The big trip

Trip of the week: the beaches of the Albanian Riviera

Albania is a ‘great value’ alternative to its better-known neighbours, Greece and Croatia

With its rich architectural and archaeological heritage and rugged mountain landscapes, Albania has clear appeal to “culture-minded” travellers. Less widely appreciated has been its virtues as a Mediterranean beach destination, says Chris Leadbeater in The Daily Telegraph, and as a “great value” alternative to its better-known neighbours, Greece and Croatia.

But it seems Albania is now making its mark on the tourist map: Skyscanner reports a 48% rise in bookings for flights from the UK this year compared with 2019 – and deservedly so. After two years of “travel stasis”, anyone craving fresh horizons should consider visiting.

A lot of the beachside developments on Albania’s 300 miles of coast were thrown up in the 1990s and though comfy enough, they are not high end. But there are some good “boutique retreats and luxury properties”. Just 25 miles west of the capital Tirana, the country’s second city, Durrës, has a “broad, soft” beach – but it’s better to head to the smaller seaside resorts further south, such as the city of Vlorë (where the clifftop Hotel Liro can be recommended), the picturesque town of Saranda, or the lovely village of Ksamil, from which you can see Corfu, just five miles across the water.

And the coastal Llogara Pass is not to be missed – a zigzagging road that carries you across the Ceraunian Mountains south of Vlorë, offering “epic” views of the Ionian Sea and the sands of Palase Beach, far beneath.

All these resorts sit within easy reach of the cultural treasures of central and southern Albania, including the hilltowns of Gjirokastra and Berat, with their 18th century Ottoman mosques and mansions, and the ruined Roman city of Butrint. It’s also worth lingering in Tirana itself, not least for its vast National History Museum, and the restaurants and bars of the buzzing Blloku district. 

Specialist tour operators include Regent Holidays (regent-holidays.co.uk) and Steppes Travel (steppestravel.com).

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