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Planning the perfect walking holiday in Albania

Written by Fiona

July 01 2024

Albania is a hidden gem in the heart of the Balkan Peninsula. The country is also one of Europe’s best-hidden tourist spots and perfect for exploring on foot. The country’s relative obscurity on the global tourist map means it remains unspoiled and offers an authentic experience for travellers seeking adventure and tranquillity. Before the pandemic, tourism in the country had risen to 2.9 million visitors. Post-2020, it has been slowly creeping back to those levels, but it is still a hugely underrated destination in Europe.

Walking through Albania can be like stepping back in time, with ancient ruins, medieval castles and charming villages scattered throughout the countryside. Whether wandering through the cobblestone streets of Gjirokastër, exploring the ruins of Butrint, or hiking through the Llogara Pass, Albania offers a walking holiday experience like no other.

This guide will explore the biggest draws of a walking holiday in Albania, including different paths and useful information.

Choosing your destination

Central Albania

Tirana

The capital city of Tirana offers a blend of urban and natural walking experiences, and it is the likely starting point for your journey. It acts as a gateway to Tirana, with many cheap flights available to the airport from European destinations, such as Geneva. The airport is just 20 minutes from the city centre, so any trip to Albania starts here, and walkers won’t be disappointed.

The Grand Park of Tirana is a popular destination for leisurely walks, with its artificial lake, botanical garden, and numerous walking paths. Mount Dajti, located just outside the city, provides more challenging trails and stunning views of Tirana and the surrounding region.

The Dajti Ekspres cable car takes you up the mountain, from where you can explore various walking routes, including the trail to the Tujani Peak. Tirana’s vibrant city centre, colourful buildings and lively atmosphere also offer plenty of urban walking and sightseeing opportunities.

Berat

Berat, known as the “City of a Thousand Windows,” is another UNESCO World Heritage site that offers a unique walking experience. The city’s well-preserved Ottoman architecture and historic neighbourhoods are best explored on foot. The Berat Castle is on a hilltop and provides panoramic views of the city and the surrounding mountains.

Walking through the narrow streets of the castle, you can visit ancient churches, mosques, and traditional houses. The Osum River Gorge, located nearby, offers additional walking trails with stunning views of the river and the surrounding cliffs.

Durrës

Durrës, Albania’s largest port city, combines history with coastal charm, so much so that Jeff Bezos recently moored his yacht there. However, if you wish to get to Albania by sea, Durrës is your likely entry point, with a ferry from Bari, Italy, creating easy access

The city’s ancient Roman amphitheatre, one of the largest in the Balkans, is a must-visit for history enthusiasts. Walking along the city’s promenade, you can enjoy views of the Adriatic Sea and the bustling port. The nearby Cape of Rodon offers scenic coastal walks with panoramic views and the opportunity to explore the Rodoni Castle and the Saint Anthony Church. The historical sites and beautiful coastal scenery make Durrës a diverse and interesting destination for walking holidays.

Northern Albania

Theth

One misconception about Albania is that getting around without a car is impossible, but that’s not true. Public transport in Albania is good and you can find your way to other areas relatively easily with a little planning. That opens up Northern Albania, with its mountains and valleys, perfect for walking.

Theth is a small village in the Accursed Mountains, renowned for its breathtaking scenery and traditional stone houses. The Theth National Park offers numerous walking trails that range from easy to challenging. One of the highlights is the hike to the Blue Eye, a stunning natural spring with incredibly clear, blue water. Another popular trail is the path to the Grunas Waterfall, which cascades down a steep cliff into a picturesque pool below.

Theth is also the starting point for the famous Valbona Pass hike, which connects Theth with the Valbona Valley and offers spectacular mountain views.

Valbona Valley

Valbona Valley National Park is another must-visit destination in northern Albania. The valley is surrounded by towering peaks and lush forests, making it a paradise for walkers. The hike from Valbona to Theth via the Valbona Pass is a highlight, taking you through alpine meadows and rugged terrain with panoramic views. Within the valley, the trails to Kukaj and Rrogam offer easier yet equally scenic walks, passing through quaint villages and along the Valbona River. 

Koman Lake

Koman Lake is a man-made reservoir surrounded by steep cliffs and dense forests, creating a fjord-like landscape perfect for walking and exploring. The ferry ride across the lake is a unique experience, offering stunning views of the surrounding mountains and the opportunity to spot wildlife. Once you arrive at the small village of Fierza, you can embark on several walking trails that lead into the surrounding hills and forests. The trail to the village of Tropoja offers breathtaking views of the lake and the surrounding peaks, making it a rewarding walk for nature enthusiasts.

Southern Albania

Llogara National Park

Llogara National Park, located in the Ceraunian Mountains, offers a mix of coastal and mountainous landscapes, making it a diverse walking destination. The Llogara Pass, which reaches an altitude of over 1,000 meters, provides stunning views of the Ionian Sea and the Albanian Riviera. Walking trails within the park lead through dense pine forests and open meadows, with opportunities to spot rare wildlife such as the Golden Eagle. The trail to Caesar’s Pass offers a challenging hike with panoramic views, while the easier walk to the Flag Pine, a centuries-old tree shaped by the wind, is absolutely rewarding.

Butrint National Park

Butrint National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage site combining natural beauty and historical significance. The park is home to the ancient city of Butrint, which dates back to the Greek and Roman periods. Walking through the ruins, you can explore the well-preserved theatre, the Roman baths, and the impressive basilica. The park also features several walking trails that wind through the surrounding wetlands and forests, offering the chance to see diverse bird species and other wildlife. The trail around Lake Butrint provides stunning views of the lake and the ancient city, making it a perfect destination for history buffs and nature lovers.

Gjirokastër

Gjirokastër, known as the “City of Stone,” is a UNESCO World Heritage site famous for its well-preserved Ottoman-era architecture. The city’s cobblestone streets and traditional houses offer a unique walking experience, with every corner revealing a piece of history. The Gjirokastër Castle, perched on a hill overlooking the city, offers panoramic views and is a must-visit. Walking through the Old Bazaar, you can explore traditional shops and cafes, adding to the city’s charm. The nearby Antigonea Archaeological Park offers additional walking trails through ancient ruins and beautiful landscapes.

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