The Albanian Riviera might be Europe’s best kept secret

Gjipe Beach Albanian Riviera Europe

Have you considered visiting the Balkan country of Albania? Until this year, it wasn’t even on our radar. However, due to Schengen zone rules for Australians, we needed to look off the ‘tourist path’ and started researching Albania. A few Google searches and travel blogs later and Albania was firmly on our radar. Our research found stunning beaches, cute inland towns, and budget friendly prices. This sounded right up our alley! A few friends and fellow travellers visited Albania in the months leading up to our visit and sung it’s praises, only raising our anticipation.

Mentioning Albania to Australian’s back home many would exclaim “where?” or “I don’t know anyone who’s been there”. We have already headed to a few ‘less touristy’ destinations, including Puglia, Kotor, Lake Bled and Mostar (and plan some more!), however Albania was probably the first country we visited without knowing exactly what to expect (online research only gets you so far).

We visited Albania at the start of August 2022 and were treated to excellent weather (30degrees and above every day) and not many crowds. The ‘tourists’ were mostly Albanians and some Europeans, meaning the region had more of an authentic feel compared to more popular popular destinations that can seem a little overrun. We spent a wonderful week along the coast, visiting Ksamil, Gjiromaster, Himare and multiple beaches. Read on for a complete guide of the Albanian Riviera, including our highlights, challenges, how to get there and more!

The things we LOVED about Albania:


The beaches in Albania are some of the best in the world. We have visited beaches in some of the best destinations around the world, including Italy, Croatia, Greece, Portugal, Mexico, Australia, Asia and more.. and some of these Albanian beaches were just as good.. maybe better! The water clarity was exceptional, and the temperature was delightful! Unlike many of the world famous European coastlines and beaches, crowds weren’t excessive (and we visited in August!). We have heard stories of travellers visiting in shoulder seasons and having these beaches virtually to themselves.


Those following along with our blog will know we love budget friendly destinations! Albania was very cheap compared to some of its more popular neighbours. On accommodation we spent between 50-75% less for similar rooms, whilst food/drinks were around 30-50% less than other destinations like Greece, Italy and Croatia. We regularly had days where we ate out for 2-3 meals, had coffee and wines, and spent less than $50 AUD. Albania is a budget lovers dream!


The towns, beaches and roads around the Albanian Riviera were surprisingly calm considering we visited in August. We were able to get a place at every bar or restaurant we visited. The beaches and beach clubs always had space for us. We never missed a bus or ferry due to crowds. This was the polar opposite to the madness of the Greek Island ferries, the packed Italian Beach Clubs, or the crazy Dubrovnik or Rome streets. We also loved the fact we were visiting places many people haven’t ventured to yet as they felt a little more ‘untouched’ by the western world.


The Albanian locals were very friendly, and helpful! Differing from some of the more touristic destinations where locals appeared to have ‘tired’ of the crowds. Our accommodation hosts were exceptionally pleasant (despite the language barrier), restaurant servers were personable, and we regularly had locals assist us during our stay.


The Albanian Riviera has a multitude of options for day trips along the coast and inland. The main towns like Himare, Sarande, Ksamil offer excellent locations for day trips to inland towns like Gjirokaster (our favourite, see our trip here!), Butrint, Berat and more. These coastal towns also offer great proximity to some of the best beaches just a short drive away, including beaches like Gjipe Beach, Borsh, Jale Beach, Porto Palermo and more!

The things that challenged us in Albania:


We use the word chaos to describe some of the interactions we had with ferry transport and car hire staff. This also refers to some of the roads we encountered when driving where cars would be going on all sides of the roads, or a heard of goats would cross the road for 10 minutes while you waited. Additionally, the streets around some of the towns had more of a ‘Mexico or Asia feel’ with abandoned buildings and some rubbish. However, we embraced this chaos as part of the experience in visiting a country slightly off the tourist path.


Getting to Albania (see below) isn’t as easy as it should be, however there are regular ferries from Corfu. Transport along the Riviera also has it’s challenges. Sarande is the main port city, with local busses running down to the nearby Ksamil (30minute trip), however getting inland to Gjirokaster, or up the Riviera to Himare, required a small shuttle bus, with minimal information available online. We also noticed these busses seemed to be a little all over the place with their time schedules. Taxi’s were easy to hire, however often tried to ‘scam’ tourists with exorbitant prices. This is apparently very common in Albania, so if you are catching a taxi, make sure you research the likely cost of a trip and barter hard. The best option for transport in Albania by hiring your own car, which we did during most of our stay. A car hire is slightly more affordable than in other tourist destinations, however the car hire dealers lack the polish and organization of more popular places. The roads were overall very easy to drive, but as mentioned above local driving can be chaotic, so be prepared and drive safely.


Some of the food options we had in Albania were delicious! However, finding healthy alternatives outside of omelettes, grilled fish and salads was somewhat of a challenge. Additionally, most meals involved chips or bread. While this may not be a downside for most, it is a consideration for the health conscious traveller.


The Albanian Riviera is situated adjacent to Greece and opposite Italy. The proximity to some of Europe’s most popular destination would make you think it would be easy to access, however there is no airport along the coast. Albania’s main airport is in Tirana, around 5 hours north of the coast. The best option is via a ferry from Corfu (see below).

How to get to the Albanian Riviera:

Option 1: Fly into Corfu and catch a Ferry to Sarande. From Sarande you can either drive or catch transport to other destinations – This is our recommended option, despite having to complete a few steps. Corfu airport has multiple flights from numerous destinations, and the ferries to Albania are frequent. However, when catching the ferry to Sarande, make sure you get either the Ionian Ferries (1hour 15 minutes) or the Finska Lines (30minute express) and NOT the Joylines (takes around 2 hours). Additionally, prepare have no one tell you what is happening, and to spent time waiting in line for passport control.

Option 2: Fly into Tirana Airport and catch a Bus to Sarande/Other Riviera Destinations:

This is the other main option to reach the Riviera. Bus services run from Tirana down to the coastline, however these will take around 5 hours (or more). We didn’t take this route so can’t comment on how smoothly it runs or how costly it is.

Other Options: Thessaloniki Airport isn’t far away from Albania as another option, whilst driving with your own car or taking a private transfer would also be viable.

Where to visit along the Albanian Riviera:

The entire Albanian Riviera boasts a stunning coastline with numerous world-class beaches and cute towns. From where we visited, and our discussions with other who have travelled here, we recommend the following two towns as a MUST VISIT. We then include a list of other ‘good options’ for you to consider.

MUST VISIT along the Albanian Riviera:

1. Himare: This costal town ranks as one of our favourite beachside destinations on our trip. The calm and crystal clear water of the main beach was a highlight. The authentic local food, friendly locals and day-trip options really elevate Himare. Particularly, nearby beaches of Porto Palermo and Gjipe are worth visiting. Stay at least a few days here! See more highlights and recommendations from our trip to Himare here!

2. Gjirokaster: The small inland town of Gjirokaster was one of the best small towns we have visited in Albania, and all of Europe! Nestled on a hill with views of mountains, Gjirokaster is made up of cobbled old streets and Ottoman houses, whilst its castle sits impressively overlooking the town on the hill. The food was excellent and very cheap! The town comes to life at night, so we recommend you stay at least 1 night! This town is located around 1.5 hours inland from Sarande. See more highlights and recommendations from our trip to Gjirokaster here!

Other GOOD OPTIONS to look at when visiting the Albanian Riviera:

  • Ksamil: This beachside town offers azure waters, beach clubs and bars aplenty, and lots of seafood. Located an easy 30minutes from the port city of Sarande, Ksamil is a great addition to your visit to the Albanian Riviera.
  • Butrint National Park: An easy day trip from Sarande or Ksamil, this national park offers old ruins and less popular beaches. Best explored with a car, however taxi or busses can be used here. We would recommend this if you are staying longer than a few days in Ksamil or Sarande.
  • Borsh Beach: This strip of coastline offers one of the wider beaches of the Riviera. Locals recommend this place for families, however we didn’t visit. The pictures look beautiful, and it may be worth investigating more during your trip along the coast.
  • Berat: This old inland town sits a little further north than Gjirokaster, meaning it’s not quite as easily accessible if you visit from Sarande. If you are planning a road trip through this region of Albania, it’s definitely worth considering.
  • The Beaches: Whether for a day trip, or to stay nearby in the little beachside towns, visiting the incredible beaches along the riviera should be on your list! Consider beaches like Porto Palermo, Gjipe, Jale Beach, Borsh and more!
  • Dhermi/Vlore: The other bigger towns along the riviera offer alternative options to Himare if looking to base yourself along the coast. We didn’t visit them, however based on the location and our experience at Himare, we would advise you to choose Himare if unsure between them.

How long should you stay on the Albanian Riviera:

This really depends on the length of your trip, and what kind of adventure you are looking for. However, if you want to visit both Himare and Gjirokaster, we would advise at least 4-5 days. Spending 1-2 days in Gjirokaster and 3-5 days in Himare is a perfect amount. If you wanted to relax a little more, spending a week in Himare wouldn’t be unrealistic if you have access to a car. Alternatively, a 6-9 day trip like we did visiting Himare, Gjirokaster, Ksamil and some of the beaches is the perfect length.

Can you fly your Drone along the Albanian Riviera:

In short, YES! The coastline along the Albanian Riviera is stunning, and provides a wonderful place to shoot some great drone photos and videos. Standard drone rules apply (make sure you search up and double check these) around weight of drones, shooting over people, airports etc. We used a DJI Mini 2 to take some great shots and video content for our social media channels.

Did we miss anything? Please let us know in the comments below if there’s any great ‘travel hacks’ or places we missed from Albania!

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Want to see more of Albania? Take a look at our memories and travels in Albania!

Visiting the nearby Greece? Check out some of our thoughts on the Greek Islands we visited:

Check out further highlights from our time in the Europe! Take a look!

Comments (12):

  1. Diane

    August 8, 2022 at 4:49 am

    Excellent advice!
    Very thorough and informative!!

  2. Sk price

    August 22, 2022 at 5:20 pm

    Going in September.Very Very good info. Thxs

    • Ky

      August 23, 2022 at 1:53 am

      No worries! Let us know if you have any questions in the lead up! Check out our instagram @2cupsoftravel for some more tips as well!

  3. G. P.

    August 30, 2022 at 8:17 pm

    Hi, I’m happy to see you explored this beautiful country. I’d add that Tirana isn’t actually “5 hours north of the coast”. You can drive west about half hour or less & you’ll reach the historic, port city of Durrës. Not as fantastic as the southern riviera but one can take the coast down (or up) the country from there as well. Albania has the beaches in the world in my opinion.

    • Ky

      August 31, 2022 at 4:46 am

      We LOVED Albania, and agree that the beaches are some of the best in the world! We heard the journey would take around 5 hour via public transport, but good to know it’s maybe not that far. How long would it take?

      We did heard about Durres, so it’s good to hear that it may be worth a visit!

  4. organisms

    October 13, 2022 at 4:07 am

    Vеry գuickly thiѕ web site will be famous among all blog visitors, due to
    it’s pⅼeasant articles

    • Ky

      October 13, 2022 at 5:46 pm

      Thank you!

  5. Anne

    May 13, 2023 at 7:57 pm

    Very informative thank you! Just wondering what company you rented a car through?

    • Ky

      May 14, 2023 at 6:58 pm

      Hi Anne, I believe it was Alamo. There were a number of car hire companies, and despite the process being very chaotic, it appeared to be legit.

      • Anne

        July 23, 2023 at 9:26 am

        Thank you! Did you book online in advance? Or did you just rock up in person and work it out at the time?

        • Ky

          July 24, 2023 at 8:01 am

          We preferred to book in advance, but found we could often book a few days in advance. I know Albania is more popular this year so might be a little busier.


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