Sunday, July 5, 2015

Albanian Riviera: Travel vs Tourism

To many Europeans, Albania is the poor, corrupt, crime-ridden, armpit of the Balkans. I’m sure some people, like Donald Trump—if he could locate it on a map—might even label Albania as a land of rapists! But what I recently witnessed while driving along the southern coast was breath-taking, beautiful views, pristine beaches, and kind locals. Albanians were nice-- very nice. And I'm even torn about revealing some of these true gems, fearful that the best beach towns will soon become overdeveloped and crowded. 
After a treacherous drive through interior Albania, I returned home and talked with a few curious people about my trip. I noticed that potential visitors want a thumbs up or thumbs down, but it's not so simple. 
Here's the seemingly basic question: Is Albania a place I would universally recommend?
For travelers, YES.
For tourists, NO.

The typical “tourist” wants to see world-famous monuments, unique architecture, or well-restored archeological sites. The tourist wants to be safely shuttled from one pretty place to another, always ready for canned photo opportunities, a polished centro historico, English menus, and a souvenir zone. So, I’m assuming, the endless unfinished/abandoned buildings, the roadside eyesores, the lack of infrastructure, disorganization, ubiquitous road hazards, and lack of Western hotel chains makes Albania a less desirable place for the average tourist.

On the other hand, Albania is great for travelers. “Travelers” tend to be interested in the reality and culture of a place, so potholes and shantytowns do not make them cringe. They are willing to hike an extra mile and explore on their own in order to discover a relatively unknown Roman ruin or an un-crowded, picturesque beach. Travelers also tend to be open to new experiences that might include waiting at a kebab stand to meet the old man owner of an unmarked B&B who speaks absolutely no English but is renting clean rooms for 25 euros, 10 meters away from the beach! Travelers will follow this old man down a dirt road while almost being hit by speeding cars and stared at by locals as if they are alien beings.
So, you decide.
If you are a traveler, here are some great reasons to go to the Albanian Riviera:

Ksamil: Small beach town in the far south (close to Corfu, Greece).  Interesting, multi-layered archeological site, Butrint, is 10 kilometers away. 

Sarande: Big beach town just north of Ksamil. Good for bigger hotels, ATM’s, nightlife, and cement slab “beach” bars.  

Himare: One of the most obvious, expansive beach towns on the drive north of Sarande. There are numerous undeveloped, turquoise sea coves in the nearby area.

Dhermi: A cool beach town. Wind down the road and enjoy the long, pebbly beach and the view of the mountains.

Note: There were absolutely no signs of crime, corruption, or raping while traveling in Albania. 
Want more details about travel in Albania? -click here


  1. this is really nice to read..informative post is very good to read..thanks a lot!

  2. We found your blog was much handy to me! If u keep up the good job I’ll come back at your website.
    hotel ksamil Albanial

  3. Thank you for helping people get the information they need. Great stuff as usual. Keep up the great work!!!
    hotels in abu dhabi

  4. Thumbs up and a big thank for your concise and sincere piece.
    Contact me at for personalized tours.

  5. Amazingly composed blog that has transfixed its crowd.
    free walking tour stockholm

  6. I like this post,And I figure that they having a ton of fun to peruse this post,they might take a decent site to make an information,thanks for sharing it to me.