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The Ultimate Travel Guide to Albania’s Beaches

Want a budget beach holiday in Europe? Travel to Albanian Riviera with this guide and you’ll be all set, because Albanian beaches are amazing. And I know just where to find the best beaches Albania has to offer. I promise.

Updated April 2022

Totally empty white beaches with crystal clear turquoise water, fresh seafood, baklava and local wine, and prices so low they make Thailand look expensive – isn’t southern Europe just wonderful?

Gjipe Beach, Albania travel guide

Gjipe Beach

Wait. Europe?

It doesn’t really seem possible that an undiscovered beach paradise could be found in Europe these days, much less that it would be so affordable. But that’s exactly what the Albanian Riviera is.

Okay, maybe it’s not totally undiscovered, but while there in early June Dan and I had most of the beaches we visited pretty much to ourselves.

After falling for the Albanian Riviera last year, I couldn’t wait to return again – this time with a car! After only spending time on Saranda, Ksamil, Himara and Vlora’s main beaches (and Lazarat, but that’s another story…), this time I was determined to explore every nook and cranny of the Riviera and find the best secret beach spots.

And that’s exactly what we did!

Car Rental in Albania

To properly explore Albania’s best beaches, you’ll definitely need a car. Or at least, you will if you want to see all the best, hidden beaches in Albania! During my first trip to Albania I hitchhiked and took the bus everywhere, but this time I wanted to be able to stop at all the hidden spots I saw from the road, so we rented a car in Tirana for a week.

Car rental in Albania isn’t too expensive, but it’s SO worth it. You can see so much more with a car, plus renting a car in Albania meant that we could get to totally deserted beaches instead of sticking to the more popular (and crowded) beach spots like Ksamil and Vlora.

Driving in Albania

A lot of people have asked me about driving in Albania, and while Dan was actually the one doing the driving, I would say it really isn’t so bad. Most of the roads of little traffic, and for the most part the roads are very wide and nicely paved. And I felt like Albanian drivers were very reasonable – it certainly wasn’t a scary place to be driving.

Well, it was fine aside from the time we drove down Albania’s Death Road – but that’s far away from the Albanian beaches, so you probably won’t be headed there.

I would recommend renting a car through a global chain as their prices are lower and the companies are reliable – I usually use Sixt because it’s the cheapest, but also has good customer service. In fact you can save 10% on car rental in Albania with this link

Travel to Saranda

Saranda (Sarandë) is the main city along the Albanian Riviera, though with around 30,000 inhabitants it’s not exactly huge. While this is probably the main destination for tourists on the Riviera, it’s not actually the best for beaches – but it’s a fine base from which to explore some nearby beaches, as well as Butrint, the ruins of an ancient city nestled in a dense forest.

While there are better Albanian beach spots along the coast, Saranda is well worth a stop to get a feel for Albania’s beach towns. You can buy cheap seafood and produce (try the cherries!!) at a local market, check out the shops and restaurants along the main beach promenade, and walk up to Lekursi Castle for some unreal views.

Saranda, Albania travel guide

Don’t forget to wave smugly at the throngs of tourists across the bay in Corfu, paying three times as much to swim in these same waters. I mean, if you’re the sort of person to do something like that, which of course you aren’t. Me neither.

Saranda, Albania

Sarande Beach Albanian Riviera travel guide

Sarande Beach Albanian Riviera

The Best Saranda Hotels and Hostels

DEMI HOTEL // for those wanting a luxury hotel in Saranda

This four star hotel is right on the beach, and it’s absolutely worth upgrading to a sea view room for a balcony overlooking the water! This is a family-run hotel so it has a lot more character than a big chain, and the staff are super sweet and helpful here.

Click here for current rates and availability at Demi Hotel

 

BED & BREAKFAST AHMETI // for those looking for a mid-range hotel in Saranda

This B&B is run by a very nice family and I love that it’s within easy walking distance of the city center while still being tucked away from the noise downtown (it’s about a 10 minute walk uphill from the center). They also have parking spaces available here, so you won’t need to stress over finding a spot on the street, which again is a huge plus in Saranda.

Click here for current prices and availability at B&B Ahmeti

 

DOLPHIN HOSTEL // for those traveling to Saranda on a budget

Dan and I stayed at Dolphin Hostel while in Saranda, which I couldn’t recommend more highly! Even when we arrived exhausted from a harrowing drive from Tirana we somehow ended up staying up late into the night talking with the hostel’s manager.

Breakfast is included (and amazing!) and on our second night he cooked everyone a delicious meal of fish and fresh clams, which mysteriously only cost us each 1 euro. The best!

Click here for current prices and availability at Dolphin Hostel

Dolphin Hostel Saranda, Albania travel guide

Dolphin Hostel Saranda, Albania

Ksamil – a favorite Albanian beach town

A 15-minute car or bus ride away from Saranda, Ksamil is where everyone goes to see the best Albanian beaches. These are some of the only truly sandy beaches on the Albanian Riviera (most have smooth white stones).

The only downside to Ksamil is that its beaches are fairly small and often privately owned, so you’ll have to pay a couple of dollars for a beach chair or drink/snack to use the beach, and there are more people here. I mean, by Albanian standards, which really just means you’ll see 4 or 5 other people on the beach.

Ksamil is perfect if you want a pretty beach without traveling far from the center of things. You could even stay in a lovely apartment right by the beach there. In fact if you’re looking for a really laidback Albanian beach holiday, that’s exactly what I’d recommend you do. There are so many nice places to stay in Ksamil, and like I said, this is one of the only places with truly sandy beaches in Albania.

The Best Hotels and Apartments in Ksamil

HOTEL CASTLE // mid-range to luxury hotel accommodation in Ksamil

There actually isn’t really any true luxury hotel accommodation in Ksamil, but Hotel Castle is still quite luxurious, especially with its gorgeous views out over the Albanian Riviera. It’s right by the beach and near town and the design is sort of hilarious Albanian kitsch in a building meant to look like a castle!

Check current rates and availability here

VILLA DESTINATION // mid-range apartment accommodation in Ksamil

Villa Destination is right by the beach and offers basic but clean little apartments with balconies. 

Check current rates and availability here

KSAMIL APARTMENTS // budget apartment accommodation in Ksamil

The Ksamil Apartments are a short walk both to the beach and the town center, but still in a quiet area. The apartments are spacious with balconies and really for the price they are such a good bargain.

Check current rates and availability here

Ksamil beaches, Albania

The Blue Eye (Syri Kalter)

Okay, this is a spring, not an Albanian beach, but you might want to forget the seaside and just spend your entire Albanian holiday gazing into it.

Water in The Blue Eye bubbles up from more than 50 meters deep at a sort of alarming rate. Seriously, where is it all coming from, and how can it be that blue? Is Albania’s tourism board secretly dumping dye into this thing each morning?

The Blue Eye spring, Albania travel guide

The Blue Eye spring, Albania

The Blue Eye spring, Albania

The Blue Eye spring is about a 25 minute drive inland from Saranda (on the way to Girokaster) and I’ve heard that it can get crowded in the summer with people swimming, but in early June it was empty – and freezing!

And before heading back to Saranda drive farther up into the mountains for some pretty stunning views! I mean, Albania has a lot of stunning views, but this was one of my favorites.

Albanian Riviera travel guide

Drive the SH8 from Saranda to Himara

The drive along the seaside from Saranda to Himara is stunning, and full of turn-offs into little abandoned beaches. We simply turned down every small road we passed that looked like it was heading towards the water, and not once were we disappointed.

I’d give you more specific directions, but turning down random roads to discover hidden beaches in Albania was part of the fun! Plus it’s nice to keep the beaches hidden so only the more adventurous beach hunters find them, right? But let me just say, it will be well worth the effort.

beaches Albanian Riviera travel guide

beaches Albanian Riviera Albania

beaches Albanian Riviera

beaches Albanian Riviera

beaches Albanian Riviera

The only living souls we encountered on this Albanian beach:beaches Albanian Riviera

beaches Albanian Riviera

One of my favorite spots was a teeny tiny strip of beach right after Porto Palermo – the view of the little islands from the road wasn’t terrible either!

Porto Palermo Beach Albania

Travel to Himara

Smaller and quieter than Saranda and Ksamil, Himara (Himarë) is simply perfect.

Locals in Himarë are predominantly Greek, which definitely comes across in the feel of the place. I think I gained five pounds from all the delicious food here, while Dan gained at least five new Facebook friends. People in Himara are so friendly!

If I had to choose I would say Himara was my second favorite stop along the Albanian Riviera, and that’s largely because of the wonderful people we met there. And the views weren’t terrible either.

Wondering what my favorite stop was? Read on!

Best Hotels and Apartments in Himara

HIMARA RIVIERA ROOMS // mid-range to budget accommodation in Himara

We stayed at Himara Riviera Rooms, where we had a lovely little apartment with a balcony overlooking the sea. The owners were SO lovely and this is really my #1 recommendation for a hotel in Himara. It really is just perfect.

Check current prices and availability at Himara Riviera Rooms

CAMPING KRANEA // budget accommodation in Himara

Our first night we camped at Camping Kranea on a beach in the north of town, and it was so, so lovely to wake up right on the beach. If you’re on a very tight budget this is an excellent option.

Check current rates and availability 

RAPOS RESORT HOTEL // luxury hotel in Himara

This is the only real resort in Himara, and it has amazing sea views from its rooms, a swimming pool, and a beach right in front of the hotel. The wonderful thing about a beach holiday in Albania is that a hotel like this isn’t even expensive – if you want to escape to a beach resort I would highly recommend heading here!

Check current prices and availability at Rapos Resort Hotel

The Best Albanian Beaches near Himara

One of my favorite beaches in the area wasn’t actually in Himara, but 10 kilometers north in Jala. Jali Beach wasn’t as empty as other beaches we went to, but I enjoyed burning sunning myself with the locals and taking in the relaxing atmosphere of the small beachside village.

Jali Beach Jala, Albania

Travel to Dhermi

Dhermi (Dhërmi) was my favorite place we stayed in Albania! Dhermi Beach is the longest I saw in Albania and seems to cater to more upscale tourists. The village itself lies up a hill from the water and has beautiful old stone houses built into the side of a mountain.

If you want the best Albanian beach experience, I would definitely recommend heading to Dhermi (in fact I have recommended a beach holiday in Dhermi to so many of my friends!).

Best Hotels in Dhermi

GUEST HOUSE FOUR SEASONS // budget to mid-range hotel in Dhermi

We stayed in a double room at Guest House Four Seasons, which had a balcony overlooking the sea and was surprisingly cheap. It felt like being on a luxury holiday, but on a backpacker’s budget.

Click here for current prices and availability at the Guest House Four Seasons

DRYMADES BUNGALOWS // mid-range to luxury hotel in Dhermi

I had dinner here one night and it was SO nice. The food was amazing, the restaurant has a view over the water, and it’s really close to a sandy beach. If you want an Albanian beach escape, I’d definitely come here!

Click here for current rates and availability at Drymades Bungalows

EMPIRE BEACH RESORT // luxury hotel in Dhermi

If you want a luxury resort, the Empire Beach Resort looks incredible, and you get a gorgeous swimming pool as well as the beach.

Click here for current rates and availability at the Empire Beach Resort

Dhermi, Albania

Dhermi Beach, Albania

sunset Dhermi Beach, Albania

The Best Beaches near Dhermi

Dhermi is also just 8 kilometers from what might be Albania’s most beautiful beach: Gjipe Beach.

You’ll have to walk the last couple of kilometers, but I promise it’s worth it! This was definitely my happy place on the Albanian Riviera, and I plan on returning to Gjipe Beach again and again.

In fact I’m super curious if it’s still as hidden now as it was when I visited – if you’ve been recently let me know in the comments!

Gjipe Beach Albania

Gjipe Beach Albania

Gjipe Beach Albania

Gjipe Beach Albania

No Photoshop necessary!

Driving from Dhermi to Vlora and Tirana

And, if you’re heading north from Dhermi you’re in for a serious treat – well, unless you’re prone to carsickness. The hairpin curves on the road climbing the mountain towards Vlora are brutal, but they’ll take you to a heavenly view of the coastline.

A little too heavenly in our case though, as we drove right up into a cloud. At least I remember beautiful views from last year’s visit!

And finally, when you’re planning your trip to Albania you definitely want to remember travel insurance.

I never, ever travel without travel insurance (especially in a place like Albania where you’ll be swimming and in the mountains!) and it has saved me on multiple occasions – like that time I was bedridden in Beijing. My personal pick for travel insurance is World Nomads, and I have done a ton of research on different providers.

World Nomads is incredibly affordable, and when I have had to use them I simply sent my hospital receipts and had a check in the mail within a couple of weeks. So easy, and totally worth it. You can get a quote here:

 

 

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Guide to Best Beaches in Albanian Riviera, Albania

 

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