Written by our local expert Drita
Drita is a shy Albanian girl. Her Mom is from Kosovo, her Dad from Serbia. She loves to travel & share travel trips to help first-time travelers exploring Albania & the Balkans.
Welcome to my guide on choosing between Croatia and Albania for your 2024 travel adventure. As someone who was born in Albania and has spent many vacations exploring the wonders of Croatia, I understand the allure of both destinations intimately.
In this guide, I’ll help you make an informed choice based on your preferences and travel style. Whether you’re seeking historical sites, pristine beaches, vibrant nightlife, or off-the-beaten-path adventures, we’ll weigh the pros and cons of each destination.
So, let’s dive into the details and discover whether Croatia or Albania will be your ideal travel companion in 2024. Get ready to make a decision that aligns perfectly with your travel goals and interests.
The Balkans have been rising in popularity as a tourist destination over the last decades, and there are two countries close to my heart that have been in the spotlight: Albania and Croatia.
Both are dotted with beaches and gorgeous seaside towns, not to mention the sunny weather; it’s no wonder they get an influx of tourists from all over the world each summer.
While Croatia is getting more crowded each year, a bit further south, there lies an unexplored gem, Albania.
Let’s have a look at what each country has on offer and see why the “Croatia Vs. Albania” dilemma is definitely one that should be on your mind when you plan your next holiday to the Balkans!
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Albania Vs. Croatia: Basic Overview Of Each Country
With such a vast array of landscapes and a unique history, there’s a reason the country attracts every kind of traveler.
Sailing through the Adriatic Sea, visiting the Dalmatian Islands, like Hvar, Krk, Rab, and Vis (to mention just a few), then spending some time on land traveling along the coastline visiting cities like Zadar, Split, and Dubrovnik is a pretty irresistible idea. Especially in the summer when the sun is always shining!
But, with increasing numbers of tourists coming in their thousands to soak in the sun and bask on Croatia’s beaches or hike around the most popular national parks (like Plitvice and Krka), the crowds are starting to get overwhelming. Prices are skyrocketing, putting the question “Is Croatia or Albania better?” on travelers’ minds.
A bit further south and, you reach Albania. It is a mysterious country few have traveled to, yet many are lured by it.
Less touristy and more mountainous, Albania captivates those willing to go off the well-trodden path and search a little more complicated. The rewards? Stunning mountain ranges with unforgettable hiking routes, tranquil villages, enchanting age-old cities, and even partying on the beach!
Some of the most popular destinations are the village of Theth in the Albanian Alps and cities like Korce, which is home to the 13th century Pazari i Vjeter bazaar and riddled with unique architecture from the Ottoman empire that is still standing.
There’s also the unforgettable city of Gjirokastër, the birthplace of Enver Hoxha, that takes you into the past with its peculiar traditions and ancient cobbled streets. Be sure to try Pasha Qofte, a traditional Albanian food you can’t get anywhere else, after you hit up the Gjirokastër Fortress.!
If you venture further into the wild, you’ll find rugged mountains lined with remote and crumbling hilltop fortresses and peaceful mountain villages like Lin, where you can hide away from the world and retreat.
The drawbacks? Well, in the Croatia or Albania debate, Albania would have the losing straw when it comes to convenience. As it’s not as popular, there are fewer crowds, but it’s also not as easy to travel as there’s less infrastructure set up for tourists. Even so, is Albania worth visiting? Absolutely!
Points Of Comparison: Nightlife, Beaches, Cities & National Parks
When you’re deciding how to choose between Croatia or Albania, there are a few factors to consider. The first is what kind of holiday you want. We’ll go into the details, but overall, Croatia is a better destination for anyone who wants to laze on the beach and party and likes the hustle and bustle of tourists around them.
On the other hand, Albania is much more suited to those who want to escape into the wild and explore mature and tranquil cities. If you’re looking for some solitude and want to push your boundaries, Albania will take the lead in the Albania over Croatia dilemma.
To give you some points of comparison, we will look at the differences between the top beaches, the major nature spots, and the nightlife vibe and compare two of the most popular cities in each country.
Nightlife In Croatia Vs. Albania
Though both countries have great nightlife, I’d argue Croatia probably wins in the Albania versus Croatia debate when it comes to partying!
Here are some things to know about the nightlife in each country:
NIGHTLIFE IN ALBANIA
The capital of a country is always an excellent place to start if you’re looking for the wildest nightlife, and Albania is no exception.
Tirana, Albania’s capital, is home to the most famous party neighborhood of Blloku. This neighborhood comes alive at night with the rumble of bars open all night long and music clubs full of dancers.
Start at Skanderbeg Square, and then some of the best party spots in town are Radio Bar, which hosts jazz and electronic nights, the Komiteti Kafe Muzeum, which is decorated with communist paraphernalia and hosts everything from cultural nights to disco parties and serves delicious cocktails as well as shots of raki of every variety, and don’t forget the Hemingway Bar and Destil too when you’re out!
Fancy partying by the sea? Then, head to the Albania Riviera along the southwestern coast of the country and go straight to Dhermi. This lively coastal town boasts beachside bars and summer music festivals.
The biggest events are the Kala Festival and ION Festival. They’re very popular, so make sure you book accommodation far in advance if you’re going to Dhermi in July or August!
Festivals aside, Dhermi is one of those places where you have to lean into the unknown. Walk along the beachfront and see where the night takes you – there are certainly plenty of beach bars, like Surf The Rooftop, for cocktails and drinks and clubs to choose from!
But what about Croatia? In all truth, I was totally surprised by the country’s party scene. I’ve never met another nation (at least in Europe) that can party like the Croatians. They’re full of life and absolutely wild.
The best city to head to if you’re ready for some all-nighters is Split. There are numerous beach clubs open until the early hours of the morning, as well as chill outdoor concerts in the old Roman plazas dotted around the city that will get you in the mood to groove earlier on in the evening.
In Croatia, people eat later and don’t head out till the late hours of the evening, so it’s not really worth going to a club before midnight. But don’t worry, you can go bar hopping before that! There are many clubs to choose from in Split, but Mandrach Night Club, Central Club, Vanilla Club, JnBOX Bar, Klub Kocka, and Judino Drvo Club are the most popular!
The biggest party island is Hvar. There are a few touristy towns on the island, but Hvar Town is the biggest and busiest. The most famous clubs on the island include Carpe Diem, Splash, Hula Hula Beach Bar, and Falko Beach Bar.
Another top choice for island partying is Pag – head straight to the town of Novalja, and from there, Zrće Beach is just a short bus ride away, and it’s where all the biggest clubs are!
Another thing Croatia has to offer its craziest tourists are countless summer festivals. Some worth mentioning include the Hideout Festival on Pag in July, the Korčula Sword Dance Festival performed from June to September, the Rapska Fjera medieval festival on Rab in late July, and the Brač Film Festival in August on Brač island.
Let’s do a quick beach comparison between Albania and Croatia:
BEACHES IN ALBANIA
While Albania’s beaches are sometimes more pebbly, they’re spoiled with imposing mountains, hidden away in remote bays and coves, far less crowded, and also have incredible diving and snorkeling!
By far, one of the most famous beaches in Albania is Gjipe Beach. Found between Drymades and Himare, it is unspoiled and secluded thanks to its remote location.
Unfortunately, it does take half an hour or so to walk to the beach from the parking lot; alternatively, you can drive down the dirt track in a 4×4. Thanks to its superb location at the edge of the Gjipe Canyon, the scenery is awesome.
Beautiful Jale Beach Dhermi Beach
A popular beach choice is the obvious Dhermi Beach, as the beachfront are known for partying; there are loads of other things to do – like exploring the imposing rock formations along the shore and snorkeling in the clear blue waters of the Ionian Sea.
That said, I suggest you try the lesser-known but beautiful Jale Beach, located between Himare and Dhermi.
Albanian Riviera – Saranda & Himare
If you’re looking for a totally unique experience, head to Flikuri Beach. While it’s technically just outside of Himare, you can only get there by kayak!
Your journey starts on Potam Beach and takes you to Flikuri Beach, which is so secluded, thanks to the high cliffs that shelter the small, pebbly bay. It’s known for its gentle waters, but like all gems, you’ll have to work to find it.
Other beaches worth mentioning are Llamani Beach, Palasa Beach, Drymades Beach, and Jali Beach (great for families as the waters there are tranquil).
Overall, if you’re wondering where to stay in Albania for the best beach holiday, the best choices are Dhermi, Drymades, Saranda, or Himare.
Croatia’s beaches are generally sandier, great for snorkeling, and easy to access as they’re often just off the shore of a small town or even a major city.
You can divide the Dalmatian Coast into north (with Zadar being the major city in the area), central (where Split shines as the major city in the region), and south (heard of Dubrovnik? It’s the coolest city around).
If you’ve got a limited amount of time, I’d recommend going straight to Dubrovnik. One of the most popular nearby beaches is the stunning and laid-back Banje Beach. Another fantastic beach day plan is to take the short 15-minute ferry ride from the city to Lokrum Island. This uninhabited island has its own nudist beach where you can soak in the summer sun and snorkel with nothing on!
Want to spend your holiday lazing on island beaches in the Adriatic Sea? Then, head to Korcula Island.
Nicknamed “mini Dubrovnik,” the island offers the best of Dubrovnik without the overwhelming crowds. According to the local tales, Korcula is also the birthplace of Marco Polo!
One of the coolest beaches on the island is Pupnatska Luka Beach.
Island Beaches – Krk, Hvar & Brac
Not convinced by Korcula? Not to worry, there are countless islands with pristine waters and golden sand beaches to choose from. Among them are Krk Island (go straight to Vela Plaza Beach), Hvar Island (explore the famous Hvar Beach and Dubovica Beach), and Brac Island (Zlatni Rat Beach, also known as Golden Horn is a must).
During your holiday, look out for beaches with the blue flag, which lets you know the beach has top facilities, clean waters, and litter free shores.
As you can see, choosing between Albania and Croatia isn’t going to be so simple!
City Getaway In Croatia Vs. Albania
Two of the most popular cities in these two countries are Split and Saranda.
So which is better? Here are a few things to know about each of these famous cities:
SARANDA - CITY GETAWAY IN ALBANIA
Known for being sunny 300 days a year, the history of Saranda dates back to Ancient Epirus when it was still called Onchemus.
Later, the city was renamed Saranda (which means 40 in Greek) after its 6th century 40 Saints Monastery, one of the most famous landmarks in town, despite its very tumbled state, and a spot with top views.
Other must-do activities in Saranda include a walk along the popular Hasan Tahsini Boulevard, which has local summer markets and a vast selection of bars and restaurants.
Next, find out about the history of the city’s Jewish community at the Synagogue Complex, which dates back to the 5th century (but was largely rebuilt in the 6th century after an earthquake), and go snorkeling at the nearby Mirror Beach.
You can also visit the bustling beach town of Dhermi from Saranda!
Split (Croatia) is slightly less touristy than Dubrovnik, but it’s far from being off the tourist map. As you walk through the city’s medieval cobblestone streets, you’ll find yourself surrounded by friendly locals and excited travelers – an atmosphere that is rejuvenating and intoxicating.
The most famous landmark in Split is the Diocletian’s Palace. Once a 4th-century Roman city, it has now been converted into a maze of streets lined with cafes and local restaurants built amongst the old Roman ruins.
As you walk past the Vestibule, keep your ears pierced for the sounds of the Klapa singers. This age-old tradition is one of Split’s finest cultural immersions.
Another thing that makes Split so popular is the white sand beaches that surround the city. While the large promenade in the heart of the city center isn’t great for swimming, wander a little outside of the liveliest areas, and you’ll soon feel warm grains of sand between your toes.
Top tip for budget travelers: skip a snorkeling tour and rent out some snorkels at a local shop. The snorkeling just offshore is amazing anyway; there are sea cucumbers, exotic fish, and colorful starfish in every direction!
Split also has one of the best nightlife scenes and incredible island hopping. Brač, Hvar, and Vis are all easy to get to from Split. Mind you, make sure you check the schedules beforehand; they change seasonally and sometimes only go on select days of the week. The main ferry companies are Krilo and Jadrolinija, though sometimes there are smaller water taxis that run between islands, too.
If you come to Split on the 7th of May, you can celebrate the city’s patron day there! There’s loads of live music, processions, and a rowing competition.
So, does Split or Saranda blow your socks off more?
National Parks In Croatia Vs. Albania
The nature in Croatia and Albania is very different. Croatia has been put on the map by its beautiful national parks with serene lakes and green forests, while Albania is famous for its tall peaks and rugged landscapes.
Here are the highlights of the National Parks in each country:
The stunning crumbling peaks in the Valbona Valley National Park in the Albanian Alps boast over 200 kilometers worth of hiking trails, amongst which is the Valbona-Theth hiking trail, which winds its way through the Accursed Mountains. You should also check out the Jerezca Lakes while you’re there!
Vjosa River National Park
Fancy getting out on the water? Then go river rafting on the Vjosa River. Found within the boundaries of the Vjosa River National Park, the only wild river national park in all of Europe! Aside from rafting, there are also loads of hiking trails, forgotten ruins, and the opportunity to visit the Lengarica Canyon.
Other Popular National Parks
There are many more Albanian National Parks worth mentioning, like Llogara National Park, which rises over the Ionian Sea high up in the Albanian Riviera; Butrint National Park that was once a Greek Polis and then a Roman city, leaving behind a natural landscape riddled with ancient archeological sites as well as lakes, forests, and wetlands; and the unique Karaburun-Sazan Marine Park.
Plitvice’s wooden boardwalk weaves its way through a network of pristine, turquoise-blue lakes. For the full experience, take a boat ride out onto the water so you can admire the surrounding forests from afar!
Krka National Park
Krka National Park is a little different and known for its clear-blue waterfalls and gorgeous natural swimming pools (a perk over Plitvice, where swimming isn’t allowed). It also has a few historical landmarks, like the old ruins of a Roman military camp and amphitheater, two monasteries (one of which is built on ancient ruins/catacombs), and idyllic old water mills.
If You Just Can’t Decide: Getting From Croatia To Albania
Getting from Croatia to Albania is easiest by plane. There are connections from Zagreb to Tirana for as little as $50 and from Split to Tirana for about $150. But the flights aren’t direct!
Another way to get from Albania to Croatia is by car. From Saranda to Split, it’s about a thirteen-hour drive (though factor in about two days with breaks!), and you’ll cover 466 miles.
There aren’t any direct ferry routes, but there are some bus connections between Split and Tirana that take between 11 and 15 hours and are sometimes more expensive than the flights. They’re operated by Hafet Tours and Croatia Bus Globtour and cost about $60.
So, after reading this guide, what is your personal preference? Who won our Albania Vs. Croatia showdown? Or will you opt for Croatia over Albania?
CROATIA VS ALBANIA FAQS
Should I go to Croatia or Albania?
Overall, Albania is the top choice for nature lovers and adventurers. The landscapes are more demanding, and the cities are less touristy and crowded. You’ll have to rely on yourself more, so it’s ideal for experienced travelers looking to get out of their comfort zone.
On the other hand, Croatia is great for first-time travelers. It’s easy to travel around, and there are many cool tourist hotspots like Split and Dubrovnik. But it is more expensive than Albania because of this.
Croatia is also the obvious choice for beach holidays because of how easy island hopping in the Adriatic is!
Is it possible to get from Albania to Croatia?
Yes – you can get there by flight, bus, or car! Flight connections to Tirana are cheap, but there aren’t direct flights. The bus journey is pretty long, but if you aren’t up for a road trip and you don’t like flying, it’s doable.
Which country is more budget-friendly?
Because Croatia has become increasingly popular, the prices constantly increase as the demand for hotel rooms and tours increases. Because of this, Albania is the better choice for those traveling on a small budget.
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