The Best Things to Do, Restaurants, and Hotels in Albania

Discover things to do, places to eat, and hotels to stay in with this travel guide to Albania.

Sarande SHA22, Sarandë 9701, Albania
This place is in the middle of nowhere in Southern Albania. There is no bus stop. You just have to motion to the driver to pull over at the side of the road when you see a promising looking dirt trail. You take that trail off the main road, all the time assuming that you couldn’t possibly be in the right place. And then, almost inexplicably, there is a sign for the Blue Eye and a guard, sitting in a booth along the road. He’ll collect a few coins from you, and then you keep walking. If you’re lucky, a truck driver or local tourist will pick you up along the stretch of windy, dusty road that weaves along the side of a body of water that gets ever clearer as you move along. At the end of the trek, you’ll find the clearest, bluest water you’ve ever seen, and if you’re lucky you’ll be able to eat on the little floating deck they’ve installed in the river that flows out of the Eye. The restaurant serves heaping plates of lamb ribs, grilled over charcoal and big bottles of cold Albanian beer, all for a few dollars. A short walk up a dirt path from the restaurant lies the main destination: a coldwater spring of unknown depth and unbelievable color that bubbles up into a green little grotto. It’s often too cold and fast for a swim, but it’s refreshing to put your feet into and beautiful to hang around. There is also a small hotel for people who want to spend the night or can’t manage to catch a bus onward before nightfall.
Rruga Driloni
My Bike Beyond Boundaries tour of Albania’s World Heritage Sites began at the Millennium Hotel, at the base of the Gramoz Mountains in tiny Pogradec. Set directly on Lake Ohrid, the Balkans’ deepest lake, the tiny town begs for fishermen to plumb its bounty, which stretches across eastern Albania’s border to Macedonia. A successful catch teams with the local Koran fish, a tasty version of trout. Our cycling group devoured succulent morsels at dinner, alongside myriad organic salads and side dishes. The morning after our feast, I was up early. In the misty morning, I stepped out on my private balcony at the Millennium and gazed down on the empty boats peppering the lake’s shores. Was I looking at the craft that had delivered last night’s Koran to our evening meal?
Durrës, Albania
What cognac is to France, Skënderbeu grape brandy is to Albania, an enduring iconic product of the nation. Located on the road to Tirana, the Skënderbeu Cantina is the only one with a government permit. In the distillery, guests taste brandies aged in oak barrels for up to 13 years and known for their caramel and toffee aromas. Visitors can also take home a bottle of the herbal liqueur fernet and traditional grape and fruit raki.
Rruga "Skenderbeg"
As quirky travel experiences go, a drink at the bar at the Torra Veneciane (the Venetian Tower) stands out. Guests enjoy drinks and snacks under umbrellas atop one of the city’s most distinctive historic landmarks—a 15th-century fortification erected when the city was controlled by Venice. It’s the place to sample raki, the hearty brandy popular in many Balkan lands, and often made in Albania from grapes or apricots.
Rruga Albanopolis, Krujë, Albania
A hodgepodge of artisan goods and fine handicrafts, from brass trays and woven shawls to antique musical instruments, is sold in the old bazaar of the ancient town of Krujë, near Tirana. Along the cobblestone Rruga Albanopoli, with its soaring white minaret, some dozen shops can be found under the tile roofed buildings restored in the 1960s.
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