10 Days / 09 Nights

Tirana to Saranda Tour

Tirana – Berat – Leusa – Nivica – Gjirokastra – Riviera    

In Brief

A 10-day south Albania tour starting in Tirana and ending in Saranda.

Day 01 – Arrive Rinas Airport. Overnight Tirana
Day 02 – Tirana
Day 03 – Tirana to Berat
Day 04 – Berat to Leusa
Day 05 – Leusa
Day 06 – Leusa to Gjirokastra
Day 07 – Gjirokastra to Nivica
Day 08 – Nivica
Day 09 – Nivica to Qeparo
Day 10 – Qeparo to Saranda Ferry Port

Created April 2023 for travel in October 2023.



Albania’s chaotic capital is undergoing a mini-revolution, as decrepit Communist-era buildings and pre-War Italian villas are torn down, sometimes seemingly overnight, to be replaced with huge, modern tower blocks. Whether this is a good thing or not is a matter of personal taste - the government's plan seems to be to turn it into a Balkan version of Singapore. Amid the construction/destruction you'll find a friendly and fascinating city, with great bars and nightlife and without doubt the best food in the entire Balkan region. Be sure to visit the House of Leaves museum, which explores the role of the feared Sigurimi secret police under the dictatorship, and the "secret" nuclear bunker built with Chinese cash and expertise in the 1970s - Bunk'Art.   



The “City of a Thousand Windows” is a must-visit on any south Albania tour. Berat was an important strategic hub well before the Roman era, and its imposing Citadel has been inhabited continuously for at least 2,500 years. Berat owes its UNESCO World Heritage status to its three surviving historic neighbourhoods, Mangalemi, Gorica and Kalaja (castle). We recommend it for a one-night stay, which gives you plenty of time to explore its cobbled alleyways and take in the views from Kalaja.   



You'll find this charming little village hidden away in the mountains behind Përmet - there's no asphalt road so guesthouse owner Gilberto might well have to drive you up from town in his trusty 4x4 (about 10 minutes). Gilberto, a former mayor of Përmet, has created a beautiful spot, restoring his old family mansion to a very high standard (each bedroom is en suite). In the evening his aunt will prepare a home-cooked meal, which you can enjoy on the patio, or by the open fire in winter. There are several walking trails, though be warned - like most of Albania you can expect steep ascents and descents.    



Albania’s second UNESCO World Heritage City is like something from a fairytale, with crumbling old stone mansions clinging to the side of a mountain, in the shade of a huge and frankly creepy fortress. No, Gjirokastra doesn’t lack for either history or atmosphere. We think it offers so much interest, in fact, that we recommend it as a two-night stay. Be sure to visit one of the better-preserved houses (not the ethnographic museum; it’s a fake), the Cold War Tunnels and of course the castle. It’s even worth paying a couple of euros extra to visit the castle’s unreformed military museum, which is a real throwback to the Communist era. 


Camp Nivica

Until 2021, the village of Nivica had no asphalt road connections, and accordingly no entries in guidebooks. The asphalt has arrived now, but it's going to take a year or two for the guidebooks to be updated to include what is one of Albania's most enticing destinations. Undoubtedly the place to stay is Camp Nivica - six luxurious safari-style tents (with private en suite WC/shower) perched right on the edge of the huge Nivica Canyon system. The views are incredible, and the hospitality offered by Astrid, the camp's Swedish owner, is faultless. The camp has a two-night minimum stay policy, meaning you have a full day to hike down into the canyon, enjoy the extraordinary scenery, and generally disconnect from "civilisation". In 2022 the camp was featured in Condé Nast Traveller's feature on Albania - and deservedly so. 



The Albanian Riviera has a very short season - in July and August it is rammed with tourists; in the spring and autumn shoulder seasons, almost empty. At either time of year our favourite place to stay is the village of Qeparo, about 20 minutes' drive south of Himarë. Even in high summer it retains a chilled-out vibe in comparison with the party spots of Saranda and Dhërmi, and is the perfect spot to relax for a few days. If you get the chance, drive up to Old Qeparo, the most picturesque village of the Albanian Riviera (phone ahead if you want to take lunch in the tiny village shop / taverna).



euros €5,200 based on a family of 05  



4×4 vehicle (probably Jeep) delivered to hotel and collected from Saranda ferry port 

Accommodation as indicated or near equivalents 

All breakfasts; evening meals at Përmet & Camp Nivica 

Route planning & PDF road books 

Private airport transfer on arrival 




Personal expenses

Personal travel insurance


Meals not indicated on itinerary

Museum & attraction entrance tickets

Local guides unless indicated (can be arranged on request)

Unscheduled excursions, taxis

Alcohol (unless indicated on itinerary)

Any parking tickets & fines



Tirana – Hotel Dinasty
Berat – Hotel Onufri
Përmet – Guesthouse Chri Chri Leusa 
Gjirokastra – Hotel Kalemi 2 (new building)
Nivica – Camp Nivica  
Qeparo – Hotel Riviera 


Road Notes

This tour includes unpaved roads. You must have experience of driving a 4×4, and be confident driving on dirt tracks with no crash barriers and sometimes precipitous drops. In the event of bad weather, we will provide an alternative route on asphalt. 



Old Qeparo

The hilltop village of Qeparo (not to be confused with the more modern settlement on the beach) is one of the most scenic spots in Albania, and remains wonderfully undeveloped. We recommend heading up there to stroll its atmospheric alleyways, and ideally to take a meal at the tiny café / taverna (advance notice required). Most of our clients tell us this is one of their favourite meals of the tour. 

Ujërat Termale Bënjë

A wonderful stop at any time of year are the sulphur springs close to the village of Bënjë, about 15 minutes east of Përmet. Here you can soak in the warm thermal waters, which are famed for their health-giving properties. The Ottoman bridge here is one of the most photographed spots in Albania, and a must for any Instagrammers. 

Cookery Classes

If you've an interest in learning more about Albanian cuisine, let us know and we'll be able to arrange a cookery class or two along the way. Albanian food is the finest in the region, and completely different from Former Yugoslavia where the meatball reigns supreme. There is a strong Ottoman influence, obviously, but also Italian and Greek as well as many dishes that you just don't find elsewhere in the region (such as Albania's favourite hangover cure, paçe, tava kosi - lamb slow-cooked in yoghurt and qifqi rice balls).   


There are several opportunities on this tour to stop for a wine-tasting. We try to focus on smaller family owned wineries rather than the larger more commercial places. If you've an interest in wines and gastronomy, be sure to let us know so we can plan accordingly! 

St Mary's Leusa

Set in the hills just above Përmet is one of Albania's most beautiful churches, St Mary's of Leusa. Its idyllic situation sadly is about to be spoiled somewhat by a new asphalt road (someone with some clout has built a guesthouse in the village), but it will be impossible to spoil the church itself, which boasts remarkable frescoes and wood-carvings. Ideally the village priest, Ilir, will be there to show you around - he's like a strange mafia priest from Central Casting, usually sporting mirrored sunglasses... 


Tucked right down in the southwestern corner of Albania, about half an hour from the sprawl of Saranda, is Butrint, considered one of the most important archaeological sites in the western Balkans. It has enjoyed UNESCO status since the late 1990s, and is well worth taking a couple of hours to explore - ideally towards the end of the day, when the crowds have vanished. 

Lakes of Belsh

If you're driving from Tirana to Berat, we always recommend taking the scenic backroads rather than the highway. Firstly because the highway route is so ugly you'll want to scratch your eyes out and secondly as taking the backroads allows a detour to a wonderful wild-swimming spot at a clean karst lake near the town of Belsh. On a hot day, you'll really appreciate the chance to cool down in the clear waters, and even sunbathe on the "beach" for an hour or two. 


Book With Confidence

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