we had the option of joining the new motorway (the A3) that would take us pretty much all the way to Tirana.  However, our Sat Nav didn’t know this and sent us up the old road – the SH3.  And I’m so glad it did.  The old road took us high above the new A3 and offered a much quieter and more pleasant driving experience, as well as some fantastic views.

Taking the old road to Tirana, Albania

We dropped the car off at Tirana airport with zero issues whatsoever, apart from the fact that we had to wait over an hour for a bus into the centre of Tirana, where we’d booked an overnight stay before heading over the border to Ohrid in Macedonia.

Considering how well located our Central Tirana Apartment was in Albania’s capital city, we couldn’t believe that it was also one of the cheapest places we secured on our trip. On top of that, our host was incredibly helpful and made sure that we knew exactly where to find the property and that there would be someone there to meet us when we arrived.

Our explorations of Tirana were brief, but I actually came away wishing I’d been able to stay longer and see more.

Independence Monument, Tirana

The problem is that a lot of Tirana’s attractions are quite spread out so you’ll need at least a full day just to tick a few off your list.  Here are some of the places I wanted to visit; a couple I managed, but most I didn’t.

  • Skanderbeg Square. Tirana’s central plaza, home to Et’hem Bey Mosque and National Historical Museum
  • Independence Monument. Created by artists Visar Obrija and Kai Kiklas in Austria, and weighing a whopping 15 tonnes, the monument was inaugurated in 2012 and is a symbol of the Albanian nation’s strength and resistance in times of difficulty and war.
  • Bunk Art 1 and 2. Learn about Albania’s history inside an abandoned bunker (or, in this case, two abandoned bunkers!)
  • Pyramid of Tirana.  The building’s been abandoned (was originally built to house a museum dedicated to Enver Hohxa before the fall of Communism), but the unusual structure still remains.
  • Sky Tower. At the top of the tower is a revolving restaurant offering 360-degree views of Tirana.
  • Electric box street art. Famous people and cartoon characters painted on electrical boxes.  Colourful and fun!
  • Cable car up Mount Dajti. The ride takes around 15 minutes and offers incredible views of the city.  There’s some great hikes up there too.

Tirana, Albania


Cost breakdown for 7 days in Albania

Flights to/from Albania

As explained earlier in this post, we flew into Corfu and back home from Ohrid Macedonia.  Our flights costs are below.  I research and book all my flights via Skyscanner.

  • Birmingham, UK to Corfu Town, Greece with Ryanair £89.94 / €100.10
  • Ohrid, Macedonia to London Luton with Wizz Air £47 / €52

Total for return flights for two people = £136.94 / €152.41

Accommodation in Albania

We stayed in a mixture of hostels, rooms (in someone’s home), guesthouses and apartments and our average nightly accommodation cost was just £22.  Considering that parking was available free of charge at every single one of these places, 50% included breakfast and the majority came with their own terrace or balcony, this represented incredible value for money.  And everywhere we stayed far exceeded our expectations in terms of quality and of the welcome and hospitality we received from our hosts.  Booking.com is my go-to site for booking accommodation, because they offer a wide variety of accommodation options, cheap prices and free cancellation.

  • 1 night in Gjirokaster £22 / €24.48
  • 2 nights in Dhermi £41 / €45.63
  • 1 night in Berat £22 / €24.48
  • 1 night in Përmet £22 / €24.48
  • 1 night in Korça £33 / €36.90
  • 1 night in Tirana £17  / €19.99

Total for 7 nights’ accommodation for two people = £157 / €174.74

Ground transportation and car hire costs

The main thing I haven’t included here is fuel costs, because we spent way more on fuel on day 5 than we should have done, had we’d been able to travel all the way along the route we’d originally planned to.  But to give you a rough idea of fuel costs, the price per litre ranged from 165-185 LEK (so it’s important to shop around; don’t wait until you’re so low on fuel that you have to fill up at the first gas station you come to).  We put the equivalent of two full tanks of petrol in, but without the massive detour, we would’ve needed much less.

I also haven’t included the additional driver cost, which we had to pay simply because Stu doesn’t own a credit card.  If you want to share the driving though, you’ll need to part with another £33 / €36.50.

  • Ferry from Corfu Town to Saranda Port, Albania £38.78 / €43.16
  • Car hire for 7 days with Rentalcars.com £168.51 / €186.56
  • Full insurance £59.92 / €66.33
  • Charge for dropping the car off at a different location to the pick-up point £70 / €77.49
  • Bus from Tirana to Ohrid £27.19 / €30.10

Total for 7 nights’ ground transportation costs including car hire = £364.40 / €403.16

Total cost of 7 days in Albania = £658.34 / Total cost per person = £329.17


If you like this article, please share it on social media using the share buttons at the top of the post.  And if you’d like to save it for reading later, why not pin to one of your Pinterest boards? Alternatively you can follow along on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+ or you can look me up on Instagram or Pinterest too!

A 7-day Itinerary for Albania _ Gallop Around The Globe

You Might Also Like

1 Comment

  • Reply Maria August 13, 2019 at 6:09 AM

    Wow! Albania looks so incredible all thanks to your Fantastic Photography Skills, would definitely love to explore Albania someday
    Maria recently posted…Languages In IndiaMy Profile

  • Leave a Reply

    CommentLuv badge

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.