Albania is a well-kept secret amongst the divers who have already discovered its charms. That’s because it is arguably one of the most underrated European diving destinations. With its crystal-clear waters and stunning coastline, Albania is home to a wide range of scuba diving spots that easily compete with the better-known locations.
From wrecks to caves, Albania offers something for all scuba divers no matter their level of experience.
Where is Albania?
Albania is located in south-eastern Europe, just across the Adriatic Sea from Italy. It is a small country, covering just 28,748 km2 with a population of just under 3 million. The capital of Albania is Tirana, while the official language is Albanian. However, many Albanians also speak English, making it an easy country to visit.
This is a destination known for being incredibly friendly and welcoming to tourists while also offering a wealth of cultural experiences. Albania is still relatively undeveloped compared to the rest of Europe, so while there is less commercialisation, that simply adds to its charm.
Getting to Albania
There are flights into Albania from a range of European cities, including Rome and Milan. The airport is located just outside Tirana, but you can also reach Albania by ferry from Italy.
Once in Albania, the easiest way to get around is by bus or car. An excellent network of buses will take you to all the main tourist destinations, and renting a car is easy and relatively affordable.
When’s the Best Time to Dive in Albania?
The best time to dive in Albania is from April to October, with the most popular months being July and August. During this time, the water temperatures are a pleasant 20-25 degrees Celsius. When it comes to water visibility, that’s usually an excellent 12-15 meters, but it can get up to 30 meters depending on conditions.
Do be aware that Albanian waters can be pretty choppy, so while this is great for encouraging a wide range of sea life, you do need to keep an eye on water conditions before setting off.
The Best Base for Diving in Albania
If you’re wondering where to set up base, then we’d recommend Sarande. With its horseshoe-shaped bay, Sarande is a popular destination with Albanians, and though it’s busier in the summer months, it’s never crowded.
You’ll find plenty of options for accommodation and restaurants, and if you’re also interested in things to see and do on land, then the 15th-century monastery that sits on a hill overlooking the town is well worth a visit.
Sarande is home to a PADI-affiliated dive shop which makes it an excellent option for guided dives and also for training courses. There’s a wide range of dive sites accessed directly from Sarande and several more within a short drive.
Popular Dive Sites
Albania is fast gaining a reputation for the number and diversity of dive sites that it can offer. The Albanian Government is keen to promote their country as a prime diving site, even to the point of sinking ships to create underwater parks.
Some of our favourite locations include:
This saltwater lagoon is located in the south of Albania and offers excellent diving opportunities. The lake is home to over 105 species of fish, and along the coastal waters surrounding this national park, you’ll come across both dolphins and turtles.
This crater lake straddles the border between Albania and Macedonia and is known for its clear water and diverse wildlife. It’s one of the oldest lakes in the world and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Not content with being the oldest, it’s also the deepest lake in the Balkans at 286 meters (938 feet).
The SS Probitas Wreck
This wreck is located off the coast of Karaburun and is arguably one of Albania’s most popular dive sites. Sunk by German bombers during WWII, this Italian cargo now provides a great dive opportunity.
The wreck is around 115 meters long, with the shallowest part being just 3 meters underwater before dropping down to a depth of 18 meters.
Another popular dive site is Gjipe Beach. Located in southern Albania, it offers a sheltered area and a gravel seabed. Rocky seafloors always carry the risk of damaged equipment and getting cuts, so this seabed means that you can enjoy the dive without those worries.
The Canyon of Gjipe stretches for 800 metres (2,600 ft) with a width of between 10 and 20 metres (66 ft). The stunning rock formations along the canyon are one of the key reasons for the popularity of this dive site.
Cave Diving in Albania
Albania is also home to some fantastic cave diving spots. Many of the caves are very close to the surface, meaning that even if you’re relatively new to diving, you’ll still be able to enjoy exploring them.
Viroi Laes offers three underwater caves, Viroi, Skotin, and Petranik. All three offering stunning surroundings to explore. However, be aware that you may struggle to find information on cave diving in Albania. With this in mind, we recommend using the services of an accredited dive school to ensure your safety when in unchartered territory. Don’t forget to bring your full face scuba mask with you that provide a wide field of view and create an open, airy at-depth experience.
Ksamil Six Shipwreck Site
In 2002 the Albanian Government decided to sink six naval ships as part of their project to form an underwater park. Four of the ships lie at a depth of 18 meters, while the remaining two sit at 30 metres. With machine guns and cannons still in place, this is a site that should be at the top of every diver’s list when visiting the area.
This is where you’ll find the wreck of the Po, an Italian hospital ship that was sunk during WWII. The wreck is in a great position, sheltered from the currents, and it sits at 18 meters before then descending to 33 meters.
At just over 150 meters long, this is a site that’s going to give you lots to see and probably justifies more than one dive.
Albania’s Marine Life
The marine life in Albanian waters is incredibly diverse, including Mediterranean Sea life such as seahorses, octopuses, and dolphins. Moray eels and ray fish are also seen in the area, with the Hunda e Mërtesë dive site being a likely location for these species.
There are also four different types of sea turtle, the Loggerhead, Leatherback, Hawksbill, and the Green Turtle. Although these guys are not seen too often, you might just strike lucky.
Should Albania be on my Dive Short List?
With its stunning coastline and crystal-clear waters, it’s pretty easy for the answer to that question to be a confident ‘yes!’. No matter your diving experience level, Albania has a dive site that’s perfect for you.