23 June 2016

Telegraph: Albanian riviera- go now before the developers spoil the magic

A gorgeous Mediterranean shore of stunning beaches and breathtaking coves

You might think the last time that was the case was when the Ancient Greeks were in residence. Welcome to the Albanian Riviera.
While holidaymakers flock everywhere else around Homer’s wine-dark sea, the 50-mile coast remains refreshingly off the radar – thanks to decades when Albania was a communist dictatorship and was previously ruled by a monarch glorying in the name of King Zog.
Yet Albania has deep roots, back to when it was the Ancient Greek colony of Ilyria, with important cities such as Apollonia and Butrint.
Their romantic ruins are a wonderful complement to pretty coastal towns such as Vlora or more lively spots such as the seafood mecca Saranda.

Butrint is flanked by an inland lagoon and sparkling straits with views to nearby Corfu, a wonderful distraction as you wind along a coast road backed by densely forested hills, olive groves and pretty villages offering characterful cut-price places to stay or eat. As well as fresh seafood, enjoy succulent grilled meats and simple salads.
If the summer heat does not demand cold local beer, sip wine from an ancient viniculture region that the Ancient Roman writer Pliny described as “luscious” 2,000 years ago. Today’s best bottles are made from Kallmet (red) and Debine (white) grapes.

National parks
The Karavasta Lagoon is Albania's largest, with a rich ecosystem including vast flocks of penguin and shallows teeming with eels, surrounded by the rich forest of the Divjaka National Park. It is a fantastic spot to combine seaside pleasures with nature tourism.
The National Park of Llogara, meanwhile, marks the dividing point of the Adriatic and Ionian seas. Walk in some of Europe’s most beautiful pine forests, or get an adrenalin surge by paragliding off its dramatic hills to swoop towards the nearby beaches.


This is probably the most best-known beach in Albania, stretching for miles and lapped by deep blue water. While plenty of locals head here in high season, it is long enough to find a quiet spot. Venture along to the coves and little bays around the stretch known as Drymades beach.

Sitting close to both the pleasant buzz of Saranda and the historic Unesco World Heritage wonders of Butrint, this is a perfect mix of beach and culture. There are also grand views of Corfu, as this is the closest point in Albania to the Greek holiday mecca.
Unsurprisingly, it is a hotspot for holidaying locals. But just as with Dhërmi, you can escape frolicking locals, this time courtesy of a trio of tiny islands into the turquoise waters of its bay. Swim out if you are feeling strong – or just take a local boat.

Some may be put off by this being a pale pebbly strand, but it has a genuinely distinctive charm. A cool little river runs down the middle of a beach that remains pleasantly quiet even in high summer. A couple of cafés will keep you fed, and there is also a hotel right by the water.

At four miles, this is the longest unbroken beach in Albania – an impressive sight as it comes into view along the coast road en route to the town of Borsh.
Despite its size, olive oil production is the main local activity rather than sun-worship and swimming, so there is little in the way of tourist trappings beyond a few laidback restaurants and bars. Go now before the developers spoil the magic.

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