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I bet that if you think of Greece or Spain, a beach vacation is something that comes to mind. What if I told you that the beaches in Albania are some of the nicest in Europe and have yet to be discovered by anyone beyond the Balkans or the locals?

That’s right, Albania has some beautiful beaches that come in every shape and form. There are white sand beaches, gravel beaches, rocky beaches, scenic beaches below sharp cliffs, island beaches, empty beaches, umbrella beaches, hotel beaches… You name it and Albania probably has it.

Albania is a relatively small country. It takes about six to seven hours to drive the length of it, I know because I did it, and because it is a primarily coastal country (although it has stunning mountains and is 70% covered in them) bordered by the Adriatic Sea, beaches abound.

However, the country has yet to be discovered by mass tourism and, while umbrellas and sun loungers do not lack, you are most likely only going to find other Balkan neighbours and maybe some Greek and Italians besides the locals.

I came to Albania in search of the elusive beaches and drove all the way to the southern part of the country, to what is called the Albanian Riviera and, in particular, to the beaches near Sarande and Butrint, near the border of Greece, to find out whether the myth of Europe’s last isolated beaches was true or not.

What is more, for a truly thorough assessment, I not only walked the beaches, I also photographed them from the aerial view of my drone. So you can decide for yourself if the beaches in Albania are worth it of your next vacation.

The most convenient beach in Albania – Durres

Durres Beach - Photo by Marco Fieber CC BY-ND-NC 2.0

Durres Beach – Photo by Marco Fieber CC BY-ND-NC 2.0

Some of the most popular beaches in Albania can be found near the capital of Tirana, around the coastal city of Durres. This is also the only place where you can actually find some premium resort-style hotels (for now), although do not expect to see the development that you find elsewhere. Albania has yet to experience the luxury tourism boom of neighbouring Montenegro.

Durres is a good place to stop if you only have one day and want to head to the beach. Here the beaches are longer and near the city and the Roman Amphitheatre and ruins the city is famous for. Even at the beginning of September, Durres is quiet. Make sure not to miss the many sights!

How to get there: Durres is about a 45min drive from Tirana and one of the most popular day and weekend beach getaways from Tirana. There are buses going there and renting a car is easy and affordable.

Facilities: Durres is a proper city so you will find everything you need there. Parking is easy as there is plenty of space on the street (for free) and the city is quite large.

The most beautiful beaches in Albania – Ksamil

The main beach in Ksamil and the islands around it

The main beach in Ksamil and the islands around it

Albania’s most famous beaches are in the southernmost part of the country, right by the UNESCO site of Butrint, and in front of Greece’s island of Corfu: Ksamil Beach.

Ksamil is famous because it is scenic, picturesque and has real crystalline waters of the turquoise that you see elsewhere in the Balearic Islands or Greece. The main town of Ksamil is complemented with some small islands that are just a short boat ride away and are often just reached on a paddleboard.

A close-up of the beaches in Ksamil

A close-up of the beaches in Ksamil

The beaches are truly popular with the locals and the few Kosovar, Greek and Italians who have heard of their beauty. Expect to find them filled with umbrellas and sun loungers in the summer months, as most other Albanian beaches, but these ones are worth it.

The water of Ksamil is clean and clear and the sand is fine and white, something that is not that common in Albania. From the sky, the islands and the main beach in the mainland, look beautiful.

The view at ground level in Ksamil

The view at ground level in Ksamil

On the ground, it is a bit of a party. There are families, couples and groups of friends having fun. Loud music pumping, bars and restaurants and lots of people enjoying a full day on the beach.

Because the beaches stretch all around the town of Ksamil, there are a few options, some with just parasols and sun loungers, some adjacent to beach clubs. Take your pick of the place that gives you the best vibes. Ksamil is one of the best beaches in Albania, without a doubt.

How to get there: Ksamil can be reached by road and there are regular buses from Saranda. I drove there on my road trip and it is easy to find as there is only really one coastal road in Albania. Ksamil is about 15-20min drive from Saranda.

Facilities: Ksamil is big and entirely devoted to beach goers. You can find beach umbrellas and sun loungers for rent, restaurants, shops selling all sorts of beach wear and items, bars with music, and anything required for a fun day at the beach.

The Albanian beach without a beach – The Blue Eye

Drone shot of The Blue Eye

Drone shot of The Blue Eye

Not actually a beach per se, but more a spring, The Blue Eye is a natural phenomenon whereby water bubbling from a spring deep down creates the illusion of a blue eye, hence the name.

I had seen a lot of photos of it, but they were all pretty misleading, so I decided to fly the drone to give you a better perspective of what to expect. The following photo gives an idea of the area and the couple of shacks selling snacks and renting equipment.

The Blue Eye in Albania

The Blue Eye in Albania

The Blue Eye is often included in round ups of the best beaches in Albania because there is water, and a sort of sand around it. But you can’t swim or sunbathe here.

The Blue Eye from up close

The Blue Eye from up close

I had thought that we would be able to get into the water but actually, you are not allowed and can only watch it from a distance or from a small platform right above the eye. The area can get really crowded in the weekends and summer months so you will be practically queuing to take your photos in the main spots like the platforms shown on the photo above.

I saw some people dipping their feet in the really cold (judging by their face) water, but nothing more. There is quite some shade around and it is usually very lush and green, so it invites relaxation. Outside of the peak summer months it is probably a very quiet part of Albania.

How to get there: The Blue Eye is located about 45min from Saranda or Gjirokaster and can be reached by public bus or by car. I drove there and had to pay an entrance fee at the bridge that crosses the stream. There are regular buses stopping by the road but the walk from the drop-off point to the Blue Eye can take up to 30min in the heat of the summer on an unsealed road. Bring water.

Facilities: You can find some parking space at the entrance with a few cafeterias. In the peak season, or in weekends, you will have to park on the unsealed road that leads to the Blue Eye as the parking gets full. There are camping tents for hire and hiking trails around plus additional activities available. This is a common place for local families to come spend the day so bring a picnic basket or buy some food and chill among the greenery and the sounds of the water.

One of the most remote beaches in Albania – Poda Beach

Poda Beach in Albania

Poda Beach in Albania

You will actually see signs for Poda Beach on the main road leading to Saranda but you will probably not realise that it is pretty remote.

Getting there requires a quick but bumpy drive off the main road and down the hill to a sun lounger and umbrella-filled beach that cannot be easily seen from the road.

Poda Beach is popular because it is quieter than the main beaches in Ksamil and still has the white fine sand that makes the area popular. Often touted as a secret, it is not really one, yet you can expect a nice experience than in larger and busier Ksamil and a more scenic day surrounded by the hilly, rocky coast.

How to get there: Look at the Google My Map I created and follow the signs from the main beach, there are large billboards advertising the beach bar.

Facilities: There is a beach bar with the usual drinks, food and bathrooms and umbrellas and sunbeds for rent. Parking is available.

The reflective beach of Albania – Mirror Beach or Pulëbardha Beach

Mirror Beach in Albania

Mirror Beach in Albania

You may hear of Mirror Beach being referred to by visitors as one of the nicest beaches in Albania but then you may realise it is not easily found on Google Maps. I found it and here I am showing it to you!

Mirror Beach is locally known as Pulëbardha Beach and it is a pretty and isolated beach that is hard to reach, narrow and less crowded than other places.

The other end of Mirror Beach in Albania

The other end of Mirror Beach in Albania

While you will find a couple of rows of sun loungers and umbrellas here, you can also bring your towel and enjoy the beach for free. Because of its secluded and protected location by the side of a cliff, you will feel like you are miles away from busy Ksamil.

How to get there: To get there you need to follow the signs for Poda beach and then veer off to the right and follow the road to the beach. This is a gravel road, unpaved but fine to drive with a regular car, I did it with my reliable Opel Astra.

Facilities: There is a bar where you can buy food and drinks and umbrellas and sunbeds for rent. Parking is available.

The capital of the Albanian Riviera – Saranda Beaches

Aerial view of Saranda from the Castle on top of the hill

Aerial view of Saranda from the Castle on top of the hill

Saranda is considered by many as the capital of the Albanian Riviera. It is the most developed part of the coast in the south of the country and has a long and scenic beach. This is one of the most popular getaway destinations in the country and has a lot of tall apartment blocks and a nice promenade.

I found Sarande to be much prettier than Vrole, the other main town on the Albanian coast. There is a fishing feel to it, with lots of smaller boats and fishermen along the main promenade, and it looked like it was something more than just a tourist town, albeit completely empty beyond the peak summer months.

The beach in Saranda, one of the most popular beaches in Albania

The beach in Saranda, one of the most popular beaches in Albania

The beach in Saranda is pebbly and does not have much sand, but the fact that the city is surrounded by hills and in the shape of a bay gives it a very picturesque feel. There are also lots of shops, restaurants and bars in town so you can take your pick without running out of options if you are staying there longer.

Because Saranda is quite big (by Albanian beach town standards), you will find lots of accommodation options and proper restaurants. As a coastal, originally fishing village, Saranda has great seafood and fresh fish brought in daily so make sure to indulge in what is otherwise not as common elsewhere inland in the country.

Another look at Saranda

Another look at Saranda

If you are visiting the town make sure to go up to the castle. It is not as big or pretty as other castles in Albania like the fortress/castles in Gjirokaster or Berat, but provides great views over the town below. And you also get to snap a scenic bunker shot by the main entrance, peering like a hidden eye of the mountain.

How to get there: There are lots of buses that go to Saranda from pretty much anywhere in Albania but I would suggest to explore the area by car so you have full freedom. Driving in Albania is not for the faint-hearted, so you will need to brace yourself, but it is totally worth it. Saranda is also pretty spread out so without a car you will be walking a lot, or need buses. To go up the castle, you could walk it, but I would think it could take up to an hour depending on where you are based, and it is a really steep walk in the hot summer months, without any shade. I would strongly recommend you to cab it if you don’t have a car.

Facilities: As this is a proper town, there are all the facilities you need. The beach is gravely but there are parasols and sun loungers for rent pretty much all along and the odd beach club style restaurant where proper food is served.

The largest beach in Albania – Vlora Beach

One of the many cliff paths near Vlore

One of the many cliff paths near Vlore

Vlora is a much developed and relatively proper city in Albania. Vlora beach stretches really long and has a wide promenade along the sea with lots of palm trees and benches. This is a touristy beach town, if there ever was one in Albania. In fact, it reminded me a lot of Benidorm in Spain.

Think of tall apartment blocks, beach/summer themed stores and a lot of people in the summer, but practically nobody in the winter.

Vlora feels like it was created for the sole purpose of summer months. Already at the beginning of September it was almost deserted, its long beach practically empty.

Vlore Beach - Photo by Leif Hinrichsen on Flickr BY CC-NC 2.0

Vlore Beach – Photo by Leif Hinrichsen on Flickr BY CC-NC 2.0

While there are a few beach clubs along the beach, many parts of it are devoid of umbrellas and sun loungers, a rarity in Albania. However, Vlora does not have the best beaches in Albania.

The sand is darker, and the the water, while clean, is not as clear and crystalline as in Ksamil or some of the other great Albanian beaches on this list. However, it is easy to access with direct highway links from Tirana, so it is a popular escape for the locals.

How to get there: Great road all the way from Tirana. You can also get there by bus but driving is better.

Facilities: Pretty much anything you need. Choose one of the beach clubs for comfy sunbeds or even cabanas, food and drinks.

Hidden gems along the Vlora coast – Vega/Paradise Hotel Beach

Beach clubs from Vlora to Kanine

Beach clubs from Vlora to Kanine

Driving south from Vlora towards Kanine and Radhime you will find lots of beach clubs along the way with funky names like Coco Bongo, St. Tropez or Vega. Some of them are pretty and merit a stop.

Here you will often find semi-artificial beaches where gravel or pebbles have been brought and placed on top of concrete narrow strips, the locals love to enjoy the sea at every opportunity. The beach is practically nonexistent on some of these small beach clubs but they are scenic and the water is of an incredible azure blue.

How to get there: Driving from Vlora you will find all the beach clubs including this one, on your right hand side, just look out for the billboard or use Google Maps.

Facilities: Beach Clubs have everything you need to spend the day.

The Albanian beaches with the most beach clubs – Kanine Beach and Radhime Beach

Often highlighted as one of the best beaches in Albania, I found both Kanine and Radhime underwhelming. They are easy to reach as they are just next to Vlora, so probably that is why they are so popular.

The beaches here are mostly gravel, not even pebble, and while the water can be very clear and blue, the beach experience does not compare to the more beautiful beaches in the south. The sand is coarse and it is not very pleasant to walk on gravel. The locals don’t seem to mind, tough cookies they are!

Look out for the smaller beach clubs all along the coast, in smaller coves and rocky spots, for more scenic alternatives. Check out the rest of the beaches in Albania on this list for more beautiful options.

How to get there: Driving from Vlora you will first reach Kanine and then Radhime, they are just along the coast.

Facilities: The public beaches have sun loungers and parasols and there are plenty of beach clubs to choose from for more convenient facilities

The most heavenly of the beaches in Albania – Monastery Beach

Posted by Monastery Beach Saranda Albania on Friday, February 9, 2018

Monastery Beach is between Ksamil and Saranda and located below St George Monastery, hence the name. What makes it most picturesque is the crescent shape and the cliffs around it.

Because of its harder-to-reach location, you can expect it to be a hidden beach with far less crowds. The high season in Albania is, however, pretty busy, so you can’t expect to be there alone, there will be others and there will be the popular sunbeds and umbrellas.

The beach here is pebbly so you should wear proper footwear, but the water, and with everywhere else in this area, is clean and clear, great for a swim.

How to get there: The beach can be easily accessed from the main road off a turn that is signposted. Or simply follow my Google My Map.

Facilities: Like all the other beaches in the area, you can expect sun loungers and umbrellas plus a couple of bars where you can grab food and drinks.

Himara Beach

Himare Beach - Photo by Michaela DunkelBunt CC BY-ND 2.0

Himare Beach – Photo by Michaela DunkelBunt CC BY-ND 2.0

Himara is a very unique town and beach in Albania which is mostly inhabited by bilingual Greeks and flanked by the 2,000m high mountains on one side and the Ionian Sea. It was this protected location which allowed the Greeks to defend themselves from the Ottoman Empire relentlessly for centuries.

The area boasts nice beaches and a cute historical town and castle up on the hill. The promenade in Himara is pleasant, as are all the Greek restaurants. It is a relaxed enclave and far from the tourism that may fill the beaches in other parts of the Riviera, as it takes longer to reach.

If you find Himara too busy, go 3km north towards Livadhia beach which is beautiful and usually less crowded.

How to get there: The beach is down from the town which is up high and you can either walk or drive.

Facilities: Sun lounger and umbrellas are available as are food, drinks and snacks.

Dhermi and Drymades Beach

By Dori - Own work, CC BY 2.5

By Dori – Own work, CC BY 2.5

Dhermi Beach is located very near Himare town and is similarly populated by ethnic Greeks who speak a dialect that is not used anywhere else. It can be found halfway between Vlora and Saranda, in the Albanian Riviera.

In Dhermi town there are two beaches, Dhermi and Drymades, both of which are pebbly but have crystal clear waters. Drymades is smaller and harder to reach so tends to be favored by those who want something a bit more special. Both are great beaches in Albania that you can’t miss.

How to get there: You can drive from the main road to the beach.

Facilities: While there are facilities, you may not find the sun loungers and umbrellas taking over like in other beaches.

Borsch

By godo godaj - originally posted to Flickr as borsh albania, CC BY 2.0

By godo godaj – originally posted to Flickr as borsh albania, CC BY 2.0

At 7km, Borsch has the longest beach in the Ionian Sea that goes on for as long as the eye can see, and is unexpectedly far less developed than other parts of the Albanian Riviera. Here, you can easily find a spot that is less crowded and not filled with umbrellas so this is the place to come for an off-the-beaten-path beach in Albania.

How to get there: Borsch beach can be easily accessed from the road.

Facilities: There are a few restaurants and bars along the beach, but you won’t find the level of amenities of other places, people come here to get away from that.

Gjipe Beach

This is perhaps the only hidden gem of a beach in Albania. Why?

Because it is hard to reach and you need to walk for 30min along the coast on a basic path to reach it. This way, it has survived the development. The parasols have made it there though!

Gjipe beach gets its name from the canyon that ends on the beach. You can visit it, and hike the area, with appropriate gear.

How to get there: You need to walk for half an hour to reach the beach from the paved snaking road. So park your car and bring proper shoes.

Facilities: There is a beach hut, umbrellas and some sun loungers but at a smaller scale than elsewhere in Albania.