09 Days / 08 Nights
Self Drive Tour
Tirana – Camp Nivica – Riviera – Berat – Përmet – Gjirokastra – Tirana
This nine-day Albania self drive tour includes two nights sleeping in luxury safari tents in the incredible Camp Nivica, along with the UNESCO Cities of Berat and Gjirokastra, rafting on the Vjosa river, and three nights to relax on the Albanian Riviera
When to go: Spring / Autumn
Overnights – Camp Nivica Self Drive
We’ve been taking travellers to Nivica for over 7 years now (before it was on the tourism map) and until 2021 always stayed at the wonderful Guesthouse on the Canyon (the lovely owners Petrit and Ndyshë kind of had a monopoly). In 2021 an adventurous Swede, Astrid, created a completely unique experience on the opposite side of the canyon from the village of Nivica. You’ll sleep in luxury safari tents imported from South Africa (Astrid has a background in running safaris). Each tent has its own bathroom, with hot running water, and a killer view across the incredible Nivica Canyon. Camp Nivica is completely unlike anything else in Albania, and everyone we’ve taken there – including a writer for Condé Nast Traveller magazine – has been completely blown away. Astrid quite rightly operates a 2-night minimum stay policy, so you’ll have a full day to explore the area, including a guided hike down into the canyon. For the past few years a pair of Egyptian vultures have summered here, so don’t be surprised to see them soaring overhead.
* Camp Nivica is full-board, so on this stay you will have 2 breakfasts, 1 lunch, 2 evening meals and complimentary soft drinks, beer, wine and raki.
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.
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.
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.
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.
What We Miss Out
Durrës, Vlorë, Saranda, Ksamil & Pogradec
You’ll notice our itinerary doesn’t include Durrës, Vlorë, Saranda, Ksamil or Pogradec. Sadly they have been horribly over-developed, and offer very little interest unless you are fascinated by concrete apartment blocks. We generally drive right by without stopping.
We don’t include Tirana as the tour starts and ends there. You might want to spend just one night there, or perhaps you really want to get to know the city. This is obviously something we can’t predict, so we leave this up to you!
Syri i Kalter (Blue Eye Spring)
You’ll pass Syri i Kalter as you drive from Gjirokastra to the Riviera and are welcome to take a look, but we are confident you’ll find it a depressing experience. As Joni Mitchell put it, they paved paradise to put up a parking lot.
9 Day Camp Nivica & South Albania Self Drive Tour
Based on travel 01 April – 15 June and 01 September – 31 October
02 travellers / 01 car / 01 room / €770 per person
02 travellers / 01 car / 02 rooms / €895 per person
03 travellers / 01 car / 02 rooms / €710 per person
03 travellers / 01 car / 03 rooms / €790 per person
04 travellers / 01 car / 02 rooms / €640 per person
04 travellers / 01 x car / 04 rooms / €770 per person
If you are travelling with a larger group, please let us know via the contact form.
You can find our full terms & conditions here.
- Compact road car (VW Golf or similar) with full insurance; Dacia Duster if 4 travellers
- 8 nights’ accommodation in 3* hotels in Berat, Gjirokastra, Përmet & Riviera and 2 nights at Camp Nivica
- All breakfasts; 02 evening meals at Camp Nivica
- Guided hike at Camp Nivica
- Rafting on the Vjosa river (ages 5 and up)
- Route planning & road books
- 24-hour support
- Personal travel insurance
- Personal expenses
- Meals (unless specified)
- Museum & attraction entrance fees
- Optional activities (such as horse riding, boat trips etc)
- Parking fees & tickets, any road tolls or fines
- Local guides (can be arranged on request)
Book With Confidence
As a UK company, we have to comply with strict consumer protection laws. If you book a trip with Drive Albania Tours, your payment will be made to a British HSBC account administered by the trustees of Protected Trust Services, for your peace of mind. You can read more about the scheme here.