Albania is fast becoming one of the most coveted holiday destinations for people from the GCC. With visa-free entry for UAE residents, negligible Covid-19 presence and mask-free tourism, it isn’t a surprise why more and more people want to explore this country.
While still very new to tourism, Albania is filled with natural, untouched beauty, some places not yet discovered by mainstream tourism entities, and chain hotels are still in their early stages of entry. So while you won’t come across any Marriotts or Hiltons, you’ll like the traditional homely feel of the local hotel and stay options.
I toured the south of Albania in July 2021, and here are some places from my itinerary which are not worth missing!
The Blue Eye in Saranda
Crystal clear blue and green waters, boasting a temperature of 10 degrees or less and surrounded by nature, the Blue Eye close to Sarande is a must visit for its Instagram-worthy location, for adventure seekers who won’t shy from taking a plunge in ice cold waters and for nature lovers. I didn’t really have the means to take a dip, but if that’s your thing, then go prepared with a change of clothes and slippers.
Tip: Go as early as you can to avoid crowds!
The city of 1000 windows in Berat
If you love traditional homes, cobble-stoned paths and walking up and down streets, then this place is for you. Located in the heart of traditional Berat, the city of a 1000 windows makes for a good stroll and gives you a feel of the local life. Another place to check out while in Berat is the castle located at the top that offers wonderful views of the city.
Beach lovers, stop right here. If you’ve seen old Hollywood movies that showcase Miami, then that’s present day Saranda for you. Throes of beachgoers flocking the islands, local motel owners holding vacancy signs on the sides of the roads and club lovers walking up and down the streets all night is what you can expect from the most happening town in Albania.
Recommended: Take a boat tour to the small beach islands
Have you been to Cappadocia in Turkey? This will remind you of something similar. Gjirokastra is located at a high altitude and is much much cooler than the rest of the country. Check out the oldest house in Gjirokastra – the Skanduli house, and pick up your favourite souvenirs at the central market.
Bunk’Art & restaurant hopping in Tirana
Albania was a communist nation as recent as 25 years ago. This means it has a lot of war memorials and recent history that is highlighted at the Bunk’Art. A series of interconnected underground bunkers that were built during the time of war, this place showcases rooms of the dictators, a museum of old artifacts, weapons and uniforms, photos and videos from the communist days and a glimpse of what life for the Albanians was back then. After you’re done taking in the history, take some time out to sample good food and drinks during the evening. Among the few places we visited was Radio Bar. This quirky place was dotted with colourful tables, some fitted with sewing machines on top.
Good to know: A lot of good restaurants are located on parallel streets at a walking distance between them, so all you’ll need is your Google Maps app and you are good to go!
Blogger by passion, writer by profession and a photography enthusiast, Rashida loves exploring and experiencing something new everyday. Balancing her life between work, food and fitness, she makes sure she shares her recommendations on what’s good and what’s best with readers on TheBrew.ae.
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