Albania

We’ve compiled the best of the best in Albania - browse our top choices for the top things to see or do during your stay.

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  • 1. Ksamil Island Beaches

    An easy drive or bus ride, the village of Ksamil is only 17 km (9 miles) from Saranda. There is also an hourly bus to...

    An easy drive or bus ride, the village of Ksamil is only 17 km (9 miles) from Saranda. There is also an hourly bus to Ksamil from Butrint, a major tourist site. The three small islands in the village of Ksamil are an easy swim away and well worth the minor effort (you can also take a boat). Grab a beach chair and bask in the Mediterranean sun on white-sand beaches or splash in the warm, Caribbean-blue waters. There are plenty of shallows for non-swimmers and pretty sheltered inlets where you won't be bothered by waves or wind. The beaches tend to be clean and well-kept, but can get crowded in the height of the tourist season in June and July. Abundant beachside bars and snack shops sell provisions, as well as sunscreen and other beach sundries. Amenities: food and drink. Best for: swimming, partiers, sunset, walking.

    Ksamil, Vlorë, Albania
  • 2. Ancient Synagogue

    The remains of an ancient synagogue dating back to the 5th century AD—the first to be found in Albania—were excavated in 2003 and have since...

    The remains of an ancient synagogue dating back to the 5th century AD—the first to be found in Albania—were excavated in 2003 and have since been widely expanded. Although it was discovered in the 1970s, prior to the fall of the communist government, the prohibition of religion under the existing regime prevented exploration of what was deemed to be a religious site. The subject matter of the exceptional mosaics found at the site, including a menorah and a ram's horn, suggested a Jewish past. The original excavation was a controversial one, precipitating many protests as homes and other buildings had to be demolished to uncover the ruins.

    Rriga Skënderbeu, Saranda, Vlorë, Albania
  • 3. Archeological Museum

    It has erratic opening times and is not well-organized, but if you happen to be passing when the doors are open, the Archaeological Museum is...

    It has erratic opening times and is not well-organized, but if you happen to be passing when the doors are open, the Archaeological Museum is worth a brief visit to view some interesting mosaics. There are also preserved ruins of the early Christian monastery of the Santi Quaranta (40 Saints), from which the modern name of Sarandë is derived.

    Rruga Flamurit, Saranda, Vlorë, Albania

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Daily 9–2 and 4–9 (subject to change)
  • 4. Butrint National Park

    This major archaeological site is a 45-minute drive south of Sarandë. The park, which encompasses 86 square km (33 square miles), is a UNESCO World...

    This major archaeological site is a 45-minute drive south of Sarandë. The park, which encompasses 86 square km (33 square miles), is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a microcosm of Mediterranean history, representing all its phases of development and offering evidence of the rise and fall of the great empires that dominated the region. Excavations and monuments, including wonderfully preserved mosaics, span more than 2,000 years, from the Hellenistic period to the Ottoman defenses of the early 19th century. By then, Butrint had become a small fishing village clustered around a castle and governed by the ruthless Ali Pasha. In 1928, archaeologists started to uncover most of what you will see on your visit, including the magnificent amphitheater. Since 2003, Butrint has become a Ramsar Wetland Site of National Importance, and you can see the park on a guided walk or by hiking on your own. A small visitor center sells guidebooks in English and free maps of the park.

    SH 81, Butrint, Vlorë, Albania

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: 700 Leke, Daily 8 am–dusk; museum daily 8–4
  • 5. Gjirokastra World Heritage Site

    Town/Village

    North of Sarandë, at 940 feet above sea level, this ancient city offers dramatic views as well as the opportunity to visit the fascinating Islamic...

    North of Sarandë, at 940 feet above sea level, this ancient city offers dramatic views as well as the opportunity to visit the fascinating Islamic Monastic Sufi Sect of Bektashi. Gjirokastra, where traces of human habitation dating back to the 1st century BC have been discovered, is located on the slopes of the Mali i Gjerë overlooking the Drinos River. The city was probably founded some time in the 12th century AD around a fortress on the hillside. Now a picturesque town with traditional houses, it has a medieval citadel that was converted into a prison under the Nazis and currently houses a weapons museum. The town was also home of the dictator Hoxha, who ruled Albania with a Stalinist-type regime for decades.

    Gjirokastra, Gjirokastër, Albania
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  • 6. Lekuresi Castle

    On a steep and winding road some 1,800 feet above the city, the castle offers amazing views in all directions over the vast fields of...

    On a steep and winding road some 1,800 feet above the city, the castle offers amazing views in all directions over the vast fields of Vourgu, the ancient city of Foenike, Butrint Lake, a rare view of the islands of Ksamil, and even the Greek island of Corfu. Imposing Lekuresi, an often-pillaged castle whose name means "illuminated area," was built in the 16th century supposedly by Sultan Sulëyman, who attacked Corfu and needed to control the harbor of Sarandë and the road that connected it with Butrint. The castle, which was built on the ruins of Lëkurës village, is square with two round towers on its northwestern and southeastern corners. You can enjoy a meal in the local restaurant, which is built in the style of the castle.

    Saranda, Vlorë, Albania
  • 7. Promenade Rruga Jonianet

    This long, picturesque promenade stretches along most of the curve of the port and juts out on a promontory over the water, affording strollers glorious...

    This long, picturesque promenade stretches along most of the curve of the port and juts out on a promontory over the water, affording strollers glorious views of the Ionian Sea. Sit and while away an hour or two or catch the sunset at one of the many bars and cafés—open all day—that line the promenade. You'll also find small shops selling souvenirs, local honey, handmade lace, and other handicrafts. Most of the major hotels and restaurants are on or near this promenade.

    Rruga Jolianet, Saranda, Vlorë, Albania
  • 8. Syri i Kalter

    This national park 18 km (11 miles) northeast of Sarandë has 18 natural springs, two of which are quite large. The pools of water are...

    This national park 18 km (11 miles) northeast of Sarandë has 18 natural springs, two of which are quite large. The pools of water are a remarkably deep blue color from a distance (hence the park's name, which translates as "The Blue Eye"), yet the pools are crystal clear up close. This park was previously the private retreat of the top communist leaders of Albania and was therefore maintained in almost pristine condition. Nowadays, you can stroll around the park or stop for refreshments in one of the cafés. On the drive to the park from Sarandë, you will see small military bunkers or pillboxes everywhere, remnants of the communist era; there are 20,000 bunkers in a country of only 28,000 square km (10,800 square miles).

    Saranda, Vlorë, Albania

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