Top Destinations on the Albanian Riveria

Do you want to avoid the same summer destinations everyone else is doing? Would you like something more economical that provides the same quality tourism as places such as Greece and Italy? Look no further than the Albanian Riviera. The Albanian Rivera is one of the up-and-coming destinations in Europe that is still not entirely on the beaten path for now. It’s also a great place to visit in the shoulder seasons, such as May and September, as the temperatures there are milder and the number of tourists dramatically decreases. The Albanian Riviera is one of the sunniest destinations in Europe, with over 300 sunny days a year.

Albanians are some of the most welcoming people in Europe. They have not had much tourist infrastructure for a long time, so they welcome tourists worldwide. Albanians take welcoming guests seriously as they would their own family. There is even a term for it called “besa’. Hospitality is a crucial element in their culture. They go out of their way to help people. 

Another overlooked element of Albania is its food. Albania has a rich culinary scene. Albanian cuisine is a fusion of Mediterranean, Balkan, and Ottoman influences. In places like Vlorë, you will see a robust Italian influence in the cuisine. They pride themselves on their seafood and grilled meat. However, Albanians do a decent job accommodating vegetarians as well. They also love to sit in cafes and sip Turkish coffee or Raki. They were part of the Ottoman Empire for over 500 years, so they kept a big part of this element in Albanian culture. 

Here is an overview of the top places on the Albanian Riviera.


Sarande is the gateway to all the main sights on the Albanian Riviera. It is located in the very south of Albania. It’s right across from Corfu, Greece. It’s a simple 30-minute to 1-hour ferry ride across. In fact, during the Hoxha regime, several people even managed to flee Albania by swimming to Corfu from Sarrande.

Sarande is situated by several islands, which makes for some great day trips, such as Ksamil, which many have said could be Bali or an exotic Southeast Asian destination. There are also charming destinations slightly inland from Sarande, such as the Blue Eye and Girokaster. Sarande has some lovely beaches within the city as well.

Sarande has a vibrant nightlife scene in the summer months. Albanians are very social and extroverted people as a whole and know how to party. There are different types of nightlife for everyone as well. You can find the same type of clubs that you would see on these Greek islands, but you can also find a calm jazz bar if that is more your scene. It’s also much less expensive and pretentious than you would pay in many other European places.

You also can’t forget the Castle of Lëkurësi, which is perched on top of the hill. It offers panoramic views of the town and the surrounding coastline. Initially built in the 16th century by the Ottomans, the castle now houses a restaurant where visitors can enjoy traditional Albanian cuisine while enjoying the spectacular scenery. It makes for a nice walk to burn off the calories from the food. Still, if you prefer walking horizontally rather than vertically, you can also take a taxi for not much.

The Blue Eye

The Blue Eye is a tranquil natural spring in southern Albania just down the road from Sarande. It’s a natural spring that forms a deep pool of clear, blue-green water. The pool is fed by an underground river that originates from nearby mountains. It’s estimated to be about 50 meters deep. The Blue Eye is a popular tourist destination in Albania; it’s a great place to dip in refreshing and pristine waters. It’s the ideal place to cool off. It’s surrounded by lush greenery, so it’s a nice thing to do in contrast with the beaches.

copyright: the holistic backpacker


Another very easy or overnight trip from Sarande is Gjirokaster. While not on the Rivierea exactly, it’s an easy reach from the coast and a nice contrast. One can also get an insight into Albanian history and culture by visiting this city.   

Gjirokastër’s historic center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s most recognized for its well-preserved Ottoman architecture. One of the most noticeable characteristics is the narrow stone streets, traditional stone houses with distinctive slate roofs, and imposing Ottoman-era buildings. Many are cafes where you can sit, watch people, and enjoy the laid-back Albanian culture.

There are many viewpoints in Gijrokaster which offer a glimpse into Albania’s natural landscape of rolling hills, olive groves, and vineyards. 

Enver Hoxha, the former communist leader of Albania, was born in Gjirokastër, and his childhood home is now open to the public as a museum. While this part of history is contested among Albanians, it still serves to educate tourists on a part of Albania’s history that cannot be forgotten for better or worse.


This is easily the most popular destination from Sarande. It’s a small coastal village only 15 kilometers away. Many tourists stay there. Ksamil has stunning beaches with crystal-clear turquoise waters and soft white sands. As mentioned above, you could almost fool your friends by taking a picture and making them think you are not even in Europe anymore. It’s that idyllic. The most popular thing is to lay around on the beach and soak in the sun. 

The main beaches in Ksamil are Paradise Beach, Mirror Beach, and Three Islands Beach. It’s right by the Ksamil Islands, a group of four small offshore islands. The islands are a popular destination for day trips, boat tours, and snorkeling excursions.

The Butrint Archeological Park and Ancient City 

If nature is your thing, this is the place for you. Butrint National Park is a protected area located in the southern part of Albania, near the town of Sarandë. The park encompasses diverse ecosystems, including wetlands, forests, and archaeological sites. It is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its rich cultural and natural heritage. The park hosts a variety of flora and fauna.

Butrint is also great for history and culture buffs. The ancient city of Butrint is an archaeological site within Butrint National Park. It was initially a Greek colony founded in the 7th century BCE and later became a Roman city. Over the centuries, Butrint was inhabited by various civilizations, including the Byzantines, Venetians, and Ottomans, each leaving their mark on the city’s architecture and culture. Today, visitors to Butrint can explore well-preserved ruins, including a theater, temples, a basilica, and defensive walls, providing insight into the city’s rich history and significance.


Himare is a coastal town about 90 minutes North of Sarande. It used to be visited almost exclusively by Albanians but has had a significant tourist boom in the last decade. It is a cute little old town with narrow cobblestone streets and stone houses. Visitors can wander the charming streets, admire the architecture, and explore local culture.

It has one of the most impressive boardwalks in Albania. It’s lined with many cozy beach bars and restaurants that cater to a wide variety of Albanian and foreign tourists. Himare has sandy beaches and gentle bays.

If you want a fitness challenge, you can walk to the top of the hill and see the Castle of Himarë, which dates back to the 13th century. The castle is a fantastic viewpoint of the surrounding coastline and mountains. You can also take a 3-euro taxi ride as well.

copyright: Anita Hendrieka


Dhermi is the brother city of Himara or the rival; like the rest of the Albanian Riviera, it has stunning beaches with crystal clear gorgeous water and pristine white sands. Some of the most popular beaches in the area include Dhermi Beach, Drymades Beach, and Gjipe Beach. These beaches attract locals and tourists seeking relaxation, swimming, sunbathing, and water sports.

There are some wild beaches in unusual settings that you can only reach by boat, but rest assured, it’s very cheap and easy to arrange during the summer. There are lots of companies that arrange these beach hopping boat tours between Dheri and Himara.

Speaking of parties, Another notable thing about Dhermi is that it is one of Albania’s most prominent party destinations. It hosts several prominent music festivals in the summer, such as the Kala and Ion festivals, which attract partygoers from all over Europe. 

Dhermi has a lot to offer for nature lovers as well. Several trails lead into the nearby Llogara National Park, where visitors can enjoy the natural beauty of the Albanian countryside.


Like Sarande, Vlore is another one of the gateway destinations to the Albanian Reiverea. Many tourists start their trip to the Albanian Riviera from there as well. Vlore is located on Albanian’s coast in the center of the country. It’s a couple of hours away from the capital, Tirane. It’s where the Adriatic and Ionian seas meet. There are a couple of ways of getting to Vlore. You can fly into Tirane and transfer to Vlore. Many also reach Vlore by ferry from Brindisi, Italy.  

Vlorë is one of the oldest cities in Albania, with a rich history dating back to ancient times. It played a significant role in Albania’s struggle for independence from the Ottoman Empire in the early 20th century. Vlore is where the Albanians won independence from the Ottomans on November 28, 1912. It’s a city that Albanians are very proud of. You can learn more about this in the Museum of Independence.

Vlorë is abundant with beautiful beaches along its coastline. Some famous beaches in the area include Plazhi i Ri (New Beach), Plazhi i Vjeter (Old Beach), and Radhime Beach. 

Outside Vlorë, atop a hill overlooking the city and the surrounding countryside, lies Kaninë Castle. This medieval castle offers panoramic views of the area and provides insight into Albania’s history and heritage. There is also a quaint monastery on Zvërnec Island, just 20 minutes outside Vlore.




Getting to the Albanian Riviera

You can quickly get to Sarande by ferry from Corfu, Greece. There are also ways to take the ferry from Italy to Vlore and Sarande. The most common routes are from Birdinsi, Italy, to Vlore or Corfu, Greece, to Sarrande. 

Unfortunately, one of the downfalls of Albanian travel is that much Albanian domestic travel involves expensive transfer services where you pay a premium and have to negotiate. The option is public transport, but it can be uncomfortable, especially in summer. They put as many people in the furgons ( mini buses) as possible. The drivers aren’t always on time and don’t always respect the timetables. 

Fortunately, we offer an excellent middle-of-the-road service for people who want an economical and comfortable option around Albania. RivieraBus covers all of these destinations above with comfy minivan 7+1. It’s the perfect choice for those who want to save time navigating the Furgon system but want to avoid paying a lot for private transfers or bothering with renting a car. The process can be stressful. There is always that uncertainty over deposits and hidden costs. Albanian roads are tricky for people who aren’t local. Local drivers can be reckless. The traffic laws are not enforced as they are in the European Union. Also, the areas around Dhermi and Himare have confusing and winding roads.

The rate for Tirane to Sarande (or any other destination of the route) with RivieraBus is 50 euros, which is cheaper than the private transfer. A transfer from Tirane airport to Sarande is about 180-200 euros. We offer easy & quick online booking on our website, free Wi-Fi, bottled water, AC, and licensed drivers. Not more than seven people in the van. It’s like a private transfer without paying a price. The prices are fixed, so there is no need to negotiate. There is additional summer RivieraBus route between Sarande and Vlore for a fixed price of 30 euros.

We also take you to your destination so you can save time without navigating how to get to your accommodation because  the bus stations are sometimes not clearly marked and can be in inconvenient locations. So it’s a good idea to look into our services to save you the stress of local transportation and give you peace of mind.

We look forward to seeing you on the Albanian Riviera.

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