How to get to Albanian Riviera?
I traveled to the Albanian Riviera the past few summers, and it is not so easy to get to the Albanian Riviera. The most beautiful beaches of Albania are in the south of the country, so it is definitely worth the effort. So, I decided to write a helpful blog post about the best ways to get to the Albanian Riviera.
How to get to Albanian Riviera? You can get to Albanian Riviera by bus, by taxi or by car from Tirana airport. By bus, it takes 3 – 5 hours and it costs 4 – 11 euros. By taxi, it costs between 86 – 165 euros. Alternatively, you can fly to Corfu airport and take a ferry to the Albanian Riviera. A ferry trip takes 30-70 minutes.
The best way to travel to the Albanian Riviera depends on your budget. A bus is a very budget friendly way to travel. However, by taxi you will have more comfort and speed, but it comes at a much higher price.
Moreover, the best way to travel also depends on which beach you plan on visiting. The Albanian Riviera is a 120 kilometre long coastal area. There are many large and small beaches along the coastal road between Vlore and Saranda. So are you aiming for Vlore in the north of the Albanian Riviera or Saranda in the ultimate south of Albania?
How to get to the Albanian Riviera by flight?
To get to the Albanian Riviera, you can fly to two airports:
1. Tirana International Airport
2. Corfu Airport
Tirana International Airport is the only airport in Albania. It is located near the capital city Tirana, in the center of the country. Therefore, it is not that close to the Albanian Riviera, which is in the south. So, from Tirana airport you can travel to the Albanian Riviera by car, by taxi or by bus.
Corfu Airport is located on the Greek Corfu island. Although Corfu island is a part of Greece, it is actually nearer to the Albanian coastline. From Corfu, you can take a ferry boat to Saranda city in Albania. Saranda is the unofficial capital of the Albanian Riviera. So if you only plan on visiting the Albanian Riviera in the south of Albania, Corfu Airport is your best option.
How to get to the Albanian Riviera by bus?
There are no direct buses from Tirana airport to the Albanian Riviera.
Therefore, you must take the following steps to travel to the Albanian Riviera by bus:
1. Fly to Tirana airport
2. Take a taxi from Tirana airport to the Regional bus terminal at the Dogana roundabout
3. Take the bus from Tirana to Vlore or Sarande
The buses to the Albanian Riviera depart from the “Regional Bus Terminal – South Albania”. This bus terminal is next to the Dogana Roundabout, which is about 5 kilometres from the city center of Tirana. From the airport, take a taxi to the Dogana Roundabout which costs between 15 – 20 euros. The bus station is very large, and just next to the massive roundabout.
From the Dogana roundabout, you can take a bus to either Vlore or Sarande. The Albanian Riviera is the coastline between Vlore (in the north) and Saranda (in the south). From the Dogana Roundabout, it takes 3 hours to travel to Vlore or 5 hours to travel to Sarande.
The bus to Vlore departs roughly every 30 minutes between 5:00 am and 17:30 pm. It takes 3 hours from the Dogana roundabout to Vlore city. The ticket will cost you only 500 LEK (which is 4 euros). There are three bus companies that operate a bus to Vlore, these are Elalba Trans, Olgeno and Interbus Vlora.
The bus to Sarande departs roughly 10 times a day between 5:30 am and 22:00 pm. However, there are more frequent bus departures in the early morning. So it is best to travel to the bus terminal early. A ticket from the Dogana roundabout to Sarande costs 1300 LEK (which is 11 euros) for a one-way trip. There are two bus companies that operate daily buses, these are Tisa travel and Olgeno.
If you plan on travelling by bus to the Albanian Riviera, please remember that this is not a luxury trip. Once you arrive at the bus terminal, the bus drivers will yell out their destinations. Then you wait inside the bus for it to depart, and they don’t always depart immediately. Most likely, they will play local music on the radio and stop along the way to speak to their friends.
The advantage of the bus is that it is cheap. Compared to a taxi or a car rental, you will save a lot of money if you travel with the local bus.
How to get to the Albanian Riviera by taxi?
The easiest way to travel to the Albanian Riviera is by taxi.
It is safest to take the official “Tirana International Airport Taxi” (TIA taxi), because these are licence taxis.
You can recognize the official taxis because they are:
1. Yellow color
2. They have an Auto Holiday Albania logo and the airport logo on both sides of the car
3. Parked right outside the airport terminal building
The official TIA taxis have a set price list, which is published on the website. It costs 11200 LEK (86 euros) to travel from Tirana airport to Vlore. And it costs 21000 LEK (165 euros) to travel from Tirana airport to Sarande.
As you have probably already noticed, the price difference between a taxi or a bus trip are massive. By bus, it will cost you 20 euros to travel to the Dogana roundabout and then 4 euros to travel to Vlore. So the total by bus is 24 euros. Whereas a taxi to Vlore is 86 euros. So the price difference is 62 euros. Therefore, a taxi only pays off, if you travel with 3 – 4 people, so you can split the costs.
How to get to the Albanian Riviera by car?
The best way to travel to the Albanian Riviera is by car or with a rental. Having a car is great, because it gives you the opportunity to explore many different beaches along the coastline.
Basically, the Albanian Riviera is the coastline from Vlore (in the North) to Saranda (in the south). A coastal road between the two cities, leads by all the little beaches along the way.
Moreover, what makes the Albanian Riviera unique are the little, hidden, unspoiled beaches. Many of which can only be reached by car.
If you fly to Tirana International Airport, you can rent a car at the airport. There are car rental offices of Eurocar Rentals, Enterprise Rent-a-Car, Avis, Europcar, Sixt and Hertz at the airport.
A rental car at Tirana airport costs between €20.00 – €50.00 per day. The prices for a car rental vary depending on the brand, the age, the duration of the rental and insurance coverage. Before your trip, you can compare prices online with the different providers.
For your information, you do not need a four-wheel drive car for the Albanian Riviera. The road is recently renewed and in a good condition. The road turns and twists, so you do need some driving experience. However, a regular rental car is fine for this destination.
From Tirana airport, follow the signage in the direction of the coastal city Durres. Once you reach the coast, you will start driving to the south. From Durres, drive in the direction of Kavaje, Lushnje, Fier and Vlore.
Vlore is the coastal town, where the Albanian Riviera starts. From Vlore, you can follow the coastal road in the direction of Saranda. You will drive by all of the famous beaches on your way to Saranda, so allow plenty of time to stop and take pictures.
It takes around 3 hours to drive from Tirana to Vlore. And it will take you around 5-6 hours to drive from Tirana to Saranda. By bus, it takes only 5 hours to get from Tirana to Saranda. However, many buses take the inland route to Saranda, which is a faster, but less beautiful route.
The coastal road on the other hand is a real highlight. Along the way, you pass over the Llogara pass, which has a stunning view of the Ionian Sea and the beaches below. It is best to plan a full-day for the coastal road, because surely you want to stop and explore some little beaches.
How to get to the Albanian Riviera from Corfu?
The airport on Corfu island is actually closer to the Albanian Riviera, than Tirana airport. Corfu is a Greek island, which is close to the Albanian coast. From Corfu, you can take a ferry boat to Albania.
To get to the Albanian Riviera from Corfu, you need to fly from any European city to Corfu Airport. Then from Corfu airport, you need to travel to the Port of Corfu to get on the ferry boat.
You can get from Corfu airport to the Port of Corfu by bus or by taxi. From the airport, you can take bus line No 15, which is a direct connection to the port. The bus trip will take you 20 minutes and it costs only €1.20.
Alternatively, you can take an airport taxi to the Port of Corfu. The taxi ride takes only 12 minutes and it will cost you between €15 – €20.
The ferry boat departs from the Port of Corfu and it arrives in the Port of Saranda. Saranda is a large coastal city in Albania, and it is known as “the capital of the Albanian Riviera”.
It takes between 30 – 70 minutes by ferry boat to travel to Saranda. The travel time depends on the type of boat you take. The flying dolphin is a speed boat, with which it only takes 30 minutes to get to Saranda. With a regular car ferry boat, it takes 70 minutes.
The prices for the ferry boat are between €18.00 – €23.80 for one adult for a one-way ticket. If you travel in the high season, you should expect to pay around €23.80.
The ferry from Corfu to Albania departs between 2 – 13 times a day, depending on the season. The low season is in the winter. The spring and autumn months are the pre-season and post-season, so there are more ferry boats a day. The high season is in July and August.
There are four ferry boat companies that operate a ferry between Corfu and Saranda. These are: Ionian Seaways, Finikas Lines, Sarris Lines & Cruises and Joy Lines. The price differences between the operators are minimal. So simply book the boat, which offers you the most convenient travel time.
Where is the Albanian Riviera?
The Albanian Riviera is a 120 kilometre long stretch of coastline in the South of Albania. The Albanian Riviera starts in the coastal city Vlore and ends to the south of Saranda.
The Albanian Riviera is known for its beautiful beaches. There are little, hidden coves in this area. The smaller beaches are still completely virgin, private and untouched. You can still visit in the high season, and find a little beach without any crowds. Which is why the Albanian Riviera is something unique in Europe.
You can visit the Albanian Riviera, by driving along the coastal road. The coastal road turns and twists by the sides of the mountains. From the hillside, you look down on the perfect beaches below. It is a really stunning route to drive.
The coastal road is very steep and narrow at places. The highlight on the route is the Llogara Pass. This is the highest point on the route. Here you can park the car, sit down at the restaurant and look down on the Albanian Riviera. It offers an amazing view and you can make stunning pictures.
The largest cities in the Albanian Riviera are: Vlore and Sarande. Vlore is the starting point of the Albanian Riviera. There is a massive bay in the coastal town, where the Adriatic Sea and the Ionian Sea meet.
Saranda is known as “the unofficial capital of the Albanian Riviera”. Around the horseshoe bay, there is a variety of hotels, restaurants, clubs and entertainment. If you like a vibrant atmosphere and enjoy a party, then you will love Saranda.
The absolute highlight of the Albanian Riviera is Ksamil beach. Ksamil is a paradise-like beach in the ultimate south of Albania. The beach has perfect white sand and clear water. You can take a boat to visit one of the four little islands in front of the beach.
Albanian Riviera map
The Albanian Riviera is the 120 kilometres long coastline between Vlora and Saranda. Vlora (no. 1) is a large coastal city, where the Albanian Riviera starts. Vlore is a city around a massive bay.
From Vlora, a coastal road leads along all the beautiful beaches of the Albanian Riviera. Firstly, the Karaburun Peninsula (No. 2) is a rocky peninsula that points into the sea. It is known for its hidden beaches, which can only be reached by boat.
If you drive from Vlora to the south, you will drive over the Llogara Pass (No. 3). The Llogara Pass is 1,027m above the sea level and it is the highest point on the coastal road. The pass is a famous viewing point, from where you can look down onto the Ionian Sea and the beaches of the Albanian Riviera.
If you drive further south from the Llogara Pass, you will see Palase beach (No. 4) and Dhermi beach (No. 5). Especially Dhermi beach is a very popular beach. The little village is a vibrant and cool place for young people to visit in the summer season.
However, if you look for a more virgin beach and enjoy the quiet, you can walk along Dhermi beach to reach Drymades beach (No. 6). Drymades is one of the prettiest hidden coves in this area and it comes highly recommended by the Lonely Planet.
If you drive further to the south, you will see Jale beach (No. 8). Jale is a still quite undeveloped area. Here you will see the most beautiful green-blue turquoise water. And it is incredibly clear. If you enjoy a little village and a beautiful beach, you should stay in Jale.
From Jale beach, you can take a boat ride or a kayak to peddle to Gjipe beach (No. 7). Gjipe is a beach, that is completely enclosed by cliffs. Due to the cliffs, it can only be reached by boat or by a 35 minutes walk. Since it is rather difficult to reach, it is like visiting a deserted island.
Himare (No. 9) is a lovely little village with several beautiful beaches. If you do not like to stay in a big coastal town like Vlore or Saranda, then Himara is a very good option for you. Himare has all the facilities, but on a smaller scale.
If you drive further south from Himare, you will see the Bay of Porto Palermo (No. 10 ). Porto Palermo is a massive dark blue Bay. In the middle of the bay, there is a little island with the castle of Ali Pasha. Make a stop to explore the castle and climb onto the roof for a stunning view.
If you continue driving to the south, the next beach you will see is Borsh Beach (No. 11). Borsh is the longest beach of the Albanian Riviera. It is an impressive 7 kilometres long. Keep walking along the beach, to find a private spot for yourself.
And then after Borsh, you will reach the large Saranda city (No. 12). The city is known as “the unofficial capital of the Albanian Riviera”. Sarande is a large coastal city with many hotels, bars, restaurants and clubs. If you like a vibrant atmosphere, you will really enjoy this city. From Saranda, you can easily travel sightseeing locations, like Ksamil beach, the Blue Eye of Albania and Butrint.
If you are staying in Saranda, but you would like to get away from the crowds, you can drive further south. The little coves of Mirror beach (No. 14) and Monastery beach (No. 13) are stunning. These beaches are surrounded by cliffs, have stunning waves and are very private.
If you drive to the ultimate south of the Albanian coast, you can visit the famous Ksamil beach (No. 15). Ksamil beach is known as “the pearl of the Albanian Riviera”. This beach is how you imagine paradise.
The beach of Ksamil is set on a little peninsula. The sand is perfect white and clean. The water is the clearest, seawater you have ever seen. Wooden shutters point into the sea. And there are four little islands in front of the shore. You can rent a boat and peddle to the uninhabited islands.
Ksamil is the most beautiful place in the Albanian Riviera!
How to get to Ksamil beach in the Albanian Riviera?
Ksamil beach is 12 kilometres to the south of the coastal city Saranda. You can get to Ksamil beach by bus, by taxi or by car.
The cheapest way to travel from Saranda to Ksamil beach is by bus. A one-way ticket for the bus will cost you only 100 LEK (which is less than €1.00). The bus departs from the center of Saranda at Nene Theresa Square.
However, in July and August the bus can be very busy, so it is better to get on the bus at the beginning of the route. To get on the bus at the beginning of the route, go to the intersection of Rruga Jonianet and Rruga Mitat Hoxha, which is near the port. There is a large tree at the intersection. It takes 20 – 40 minutes to reach Ksamil by bus, depending on the traffic.
If you don’t want to wait for the bus, it is easier to just get a taxi. It only costs 10 euros. The taxi ride from Saranda to Ksamil takes only 10 minutes.
If you are driving a rental car, you can simply follow the signage from Saranda to Ksamil. This is a popular beach, so it will be easy to find.
The impressive UNESCO heritage site Butrint and Ksamil are very close to each other. Butrint is a bit further along the same road, which also leads by Ksamil. For a perfect day-trip, leave early in the morning to visit Butrint and then after stop at the stunning Ksamil beach to relax.
How to get to Gjipe beach in the Albanian Riviera?
Gjipe is one of the most inaccessible beaches in the Albanian Riviera, because it is completely enclosed by cliffs. But it is worth the effort, because it is beautiful, private and hidden. So visiting Gjipe, feels like visiting a deserted island!
You can get to Gjipe beach via the sea by boat or via a hiking trail. The easiest way to get to Gjipe is by boat from the nearby Jale beach. Rent a boat or a kayak, so that you can peddle along the coast to Gjipe. The trip along the coastline is beautiful, which is an added bonus!
Alternatively, you can drive to the Gjipe village and park the car. However, the last part of the route is not accessible by car, so you will need to walk. It will take you around 35 minutes to hike along the trail to the beach.
Visiting Gjipe beach is a great idea in July and August. Although the number of tourists in Albania is low, compared to the other European countries. July and August are still the high-season and the busiest months. Therefore, the quiet and private Gjipe beach is a great way to get away from any crowded beaches in the summer.
Moreover, Gjipe is completely natural and unspoiled by any commercialization. If you like to visit a beach without restaurants, bars or loud music, then Gjipe is perfect. There are caves around the beach and you can swim into some of them.
However, remember to pack some sunscreen, food and water for your trip. Because there are no facilities at this beach. Which is a part of its charm!
How to get to the Karaburun Peninsula in the Albanian Riviera?
The Karaburun Peninsula is a mountain that points into the sea. Along the peninsula, there are some hidden beaches. These “secret” beaches can only be reached by boat or by a long hike.
Geographically, the Karaburun Peninsula is in the north of the Albanian Riviera. It is located between Vlore and Dhermi beach. Therefore, you can get to the beaches of the peninsula by boat from Vlore or from Dhermi.
If you take a boat from Vlore, you can visit the north-side of the peninsula. A boat ticket costs 2500 LEK (20 euros) per person. The boat trip takes by by the massive Haxhi Ali Cave. This cave covers the seawater and can accommodate an entire ship. Afterwards, the boat will take you by some hidden beaches of the peninsula.
If you take a boat from Dhermi beach, you can visit the south-side of the peninsula. A boat trip costs 150 euros for 6-7 persons. This boat trip visits the Blue Cave and Gramata Bay.
One of the highlights on the south-side of the peninsula, is Gramata Bay (or Grama Bay). The bay is also called “the bay of scriptures”. Because ships and pirates used the bay as a shelter from the rough sea.
Throughout the centuries, many sailors carved inscriptions and symbols in the walls of the cliffs surrounding the bay. Some of the scriptures are very old and date back as far as the ancient Greeks.
If you are a hiking enthusiast, you can get to the Karaburun peninsula by foot. However, it takes around 6 hours to reach the beaches. So you might have to stay overnight and hike back the next day.
Can you get to the smaller beaches in the Albanian Riviera by public transport?
There are official bus routes to Vlore, Dhermi, Himare, Saranda and Ksamil. Many of the smaller beaches do not have an official bus route. However, you can ask the bus driver to stop along the route. Asking for an extra stop along the route is very common in Albania.
If you depend on public transport for your trip to the Albanian Riviera, it is easiest to travel to Vlore or Saranda first. Since these are the big coastal cities, they are easily accessible by public transport.
Vlore -> Dhermi 56 minutes
Vlore -> Himare 1 hour and 20 minutes
Vlore -> Sarande 2 hours and 43 minutes
From Vlore, you can take a bus to the south to Dhermi, Himare or Sarande. It takes 56 minutes to travel from Vlore to Dhermi by bus. It takes 1 hour and 20 minutes to travel from Vlore to Himare. And it takes 2 hours and 43 minutes to get from Vlore to Sarande.
These buses from Vlore to the south, pass by all the smaller beaches like Jale beach, Gjipe beach, Porto Palermo and Borsh beach. So, you can ask the bus driver to stop along the way.
Don’t worry about finding your route, because the Albanian people will help you to find the correct bus. You do need some patience though, because public transport is slow. Moreover, public transport has a schedule, but there are many stops along the way and coffee breaks.
Where should I stay in Albanian Riviera?
If you are looking for a vibrant place, then you should stay in Sarande, Vlore or Dhermi in the Albanian Riviera.
Particularly, Sarande is known for its nightlife. Around the bay of Vlore, there are many restaurants, hotels, bars and clubs. In the evening, the entire bay lights up and the sparkling lights reflect in the sea water. There are many little boats on the water and in the summer months, the entire city is vibrant until the early hours of the night.
Dhermi is a small village in the Albanian Riviera, but it has a reputation for being a cool place. It mostly attracts young people during the summer. There is music on the beach and many little bars by the coast. And there are festivals at this beach as well.
If you depend on public transport or are travelling on a budget, then Himare beach is a great place to stay in the Albanian Riviera.
Tirana -> Himare 4 hours and 18 minutes
Vlore -> Himare 1 hour and 20 minutes
Sarande -> Himare 1 hour and 30 minutes
Himare is a lovely little village by the beach in the middle of the Albanian Riviera. The village and beach are in the middle of the Albanian Riviera.
You can reach Himare with a direct bus from Tirana, Vlore or Sarande. It takes 4 hours and 18 minutes to travel from Tirana to Himare by bus. It takes 1 hour and 20 minutes to travel from Vlore to Himare by bus. And it takes 1 hour and 30 minutes to travel from Sarande to Himare.
Once you arrive in Himare, you can easily take a short taxi ride to some of the smaller beaches in the area. The highlights are Jale beach, Gjipe beach and Porto Palermo Bay. All of which are very close to Himare.
If you are travelling in May, June or September, then Ksamil beach is a great place to stay.
Ksamil beach is called “the pearl of the Albanian Riviera”, because it is the most beautiful beach. However, since this beach is such a highlight, it is very popular and busy in the high season.
Therefore, Ksamil beach is a great place to stay, when you are travelling in May, June and September. Just before or just after the high season, you can enjoy this beautiful beach the most. Because it is not crowded.
Is Saranda worth visiting?
Saranda is a big, coastal city similar to many of the coastal cities in Europe. If you like to have all the facilities, like restaurants, bars, and clubs close to your hotel, then you will like Saranda.
Moreover, Saranda is surrounded by many touristic highlights. Close to Saranda, you can visit:
–Butrint, an archaeological Unesco sight
–Gjirokaster, a historical city on the Unesco heritage list
–Blue Eye Albania, a stunning natural highlight
If you stay overnight in Saranda for 2-3 nights, you can visit all the highlights surrounding the city. Butrint and Ksamil are on the same road. And the Blue Eye and Gjirokaster are on the same road. So you can spend half a day on each attraction.
Moreover, there are some lovely hidden beaches to the south of Saranda. These are Mirror beach, Monastery beach and Pulembarda beach. If you drive from Saranda in the direction of Ksamil, these little beaches are indicated along the road. So if you have enough of the crowds in Saranda, these secret beaches are a great place to visit.
Are there nice beaches in Northern Albania?
The most famous and stunning beaches of Albania are in the Albanian Riviera. However, there are some small beaches in Northern Albania, which also deserve attention.
These beaches are the highlights in the North of Albania:
1. Rana e Hedhun
2. The cape of Rodon
3. The bay of Lalzit
Rana e Hedhun is close to Shkodra city and Shengjin beach in the North of Albania. At this beach, a sand dune runs from the mountain into the sea. It is a very idyllic location. There are many perfect sand beaches along the seaside and it is a beautiful “hidden” beach.
The cape of Rodon is close to the capital city Tirana. A beautiful mountain pier points into the sea. Moreover, there is an old castle of the national hero Skanderbeg. This is not so much a location for swimming. Instead, it is a stunning “natural wonder”, that you won’t want to miss if you are travelling to Durres or Tirana.
The bay of Lalzit is the most beautiful sandy beach close to Tirana. Although the seaside city of Durres is very well-known. The bay of Lalzit is much more unspoiled, unknown and enjoyable. The bay is only a 45 minute drive from the capital city.
Albanian Riviera holidays – 3/4 days itinerary
If you only have limited time to visit the Albanian Riviera, then it is best to travel to Saranda on your first day. Because the highlights of the Albanian Riviera are in the area surrounding Saranda.
In 3-4 days, you can visit:
-Butrint Unesco sight
-The Blue Eye of Albania
-Gjirokaster UNESCO sight
-Spend a day on a “hidden beach”, like Mirror beach or Monastery beach
Day 1: Ksamil beach + Butrint
Ksamil beach is the most beautiful beach in the Albanian Riviera, so you itinerary must include this “pearl of the Albanian Riviera”. Ksamil beach is close to Butrint, which is the most impressive UNESCO heritage site in the country.
Day 2: Blue Eye spring + Gjirokaster
The next day, you can visit the “natural wonder” of the Blue Eye spring. The spring pumps water to the surface from an underwater cave. And it has the most miraculous, bright, blue color. After the Blue Eye, you can follow the road towards the historical city of Gjirokaster. There are old-fashioned stone houses, a lovely castle on the top of the city and a beautiful bazaar market to explore.
Day 3: Beach day on a “secret” beach
Spend a day on one of the smaller beaches close to Saranda. There are lovely little beaches, like Monastery beach, Mirror beach or Pulembardha beach close to Saranda.
What is the best way to travel around Albania? The best way to travel around Albania is by car or by Furgon mini-bus. There are no trains in Albania. By car, you can drive along the coastal road and stop at “hidden” beaches. If you are travelling on a budget, you can take the furgon mini-bus. You can ask the bus driver to stop along the route to get to your destination.
I am an Albania Tour Guide, who organizes 1-day, 2-day or multiple day private tours in Albania. I arrange your transportation and I am your English speaking guide. So that, you get to experience the most beautiful places in Albania!
Kind regards, Manon