Why visit Puglia & Albania together?

If you’re greedy, indecisive or just plain curious, visiting two countries on one holiday is a perfect solution and, thanks to their geographical proximity, Italy and Albania make an ideal combination. Puglia, the southerly region that forms the heel of Italy’s boot, lies closest to Albania (the port of Brindisi is 200km from the Albanian coast) and overnight ferries cruise between them, making these two natural bedfellows on a fortnight’s holiday.
Holidays to Puglia and Albania are about cultural exploration, discovering ancient sites and exploring old cities, but they also connect you with food, traditions, craftspeople and wine makers, and usually work in free time for swimming in the bright blue Adriatic. A two week holiday will split evenly between the two destinations. Spend a week discovering one of Italy’s most distinctive regions – home to iconic trulli houses, olive groves, vineyards and cliffside fishing villages – before heading for the Balkans, to explore southern Albania’s Ottoman towns and ancient Greek sites. Along the way, discover the similarities and contrasts of these two countries. Will you prefer the baroque flourishes of Locorotondo in Puglia, or Berat’s white houses clinging to the side of a steep gorge in Albania?
Travel Team
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Highlights of Puglia & Albania

The most time efficient way to see Puglia and Albania is to stay reasonably close to the Adriatic, which divides them. In Puglia, tours tend to explore between the ports of Bari and Brindisi, but might not venture as far south as Lecce or Otranto, or across the Salento peninsula (Italy’s heel) to Gallipoli. They will take in popular tourist spots such as Alberobello, where the famous trulli homes are concentrated, and the beautiful white hilltop town of Ostuni. In Albania, tours usually stick to the south of the country, exploring its impressive Ottoman towns, ancient sites and pretty coast before ending in the capital Tirana.
Apollonia, Albania

1. Apollonia, Albania

Founded by Greek colonists from Corinth and Corfu in 588 BCE, Apollonia was later seized by the Romans. Under their rule, it thrived as a seat of learning with a renowned school of philosophy here, but by the 3rd century AD it was already in decline, after an earthquake silted up its natural harbor, turning it into a swamp; it was excavated in the 1900s.
Berat, Albania

2. Berat, Albania

Beautiful and ancient Berat sits on a steep river gorge, backed by pine forests. Its historic centre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site; a warren of cobbled streets, churches and mosques and pretty white, Ottoman buildings tumbling down the steep slopes. There are lots of traditional handicraft shops to browse here, too.
Gjirokastra, Albania

3. Gjirokastra, Albania

People have been living here for 2,500 years, but today it’s the 600 or so imposing Ottoman houses lying within Gjirokastra’s stone walls that visitors come to see. Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, the town is fun to explore on foot, walking up the shale and limestone paved streets to the 11th century castle at the top of the hill, or through the recently restored bazaar and its surrounding homes, some of which are open to the public.
The Adriatic Coast, Puglia

4. The Adriatic Coast, Puglia

Puglia’s Adriatic Coast is home to some really gorgeous little seaside towns, with the chance to cool off in turquoise waters and tuck into superb seafood a great change of pace in a combined Puglia and Albania cultural tour. Polignano a Mare sits on limestone cliffs, 20m above the crystal clear sea below, while Monopoli is one of Italy’s prettiest coastal towns, with a lovely old centre made up of narrow, shady alleyways.
Brindisi, Puglia

5. Brindisi, Puglia

Brindisi isn’t often included in Puglia-only tours, but it’s well worth exploring. Its old centre sits on a natural harbour, with the Aragonese Castle, built from red stone, standing on a small island just inside its entrance. The city was significant during the Roman Empire. It was the final stop on the Appian Way from Rome and ships sailed from here for Greece and Egypt.
Locorotondo, Puglia

6. Locorotondo, Puglia

Rising above the Valle d’Itria, Locorotondo – literally ‘Round Place’ as its centro storico is circular – is often described as Italy’s prettiest town. It’s certainly picturesque, with white painted houses and Baroque balconies overflowing with geraniums. It’s famous for its white, slightly sparkling wine, and guided tours often include a tasting at a family run winery.


To get the most from both Puglia and Albania in a single two-week trip, join a small group tour. Italy may be familiar to independent travellers, but Albania is harder to travel around without support. Albania was off limits while under communist rule, and even though that ended in 1991, it’s taken a while for the country to find its feet and open up to travellers. Rural roads are often poorly maintained (although road infrastructure is improving) with few markings and no street lighting. Driving standards can be abysmal, so hiring a car can be hairy here, but an organised tour will arrange all transport for you. In addition, you’ll benefit from expert English speaking guides, one from each place, who can explain the history and reveal the culture each town or site you stop at. Tours also take you off the beaten track and, especially in popular Puglia, away from tourist honeypots. You’ll visit places out of reach to most travellers: local wine makers and craftspeople, quiet villages and the best local restaurants.
“I really enjoyed this trip to places I had never been before. Each part of the trip was well planned with a variety of things to see and do. Our guides in Puglia and Albania were outstanding. They were knowledgeable, passionate about the areas they were taking us to, and very considerate. They both went out of their way to be helpful to us and were very good company.” – Susie Clarke, in a review of her small group tour from Puglia to Albania
Small group tours, often with no more than nine people on them, typically start in Bari in Puglia, which has an airport, train station and port. From here you’ll spend a week exploring Puglia, before catching the ferry to Durrës, Albania’s second largest city, 300km away across the Adriatic. Ferries typically cruise overnight – it’s a nine hour crossing – but you’ll have your own private cabin and can eat dinner on the boat, arriving around 8am the next morning. From Durrës, it’s easy to explore southern Albania, and its Ottoman towns, UNESCO World Heritage Sites and the ‘Albanian Riviera’. The capital Tirana, where tours often finish, is 35km away. It’s a good idea to explore Durrës before moving off – its Roman amphitheatre is one of the largest in the Balkans, and its archaeological museum displays artifacts from across this history rich region.
Written by Joanna Simmons
Photo credits: [Page banner: Sabino Parente] [Torre di S.Andrea: Giuseppe Milo] [Apollonia: Pero Kvrzica] [Berat: Nicolas Vollmer] [Gjirokastra: em_diesus] [Polignano a Mare: Hugo Zlotowski] [Brindisi: Freddyballo] [Locorotondo: Viaggio Routard] [Bari: Mona Varga]