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Sandwiched between of-the-moment Montenegro and the popular shores of Greece, Albania is slowly but steadily emerging as the next hot holiday destination for Euro-trippers. With miles of undisturbed coastline, pristine waters, wild landscapes and storied villages, it’s not hard to see why. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again; it’s like Croatia 20 years ago, so book your flights before everyone else does.
1. The beaches
Albania’s beaches are probably the most underrated but among the best in Europe. The village of Dhërmi toes the line between commercial and undiscovered, with just the right amount of local restaurants and welcoming guesthouses. At night, neighbouring Drymades caters to hedonistic holidaymakers with wild, alfresco beach parties – where you won’t bump into Tom, Dick and Harry. Meanwhile, with seven kilometres of sand framed by olive groves and mountain peaks, Borsh is one of the largest but least visited coastal stretches in the country.
2. The food
Gathering the best of Turkish, Italian and Slavic cuisine, Albania’s gastronomic profile is pleasantly surprising, spanning meat kebabs, hearty salads and top-notch seafood.
3. Historical sites
A vast collection of castles and fortresses tell tales of Albania’s past with some sites dating back to the Iron Age. Don’t miss the Ancient Greek city of Butrint, while you’ll find Ottoman strongholds littering the coastline. Head to Berat or the “town of windows” where rows of pearl-white houses lead up to an impressive castle on the hilltop. Less crowded than Berat, Gjirokastran is an enchanting hillside town full of hidden passages that were used by women in the 19th century to visit men in secret.
4. The climate
With 260 days of sunshine a year, good weather is pretty much a given. Highs of 27 degrees means we’re signposting June as the best time to visit, when there are fewer people but guaranteed sunshine.
5. Coffee culture
Albania’s capital Tirana caters to creatives with its buzzy outdoor cafés and bars. Off-limits during the communist rule, Blloku is the hippest neighbourhood with countless lively joints spilling out of historic buildings. E7E is a prime example of the emerging scene here; a bar/bookshop/pizzeria hosting an impressive roster of live music performances and poetry readings.
6. The landscape
Dramatic waterfalls, mountain views and emerald green hillsides are yours for the taking following a three-hour ferry ride from Koman to Fierze. Straddling the mountainous border between Macedonia and Albania, Lake Ohrid is one of Europe’s deepest and oldest lakes, while Theth and Valbona national parks offer endless hiking opportunities.
7. You won’t break the bank
Thought Spain was cheap? Albanian prices are half of that (at most).
8. You’ll be among the first of your friends
It’s been isolated for almost 50 years and when the country finally emerged from the communist regime it took a further 20 years to catch up with the rest of Europe. A rising Mediterranean star, go now and we’ll promise not to say “we told you so” when everyone else follows in five years time.
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