2 Weeks Itinerary for Albania - A Complete Backpacking Guide from the Albanian Riviera to the Albanian Alps

2 Weeks Itinerary for Albania

A Complete Backpacking Guide from the Albanian Riviera to the Albanian Alps

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Isolated from the rest of the world for an entire century, Albania had been a big question mark to most travelers at the time. In the 90s, the country had finally opened up to the world and people have been uncovering more and more of Albanian beauties that had been hidden away all this time.

From the stunning peaks of the Albanian Alps to the pristine beaches of the Albanian Riviera, we are going to uncover one of the best hidden gems left in Europe together.

For this travel guide, I will recommend you complete 2 weeks backpacking itinerary for Albania from Tirana to the Albanian Riviera to the Albanian Alps. The guide will cover a comprehensive list of things to do in each city, how to travel around the country independently, and everything you need to know before planning a trip in Albania.

Without further ado, let's take a look at our 2-weeks itinerary map for Albania. Our journey begins in Tirana:

Albania Itinerary Map

The Albanian Itinerary Map

Albania Travel Video

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When to Visit Albania

The Albanian Alps from Valbona Pass on a cloudy day in Albania.

The best time to visit Albania is from April to June and September to October where the temperature hovers around 17 - 23°C making it perfect for general and outdoor activities like exploring a city and hiking.

The peak season is from July to August which is not a bad time to visit as there are often events happening for you to attend in Tirana and elsewhere. That said, there will be considerably more tourists around which may not be ideal and the heat during mid-summer months can be quite unbearable especially if you are planning to explore the Albanian Riviera.

The low season is from November to March, which is not recommended as it can be cold in some places and most cities and towns are pretty quiet and inactive. Plus, the Theth-Valbona hike, one of the most popular hiking trails in the country, will be closed off due to snow so if you are planning on doing some hikes in Albania, stick to Spring, Summer, or Autumn.

Where to Stay in Albania

Stone City Hostel cozy common area in Gjirokaster, Albania.

Tirana - Trip'n Hostel (Budget) - 12 USD/Night (Dorm) | Garden B&B (Mid-Range) - 30 USD / Night (Double Room with Private Bathroom)

Berat - Berat Backpackers Hostel (Budget) - 11 USD/Night (Dorm) | Hotel Gorica (Mid-Range) - 33 USD / Night (Deluxe Double Room with Castle View)

Gjirokaster - Stone City Hostel (Budget) - 11 USD/Night (Budget) | Stone City Hostel (Mid-Range) - 27 USD / Night (Double Room with Shared Bathroom)

Himara - Himara Downtown Hostel (Budget) - 11 USD/Night (Dorm) | Hotel Billy Bar Restorant (Mid-Range) - 22 USD/Night (Double Room with Sea View)

Shkodra - The Wanderers Hostel (Budget) - 9 USD/Night (Dorm) | Amberyellowbnb (Mid-Range) - 44 USD/Night (Superior Double Room)

Theth - Shpella Guesthouse Theth (Budget) - 17 USD/Night (Dorm) | 33 USD/Night (Twin Room with Private Bathroom) - Excellent accommodation. The best place I could have asked for to be stuck in the rain for 3 days. WIFI is available. Cozy beds, lovely people. Breakfast and dinner here are something I look forward to every day. They are also located nearer to the side trips that I recommend in this guide. Highly recommended!

Valbona - Jezerca Guesthouse (Budget) - 15 USD/Night (Dorm) | 33 USD/Night (Budget Double Room)

How to Get to Albania

A cable car going up Dajti Mountain in Tirana, Albania

If you are coming from abroad, you are likely to begin your journey in Tirana. In order to get to Tirana you will have to fly into Tirana International Airport with one of these airlines:

From the US, you can fly into Tirana via Turkish Airlines through Istanbul, KLM Airlines through Amsterdam, Alitalia Airlines through Rome, and a few other routes that go through Europe.

From within Europe, you can go with low-cost airlines like WizzAir or RyanAir to get you to Tirana. If you are coming from a place that doesn't have a low-cost direct flight to Tirana, it might be worthwhile to travel by land to a city that has one and fly from there instead of relying on expensive flights.

From Asia, the easiest way is to fly to Tirana is through Istanbul via Turkish Airlines. If you want to minimize cost, you can find a way to Turkey and then from there, you can fly with Pegasus Low-Cost Airline to Tirana. Keep in mind that you might have to change airports if you are switching from a regular carrier to a low-cost carrier in Istanbul.

To find a cheap flight to Tirana, I would recommend you use Skyscanner or Momondo to look for the cheapest route and schedule so you can compare and pick the best one.

From within the Balkans, there are several international buses connecting neighboring countries like Montenegro, Kosovo, Greece (Corfu), and Macedonia to Tirana that you can take. The price varies depending on where you are coming from but more often then not, the bus will drop you off at Tirana regional bus station where you can then either walk or take a taxi to the city center.

How To Get From Tirana Airport To The City Center

From Tirana international airport, the cheapest way to get to the city center is by Rinas bus service leaving from Bay 1 bound for Skanderbeg Square, right in the city center of Tirana.

The bus operates from 7 AM - 12 AM and costs 300 LEK while the journey will take about 40 minutes. The bus leaves from Bay 1 in the airport's parking lot and you will be dropped off at Rinas Airport Bus Stop by the Shatervan Park. This is also where you will have to be if you want to get a bus back to the airport, so remember this bus stop.

How to Get Around Albania

An Albanian driver talking to a passenger while driving to Himara, Albania.

Albania is not a big country which makes it a relatively easy country to travel around. You can travel from North to South all in one day without your own vehicle. Here are a few ways you can travel around Albania:

Furgons: This is one of the most popular ways for backpackers to travel around Albania. It is basically a minivan that runs from one city to another. They are cheap, reliable, and they go to every place I recommended here in this guide.

Furgons often leave from a designated location like a bus station in big cities like Tirana or from a roundabout in smaller towns like Himara. You can also flag them down along the highway making it a great mode of transportation to do day trips with.

They often have a schedule that they stick to, but sometimes, they do leave only when it is full which meant that it could either go later or earlier than the scheduled time.

The best way to plan your trip using Furgons is to ask your hostel/hotel for an updated schedule which they often have on hand and follow their recommendation.

Buses: On a long-distance journey, you can get a bus instead which is more reliable when it comes to time and are more comfortable to travel in. For example, they often have buses running from Tirana to Shkodra and from Saranda to Tirana.

Hitchhiking: Hitchhiking is a great way to travel around short distances if you are looking to save cost or are just looking for a way to go to places that is not on regular bus routes.

The people in Albania are the friendliest people in the region and you won't find it hard at all to hitchhike around the country. Simply stand along the highway and stick your thumb out and someone will pick you up in no time.

In general, it is pretty safe in Albania but always take precaution when traveling and if you are uncomfortable with the situation you are in, follow your guts, and take action immediately.

How Much Money Do I Need for Albania

Albania is one of the cheapest countries you can travel to Europe. With the 2 weeks itinerary I recommend here, we can calculate roughly how much you will spend in Albania.

Accommodation: For 14 nights, you will be spending around 169 USD (18,731 LEK).

Food: A good meal in Albania costs around 500 LEK and since most accommodations offer free breakfast, you can expect to spend 1,000 LEK a day. For 2 weeks, you will be spending around 14,000 LEK on food.

Transportation: A bus from Tirana to Berat is 400 LEK, Berat to Gjirokaster is 900 LEK, Gjirokaster to Himara is 900 LEK, Himara to Shkodra is 1500 LEK, all transfers to the Albanian Alps is 3,400 LEK, and from Shkodra back to Tirana is 500 LEK. In total, you will be paying around 7,600 LEK for transportation.

Activities: Depending on what you want to do, you can expect to pay around 3,000 LEK for sight entrance fees, museums, etc.

Total Budget: 43,331 LEK (391 USD).

Is it Safe in Albania

Albania is one of the safest countries that I have traveled in. People are extremely friendly towards tourists and they are often excited to show how beautiful their cities are.

You might find a few beggars in Berat, and there might be one or two people who would ask you for money when they help you but 99% of the time, they are happy to help you without expecting anything back.

Hitchhiking is also safe here and once you stick your thumb out, it won't take long before someone stops and picks you up. I have nothing but praise for Albania.

That said, it is always smart to take precautions when traveling to a new country and if you find yourself in an uncomfortable situation, trust your guts and bail.

Internet in Albania

The Internet is pretty good in Albania. Reliable WIFI is available in most hostels/hotels and cafes. Even in the Albanian Alps, guesthouses often have reliable WIFI in the common areas, so you can still stay connected with people at home even in the mountains in Albania.

If you are looking to buy a local sim card, you can buy one in Tirana. I would recommend getting the Vodafone Z package, a one-month validity sim card with 5.5 GB of regular data, 10 GB for social network usage, 400 minutes and SMS which cost 1500 LEK + 100 LEK for a new sim card, especially if you are planning to travel in Albania more than 2 weeks.

If you are traveling in Albania for only 2 weeks or less, I would recommend you get the 14-days validity Vodafone Tourist sim that gives you 10 GB of data and 500 mins of calls for 1300 LEK.

The reception is good in all the places I recommend in this guide. 4G is available in most places as well and you will find 3G/EDGE connection even in the remote town of Theth and Valbona, although a little less reliable up there.

Either way, if you are looking for a reliable way to stay connected while traveling in Albania, I would recommend you get a local sim card.

For more information about Albania local sim card: Albania Prepaid Data Sim Card.

Travel Insurance

If you are looking for travel insurance to go along with your trip to Albania, I would recommend WorldNomads.com, which is what I use to look for travel insurance that fits my kind of adventure.

Get a Quote from World Nomads

2 Weeks Itinerary for Albania

Tirana (2 nights)

Tirana Sign on a merry-go-round in Skanderbeg Square in Tirana, Albania

Our journey begins in the colorful capital city of Tirana, a great place to learn about the forgotten history of Albania and its infamous dictator and his foreign invasion paranoia that resulted in over 170,000 bunkers built all across the country.

Skanderbeg Square at sunset in Tirana, Albania

If Tirana is a human body, Skanderbeg Square is probably the central nervous system. This is where all the roads in Tirana lead to. Skanderbeg Square is a large space surrounded by several tourist attractions making it one of the best places to start your journey in Tirana.

Before you learn about the dark history of Albania, you will first begin your journey in Tirana at the Skanderbeg Square, a large space surrounded by several tourist attractions that you should check out while you are in the city.

Et'hem Bej Mosque and the Clock Tower of Tirana at Skanderbeg Square in Tirana, Albania

Et'hem Bej Mosque, an Ottoman-era mosque located right in the middle of Skanderbeg Square is a great place to start. The prayer hall inside Et'hem Bej Mosque is decorated with frescos depicting waterfalls and nature, something that you don't see often in mosques.

The view of Skanderbeg Square from above on top of the Clock Tower of Tirana, Albania.

Near the mosque, you will find Tirana Clock Tower, a great place to climb up if you are looking for a great viewpoint to see Skanderbeg Square and the city from above.

The inside of the entrance of the Bunk'Art 2 museum full of people's portraits in Tirana, Albania

Now, that we've seen the beauty of modern Albania, it is time to learn about the history of this country. Bunk'Art 2is a nuclear bunker turned museum that shows how cruel the communist regime was when it was isolated from the outside world.

Enver Hoxha photo inside Gjirokaster Museum in Albania.

The museum will introduce you to Enver Hoxha, the infamous dictator whose name you won't be able to take your mind off easily throughout your trip to Albania.

The meeting room for the Minister of Internal Affairs to meet with other officials inside the bunker in Tirana, Albania.

The museum will take you through an actual nuclear bunker completed with several rooms that retain its original purposes like the apartment reserved for the Minister of Internal Affairs and even the decontamination room.

A demonstration of how the secret service bugged a room with small cameras and microphones on the other side of a wall at Bunk'Art 2 in Tirana, Albania

It also shows all the dirty tricks the state did to its people from bugging a room to spy on them and how they prosecuted those who were deemed traitors.

The entrance of the National History Museum with a colorful Soviet propaganda mural in Tirana, Albania.

If you are interested in not just the history during the communist regime but the origin of the people of Albania from the beginning to the Ottoman era to the Soviet era to now, be sure to visit The National History Museum.

Skanderbeg Sculpture in Skanderbeg museum in Kruje, Albania.

The museum is located in the middle of Skanderbeg Square and its exterior is decorated with a colorful soviet-propaganda-style mural, so you can't miss it. It's a large museum and you can expect to spend at least an hour to see all the rooms inside.

Sunset over Tirana from Dajti Mountain, Albania.

For the evening, I would recommend you take a bus out to the Dajti National Park and get a cable car up Dajti Mountain and watch the sunset there.

2 cable cars going both ways to and from Dajti Mountain in Tirana, Albania.

Dajti Mountain is a 1,613 m tall mountain that is one of the most popular retreats for locals to escape the bustling loudness of Tirana and be among nature.

A panoramic view of Tirana and its surrounding landscapes from Dajti Mountain, Albania.

From up there, you will be able to see Tirana and all the beautiful landscape surrounding it in its entirety. It is one of the best viewpoints in Tirana and one that I recommend you check out before leaving the city.

The Pyramid of Tirana from afar in Albania.

Other things to check out in Tirana are the Pyramid of Tirana, an abandoned communist-era structure built in a shape of a pyramid, Tirana's New Bazaar, a great place to find delicious food to eat or go people-watching, or if you have an extra day, go on a day trip to Kruje and learn more about Skanderbeg in his last stronghold before the Ottoman took over.

10 Best Things To Do In Tirana, Albania

2019 Bus Schedule from Tirana to Berat, Albania.

Getting from Tirana to Berat

After spending a day in Tirana, it is time to travel to our next destination, Berat. To get to Berat, you will have to get on one of the several buses leaving from Tirana Southward Bus Station.

The bus leaves from 5:40 AM twice an hour to 5 PM and it costs around 400 LEK per person. The journey will take about 2 hours and you will be dropped off at Berat Bus Terminal where you can get any of the local buses straight into Berat Old Town.

Berat (2 nights)

Me standing on top of Gorica Hill overlooking Berat and Berat Castle in Albania.

Berat, or as it is known as the City of Thousand Windows, is a charming UNESCO town full of Ottoman-era traditional houses, massive fortress structures, and a ton of cool things for you to do.

Berat Castle Observation Deck from Gorica Hill, Berat, Albania.

One of the most prominent landmarks in Berat is the Berat Castle, a Roman-era castle that sits atop a rocky hill on the left bank of Osum River overlooking the city of Berat.

Berat Castle Entrance from one of the Castle Wall, Albania.

From the bottom, it might look like there is much to do in the castle. Don't let that fool you since that is just the wall of the castle. Inside the wall, you will find houses with people still living inside and a ton of beautiful old structures waiting for you to explore.

Holy Trinity Church overlooking the western part of Berat with Mt. Shpirag behind it in Albania.

One of that structure is the Holy Trinity Church, a medieval Byzantine church built in the 13th Century located off the side of the Castle Hill. It makes quite a photogenic spot to capture the church, the city, and the mountain all in one frame.

The view of Gorica from the observation deck inside Berat Castle, Albania.

Within the castle, you will also find a stunning viewpoint where you will be able to see the 2 quarters of Berat Old Town as well as the mountains that surrounded the city.

Mangalem Quarter (Old Town) from across the Osum River in Berat, Albania.

From that viewpoint, you will see the Mangalem Quarter, the same side as the castle and Gorica Quarter where you can explore after you are done with Berat Castle. The 2 quarters used to house Muslims and Christians respectively. That is no longer the case nowadays but the area is still full of old churches and mosques you can check out.

Saint Demetrius Cathedral in Berat, Albania.

Be sure to check out Lead Mosque, King Mosque, and Bachelor's Mosque as well as St. Theodore's Church and Saint Demetrius Cathedral while you are in Mangalem District.

The view from Gorica Hill at Sunset in Berat, Albania.

An hour before sunset, there is a nice hike you can do that will take you up to the top of a hill behind Gorica Quarter where you can watch the sunset over the city. From up at the top, you will be able to see Berat and the castle from the opposite side.

The view of Berat from Gorical Hill at sunset, Albania.

It is much quieter up here than at the viewpoint at the castle which is always crowded so if you are looking for a peaceful place to sit and watch the sunset quietly, this hike is a must.

Xhiro at Bulevardi Republika full of people at night in Berat Albania.

After the sunset, be sure to go walk along Bulevardi Republika and experience xhiro hours, an Albanian tradition where people would come out after sunset from all over the place to walk up and down the boulevard and socialize among each other.

Bulevardi Republika during the day in Berat, Albania.

It can turn a seemingly quiet city into a fun circus full of locals out and about. It is quite a sight to behold.

Top 8 Things To Do In Berat, Albania

2019 Bus Schedule from Berat to everywhere else in Albania.

Getting from Berat to Gjirokaster

There are 2 buses that go from Berat to Gjirokaster daily, one at 8 AM and another at 2 PM. You can get the bus at Berat Bus Terminal where you will have to take a local bus to get to.

To get from the Old Town to Berat Bus Terminal, you will have to stand on the right side of Berat's Main Road and flag down a local bus that is going north. The local bus will cost you 30 LEK and it will take you around 10 - 20 minutes to get to the terminal in time for your bus to Gjirokaster.

The bus to Gjirokaster will cost you 900 LEK and it will take around 3 hours to reach Gjirokaster and they will drop you off at Gjirokaster Bus Stop.

Gjirokaster (2 nights)

The beautiful streets of Gjirokaster Old Bazaar in Albania.

Gjirokaster is another UNESCO heritage site that is also known as the Stone City of Thousand Steps. From the outside, it may seem like Gjirokaster is the same as Berat with both having an Ottoman-era castle on top of a hill to explore and both are UNESCO Heritage sites but in reality, they could not have been further apart.

The entrance to Gjirokaster Castle in Albania.

Gjirokaster offers a range of different things to do that sets itself apart from Berat. Gjirokaster Castle, one of the most iconic landmarks in the city, is a beautiful castle that resembles more of a fortress than the on in Berat.

Gjirokaster Castle and its clock tower in Albania.

Within the walls of Gjirokaster, you will find large hallways full of canons, beautiful gardens, a stunning stone clock tower, and 2 museums you can visit to learn more about the origin of Gjirokaster.

The view of Gjirokaster from Gjirokaster Castle in Albania.

Gjirokaster Museum is the one I would recommend you visit whereas you can skip the Arms Museum if you don't have time. Inside Gjirokaster Museum, you will learn about the ancient history of the city, the origin of the name, and legends and stories that will help you understand the city a bit more.

Gjirokaster Museum interior in Albania.

Gjirokaster is also the birthplace of Enver Hoxha, the communist leader responsible for all the nuclear bunkers I mentioned earlier and you can learn more about his ordeal in the museum as well.

Walter from Stone City Hostel taking us through the abandoned nuclear bunker in Gjirokaster, Albania.

There are also quite a few bunkers you can explore in Gjirokaster. The best one is the one that is hidden away in plain sight on the street of Gjirokaster Old Town.

Walter from Stone City Hostel explaining the reason why they used stone to build roofs in Gjirokaster, Albania.

In order to get there, you will have to go on a free walking tour with Stone City Hostel and Walter, the owner will show you around as well as explain the rich history of Gjirokaster in much greater detail.

A cloudy mountain above Gjirokaster, Albania.

That said, he only offers the walking tour to guests from the hostel, and so I would recommend you stay the Stone City Hostel when you are in Gjirokaster.

Me and my friends from the hostel resting after jumping off a rock in Gjirokaster, Albania.

He also offers a day trip as well where he would take out his jeep and go around exploring all the hidden gems around Gjirokaster. One of my favorite places he took me to is the hidden waterfall where we got to jump off a cliff. The more reason to stay at the hostel! 😉

Me looking at the Ali Pasha Bridge in Gjirokaster, Albania.

Be sure to also check out Gjirokaster Old Bazaar at night for a lively evening, Skenduli Traditional House and learn more about how the people lived back then, and hike to Ali Pasha Bridge, an old Ottoman-era stone bridge that is still in use today by the shepherds.

8 Best Things To Do In Gjirokaster

The bus schedule from Saranda to Himara in Albania.

Getting from Gjirokaster to Himara

You will have to get a 10 - 11 AM bus to Saranda first which should cost around 400 LEK and takes 1 hour. The bus will drop you off at the Saranda Bus Stop where you can then get on the 1 PM bus to Himara for another 500 LEK and 1.5 hours.

To get from Gjirokaster Old Town to Gjirokaster Bus Stop, you will have to walk down for about 20 minutes to the gas station that they dropped you off before and get on a furgon to Saranda. Just shout Saranda and someone will direct you to the right furgon.

Himara (2 nights)

Sunset over Himare at Sunset Restorant Bar in the Albanian Riviera, Albania.

After a week in Albania, we have finally arrived in the Albanian Riviera. The Albanian Riviera covers quite a large area along the Ionian Sea on the South Western coast of the country, which is hard to explore without a base. That is why we are going to Himara.

Himara's beach from the Sunset Restorant Bar in the Albanian Riviera, Albania.

Himara is a small town located right in the middle of all the beautiful beaches making it the perfect base for you. There are also more things to do other than relaxing at the beach such as going up to Himara Castle for a sunset, which I recommend you do on the day you arrive.

A sunset view from Himara Castle in Albania.

Himara Castle and the Old Town is an ancient settlement that dated all the way back to the Bronze Age. Within the old town, you will find old churches built with stones and a platform for you to see Himara and its beautiful beach from above making it a great place for the sunset.

Himara after sunset in the Albanian Riviera, Albania.

As beautiful as it was, Himara Castle is not actually the best spot to watch the sunset in Himara. The best spot to watch the sunset in Himara is actually at the Sunset Restorat Bar located on a cliff south of Himara.

The rolling hills of the landscape around Himara in the Albanian Riviera, Albania.

From the bar, you will get to see the coastline of Himara with a mountainous backdrop of the hills and mountains of Southern Albania in its entirety. A sight that is hard to forget.

Himara at night from Sunset Restorat Bar in Albania.

From Himara, it's a 35-minutes walk through the city and another 10 minutes hike up to the restaurant where you will be able to see the sky turned purple and the quiet town of Himara wakes up from its slumber and come to life.

People kayaking in front of a cave along the Albanian Riviera, Albania.

During the day in Himara, I would recommend you rent a kayak for around 3 hours and explore all the hidden caves and beaches along the Albanian coastline.

One of the many caves along the Albanian Riviera, Albania

If you go north of Himara with a kayak, you will find Gjipe Beach and Jala Beach as well as many small caves that you can explore.

Inside a cavern along the Albanian Riviera coastline in Albania

If you go south, you will find a small and quiet Filikuri Beach located just below the Sunset Bar I mentioned earlier.

A crowded Gjipe Beach in the Albanian Riviera, Albania

Be warned: Do not expect to see an empty beach waiting for you to explore. The time of discovering empty beaches in Albania is long gone. In only 2 years, all the empty beaches are all filled up with sunbeds that you will have to pay to use. It is a sad reality that comes with commercializing public spaces like this.

One of the many caves you will find along the coastline of Himara, Albania.

That said, the Albanian Riviera is still one of the most beautiful places in Albania and you will enjoy it nonetheless. Just keep your expectation of the beach in check and you will be quite happy with what you will find in the Albanian Riviera.

The Ultimate Backpacking Guide To The Albanian Riviera

A bus schedule from Tirana to Shkodra, Albania.

Getting from Himara to Shkodra

From Himara to Shkodra, you will be traveling all the way from south to north of Albania, so start early if you wish to do it in a day.

First, you will have to get yourself to Tirana. There is a direct bus to Tirana from Himara that goes early in the morning in the summer so if you are there during that time, you can go to the S8 main road in Himara and flag a furgon to Tirana down.

There are reports that the bus comes early in the morning ranging from 6 AM - 7:30 AM so you will have to check with your hostel/hotel for the updated schedule. The direct bus will cost 1000 LEK and takes around 5 hours.

If there is no direct bus going that day, you can also take the 9:00 AM (go earlier if you have the option) to Saranda which will cost around 500 LEK and takes 1.5 hours. Then, you can catch the hourly bus from Saranda to Tirana.

The bus from Saranda to Tirana will cost 1300 LEK and takes 5 hours which should give you enough time to catch one of the last buses from Tirana to Shkodra at 5 PM.

From Tirana to Shkodra, you will find plenty of buses leaving daily from the Northward Bus Station (not the same bus station as the one you took down south) starting from 7 AM to 5 PM. The journey takes around 2 hours and will cost you 300 LEK.

If for some reason, you missed the last bus from Tirana to Shkodra, you can get a taxi to Shkodra for about 4,000 LEK or 35 EUR.

Once you arrived in Shkodra, the bus will drop you off at Sheshi Demonkracia roundabout which is located in the city center so you should have no trouble walking to your accommodation from there.

Shkodra (1 night)

The empty G'juhadol street in Shkodra, Albania.

We have finally completed the South of Albania. Now, it is time to go up north and explore the Albanian Alps! The city you will have to pass through to get to the Albanian Alps is Shkodra, one of the oldest cities in the Balkans.

The colorful Kole Idromeno street in Shkodra, Albania.

There are quite a few cool things you can do in Shkodra but mostly, we will use it as a place of preparation before we embark on the epic hikes in the Albanian Alps.

Sitting with legs hanging off a cliff in the Albanian Alps, Albania.

The main hike we will be doing is the popular Theth-Valbona hike, a 7-hours hike that will take you from Theth to Valbona (or vice versa) through some of the most beautiful scenery you will see in Albania. We will also be spending some time doing side trips in Theth so, in total, we will be spending 3 nights in the mountains.

An opened Corny granola bar while hiking in Theth-Valbona in Albania.

For supplies, you can get snacks and light meals to prepare for lunch at SPAR Supermarket located not too far from G'juhadol Street. All the other meals, you can rely on the guesthouses in Theth and Valbona. For more information on things to prepare for the hike, check out our packing list for Theht-Valbona hike here.

A woman riding a bike through G'juhadol Street in Shkodra, Albania.

There is no ATM up there so be sure to carry enough cash with you for the entire time you will be in the mountains.

One of the first things you will have to pay is the transportation from Shkodra to Theth the next morning. Your hostel/hotel can organize this trip for you which is ideal as they can tell the driver to pick you up at your accommodation.

You will also need transportation back from Valbona to Shkodra, which is a little more complex since it involves taking 2 furgons and a ferry, but fortunately, you can organize all this in advance with your hostel/hotel as well in Shkodra.

If you have prepared everything you need for the hikes and still have some time left, you can go and explore Shkodra and see what the city has to offer.

Orthodox Cathedral of the Nativity in Shkodra, Albania.

Be sure to check out G'juhadol Main Street, Kole Idromeno Shopping Street, and all the surrounding structures like Ebu Bekr Mosque and Orthodox Cathedral of the Nativity before you end your day.

Getting from Shkodra to Theth

For this journey, you will have to organize the trip with your accommodation the day before and a furgon should come and pick you up at 7:20 AM the next day to take you to Theth.

The journey from Shkodra to Theth will take 3 hours with a stop at a viewpoint halfway where you can get breakfast before it continues to Theth. The cost for the transfer is 1200 LEK and you will pay directly to the driver when you arrive.

Theth has 2 areas, the town center, and Fushe Thethi and depending on where your accommodation is, you can tell your driver to drop you off there so you do not have to walk.

If you are staying at Shpella Guesthouse as I recommended, tell the driver the name and they will drop you off in front of the guesthouse for you.

Theth (2 nights)

The Church of Thethi
from Fushe Thethi in Theth, Albania.

From Shkodra, you should arrive in Theth by noon which should give you ample time to do some hiking before the sunset. One of the hikes I would recommend you do is a trail that goes to Denelle.

Me standing on a rock along the Denelle trail overlooking the valley in Theth in the Albanian Alps.

This 5-hours hike will take you to Denelle, a giant plain surrounded by mountains and along the way, you will be able to see the valleys surrounding Theth in its full glory from above.

Denelle is located in a large field hidden away in the mountains in the Albanian Alps, Albania.

At the end of Denelle Trail, you will arrive in a large field where you will meet a welcoming husband, wife, and their 3 daughters living in a tent tending their livestock.

From the other side of the river bed, the trail is a 3-hours straight-up hike through a thick forest where you will able to occasionally take a break and admire the view of Theth and all the surrounding valleys from above.

The lovely kids of the family living in a large tent at Denelle camp in Theth, Albania.

The hike difficulty is moderate to hard. You will be climbing straight up for 3 hours before you arrive in Denelle. It will take another 2 hours to get down, so be sure to time your self carefully so you don't have to hike in the dark.

An amazing dinner at Shpella Guesthouse in Theth, Albania.

After the hike, you can congratulate yourself with a feast at Shpella Guesthouse with an all-you-can-eat dinner they serve there every evening.

The Milky Way and the night sky in Theth, Albania.

Be sure to get out and see the stars at night after dinner. You can walk along the main dirt road to get away from artificial light and you will have the entire Milky Way to yourself 😉.

The Blue Eye in Theth, Albania.

For the second day, you can go and hike to the Blue Eye, one of the most popular hikes to do in Theth. The hike is easy but quite long, taking around 6 hours to complete.

The trail along the river from Theth to the Blue Eye in Albania.

Thankfully, you will mostly be walking along a flat trail with a bit of climb towards the end, so you should have more than enough energy spare for the big hike tomorrow.

My friend Linday standing among the crowds under Theth Waterfall in Albania.

On your way to the Blue Eye, be sure to also check out Grunas Waterfall, which is a 5-minute side trip you can do along with the Blue Eye.

Me looking at the Blue Eye in Theth, Albania.

After you are done with the trail, be sure to eat plenty of food, prepare the next day's lunch, and get ready to tackle the Theth-Valbona hike the next day.

Getting from Theth to Valbona

We hike. 😃

Valbona (1 night)

Me looking over the Valbona valley from Valbona Pass in the Albanian Alps.

Today will be a big day for you as you will be hiking the famous Theth-Valbona trail for 7 hours through one of the most beautiful mountains you will see in Albania. Your journey begins from the trailhead in Theth.

The beautiful mountains along the Theth-Valbona trail  in the Albanian Alps.

Right out of the bat, you will be hiking up the mountain for 3 hours on a steep trail that shoots up to Valbona Pass, the highest point of the trail. This is the steepest and hardest part of the hike so be sure to take it slow.

The forest along the Theth-Valbona trail in the Albanian Alps.

Along the trail up to the Pass, you will find several viewpoints and cafes that you can stop and relax before continuing. After you arrive at the pass, be sure to hike up further to get to a panoramic viewpoint where you will be able to see both sides of the valley from above.

Me at the viewpoint of Valbona Pass in the Albanian Alps.

Be extra careful at the viewpoint as the trail up there is very narrow and covered in slippery gravel. Once you are done taking photos, you can continue down the pass into the forest and the trail will follow a rocky river bed for another 4 hours until you arrive in Valbona.

Me lying down on the road in Valbona after hiking the Theth-Valone trail in Albania.

After 3 hours of hiking, you will eventually reach a paved road. Congratulations, you have reached Valbona! Depending on where you are staying, you might have to walk a little further to get to your accommodation.

Me and my friends having dinner at Jezerca Guesthouse in Valbona, Albania.

For my itinerary, I recommend you stay at Jezerca Guesthouse which is right at the end of Valbona so you will have to walk along the road for another 45 minutes.

A farm house in Valbona, Albania.

The view along both sides of the road is pretty impressive so you should be able to do that 45 minutes walk in no time. Be sure to also come out at night again if you wish to see the Milky Way one last time before leaving the mountain the next day.

A Complete Hiking Guide To The Albanian Alps

Getting from Valbona to Shkodra

If you wish to go to Shkodra the next day, be sure to tell your guesthouse you are leaving so that they can call the furgon driver to pick you up at the accommodation the next day.

To get back to Shkodra, you will have to first get on a furgon from Valbona to Fierze, and then you will have to take a ferry across Koman Lake to Koman before being transferred from Koman to Shkodra with another furgon.

You will need to have the tickets you bought in Shkodra on hand before you can take these furgons and ferry. If you do not, you can also buy all the tickets from your guesthouse in Valbona the day before. All 3 tickets should cost around 2,200 LEK.

The furgon from Valbona to Fierze will come and pick you up at 10:30 AM and you will arrive in Fierze in one hour. Then, you can get on a 1 PM ferry to Koman which will take another 2 hours before they transfer you from Koman to Shkodra with another 2 hours ride. All in all, you will arrive back in Shkodra by 6 PM.

Shkodra (1 night)

A mountain in Valbona at sunrise in Albania.

After a good night's sleep, you will have to wake up and catch the 10:30 AM furgon to Fierze. From Fierze, you can wait at the restaurant by the port for the 1 PM ferry that will take you across Komani Lake to Koman.

The ferry across Komani Lake in Fierze, Albania.

Once the ferry arrives, give another ticket to the ticket collectors before you board and make sure to find a seat outside that is under the shade. The view on both sides of the lake is pretty unforgettable.

The view of Komani Lake from the ferry in Albania.

The ferry will cruise through Komani lake for 2 hours before arriving in Koman where there will be several furgons waiting for you. Once you arrive in Koman, you can simply pick one of the furgon waiting, give the driver your ticket and you will be back in Shkodra in 2 hours.

Rozafa Castle in Shkodra, Albania.

Congratulations, you have finally completed the Theth-Valbona hike! You can either spend the rest of the day chilling out in Shkodra or you can walk to Rozafa Castle, climb up to the wall and sit outside while watching the sunset over the beautiful landscape around Shkodra.

Getting from Shkodra to Tirana

This is the same as how you get to Shkodra but in the opposite direction. There are several buses running between Shkodra and Tirana every hour leaving from Sheshi Demonkracia roundabout so you can get on one of that.

The bus will take 2 hours, cost 300 LEK, and they will drop you off at the Northward Bus Station in Tirana where you can then take a taxi or walk back to the city center.

Tirana (1 night)

The MIX dish I had at Sofra Beratase Restaurant in Tirana, Albania.

Once you arrive in Tirana, you can spend the rest of the day relaxing or go out and celebrate with one last dinner at Oda Restaurant or Sofra Beratase Restaurant. They are both great local restaurants that serve the usual Albanian dishes like Musaka, stuffed peppers, fried eggplants, and many more.

After spending your last night in Albania in Tirana, you can then get an airport shuttle at Rinas Airport Bus Stop located by Shatervan Park. The bus operates from 7 AM - 12 AM every hour and the journey will take about 40 minutes and cost 300 LEK.

And there you have it, a complete travel guide and a 2-weeks itinerary for backpacking in Albania. If you have any questions regarding the itinerary, please do not hesitate to ask me in the comments below. Safe travel!

Further Reading for Albania

Looking for more information for your trip to Albania? Here is a collection of articles about Albania that will help you with your trip planning:

The Solo Traveler’s Journal is a series of posts by Pete Rojwongsuriya, the founder of BucketListly Blog where we will follow his solo journey around the world as he experiences different cultures, people, and historical locations one country at a time.

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