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Why This European Summer Hotspot Offers More Than Just Epic Beaches

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When countries become “discovered” by the travel community, it oftentimes has both negative and positive consequences.

The previously under-the-radar Balkan country of Albania is no exception. While a few years ago, this small European gem flew under the radar; it’s clear now the secret is out. 

Tourist girl on summer vacation exploring the historic town of Berat in sunny Albania copy

Having been lucky enough to spend an extended period of time in this fantastic country, I have nothing but praise for it, and its friendly locals wholeheartedly deserve the economic benefits that its recent tourism boom brings them. 

That being said, the majority of the press around Albania is focused on the coast, or the Albanian Riviera as it’s commonly referred to, and for good reason. The beaches are out of this world, with crystal clear water, fantastic fresh seafood, and stunning cliffs hugging the coast. 

Yes, the country’s coastline ticks all the boxes and then some, but with recent fame comes massive crowds, and a visit to the Albanian beaches in July or August will likely leave you feeling way less chill than you hoped, not to mention with a lighter wallet. 

@gowithninna A glimpse of Valbona Valley National Parl! Highly recommend! #valbonetropoj #valbonavalleynationalpark #traveltiktok #traveladdict #albaniantiktok #albania #mountainlife #hiking ♬ This is heaven – Nightshade

Summertime in Albania is when prices skyrocket and crowds descend onto the popular beaches, and while there are miles of beautiful, peaceful wild shorelines, it’s not likely the average traveler will be able to find them. 

So, the best bet is to spend your summer exploring some of Albania's inland treasures, of which there are many. The cool mountains will usually lead to lower temperatures, the tourists (and many locals) will all be at the beach, and what’s left is a mix of beautiful cobblestone streets, castles, and villages for you to enjoy.

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Gjirokaster is situated in a valley between the Gjere mountains and the Drino River

Keep in mind that Albania’s beaches are worth the hype; just hit them up after everyone goes home. September and October are ideal times to explore the coast. Temps are still warm, sunbeds are plentiful, and prices go back to being reasonable. 

But before you relax along the Albanian Riviera in the early fall, here are the best places to enjoy some stunning Albanian sights during the summer. 

PS: No car? No problem! The bus system in Albania is surprisingly efficient, just don't expect any apps or websites. Ask locals, show up, and wave when you see the approaching bus. There are many countries where I would not try this, but in Albania, it’s normal and safe. Enjoy the ride and the scenery as you climb mountain passes, and take in the views. 

Old Bazaar of Korca city with people hanging out at cafes during summer evening korca albania

Kruja

With an easy day trip from the capital city of Tirana, you can find one of the most important cities in the country, the historic Kruja. With its great castle being the main draw here, the small city lies over 600 meters above sea level and has sweeping views in every direction.

Famous for being the hometown of the national hero Skanderbeg, Kruja sees its share of visitors. Stroll the picturesque bazaars, and visit Skanderbeg Museum on your visit, and try local foods at the many restaurants. 

@bengwashburn Kruja 🇦🇱 #foryou #albania ♬ Cornfield Chase – Hans Zimmer

Korca

Tucked far away in the east of the country, you can find the charming Korca, home to Albania’s first beer. Korca is known for its mark on the culture and intellectual heritage of Albania, and its location made it an important crossroads for caravans of the past, leaving it with a heavy influence of Turkish, Greek, Russian, and many other cultures. 

The drive into Korca from Berat or Tirana is absolutely stunning, and you will wind along the shores of Lake Ohrid before arriving in town. Korca makes a good jumping-off point for those heading to North Macedonia’s Ohird region afterward.  

@albania360.com The all year place 😍 #albania360 #albania #korce #korca #bazaar #travel #fyyyy #viralvideo #travelvideo ♬ I Think I Like When It Rains – WILLIS

Gjirokaster

You will pass by this imposing small city in the hills on your way to the beach areas of Sarande and Ksamil, but it’s worth a stop and perhaps a few days of exploring. 

Gjirokaster means the city of stones, and with the jagged roads up and down the hillside and the stone ottoman houses complete with stone roofs, you can see why.

Don't miss the castle grounds for epic views and eating at some of the local haunts for dishes you won’t find anywhere else. An hour from Gjirokaster, you can also reach Permet, with the stunning Vjosa River and thermal baths. 

@feel.albania 📍Gjirokaster, Albania 🇦🇱 #visitalbania #feelalbania #gjirokaster ♬ original sound – Feel Albania

Berat

This 2,500-year-old city is right out of a storybook, with its white Ottoman houses cascading down the hills on top of each other, tiled roofs, and wooden window frames for as far as you can see.

Berat is small, and you can see most of it in a day or two. For a unique experience, stay up on the castle grounds, where family guesthouses and small restaurants cater to the locals that have lived there for many years.

If you have time, get out into the rolling hills outside the city and search for some of the family wineries, each offering something unique and memory-making experiences. 

@shqlperia Berati me Kucoven 🇦🇱 #shqlperia #berat #berati #kuçovë #kuçova #shqiperiajugore #jugut #jugore #shqiperiaemesme #southalbania #centralalbania #kucovare #beratese #🇦🇱 #shqiperia #shqipe #perty #albanianculture #traditatshqipetare #illyria #illyrian #albania #albanian #jugu ♬ original sound – 𐔍𐔑𐔢𐔙𐔍𐔀𐔓 🇦🇱

Theth

If you have seen the iconic picture of the small church set among imposing mountains, you might be familiar with Theth. Deep in the heart of Albania’s Alps, you will find Theth National Park, becoming more and more well-known for its famous Valbona Pass hike. 

Home to the other Blue Eye, Theth offers a wealth of ways to explore the natural beauty of Albania. As snow can make the roads un-passable, Theth is best visited in warmer months but can get busy, so plan early if you are looking to visit. 

@ambradashi4 📍Theth ⛰#theth #syrikaltertheth #ujvaragrunasit #nderlysaj #viral #albania ♬ Nexhmije Pagarusha Baresha – Genvis Muça

Also: if you are flying into Albania, you will land in Tirana, take a few days, and explore this quirky city. The street cafes and al fresco dining at all hours of the night, the spy museum or the bunker museum, and rooftop restaurants are all reasons to explore this safe and small city for a taste of big-city Albanian life.  

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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com

Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.