Five of Albania’s Most Beautiful Small Towns and Villages

Travelling from the glittering Byzantine glory of Berat to the café-strewn piazzas of Korçë, we’ve pulled together a handful of beautiful small towns that first-time visitors to Albania must visit.

Albania is Europe's ultimate underdog - there, we said it. Despite being separated from sun-baked Puglia by just a slither of water and sharing a coastline with Croatia as well as a border with Greece (three of our all-time favourite destinations), it still remains a blindspot on the traveller's map. Unsure where to go? From the windows glinting on the hillsides of Berat to the tumbling waterfalls of Theth, we've pulled together a handful of beautiful small towns that first-timers in the country must visit.

The best small towns and villages to visit in Albania

Berat

It's known in Albania as "the city of a thousand windows" and it won't take you long to realise why; on the approach, this Unesco-listed town looks like a tumbling mosaic of pane-spangled, whitewashed streets. Hike up to Berat Castle, tick off as many Byzantine churches as you can (good luck, there are quite a few) and meander through the labyrinthine streets of Gorica before calling it quits with a glass of Albania's finest wine at one of the many bars along the Bulevardi Republika.

Kruja

Tucked cosily among the pine-carpeted foothills of mountains, lies this village of the same name. The big pull here is the medieval castle - the battleground where Albanian hero, Gjergj Kastrioti, or "Skanderbeg", defeated the Ottomans - which is also home to the Skanderbeg Museum. It's one of Albania's most impressive institutions so well worth a visit. After scouring trinkets in the bazaar and refuelling on Turkish coffee, change into something more comfortable and hit up the hiking trails of the Qafshtame National Park.

Korçë

Okay, it's not teeny-tiny (admittedly, it's a city) but we're including Korçë in this list anyway. For an affordable, romantic getaway, you can't go wrong with a weekend here. It started as a feudal estate in the 13th century and, over the years, has developed into a thrumming metropolitan hub. While away your days people-watching from a café perch on one of its many tree-lined public squares, pootle around the quaint Turkish quarter and swot up on your history knowledge at the National Museum of Medieval Art.

Theth

Just over the border from Montenegro, high up in the sublime peaks of the Albanian Alps, you'll find Theth. This is Albania at its most rustic. If you're a committed city-breaker, this place isn't for you. Aside from the Tower of Nikoll Koçeku, a creepy former dungeon with an intriguing history, there aren't many "attractions" so to speak. Instead, spend your days chasing waterfalls (must not miss: Grunas Canyon) in Theth National Park before sampling traditional, folksy fare as night falls over the splintered mountain peaks.

Valbona

You want an outdoorsy trip? We've got you. This kaleidoscopic wilderness of rippling lakes and untouched forests is how we imagine the Alps might have looked two hundred years ago before it became punctuated with resort towns. Take your pick of more than 200km of hiking trails, try your hand at kayaking the Valbona river or set forth from Valbona on a multi-day walking tour through the mountains, stopping off in Montenegro and Slovenia as you go.

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