Nine of Albania’s Most Beautiful Small Towns and Villages

Nine 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.

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


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.


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.


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


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.


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.



Heard of the Albanian Riviera? It’s time you did. Close to the
border with Greece, the secluded white-sand beaches and crystalline
waters around Ksamil rival many better-known Ionian hotspots at a
fraction of the price. While one of Albania’s most popular
destinations, its beautiful shores protected by Butrint National
Park, it’s still far from crowded. The area of Ksamil encompasses
four uninhabited islands, which can be visited by boat for supreme
snorkelling opportunities. Just a five-minute drive away, the ruins
of the ancient city of Butrint date back to the eighth century BC,
when it was a thriving fortified city with an acropolis. The
archaeological site is virtually devoid of tourists, and will be a
trip highlight for classics enthusiasts and romantics alike.



Gjirokastra, aka “The City of Stone”, is one of the finest
Ottoman merchant towns surviving in the Balkans: a bustling bazaar,
narrow cobbled streets and whitewashed tower houses fill the
historic old town, leading up to a medieval castle on the hill.
Looking out across the snow-capped peaks of southern Albania’s
Drino Valley, not too far from the Greek border, Gjirokastra has
been listed as a Unesco World Heritage site, thanks in part to the
hundreds of rock-hewn buildings which give it its moniker. For
Albanians, the hillside settlement is also known for its links to
the former communist dictator Enver Hoxha, who was born here.



Another village on the Ionian coast blessed with paradisaical
beaches, Dhërmi’s rugged beauty attracted Victorian poets including
Lord Byron, before it fell firmly off the tourist map following
decades of conflict. An hour-and-a-half drive from the nearest big
city – Vlorë – Dhërmi’s remote location is one of the reasons that
its glorious architecture has been so well preserved. The beach is
lined with wooden bars and restaurants, attracting mostly local
tourists, but a little way back from the sea, the landscape appears
almost the same as it would have in Byron’s day – a magical-looking
monastery surrounded by white houses, spliced between shoreline and



Though the town may not seem remarkable at first glance,
Shkodër, or Shkodra, which is surrounded by three rivers near
Albania’s northern border with Montenegro, is in fact one of the
country’s oldest cities. A strategic battleground and the gateway
to the Albanian Alps, it has seen Roman, Serbian, Venetian and
Ottoman occupation over the centuries, with influences of all still
visible. The main attraction is Lake Shkodra – the largest in
southern Europe – at 370sq km. The historic quarter of Pjaca is the
prettiest part of the city, characterised by a fascinating mix of
mosques and Catholic churches. The ruins of Rozafa Castle, an
imposing Illyrian fortress situated on a rocky hill overlooking the
town and lake, are also well worth a visit, especially at

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