Trip for Spring 4 "Western Balkans Beach Vacation, Albanian Riviera"

Picture of a beach along the Mediterranean coast, Albania

Albania’s southwestern Ionian coast is a short ferry hop from Corfu, Greece, yet remains relatively undiscovered and affordable. Summer traffic is increasing along the sun-bleached Albanian Riviera, but—for the moment at least—the warm turquoise waters, rocky coves, and pebble-and-sand beaches

How to Get Around: From Corfu, Greece, it’s a 30-minute Ionian Cruises hydrofoil ride to Sarandë, southwestern Albania’s gateway port. Book a rental car in advance and drive just south of Sarandë to the ancient city of Butrint. Then head north along the winding SH8 expressway (reconstructed in 2009) to visit beaches and traditional Mediterranean villages like Lukovë, Piqeras, Himarë, Borsh, and Dhërmi.

Where to Eat or Drink: Follow the locals to family-owned tavernas, where menus typically feature spit-roasted lamb or the day’s fresh catch drizzled with local olive oil. For dramatic Straits of Corfu sunset views, join the tourists (and sip a glass of potent Albanian raki) in the hills above Sarandë at the Lëkursi Castle restaurant.

Where to Stay: Hotel websites and English-speaking hotel staff aren’t common, so making advance reservations can be a challenge. Online booking is available at modern hotels like the 50-room Rapo’s Resort near Himarë. For more authentic, locally owned lodging, look for signs reading dhoma plazhi (rooms for rent) outside smaller hotels and village guesthouses.

Cultural Tip: After spending the bulk of the 20th century in isolation thanks to its Stalinist dictator, Albania is eager to welcome the world. Tourism is still a new concept here, however, so patience, an adventurous spirit (particularly when driving), and an Albanian phrase book are essential.

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