Discover rugged mountain terrain and small traditional villages in this two-week road trip through rural Albania. Start in Tirana—the capital—then head north to see the ancient city of Kruja, stay in traditional stone Kulla houses, and learn about the country's communist past. Continue to Southern Albania to explore the relaxed Riviera coast, sleepy mountain towns, and old village Bazaars.

Highlights

  • Drive through rugged mountains in the northern region of Dibër and Mat
  • Stay with local families in small traditional homes 
  • Explore historic UNESCO cities like Butrint, Kruja, Prizren, and Gjirokastra
  • See the relaxed and casual Riviera region along the southern coast

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Tirana Tirana
Day 2 Tirana Tirana
Day 3 Tirana to Fisthe Fisthe
Day 4 Fishte to Prizren Prizren
Day 5 Prizren to Peshkopi Peshkopi
Day 6 Peshkopi to Bulqize Bulqize
Day 7 Bulqize to Lin Lin
Day 8 Lin Lin
Day 9 LIn to Korça Korça
Day 10 Korça to Përmet Përmet
Day 11 Përmet to Libohovë Libohovë
Day 12 Libohovë to Gjirokastra Gjirokastra
Day 13 Gjirokastra to Riviera Riviera
Day 14 Riviera to Berat Berat
Day 15 Depart Tirana  

Detailed Itinerary

Tirana, Albania's capital
Tirana—Albania's capital 

Day 1: Arrival in Tirana

Welcome to Albania! Your driver will meet you from your flight and transfer you to the city center. Depending on arrival time, settle into your hotel or go for a short walking tour of the city. In the evening, enjoy dinner at a restaurant downtown.

A fruit stand in the downtown market
A fruit stand in the downtown market

Day 2: Tirana

Today you will explore Tirana's downtown area and a village just outside of town. Head out to see the city's sights and landmarks, or choose to head directly to the traditional village located just a few kilometers away. The village is more traditional and maintains many older cultural norms as compared to populous Tirana. Stop and visit the studio of acclaimed Socialist Realist artist Robert Permeti who is famous for his work from the Communist era. Along with seeing Robert's work, learn about the difficulties and potentially fatal dangers of producing art for Enver Hoxha.

The Kruja Castle is also a museum
The Kruja Castle is also a museum

Day 3: Tirana to Fisthe

Head north today to the ancient hilltop city of Kruja to see the town and historic castle. Tour the museum inside, then stop by the Mrizi i Zanave restaurant for a traditional Albanian meal. Expect to learn about old recipes and regional cooking techniques—Altin, the owner, is passionate about preserving the local food heritage. 

Old stone bridge in Prizren
Old stone bridge in Prizren

Day 4: Fishte to Prizren

Today you'll take a detour to neighboring Kosovo, a region with a majority Albanian population. Catch the ferry from Koman, and arrive at Fierze after a  spectacular 3-hour crossing of Komani Lake. From here cross the border into Kosovo and head to the old Ottoman city of Prizren, with a mandatory stop for coffee and baked goods at Gjakova's historic bazaar. 

Downtown Peshkopi with mosque in the background
Downtown Peshkopi with a mosque in the background

Day 5: Prizren to Peshkopi

Head to the town of Peshkopi today, a regional capital of the Dibër region. Although this is one of the poorest and most isolated parts of Albania, it is also one of the most beautiful—steep mountains and infrequent roads separate this region from the rest of the country. You will be staying at the old Communist Albturizm hotel, which has hardly changed since the fall of the regime. Despite the old-fashioned appearance, the rooms are clean and the staff is very welcoming. 

A rugged and mountainous landscape
A rugged and mountainous landscape

Day 6: Peshkopi to Bulqize

It's not far to the village of Bulqize, but you will take a scenic detour through the local Dibër and Mat mountains. Arrive in time for dinner and head to your accomodations—a traditional stone Kulla house, originally built for defense 250 years ago. The young owner, Luli, inherited the family property and has been working hard to restore the building and increase tourism in the area. Currently, the village receives almost no foreign visitors, despite the region's stunning views.

Lake Ohrid bridges Albania and Macedonia
Lake Ohrid connects Albania and Macedonia

Day 7: Bulqize to Lin

Today you will leave the steep mountains of northern Albania and head to the more populous southern half of the country. Take a road which skirts the Shebenik-Jabllanice National Park, a wild and unique ecosystem which has been declared a UNESCO heritage zone. You are heading to the village of Lin, on the Albanian side of Lake Ohrid. Tonight you will stay in a homestay with Roza and her family. If the weather is fine, head to the lake for a swim after the long journey. 

Sunset over Lake Ohrid
Sunset over Lake Ohrid

Day 8: Lin

Today is a day for relaxation and rest. Pack a picnic lunch for the beach and enjoy swimming in the lake. If you would like, take a day trip across the Macedonia border to Ohrid—a bustling resort town. 

Ottoman style Old Bazaar in Korça
Ottoman style Old Bazaar in Korça

Day 9: Lin to Korça

The drive to Korça only takes an hour, but you will take scenic long way to see more of the surrounding countryside. Korça is a small city with a distinctly Mediterranean feel—cobbled streets, crumbling villas, and a relaxed atmosphere might remind you of Greece. In the evening head to the recently restored bazaar in the city center for a drink to relax like the locals. 

A bend in the Vjosa river and mountains in the Permet district
A bend in the Vjosa river and mountains in the Permet district

Day 10: Korça to Përmet

You will have traveled through Albania's finest scenery in the last week, but today's drive to the southwest is particularly lovely. Although the distance to travel to Përmet isn't far, it's a slow drive since the road is winding and the valley views offer numerous photo opportunities. Before arriving, take a detour to the hot springs in nearby Benjë. Arrive in the sleepy town for dinner and a relaxed evening, as the food and raki—a strong local spirit—are excellent here. 

"Rock of the City" and mosque in Permet
"Rock of the City" and mosque in Permet

Day 11: Përmet to Libohovë

You'll spend today driving through the Zagoria valley again on your way to your homestay in Libohovë. There's a lot to see on the way, so expect another slow day of driving with many stops. Your hosts tonight are a couple with a spare en-suite bedroom and a warm and welcoming home. Don't worry about the language barrier—with the help of your guide and a glass of raki or two, you are well on your way to making new friends. 

Gjirokastra Castle
Gjirokastra Castle 

Day 12: Libohovë to Gjirokastra

History buffs will love visiting the UNESCO site of Butrint today, an old village and archaeological ruins. Continue to the city of Gjirokastra after—another UNESCO site. Stay the night in one of the city's traditional stone houses. The owner, Dragua, worked hard to acquire it for tourism—at one time gather more than 40 cousins in one room to sign the paperwork! 

Rocky shoreline in the Albanian Riviera
Rocky shoreline in the Albanian Riviera

Day 13: Gjirokastra to Riviera

Today is arguably the most beautiful drive of the trip, and it's up against stiff competition. Travel on a remote track through the mountains west of the Riviera to reach the Ionian Sea around 3:00 PM. The road is rarely traveled, so expect some bumps and few river crossings on the way. Stay the night in a small coastal village, in a lodging located directly on the water. 

Ottoman architecture in Berat
Ottoman architecture in Berat

Day 14: Riviera to Berat

Start the day with a climb up the impressive Llogora Pass, then descend into the city of Vlorë. From here it's an easy drive back inland to your final stop at the city of Berat, another UNESCO city. Stay the night in an eccentric little hotel in the old town district. To celebrate your last night, head to Koço’s, an infamous restaurant in the ancient citadel, for a celebratory meal and drinks. 

Shaded avenue in downtown Tirana
Shaded avenue in downtown Tirana

Day 15: Depart Tirana

From your lodging, it's an easy 2-hour drive to the airport. Say farewell to Albania and board your flight home. Safe travels!