Just 40 minutes from Tirana stands Kruja, a medieval town known as the place where the Albanian hero Gjergj Kastrioti Skanderbeg fought against the Ottomans in the 15th century. A must-visit here is the Skanderbeg Museum, where visitors can learn more about the history of the country. Once you’ve soaked up some history, head into the old bazaar, an open air market full of old shops where vendors sell traditional handmade items and furnishings.
Shkodra is considered the cultural capital of Albania, boasting a rich culture, art and history that make it an unforgettable destination in the Balkans. A day is not enough to admire every single spot that Shkodra offers visitors, but in 24 hours you can easily walk through the Pedonalja, a beautiful street full of cafes, visit the Marubi Museum, entirely dedicated to photography, and reach the gorgeous fortress to admire a beautiful panorama over the city.
Durrës, historically known as Dyrrachium, is one of the oldest towns in Albania, and in ancient times was also one of the most important cities of the Adriatic Sea. A visit here has to include a stroll along the seafront, a fish-based lunch, and a tour of the old town, with the ruins of the forum, Byzantine walls, Venetian tower, archaeological museum, and Roman amphitheater, which is the largest in the Balkans.
Petrela is a village some 15 km (9.3 miles) south of Tirana that is famous for its castle and history. The castle is built upon a huge stone located on the top of a small mountain. Once here you’ll have the chance to admire gorgeous natural panoramas and try traditional Albanian food in the restaurant situated inside the castle.
If you have a little extra time (and if not, we highly recommend you make some), and want to visit something different, head to Prizren, the cultural capital of Kosovo, just two hours by car from Tirana. Prizren is a true gem that is worth a look not just for its beauty, but also for its cultural strength: the town is trilingual (people here speak Albanian, Serb and Turkish) and is full of gorgeous mosques, Orthodox churches and Catholic churches.
If you enjoy outdoor activities, there is nothing better than visiting Erzeni Canyon, a gorgeous natural area located in the southeast of Tirana. This natural spot is perfect to escape from the warm summer temperatures of Tirana and relax swimming in the natural pools formed in the area. A plus here is a visit to the Pellumbas caves.
Kepi i Rodonit is one of the most beautiful hidden gems of Albania that everyone should include in their travel itinerary. It is located on the Adriatic shore, just one hour by car from Tirana. Once here you have plenty of choices: you can relax on the beach, swim in pristine waters, visit the remains of the castle, or kayak with the expert guides of Outdoor Albania.
If you’re a foodie, head straight to Lezha and check out Fishtë, a small hamlet located between the Adriatic Sea and mountains where a table at Mrizi I Zanave is a must. This place is a destination restaurant for food enthusiasts who will love the excellent organic food made with fresh seasonal products from the area, cooked by Altin Prenga, one of Albania’s great chefs.
One of the most beautiful places to visit in the Balkans is the Ohrid Lake, divided between Albania and Macedonia, which is also one of the oldest and deepest lakes of Europe. If you want an exciting extra trip from Tirana, head to the Macedonian border of the lake and go straight to Ohrid. This enchanting town is one of the highlights in the Balkan trail and totally worth a visit for its ancient history, beautiful Orthodox churches and gorgeous lake views. Outdoor activities fans can also book a motorcycle tour with Brain and Heart through the Ohrid Lake area.