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Updated: 4th April 2017
If there was one destination that surprised me the most last year, it was Albania. From the stunning boat cruises through Lake Komani right down to the crystal clear blue waters of the south, it certainly has a lot more to offer than most would think.
I’ve pulled together 25 of my favourite photos of this incredible country which, if Albania isn’t on your list, are sure to change your mind. From bartering with cigarettes for directions to hidden waterfalls, sleeping in castles and getting a car stuck 2 minutes after picking up hitchhikers, the stories from this east-meets-west land are just as good as the images.
Welcome to Northern Albania
These are the views you will be spoilt with just from the roads in the rugged north of Albania. On route from Shkodër, and the beautiful Lake Skadar after a Montenegro road trip, you don’t even need to leave the driving seat for these vistas. Though, when some goats on the road stop you driving, it’s a pretty awesome excuse to jump out.
Taking a boat tour through Lake Komani provides a million excuse to capture some Albania photos, though don’t do a Dan and crash/kill your drone into a mountain here. These eco-tours offer you the chance to sleep in a house on the lake, there is no electricity but the home made honey and Rakia, a kick-ass local liquor, will make sleeping in the dark, with just lapping water and clear star filled skies the best reason to have a digital detox.
The rolling green hills of Albania
I can’t even remember where I took this shot, one of many moments I screamed at Lili in the driver seat to slam on the breaks. The landscapes in Albania are so varied and the countryside of this country is often overlooked for the beaches but drive in land and you’ll find a more local way of life, with all it’s unique and awesome Balkan oddities.
The city of Berat
The UNESCO city of Berat, dubbed as the city of a thousand windows was perhaps my favourite place in the whole country. Here you can sleep inside a castle, explore Ottoman and Byzantine ruins and have an ‘I don’t have a clue what you are saying’ debate with a policeman over traffic regulations.
Be sure to check into Guesthouse Kris in the castle itself, hunt down the lady selling some damn tasty plums and try all the local delicacies, whatever the hell they were I’m still not sure, whilst taking in the impressive nighttime views of the old city.
The Albanian Riviera
“Where in Asia is that?” is by far the most common question I get from people when they see my Albania photos of the riviera. These stunning beaches with their crystal blue waters are what draws some serious crowds during the summer months, but it’s still possible to hunt out your own hidden gem in the Ksamil region.
The Albania coastline isn’t just beaches
Whilst the Albanian Riviera is a serious sun-tanning hotspot and a contender for the best beach holiday destination in Europe, the coastline is littered with historic architecture. This unique country, with it’s diverse and welcoming culture has been in many hands over the years so there is a mishmash of styles here to keep any history buff entertained.
Albania photos from above
If I had the balls, I would have been first in line for this to take some aerial shots of the stunning coastline as my drone died a sad death earlier in the trip. If you aren’t the kind of person who can take a good book and kill days on the beach, from skydiving to kayaking, you have plenty of choice in Albania.
But don’t just do the coast
If you do, you’ll miss out on mini adventures to find the waterfalls of Bogove or take in Gjirokastra, a true rival to Berat for the cutest city in Albania. UNESCO listed, it’s sitting damn pretty in the Drina valley and the scenic drive just to get here is worth doing the side trip for.
The Ottoman style houses here, stacked up against the side of the mountain with their white washed walls and slate roofs make for a killer Albania photo moment on Instagram but stick around for a while and wander the small streets hunting out the best Cevapi (small sausage dish) in town.
Gijirokastra castle, with is stunning views over the valley, cannons in cobbled hallways and plane wrecks is a great vantage point and was surprisingly free of tourists, even in August. Get a beer in a bar, watch the sunset and feel like you are a million miles away from the modern world whilst snapping another for the Albania photos album you’re mates will all be jealous of!
The Albanian blue Eye
Seriously beautiful, but a bitch to photograph. I sent Jones into the freezing water with my GoPro/Dome camera and he got some incredible videos of this bubbling unique natural spot then managed to corrupt the files (I think I’ve forgiven him now).
This water spring in the Vlore region brings in a lot of tourists who want the famous Albania photo opportunity, or if you are Lili, to fall down a mud hill and nearly drown in with your camera… But trips and springs aside, the park which the blue eye sits in has some of the clearest waters and relaxing vibes of anywhere I have been in Europe.
Ksamil and the Islands
A quick boat ride from the mainland and you will find yourself on some beautiful but crowded islands. With waters like that, you can see why both locals and tourists alike can kill their sunny days in these waters. Legit, that water is paradise.
The insane mountain roads running along the coastline are well worthy of a mention too. If you have a fear of heights and have not much faith left in Albanian roads or driving skills, then yeah – you’ll likely be as shit scared as I was but well worth it for those Albania photo opportunities!
And then grab another beach beer…
Whilst there are plenty more hidden gems in Albania, I’m saving a few for my road trip guide. Plus, who doesn’t want more beach shots. If you really want to avoid the crowds then take dirt tracks to small beaches or pay to hit up one of the small enclaves with a beach bar on, I kid you not that water actually looks this blue in most Albania photos!
Albania is seriously underrated and I’m amazed so few of my friends have been there but the news is spreading. I even got to share some Albania photos with the Skyscanner Instagram account, so I’m hoping this interesting, electric and friendly country starts getting the tourism attention it deserves.
If you want epic landscapes, great value, stunning beaches, history, awesome banter with the locals and to spend most of your trip eating small sausages, get Albania on your agenda!
Getting To Albania
You have a few options when it comes to arriving into Albania, I came in from Montenegro and then left from the south which is a great way to do the top to bottom and get all those Albania photo opportunities!
Fly into Tirana – The capital of Albania is well connected, but this will mean doing some backtracking if you want to see the whole country.
Fly into Corfu – Yep, Greece. Then take a ferry over to Ksamil and start your adventure in the south.
Fly into Podgorica – Kick off your trip in Montenegro, see some of the amazing sights there and then hop the border, picking up a car in Shkoder.
Getting Around Albania
Get a car. Whilst there are day trips, and buses are an option, there have been some seriously worrying and fatal reports of buses in Albania. Whilst the situation is improving, I stick by my original statement. Road-tripping the Balkans was amazing, and to see so many places that are lesser discovered, I highly recommend it. There was also a surprising amount of Hitchhikers here, so *blah blah warning on the dangers of it* that could be an option. Still, there are plenty of other options for getting around Albania if you’d prefer to use public transport.
Where To Stay in Albania
I stayed in plenty of small local guesthouses and Air BnB which seems a good call I’d highly recommend having a night in Guesthouse Kris in Berat so you can sleep in the castle and also stay in the lodge on Lake Komani (even if it’s just for the homemade goodies!).