Balkan highlights – your ultimatelist of what to see in the Balkans

Albania what to see

Hi! I’m Kami, a solo female frugal traveler from Poland! I’m working full time and balancing my job with extensive travels all over the world. I adore discovering off the beaten path places (especially in Central Europe) and exploring alternative spots, street art scene and local cafe culture.

As you probably know very well the Balkans is one of my favorite regions in the whole world.

I keep returning there as often as I can, at least a few times each year and I always keep finding new Balkan highlights there.

That is why I’ve decided to create the ultimate list of what to see in the Balkans so you will have a great cheatsheet for your next trip to south-east Europe.Since my personal bucket list for the area is still neverending I’ve asked few fellow bloggers and friends to help me with those highlights so you can see here as many awesome and worth visiting places as possible!

So without any further ado, let me present you what to see in the Balkans!

 

Albania

Berat

Berat, the White City of Albania, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that became our favorite city in the entire country.

Walking along its main promenade the sun was shining on the stunning white buildings that climb up the mountain next to the Lumi i Osumit River. At the top of the hill, the Berat fortress is a glance into the Byzantine past.

Cobblestone alleyways, grapevines, or friendly vendors greet you at every turn.

Stop and have a glass of cay while taking in the amazing valley view. For dinner, don’t miss the local lamb stew while you sit outside and enjoy the sunset.

Nestled in the shadow of a vertiginous rock face, is the small town of Berat. It’s whitewashed, traditional homes cling to the hillside above the river.

Cosmopolitan bars line the riverfront and quaint little pubs hide in cobbled alleyways below the castle. For spectacular views of the valley and surrounding countryside, do not miss the sweat-inducing climb to the castle.

It’s an adventure in itself as you navigate slippery, glistening cobbles before clambering over rocks and scrubland to reach the top. You may even be accosted by a local man desperate to take your picture, whilst hanging off a pilon to get the best view of you from above!

We stayed in the lovely, traditional ottoman Hotel Muzaka on the opposite river bank. For picturesque views of the old town, be sure to request room six with beautiful carved ceilings and furniture.

Even in the height of summer, its thick walls cocoon you in cool relief and waking up to those scenes is heavenly.

Tirana

The capital of Albania, Tirana is surely one of the highlights of Balkan peninsula.

Even though Tirana is not famous for its architecture or landmarks, it’s still a very interesting place to visit. It has a unique mix of religions – Islam, Christian orthodoxy and Catholicism.

It was also a revelation for me, that Tirana is such a calm and quiet city – there is a huge park with the lake in the city center and it seems like at least half of the population of the city goes running there.

The prices in the city are very low and the food quality is amazing: in Tirana, I ate the tastiest meal out of all the meals me and my husband ate during our amazing Balkan bus trip.

You shouldn’t have many expectations before coming to Tirana: the city is still developing, there are no shopping malls and almost no foreign shops (except for some German grocery stores) and nice-looking restaurants are hard to find.

However, the charm of Tirana is in its diversity and dissimilarity to other cities, especially in Western Europe. It’s different, but it’s unique and amazing!

Gjirokastra

Despite learning how to pronounce Gjirokastra at first attempt may be a little challenging, this UNESCO World Heritage Site deserves a visit during your holiday to Albania.

Located just a couple of hours drive from Berat, Gjirokastra is one of the most important historical cities of Albania. People call it the white city, as its building are characterized by white facades screaming the charm of decadence in every single detail.

Stroll around the city center and see the clothes hanging from the balconies, do some people watching, play with kids in the street, and enjoy the beauty of the valley around you.

Do not miss a visit to the Castle, considered one of the most charming of Albania.

Oh, I almost forgot: walk to the souk to shop some local handicrafts. Carpets and ceramics are amazing!

Vlorë

Vlorë is a relatively low-key place to visit in Albania but has tons of activities nearby.

Make it your exploration base for visiting the Zvërnec peninsula, the Karaburun-Sazan national marine park, the ruins of Oricum and the Kaninë castle. A little further out, you’ll find the fabulous beaches of Dhërmi and Himarë along the southern coastal road.

Inside the city, you can learn about Albania’s independence from the Ottoman Empire, which was declared here. The 500-year-old Muradie mosque is one of the main sights in this very walkable city.

In the warm months, the town organizes a lot of open-air festivals on the squares and nearby hills.

One can stroll along the boulevard and sample coffee at one of the many cafés while reading a book. Watch the sun drop into the sea to complete that Mediterranean-Balkan vibe.

Saranda

Even in the blustery wind and winter months, Saranda has a beauty which is worthwhile checking out while in Albania. Watching the sunset over the sea and splashing around is a must, as well as hiking up and visiting Lekuresi castle.

You get stunning views of the city and sea from the top. The other real draw of visiting Saranda is taking a trip to Butrint, the nearby UNESCO heritage site.

These well-preserved ancient ruins are spectacular and set beautiful surroundings. Saranda is definitely worthy of a couple of days during your travels.

Published by “My Wanderlust”

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