The Most Stunning Beaches in Albania

A beach near Lukova in Vlora county, on the Albanian Riviera
A beach near Lukova in Vlora county, on the Albanian Riviera | © Westend61 GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo
Francesca Masotti

From sandy lagoons and unspoilt sands to the glories of the Albanian Riviera, here is Culture Trip’s selection of the most stunning beaches in Albania.

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Albania’s southern coastline is a photogenic corner of the country: a place of hamlets woven with cobblestoned streets and small Orthodox churches speckling the terrain. Inland there’s more in store – peaceful natural springs near Saranda, lake shores near the Macedonian border. Most importantly, beautiful beaches are in no short supply, rivalling nearby Greece with their white purity and transparent Adriatic shallows, where you can holiday for half the price.

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Natural Feature

Drymades beach, Albania. Summer Ionian sea coast view. People are unrecognizable.
© Yuriy Brykaylo / Alamy Stock Photo
Looking west across the Adriatic Sea – direction Southern Italy – Drymades gets super-fiery sunsets. But that’s for later – from the moment the day dawns it’s a stunner, with almost Maldivian-blue waters caught in a small bay. There is a pebbly stretch as well as a sandy expanse, the two divided by a large rock – and things never get crowded, even during summer. So if you’re looking for an alternative to the manic Med, here’s your answer.


Natural Feature

Dhermi, Albania, view over the beach
© Agencja Fotograficzna Caro / Alamy Stock Photo
Near Drymades, you’ll find Dhërmi, one of the most famous places in Albania thanks to its poster-lovely looks: an expanse of pale pebbles and rocks lapped by turquoise waters. This beach is one of the longest on the Albanian Riviera; in summer, it’s undoubtedly the busiest – and loudest, with music playing through speakers and accommodation full to the brim. But if you’re prepared to walk a little, you should be able to find a spot for your own solitude, even in August.


Natural Feature

Potami Beach, Himara, South coast, Albania, Europe
© robertharding / Alamy Stock Photo

This might just be Albania’s best-loved beach town, a gash of tropical blue glimpsed as you crest the dramatic Llogara Pass and see it spread below. It’s certainly one of the most frequented beauty spots along the Albanian Riviera, but despite that it hasn’t lost its charm. There are several corkingly lovely stretches near the town, among them Livadhi, a bay of fine white pebbles edged by olive trees; and Potami, attractively spread between the sea and a river.


Natural Feature

Vie on the Borsh Beach in Albania. Stony beach on the Adriatic Sea. Mountain in the background.
© TomaszWozniak / Alamy Stock Photo
Against a rustic backdrop of peaks, olive groves and grazing goats, the largest beach in Albania is impressive indeed: an unspoilt magic carpet of pure-white pebbles unfurling for 7km (4.3mi) along the Albanian Riviera, rinsed by the preternaturally blue Ionian Sea. The village of Borsh, about 2km (1.2mi) from the beach, is home to a population of Albanian Muslims, and you might find little mosques hidden in the green hills beyond, along with the occasional castle.


Natural Feature

Aerial view of Saranda, Albania
© Leonid Andronov / Alamy Stock Photo
The coastal town of Saranda is considered the unofficial capital of the Albanian Riviera. It is one of the most frequented spots in the country, for many reasons: the town is near the border with Greece – directly across the Ionian Sea from the island of Corfu – and it has plenty of gorgeous beaches. One of our favourites is Pulebardha, which you can get to by bus: a pebbly beach, lapped by clear shallows flickering with fish, this is a reminder of the Med as it used to be before mass tourism.

Pop to Saranda en route to our island-hopping Greek odyssey, starting off in Athens and finishing in Santorini.


Natural Feature

Small sandy beach, coast south of Lukova, Albanian Riviera, Qark Vlora, Albania
© imageBROKER / Alamy Stock Photo

The city of Vlora, the third largest in Albania, commands a bay where the Ionian Sea merges with the Adriatic. A town of historic merit, where independence was forged, it’s your gateway to some of the country’s finest untouched beaches. From Vlora port, with Teuta Boat Tours, you can hit the unspoiled bays of Karaburun and Sazan, but if you’d rather go it alone, drive in a southerly direction and flop on the shores of Radhime or Orikum. Both are textbook examples of Albanian coast, radiating brilliance in toothpaste-white-and-blue.


Natural Feature

Albania, panorama view of Ksamil Beach, Albanian Riviera
© Jan Wlodarczyk / Alamy Stock Photo
South of Saranda, you will come to Ksamil, one of the most coveted beach destinations in Albania. Such is its beauty, it has been dubbed “the Ionian pearl”. The setting is truly dramatic, on a bay with three small islands you can reach by local boat, or swim out to if you’re feeling energetic enough, across startlingly turquoise waters. One piece of advice: think twice about heading here in August, because every inch of space is taken up by bronzing holidaymakers from Tirana.


Natural Feature

Strand Gjipe Beach an der albanischen Riviera bei Himara, Albanien, Europa | Gjipe Beach on the Albanian Riviera near Himara, Albania, Europe
© Peter Schickert / Alamy Stock Photo
Hidden from sight by cradling mountains, Gjipe is a perfect beach – essentially a byword for tranquillity and relaxation. The bay is some way from the road and to reach it you’ll need to trek for half an hour or more. That said, the going is very easy on the eye, through fragrant natural landscapes that reveal tantalising views of the coast to speed you on your way. No wonder some visitors decide to stay for a night or two – there are camping options on the beach.

Narta, Zvernec

Bridge, Monastery, Natural Feature

Sandy beach panorama (Vlore, Albania).. Image shot 03/2018. Exact date unknown.
© Zoonar GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo
Just 15 minutes by car from Vlora, you can be marvelling at Narta, a beautiful sandy lagoon with technicolour-blue waters, calm and warm – and therefore perfect for families. Beyond sunbathing and swimming, the main reason for a day-trip here is to visit the small island of Zvernec: approachable along a recently constructed timber walkway, it is home to the miraculous late-Byzantine Monastery of St Mary, obscured by billowing clouds of tall dark pine trees.

Syri I Kalter

Natural Feature

The Blue Eye of Kapre, Syri i Kalter i Kaprese, a blue river pool. Theth, Thethi, Albania.
© MichaelGrantTravel / Alamy Stock Photo

Technically Syri I Kalter is not a beach, but a natural spring – the name translates literally as “blue eye”. But that’s not important. This gorgeous, seemingly fathomless spot is the perfect place for an intimate, untroubled swim, in one of the most beautiful natural landscapes in the country. It is located along the road between Saranda and Gjirokaster and – believe us – you’ll kick yourself if you don’t stop, only to be teased by postcard images of this amazing natural phenomenon later.


Natural Feature

Colorful boats on the beach at the lake of Ohrid with cloudy sky, Albania.
© Georgios Tsichlis / Alamy Stock Photo
Albania sees off much of the Mediterranean competition for stunning coastal beaches, but it’s also home to one of the oldest and most beautiful lakes in Europe. Lake Ohrid straddles the border across into North Macedonia and so, technically, has two nationalities. Around Pogradec, the main town on the Albanian side, there are a number of must-visit beaches that, while packed with sun-seekers in the summer months, are utterly idyllic in springtime or at the end of summer.


Natural Feature

Aerial view to beach of Durres, Albania, full of umbrellas and people in summer.
© Alla Simacheva / Alamy Stock Photo

Lying just south of the port city of Durrës, this 8km (5mi)-long stretch of sand has room for everyone. Most people don’t venture much further than the blocks of sun loungers and parasols closest to the little village centre of Spille, but push along a little bit to the north or south and you’ll quickly find the crowds thin – which makes staking out your own semi-private patch in the sand easy. There are restaurants and cafes strung all the way along, too, so you won’t need to go far for a snack or mid-afternoon espresso.


Natural Feature

Gazebos On Shengjin Beach
© EyeEm / Alamy Stock Photo

The trick to getting the most out of this part of Albania’s popular northern coast is to come towards the end of the shoulder season. In late May and early June, the beach of this resort town is a wide, empty swathe of dusty-blonde sand, sloping gently into a shallow, rippling sea. There are plenty of sun loungers about, and you can nab one for around £1, but they’re not packed onto every available square inch of sand, as you’ll find they are in peak summer.


Natural Feature

Village of Qeparo at Ionian Sea coast near Saranda (Sarande), Albanian Riviera, Albania
© Witold Skrypczak / Alamy Stock Photo

In the quieter southern end of Albania, this beach is a bit of a hidden treat, with smooth, bone-white shingle sloping into mirror-smooth water with dramatic mountainous views in either direction. It’s rather like having a slice of the Amalfi Coast, but for half the price. It’s both smaller and less accessible than neighbouring Borsh beach, which actually works to its benefit – you’ll be left alone to relax amid the gentle frothing sound of waves rolling up the pebbles, and the music playing in the beachfront apartments behind you.


Natural Feature

Reed-covered parasols on the gravel beach, Ionian Sea,
© imageBROKER / Alamy Stock Photo

It’s like the Seychelles meets the Med here, where palm trees planted in the golden sand shade rows of sun loungers, and a walkway on stilts snakes out across the water to a tiny island and restaurant. It’s a 35-minute drive south from Durrës, and most sun-seekers looking for a beach will have pulled off at Durrës or Golemit, so it’s usually pretty quiet, even in peak season. And if you can’t get to stretch out on one of those rentable recliners, there’s still plenty of beach to go around.


Natural Feature

A beach is pictured in Llaman near the city of Vlore
© REUTERS / Alamy Stock Photo

Wedged into a gap in the hills between Himarë and Porto Palermo is this small but perfectly formed beach: a must-stop at the southern end of the coastline. The water is so clear it feels as if you’re looking through a magnifying glass as the shallows idly lap the fine shingle. In peak season, tiki parasols shade rows of sun lounges laid out on the central swathe of beach, while there’s space at either end to lay your towel down if you don’t fancy forking out the small fee.

Alex Allen contributed additional reporting to this article.

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