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.

Albania - 1,000 windows and invaluable cultural assets

Long underrated and finally recognized - Albania is one of the most beautiful travel destinations in south-eastern Europe. A wild and romantic natural landscape, countless ancient cultural sites and the touch of the Mediterranean climate make the country at the Adriatic Sea increasingly popular.

Geography - 300 sunny days in Albania
The idyllic country of Albania lies on the Balkan Peninsula between Montenegro and Kosovo, Macedonia and Greece. In addition, the south-eastern European country is enclosed by the Adriatic and the Ionian Sea. It is divided into twelve qarks (prefectures) and the capital of Tirana. Besides Tirana, popular travel destinations are Sarandë at the Ionian Sea as well as Vlorë and Durrës at the Adriatic coast. Albania prides itself on having no less than 300 sunny days per year. The climate is warm and it only gets colder in winter. July is the warmest month with an average temperature of 24 °C.

Nature - Wild beauty
From the sea to the high peaks of the mountains, Albania fascinates with wild natural beauty. Untouched sandy and pebble beaches at the coast, which is 362 km long, secret lagoons, juicy valleys and the fertile hilly landscape extend in front of the panorama of the breathtaking Albanian Alps. Most travellers are overwhelmed by the unspoiled and diverse variety of landscapes. The country is still an insider tip and surprises many holidaymakers. With regard to natural diversity alone, Albania has a lot to offer. It lies in the center of the Blue Heart of Europe and has a great share in the European Green Belt. You see palms, orange trees, almond trees, laurels, pines and olive trees between the oak forests, which create the country's Mediterranean charm. The forests are home to wolves, lynxes, deer and kites and you can watch loggerhead sea turtles at the coasts. Furthermore, countless migrating birds come to the island every year. Besides the attractive coast, the deep blue mountain lakes and the vast river landscape, Albania impresses with its Alpine landscape. Its highest peak is Mount Korab with a height of 2,764 metres.

Natural sights - Secret beaches and untouched national parks

One of Albania's greatest attractions is without doubt the Albanian Riviera. This harsh but magical cliff coast, which is waiting to be discovered, is located at the coast of the Adriatic Sea. Numerous holidaymakers visit the wonderful beaches at the Adriatic Sea and enjoy the crystal clear water, especially in the warm summer months. Despite this, the beach sections are not overcrowded and you will easily find a cosy spot to have to yourself. Nevertheless, the coastal towns have adjusted to tourism and offer everything travellers could desire. There are over a dozen spectacular national parks, some of which have hardly been developed. In the Theth National Park in the far north, visitors can explore the steep mountains and the Grunas Waterfall along exciting hiking routes.

Culture - A top travel destination catches up
Albania's history dates back to the Illyrians. For a long time, the region was part of the Ottoman Empire. Many inhabitants of Albania are Muslims to the present day and you see Muslim buildings and mosques all over the country. Albania is generally rich in history with many traditions and a wide range of cultural sites and activities, which is becoming increasingly interesting for tourists. The latter is a rather new development. Albania only gained the possibility to develop with regard to many areas including tourism after the Communist regime had been brought down in 1990. Up to that point, the country was nearly inaccessible to visitors. Albania's efforts to catch up in this sector soon proved fruitful and the number of people who visit the attractive travel destination increases every year. It was recently added to the top list of the best travel destinations worldwide by the New York Times. Travellers especially value its numerous ancient buildings, the incredibly wild and romantic nature and the charming inhabitants.

Cultural sights - 1,000 windows and invaluable cultural assets
The colourful capital of Tirana is only 30 kilometres away from the sea and offers a variety of appealing sights. Travellers particularly enjoy the coastal towns. The placid city of Vlorë is a popular bathing resort in summer and impresses with its wonderful Kaninë Castle. The Mediterranean bathing resorts of Sarandë is equally popular. Due to its countless small alleys and winding paths, the city of Korçë is also called the "Paris of Albania". Other impressive sights are the ruins of the ancient city of Apollonia, which had over 60,000 inhabitants during its time of prosperity. Near the seaport city of Durrës, you see the ruin of an ancient amphitheatre. The ruins of Butrint and the "Town of a Thousand Windows", Berat, have been declared UNESCO World Cultural Heritage sites. Berat is a Balkan-Ottoman town with a magnificent medieval castle and is frequently visited. The same is true of the medieval Krujë Castle in the city of the same name and the Skanderberg Museum. Travellers who are interested in Venetian architecture should not miss out on Shkodër's old town.

Experience - Between medieval villages and party nights
Albania's Mediterranean Balkan cuisine displays influences from Turkey, Greece and Italy. Fish and chicken are popular. Some of the most common dishes are byrek, biftek and lokum. The national drink is rakı. The latter is mostly drunk in the evening hours, when Albania's nightlife starts. Tirana and the well-known coastal towns are vibrant with activity every night. Locals and travelers populate the streets at night in a cheerful and social mood. In some places, roads are closed to car traffic, so that passengers can walk from bar to bar, into the next trendy restaurant or the latest night club. The venues are often opened until the early morning hours and make long party nights possible. During the day, visitors can go for a stroll along the wide boulevards and buy one or two reasonably priced souvenirs. If you do not find anything there, you should visit the bazaar in Krujë. Relaxation is offered by the Turkish bath, which is also located in Krujë.

Activities - Conqueror of the mountains
Climbing and mountaineering in the Albanian Alps is still a real adventure. Some peaks have never been climbed before and are waiting to be conquered. Travelers who want to explore Albania in a more relaxed way can experience the country's natural beauty along scenic hiking routes. Since the tourism sector is only starting to develop in many areas, travelers are often on their own when it comes to organizing their leisure time. One exception is rafting in the Osumi River canyon. Exciting tours are being offered from March to June. In addition, holidaymakers can explore Albania in a cross country vehicle and visit the neighboring countries. The Greek island of Corfu, for example, is located at the most narrow point of the Ionian Sea and is only two kilometres away from Albania.

Travellers reach Albania by plane or car. In addition, there is a ferry which travels from Italy to Albania. Arriving by train is not possible at the moment. Within the country, you best use the bus network. If you want to drive yourself, you should note that the roads are in a very bad condition in several parts of the country.
Slowly but surely Albania is developing into one of the most beautiful travel destinations in Eastern Europe. Its untouched nature, the wonderful, varied cities and the friendliness of the inhabitants make Albania increasingly popular in the world of travel.

16 June 2016

The Guardian Travel: The beautiful sceneries of North of Albania

Staggering scenery, deserted landscapes – crossing Lake Koman in northern Albania provides an insight into a country that's still off the tourist radar. This is how “The Guardian” describes the Northern Albania, dedicating a great attention to Lake Koman, Valbona Valley, Albanian Alps and city of Shkodra. “The Guardian” compares the city of Shkodra that looks like a city in Italy. Albania it’s not only known for its beautiful sceneries and culture, but also for its hospitality, mentioned as well on this article “If helpfulness and hospitality were a marketable resource, Albania would be rich.”

The surface of the lake is perfectly still. The steep hills on either side and the high mountains beyond are empty of human life, save for the occasional lonely farmstead embedded in the hillside. There are no visible roads, no telephone wires to connect this place to the outside world. It's not difficult, on the ferry journey along Lake Koman in northern Albania, to imagine you're drifting through a landscape that has lain undisturbed for centuries.

It's the height of summer but there aren't many people on the ferry either. Most of our fellow passengers on this hulking cargo ship are down below, smoking and drinking lethally strong coffee in the bar. They've seen it all before. Those who haven't – my girlfriend and I, a few backpackers and some tough-looking Czech bikers – are on the upper deck drinking in the staggering scenery.

Anywhere else in Europe, this two-hour journey (which our guide book describes as "one of the world's great boat trips") would be hopping with tourists, but Albania is not a big draw – at least not yet. The last century has been hard on this little country, just across the sea from Italy and just north of Greece. More than 40 years of communist rule under the isolationist dictator Enver Hoxha, followed by a ruinous period of extreme capitalism in the mi
d-90s, have left the country struggling to find its feet in the new millennium.

Our first port of call had been Shkodër, the largest city in the north, overlooked by an impressive medieval castle built by Venetians, and crisscrossed by wide communist-era boulevards. When its population emerges in the evening to promenade and gather outside cafés, you could imagine you were somewhere in Italy – until you hear a muezzin's call from one of the city's many mosques, or fix your eye on a building that looks like it was transplanted from 1950s Moscow.

We planned to strike out the next morning for the Albanian Alps in the north-east. The best way to get there, if you want to avoid a long, precarious road journey, is by the Lake Koman ferry. But we had no idea how to get to the lake, couldn't find an information office, and even the guidebook was sketchy on the subject. Eventually a taxi driver with a few words of English called a friend and arranged for us to be picked up early the next morning. This was typical of our experience. Ask someone on the street and, even if they can't help, they'll find someone whose second cousin definitely can. If helpfulness and hospitality were a marketable resource, Albania would be rich.

See full article: http://www.theguardian.com/travel/2012/apr/15/albania-lake-koman-killian-fox?CMP=share_btn_tw

13 June 2016

National Geographic: Why to go in Albania

Over the past years Albania is attracting the attention to worldwide known travel magazines and media. This time the National Geographic has listed Albania among 10 Places that deserve more travelers. Firstly they describe the situation on the ground. “For decades, Albania was among southeastern Europe’s least visited—and least accessible—countries. A virtual fortress under the isolationist tactics of communist dictator Enver Hoxha (who spent four decades building over 700,000 needless, and largely useless, defensive bunkers across the country), Albania collapsed into chaos after Hoxha’s death in 1985 and the subsequent fall of the U.S.S.R”.

And after that they present Albania how it is today, Albania is no less safe than its more well-trodden Adriatic counterparts. A burgeoning tourist industry—centered around its meticulously preserved UNESCO-listed Ottoman towns, including Berat and Gjirokastra, and the stretch of land now known somewhat archly as the Albanian Riviera
, —now brings in almost 3.5 million tourists a year. This article reveals Albania how it really is and the reason why go now.

Why Go Now: While Adriatic beaches in nearby Italy and Croatia have largely been transformed into crowded, hypermodern resort complexes, Albania’s coastal beaches, dotted with ruined Greco-Roman amphitheaters and whitewashed, icon-filled Orthodox churches, are among the few in Europe where it’s possible to stretch out on the shoreline, even during high season. South of Vlorë, the somewhat concrete-feeling coastal hub, ethnically Greek villages like Dhërmi, Vuno, and Himarë—with terrace cafés, waterside squid-hawking fishmongers, and narrow pedestrianized pathways—are inundated with family-run B&Bs that go for as little as $25 a night. Travelers from outside the Balkans are still rare but vigorously welcomed. Don’t be surprised if your B&B host insists on taking you on a dizzying motorcycle tour along the coastline or challenges you to a staggering rakia-drinking competition.

National Geographic has listed which places you shouldn’t miss in Albania, such as: Butrint, the city of Saranda, Byzantine basilicas, and Roman mosaics etc.

See full article: http://www.nationalgeographic.com/travel/features/ten-places-that-deserve-more-travelers/

09 June 2016

"Corriere della Sera" promotes the most beautiful beaches in the southern Albania

The prestigious Italian newspaper "Corriere della Sera", has dedicated a long report on the beaches of southern Albania. The journalist Francesca Masotti has visited beaches of Albania and has collected 15 amazing pictures captured in Albanian coastline. The article reveals beaches that are still intact, crazy backdrops, good food and low cost. Albania should be your travel destination 2016: close, new, with accommodation and services that is reaching fast the standards of the rest of Europe.
"Who would have thought that Albania would become one of the European summer destinations of the moment, making his debut for the first time this year in the catalogs of many tour operators? Moreover in recent years the country of eagles has been reborn: young, dynamic and creative, and unspoiled nature. The area so praised by the famous Australian publisher is located in the south of the country: the mountains near the sea, clear water and unspoiled nature. If you want to visit a different place, to hunt for alternative destinations and low cost, relaxing and where you eat well with a few euros, Albania is the place for you.

She described the most beautiful beaches of Albania, starting from Karaburun peninsula, still pristine and uninhabited, with some amazing places to discover such as haxhi Aliu Cave, so called Pirate Cave, and the stunning view of Sazan island, former military fortified islet now open for tourists.
Other beaches recommended to Italian tourists are Dhermi; Jale, Humara, Potami, Livadhia,  Porto Palermo, Borsh and the beautiful Ksamil, considered the Pearl of Ionian Sea located in Saranda region. She describes Saranda as the Rimini of Albania.
Behind Ksamil lies the Butrint National Park, one of the most beautiful archaeological parks in the Balkans, UNESCO World Heritage Site that takes you to discover the ancient history of this beautiful country still little known.

06 June 2016

Die Presse: Albania- so close to Europe

Albania has long ceased hiding behind the iron curtain. It has opened up to tourism and awaits guests from Europe.
Albania is a country that is yet to be discovered. Take a tour with your own or rented car. For this you just need to be aware of: The roads do not meet the usual standard. Potholes or defective bridge transitions are everywhere. Albania is almost the size of Belgium, but has only 2.8 million indwelling. The assumption that the country was therefore sparsely populated, are deceptive, because the spots on the Adriatic coast is a mountainous country, where many areas are not habitable. Hardly one leaves the long beaches or the capital Tirana, you find yourself in a mountain again.
This is Albania: The ailing public transport, which was replaced by private enterprise long. Here the state, the money for his tasks - road construction, public transport, supply and disposal - missing since the improvisation of Albanians, dedicated to helping well know. Even tourism have long organized itself the many private companies.
Liqeni i Shkodres
In the valleys and slopes of up to 2,800 meters high mountains Albania flourishing every square meter is overbuilt with olive groves or vineyards. In the land grain, vegetables and fruits grown in smallholder manner. Travelers from Central Europe will soon find that you can forget all prejudices about Albania inhabitants. You meet very hospitable people, which usually lack only the means for contact – language.
The view in lovingly cultivated lands proves it: A fertile land. The Albanian cuisine is not known to be outstanding, but good, wholesome and traditional dishes there in every restaurant. Also on alcohol must not renounce the Western connoisseurs. There are excellent beers and wines from domestic production, despite the fact that 80 percent of Albanians are Muslims.

At the end of the tour through the land of inquisitive tourist lands in Tirana. All around the country,
"Hoxha-Bunker" witness in the capital of long vanquished times. Museums, opera, skyscrapers, churches and mosques - Tirana has the whole program. Hundreds of shops and stores offer cheap fashion clothes that are also exported to Italy and there are twice as expensive. In Quartier "Bllok”, the former living quarters of the nomenklatura, the Company has scheduled the nightlife. Here Tirana has arrived with trendy bars and taverns long in the 21st century - just everything is by half cheaper than in EU-South.

Read more: http://diepresse.com/home/leben/reise/5002629/Albanien-so-nah-bei-Europa