Albania, the no.1 insider tip
of the Balkans
A guest contribution by Valerina Hocaku
Albania is located on the Adriatic Sea on the Balkan Peninsula and is the No. 1 insider tip in the tourism industry. Whoever gets involved in the country will find a slumbering beauty with breathtaking nature and hospitable people.
Albania, the country which was sealed off from the outside world under the dictator Enver Hoxha for many years until the beginning of the 90s, is becoming more and more important when it comes to holidays in the Mediterranean region. Experts today call the country’s communist era the “North Korea of Europe”. But now Albania is a country that has been able to free itself from its years of oppression and the locals give every guest a “warm welcome”.
Albania bordered to the north by Montenegro and Kosovo, to the east by North Macedonia and to the south by Greece. The western border is formed by the coasts of the Adriatic and Ionian Seas. The capital and largest city of the country is Tirana. About 2.8 million people live in Albania and the official language is Albanian. The younger generation often speaks Italian, Greek and English. The local currency is Lek (ALL):
1 lek correspond to 0.0083 EUR (as of September 19, 2021) Although the country has not yet managed to meet European standards, Albania does not need to hide behind its tourist neighbors. The Albanians are very proud of “their pearl of nature” and would like to share it with the whole world. “What the Croatians or Greeks can do, we can too!” Is the saying in Albania. And that’s actually how it is – see for yourself!
Video source: Official Website of AlbanianNational Tourism Agency
Why I love my country so much
I’m Valerina H.
Before I would like to tell you about my homeland Albania, I would briefly tell you something about myself. My name is Valerina, I am 30 years old, I live in Duesseldorf and I work in demand planning for an international sports company.
As a born Kosovar Albanian, I traveled to Albania for the first time in 2015. My parents always said how beautiful the country was. So I was very curious and planned a family vacation in Sarandë, in the south of Albania. As soon as I got to the beach, I couldn’t believe my eyes! Crystal clear water as I knew it from the Caribbean! At that moment it was immediately clear to me: Albania would be the next insider tip in Europe!
I have been traveling to Albania every year since 2015 and still haven’t discovered everything because the country is so diverse. Whether hiking in the mountains, beach vacation, culture and history or sightseeing – there is something for everyone! Personally, I am a beach lover and have been exploring the numerous beaches that can be discovered in Albania in recent years.
My 5 most popular beaches in Albania
Since Albania is great for a beach vacation
i’ll tell you my favorite beaches here:
5th place – Livadh Beach
I personally associate a lot of positive emotions with the 1.2km long beach. Not only the beautiful sunset, which turns the mountains in the background red, or the refreshing turquoise-clear sea water, but also the delicious food makes this place one of my favorites! In the north of the beach, also called Gonia, there are the large water stones that are very famous for climbing on them to jump into the water from there. In the very north of the beach there is a small bay called Fusa (aquarium). The motto here is: lay down a towel, enjoy the sun and dive into the crystal clear water.
Livadh Beach is easily accessible by car and has free parking. They are not fully developed yet, but hey, you have to have a little bit of adventure! The beach promenade offers many beach bars and restaurants. My absolute favorite is called “Antoni’s Restorant” and can be found at the beginning of the beach promenade. From fresh seafood to typical Albanian dishes, everything is super delicious!
4th place – Ksamil
Ksamil is 14km south of Sarandë and is THE BEACH that has boosted Albania’s tourism – and rightly so! It is particularly suitable for a family vacation. As Ksamil is a very small village, the beach is within walking distance from all hotels and guest houses. It is simply unbelievable how much has been invested in this village in recent years, as tourism has increased a lot here. Ksamil is one of the few sandy beaches in Albania and here you will also find crystal clear water in which you would like to spend the whole day. The special thing about this beach is that it contains three small islands, the so-called “Tre Ishujt”. They can be reached in a few minutes by small boats or, for those who like to swim, even without a boat. Since we are here in the south of Albania, I recommend everyone to eat fish and seafood – everything is delicious and freshly prepared.
3rd place – Syri i Kaltër (The Blue Eye)
The picturesque mountain lake Syri i Kaltër, also known as the “Blue Eye of Albania”, is one of the most popular excursion destinations in the country. It is located 22km east of Sarandë and can be reached by car. In 2018 I got into a taxi in Sarandë and made my way there. I had only heard positive things about the location and was therefore all the more excited. As soon as I got to the park, I was overwhelmed by the tall green trees. To get to Syri i Kaltër you have to walk a few steps through the beautiful park. On the way you get a little foretaste, as you are surrounded by this fairytale water, which mixes the colors turquoise, blue and green. After a few minutes I arrived at my destination and I understood why this place is called “the blue eye”. There is a spring in the water that gushes at a certain point. The exact length has not yet been researched. But it is said that its underground caves are over 50 meters long. Those who want to refresh themselves in the mountain lake are cordially invited – but don’t be alarmed, the water is a temperature of 12 degrees Celsius even in the high season.
2nd place – Plazhi i Pasqyrave (Mirror Beach)
As the name suggests, this is crystal clear water, so that you can look down to the sea floor. This beach is particularly popular with younger people, as families with children want to save themselves the way down to the beach. To get to Mirror Beach, most visitors park their car upstairs and walk down the path to the beach as they want to avoid any damage to the car. However, there are also a few beachgoers who still drive down by car. Mirror Beach can be found shortly before Ksamil – but be careful! You have to look carefully for the sign on the main road, which shows the way to the beach: “Plazhi i Pasqyrave”! It’s one of my top favorites because I can switch off completely here! It’s so quiet that you can clearly hear the noise of the waves. When I first arrived here, I just couldn’t believe that the big wide world hadn’t yet heard of this place. On this beach it is simply said: Enjoy mother nature!
1st place – Gjipe Beach
Dear campers, watch out! Gjipe Beach is the most popular beach with campers. It has a breathtaking campsite and can be reached either on foot via the Gjipe Canyons, by jeep or by boat across the sea. Personally, I would not advise anyone to come here by car and I prefer one of the boats that leaves from the port of Himarë. I haven’t camped here yet, but it’s definitely on my Albania to-do list. Gjipe Bay is surrounded by high cliffs and has a small forest in the middle where campers pitch their tents.
Why is Gjipe Beach my absolute number 1? Because I just love the combination of forest, white sandy beach and the blue sea. Here you can enjoy everything at the same time. When I first arrived at Gjipe Beach, I felt more connected to nature than anywhere else! The fact that you only hear birds, forest and the sounds of the sea gives you the feeling of being cut off from the world and being catapulted into another century. Anyone who knows the series “Lost” knows what I mean! I’m already looking forward to the next time, and then with a tent!
The 5 most frequently asked questions when it comes to a vacation in Albania
1. Is Albania a safe country to travel to?
Although more and more tourists visit the country every year, Albania has not yet arrived as a travel destination for most of the people. But yes, Albania is a safe country! The Albanians welcome tourists and are known for their warm hospitality. Anyone who, like me, decides to sleep in guest houses can be prepared for the fact that the hosts, with what they have, do everything to ensure a pleasant experience for their guests. Even if that means that there is a shot of raki at breakfast.
2. Is Albania an expensive travel destination?
Albania is one of the cheapest holiday destinations in Europe. In all these years I have never exceeded my budget of EUR 350 for 10 days (excluding flight and rental car). Die Landeswährung ist der Albanische Lek (ALL) und nicht EUR. In contrast to the other European countries it is called here – mental arithmetic. (1 LEK corresponds to EUR 0.0083 – as of September 15, 2021) Eating in Albania is also generally inexpensive. If you go to the restaurants where the locals also eat, then you can eat well and well for less than 10 € per person.
3. When is the best time to travel?
As for most southern European destinations, the best time to go on a beach holiday in Albania is May, June and September as it can get very hot in midsummer. In spring and autumn, the country invites you with numerous other attractions such as hiking, sightseeing in the capital or art and culture. Unfortunately, Lufthansa and Eurowings only offer a few, mostly seasonal, flights from Germany. WIZZ Air offers year-round flights from most German airports to Tirana.
4. Should I book a rental car?
The easiest way to get around Albania is a rental car. I recommend that you borrow it when you arrive at the airport in Tirana. Of course, buses also go to numerous destinations, but if you want to explore the many beaches you are simply more flexible with a rental car. The drive along the picturesque coast is fantastic and the roads are super passable.
Book a rental car here for your Albania vacation.
5. What accommodations are in Albania?
Personally, I love the contact with the locals and I like to sleep in different guesthouses again and again. It has a particularly authentic flair and is also easy on the travel budget. This year, for example, we paid EUR 20 per night for a double room – prices vary, of course. Guest rooms can be booked through Booking.com or Airbnb. If you are not as adventurous as I am and want a little more comfort, you should definitely check into one of the numerous hotels that have emerged in recent years.
My personal closing words
I am sure that you will be surprised at the fascinating beaches Albania has to offer and that you can still have such cheap holidays in a country that is only about 2 hours by plane from Germany. In this guest post, we covered the beauty of the beaches, but Albania has so much more to offer!
That is why I decided to implement my long-term vision of my own business and to connect my two heartland countries with each other in the future. My goal is to get German vacationers excited about my homeland and at the same time to offer individual travel packages. At the moment my homepage is still under construction, but as soon as we can start together towards Albania, you will be the first to find out about it at DESTINATIONS – by SARAH M.
Albania still has a lot of work ahead of it and that is why I would like to make my contribution and use part of the income to support organizations that, for example, deal with the topic of garbage or women’s football in the country. As a born Albanian who was lucky enough to be able to lead a better life abroad, I feel obliged to bring the country forward!
Your Valerina ♥
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