Albania’s National Parks spread from the lagoons at the Adriatic seashore to the Limestone Mountains of the Dinaric Alps and the wetlands of the Great and the Small Prespa Lakes at the trans-border national park, which Albania shares with the Republic of Macedonia and Greece
Albania is a mountainous country, about two-thirds of the territory either hilly or mountainous.
The highest peak, Mount Korabi, on the border with Macedonia, towers 2,751 m above sea level. The cliffs of Llogara, dividing the Adriatic from the Ionian Coast, are internationally recognized as one of the best places in the Balkans for paragliding. Other outdoor activities are also available in Albania, such as hiking, trekking, mountain climbing, mountain biking, bird watching, fishing, horseback riding, skiing, ski shoeing and winter mountaineering. Rivers crisscross this land and offer both the beauty of the canyons they have carved and the opportunity to traverse them via raft, kayak, or canoe.
Throughout Albania, intrepid explorers will also find many vast caves just waiting to be discovered.
Professional and amateur spelunkers alike will find no shortage of underground chambers to conquer. Near Shkodra there are at least 35 significant caves of a total of 68 designated as National Natural Monuments. An easily accessible cave is the Pëllumbas Cave near Tirana; it is Albania’s second largest. A sign-posted trail leads up to this cave, nestled in the beautiful Skorana Canyon on the Erzen River.
Hiking and Trekking
Rugged snow-clad alpine peaks, lush green valleys, sparking lakes, wetlands full of wildlife, traditional villages and a varied coast embracing two seas – the Adriatic and the Ionian Sea – Albania has all the ingredients necessary to develop hiking and trekking tourism. Even though hiking maps and the signposting of tracks has become more common and supra-regional and transnational mountain trails are slowly emerging, for inexperienced hikers it is advised to participate in an organized tour or to benefit from the services of local or experienced mountain guides.
Kayaking on Osumi River
Kayaking on Osum River in southern Albania near Berat is a great adventure and joy. About 17 km length of river canyon makes this event an unforgettable moment. At the same time, Berat is more than 2400 years old and is under UNESCO protection. You can visit the old castle and enjoy the local outstanding delicious food.
Be on the lookout for birds of prey
Pack the binoculars and bird watch in the coastal wetlands of Karavasta. Part of the Divjake-Karavasta National Park, the lagoon is the westernmost breeding site of the Dalmatian Pelican. For further birdwatching, visit Kune-Vaini, the nature reserve beside the Drini River, home to spotted eagles, spoonbills and herons.
Cycle the mountains for unbeatable views
Cycle through the Gramoz Mountains from Korça to Përmet. The moderate ascents are easy on the thighs and the resulting views easy on the eyes. Allow time to enjoy the dramatic landscape of sweeping valleys, rivers and snowy peaks. To refuel, sample the local food in restaurants along the way.
Delve into Tirana’s communist past
For nearly 50 years, Albania was under Communist rule. Although the regime collapsed in 1990, many of Tirana’s communist sights remain, including the murals and statues in the city center; the house where Enver Hoxha lived; and the Pyramid, built as his mausoleum. Take a bus or taxi up to the Martyrs’ (Partisans’) Cemetery, with its statue of Mother Albania.
Explore ancient archaeological sites
See interesting and accessible archaeological sites, such as the abandoned ancient Greek city of Apollonia and the steep-sided Roman amphitheater in Durrës. Byllis may be a little harder to get to, but the Greek ruins, mountain surrounds and views over the Vjosë River valley make it well worth the effort.
Explore the Ottoman architecture of Gjirokastra and Berati
Explore the well-preserved Ottoman cities of Gjirokastra and Berat with their unique domestic architecture and their imposing hilltop castles. Both listed as World Heritage Sites by UNSECO, the former features unique 17th century houses, while Berat, with its hillside of neat, whitewashed buildings, was declared a “Museum City” under dictator Enver Hoxha.
Find fantastic frescoes in Voskopoja
Admire the vibrant colors of the frescoes in Albania’s little-known churches. Voskopoja, near Korça, was once the largest city in the Balkans, full of churches and basilicas, and with its own academy where artists were trained. Although the church buildings look a little tired, the fantastic frescoes are still vibrantly colored.
Hike in Albania’s magnificent mountains.
The two areas with the best infrastructure, in terms of accommodation and guides, are the Albanian Alps in the far north and the Tomorr massif in the southeast. Aria Travel organizes hiking, skiing and mountain biking tours throughout the country.
Meet Albania’s national hero at Kruja
Make the easy day trip from Tirana to the family seat of Albania’s 15th-century hero, Skanderbeg. Within the medieval castle’s walls are two interesting museums, the larger dedicated to aforementioned heroic noblemen. The restored Ottoman bazaar just outside the castle offers the best souvenir shopping in Albania.
Raft down Albania’s rivers
With an impressive network of inland waterways, Albania has an abundance of rafting opportunities. For beginners, the Vjosë River offers a gentle introduction whilst white-water rafting through the spectacular Osum River canyons offers more in the way of adrenaline. Aria Travel Albania has qualified guides.
Reclaim the abandoned city of Butrint
Don’t miss the UNESCO-listed, ancient city of Butrint, with archaeological remains spanning 2,500 years. Embark on one of the suggested walks through the forest below and seek out the public baths and Roman theatre or explore the ruins of the city abandoned in the Middle Ages at your own leisure.
Set sail on the Lake Komani ferry
Cameras at the ready; take the ferry up the jade waters of Lake Koman. Hemmed in on both sides with rugged and verdant towering cliffs, this peaceful cruise is an enchanting introduction to northern Albania. Wildlife enthusiasts will want to look out for pygmy cormorants, herons and golden eagles.
Stand in awe at the religious art
The national collections of religious art in Tirana, Korça and Berat contain wonderful icons painted by the 16th-century artist Onufri and his successors in the 18th and 19th centuries. For fans of more modern work Korça’s National Museum of Medieval Art is a good counterpoint.
Uncover the legend of Rozafa Castle
Built before the Roman conquest, this castle in Shkodra was last used for military purposes as recently as 1913. Rozafa was the last fortress in Albania to fall to the Ottomans in 1479 and legend has it the castle was named after a woman who was walled into the bulwark as an offering so the castle would stand.