Himara is the only city, but there are a lot of small, picturesque villages mostly located on the overlooking mountain passes like Palasa, Dhermi, Ilias, Vuno, Potam, Llaman, Jal, Bunec, Borsh, Qeparo, Pilur, Spille, Sasaj, Piqeras, Nivice, and Shen Vasil, each with several excellent beach areas.
Llogara Pass is a picturesque mountain pass overlooking the Albanian Riviera. It serves as a panoramic venue to exploring the Riviera from above and touching the clouds at the same time. Pine trees cover the land, but there are many box-wood trees as well. Don't forget to visit Caesar's Pass, a place named after Julius Caesar who passed in this area while in pursuit of Pompey. The area of Llogara has a height of 1027 meters. Here one can almost fly into the sky and walk over the sea!
Llogara National Park located amid rich fauna in the area of Llogara Pass can be used for hiking and as an alpine retreat. Some small resorts are located here. The 1020 hectare area is covered by lush plant life and considered a classic place where a natural equilibrium exists between the world of animals and plants. Don't forget to visit the Flag Pines resembling the Albanian Eagle. Mineral dolomite can be found in a place called Gerxhina Mountain.
Gjipe Canyon at the start of Karaburun Peninsula near Palase is a coastal canyon ending into the sea.
Vlore region including Karaburun-Sazan National Marine Park along the waters of adjacent Karaburun Peninsula and Sazan Island. In 2014, the Regina Blu ferry was established by a Radhime-based hotel owner making trips to the national marine park and stopping along the secluded beaches.
Most of the villagers of this region have knowledge of several languages including some Greek. The natives also speak Italian very well. A lot of young people speak English, but old ones don't. However, since the beaches are full of educated people from Tirana, just ask help from them (search for young people) and they are very willing to help you understand the steward or someone else, that doesn't speak your language.
The best way to quickly get to the Riviera and thoroughly explore it is by car.
From Tirana, enter the SH2 highway to Durrës, turn into SH85 Durres Bypass at Shkozet or enter in the city proper through Rruga Pavaresia/SH4. Continue down south onto SH4 by passing several towns like Kavaje, Rrogozhine and Lushnje. Some portions of the SH4 are being widened to double carriageway standards (as of 2011). It goes without saying in Albania to keep a close eye on slow moving vehicles, pedestrians, undisciplined drivers, and road signs. At Fier, exit the highway to enter the city center as the Fier Bypass in under construction (as of 2014). Enter the new A2 Highway at Levan linking Fier with Vlore. After exiting Vlore, continue onto the main SH8 road passing Orikum and Llogara Pass. The latter can be quite dangerous as the road is narrow at spots, high elevation means constant braking or frequent gear changes, tight turns and lack of barriers at some places. The typical Mediterranean coastal road that follows will prove very satisfying. However, don't be surprised to see old aged ladies dressed in black carrying heavy loads of wood for the winter, people riding on donkeys, shepherds walking undisturbed with their flocks of sheep, or just cows chilling for the sake of it - all along the main road!
Once arriving at your destination, congratulate yourself for becoming a true Albanian driver!
Many prefer to tour around with camper vans, rented cars or simply by foot. Most of the roads going down to the beaches have been paved. Others cycle through the winding coastal road. Note that most religious sites are located in strategic locations uphill from villages or beaches.
Castle of Porto-Palermo or Ali Pasha Tepelena Castle south of Himara in Porto Palermo. This castle was designed by a French engineer and was constructed in the shape of a pentagon with stone blocks width up to 1.6 meters.
Ruins of Himara Castle in Himare. Emperor Justinian had the castle rebuilt to defend against the attack of the Barbars, Gots and the Hus. It was fortified by the Kaon tribe and is mentioned in Byzantine documents. It was repaired in the 6th century.
Churches of Shen Stefani and Shen Dhimitri in the village of Dhermi (XII–XIV centuries)
Castle of Sopoti/Borshi including Borshi Mosque and Old Qeparo
Generally, one should immerse in the turquoise waters, visit the numerous churches and fortresses, venture in the flower decorated footpaths of the uphill villages by meeting the hospitable elderly inhabitants, try local organic specialties, and ultimately enjoy the natural beauty of this coastal stretch.
Hike and take part in paragliding activities in Llogara National Park and visit the cave located in the area.
Camp along side the beach or among the olive trees in the dozen campsites of Dhermi, Jal, and others throughout the coast.
Dive in the waters of the Riviera and of Karaburun-Sazan National Marine Park along the adjacent Karaburun Peninsula just north of Palase. Discover the rich sea life and ruins of ancient and recent sunk ships. Hike the rugged terrain of Karaburun Peninsula and visit the numerous caves of the region. Be aware that the park is located nearby military zones.
Immerse in the many turquoise beaches named after the villages overlooking the coast from the mountains. The region is a perfect combination of mountain and coastal climate. Following are villages and beaches in order from north to south:
Great beach in Palasa
Palasa is located at the beginning of the Riviera, just below Llogara Pass. In this 1 km long unspoiled beach Julius Caesar in a moment of rage is said to have thrown his wine cup into the sea. It is said that he set foot and rested his legion at Palase while in pursuit of Pompey. You could try finding it!
Dhermi Beach is considered a nightlife destination for the Albanian youth where a number of small wooden villa complexes and trendy beach clubs are located.
Jal village incorporates four beach areas equipped with few local B&B and government owned enmities. Visit the two secluded beaches in the south, one of which is named Akuariumi (the Aquarium). Kampingu Jal, the oldest camp site in Albania is located in Jal Beach. Take part in the yearly Reggae Festival called Albanian South Vibes.
Filikuri Beach is a 100 meter long beach easily reachable by boat with a rich underwater fauna.
Llamani Beach is located between two rocky coastal sides and is 200 meters long. It contains cold water areas stemming from the many underground water sources.
Porto Palermo Beach is the most panoramic beach of the Riviera. It contains a castle bearing the same name in the midst of vegetation in a quasi- island. Nearby are found some secluded beaches, eco-friendly beach cabins, and a submarine base.
Qeparo. Many B&B here and some secluded beaches. Don't forget to visit the old town uphill.
Borsh. The longest stretch of coastline in the Riviera, this beach is surrounded by a 150 ha field with orange, lemon and olive plantations. Shkama Beach is a secluded beach worth a dip, together with 4.5 km long Kamorezes Beach rich with underwater sources. A visit at the ancient settlement near Sopoti (Borshi) Castle where the only mosque of the area is found is recommended. Take a peak at the annual crafts and delicacies fair. Go for a walk along the vividly decorated footpaths and take in the uniquely flavored air.
A beach in Lukova
A beach in Lukova
Lukove Beach. Shpella Beach is worth a visit while some secluded areas are located passed the rocky part. Rich underwater fauna and soft sands are found here. Explore the town uphill with traditional Mediterranean houses and decorated footpaths.
Piqeras village is located at the peak of a hill where northern Corfu can be easily seen. Walk on the footpaths and visit local churches. Dip into Buneci Beach located on the sides of the flowing Lapardha stream. Take a peak at the bunkers nearby. Some secluded beaches can be found in the Northern part.
Nivice village is located on a mountain pass where a 300 years old olive tree can be found at the village square.
Shen Vasil village is located near spectacular Kakome Bay. Visit the 200 years old olive tree at the village center and light a candle at the special designated post nearby. In this exact area there used to be a church but it was destroyed in 1967. Visit the Krorezes Beach and take a walk along the village footpaths. You could meet black dressed ladies who can invite you in and offer you a meal! This is the essence of the Albanian tradition!
As everywhere in Albania, some areas suffer from waste disposal issues, while others from excessive noise pollution by outdoor beach clubs. For drinking, bottled water is recommended instead of tap water. In case of a health emergency, be aware that clinics in villages are not well equipped and trips to hospitals in Saranda or Vlora may be required which are several hours away.