Albania might not be the first destination that comes to mind when you think of paradise beaches or impressive UNESCO-listed sites, but this gem in the Balkans really should be on your radar. With beaches that can rival even the most beautiful, mountains and lakes that will captivate any hiker for days, and cute old towns dwarfed by castles, I promise you, Albania packs a surprising punch. Not convinced? These photos are sure to have you booking a ticket.

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The rugged north of Albania, where the mountains cross the border to meet Montenegro, offers up hiking or dirt-track road trips that will keep any adventurer entertained.

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End your trip kicking back in Ksamil, the ultimate beach destination in the very south of the country. With its small islands accessed by boat, it’s easy to feel you have been transported to a tropical paradise.

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The beaches along the coast can get packed during summer as locals and tourists get their slice of Mediterranean sunshine. If you are up for going off the beaten path, you’ll still be able to find small patches of the coast you’ll only need to share with a handful others.

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One of the most famous attractions in Albania is the Blue Eye, located in the Vlorë County. Surrounded by many other lakes and forests, it makes for a relaxing walking spot.

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The castle of Gjirokaster not only offers incredible panoramic views but also serves up a slice of history. With suits of armor, abandoned war-planes, and cannons, it’s an ideal place to swat up on the country's past.

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Gjirokaster is another of Albania’s UNESCO-listed offerings. With its small streets, mountain backdrops and distinct rooftops, this one’s a must stop on any Albanian road trip.

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If beach clubs are your thing, then you’ll find plenty of entertainment along the Albanian coastline.

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If you want to have a bird's eye view, don’t be afraid to take things to the skies. Albania has plenty of adventure opportunities for even the most restless traveler.

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You’ll find some of the most breathtaking drives in the south part of the country. With mountain peaks on one side and the clear blues of the ocean on the other, this is one of the reasons road tripping Albania is the best way to go.

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Driving through the interior of Albania offers an insight into small villages and a much more local way of life than the coast. The landscapes and rivers make for multiple photo-stops.

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A short drive from Berat takes you to Bogovë, a small and unassuming town, but well worth a visit for the 30-minute easy hike to the tranquil Bogovë Waterfalls.

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Berat Castle is a beautiful place that combines Byzantine and Ottoman architecture. If you want to spend a night in a castle, you can even check into Guesthouse Kris and sleep in a stone-clad room.

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Berat, nicknamed the “the City of a Thousand Windows”, is a UNESCO-listed old town which lines the banks of the Osum river. With its white houses flanking both sides, it feels like you have stepped back in time.

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Tirana packs a punch when it comes to quirky bars. Thanks to its sunset rooftops and small, local hangouts, it’s the ideal place to sample local beers and soak up some city vibes.

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The capital of Albania can easily be written off as a concrete jungle. But if you take the trip to Mount Dajti via the cable car system, you’ll be able to admire the city from above, amongst rolling national parks.

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With its green peaks, clear waters, and caves that can only be explored by boat, Lake Komani is the perfect place to switch off. You can even stay in a stone house on the lake. And although there is no electricity, expect plenty of homemade honey and Rakia (the local spirit).

All photos are the author’s.

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