Boat trip on Lake Komani as part of a 10 day itinerary for north Albania

10 day itinerary for north Albania

Our 10 day itinerary for north Albania was quite different to our last visit to the country. While my recommended 10 day itinerary for the south of Albania allows you to get a feel for the country through some of its most famous cities, such as Berat and Gjirokaster, as well as it’s beach resorts, like Ksamil, it is also a more popular option for visitors. However, if you’re more interested in mountains, lakes and exploring some of the country’s traditional food and culture, this 10 day itinerary for the north of Albania might suit you better.

We did both of these trips in Albania with kids and found it to be such a family-friendly country to travel in. On this 10 day trip we stayed in six different places and felt like it was a good way to see different parts of the country, without feeling too rushed. 

In terms of when is the best time to visit Albania, it’s worth remembering that the north of Albania often has snow up until late May/early June. So you might want to factor that in if you are planning on doing a lot of hiking.

So here is my recommended 10 day itinerary for Albania:

Day 1: Puke (Puka)

We actually only chose to stay overnight in Puke (Puka) as it broke up a long journey after our flight from London to Tirana. However, we really loved the feel of this town and it provided a nice introduction to our 10 day itinerary for north Albania. It’s 150km (93 miles) from Tirana Airport and it is quite a straight-forward drive. Although, if it is your first time visiting it is worth making sure you are prepared for driving in Albania.

In winter Puka is a well-known ski destination. However, in spring and summer it is a good base to explore the beautiful surrounding mountains.

As we only had an afternoon and morning to explore, we did a short walk around the pretty lake in the centre of town. Our little adventurers also made the most of the children’s playground, which was the best one we found on our holiday!

We stayed at N’Konak Guesthouse, which opened in 2021. The owner was lovely and made our little adventurers special petulla (fried dough balls) for breakfast. We also enjoyed a cheap and cheerful traditional dinner at Bar Restaurant Univers just down the road. 

Day 2: Lake Komani

While you are in the north of Albania, you must visit Lake Komani. A boat ride here has been dubbed as one of the most beautiful lake trips in the world. If you are travelling by car, the best way to do this is via a three hour ferry trip from Fierze to Koman. However, make sure you check the ferry routes in advance. We travelled very early in the season (at the beginning of April) and found that the timetables changed suddenly. Unfortunately the company we had been planning to travel with announced they were unable to take cars until April 13. This meant we had to quickly change plans and head straight to our accommodation in Koman. 

Luckily when we arrived at Agora Farmhouse, they were able to organise a private boat trip on the lake. This was a really special moment for us and allowed us to experience a small part of what the entire ferry trip would have been like. Sailing through the clear blue waters, with towering mountains either side of us was absolutely beautiful.

There are a number of places to stay around the lake, but we were so pleased we chose Agora Farmhouse. We really loved the newly built family cabins, which are cosy and stylish inside. The food was also fantastic. It’s worth noting that there was no menu – so we went on the waiter’s recommendations. We had a brilliant lunch and dinner there, both made with local produce. However, if you are vegetarian or vegan you should probably contact them in advance, as northern Albanian food tends to be quite meat and dairy heavy.

The farmhouse also has a cute pet dog, chickens, goats and a lamb. So our little adventurers were in heaven!

Day 3 & 4: Theth

No visit to north Albania is complete without visiting Theth National Park. Although it’s worth noting that the drive to the mountain village of Theth is very high and windy. There are very few safety barriers on the roads and they are quite narrow, just slightly bigger than a single car’s width. So passing cars coming in the other direction can sometimes be precarious, as you need to find a suitable passing spot. Having said that, the views are incredible and Theth National Park is beautiful, so it is definitely worth the journey!

Depending on where you are staying in Theth, you might want to spend the first evening walking around the village. If so, check out the lock in tower, which is 400 years old. Back in the day the tower was used as a temporary sanctuary for offenders during family feuds. If someone committed a crime against another person they could seek sanctuary in the tower, until the two families had come to an agreement about the appropriate reparations. 

If you have time you could also walk to Theth Waterfall, which takes about an hour.

However, we were up in the mountains so we spent our first evening enoying the views, before turning in for the night in our cosy family room at Thethi Paradise.

The next morning it’s worth hiking to the Blue Eye in Theth. It’s possible to walk the whole way from Theth (which is 18km/11 miles round trip). However if you want a shorter two hour round trip, you can drive to the start of the trail.

Just to flag that the hike is not very well marked. After crossing an extremely rickety bridge, we immediately turned the wrong way! So make sure you turn left, not right! The hike takes around an hour in each direction and involves quite a lot of scrambling over rocks. It is also worth noting that if you are scared of heights this might not be the hike for you.

As in many places in Albania, there is very little health and safety. So it is up to you to do your own risk assessment and decide what you are comfortable with. We did this hike with our six-year-old, who is a confident climber, but we decided to carry our three-year-old in a carrier at some points as we felt it was safer.

Despite the challenge to get there it is so worth it! The Blue Eye is a crystal clear pool that really does feel like a hidden gem when you round the corner and first see it. However, I must admit that we did visit at the very start of the tourist season in April, so it was very quiet. (Plus, we visited in a year of very low snowfall – as there can be snow on this trail until May.) I’ve heard that in the summer months it is packed, so I would advise starting the hike early if you want to avoid the crowds. 

Blue Eye Theth

Dinner in the evening is offered at all guesthouses. We stayed at Thethi Paradise and really enjoyed the accommodation and meals there. However we also had dinner one night at the popular Bujtina Polia which was also really nice.

Day 5, 6 & 7: Shkodra

Shkodra is an important historical city and should be included in a 10 day itinerary for north Albania. It has a strong Italian influence and was part of the Venetian Republic from 1396 until it was surrendered to the Ottomans in 1479. On your first day in the city visit Rozafa Castle to see the changing influence of power, where a ruined church was converted into a mosque. You can also explore sections of the fortress and there is also a museum.

However, if you want a greater understanding of the castle, it might be worth doing a tour. I like to use GetYourGuide as the guides are usually really knowledgeable. All of the following tours have great reviews:

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After your castle visit, venture over the lake to the neighbourhood of Shiroke for a wander along the promenade and a lunch of fresh fish.

We chose to stay at Hotel Tradita, which is a traditional hotel in Shkodra. Even if you don’t stay there, you should try and book dinner there to experience some excellent traditional food, much of which is cooked on an open fire in front of guests. At the weekend there is also live Albanian music in the resturant.

We thought this was an excellent hotel to stay in as a family. We loved that our room opened up onto the courtyard. There’s also a substantial buffet breakfast served.

On your second day in the city, make sure you visit the Venetian Art Factory, where you will see the most incredible masks being made. Every mask is unique and this is the biggest supplier of masks to the Venice Carnival.

In the afternoon, check out the Historical Museum to see how people in the city used to live. Photography fans should also head to The Marubi Phototheque which records the historical events and people of northern Albania.

If you chose to stay another day in Shkodra, drive to the famous curved Mesi Bridge, which is 7km from the city.

Alternatively, if you fancy a beach day, head for Velipoja, which is about 30 minutes away. The beach is pretty touristy and not as good as a beach holiday in Ksamil for example. However, it provides a welcome break to the cities, especially if you have children who want some down time. You can rent sun loungers and the surrounding restaurants serve a good selection of fresh seafood.

Day 8: Mrizi i Zanave

I cannot explain how special a visit to Mrizi i Zanave is. I would really recommend including one in a 10 day itinerary for north Albania. We only stayed one night, but if you are visiting Albania with kids, you could definitely stay a second night.

This working farm, produces all of the food you eat either on site or from its network of 400 local farmers. The menu changes seasonally, so be prepared to be flexible about what you eat. There’s no menu, but everything is delicious.

Mrizi i Zanave breakfast

Owner Altin Prenga is the founder of the slow food movement in Albania. We were lucky enough to meet him and he has such inspiring views on food and what it means to the country.

Mrizi i Zanave also has goats, geese, ostriches and a donkey to keep little one entertained. Everyone who visits is given a tour of the cheese, meat and wine making facilities on site, which is really interesting to see. 

Day 9 & 10: Kruja

Kruja is the most touristy spot on this itinerary. It’s an important town to visit, due to its historical significance, but be prepared for crowds if you’re visiting in the peak season.

The reason that Kruja is so important to Albania is that its castle was the centre of resistance to the Ottoman invasion of the 15th century. The resistance was led by Gjergj Kastrioti, known as Skanderbeg, who is the country’s national hero.

The castle complex includes a lookout tower, which was undergoing a major renovation project when we were there, and a medieval church.

It also houses two museums. The Historical Museum is an interesting testament to the role Skanderbeg played in Albania’s history. Meanwhile, the Ethnographic Museum, shows how families of the time lived.

There are plenty of restaurants within the complex for lunch or you can head out into the bazaar. Our personal favourite was Deal, which has a brilliant view of the castle and is the perfect spot for a sunset dinner.

The famous Kruja bazaar is a single street running up to the castle. It is lined with shops in restored Ottoman era buildings. It’s definitely worth poking your head into a few of them to see some of the traditional carpets being woven on huge looms. There are also some interesting Albanian antiques for sale, particularly if you’re interested in the country’s communist history. However, the area is quite touristy, so be prepared to be receive quite a lot of sales patter whenever you stop.

Exploring Kruja bazaar

We spent two nights in Kruja. However, you could easily do this in one, or even take a day trip from Tirana if you’d prefer. There are a number of different tour options for this:

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Optional extra for a 10 day itinerary for north Albania: Tirana

We didn’t visit Tirana on this trip, as we had been previously. However you could cut a day of Shkodra and Kruja and end your trip in Tirana instead. Here’s my recommendation of things to do in Tirana with kids or grown ups! 

I hope you found this 10 day itinerary for north Albania helpful. If you still have questions about the country, check out travelling in Albania: Everything you need to know before you go. As always, if you have any questions let me know!