Sarandë, Albania


Saranda (or Sarandë), Albania

Why now?

It’s been over 20 years since Albania was released from the communist grip
and western travellers are slowly starting to get wind of this
alternative beach town. While Spain, France, Italy, Greece and now even Montenegro (the world’s newest country) are
obvious choices, Albania is tipped for a huge tourist boom – you
need to get there before everyone else does. With turquoise waters,
olive-lined mountains and nearby UNESCO towns, Saranda is the
perfect destination for those wishing to fuse beach and culture.
While it can get pretty busy during peak season, you’re unlikely to
bump into anyone you know and, if you want to escape the crowds,
quiet pebbled beaches like Bunec, Gjipe and Kasmil are just a
stone’s throw away. Poor roads mean you can bank on everything you
eat being local: plenty of seafood and grilled meat with
gastronomic traditions inspired by its Ottoman past, all at
tantalisingly low prices. Like Croatia a decade ago, this is Europe when it
was fresh and cheap. Don’t forget to wave smugly at the less
imaginative sun-seekers over in Corfu…

When to go?

As one of the sunniest spots in Europe with more than 290 days
of sun a year, you’re pretty spoilt for choice but we recommend
June or September to get the best of the weather and the least

Most likely to bump into…

While this is known as the Albanian Riveria, don’t expect any of
the glitterati you’re likely to see on the French version. Here,
the beach crowd is a combination of local holiday makers and
curious travellers.

Who to bring with you?

The pal you’ve already explored all of western Europe with and
want something a little further afield. Heading to untrodden sites
in the day and night time being a more DIY-type affair, you’ll want
to make sure you take someone who’s willing to get involved with
the locals.

Don’t miss

Buntrint, a collection of Greek, Byzantine, Roman and Venetian
ruins that bear testimony to Albania’s rich history. Unlike many
heritage sites in the Med, this UNESCO site has managed to escape
aggressive development so it’s a truly authentic experience. You
must also visit Syri Kalter or The Blue Eye spring. Lying 20km east
of Saranda, this is natural spring is full of deep-blue, icy water
and makes for an equally refreshing and hypnotizing trip.

An essential to bring with you

A book by prized Albanian author Ismail Kadare will provide food
for thought while relaxing in a pristine bay.

How to get there?

Saranda can be reached by sea or air. Fly into the capital,
Tirana, then drive down or catch the recently introduced RivieraBus
bus from Tirana to Saranda, which stops at all the main Albanian
resorts. Alternatively, Saranda can be reached directly from Corfu
via a hydrofoil ferry.

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