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The Albanian Riviera: A Gem to Add to Your European Bucket List

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Every year millions flock to the beaches of Europe. While many flood the popular beach destinations like Greece and and Italy, they hardly touch the other areas surrounding. But did you know that some of the best beaches in Europe are those that most overlook? Well, the Albanian Riviera is home to a lot of them.


From trendy beach clubs facing turquoise waters, to hidden coves only accessible by boat, there are tons of hidden gems in Albania just waiting to be discovered!


In this guide we're going to share our favorite spots along the Albanian Riviera, from the best beaches of Albania, to where you should base yourself. So without further ado, here is everything you need to know for visiting the Albanian Riviera.

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Where is the Albanian Riviera?

The Albanian Riviera refers to the long stretch of the best beaches of Albania, in South Western Albania. The area starts from the city of Vlore, and stretches all the way down to the city of Ksamil, just north of the border with Greece.


The Albanian Riviera sits along the Northeastern Ionian Sea, which is part of the Mediterranean.

Where is the Albanian Riviera

The Albanian Riviera starts from Vlore, and goes down to the border of Greece.


How to Get to the Albanian Riviera

The Albanian Riviera is an entire coast line, so depending on where you are coming from, or which part you want to go to, will depend on the best way to get there.


Vlore, which is the northernmost area of Albanian Riviera, is about a 2/1 hour drive from the capital city. Ksamil, which is the southernmost town, is about 280 kilometers driving, and a 5 hour ride by car.


Where Do You Fly to for the Albanian Riviera?

The Albanian Riviera itself doesn't have an airport. However, you can fly into Tirana or Corfu. Depending on where you are coming from will determine which one is better. We personally use Skyscanner's calendar feature to check which dates are the cheapest for the entire month, and you can compare whether Tirana or Corfu have better options.


Here we've added the search option so you can look directly and see which airport is best for you!

How to Get to the Albanian Riviera from Tirana

If you fly into Tirana, it will definitely be the most seamless option as you will be inside the country. The easiest way to get to the Albanian Riviera is to rent a car in Tirana and drive. This will give you much more freedom to truly explore the best beaches of Albania, and all that the coastline has to offer.


We love to rent cars from locals, as it's the perfect way to cut costs and support the community:

Albanian Riviera beach clubs
Dhermiu town, getting to the Albanian Riviera
views of the Albanian Riviera

The Albanian Riviera is best enjoyed by driving the coast.


Getting to the Albanian Riviera by Bus

There are also public buses that go from Tirana and stop along the Albanian Riviera. Vlore takes about 3 hours and is 500 Lek, while Saranda is a 5 hour drive and costs around 12 euros. If you don't want to rent a car, then we would suggest choosing a base, and then taking excursions from where you are.


Getting to the Albanian Riviera by Ferry

The first time I visited the Albanian Riviera actually wasn't by starting in Albania. 


Did you know that the Greek islands are right around the corner from the Albanian Riviera? Corfu is a stunning Greek island that sits right across from the south of Albania, and has daily ferries that go to Sarande (just 10-15 minutes north of Ksamil).


So if you happen to find a cheaper flight to Corfu, you can easily hop on the ferry to make it over to the Albanian Riviera. Also, if you want to just visit while in Corfu, this is the perfect day trip to get a glimpse at what the Albanian Riviera has to offer!


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Entry Requirements for Albania

Traveling in Europe can get a little confusing, as there are different requirements for every country. This goes for within the EU, as well as within the Schengen Zone. That's why we're here to clarify a few things for traveling to Albania.


Visa Requirements for Albania

In many European countries, the "90/180" rule applies for those that are not European. This means that in a 180-day period, tourists can only stayin the Schengen Area for up to 90 days in total.


Some countries in Europe are part of the EU, but aren't part of the Schengen Zone, and some are in the Schengen Zone but are not part of the EU. Some are in both, while some aren't in either. You can imagine that this can get super confusing when trying to calculate your traveling dates! 


The good news is though, that Albania is not part of the Schengen Zone. This means that you can freely travel here even if you've already expired your 90 days in the Schengen Zone (which is exactly what happened to us). Tourists are able to travel to Albania visa free for a total of 90 days within a 180-day period, despite any of the other European countries they had visited prior.


Covid Entry Requirements for Albania

While the entry requirements to enter and stay in Europe may get confusing, luckily it isn't when it comes to Covid. Albania is now open for all travelers, with or without a vaccination. There are also no longer any regulations about wearing masks, nor will you really find anyone wearing them anymore.


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Local Adjustments for the Albanian Riviera

Whenever traveling there are things that you may forget about, that could be different from where you are coming from. Here are a few of the local adjustments to keep in mind while traveling throughout Albania.


What Language is Spoken in Albania?

The official language in Albania is Albanian. Unlike all of the languages north of Albania, the Albanian language has nothing to do with the Slavic ones. It is rather hard to learn, and we were really only able to pick up a few words here and there.


Many older people won't speak too much English throughout the country, but the young kids really have a great level of English! Being in a more "touristy" area of the country though, we found much more people were able to speak English along the Albanian Riviera.


What Currency is Used in Albania?

The currency used in Albania is the Albanian Lek. Currently (March 2024) the exchange is 96.05 lek for every USD or euro. Euros can actually be used pretty much everywhere, and we even found the exchange rate to be better than using lek sometimes! This is quite rare to find, so we suggest bringing as many euros as you can before coming to Albania.


Another thing to note is that even in fancy looking beach clubs, you'll find. lot of places only take cash. Even restaurants will claim that their "credit card machine is broken". So pretty much cash is key in Albania.


Is the Albanian Riviera Expensive?

The Albanian Riviera is surprisingly affordable! Honestly, when you are there you will feel as if everything will be a lot of money, but it is much cheaper than some of the nearby countries such as Croatia, Montenegro, or the Greek Islands.


What Plug Adapter Do I Need for Albania?

Albania uses the same plug types as the rest of Europe, which are types C & F. The standard voltage in Albania is 230 V and the standard frequency is 50 Hz.


Is Albanian Water Drinkable?

The water potability actually changes quite a lot throughout Albania. You'll find that in the mountains the water is great to drink, while cities don't have the most drinkable water. 


The Albanian Riviera is pretty safe to drink, but locals prefer bottled water. Additionally, it's rare that restaurants will bring tap water to the table.


Is Tipping Expected in Albania?

The tipping culture in Albania is pretty flexible. Most people tip in bars by just rounding up, while in restaurants leaving 100-200 lek (between $1-2).


We always left 10% to our servers that did a good job, as wages are pretty low in Albania. However, if you don't receive great service, you don't need to feel obligated to tip like that.

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What City is the Albanian Riviera? Where to Stay Along the Albanian Riviera

The Albanian Rivera is full of stunning spots! So what city is the Albanian Riviera exactly? Well, the coast is very long, and just like the Amalfi Coast, there are a number of cities that you can stay in. We're going to tell you a few of our favorite areas to stay along the coast line.


Dhermiu & Drymades

This area of the Albanian Riviera is simply stunning, and we don't understand how it wasn't jam packed when we visited in the height of summer.


Dhermiu and Drymades are the beginning of the Albanian Riviera, and are just beside one another. Home to some of the best beaches of Albania, you can't skip this area! The beaches have super turquoise waters, a cute downtown, and the most stylish beach clubs.


Drymades beach club, Albanian Riviera
beach clubs in Drymades, where to stay along the Albanian Riviera
Dhermiu and Drymades

Dhermiu and Drymades are home to the best beach clubs and resorts.


This area used to be super popular for Albanians to escape the city and party the night away. Unfortunately, things have changed when it comes to nightlife, and now the cops make bars and clubs turn off the music after midnight. So we suggest having yourself a happy hour at one of the trendy beach clubs if you want a little summer fun.

beach club in Drymades

The beach clubs no longer have music late, so we suggest enjoying the daytime.

Want to book a place in the area of Dhermiu & Drymades? You can see the different accommodation options by checking the map below:

Booking.com

Himare

Just south of Dhermiu lies another amazing beach town to stay. Himare has a Long Beach, as well as surrounding smaller ones. There is a long strip of restaurants, bars, and shops to check out, making it perfect for all ages.

Himare, where to visit along the Albanian Riviera

Himare has a long coast lined with beach clubs, restaurants, and shops.

Another reason we visited Himare was because it is where the excursions go to visit some of the hidden beaches in the area. We has an amazing day sailing and exploring the gems that the Albanian Riviera has to offer, including one of the best beaches of Albania- Grama Bay!


Himare beach, Albanian Riviera
Himare boat tours, Albanian Riviera
Himare port

Himare is home to most of the boat trips along the Albanian Riviera.


Want to check out accommodation options in Himare? Simply refer to the map below:

Booking.com

Ksamil

Ksamil was once one of my favorite beaches in the world. Also known as the "Maldives of Europe", Ksamil is pretty much the only area where you'll find sandy beaches, surrounded by a small archipelago.

Ksamil, Albanian Riviera

Ksamil is the only area that has sandy beaches.

Unfortunately now it's changed quite drastically. The entire area is covered with restaurants. umbrellas, and vendors. Word got out what a hidden gem Ksamil is, and well now- it isn't so hidden.


Ksamil, Albanian Riviera
Ksamil, Albanian Riviera
Ksamil, Albanian Riviera

Ksamil now is full of big beach clubs and restaurants over the water.


Despite my dissapointment, I can't help but still recommend Ksamil, particularly for families.


There are pedal boats, aqua parks, and plenty of activities for children to enjoy while adults grab a drink on the water. If you don't have kids, we still suggest coming here for a few hours to check out the chaotic and vibrant beach town of Ksamil.

Ksamil activities, Albanian Riviera

Ksamil has plenty of activities for families.

Want to prebook some excursions around the area? Here are a few different options:

Looking to book your place to stay in Ksamil? Just refer to the map below:

Booking.com

The Best Things to Do Along the Albanian Riviera

Now that you know all of the best places to stay along the Albanian Riviera, it's time to share all of the great things you can do.


Don't have time to read the whole article and want to save it for later? Just pin it!

Albanian Riviera Pin
Albanian Riviera Pin
Albanian Riviera Pin

Indulge at the Beach Clubs

As we mentioned, the beach clubs are seriously awesome along the Albanian Riviera, particularly in Dhermiu, Drymades, and Himare. 


beach clubs Albanian riviera
beach clubs Albanian riviera
beach clubs Albanian riviera

The best beach clubs are along Dhermiu and Drymades Beaches.


Swings next to the beach, boardwalks running to the sea, and trendy music play to set the mood. Stylish decor, bean bags along the beach, and covered cabanas are just another few things you can expect to experience at the beach clubs along the Albanian Riviera.

beach clubs Albanian riviera

The beach clubs are so much more than bars and restaurants.

Many beach clubs are just for cocktails, while there are also plenty that serve up tasty dishes (which we'll mention our favorites later). The best part? You can feel like a celebrity without having to spend a fortune doing so.


beach clubs Albanian riviera swings
cabanas at beach clubs Albanian riviera
beach clubs Albanian riviera

The beach clubs have everything from swings and hammocks to bean bags and cabanas.


Hike to Gjipe Beach

In our opinion, one of the best beaches of Albania is Gjipe Beach. Tucked away through a canyon between Dhermiu and Himare, it's easy to spend a whole day enjoying all that Gjipe has to offer. 


Gjipe Beach
umbrellas along Gjipe, best beaches of Albania
water Gjipe Beach, best beaches of albania

Gjipe beach is one our favorite beaches along the Albanian Riviera.


Rent a float, paddle board, or kayak, explore the caves, or hike to the waterfall inside the canyon. This beach can be hiked to in just 20 minutes (or 3 hours from the main road). Want to learn more? We have a full article that you can check out with all the details.


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Check out Himare Castle

While the main highlight is beach area of Himare, little people know about the hidden gem sitting behind it.


Himare castle is now pretty much in ruins, but it is still pretty cool to check out. Perched up high away the bay, you can also enjoy spectacular views- especially at sunset! Until 8 pm there is a small entrance fee, which is less than the equivalent of 1 USD.


Himare castle
Himare Castle
Himare Castle

Himare Castle is a hidden gem of the Albanian Riviera.


Visit Castle Palermo

This is a gem that you can find right off the main highway going from the north of the Albanian Riviera towards the south (about 10-15 minutes from Himare).

Palermo Castle, Albanian Riviera

Palermo Castle can be spotted right from the highway.

The large castle sits on a small peninsula where you can find locals sunbathing or swimming. Unfortunately we could only appreciate the view from the road, as it closed at 6 pm and it was a bit later than that. Nevertheless, we definitely think it would be a great stop while driving the coastline.

Palermo Castle

Palermo Castle is located on a peninsula with small beaches around it.

Take a Boat Tour

When we initially got our boat tour from Himare, we just wanted to go to Grama Bay. Paying 50 euros a piece, we weren't exactly sure if it would be worth it.


boat trip Albanian Riviera
boat trip Albanian Riviera
boat trip Albanian Riviera

Taking a boat trip is a great way to explore the Albanian Riviera.


However, after a long day on the water (from 10 am to 3 pm) we can say it was one of our favorite things that we did along the Albanian coast! 

boat trip Albanian Riviera

Taking a boat trip allows you to explore the best beaches of Albania.

Our boat had a small group, stopping at and by some beautiful spots like hidden beaches and caves. it was an incredible experience, and really a highlight for us. We definitely suggest booking in advance! (The waves can really depend on whether the tours run or not).


boat trip Albanian Riviera
boat trip Albanian Riviera
boat trip Albanian Riviera

Our boat made several stops along the coast.


Trek to Grama Bay

Just as we mentioned, the main reason we took a boat tour was to see Grama Bay. This is one of the best beaches of Albania, and is probably because it is still pretty well preserved from mass tourism.

Grama Bay, best beaches of Albania

Grama Bay is one of the best beaches of Albania.

Tucked away in the rocky coast, Grama Bay has super turquoise waters, and an epic viewpoint.


Boat tours come here briefly, but if you really want to spend some time here, then you can do a 4 hour hike to get there. There is a restaurant and even people staying in tents there. We do suggest starting early as the sun gets strong, and it is a rather long trek to get there.


Grama Bay, best beaches of Albania
Grama Bay, best beaches of Albania
Grama Bay, best beaches of Albania

You can spend hours enjoying Grama Bay- especially from this viewpoint!


Want to experience the highlights of the Albanian Riviera? Here are a few options from day trips to full packages:

Explore the Hidden Coves

The entire Albanian coast is full of some of the best beaches of Albania. While most beaches are long stretches full of beach clubs, there are some tiny beaches tucked away from the crowds. We definitely suggest searching for them if you like your own little slice of paradise.


Our favorite zone of tiny beaches was located in between Drymades and Palasa. Here you'll even find tiny patches of sand, as well as a couple of caves!

cave ear Drymades
hidden cove near Drymades

There are some great hidden coves near Drymades.

Explore Butrint National Park

If you're a history lover, then you'll love a stop at this UNESCO World Heritage Site.


Butrint National Park is located all the way in the south of Albania, right by the border of Greece. It is full of archaeological remains and historical sites. We personally thought that it was a bit overpriced (1,000 lek per person), and a tad overcrowded for our liking. 


Butrint Park, Albania
Butrint Park, Albania
Butrint Park, Albania

Butrint Park is an UNESCO World Heritage Site.


However, if you do want to see something a bit different, then it's a great spot to check out early in the morning before the big tour buses arrive. (It opens at 8 am, and is right down the road from Ksamil).

Butrint Park, Albania

Butrint Park is just outside Ksamil.

If you'd rather take a tour or have your transportation included, here are a few options you can choose from:

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Getting Around the Albanian Riviera

Getting around the Albanian Riviera is definitely easiest by car.


We didn't find many buses, although we are sure there are some in the bigger cities such as Sarande and Vlore. Renting a car is the best in our opinion, and is most practically done by getting one straight in Tirana if you are flying into Albania.

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Local Food & Drink

We absolutely loved the cuisine in Albania, and found that the food varied quite a bit from the mountains to the beach areas.


Along the Albanian Riviera you can expect to find a lot of fresh seafood and pasta dishes, similar to those of Italy. Even the fancy beach clubs were super affordable, making a meal at the beach extremely pleasant.

seafood pasta

Seafood pasta is a must while on the Albanian Riviera.

Fresh fruit is also very big in Albania, especially watermelon! It's pretty common that restaurants will bring watermelon or some fruit to the table after your meal completely free of charge. Here are a couple of our favorite places we ate along the Albanian Riviera.


Best Restaurants Along the Albanian Riviera

The restaurants along the Albanian Riviera were a bit hit and miss. These are the two places that we loved though.


Don Mare

Located at Dhermiu Beach, this beach club is extremely trendy and inviting, just as the owner is. The cocktails were great, there was a wonderful vibe, and the seafood pasta and seafood salad we got were the best we had in the whole country.


Rapos

We ended up spending a full day at Rapos, due to the amazing service we got. Great music and atmosphere, and the sweetest waiter ever were at this restaurant. The seafood wasn't as amazing as Don Mare, but it was still very good. Located in Himare, it's definitely a great place to relax for the day with some drinks on the beach.

Rapos Beach club

Rapos was one of our favorite beach clubs in Himare.


How Safe is the Albanian Riviera?

When you tell other Balkan citizens that you're visiting Albania, they have nothing but bad things to say about the people. Personally, I've also had some experiences with Albanians that came off a bit arrogant in the past.


This time we came and found that all of those stereotypes and preconceptions were completely false! The people of Albania are super warm, and the country is very safe.


Like anywhere, we still suggest to be cautious with your belongings, and don't leave things in your car in eyesight. However, solo travelers, women, and families can confidently go and explore this beautiful country without having to worry about safety.

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Other Things to Know About Visiting the Albanian Riviera

Now you know almost all there is to know about visiting the Albanian Riviera! Here are also a few other thing to keep in mind.


What is the Weather Like in the Albanian Riviera?

We were at the Albanian Riviera for an entire week, and seriously didn't see a single cloud in the sky. Days were long, hot, and sunny, making it perfect to enjoy the best beaches of Albania.

weather Albanian Riviera

The Albanian Riviera has hot sunny days and clear skies.

What are the Best Months to Go to the Albanian Riviera?

The coastline really comes to life in the summertime, and even in the height of the season, we rarely felt that places were too packed to enjoy (with the exception of Ksamil). We do predict that this will change in years to come, as Albania will definitely start to appear on peoples' radar sooner or later.


If you want completely empty beaches and still pleasantly warm days, you can come during the shoulder months. We would suggest from early May to early June, or September to early October.


secluded beach Albanian Riviera
beach club
beach clubs Albanian Riviera

Even in the summer we were able to enjoy some areas that weren't so crowded.


How to Pack for a Trip to the Albanian Riviera

When it comes to visiting the Albanian Riviera, it's all about the beach preparation. Here are some of the things we suggest packing for a trip to the Albanian Riviera: 

beaches Albanian Riviera

The beaches are rocky along the Albanian Riviera, so make sure to bring water shoes.

Finally, we found that when booking places people always asked for Euros, and even gave a slightly better rate when using them. Unfortunately we didn't have a lot of euros, but definitely think it would've helped.


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Whether you plan on visiting the hot spot of Ksamil, or exploring the lesser known best beached of Albania, we know you are going to fall in love with the Albanian Riviera just like we did.


We spent a week exploring down the coast, and found that it was a perfect taste for what the area has to offer. However, we definitely could have spent a full two weeks with all of the amazing things the area has to offer! We have a ton of other Albania travel guides, and always more coming up! So make sure to subscribe to our newsletter to stay in the know for upcoming articles.


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