Albania is now opening up to tourism and a visit here offers a fascinating insight into a country that was closed to the world for much of the twentieth century.
Albania is a beautiful and historic land with a most welcoming people. She has one of the oldest flags and tongues in Europe, and preserves traditions and culture unadulterated by the outside world for centuries. Her long coastline is washed by the Ionian and Adriatic sea and hides some wonderful beaches. The mountain scenery is stunning; not for nothing do the Albanians know their land as Shqiperia - Land of the Eagles. Here was ancient Illyria; and here too that great Roman road, the Via Egnatia, began its long march east to Constantinople.
Holidays In Albania
Some scars of the past remain - notably the many infamous concrete bunkers - but these are insignificant compared to Albania's many treasures and natural beauty. Our cultural tour will show you much of what the south has to offer.
Built on top of a Roman port (which surfaces here and there) Saranda is today a large modern town of some 33,000 inhabitants. It is, truth be told, not the prettiest - recent unregulated development has resulted in a plethora of high rise buildings, many unfinished. But before writing Saranda off do take into consideration the many plus points to a stay here.
For some fine beaches not too far from town, go to Ksamili near Butrint. It is a 15- 20 minute drive and there are regular buses. It is a popular spot for locals, has a number of pretty small bays and beaches, and several islets just off-shore which you can be taken to by boat (or even swim, some are so close). Good fresh fish restaurants too.
The Albanian Riviera to the north enables a stunningly scenic drive high above the sea, passing close to a number of traditional villages. The road has been improved and it now takes only an hour to the small beach resort of Himara, where you can have lunch and a swim.
This is one of the last significant stretches of undeveloped coastline in the Med. Albania is still rough around the edges so do not expect the sophistication and service you are used to receiving in countries that have been hosting north Europeans for years. Although on a fast learning curve, Albania is still one of the poorest countries in Europe, so you will need to go with an open mind. That said, we believe a week here followed by a week at one of our Greece resorts makes for an intriguing and contrasting holiday experience.
Sunday flight Gatwick or Manchester to Preveza (Birmingham flights on request). Then 3 hours by taxi (please note, on arrival will be one taxi from the airport to the Greek/Albanian border and another taxi from the border to Saranda. The return will be one taxi all the way Saranda to airport (or Greek resort if twin centre). An entry visa is not required for UK passport holders.
Car hire is available - please enquire
We have a local agent in Saranda who can give any information and assistance required.
Albania is 1 hour ahead of the UK, so 1 hour behind Greece. Main towns have ATMs and the local currency is the Lek, but there are restrictions on taking Lek out of the country and may be difficult for exchange so we'd recommend taking the bulk of your spending money in the form of low denomination Euros, which are widely accepted, and try not to be left with wads of Lek on the last day. Prices are generally lower than in Greece (we estimate by c 20%).
Recommended Reading: Albania by Gillian Gloyer in the Bradt Travel; Guide series.