From sandy lagoons and unspoilt sands to the glories of the Albanian Riviera, here is Culture Trip’s selection of the most stunning beaches in Albania.
Albania’s southern coastline is a photogenic corner of the country: a place of hamlets woven with cobblestoned streets and small Orthodox churches speckling the terrain. Inland there’s more in store – peaceful natural springs near Saranda, lake shores near the Macedonian border. Most importantly, beautiful beaches are in no short supply, rivalling nearby Greece with their white purity and transparent Adriatic shallows, where you can holiday for half the price.
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This might just be Albania’s best-loved beach town, a gash of tropical blue glimpsed as you crest the dramatic Llogara Pass and see it spread below. It’s certainly one of the most frequented beauty spots along the Albanian Riviera, but despite that it hasn’t lost its charm. There are several corkingly lovely stretches near the town, among them Livadhi, a bay of fine white pebbles edged by olive trees; and Potami, attractively spread between the sea and a river.
Pop to Saranda en route to our island-hopping Greek odyssey, starting off in Athens and finishing in Santorini.
The city of Vlora, the third largest in Albania, commands a bay where the Ionian Sea merges with the Adriatic. A town of historic merit, where independence was forged, it’s your gateway to some of the country’s finest untouched beaches. From Vlora port, with Teuta Boat Tours, you can hit the unspoiled bays of Karaburun and Sazan, but if you’d rather go it alone, drive in a southerly direction and flop on the shores of Radhime or Orikum. Both are textbook examples of Albanian coast, radiating brilliance in toothpaste-white-and-blue.
Technically Syri I Kalter is not a beach, but a natural spring – the name translates literally as “blue eye”. But that’s not important. This gorgeous, seemingly fathomless spot is the perfect place for an intimate, untroubled swim, in one of the most beautiful natural landscapes in the country. It is located along the road between Saranda and Gjirokaster and – believe us – you’ll kick yourself if you don’t stop, only to be teased by postcard images of this amazing natural phenomenon later.
Lying just south of the port city of Durrës, this 8km (5mi)-long stretch of sand has room for everyone. Most people don’t venture much further than the blocks of sun loungers and parasols closest to the little village centre of Spille, but push along a little bit to the north or south and you’ll quickly find the crowds thin – which makes staking out your own semi-private patch in the sand easy. There are restaurants and cafes strung all the way along, too, so you won’t need to go far for a snack or mid-afternoon espresso.
The trick to getting the most out of this part of Albania’s popular northern coast is to come towards the end of the shoulder season. In late May and early June, the beach of this resort town is a wide, empty swathe of dusty-blonde sand, sloping gently into a shallow, rippling sea. There are plenty of sun loungers about, and you can nab one for around £1, but they’re not packed onto every available square inch of sand, as you’ll find they are in peak summer.
In the quieter southern end of Albania, this beach is a bit of a hidden treat, with smooth, bone-white shingle sloping into mirror-smooth water with dramatic mountainous views in either direction. It’s rather like having a slice of the Amalfi Coast, but for half the price. It’s both smaller and less accessible than neighbouring Borsh beach, which actually works to its benefit – you’ll be left alone to relax amid the gentle frothing sound of waves rolling up the pebbles, and the music playing in the beachfront apartments behind you.
It’s like the Seychelles meets the Med here, where palm trees planted in the golden sand shade rows of sun loungers, and a walkway on stilts snakes out across the water to a tiny island and restaurant. It’s a 35-minute drive south from Durrës, and most sun-seekers looking for a beach will have pulled off at Durrës or Golemit, so it’s usually pretty quiet, even in peak season. And if you can’t get to stretch out on one of those rentable recliners, there’s still plenty of beach to go around.
Wedged into a gap in the hills between Himarë and Porto Palermo is this small but perfectly formed beach: a must-stop at the southern end of the coastline. The water is so clear it feels as if you’re looking through a magnifying glass as the shallows idly lap the fine shingle. In peak season, tiki parasols shade rows of sun lounges laid out on the central swathe of beach, while there’s space at either end to lay your towel down if you don’t fancy forking out the small fee.
Alex Allen contributed additional reporting to this article.
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