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The Complete Guide to Cycling in Albania

By Kamalpreet Singh

Understanding Albania


Albania is a country in southeastern Europe located between the latitudes 39° and 42°N, and longitudes 19° and 21° E. It has a long coastline along the Adriatic Sea, which itself, is the northernmost arm of the Mediterranean Sea. The country shares borders with Greece to the south, Montenegro to the north, and north Macedonia and Kosovo to the east.

With over three-fourths of its area covered by mountains, Albania is one of the most mountainous countries in Europe. While cycling in Albania, riders should expect to tackle altitudes of 650m above the sea level or more. Art of Bicycle Trips’ Albania cycling tour is available with an e-bike upgrade to make tackling climbs easier.

Fauna and Flora

Albania is considered a biodiversity hotspot. The country has 12 national parks and 1 biosphere reserve within its small land area. Its mountainous terrain shelters dense forests and clear lakes, which in turn are home to a wide variety of endangered fauna and flora.

Wildlife found in the country includes the lynx, the brown bear, the red fox, and the golden jackal among others. However, it's rare to encounter wild animals while biking in Albania. Cyclists can, however, expect to see herds of goat, sheep, and the occasional cow, given the predominantly rural landscape of the country.

The golden eagle is Albania’s national bird and also features on its national flag. The Dalmatian pelican, the largest freshwater bird in the world, is also commonly spotted in Albania. Its coastal areas provide nesting grounds for aquatic animals such as the Mediterranean monk seal and the loggerhead sea turtle.

Trees commonly found in the country include fir, oak, beech, and pine.


Albania has a mix of Mediterranean and Continental climates due to its varied geography. While the coastal areas have a warm Mediterranean climate, the mountainous regions inland tend to be colder.

On the whole, average temperatures range from a low of −1 °C (30 °F) in the winter to 21.8 °C (71.2 °F) in the summer.

Albania also receives relatively high rainfall, most of which falls in the winter months (November to March).


Albania is a developing country. With an average annual income of $8,057 in 2023, it is classified as an upper middle income economy by the World Bank. This also makes Albania one of the most affordable countries in Europe for cycling. Albania has a well-developed tourist infrastructure, with tourism accounting for over 8% of the country’s GDP.

Albania also has large proven oil reserves and is one of the largest producers of chromium in the world.

However, the most important contributor to Albania’s economy remains agriculture. Nearly 41% of the country’s workforce is engaged in agriculture or allied activities. This gives Albania a unique rural character that is rare in most of Europe.

Due to its Mediterranean climate, Albania produces large quantities of fresh fruits and vegetables such as apricots, figs, olives, grapes, peaches, plums, tomatoes etc. The predominance of such fresh farm produce in the Albanian cuisine has resulted in Albania having one of the longest average life spans in Europe.


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Why Go Cycling Albania?

Albania mosque.webp

Here are five reasons why you should consider cycling Albania:

1. It Has Alps and a Riviera

Not many countries in Europe can boast of having both the Alps and a Riviera. There’s France, there’s Italy, and then there’s Albania. The Albanian Riviera has gorgeous beaches overlooking the turquoise blue waters of the Adriatic, whereas the Albanian Alps are dramatic karsts rising well over 2,000m above the sea level. In between the two there are lush green meadows, quaint villages and rolling hills. Cycling Albania, then, means seeing a different sight and biking through different terrain each day.

2. Strong, Well-preserved Rural Culture

Albania is one of the least urbanized countries in Europe. Which means when cycling through the Albanian countryside, you can still see shepherds grazing sheep and cows in meadows beside their stone and wood huts — a rare sight in Europe today.

3. Rich Cultural Heritage

Albania is home to 3 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Its culture is a unique blend of Christian (Mother Teresa was an Albanian Christian) and Ottoman Muslim influences found nowhere else in Europe. Some of the sights you can expect to see when cycling in Albania include Greek and Roman ruins, churches and monasteries dating back to the 11th century AD, and spectacular Ottoman mosques. Albania also has rich natural heritage, being one of the few biodiversity hotspots in Europe.

4. Relish Delicious and Healthy Mediterranean Cuisine

Albanians clearly love their food and drink. And for good reason — Albania has delicious Mediterranean cuisine and produces great wine. The excellent, fresh, Mediterranean food that Albanians consume, along with the plenty of sunshine that the country receives is believed by scientists to be the reason behind Albanians having one of the highest rates of life expectancy, despite being a relatively poor country. This phenomenon is often labeled the “Albanian Paradox”.

5. Albania Is a Budget-Friendly Destination for Cycling

Albania is one of the least expensive countries in Europe. Coincidentally, it also has 654 coffeehouses per 100,000 inhabitants — the most of any country in the world. This means you can enjoy great Albanian food, wine, and coffee at any one of its charming coffeehouses without burning a hole in your pocket like you’d do in Paris or Rome.

Which Are the Best Regions for Cycling in Albania?


The following the are the best places for cycling in Albania:

The Albanian Alps

The Albanian Alps stretch from north to south along Albania’s eastern half. Being a range of dolomite limestone karst mountains, they present pronounced, dramatic features with steep faces, numerous gorges, and beautiful valleys interspersed with mountain streams. This makes for excellent biking terrain.

Theth Valley and Shala Valley are two of the most beautiful valleys in the region. Shkoder is the most important city in this part of Albania, with Shkoder county stretching from the foothills of the Albanian Alps to the Ionian Sea. Lake Shkoder, the largest lake in southern Europe, and a wetland of international importance is located in the foothills of the Albanian Alps.

The Albanian Riviera

Albanian Riviera is the south-eastern section of Albania's coast that is world-famous for its beach resort towns such as Dhermi, Radhime, and Ksamil. The riviera stretches out across two of Albania’s southernmost cities — Sarande and Vlore. The Albanian coast to the north of Vlore is not considered part of the riviera.

Besides its turquoise blue waters and sandy beaches, an additional feature of the Albanian Riviera is the presence of the Ceraunian mountains, that run parallel to the coast from Vlores down to Albanians southern border, and separate the riviera from the hinterland.

The Llogara Pass (1,027m) is a beautiful mountain pass within the Ceraunian mountains through which cyclists can enter the riviera from the Albanian hinterland.

Western and Central Albania

The region stretching from Albania’s western border with Macedonia to central Albania is excellent for cycling. The main highlights to explore here are Lake Ohrid, which straddles the border between Albania and Macedonia, and the towns of Pogradec, Permet, Berat, and Gjirokaster. The last two are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

The terrain here varies from relatively flat around Pogradec and Gjirokaster to mountainous around Berat and Permet.

Which Are the Best Cycling Routes in Albania?


We now take a look at the best routes for cycling in Albania:

The UNESCO World Heritage Site Route

This cycling route starts from the Albanian capital Tirana and, moving in a semi-circular arc around the country, covers three important UNESCO World Heritage Sites — Lake Ohrid, Gjirokaster, and Butrint. The route then ends on the Albanian riviera at Radhime.


  • Visit three out of the the four UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Albania
  • Relax in the thermal springs of Benje, renowned for their therapeutic properties
  • Take a trip across the border into Macedonia and visit the beautiful St. Naum monastery dating back to the 10th century CE.
  • Ride along Albania’s beautiful Mediterranean coast and relax in the beach resort of Radhime on the Albanian Riviera

The Peaks of Balkans Trail

Peaks of the Balkans Trail is a 192 km hiking and mountain biking trail that runs from northern Albania into Kosovo and Montenegro. This signposted trail winds through mountainous trails in the Dinaric Alps formerly known only to local shepherds.

Along the way, visitors can see breathtaking landscapes consisting of crystal clear lakes, mountain streams and springs, and experience the ancient lifestyles of sheep herding mountain communities at close quarters.

This trail was only opened up to travelers in 2013, in an effort to bring the mountain-dwelling communities of Albania, Kosovo, and Montenegro together, and is often referred to as Europe’s last remaining wilderness. However, this is a difficult route to bike, and is only recommended for advanced cyclists.


Dive into our curated Albania cycling adventures today!

When Is the Best Time to Cycle in Albania?

The best time for cycling in Albania is during the spring (April to June) and autumn (September to October). During these months, the weather is typically mild and pleasant, with temperatures ranging from 15 to 25 degrees Celsius (59 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit).

Spring is characterized by blooming flowers and lush landscapes, while autumn offers vibrant colors as the leaves change. These seasons provide excellent conditions for cycling, with lower chances of extreme heat or heavy rainfall.

Summer (July to August) can be hot, especially in the lowland areas, with temperatures often exceeding 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit). If you can handle the heat, cycling in the summer can still be enjoyable, especially in the mountainous regions where temperatures are more moderate.

Enjoying Albanian Cuisine

Albanian cuisine is classified as Mediterranean, which means seafood, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and dairy predominate. Olive oil is used liberally in Albanian cuisine, as it has been produced all over the country since antiquity.

Here are five Albanian dishes you need to try when biking in Albania:

Tave Kosi

Tave Kosi is Albania’s national dish, and a definite must-have on any visit to Albania. It is made by baking lamb and rice together in a mixture of yogurt and eggs, then adding it to a roux made of wheat flour and butter. The dish is then seasoned with garlic, pepper, and oregano.


Fergese is probably the most popular Albanian dish, and one that is a staple at most Albanian restaurants. It is a thick stew made using tomatoes, cottage cheese, garlic, and green pepper, and is eaten with bread. The dish is traditionally cooked in clay pots to give it a more authentic flavor. Some versions of the dish also include chicken liver in addition to cottage cheese and green pepper.


Tarator is a starter that is served chilled, and eaten before meat dishes. It is made by mixing yogurt with cold water and adding salt and grated cucumber to the mix. It is eaten with feta cheese and bread.


Pispili is Albanian cornbread filled with leek and feta cheese. It is prepared by first mixing corn flour with yogurt, eggs, olive oil, and water. The batter is then briskly whisked, before garlic, leek, and feta cheese are added to it. The mixture is then baked in a pan, and pieces of Pispili are cut and served.


Raki or Rakia is Albania’s favorite alcoholic drink. It is produced by fermenting locally grown grapes in wooden barrels for up to a month, then boiling the grape shoots in sealed copper pots using only oak wood as fuel. The resulting vapor is made to pass through cold copper tubes and collected in clear glass containers. Raki is consumed by Albanians at home as well as at ceremonies. The region of Skrapar in Berat county is known for producing the finest Raki.

Albania Visa Requirements

Albania is not a member of the European Union (EU), therefore a Schengen Visa is not applicable for travel to Albania. However, the following categories of travelers are exempt from needing a visa to enter and stay in Albania for up to 90 days in 180 days:

  1. Holders of multiple-entry Schengen visa which has been previously used in one of the Schengen states
  2. Holders of multiple-entry US or UK visa which has been previously used in the respective states
  3. Holders of 10-year resident permit issued by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) which valid not less than one year from the date of entry
  4. Holders of special travel documents issued by the European Union (EU) including alien’s travel document, refugee travel document, stateless person travel document, and documents for persons enjoying subsidiary protection
  5. Any person authorized to stay without a visa in the Schengen Area.

All other visitors need to apply for a visa to travel to Albania.

Albania issues e-visas for foreigners and applications must be made online via the Republic of Albania’s official e-visa system. All Albania visa applications must be made within 90 days of the date of travel.

Handy Info


Albania’s official currency is the Albanian Lek or simply Lek. As of December 2023, 1 USD = 94 Albanian Lek.

The Lek was named after Alexander the Great, whose name is shortened to Leka.

Albania is a cash-heavy economy, and most businesses prefer to accept cash over card. Most business transactions are carried out using the Lek itself, and the Euro, Dollar, or other major currencies are not commonly accepted. It is advisable to exchange your currency to Lek at the airport or at a currency exchange.


Albania is a small country and only has two international airports at Tirana and Kukes respectively. A third international airport is under construction in Vlores.

The country does not have a very good railway network. Commuting by bus is the most convenient option both within and between Albanian cities.

Visitors can find buses to all major Albanian tourist destinations including Sarande, Gjirokaster, Korca, Durres, Berat, etc.

Taxi service is also available for all destinations and is relatively affordable. Visitors can also rent cars, as long as they have the valid permits to drive.


Albanian is the national language of Albania and its most widely spoken language. It is an Indo-European language which represents an independent branch of the larger Indo-European language family, and is not closely related to any other modern language.

However, English is widely spoken in Albania, and tourists can get by using English in most cities and major tourist areas.

Culture and Religion

Despite being a small country, Albania has an unusually rich cultural heritage. It is home to three UNESCO World Heritage Sites:


Butrint is a town in southern Albania, located 14 km from Sarande, which is home to some very impressive, and well-preserved Greek and Roman ruins. The town also has a lake, and is a part of the larger Butrint National Park which is home to over 1200 species of plants and animals, along with Butrint’s unique lake and lagoon aquatic ecosystem.

Berat and Gjirokastra

Although Berat and Gjirokastra are two different towns, located some 180 kms apart, they are included in the UNESCO list collectively as a single entry. Berat is home to Byzantine churches dating back to the 13th century, and Ottoman mosques from the 17th century, displaying a beautiful coexistence of different religious cultures.

Gjirokastra is known for its well-preserved two-storey houses that were built in the 17th century, and continue to be in good condition. It also has churches, mosques, and an Ottoman bazaar from the same period.

Lake Ohrid

Lake Ohrid is the oldest lake in Europe, and one of the oldest in the world. As such, it is home to some remarkable aquatic flora and fauna. It’s shores house some of the oldest human settlements in Europe.

Albania also has two entries in the Intangible Cultural Heritage of the World List. These include:


The Xhubleta is a bell-shaped skirt worn by Albanian women as part of their traditional attire. It is made by stitching 5 pieces of felt with crocheted black wool using up to 15 strips. The skirt is hung from the shoulders using straps. It is then embroidered with ancient pagan motives such as the sun and moon.

The Xhubleta is handmade by women, and the knowledge and intricate skill needed to make it are passed down from generation to generation.


Albanian iso-polyphony is a musical form that consists of songs performed by groups of men on social occasions. Each song has two solo parts made up of a melody and a counter melody accompanied by a choral drone. Men performing the songs dress up in colorful traditional Albanian costumes.

Further, the Codices of Berat are inscribed on the UNESCO Memory of the World Register. These are two handwritten gospels dating to the 6th and the 9th centuries A.D that are considered to be of global importance, especially as they relate to the study and development of Biblical literature and hagiography.

Albania is a secular state with freedom of religion guaranteed to all people. Islam is the most followed religion in Albania, with over 56% of the population identifying as Muslims.

Christianity is the second most popular religion, with estimates of Christian Albanians varying between 16 to 38% of the population.

Albanians are not overtly religious, and there is significant intermarriage among Albanians of different faiths.

Appliances and Devices

Like in the rest of Europe, electricity is supplied in Albania at 230 V and 50 Hz. This is also the voltage used in most other parts of the world, except the US, Canada, Mexico, Costa Rica, and Japan, where 200-127 V is used. Travelers from these countries might need to use a voltage converter if their device does not support these voltages.

Albania uses Type C and Type power plugs. If your device does not plug into these sockets, you might need to use a travel adapter.

Mobile Coverage

Albania has good mobile coverage at most places,except in the remote mountains, or on the sea. 5G is widely available in Albania.

International travelers can use their mobile phones in Albania for calling and accessing data as long as they have global roaming activated.

If you intend to stay for long, it would be good to buy a local SIM card. These are available in most convenience stores, phone stores, and airports. Vodafone, One Communications, and Albtelecom are the most popular telecoms in Albania.

Time Zone

Albania follows Central European Standard Time, which is GMT+1.

What You May Find

Shepherds and goatherds, quaint Turkish cafes, medieval churches and mosques, beaches

Through the Notes

Read: The novels of Ismael Kadare, recipient of the International Man Booker Prize who has also been nominated for the Nobel Prize 15 times; The Albanian Virgin, a story by Alice Munro, the Nobel Prize winning Canadian writer.

Listen: The songs of Dua Lipa, an English-Albanian pop singer. Albanian iso-polyphonic songs

Watch: The Forgotten Mountain, a 2018 film by Ardit Sadiku

Eat: Byrek, traditional salty pie with filo pastry found all over Albania

Drink: Raki and Turkish coffee

Learn: Stone carving and woodworking in Gjirokaster

Experience the Joy of Exploring Albania by Bike

Our Albania bike tours are designed for travelers who want to take the scenic route, allowing the sights, sounds, and scents of the destination time to sink in. Each guided bike tour comes with expert local trip leaders, a comfortable support vehicle, and world-class bikes. Electric bikes are also available for this trip.

Come, explore Albania by bike with us.


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