Swim on remote beaches in crystal clear water. Hike the spectacular high alpine mountains. Let yourself be enchanted by the Albanian hospitality and get into Tirana’s bunker – there are over 170,000 in the country today! – an insight into the cruel story under Enver Hoxha.

But why should you travel to Albania now? Because it is one of the last jewel in Europe and still no one goes! The little Balkan country is a real insiderspot so far. Hardly anyone has Albania on his travel radar. Since the end of communism, the tourist infrastructure is steadily expanding, but only very slowly. As a result, you will hardly see foreign tourists traveling around the country. The focus is currently still on the beaches of the south (opposite the Greek island of Corfu) and in the capital Tirana. Consequently, the perfect country for individual travelers with a sense of discovery!

And even wild camping is allowed! The most scenic spots for camping can be found in the mountain valleys in northern Albania and in the bays between Llogara Pass and Seranda.


To discover the contrasting Albania with the highest mountains of the Balkans and its (still) lonely beaches, you should plan definitely 2 weeks – better 3 weeks.

  1. Theth National Park – adventurous journey to the high valley of mighty peaks
  2. Must-See Tirana – dynamic city with bunker tours and relaxation on your private rooftop terrace
  3. Lonely beaches on the scenic coast between Llogara Pass and Saranda
  4. Taking the road less traveled – following the Vijosa River from Gjirokastra to Korça
  5. Lake Ohrid – sea feeling at one of the oldest lakes in the world

Theth National Park – adventurous journey to the high valley of mighty peaks

The mountain village of Theth is nestled between the steep cliffs of the two-thousander idyllic on the ice-cold Shala River. When crossing my feet almost froze. Only a single-track gravel road leads into the high valley. Those who are not traveling with off-road vehicles can reach the mountains via the “Peaks of the Balkans Trial” by foot.

The over 2600ha large National Park attracts mainly nature lovers and hikers. The rugged unspoiled nature and the outstanding hospitality of the residents worth the arduous journey.

“A few years ago, there was hardly any tourist infrastructure here,” says Florian Harusha, whose family comes from the area. “Today, we are trying to develop tourism gently.” Financed by GIZ, some families are also beginning to make their homes accessible to tourists as part of the “Guesthouseprojects”. Season is from May to October. In snow, the village is cut off from the outside world. “In hard, long winters, it can happen that the bears venture to the village to look for food.” As you can see, pure nature!

 Architecture in Theth

Stone houses of the scattered settlement – the traditional buildings with stone walls, small windows and steep roofs are still widespread. For a couple of years, more and more modern wooden houses are being built. The old houses are far apart, as each family has grouped their vegetable gardens and fields around the house.

Lock-in-Tower – in the remote mountain villages of Albania, the Kanun – a rule of conduct, i.e. legal system – regulated the coexistence of the people. In Theth the Lock-in-tower, which was used for jurisprudence, is still preserved. Murderers were trapped on the first floor of the Kulla for two weeks until a verdict was pronounced or a retribution was negotiated between the families of the victim and the offender. Admission 200 LEK

Village church – built at the end of the 19th century the stone village church is photographed a lot and is almost a symbol of Theth. When churches were destroyed in communism, the village church of Theth lost its tower, which was rebuilt in the early 2000s.

Hiking around Theth

From Theth you can do good walks for every level. There are even easy to more difficult hikes for families, which do not climb the „Peak of the Balkans Trial“.

„Peaks of the Balkans Trial”

The Theth Valley or the Valbona Valley is a good start or stage point on the “Peaks of the Balkans Trial” through the national parks of Albania, Montenegro and Kosovo. For the entire round trip you should plan 10-13 days. Precondition for the trek in this remote mountain region is to be surefooted and already have alpine experience and a good equipment.

The tourist information center in Shkodra is a good starting point to get maps, guides and informations: Tourist Information Office, Square Nënë Tereza, Str. Teuta in Shkodra (opposite Hotel Rozafa), Tel: +355 22 24 39 95, Email: albania@peaksofthebalkans.com

Mountain spring “Blue Eye”

The mountain spring “Blue Eye” (syri i kaltër) near Ndërlysa can be reached by Theth in a 4-hour hike (see photo on the right). Follow the gravel road, on the right side of the river, deeper into the valley to Kapreja. Alternatively, in Theth (on the other side of the river at the intersection above the bridge), hop on the bus to Krepaje at about 11am. Attention, you have to walk on the way back, because there are no more buses. In Krepaje the last option to buy drinks is directly after the bridge. At the end of the village, you gonna cross the bridge with the shrine of Maria over deeply hollowed rock crevices. Follow the stone path (see photo above) along the river until a trail leads up into the mountains on the right side. This one leads you to the source.

Grunas waterfall

The easiest and shortest hike around Theth takes you to the 25m high Grunas waterfall (see photo on the right). Follow the course of the river south of the village – passing the Lock-in-Tower. Stay on the left side of the river. Further outside of Theth you will pass a large stone house (see photo below). The small garden café is the last point to buy more drinks. Behind the house you cross a small rivulet, which was laid out from the waterfall to irrigate the fields and is therefore good for orientation. Follow the trail along the watercourse. It will lead you directly to the Grunas Waterfall.

Where to stay and eat

Most accommodations in and around Theth serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner. There are also a few very simple cafes. However, you will not find a shop here. Self-catering traveller therefore have to stock up on food beforehand.

Thethi Paradise – Built on the hillside, you have a beautiful panoramic view overlooking the mountains and nature. The guesthouse has a good restaurant and the single, double and quadruples rooms with private bathrooms are located in log cabins. Some have mountain views. Since the guesthouse is located just outside the village, you will find peace and seclusion here. For a double room you pay approximately 30 € / night.

Villa Gjeçaj Folk & Design magnificent views of the mountains and the valley. The traditional stone house has been recently renovated. The nicely decorated rooms are located in the new building and the stone house. The villa is quiet located just outside the village. In the garden you can enjoy the view and the dishes made with home-grown ingredients. For a double room you pay approximately 35 € / night.

Guesthouse Flodisa – true hospitality, breakfast in the garden and in the evening the mother and daughter conjure up the best  Albanian food based on old family recipes. Sooo delicious! The guesthouse is centrally located in Theth. The vegetable gardens and fields adjacent to the house give you the feeling of being in an oasis within the village. The double, triple and quadruple rooms with private bathroom either have garden access or their own external access which also serves as a balcony. From the family room you have a beautiful mountain view. Camping with tent or vehicle is possible. For a double room you pay approximately 24 € / night

Getting there

Attention, the road is a gravel road with many deep potholes. With a off-road vehicle such as 4 × 4, Unimog, etc., the road can be mastered. High wheelbase is required.

If you arrive with a non off-road vehicule, you can park it (even for a long time) in the parking lot of the restaurant on the Torah Pass at the transition to the unpaved road. Many guesthouse operators offer a pick-up service at the Thora Pass car park. For the pick-up you have to expect costs of about 50 €. A pick up in Shkodra costs about 70 €. Best to get in touch with the operators of your accommodation in advance.

Public minibuses leave from Shkodra several times a day (from the central departure point to the north). You can also contact your accommodation in Theth, as some of them also organize minibuses to pick up their guests.

Mountain Bike: The paved road up to the Thora Pass and the gravel road down to Theth require physical fitness and stamina. Only suitable for ambitious mountain bikers.

However, the nicest way to get to Theta is to hike by foot over the “Peak of the Balkans Trial” to Theth.

Tirana is a must see on every trip to Albania

Tirana, the capital of Albania, is a great stopover between Theth and the beaches. Dive into albanian history on a bunker tour Bunk’Art 1 or Bunk’Art 2. The unusual construction of the now dilapidated Enver-Hoxha Museum you can only visit from the outside and if you feel like, as many children, even climb it. The Skanderbeg Square with its illuminated water features, a huge fun for kids, is central meeting point of the city.

Where to stay

The Penthouse Galeria Apartment with wrap-around roof terrace is an oasis in the center of the bustling city. With a panoramic view of the mountains and over the rooftops of the city, this large apartment offers all the comforts.

Lonely beaches on the scenic coast between Llogara Pass and Saranda

Lonely beaches in Europe are a rarity. Albania can offer some of them. On the stretch of coast between Llogara Pass and Saranda you will find many small bays. Most with pebble beach, which then turns into sand in the crystal clear water. Even in midsummer you only meet a few people, mostly locals.

Above the sloping coast, picturesque villages nestle against the hillside and offer you a wide view over the glittering sea in the sun. In the gardens the trees bend under the weight of the sweet figs. It smells of herbs. Small cafes and restaurants invite you to linger. Honey and sage are sold along the roadside. This idyll will last until shortly before Saranda. Then it will get more touristy again, because from the offshore island of Corfu day trippers come to Saranda or Ksamil.

Where to stay

  • Wild camping in the bays
  • In the coastal village of Piqeras stands the private house Holiday Home Ali with a fruit and vegetable garden … the figs are a dream …. and a wide view of the sea. The sunset is best enjoyed from the flat roof of the house. By car you are within 5-10 minutes on the pebble beach “Bunec Beach”. The gravel immediately turns into sand in the water. Price for the whole accommodation 45 € / night

Where to eat

In the villages along the coast you will find some nice cafes and restaurants.

In Piqeras I can recommend you the tavern Viktoria. From the terrace you have a very good view on the sea, which pays off especially at the delicious dinner with sunset. Cuisine: Traditional Albanian. Open: usually starting at 10 o’clock. Where: on the main street in Piqeras

Getting there

From Seranda you take the scenic road SH8, which leads you along the coast.

On the road less traveled – following the Vijosa River from Gjirokastra to Korça

Immerse yourself in an Albania without tourists. The route from Gjirokastra to Korça will surprise you with its variety.

Starting in Gjirokatra, you will be accompanied by the Drinos River, which joins the Vijosa coming from Greece. The road leads you over bridges – even a suspension bridge from the second world war- along the natural course of the Vijosa river, which is a rarity in Europe. Passing the deep Këlcyra gorge and the town of Përmet you can decide in Çarçovë to follow the sign for Korça or turn with the turn Vijosa in the opposite direction to continue along the Greek border. The two roads intersect later.

A few miles later, the landscape changes. The ride will take you along the towering impressive mountains on a narrow winding road up and down the hills with surprising views and dense pine forests with clear mountain streams. Watch out the road is in poor condition and at the tight curves it is difficult to see oncoming traffic.

My advice as a stopover for eating directly on the scenic way or for an overnight accommodation in a nice log cabin is the Farma Sortira. Located in the middle of nature, the restaurant has a spacious garden where you can eat fresh trout from their own fish farm or as everywhere in Albania lamb and goat. It is a green oasis with horses and a playground. Price for 2 people per cabin with shared bathroom about 20 € / night.

About 2 hours later you will reach Korça. It used to be a traditional craft market. However, the dilapidated houses of the market were renovated a few years ago and cafes and souvenir shops moved in. A visit is no longer worthwhile if you are looking for traditional craftsmanship. It is therefore worthwhile to stroll through the small market with vegetables, cheese and many local products.

Where to stay in Gjirokastra and Korça

In Gjirokastra I would recommend you to stay in one of the traditional houses:

  • Hotel Kalemi offers nice big rooms and you have a wonderful view of the city. The hotel has its own private parking. For a double room you pay approximately 45 € / night incl. breakfast
  • The Hotel Old Bazaar 1790 is also a very good choice. Mountain view, terrace and generous rooms included. The price for a double room starts from 4o € / night incl. breakfast. The family room costs for 3 persons 80 €.
  • The Home of Diplomacy: very hospitable personal accommodation with parking right outside. In the top room with private balcony you even have a small kitchenette. Price for 2 persons 55 € / night. The apartment with balcony, which is perfect for families with small kids costs 90€ / night for 4 persons.


  • I recommend you to stay in the former family home of the owner, which has now been rebuilt into the Hotel Vila Mano. From the quadruple room you have access to a private roof terrace with city views. Price for a double room 40 € / night incl. breakfast. A family room for 4 people you get from 57 € / night.

Lake Ohrid – sea feeling at one of the oldest lakes in the world

Lake Ohrid and its associated Prespa lakes are worthwhile visiting. Not only nature lovers appreciate the area, which is a UNESCO World Heritage. Up to 300m deepCONTINUE READING

Travel further north to the original national parks of Montenegro. Head east for the impressive Rugova Gorge in Kosovo on the Peaks of the Balkans Trial. Or relax at the old Ohrid lake with a delicious trout.

discover Montenegro
Rugova Gorge – Kosovo
relax at lake Ohrid
  • more Insiderspots in Balkan


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