Travels

The Wonders of Albania

1 January 2018

THE ALBANIAN RIVIERA

Looking for a budget beach holiday in Europe to enjoy the sun in September. Let me introduce you to the wonders of Albania.

The holiday’s program includes white-sanded beaches, a crystal clear sea and delicious seafood; all of this while keeping well within your budget. Welcome to the Albanian Riviera!

My girlfriend and I stayed there for two weeks and let me tell you that it was awesome. Far from the clichés of Albania being a dangerous, closed country, ruled by the mafia, I found a welcoming, warm community, with beautiful landscapes that deserve to be explored.

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SARANDA & KSAMIL

Saranda is the first city we visited and one of the largest cities of the Albanian Riviera.

Situated opposite Corfu, Saranda is not the most beautiful city but it is a good point of departure to visit the area. First thing we visited in the area was Butrint, World Heritage site of UNESCO. The ruins of this ancient Greek-o-Roman colony are very well preserved and the landscapes that surround them are breathtaking.

Between us, Ksamil pictures online might have influenced my decision to go to Albania.

The beaches are absolutely beautiful, the water is turquoise and we can find a lot of nice restaurants on the beach. Virgin islands around Ksamil are truly worth the trip, the beaches are absolutely beautiful and there is nothing except nature. We had the chance to spend a day on a deserted beach, one of the best experiences of the trip.

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BLUE EYE

The blue eye or Syri i Kälter, in Albanian, is a source of groundwater that is named after its gradient turquoise-blue color. To access the site, we took a bus from Saranda (about 40min drive), which dropped us off at the park exit; we then started a 30 minutes hike under the sun before getting to the source. On our arrival we only wanted to jump into the water without knowing that its temperature never exceeds 10 °C. MASSIVE FAIL!

GJIROKASTRA

This town is also a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Gjirokastra is one of the must-visit places.The old town with cobbled streets and stone roofs is a little treasure. Situated on the top of a hill, you must not be afraid of climbing its endless stairs and really steep streets. Once on top the view is definitely worth it. To be honest with you the castle is nothing special in itself except for the breathtaking view it offers of the city and the valley surrounding it.

 

MY ADVICE

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Let’s start with some pratical information. We chose a Paris-Corfu flight rather than a Paris-Tirana (the capital) so we wouldn’t have to drive 6 hours to reach the coast. The connection between Corfu and Saranda lasted 1h, which is not too bad.

The Albanian Riviera is worth a visit. There are a lot of places that we did not have the chance to explore but maybe next time. The mixture of cultures between East and West is reflected in the traditional music, cuisine and even architecture, making the trip really interesting.

The only thing that annoyed me a bit was the lack of evening activities. I was not expecting it to be Ibiza but I thought I would be able to party a little bit at night. Unfortunately bars usually close before 11pm and the ones open are often quite empty. Surprisingly, It is quite unusual to see women in the street at night but never felt unsafe.

Finally, if you seek a beautiful country to visit with very few tourists (for now) and beautiful landscapes on a small budget why not discover the wonders of Albania.

 

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