Albanian Natural Parks: Top 10 Natural Parks to Visit in Albania
Albanian Natural Parks are among the most beautiful in the Balkans. Also, Albania is among the European countries with the largest protected surfaces per overall surface. Among many, these are top 10 must-visit Albanian Natural Parks.
The national park Divjakë-Karavasta in west-central Albania is the largest lagunar area in Albania. It consists of four lagoons with a combined surface of about 5,000 ha. The lagoon of Karavasta is the largest of the area. It alone covers some 4,100 ha which lie west of the hills of Divjaka. The pine belt of Divjaka separates the lagunar landscape from the Adriatic sea.
In recent years, hunting in the area is forbidden. As a result, the already present bird population has increased, turning the park into a bird watcher’s haven. 230 different bird species have been spotted in the area. Some of them include the rare species of the Dalmatian pelican, flamingo, wild duck, eagle, and wader. Although not far from the capital, the Divjakë-Karavasta national park welcomes visitors into a new world of natural splendor.
The protected nautical area of Karaburun-Sazan includes within it mainly the peninsula of Karaburun and the island of Sazan. This coastal park is full of diverse ecosystems of enormous ecological and economic value. The large peninsula of Karaburun stretches far out in the sea in front of the city of Vlora. It marks an imaginative boundary between the Adriatic and Ionian Sea.
Throughout the years, the park has suffered from fire, intensive hunting, and interventions of a military nature. However, the area has recently gained new energy thanks to a more effective protection. Moreover, the efforts to turn the obscure island of Sazan into an interesting, brand new tourist attraction promise added interest in the area.
Prespa National Park is a rural lake area in southeast Albania, 45 km northeast of Korça. This region borders similar ecosystems in North Macedonia and Greece. The park is washed by the waters of two main lakes: “Prespa e Madhe” (“Great Prespa”) and “Prespa e Vogel” (“Small Prespa”). These lakes form rocky shores but also some beautiful small sandy beaches, while agricultural villages pop up naturally here and there.
Untouched small islands stand in the midst of both lakes. However, since significant parts of these lakes also fall in the territories of North Macedonia and Greece, only the island of Maligrad belongs to Albania. This picturesque island is the crown jewel of this park both for its natural beauty as well as historical heritage. The traces of an old basilica constructed in the XIV-th century stand within a rocky gravel in Maligrad island. This basilica is particularly famous for its Byzantine mural paintings.
Located near Librazhd, the national park Shebenik-Jabllanicë is one of the least known natural protected areas in the country. However, the 34,000 ha covered by this park is full of beautiful meadows, forests, flowers, and overall sublime vegetation. Part of this park is the precious site of Rrajca, a natural treasure of UNESCO where tall beech trees of universal value thrive.
Several high peaks rise up the area. Meanwhile, 14 glacial lakes and three artificial lakes smooth the steepness of the mountains and create a fulfilling decor. A large number of springs and small waterfalls flow untroubled in their journey from the highlands into the alpine-lake streams and lakes.
5. Valbona Valley
Valbona Valley National Park is in the midst of the Albanian Alps in the north. The Valbona River acts as an axis to the park that covers some 80 square kilometres (50 square miles). There are many natural wonders across this park. Among them, not to be missed are the Jezerca and Kollata mountain peaks, Shoshan canyon and its amazing waterfall, as well as the Valbona waterfall near Gjelaj village.
The Valbona River, park’s protagonist, flows blissfully along oak, beech, and pine forests. Countless other natural beauties such as caves, lakes, forests, treks, and meadows, pop up at every corner, offering visitors a fulfilling experience. Many hiking trails begin from the Valbona valley offering hikers a wide range of choices. Meanwhile, guesthouses and camping grounds stand available to accommodate tourists and outdoor enthusiasts.
Llogara National Park is one of the most visited national parks in Albania. It stretches in the Llogara mountain range also referred as the Ceraunian Mountains along the Albanian Riviera. The park spans over a surface of 10.1 square kilometers (6.3 square miles). Its terrain features dramatic rock formations and abysses, pine and oak tree forests, dense Alpine-like vegetation. The mountain mass then falls dramatically into the Ionian Sea.
The site is mostly visited during summer when travelers drive through its highlands to reach the Riviera. Tourists and travelers can enjoy a short break in roadside balconies. Here they can enjoy the majestic aerial views of the Albanian Riviera and Ionian Sea.
7. Shkodra Lake
Shkodra Lake Natural Park is one of the 23 protected wetlands in the country, including the adjacent Buna River-Velipoja Protected Landscape. This lake is the largest in the Balkans and shared between Albanian and Montenegro. The area in and around Shkodra lake is dynamic and full of wildlife of essential natural importance.
Along with the Buna, Drin, and Kir River, the lake of Shkodra surrounds the city of Shkodra turning it into the Balkan version of Venetia. The navigable Buna River connects the lake with the Adriatic Sea and the beach of Velipoja, a coastal and “satellite” village of Shkodra. These adjacent pleasant sites further complete a unique nautical experience.
8. Bredhi i Hotovës-Dangëlli
Bredhi i Hotovës-Dangëlli National Park is located south-east of the country, not far from the town of Përmet. Also, the epic town of Frashër 35 kilometers (22 miles) northeast of Permet, known for its national importance, stands near the park. Bredhi i Hotovës National Park covers a surface of some 34,000 ha. This provides contrasting but wonderful views of vegetation consisting of Macedonian fir, maple, oaks, red and black juniper, raspberry, black horn beam, and other Mediterranean plants.
An exceptional view of the park can be witnessed from the entrance of the Lumica valley near the peak of the Kokojka Mountain. Wildlife also thrives in the area with deers roaming free across its forested highlands. Bredhi i Hotoves-Dangëlli National Park is a year round destination for tourists and outdoor enthusiasts. Winter-snow gives this park as many stunning sceneries as its summer glow.
9. Tomorri Mountain
Tomorri Mountain National Park centers around the Tomorri mountain in south central Albania. The area can be accessed north from the city of Gramsh or west from the historic city of Berat, some 33 kilometres (20 miles) away.
Sotira waterfalls in the northern edge of the area are a must visit wonder. The overall area is home to rare species such as brown bear and wolf, as well as many bird specimens. Visitors can enjoy activities such as hiking, climbing, camping, bird-watching, wildlife spotting, and many other improvised outdoor gatherings.
Theth National Park is Valbona Valley National Park’s little sister. Covering a much smaller area (2,630 ha) than the later, the park also stretches in the mighty highlands of the Albanian Alps. The picturesque village of Theth is the most important tourist-alpinist site. Theth is some 70 kilometres (43 miles) from the city of Shkodra and 172 kilometres (107 miles) from the capital.
The ascending towering and rocky mountains from the Theth valley form an astonishing landscape and an amazing view. Travelers exploring Theth can enjoy the spectacle of the Shala River flowing through the area. Here they can behold the impressive 30 meters (98 feet) tall Waterfall of Grunas plunging into an impressive site of rivers, mountain slopes, and pastures. Because of the abundance of natural beauties, Theth National Park looks like a real-life postcard.
Bonus Addition: Lake Butrint
Natural Park of Lake Butrint is in fact a lagunar area in the southernmost tip of Albania. The area is most famous for the ruins of the ancient site of Butrint, one of the most famous archaeological sites in Albania. Along with the lush and dense vegetation and the large lake-like lagoon, the park has all what tourists seek in a single location.