Gjirokaster – A detour worth making!

Gjirokaster albania day trip guide things to do riviera sarande

If your ideal holiday destination conjures up images of quaint cobblestoned streets, unique cultural experiences, lovely locals and tasty authentic cuisine, look no further than the UNESCO World Heritage site of Gjirokaster. Complete with incredibly well preserved Ottoman houses and a medieval fortress we would encourage anyone visiting Albania to add this gorgeous little inland town to their itinerary.

How to get to Gjirokaster:

Option 1: By car from Sarande. We opted to hire a car during our stay in Albania and drive to Gjirokaster from Sarande. While this allows you to leave whenever suits you, make stops on the way and enjoy the comfort on your own car, it also comes as a cost. The exact price will vary depending on how long you want to hire the car for as well as if you go manual vs automatic.

Option 2: By private transfer. While we chose not to go by private transfer this would definitely be a good option if you’re wanting to avoid waiting in the heat at the bus stop and don’t feel comfortable driving in a foreign country.

Option 3: By bus. Definitely the cheapest option if you’re travelling on a budget but also the least comfortable. There are little public shuttle busses which run from Sarande to Gjirokaster. There is minimal information online, so it’s best asking your accommodation or the information centre at the port in Sarande. The buses can get crowded especially later in the day and there’s no guarantee how long it will actually take when you add in multiple stops along the way.

How cheap is Gjirokaster:

After enjoying all that western Europe has to offer (and the hefty price tag that comes along with it) we were keen to save some coin where we could. Cue small Albanian town!

Gjirokaster is a budget traveller’s dream. An iced coffee or cappuccino cost us 1-2 euros each and a glass of wine around the 2 euros.

For a snack or light meal you’re looking at 3-5 euros while a main should set you back 7-10 euros depending on the dish.

We spent 40 euros on accommodation right in the centre of the town which got us a double room and private bathroom. You can read more about accommodation options in Gjirokaster below.

Food to try in Gjirokaster:

Try the Lakror at Babameta 2

After lugging our bags up the cobblestoned streets we were in need of a quick feed and stopped at Babamenta 2 just off the main street. We ordered the Lakor without knowing what it was and boy were we glad we did. Lakror is a kind of traditional Albanian pie with meat or vegetable filling. Ours was made with chicken and was as good as any country chicken pie we would get on a weekend getaway back home.

Try the rice balls at Restaurant Mapo or Taverna Kuka

Another regional dish we kept seeing pop up on menus in Gjirokaster was Qifqi or ‘rice balls’. There are fried with a hint of mint and black pepper. Great for an afternoon snack with a glass of wine after all that exploring!

Try the stuffed eggplant at Edua

For dinner we were struck by the insanely cute setting of Edua with tables right on the street in the centre of the action. While all of the dishes we ordered here were good, our favourite was by far the stuffed eggplants (served with tomato, onion and garlic). With its roots in Ottoman cuisine this is a pretty tasty way to experience all that Albania has to offer!

Grab a drink at one of the many bars like Hangover or Old Town 13

When we arrived in Gjirokaster the streets were pretty quiet and most of the restaurants/bars were largely empty. Don’t be fooled though, come nightfall the town comes to life as tourists and locals alike head out to enjoy the cooler temperatures. There are heaps of bars lining the streets with cheap drinks and great vibes. Our two favourites were Hangover and Old Town 13, both with postcard views of the cobblestoned streets and old Ottoman houses.

Have breakfast or coffee at Kube

Kube was a quaint little bookshop/cafe/event space/shared working space all in one. Just a few steps from the centre of the town it is easily accessibly by foot but also slightly away from the crowds. We enjoyed a hearty omelette and quick coffee here in the morning before heading on our way.

A list of a few good restaurants, cafe’s and bars to check out

Babameta 2



Hangover Bar

Old Town 13 Bar

Taverna Kuka

Restaurant Check In

Restaurant Mapo

*read above for our recommended dishes to try at some of these venues!

Some ideas of things to do in Gjirokaster

Wander the delightful streets of the Gjirokaster Old Town

Try the delicious and budget friendly Albanian food (see our recommendations above)

Visit the Gjirokaster Castle or the Cold War Bunker located in the town

Check out the picturesque Ali Pasha Bridge just out of the town

Visit some of the quaint Ottoman Houses in Gjirokaster

Should you stay in Gjirokaster or just day trip?

So, you’ve decided to forge ahead and plan a visit to Gjirokaster (good call, you won’t regret it!). But how long should you stay for? While the town of Gjirokaster itself is small enough to clock in a few hours, we would definitely recommend spending at least 1 night here to really make the most of it. As mentioned above, the town itself doesn’t properly come to life until after 8pm once most of the day trippers have cleared out. Of course if you’re not really after the party vibe, that’s ok too. The town is pleasantly cool and much calmer to wander first thing in the morning before the next lot of tourist buses roll in for the day. An added bonus is both the food and accommodation here were the cheapest we have come across anywhere on our travels to date, meaning a short stay will allow you to save some much needed cash for that 5 star resort you’ve been thinking of booking towards the end of your trip (go on, we know you want to!).

We stayed in a cute little guesthouse right in the heart of the old town called Hotel 4 Rooms. The price was really budget friendly (around $60 AUD per night), the host was so friendly, the location was perfect, and rooms were great. However, as it was in the heart of town, Gjirokaster’s nightlife continues until around 12am, which kept us awake (as small price to pay for the location and cheap cost).

These were a few other places we liked the look of but didn’t stay that you may want to check out:

If you are looking to head to Gjirokaster, take a look at some accommodation below:


So is Gjirokaster worth visiting? YES! Add it to your list!

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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!

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