12 Days / 11 Nights

South albania self-drive

Tirana – Lake Ohrid – Korça – Përmet – Nivica – Gjirokastra – Riviera – Berat – Kruja  

In Brief

A 12-day south Albania self-drive tour, including the amazing Camp Nivica.

Day 01 – Arrive Rinas Airport. Overnight Tirana
Day 02 – Tirana to Lake Ohrid
Day 03 – Lake Ohrid to Korça
Day 04 – Korça to Përmet
Day 05 – Përmet to Nivica
Day 06 – Nivica
Day 07 – Nivica to Gjirokastra
Day 08 – Gjirokastra to Riviera
Day 09 – Riviera
Day 10 – Riviera to Berat
Day 11 – Berat to Tirana
DAY 12 – Depart Rinas Airport

Created April 2023 for travel in May 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.   



Most people associate Lake Ohrid with North Macedonia and the eponymous UNESCO City. But if you want a less touristic experience, the Albanian shore is the place to go. The city of Pogradec on the lake’s southwestern corner is all very well, but we much prefer the sleepy little village of Lin (secretly we want to live there). There is an extremely simple hotel, but better to stay in one of the friendly B&Bs on the waterfront. You can swim from the gardens if you like, or walk 20 minutes to the other side of the Lin peninsula for complete privacy. 



Without a doubt, Korça is our favourite Albanian city. It may not have the UNESCO prestige of Berat or Gjirokastra, but it’s much more energetic and competes with them for charm and architectural interest. Its cobbled streets are endlessly diverting, and the Museum of Medieval Art has some quite extraordinary icons by the famous Onufri. In the evening the city comes alive - be sure to head to the recently restored bazaar to eat and people-watch, and later on we’d stroll down Boulevard Republika to one of the extremely chichi bars.   



Please don’t expect a wild party when you go to Përmet. It’s perhaps the sleepiest “city” in Albania (famously, it recorded a grand total of zero crimes in 2015). Do expect a unique experience, though. Përmet seems to be stuck in 1973, right down to the Mercedes 240s that are still in use as daily transport. Lately it’s becoming a hub for adventure tourism, with rafting, hiking and horse riding all available close by. You might prefer to just sit in the main square with a raki and people-watch, before eating at one of its excellent traditional restaurants. 


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. 



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. 



The Albanian Riviera (thankfully) has a very short season. In July and August it is jam-packed, and honestly not our favourite place to be. Go in Spring or Autumn, however, and it's heavenly, with empty beaches and charming laidback vibe*. Driving the coast road from Vlorë to Saranda is an experience in itself, though we don't recommend staying in either city unless you have a passion for cheap concrete apartment blocks. We think you'll have a better experience at one of the villages in-between, and that's where we'll put you unless you insist otherwise.  

* Really laidback - in the second half of October most hotels and restaurants will be closed.



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.   



euros €5,200 based on a family of 05  



2022 Kia Stonic manual, delivered and collected from hotel

Accommodation as indicated or near equivalents 

Home-cooked evening meal at Përmet, two evening meals at Camp Nivica; all breakfasts 

Route planning, PDF road books 

Private airport transfers on arrival and departure 

Rafting on River Vjosa

Canyon hike at Camp Nivica 




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 fines, speed tickets etc



Tirana – Art Hotel Rruga Kavaja
Lin – Rosa’s B&B  
Korça – Bujtina Bardhë
Përmet – Traditional Guesthouse Përmet or Guesthouse Chri Chri
Nivica – Camp Nivica
Gjirokastra – Hotel Kalemi 2
Riviera – Hotel TBC in Qeparo
Berat – Hotel Onufri (02 rooms)



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. 

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. 

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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