Our Road Trip in Albania – Secret Beaches and Adventure Mixed With Relaxation

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(Last Updated On: December 7, 2019)

Road Trip in Albania – A Hidden Gem of an Adventure

A beach we encountered on our road trip in Albania
One of the many desolate beaches we found along the way

Adventurous or Relaxing – Why Not Both?

Can’t decide whether or not you’d like an active and adventurous travel experience or a mellow and relaxing one? In that case, you should definitely take a road trip in Albania, since you’ll get a bit of both! We road tripped for 8 days at the end of July, and the hot summer weather enabled us to hike and camp out at a few hidden beaches and relax by a poolside (and enjoy cocktails at a SUPER affordable psedo-luxury hotel). We even spent a few nights at a family owned guest house which was just a short way walking from a completely desolate pebble beach. Our road trip in Albania gave us everything we wanted in a travel experience – excitement, adventure, relaxation and rejuvenation – and we’re certain it will give you the same too!

Here is a small taste of what you’ll experience on your road trip in Albania, but don’t just take our word for it!

The Logistics of it All

Planning a road trip in Albania is SUPER simple, and it’s quite affordable too. It took us ~2 hours of planning time. In fact, we did it while we were still traveling, and just after we had finished a 10-day backpacking trip on the Via Dinarica Trail in Montenegro.  This is quite an off the beaten path travel experience. None of our accommodations were fully booked, thus we never had a problem finding a place to stay on the fly. I cannot underscore how easy it is to plan a road trip in Albania.

Gear You’ll Want to Bring

Raincoats

No matter the season, when we travel we bring our raincoats, and we’ve never regretted it. Even if we just use them as a windbreaker, they’re lightweight and super versatile, so we always have them with us. Julia uses this Marmot raincoat*, and I use this Marmot raincoat (it’s the same as Julia’s, just cut for men).  

Reusable Water Bottles

Creating plastic waste with water bottles makes us both feel terribly guilty, therefore when we travel we use Hydro Flask water bottles. They are rugged, reusable and best of all, insulated.  On hot days we fill them with ice water, and on cold days we fill them with warm water.

Water Filter

When we’re in a country where we’re not able to safely drink tap water, we bring this super simple, super lightweight, super effective, and super affordable in-line water filter by Sawyer. It allows us to drink water from the tap or from a wild water source without having to worry about getting sick. It also saves us from having to waste money on bottled water, and we like that.

Power Bank

Since we were relying on our phones for navigation, we also brought a power bank for our phone.

Camping Gear

When we’re car camping, we basically bring sleeping bags, pads, and a tent. If we’re cooking, we’ll bring a small stove and some cooking utensils too. On our road trip in Albania, here is specifically what we brought. We don’t like to bring too much, since extra stuff is burdensome.

  1. Tent (one per party)
  2. Sleeping bag (one per person):  Julia’s, Seth’s
  3. Sleeping pad (one per person): Unisex option
  4. Inflatable Pillow (optional, one per person)
  5. Stove (one per party)
  6. Fuel bottle (one per party)
  7. Cooking Pot Set (one per party)
  8. Cooking utensils (one set per party)
  9. Water purifier (one per party)
  10. 3L Water storage container (one per party)
  11. Biodegradable Soap
  12. Spoon/Fork/Knife (one set per person)
  13. Headlight (one per person)
  14. First Aid Kit
  15. Packtowl (one per party)
  16. Toilet Paper

How to Best Use This Guide

We have put a lot of details about our road trip in three places, (1) our road trip Google Map route (especially in the Points of Interest part of the map), (2) in the sections below and (3) in the captions of our pictures, also below. Note: The captions in the pictures below correspond to the Points of Interest on our Google Map. Look at the map, and let us know if you have any questions.

You can replicate our exact trip, if you’d like. However, we recommend you use our materials as a guide for planning your own road trip in Albania.

How to Plan Your Own Road Trip in Albania

Basically, you’ll have to do the following five things, however, none are too tricky.

1. Pick a Route

Have a look at Google Maps, and then plot your course. Do not feel obligated to follow our route. If you want a beach experience, drive along the coast. If you want mountains, head for the hills.  If you want both beaches and mountains, you can follow our road trip route by clicking here, as we indeed opted for a mix of beaches and mountains. If you look at our route map, read the notes on each of our Points of Interest. We’ve put a lot of important details into each one of those.

Route Notes

Our route is ~650km (~400 miles) long. As you can see from the map, we made a counterclockwise loop through the country. Distilled, we started in Tirana, and then we drove south on SH8 to Sarande. After, we drove north back to Tirana on a combination of SH4 and SH7, and we loved the whole journey. We found this route enjoyable, thus we recommend you follow it on your road trip in Albania.

Take Your Time

We spent 8 days on this trip, and we wished we had spent at least 8 more.  So, when you plan your own road trip in Albania, don’t be in a rush, and don’t plan too far in advance. Savor the spectacular landscape. Drink LOTS of smooth and creamy espresso along the way, and eat as many Albanian seafood dishes as you possibly can.  You can meander through the country, and you’ll experience spontaneous, off the beaten path, culturally immersive adventures.

We never planned out more than 2 nights in advance, and we were in Albania at the height of their tourist season – summer time. Regardless, we never had any problem finding accommodations, etc. A road trip in Albania should be a relaxing experience, so don’t get too bogged down in the planning. Make a plan, and then let loose a bit.

2. Rent a Car

We rented our car from Enterprise in Tirana. We paid a little more for our rental than some of the local companies charged, however we got a nice new vehicle (important up in the mountains). When we needed a replacement vehicle (someone stole our license plates), a new one was brought to us in about an hour, so we were happy to have rented from Enterprise.  Folks we met along the way who rented from local companies complained about poor quality vehicles and lacking customer service. If we had to do it again, we’d again rent from Enterprise.

3. Get an International Drivers License?

By our rental car company, we were told that Americans can use their American driver’s license in Albania. We decided to trust them, but it seems they might have been wrong. Anything to make a sale, right? Regardless, we followed the rules of the road, so we never got stopped. However, in retrospect, we probably should have gotten an international driver’s license.

Perform Due Diligence

Given that there are ~195 countries in the world, we’re not going to research each one for you here, but suffice it to say, you should definitely Google around to determine what documents you’ll need in order to legally drive in Albania.

4. Download Albania on Google Maps

Before you depart for your trip in Albania, and while you still have WIFI, download the entire country of Albania on your Google Maps app. If you don’t know how to save part of a Google Map to your phone so that you can use the map even when you’re offline/have no service, iPhone instructions are here, and Android instructions are here.

After you’ve downloaded the map, once you’re out of WIFI/have no service, all you you have to do is make sure you’re NOT in airplane mode, and you’ll be able to look up driving directions anywhere within the downloaded area.  (The two links above explain more about this too, so enjoy.)

5. Book a Few Accommodations (But not all of Them)

For a few nights, we stealth-camped on public beaches, and it was thrilling. It was also free, beautiful, and it was deliciously spontaneous. Our road trip in Albania would not have been the same if we had not experienced this relaxed and casual part of Albanian society. Moreover, we would not have been rewarded with all the unplanned and deeply memorable experiences that happened as a result of our unplannedness.

There are Lots of Options

In our entire 8 days, the only formal accommodations we stayed at were Hotel Palace Lukova and the Adrian Agustin Rooms*. For the rest of the time, we camped out.

Where to Stay – Accommodations

Hotel Palace Lukova

The appeal of this hotel is the STUNNING view from their poolside , as well as their DELICIOUS, fresh and affordable Albanian food. If you stay here, plan on getting some amazing value, but understand the value is not coming from the quality of the room.  The room we had was a bit dated, didn’t have a working TV, had slightly working air conditioning, and the mini-fridge barely kept anything cold.

We Weren’t Bothered

As we are VERY low-maintenance folks, this didn’t bother us at all, especially since we were relaxing by the pool or beach for the majority of the day time. We are including these details for sake of providing you full disclosure on the nature of this place, not to suggest in any way that we didn’t absolutely love this place!

Adrian Augustin Rooms

The appeal of this place is that you’ll be 5-minutes walking from a desolate pebble beach. On the beach is a tiny seafood shack called Old Anchor which sells only what they have caught fresh that day. The food, again, is spectacular. However, the Adrian Augustin Rooms are spartan. There is no air conditioning here (only a fan), and there is no food available either. They do have a small kitchenette in each room. However, if you stay here, you’ll have to scrounge up some groceries (there are not many well stocked stores around) or, you’ll have to go out to eat at any of the nearby restaurants.

Food Nearby 

There are nice restaurants about a 15-minute drive away on a neighboring beach. Or again, you could go to Old Anchor, just at 5 minute walk away. As I said before, we’re very low key folks, and we spent all day outside anyway. So, this budget accommodation was quite appealing to us. We just want you to know this place is very basic.

Pictures from our Road trip in Albania

And now, the part you’ve been waiting for, pictures from our road trip in Albania. In many of the picture captions below, we’ve put a lot of important details you’ll want to know when planning your own road trip in Albania (as well as details about a secret campsite we found), so take your time to enjoy these pictures, just as we hope you will take your time when you’re on your own adventure through this spectacular country!

The beach parking lot in Albania
Havana Loca – When we arrived here in the afternoon, we didn’t realize that it would be in this very parking lot that we’d be camping, on our very first night in Albania.
A salad we ate on our road trip in Albania
They served delicious food, including Greek Salad! At the time, we had no idea that this wasn’t “Greek” salad, but rather the typical style of salad served all over Albania. And it was DELICIOUS!
A grilled fish from the Adriatic Sea
This was our first taste of Albania’s amazingly fresh sea food, and we loved it.

Our First Sunset

Enjoying our selves on our road trip in Albania
Nothing makes us happier than exploring a new place together, and we love NOT having any constraints or schedule!
Our first sunset in Albania on our road trip
Havana Loca – Our first sunset on the Adriatic Sea.
Another sunset in Albania
More of this brilliant sunset, and there was plenty more.
The evening sets in on our road trip in Albania
Post sunset it got comfortably cool, and the water calmed down. Once it was completely dark, we went to sleep.
We slept in the beach parking lot
Havana Loca – The next morning we discovered that we were the only ones who camped out in the parking lot, but locals told us it would be okay, and it was. Although, there were a few motorbikes that passed by at night and woke us up.
Albania has amazing espresso coffee
Amazing Espresso – I’m feeling very happy here because this was the BEST espresso I have ever had, and I’ve been missing it ever since. The crema actually tasted like cream. Make sure to stop here if you like coffee!

A Little Roadside Market

A roadside market we found on our road trip in Albania
Roadside Market – I believe we were here on a Monday, and as it turned out, it was market day.
At the Albanian roadside market they sold many things
There was a ton of fresh produce, so we bought some. The vendors seemed a bit surprised to see us there, but they were very friendly nonetheless.
An Albania man selling flip flops at the roadside market
You can never have enough flip-flops, and this guy know that!
On our road trip in Albania we at a lot of fresh and inexpensive olives
Roadside Market – Then we hit the jackpot! OLIVES!!! These came from nearby trees, so they were addictively fresh! The best part is that they were 200 Lek (~US$2) per kilo, so we bought a bunch.
We ate olives for breakfast in Albania
We ate olives for breakfast that morning, and we were super satisfied. Yes, only olives. And we each probably ate about half a kilo. It was a perfect start to our day!
There were so many beaches on our road trip in Albania
Vlorë – This photo was taken a little bit south of Vlorë. We got out here to stretch our legs, and we never got tired of the views of the Adriatic Sea.

Heading up Llogara Pass

We started to drive up into the mountains of Albania
Llogara Pass – This was one of the views going up Llogara Pass, but there were many more. There are TONS of beautiful scenic pull offs, so take your time and enjoy the views.
The Adriatic Sea is beautiful when viewed from high up
This was one of the views going down Llogara pass, and it was stunning. Again, we never got tired of seeing the Adriatic Sea.

A Secret Beach

Walking down this dirt road to Gjipe Beach in Albania
Gjipe Beach – Probably one of our favorite parts of this trip, we had heard about this “secret” campsite, so we had to check it out. Only 4×4 vehicles can make it down this road, so we had to leave our little rental up at the top of the cliff. We walked down; however, it was gorgeous.
A secret beach we found during our road trip in Albania
This secret campsite was purely amazing, and we highly recommend it. It was only minimally crowded, full of fun loving hippy types, and it had a totally whimsical design.
Gjipe Eco Campground in Albania
The campground is nestled right at the opening of a canyon, and their sign shows just that.
Borsh Beach is quite chill
Borsh Beach – We were so chilled out this day, we forgot to take any pictures other than this and the next one! Nonetheless, this beach is a bit lively given the music being pumped from some beachside restaurants, but we still had no problem relaxing.
Playing on the beach in Albania
Playing with the pebbles on this pebble beach, and we couldn’t have been happier!

Hotel Palace Lukova

Hotel Palace Lukova was great place to stay during our road trip in Albania
Hotel Palace Lukova – This is the entry way to this psudo-luxury hotel, and it was full of grapes.
Hotel Palace Lukova had a great pool
We are standing at the pool, and we are looking at the hotel. This place was US$40/night. A veritable steal! Look at the next photos, and you’ll understand why.
Hotel Palace Lukova's dining area had a great view of the Adriatic Sea
The outdoor restaurant area, and it is beautiful.
The pool was very refreshing
Hotel Palace Lukova – This is the view from the pool looking out into the Adriatic Sea, and it never got old.

Hotel Palace Lukova – Delicious Drinks and Food

The pool side bar was very handy during our road trip in Albania
The poolside bar. They served coffee and soft drinks here too, so we just put them on our tab.
Gin and tonics by the pool
A G&T was just what the doctor ordered, and it was perfect.
The sunsets in Albania were beautiful
The sunsets from the outdoor restaurant area were spectacular, and we saw them each night.
A greek salad we had during our road trip in Albania
A typical salad here was delicious, and it was very affordable too.
A birthday dinner on our road trip in Albania
Hotel Palace Lukova – This was part of my birthday dinner, and the Albanian ceviche and shrimp cocktail were DELICIOUS!
Birthday dinner on our road trip in Albania
This calamari was ridiculously fresh, and it was perfectly cooked in a tomato and white wine sauce.
A great 32nd birthday celebration during our road trip in Albania
This was my birthday fruit platter, and there is no more perfect way to celebrate turning 32! The watermelon was filled with enough booze for a small army, so we didn’t drive anywhere this night.
A big watermelon drink
We finished the whole thing, and it was delicious.
Julia enjoyed the drink too!
Hotel Palace Lukova – But it was a team effort. Then, we stumbled up to our room, and we slept really well.
At Hotel Palace Lukova in Albania the food was cooked fresh nightly
The next night the chef gave us a cooking lesson, and the food here was scrumptious.
Enjoying the views on our road trip in Albania
We couldn’t resist taking a selfie, or ten, so we did!
A sunset over the Adriatic Sea
Again, the sunsets were spectacular, every night, and they never got old.
Our rental car on our road trip in Albania
About to depart from the hotel, we noticed our front license plate had been stolen.
Another rental car
Enterprise brought us this replacement in one hour flat. It was definitely a jalopy, but we weren’t worried.

Adrian Agustin Rooms

The Adrian Augustin Rooms in Albania
Adrian Agustin Rooms – For the next few nights, we stayed here. Just down the hill from Hotel Palace Lukova, and thus very close to the beach.
Views of olive groves on our road trip in Albania
This guest house was nestled amongst the seemingly never ending Albanian olive groves, so it was a quiet place.
Grape vines growing at the Adrian Agustin Rooms
The entryway, again, was full of delicious grapes, and we even ate a few.
Heading down to the beach from the Adrian Agustin Rooms on our road trip in Albania
Adrian Agustin Rooms – We took the short walk to the beach, and we watched the sunset.
Sunset time
We are nearly at the water, but we were just scoping it out for the next day.

Another Hidden Beach

A secluded beach near the Adrian Agustin Rooms in Albania
Old Anchor – This tiny stretch of beach is ~5 minutes walking from the Adrian Agustin Rooms. It was never more crowded than this. It was totally quiet, and the restaurant down here, Old Anchor, served delicious food. This was our favorite beach on the whole trip.
relaxing on the beach
We rented beach chairs for 150 Lek (US$1.5) per person, per day, so we found this quite affordable.
local fishermen brining in the daily catch
These guys were bringing fresh fish to the restaurant, and they were jolly too!
view of a pebble beach
Old Anchor – About one minute walking from where the beach chairs were, we got to this stretch of beach.
desolate beach
This view is looking away from the beach chairs, south into the Adriatic Sea, and it’s totally peaceful.

Fresh Seafood at The Old Anchor Restaurant

The Old Anchor restaurant in Albania had great views
This is the view from the restaurant, and we were always happy to see it.
sharing a meal with a loved one is great
There is nothing like sharing a meal with someone you love, thus that is what we did!
fresh fish being cut up at The Old Anchor restaurant in Albania
Old Anchor – Again, everything was super FRESH, and this guy was great with a knife!
The Old Anchor restaurant in Albania
This little guy was the chef in training, and he was super cute.
the calamari was delicious
The Fried calamari was great, but really everything was.
a delicious fresh salad with tomatoes and lettuce
This fresh salad was made with local ingredients, and we could taste the freshness.
Plazhi i Lukovës beach was beautiful
Plazhi i Lukovës – As we mentioned, there is no food at the Adrian Augustine Rooms, so we went to this beach for dinner.
Plazhi i Lukovës beach
This is another beautiful sunset, but we weren’t counting.

Sarande Albania – Touristy but Beautiful

Sarande was quite touristy but beautiful
Sarande (Resorant Demi) – We only spent an afternoon in Sarande, as it was too crowded, too noisy and too touristy for our tastes. The view from Resorant Demi was nice though.
Sarande in Albania
We did not find any sand or pebble beaches in Sarande. It was all this paved shoreline wherever we went.

Gjirokaster Castle

Gjirokaster Castle was spectacular on our road trip in Albania
Gjirokaster Castle – This 12th century castle is definitely worth having a stop at. We almost skipped it, and we’re glad we didn’t!
Gjirokaster Castle
Inside the castle there were tons of ancient feeling passageways, so we pretended we were in ancient times.
Inside Gjirokaster Castle
There are some old WWII relics stored inside the castle. Thus, the modern looking artillery barrels.
Views from atop Gjirokaster Castle
Gjirokaster Castle – This is another stunning view from atop the castle, so we stopped for a photo.
The Gjirokaster Castle has large outer walls in Albania
Look behind the castle up into the mountains, and you’ll see what it looked like in the past.
At the base of Gjirokaster Castle there are many interesting cobblestone streets down which you can wander
Head down to the town below the castle, and enjoy the quaint cafes, shops and bourekas shops.
Relaxing at a cafe near Gjirokaster Castle
We definitely stopped at one of the bourekas shops, and we may have eaten a few of them.
Delicous bourekas near Gjirokaster Castle
I think we ate about 5 of these bourekas, as they were spinach and feta heaven.
Gjirokaster Castle
Then we meandered through some gift shops, but we didn’t buy much.
souvenirs at Gjirokaster Castle
A little bit of gift shopping doesn’t hurt, so we indulged a bit!
Heading back to Tirana from Gjirokaster Castle
Eventually we got back in our car, and we headed back to Tirana.

Other Nearby Adventures

The only thing left to do is start planning your own road trip in Albania, and if you want to ask us any questions, feel free to drop us a line here. If you’re looking for a gorgeous and active adventure travel experience to do either before or after this road trip, you should seriously consider backpacking on the Via Dinariac Trail in nearby Montenegro. You can check out our Via Dinarica Trail Guide here, and our Via Dinarica Trail itinerary here. And while you’re at it, why not consider hiking in northern Albania from Valbona to Theth or heading to Croatia to learn what Croatia is famous for? Backpacking in Montenegro is also another option that will get you into the great outdoors in this fascinating region of the world!

And whatever you do, leave us a comment below letting us know what you think about all of this!

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6 comments

Avatar
cristina July 18, 2018 - 10:41 pm

Hello,

We planned to spend our holiday in Albania, we chose Lukova and Adrian Agustin room.
I read the rows of your journey. Super holiday. Congratulations.

regards,
Cristina Buja

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forsomethingmore
forsomethingmore July 19, 2018 - 5:23 am

Thank you Christina!

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Avatar
jamie.leaffoundation@gmail.com May 27, 2019 - 4:44 pm

Hiya

Thanks for the comment, I was looking for an interesting route down to Greece from England, now we won’t hesitate to travel through Albania to Greece.We really look forward to seeing Albania and picking our way down through there.

Jame

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forsomethingmore
forsomethingmore May 27, 2019 - 5:02 pm

Albania is brilliant! You’ll almost certainly love it!

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Colleen July 9, 2019 - 4:54 am

Thank you so much for sharing your route, photos and other helpful info. Thanks to you I learned to use Google maps to create a route and I have added many of your stops to my route thanks to your great info and pic. Thank you thank you!

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forsomethingmore
forsomethingmore July 9, 2019 - 7:58 am

Colleen,

Thank you for your kind words! That is what we’re here for 🙂

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