Albania’s tumultuous past has meant that it is only now emerging onto the tourism scene after years of communist rule kept outsiders firmly out. Nowadays, it’s a different story, and many hasten to the coastline it shares with Montenegro. The country has rugged beaches, vibrant blue seas and verdant countryside to explore. This is made all the more special by the absence of crowds allowing you to bask in the sunshine in relative peace. Here are the reasons why we think you should add Albania to your bucket list in 2017.
Albania is graced with a whole host of beaches whose waters are clear and inviting. We’ve rounded up some of our favourites to help to inspire you.
With crystal clear waters and white sands, Ksamil beach on the Albanian Riviera is almost tropical looking. So it comes as no surprise that it’s a favourite holiday destination for Albanians who flock to enjoy the summer sun in gorgeous surrounds. Corfu looms in the distance, but closer by, there are a few tiny islands whose beaches are quieter and which feel largely unspoilt.
Also on the Albanian Riviera is Jalë Beach, and it too offers clear seas and picturesque surroundings. For those looking to do more than kick back and relax in natural surroundings, there are beach volleyball nets to leap around, and beach bars to sip a cocktail or two in. Jalë certainly has a sense of glamour and the beauty of the destination enhances that.
At seven kilometres long, Borsh beach is Albania’s longest. Backed by green forests and looking out onto bright blue seas, you would imagine Borsh to be swarming with tourists. And yet, this is not the case. Many visitors to the Albanian Riviera travel in from Vlorë. Borsh is one of the furthest beaches from this point, and most visitors become enraptured by the beaches along the way to it. The result is a beach which is almost always deserted, giving you miles of space to explore.
Albania’s natural offerings are impressive and varied, and there is much more to explore than the country’s golden coastline. Away from the beach, there are rugged mountains and tranquil lakes for the intrepid traveller to enjoy. On the border of Montenegro, in the Prokletije mountain range, lies the Valbona Valley National Park. This pretty mountainous region is home to Albanian wildcats who strut through this largely undisturbed landscape. In the winter, a whole host of winter sports are available, such as skiing and snowshoeing, and during the summer months, you can make the most out of peaceful surroundings by setting up camp. Elsewhere, the sprawling Llogara National Park is graced with tall black pines and provides a home to a whole host of animals including foxes and deer.
Whilst Albania is graced with frankly incredible natural scenery, that’s not all it has to offer. What makes rural Albania so appealing is the absence of crowds, but that can mean that you don’t get a real taste of Albanian culture. For adventurous cuisine, fascinating museums and gorgeous architecture, head to one of the country’s cities.
In Tirana, Albania’s capital, we recommend heading to the trendy Ish-Blloku neighbourhood for quirky coffee shops and bars. For intricate interiors, take a look at the Et’hem Bey Mosque with its myriad of tiles. Further south, the city and UNESCO World Heritage Site of Berat beckons with its white-washed houses which climb the mountainside up to a castle at its summit. In the very north of the country sits Shkodër with its pastel-hued shopping streets.