If you plan on going off-the-beaten path in your travels, then Albania, with its ancient towns and crystal clear beaches, is an up-and-coming holiday destination that warrants a visit. For those unfamiliar with the destination, Albania is located in the Southeastern part of Europe’s Balkan Peninsula.
This tiny nation features both Ionian and Adriatic coastlines and a lush natural landscape crossed by the Albanian Alps, making it one of the most beautiful places for those who love to be close to nature.
Apart from being the birthplace of Mother Teresa, the country is famous for its medieval and Ottoman history and breathtaking beaches. Because of its rich history, Albania is the rising star of Mediterranean destinations known for its interesting landscapes, delicious cuisine, welcoming people, and small historic towns.
While you can visit this beautiful country just about any time of the year, visiting Albania during special occasions is a great way for you to get the most out of your travels. It also allows visitors to experience the local culture and cuisine while celebrating the local tradition.
One such local festival (and national holiday) is Spring Day or Dita e Veres, which has its origins in Roman, Greek, and Albanian religions and is celebrated on 14th March. This is a pagan celebration that’s celebrated throughout the country, especially in Tirana and Elbasan.
During the celebrations, these destinations are filled with local acrobats, musicians, and other performers who come out to celebrate and entertain the masses, made up of locals and foreign tourists.
The celebrations start weeks before, and you’ll find red and white bracelets called ‘Verore’ hung from the trees and worn by young people for good luck. The traditional delicacies called ‘ballokume‘ are delicious cork flour cookies enjoyed by the locals and Albanian communities around the world during these celebrations.
It wouldn’t be wrong to say that Albania is home to landscapes that are the least explored in all of Europe. If you’d like to experience local towns, villages, and natural wonders (yes, that too!) that have not lost their luster beneath the feet of countless tourists, then Albania has earned a spot on your bucket list.
This is one of the few places where you can still experience local culture, lifestyle, and cuisine that hasn’t changed for centuries despite the local blood feuds and devastating wars.
A trip to Albania will take you through the awe-inspiring Albanian Alps, the Theth National Park, and stunning waterfalls, fish-filled lakes, and beaches that are perfect for taking a dip. Or you can strap on your snow shoes and hike to rural northern Albania, which is even more isolated and brings you closer to nature as you camp between the magical pine and beech forests.
If you feel like heading down to the beach, you’ll find plenty of options. The Gjipe Beach is an unspoiled haven of yellow sand and translucent waters. You can experience magnificent sunsets at Pasqyra Beach, Drymades Beach, and Kroreza Beach.
Porto Palermo Beach is Almost hidden from view, located just southeast of Himare. The highlight of Palermo Beach is the Venetian fort which was fortified by Ali Pacha during the early 19th century and still stands today.
Albania has a lot to offer in terms of major landmarks and museums. The famous Bunker Museum is exactly what the name suggests, a full-blown bunker built by a former Albanian dictator who was so paranoid about nuclear war that he constructed several bunkers across Albania. The largest bunker built to protect the dictator himself and the communist elite was converted into a museum and aptly named “Bunk Art.”
There is also the amusingly named Museum of Secret Surveillance, which is a newer addition to the museum scene at Tirana and is home to the cutting-edge (at the time) surveillance equipment used by the infamous Gestapo, the German secret police who were stationed in the same building during World War Two.
Those who want to learn about Albania’s nearly 2000-year-old history can also visit the Skanderbeg Museum, the Ethnographic Museum, and the National Education Museum. If you want to get as close to history as possible, you can also visit the Petrela Castle, the Preza Castle, the Bashtova Castle, the Resurrection Cathedral of Korca, the Berat Castle, or the Castle of Porto Palermo.
Best Times to Visit AlbaniaAlbania is a beautiful and diverse country with a rich culture and history. It is a popular tourist destination, but it is still relatively unknown, meaning visitors can enjoy its many treasures without battling large crowds.
While the country is on the up-and-up when it comes to tourist destinations in Europe, there is a subsistence of culture that still lingers.
Albania can get busy during the summer months, which is why it’s best to visit the destination during the Spring and Autumn months, as in March to April and September to October, to experience all the beauty and rich heritage that Albania has to offer without having to navigate through large crowds.
Visiting Albania during these months will also save you from having to experience the bitter cold winter or scorching heat during summer. Go off the beaten path and go cave diving at Viroi Lake, white water rafting at Vjosa River, hike up to the Accursed Mountains (Albanian Alps), or paraglide from the Llogara Pass down to the beautiful Ionian Sea.
Albania has a rich history that’s evident with its incredible city architecture and buildings that are from the Byzantine, Roman, and Ottoman eras. You can stroll through the beautiful capital, Tirana, and admire the historic Et’Hem Bey Mosque, the Rrugra Murat Toptani, and the famous Pyramid of Tirana. You can also explore the many UNESCO heritage sites such as Apollonia, Butrint, Berat, or Gjirokastra.
Getting from Corfu to Albania is quick and easy, thanks to the two countries’ proximity. Your unforgettable Albanian getaway begins on the enchanting Greek island of Corfu, nestled in the sparkling embrace of the Ionian Sea.
This verdant paradise is a magnet for travelers, whether they descend from the heavens above or sail across the azure waves below. Corfu, also known by its Greek name, Kerkyra, proudly hosts the largest jewel in its crown – Corfu Town. This vibrant hub is not only the island’s bustling heart but also its maritime gateway.
As you set foot on this alluring island, you’ll discover that Corfu Port is a mere stroll away from the charming Old Town. A leisurely 30-minute walk promises to transport you from one enchanting world to another. Yet, when the sun blazes high in the sky and the weight of your baggage bears down upon you, a taxi ride, priced at around €10, might become an inviting proposition.
Corfu’s intricate network of winding, picturesque streets may deter buses from venturing deep into the heart of the Old Town. While it’s an inconvenience, it’s an inconvenience swathed in the captivating allure of charming alleys and captivating vistas.
Should your journey lead you to seek passage to Albania, you’ll need to trek to the farthest reaches of the new port, embracing the sense of adventure as you keep walking until the horizon meets the sea’s edge. Here, passport control awaits, but if hunger strikes, a quaint café tucked within the terminal offers sustenance. And for those whose digital companions yearn for energy, seek out hidden power outlets, like hidden treasures, amidst this maritime hub. Though elusive, they exist for the discerning traveler’s convenience.
When planning your island adventure, whether you choose the illustrious Finikas Lines or the steadfast Ionian Seaways, the booking window opens wide, spanning from a generous 90 days to a mere 24 hours before your voyage.
While there’s a glimmer of hope for spontaneous travelers to secure tickets on the day at a ticket office, a seasoned traveler’s advice would be to seize the day and book ahead. Speaking of seizing, here’s the secret to seizing some savings – booking well in advance with either of these esteemed companies can slice a neat 10% off your fare.
Let’s discuss the choice between the graceful ferry and the nimble Flying Dolphin speedboat. Picture this: a leisurely ferry voyage to Saranda unfurls over a delightful 70-minute stretch, allowing you to savor every moment of your journey. But for those seeking the thrill of a faster pace, the Flying Dolphin cuts the sea with sleek efficiency, making the trip in a mere half-hour dash. The choice is yours, and it’s a win-win situation either way.
In case you were wondering, here are the top ferry operators you can choose for your trip to (and from) Albania, and find a reliable car rental service right outside the cruise liner.
Since 1979, Ionian Seaways and its sister company, Ionian Cruises, have been offering high-quality service to their customers. They have a variety of ferry services, cruises, and excursions in both Saranda (Albania) and Corfu (Greece).
Ionian Seaways connects the beautiful Greek island of Corfu with Albania, with daily departures all year round. The service takes you to the scenic destination of Saranda on the southwest coast of Albania. The number of crossings varies depending on the season. In high season, there are up to six departures per day in each direction, while in mid-season, there are three, and in low season, there is one.
Ionian Seaways has a fleet of high-speed hydrofoils that can take you from Corfu to Saranda in as little as 30 minutes. If you want to bring your car, you can use the car ferry service, which takes about 70 minutes. The fleet is operated in partnership with Finikas Lines and consists of six vessels, four for passengers and two for cars. The ships can accommodate from 124 to 300 travelers at a time.
Once you’re there, you’ll need an easy way to travel within Albania and explore as much as this beautiful country has to offer. Enter a car rental company. Before choosing one, you will have to choose the time of vehicle depending on your plans.
For instance, if you plan to visit the famous Albanian Alps or the more remote Eastern side of Albania, you will need a 4-wheel drive because of the rougher roads. On the other hand, if you plan on staying in Durres City, Kruja City, or Berat, you’ll be fine with a regular sedan.
Finikas Lines has been providing services between Saranda, a city in Albania, and Corfu, a popular Greek island, since 1994. The frequency of the services across the Ionian Sea depends on the season. In high season, you can choose from six daily departures in each direction, while in mid-season, there are three, and in low season, there is one.
The journey duration between Albania and Corfu varies depending on the type of ferry you take. You can travel by high-speed hydrofoil passenger ferry and reach your destination in 30 minutes, or you can take your car on the car ferry service and arrive in 70 minutes. Finikas Lines operates a fleet of six vessels in partnership with Ionian Seaways. The fleet consists of four fast ferries for passengers and two ferries for cars, with capacities ranging from 124 to 300 travelers.
No more having to compromise between a beach holiday or a mountain getaway; Albania has both. If you are a savvy traveler, you already know the importance of hiring a reputable car rental service to make the most of your picturesque trip to Albania. Since Albania is not in the EU, ensure your documentation is in order before you travel.
You will also need a green card, a document that can be purchased from the car rental company you hire and proves that you have valid vehicle insurance while driving from Corfu to Albania. This green card will be required and shown to the border control officers before crossing the border in Albania.
Why waste time finding a car or hauling a cab at Corfu? Royal Car Rental is a reputable car rental company located at Corfu airport. Visitors can rent a car when they land at Corfu and drive to the cruise port where the ferries or flying dolphins to Albania await. After your unforgettable trip to Albania, rent a car from our port office and drop it off at Royal Car Rental’s reserved parking at Corfu Airport. Enjoy!