6 Unique Things To Do In Northern Albania
08 Aug 2023
Though Albania has been gaining popularity and attracting lots more vacationers and backpackers, most head south to the iconic Albanian Riviera. Usually, southern Albania steals the show, but most don’t realize how underrated northern Albania is. It’s mainly known for being a hiker’s paradise, but the sites go much beyond that. Here are 6 unique things to do in northern Albania.
Visit Albania’s Ancient City
Shkoder is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in Europe, with evidence going back all the way to the Bronze Age. More recently, it’s been deemed Albania’s traditional city since it’s been a beacon of music, art, and religious tolerance over the centuries.
To learn more, step back in time and visit the Shkoder History Museum, set in a traditional Shkoderan house. Or visit the Marubi National Photography Museum, a highly unique archive visually bringing to life Albania’s past. Sitting watch over the city, the legendary Rozafa Castle can’t be missed either.
Shkoder is known for being the capital of northern Albania, especially because it’s a great base for exploring the Albanian Alps. The city tends to be a backpacker hub for those going hiking. If you’re on a budget, there are plenty of great hostels in Shkoder to choose from.
Explore Malesia e Madhe
Malesia e Madhe is an extremely underrated region in the north. It’s roughly translated to “big mountain area/range” but it’s also known as the ‘highlands’ of Albania. The people of this area are known as ‘Malsore’. Not only is the area extremely beautiful, but it’s unique because these remote areas are where people hid in resistance to the Ottoman invasion.
When visiting, you should stop along the SH20 road at the many stunning viewpoints. There’s also the beautiful “Lumi Cemit” – River Cemit, “Ujëvara e Selcës” – Selce Waterfall, and “Ujevara e Lepushës” – Lepushe Waterfall, to check out. There’s plenty of hiking to be done all along the SH20, and many guesthouses to choose from.
Visit Some Alternative Beaches
If you want to visit a unique and spacious place to swim, you have to check out Rana e Hedhun Beach (Thrown Sand Albania). This is not your typical beach in the Balkans. Its most defining feature is the massive sand dunes that lead from a large cliff to the water’s edge.
The beach itself is large and completely natural with plenty of room for activities. Looming behind is impressive cliffs dotted with mysteriously bent trees that are only found near the Shengjin area.
Another option is to spend the day at the Cape of Rodon. This natural cape juts out into the water with beautiful cliffs and beaches to enjoy. It’s also possible to explore the ancient ruins of Rodoni Castle and nearby communist bunkers.
To be transparent – unfortunately, both places can have trash pollution, depending on if it has been cleaned recently. This is a large issue in Albania, not limited to these places. They are still interesting and will hopefully be better in the future.
Get A Tattoo In A Bunker
On the way to Malesia e Madhe, there’s one of the most interesting places to get a tattoo in Albania, if not the world. The Keq Marku Tattoo Art Studio is an abandoned communist bunker, run by ‘Keq’ Marku (Pjetër). Keq is only a nickname, meaning ‘bad’ in Albanian. The studio and Keq himself give a vibe of Harley Davidson meets Apocalypse. When visiting this one-of-a-kind place, you don’t get just a tattoo, you get an unforgettable experience.
Eat Some Delicious Seafood
Albania is best experienced through taste buds. Usually, the north isn’t heralded for its seafood, but I have found it’s just as good for seafood (if not better). The north tends to be more hydrated and green with more water sources than the south. This means there are plenty of lakes rivers and of course, the sea, to provide some delicious meals. Here are some of my favorite places.
Laguna e Patokut Restaurant near Patok, Albania
This restaurant has adorable huts on top of the water to eat in and watch the sunset on the gorgeous lagoon. It’s located 1 hour north of Durres.
Restorant Detari, Shengjin, Albania
A small restaurant in a small beach town with a sea view that serves good quality seafood.
Pelikani Kaçurrel, Zogaj, Shkoder, Albania
A great place to try local fish and eel from Lake Shkoder. It’s a little bit farther to get to compared to other places, but the quality is high.
Check Out An Ancient Ottoman Bridge
Just outside of Shkoder, you can find Mesi Bridge, one of the largest Ottoman bridges in the north. Walk across the historical bridge and enjoy the beautiful mountains perfectly set in the background. In the summer, the river bed can be completely dry, but if you visit in the wetter months there is a beautiful river running underneath.
I hope this guide has inspired you to visit the north of Albania and experience some of these for yourself. Northern Albania has some really great attractions and scenery, minus the crowds you can find in other European countries. It’s affordable for those with access to strong currencies to enjoy more opportunities while also supporting the tourism industry in Albania.