Albania Travel Blog: Best Beaches In Albania You Gotta Check Out
With its still-unspoiled beaches, tasty food and extremely competitive prices, Albania is undoubtedly the trending summer destination in the Balkans and a great option for family travel.
The most enchanting stretch of coastline is the southernmost one, extending from the city of Vlore past Saranda to the border with Greece. Along the coast, rounded, sensual mountains run straight into the sea, forgetting to leave some room for the beach. However, when they do remember, you will spot many narrow, secluded beaches nestled among the rocky cliffs.
The Albanian Riviera is very wild and populated by many different species of animals. Driving along the glorious state highway 8 in south Albania, I happened to meet donkeys, cows, turtles, frogs, sheep, boars, dogs, goats and many other animals!
The Albanian coastline is also dotted with abandoned bunkers from the Enver Hoxha era. This former Albanian dictator was so consumed by his fear of a military invasion that he literally covered the whole country with concrete bunkers, which still guard both the coast and the hinterland like a neglected army of untended beetles.
Best Albanian Riviera Beaches
Without further ado, though, here are the best beaches in Albania you’ll come across when driving along the state highway 8 from north to south.
The city of Vlorë is the northern starting point of the Albanian Riviera and is one of the most popular destinations for Albania beach holidays. In and around the city, you’ll find many awesome south Albania beaches, including Vlorë Beach, which is sometimes also spelled Vlora Beach.
Just south of Vlorë lies the Karaburun-Sazan Marine Park, a phenomenal destination for snorkeling and scuba diving. The park protects a section of the Albania coast as well as an area of the Ionian Sea. It encompasses both the Karaburun Peninsula and Sazan Island, which is where its name comes from.
One of the northernmost beaches on the Albanian Riviera, Dhraleo Beach is also among the most exotic and peaceful. Backed by the towering cliffs on the Albanian coastline, this sand and pebble beach slowly, gradually, runs down into the crystal-clear Ionian Sea.
It’s about 1.5 kilometers long, a noticeable stretch of white amid green hills and blue water, and located below the spectacular Llogara Pass in Llogara National Park. While it’s all about stunning natural beauty now, some historians claim that it’s played a significant historic role as well. It’s known that Julius Caesar traveled across the Llogara Pass during his war with Pompeii and, some historians say, this very beach was where he and his legions landed.
The village of Dhërmi itself consists of traditional stone houses and, more recently, wooden and eco-friendly structures built to host the numerous tourists without weighing down the ecosystem. The area is also well-known for its many churches, where you can admire ancient cultural treasures.
Dhërmi Beach, located 2.5 kilometers downhill, is definitely more popular than Gjipe and other gorgeous beaches in the area. Additionally, this is also a popular destination among a younger crowd, since the Dhërmi nightlife is renowned all over the country.
Therefore, Dhërmi Beach Albania can get crowded with both locals and tourists in the peak Albania summer season. However, next to the main beach are many secluded bays, which you can reach by walking through beautiful olive groves, a peaceful and quiet wander along the coast.
Possibly the best-kept secret of the Albanian Riviera. You do need to take a 30-minute walk (around 1.5 kilometers) to reach Gjipe Beach. Don’t worry, though, you’re walking under the bathing sunlight along a red soil path. Just keep in mind that you’ll need to walk back later.
Gjipe is my favorite beach on the Albanian Riviera. It has a wild, simple and kind of alternative atmosphere, clear emerald water, and a majestic stage. It is nestled among the rocky cliffs whose colors range from red to gray and white, dotted with the green of the shrubs.
This is one of the beautiful beaches just south of the Karaburun Peninsula, which is part of the National Marine Park. Hence, why it’s preserved and so well-taken care of.
Jalë is a beach home to restaurants, bars, campings and even disco clubs. Still, though, you can also enjoy a very relaxed vibe here. Tourism in Albania hasn’t fallen victim to the mass crowds (yet!), so even when you choose an equipped beach over a secluded heaven, you still won’t find dozens of tourists crowding the water.
Moreover, in the surrounding area, there are many tiny coves that you can reach only by boat. So, being totally relaxed is just one row boat away.
The small town of Himarë is well-known for its blue, pristine water among locals and travelers alike.
Himarë has two beautiful bays, beach resorts, restaurants and small shops on its seafront promenade. The real gem, though, is the ancient ghost village on the top of the hill, where you can admire the ruins of the Himarë Castle. With a history of 2000 years, this castle shows a past when Himarë was an important center of the Ionian Coast. Additionally, there are also several charmingly abandoned stone houses.
Local Tip: Visit Himarë Beach, also spelled Himara Beach, at sunset when the view is magical, both on the bay and on the surrounding mountains.
Another of the great Albania beaches that I really like is Porto Palermo, a small peninsula topped by a stronghold built by Ali Pasha during the 19th century. This beach also served as a Soviet submarine base during the communist era and the whole place is so charming that it is often used as a film set.
As the rain was approaching on the day I visited, we took shelter in a stronghold and wandered around its dark alleys until we reached the panoramic terrace on the top.
Local Tip: On the other side of the peninsula, there is also the small church of Saint Nicholas, built by Ali Pasha in 1818 in honor of his wife. Check it out!
Qeparo is a shingle beach with a soft, sandy surprise as you enter the water, a great pleasure for our feet toughened by four days on the pebble-covered Albanian Riviera beaches!
But, Qeparo Beach is not only great for your feet! What I liked the most was that we also went to the old town of Qeparo during our visit, now (sadly) a ghost village made up of narrow cobbled alleys and stone houses abandoned and in ruin.
Local Tip: The village is on the top of a mountain. Just be warned that the road to get there was the most frightful on my Albanian road trip. That said, the view of Qeparo Bay from above and the charm of this abandoned village was totally worth it!
Borsh Beach is well-known for its blue sea, with water that’s both limpid and warm.
A white kilometers-long stretch of beach, Borsh is said to be the longest beach on the Ionian Sea coast. It’s perfect if you happen to be like me, and you find sunbathing boring. Instead, use the long stretch of foreshore, and take a long walk.
Local Tip: After a day at the beach, be sure to visit the Byzantine castle in the nearby village. As well as tourism, prosperity for the community comes from the production of olive oil, which is very well-known in the area. Be sure to try it!
Sarandë, or Saranda, is probably the most touristy area in southern Albania, home to many Albania beach resorts. This ancient city is well-known not only for its blue water but also for the proximity to the archaeological site of Butrint, whose astonishing cultural heritage is protected by UNESCO.
One of the absolute best beaches in Saranda is Ksamil Beach. Overlooking the Greek island of Corfù, Ksamil is just a few kilometers away from the border with Greece and one of the greatest places to visit near Saranda. Another superb Saranda beach is Mirror Beach, while smaller beaches like such as Central and Liman offer some more seclusion in this busy region.
Rent a car in Saranada, and travel between all of the lovely beachfronts!
Local Tip: In the Ksamil Bay, there are four tiny islands that you can reach by swimming or rowing. They make for great destinations to escape the crowds at the main beach.
Best Lake Ohrid Beaches
To find the best beaches in Albania, you don’t necessarily need to travel along the Albanian coast. A solid alternative is visiting Lake Ohrid, located on the border between Albania and Macedonia and protected by UNESCO. It boasts stunning natural scenery as well as a few great beaches.
Though it borders Macedonia, the Albanian side is much wilder. Tushemisht is a beautiful and relaxed village, definitely the place we liked the most on Lake Ohrid’s shores!
The village has several small canals filled with natural spring water overlooked by small houses, a main street with many beautiful backyards full of potted plants and small vegetable gardens. The village itself, with all its lovely painted benches and flower pots, is very colorful .
Pogradec is a hugely popular destination for Albanian tourism. Despite the archaeological evidence showing that the Pogradec area has been inhabited since the late Neolithic period, today you would have no idea.
Nowadays, Pogradec is a crowd of modern buildings, lakefront hotels and touristic restaurants on the lake. It’s the main town on the Albanian side of the lake, offering all necessary tourist facilities, including a few excellent family-friendly beaches. We loved the Pogradec waterfront, with its colorful fishermen’s boats lying on the beach, suspended in the foggy atmosphere of the late afternoon when the lake mirrors the mountains and the clouds.