The gorgeous white sand and fine rock beaches on the Ionian coast of Albania rival many popular and more expensive Mediterranean destinations.
Affectionately known as the Albanian Riviera, the region is becoming better known internationally due to its raw and wild natural beauty. It hasn’t been over-developed, and only a very few areas have been “over-discovered.”
Albanian Riviera beaches are located near quaint villages and modern cities up and down the southern coast of the country. Regardless of where you go, you’ll find crystal-clear emerald, turquoise and deep lapis-blue waters.
Overall, the beaches are magnificent - and we’ve chosen the best of them for this handy guide.
There are numerous ways to reach your ultimate seaside destination. If you arrive via air to centrally-located Tirana, the capital city, you can rent a car and make your way south, down the coast. Buses also follow these routes, along with minivans (furgons) and private cars or taxis for hire.
To reach the Riviera beaches, you can also take an inexpensive hopper flight from anywhere in Europe to the Greek Island of Corfu. From there, seasonal hydrofoil ferries make a quick 25-minute trip across the Ionian Sea to Sarande, the most popular beach city.
If you enter Albania via land border (Montenegro, Kosovo, North Macedonia, or Greece), you’ll most easily make your way to the coast via minivan or rental car.
Bus travel tip: In summer (high season), buses run from Pristina, Kosovo to Sarande. Buses from Montenegro and North Macedonia require transfer to Tirana. You'll also need transfers from various cities in mainland Greece.
Sarande, a city in the far south of the country (around 5 hours drive from Tirana), is the most popular beach city in the Albanian Riviera. Sarande is an action-packed area for a beach vacation, with a lively nightclub-party scene, if you’re into socializing.
The waters of Sarande’s beaches run along a horseshoe bay, and are absolutely gorgeous, ranging from shimmery pale green to brilliant turquoise. There are three free public beaches in Sarande, located between the port (ferry) terminal and the tourist information centre, where you can catch some sun rays and relax on the pebbly sand.
Slices of the beach are leased out for the season, so you’ll either have to rent a beach chair (around €3-8/per day) from the current “owner” or find an area in between the rented sections to claim as your own. Although they can get super-crowded in July-August, there’s usually room to put your towel down somewhere.
Sarande has a long and attractive boardwalk promenade lined with cafes, bars, hotels, apartments, shops, and restaurants. The reasonably-priced food is delicious, and includes traditional Albanian fare, Greek souvlaki, and excellent fresh seafood.
Sarande’s beachfront features some fragments of archaic stone city walls, and the small centre of town includes the remains of an ancient synagogue.
Tip: Mango Beach is a popular private beach venue with a nice bar/restaurant. Pay for a sunbed during the day, and you can transition to night-clubbing come evening, with music and partying into the wee hours.
From Sarande you can take day trips to outer beaches, the Butrint Archaeological Park, The Blue Eye natural spring water pool, or Lekuresi Castle, right outside of town, for expansive views.
About 9 kilometres to the north of Sarande is Krorëza Beach, a paradisiacal little cove with soft white sands and glistening clear aquamarine waters. Enjoy this secluded beach that can best be reached by boat or kayak/SUP tours for a few hours of serenity.
Sun umbrellas are available for rent (€10), plus there’s a beach bar and restaurant. (Note: the restaurant can be pricey, so bring your own snacks/picnic, if you want some options).
Accommodation recommendation: Oceanic Overview Suites
About 20 minutes south of Sarande is the sleepy fishing village of Ksamil.
Ksamil’s dazzling white sand beaches and mesmerizing cerulean and turquoise waters are simply magical.
Less developed than other popular Mediterranean beach towns, Ksamil is not overcrowded and remains friendly and hospitable. You can spend your days lazing on beaches dotted with sun umbrellas, or enjoy swimming, kayaking, sailing, snorkelling, or scuba diving. You can even take a gastronomic mussels boat tour.
Or, relax and have fresh watermelon juice in one of the many seafood restaurants in Ksamil centre. You can chill out and gaze at the nearby Ksamil islands nestled in the shimmering waters. Two are close enough to swim to; you can visit the other two via kayak, water taxi or paddleboat.
Take a dip for free at any of Ksamil’s beaches, but there are a few private beaches where you have to rent a sunbed to hang out on the beach, especially at the height of summer (€10 for sunbed + umbrella). Check out the nearby Mirror Beach, and Pulëbardha Beach for more privacy.
Accommodation recommendation: Hotel Meta Ksamil
North of Sarande, Borsh Beach is the longest stretch of beach (over 7 kilometres!) in the Albanian Riviera.
Because the white sand beach is so large, there’s plenty of space for everyone. The small village, about 2 kilometres above the beach, is charming and there are restaurants and beach bars along the beach.
The water is calm, clear and deep blue, perfect for snorkelling, swimming, or kayaking. The beach is a tranquil spot to spend the day and also to walk along the shore at sunset.
Tip: For quick side trip, visit picturesque Qeparo village tucked into olive groves nearby, just above Qeparo Beach. Enjoy a coffee or a tasty meal in one of the cute little bistros and cafes in the lower town.
Then, for a glimpse of how Albanian village life used to be, climb the hill and explore the cobbled streets of the half-abandoned old town.
There you’ll find the remnants of beautiful crumbling white stone houses (some of which are newly renovated and inhabited), a church, and an ancient clock tower.
Accommodation recommendation: Sole Luna Hotel
With a tranquil vibe and enough fun activity to keep it interesting, the lovely little Greek-influenced coastal town of Himare is one of the best areas on the Albanian Riviera. Himare’s village, situated on a hill above the shoreline, is quaint and charming.
Spile Beach is just off of the boardwalk promenade, and is not very crowded, for a main city beach. The clear cerulean to aquamarine blue waters are warm and inviting.
Accommodation recommendation: Rea Boutique Hotel
There are other beaches in the vicinity to explore including:
Another main beach in Himare, very family friendly, clear aquamarine waters surrounded by rocks that are perfect for playing and jumping into the water. Sfageio is not crowded, with a fun, easy-going vibe. Kayak rentals are available (€6/hour/2 people).
Beautiful beach with clear blue waters, great place to relax. Beach restaurants and umbrellas available. More crowded on weekends, but overall one of the favorite beaches in the area.
This fine gravel beach, nestled in the Porto Palermo Bay (just below Porto Palermo Castle), is a family friendly beach with brilliant turquoise waters. It’s a quiet beach that doesn’t have beach bars and beach facilities, so it’s not overcrowded with partying tourists. Be sure to bring your own umbrella, towels, water, and snacks to best enjoy the silence and tranquility of this secret beach.
For an upbeat young beach-party vibe, check out Dhermi Beach, an all-time favourite, about 30 minutes north of Himare. You can rent a beach umbrella or bring your own towel and hang out, enjoying the crystal blue perfectly lovely waters.
Expect lots of restaurants, music, and crowds during high season, but there are fewer teeming sections further away from the central beach area.
Head here for more parties and action with younger crowds. You'll find beach-goers congregating for partying, camping, loud music and long nights.
These activities are often accompanied by lots of chaos and litter on the beaches, so try going in early-mid June, just before the season gets rolling, or towards the end of the high season. Then you’ll be able to enjoy the finely-pebbled white beaches, aquamarine waters and surrounding cliffs in a more peaceful atmosphere.
Beautiful Vlore is Albania’s third-largest city and sits right where the Adriatic Sea meets the Ionian Sea.
Built on a bay, the Italian-influenced town is flat and walkable, rather than built on a hillside, like other Albanian beach cities. A large, long seaside promenade called The Lungomare (Italian for “Seafront”) encircles the gorgeous bay.
The view of the deep sapphire water is stunning from any point along the boardwalk, with a long row of shops, cafes and seafood and authentically Italian pizza restaurants lining the street opposite. Step into one of the many cafes, while you participate in Albania’s crazy-wonderful coffee culture (a highlight of Vlore!) and sip an espresso.
Tip: Although most of the seafood restaurants along the Lungomare close during winter, the city stays lively all year round, and is a festive favourite winter holiday/Christmas/New Year's destination for Albanian and foreign tourists.
Vlore has two city beaches, Plazhi I Ri (New Beach) and Plazhi I Vjeter (Old Beach). Oddly, for this wonderful city, the main beach, Plazhi I Ri is not a favourite with locals or tourists, because it doesn’t have the clean, crystal-clear alluring waters of beaches further south.
Plazhi I Vjeter has clearer turquoise water and is preferred over Plazhi I Ri in terms of water clarity.
Accommodation recommendation: Veranda Boutique Hotel
The best beaches for swimming, however, are outside Vlore. Because these beaches are loved by all, they are quite crowded in summer.
Turquoise water with golden sands, this beach is partly free, with the rest only accessible to those staying in resorts there. Swimming, catamaran rental, and other activities are all available.
Stay: Sea & Sand Hotel
Pretty Sunny Beach has light pebbles, so water shoes are recommended; crowded in high season. A beach resort stay is necessary for most access to the beach, which is walkable from the parking area.
Stay: Hotel Tramonto Vlore
This white sand beach has crystal-clear aquamarine waters and is within a small bay. Much of area is reserved by resorts with facilities, so there’s limited free access.
Stay: Nobus Beach
One of the top-rated, this beach has crystalline turquoise water, towering cliffs above, and is pebbled (water shoes recommended). Accessible to those who stay at resorts at the beach.
Just to the south of Vlore, this area includes 4-5 small, attractive beaches, mostly for beach resorts with limited free areas. If you opt to stay at a resort, you’ll have access to all of their amenities.
Stay: Tirana Resort Radhime
A popular free beach with easy access for all, light clear turquoise water, slightly pebbled beach, so water shoes recommended.
If you’re a diver, you can also opt to explore deep water caverns and eerily beautiful abandoned shipwrecks in the Vlore area by joining a diving tour, with a well-respected PADI-certified diving company.
Stay: Maxola's Dream Orikum
Planning a trip to Albania? Read our travel guide