Last updated on March 29, 2023 by Wandering our World
The Balkans are a special place, so choosing whether to visit Albania or Montenegro can be a tough choice.
Yet tourism within the region has only really picked up over the last 20 or 30 years. Because of that, Balkan countries remain an oasis of pristine natural beauty and incredible cultural traditions that are begging to be explored. So if you’re thinking of visiting either Albania or Montenegro, then great choice!
Choosing where to go on a Balkan holiday can be tricky though. Every country has its own charm, and due to their lack of popularity (which is undeserving), it can be tough to work out which place would be the most interesting to you.
Especially as countries like Albania and Montenegro are actually very different from each other…
For example Albania is more rugged and less visited, but is perfect for adventurous tourists and hikers. Whereas Montenegro has better infrastructure, hotels, and is well known for its seaside resort towns.
However that’s just the beginning when it comes to how these two countries are different…
Luckily that’s where we can help!
Below we look at both and show you what to expect and where you should visit in terms of the beaches, natural landscapes, and cities, along with much more. All so you can make the right vacation decision!
- A Quick Overview & Comparison
- Which Has The Better Coastline & Beaches?
- Which Has The Better Landscape?
- Which Has The Better Capital City?
- Where To Stay According To Your Budget
A Quick Overview & Comparison
Albania: A Quick Overview
Albania is the more off-the-beaten-track, adventurous option compared to Montenegro.
The currency they use is the Lek (the Euro is often accepted as well, but you’ll get a cheaper price when using the local currency), and there’s less luxurious accommodation options than in some neighboring countries.
In general, Albania also has worse infrastructure than Montenegro. However it has incredible beaches, mountains, and UNESCO sites.
Due to an authoritarian regime which prevailed until the nineties, Albania was virtually closed off to the rest of the world until recently.
Since then, the world has been reluctant to discover all that Albania has to offer, allowing it to remain a diamond in the rough for those adventurous enough to make their way here. This means that the beaches remain uncrowded, prices remain ridiculously low, and people are sincerely hospitable.
At the risk of sounding like a cliché, you really can describe Albania as Europe’s undiscovered gem.
Montenegro: A Quick Overview
Montenegro, a former Yugoslav state and one of the youngest countries in the world, is in our opinion, the more tourist friendly option than Albania.
They use the Euro, have more hostels and hotels than Albania, and generally speaking, the country also has better infrastructure.
It’s also more of a beach destination than Albania, and subsequently you’ll find plenty of seaside resorts in this country.
Regardless of this, Montenegro still remains a very affordable destination, and its combination of UNESCO sites, mountains and beaches makes it the perfect destination for anyone looking to both relax and enjoy some adventure.
Which Has The Better Coastline & Beaches?
Albania: The Beaches & Landscape
Montenegro is known more for its beaches than Albania, but the coastline in Albania is gorgeous, mostly undeveloped and pristine.
The heart of the Albanian Riviera is located in Saranda, once a sleepy fishing village which has slowly but surely become a thriving seaside hub. It’s a great place for people looking to lay on the beach by day, but also party at beach bars by night.
It is significantly more developed than other beach towns, yet it remains authentically Albanian. It is usually the starting point for most travelers who go on to explore lesser known beaches and seaside spots up and down the coast.
For turquoise swimming waters, head to Dhërmi Beach. This picture-perfect spot can get a little crowded in summer though, so if you’re looking for a quieter more rural beach, then the seven-kilometer long Borsh Beach is perfect. Recommended: Camping in Albania
All in all, the coastline of Albania tends to be more rugged, wild and undeveloped compared to Montenegro. That means less facilities on popular beaches, but also less people.
Montenegro: The Beaches & Landscape
This country is a more popular seaside and beach destination than Albania, so you’ll find many charming coastal villages well set-up for tourists up and down Montenegro.
Montenegro’s seaside towns are a lovely combination of cobblestone and seaside promenades, the most significant of which is Kotor. This old medieval town has a walled historical center full of street cats that will quickly purr their way into your heart.
Budva, a seaside town with a bustling nightlife is well worth visiting too. The little island directly opposite the town is known for its wonderful seafood specialties.
We also have to mention Ulcinj, a fantastic little Albanian haven in Montenegro which is home to stunning mosques and delicious kebab stands.
The golden sands and turquoise waters at the two beaches situated in Petrovac shouldn’t be missed for any beach lover either.
Or if you fancy something more secluded, then Dobrec Beach is perfect. Only accessible by boat (from Herzeg-Novi, Rose, Zanjice and Miriste) this beach has hammocks available to use for adventurous tourists that make it here. The locally caught seafood at this secluded cove is well worth trying too!
Want a variety of beach experiences, from golden sands to lively nightlife, quaint seaside villages or relaxing coves? Then Montenegro has it all.
Which Has The Better Landscape?
Albania: The Landscape
Albania’s beauty comes from its gorgeous scenery rather than the country’s cityscapes. Albania’s best known mountain range the Accursed Mountains – also called the Albanian Alps – and they are a must visit for anyone to the country.
This mountain range is covered in thick forest, icy lakes and stunning greenery. But it’s also home to beautiful little Albanian villages, where the houses are made of stone and traditions have remained unchanged for generations.
We recommend visiting the village of Theth – arguably the most beautiful in the country.
Situated high up in the Alps, Theth is home to historic buildings and sits in a national park which is full of great hiking routes. A good hiking map of the region can be found here.
If you’re looking for another good base to walk the Albanian Alps, then staying in Valbona is recommended. This mountain hamlet lies beside ancient forests that are home to countless walking routes.
These villages are a real oasis of olden times, and not only are they an incredible sight to see, but they’re also extremely interesting to get to know – as are the people that live in them.
In fact if you’re looking for a holiday that involves nature and hiking then Albania will probably be the better choice than Montenegro.
Montenegro: The Landscape
Montenegro is known as Crna Gora in Montenegrin, meaning Black Mountain – and it’s very aptly named!
Although the country is more famous for its beaches, Montenegro has a huge amount to offer to those with a heart for hiking. Some of the country’s best walks can be found in this fantastic book.
Durmitor is the most significant mountain to mention. This spot is perfect for winter skiing and summer hiking.
Durmitor also harbors the Durmitor National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site with gorgeous glaciers, as well as Europe’s deepest gorges.
So while Albania may be the better option if you’re looking for hiking on barely traversed trails, Montenegro has plenty to offer too. Albeit it can just be a little busier, as it is the more popular destination after all.
Which Has The Better Capital City?
Tirana: The Capital of Albania
Tirana, Albania’s capital city, is a sight to see on its own.
Compared to other European capitals, Tirana is harsher on the eyes – lots of brutalist architecture leftover from authoritarian rule, and significantly less infrastructure than you find in other cities.
However, that in itself makes it one of the most interesting places you can visit in Europe. The Natural History Museum in Tirana is well worth visiting to learn more about the city and country.
A visit to the Gondola and forested slopes of Dajti will also make for a great day-trip from the capital.
In contrast to what the architecture might tell you, people in Tirana are some of the warmest, most inviting people you will ever meet. You will definitely find yourself having coffee with Albanians who will love to tell you about their country’s fascinating history.
Podgorica: The Urban Hub of Montenegro
If you’re looking for a real urban hub, Podgorica is the place to go!
Montenegro’s capital city is regarded as a strange melting pot of all the cultural influences the country has been under throughout its history.
It’s arguably a more beautiful city than Albania’s Tirana, and has lots on offer to history buffs.
Intricate Ottoman-built mosques, as well as Soviet cement block houses and Western-looking cafes and storefronts cohabitate across Podgorica’s skyline and give it a fascinating sense of intrigue and mystique. Visit the 400-year old clock tower to get your history fix.
Home to ancient monasteries, beaches and wildlife, the nearby Lake Skadar National Park is well worth a day-visit from the city too.
Where To Stay According To Your Budget
Budget: Set in a great area for hiking and exploring, you can expect mountain views and great service when staying at Chri Chri Guesthouse. It’s one of the highest rated places to stay in the country, yet remains very budget friendly. See photos and rates!
Luxury: For a taste of luxury, but at your own pace, Limani Deluxe Apartments is a great choice. You’ll have a balcony that looks directly out on the sea, while still being close to the action in the town of Sarandë. See photos and rates!
Luxury: Located in the UNESCO-listed Boka Bay, the five-star Regent Porto Montenegro has gorgeous sea and mountain views, a wondeful pool and some of the best service in the Balkans. See photos and rates!