Albania: the 10 most beautiful sites to visit in the Pearl of the Balkans

Albania: the 10 most beautiful sites to visit in the Pearl of the Balkans Traditional houses in the old town of Berat, Albania

Picturesque hilltop villages, exceptional ancient sites, paradise beaches and spectacular mountains... These are the 10 most beautiful sites to visit on a trip to Albania.

Berat, the beautiful “city of a thousand windows”

Around a hundred kilometres from Tirana, the town known as the “city of a thousand windows” has an irresistible charm to it. Nestling between two hills and the River Osum, it proudly displays its cliff-side Ottoman houses and maze of paved streets, some of which date back to the 15th century. The most memorable sight? The superb citadel of Kala, a 13th-century castle overlooking the town at an altitude of 187 metres, offering a delightful panorama of the entire valley. It's a picture-perfect Albanian setting which you won’t want to leave.

Butrint, an exceptional archaeological site at the gateway to Greece

Located at the southern tip of Albania, accessible from the island of Corfu in Greece, the archaeological site of Butrint is home to some incredibly diverse remains. And with good reason: the site was originally a Greek settlement, before becoming a Roman town, then a diocese, before being occupied by Byzantium and then Venice. In a few hundred hectares of breathtakingly beautiful natural surroundings, you can discover medieval ramparts, a Greek theatre, a Venetian tower, a Byzantine basilica and Roman ruins.

Dhërmi, the wild beauty of the Albanian Riviera

With its white houses perched high above the sea, the small seaside resort of Dhërmi, on the Ionian coast, is an elegant place indeed. Its surroundings, furthermore, are possessed of a rare beauty: bordered by the Ceraunian mountains and hemmed in by paradise beaches, the bay offers unforgettable hiking trails such as the Gjipe canyon, with its spectacular cliffs overlooking a sandy cove fringed by turquoise waters.

Skanderbeg Square, the historic heart of Tirana

This immense esplanade, dedicated to Skanderbeg - Albania's national hero who led the resistance against the Ottoman Empire in the 15th century - is the historic and vibrant heart of Tirana. Entirely pedestrianised, the square is lined with restaurants and makes for an excellent starting point to explore Albanian history and culture. The buildings’ architecture evokes several periods of occupation in Albanian history (Ottoman, Italian, Fascist and Soviet occupation). Similarly, you can visit the National Historical Museum which traces the region's two millenia of history.

Gjirokastër, the beautiful Ottoman town

Famous for its pretty historic centre and fortress, the southern town of Gjirokastër has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its preserved Ottoman-era buildings. The town includes a remarkable series of 17th-century two-storey houses, an Ottoman bazaar, two churches and a mosque from the 18th-century. A historic setting against the beautiful backdrop of the Drinos river valley.

Kruja, a delightful medieval town on the outskirts of Tirana

Around thirty kilometres from Tirana, the small medieval town of Kruja is famous for its hilltop castle, which houses the George Kastrioti Skanderbeg National Museum dedicated to the Albanian hero. Amidst a superb scenery of pine-covered mountains, the old town has plenty of character, with its unevenly cobbled streets, old white-walled houses, a number of Ottoman monuments and the old bazaar (Bazaar i Vjetër), full of traditional craft souvenirs.

The small island of Zvernec, its lagoon and Byzantine monastery

On Albania's central coast, opposite the region of Puglia in Italy, the northern part of the Vlorë region stands out for its unbothered way of life. And at its heart, the peaceful lagoon of Narta is home to the small island of Zvernec, which you can reach via a 270-metre-long winding bridge. This pine-covered dot of land is home to the well-preserved 13th-century Byzantine monastery of Sainte-Marie. Near the end of the day, you are likely to spot a few pink flamingos.

The Theth National Park and Valley, in the Albanian Alps

In the north of the country, this magnificent valley in the Albanian Alps has long been one of the most isolated places in the Balkans. The road built in 2010 and the Theth National Park structures created in 2022 make this magnificent locale accessible to everyone: old stone buildings surrounded by forests, caves and rivers dominated by mountains, rocky cliffs from which torrents and waterfalls tumble... The scenery is enchanting. Surrounded by a vertiginous cirque of mountains, the tiny village of Theth is sure to put you under its charm.

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