The Albanian Riviera. Pebble beaches, secluded beaches, island beaches and a few pristine sandy beaches. Southern Albania has spectacular scenery and beaches rivalling nearby Greece and Croatia for half the price. Tourists from the Balkans and Italy have been visiting this part of Albania for quite some time but the rest of Europe is just starting to discover the region.
I’ve spent many months in Albania but this was my first time on the riviera and I now understand why the country has pinned the hopes of Albanian tourism on this region. The landscape, sunsets and fresh seafood are outstanding. Visit now before the crowds come and reckless development spoils the view.
Ksamil Beach and Islands
By far the most pristine of all the beaches I visited, Ksamil has calm, turquoise water and white sandy beaches. There were few other tourists in sight in September and after a quick boat ride we had Ksamil Island to ourselves.
Along with having multiple stunning and secluded beaches, Himara is unusual in that the majority of the population is of Greek origin. Even though they are a minority in Albania they have retained their Greek culture and language over the centuries. The coastline around Himara is my preferred along the Albanian Riviera and the fact that I’m also of Greek origin hasn’t biased my feelings for the region whatsoever.
The massive stretch of beach at Borsh is surrounded by olive groves, grazing goats and high mountain peaks. It’s one of the least developed of Albania’s main riviera beaches. Fingers crossed it stays that way.
Dhermi has long been recognised as Albania’s best beach destination and tourists swarm to the coastal pine forests which open onto fine pebble beaches. It’s built up fairly close to the water but if you head away from the main beach you can experience the pristine beaches the locals rave about. Dhermi’s beaches are packed during July and August but off season you’ll have the rocky bays and crystal clear water more or less to yourself.
Just north of Saranda, Lukova is a great option for a coastal beach holiday if you want a quiet beach but proximity to a decent sized city for shopping and nightlife. Like most Albanian beaches, it can get very busy in summer but for rest of the year you could go days without seeing other swimmers.
Where to Stay
Saranda is teeming with empty high rise holiday apartments and outside of July and August you can find nice, clean places for 25 euros per night. I spent a week in an apartment with a huge terrace and views over to Corfu. It was perfect to use as a base for visiting historic Butrint, Gjirokastra and the Blue Eye spring but for beaches I’d suggest staying in Himara instead. We negotiated 20 euros per night for a stay in September with the stunning beach located directly across the road. For more information on visiting Albania, click here to read my mini guide.