After few days stay in Tirana, we decided to drive along the coast and enjoy beaches and bunkers during the weekend.
Durrës and the seaside of the north
During the last years a lot of hotels, resorts and every kind of tourism complexes were built along the shore in and near many bigger settlements. For example, Durrës reminded me of Italy: hotels, restaurants, and umbrellas wherever you look. When I write Italy, I mean the time when I visited it in the 90’s. The same, old, used sun-benches and umbrellas appeared here in the coast.The only reason we are planning to visit it more times that is the closest beach to us. If you have an opportunity to choose, go anywhere else. This time we didn’t stop there.
The ancient ruins of Apollonia
Our first stop was in Apollonia, the ruins of an ancient Greek city. Romans were also using it until in the 5th century and earthquake destroyed it and got totally abandoned.
This visit was pretty disappointing for me. Compared to the entrance fee we did not see much. The ruins are scattered around in a huge area (which basically you can easily walk in accidentally as well). The best part was the museum where the best-preserved statues and tools were kept and the little chapel there.
Vlorë: beaches and hotels under construction
Vlorë was our next destination. The surrounding of the city is either under agricultural use or construction. We could even observe how they prepare the new and sandy beaches and walking ways near to the new hotels. The view is amazing, the water is much cleaner but still was very similar to Durrës. The only difference that here they just started to demolish the little cute houses to build a 2 by many lane road and new hotels.
We had the idea to look for some sleeping place nearby, but a number of people and buildings didn’t really satisfy us. We drove to Orikulum which is a nearby peninsula that seemed empty based on the maps. It was, the only problem was the naval base, Pasha Liman, which was still in operation there. It started to be dark, so didn’t want to spend too much time figuring out if there is any way around/through, we assumed not. We spent some time on the beach taking pictures (here there were no hotels) and then decided to spend the night around the Llogara National Park.
BTW, surprisingly, the traffic was much better outside of the capital. Except for ‘small’ problems, like cars driving without any lights on even during the night. We were driving on a curvy coastal road when on the opposite lane a black car (expensive Mercedes) has passed us. Hurrah! We decided to stop driving immediately.
Llogara pass and the amazing southern coast
My plan was to swim in every beach I like on the beautiful coast. It worked out pretty well.
The morning swim took place near Dhërmi, just under the Llogara pass. It was one of the emptiest beaches we came across – despite the brand new road which leads there. We met people traveling by camper who spent the night there. We also had a great view to Mount Çika above us.
And the bunkers!!! We already passed many, but I couldn’t wait to spot the first bunkers on the coastline. Hoxha built about 700.000 bunkers (edit: according to official statistics we have seen, only 170.000) across the country during his about 40 years of ruling. It required a lot of concrete and labor, and they were never in real use. After the communist collapsed, they got new function (e.g. cafe, bar, accommodation, storehouse, shelter, etc.), got abandoned or demolished. Although most of them are demolished by now, you still cannot go anywhere without seeing them. We saw them in the cities, on beaches, in school yards, in private gardens and so.
The Castle of Port Palermo
Porto Palermo was our next destination for two reasons. The Castle of Porto Palermo (Kalaja e Porto Palermos) built by Ali Pasha looks great, it is in pretty good shape too. We had amazing weather and the old man who sold tickets even speaks few words in Hungarian! The other sight is the closed naval base with its submarine (or fast attack craft) tunnel which was also built during the times of Enver Hoxha. It is kind of abandoned but still guarded, so only took pictures from outside. The beach was small, dirty, and full with a group of people from minibuses, so I skipped the swimming part.
Another favorite beach: Borsh
The second favorite beach, in Borsh, was the next stop, and also a perfect place for the night – except the ongoing party in the nearby hotels. The way to the beach goes through olive gardens full with goats and donkeys. I really enjoyed it. The water is crystal clear, few people were around fishing or beaching, and only a camper stayed the night over there in our tent. We picked our spot far away from the hotels, only one camper was nearby. Unfortunately, we still heard the party going on around the hotels during the night, and cars were passing on the shore road as well. Besides this smaller uncomfort, the stay was perfect. Probably if it wasn’t a Saturday night, it would have been totally calm.
Off-the-beaten-track: Bunec & Lukova
A friend of mine suggested also Bunec beach, but it seemed quite busy, both with tourists and locals, but I agree that it has a great location. Also, a lot of new buildings were built there in the last years. Lost its remoteness. And we didn’t even see any bunkers. The following stops were in Lukovë and Saranda. The latter is very touristy and built in. It is too close to Greece, Corfu, and Butrint, a UNESCO site which we also visited later.
Visit Albanian beaches now
If you dream about yellow sand, probably better to choose another country. Karol was pretty disappointed as he expected that kind of beaches. Probably I should have warned him.
In case you are planning to come to Albania, I’d suggest immediately! Really. everything is building up so fast, it will be harder and harder to find remote beaches on the beautiful coast. Of course, if you don’t plan backpacking, but you want to stay in a hotel and swim with other people, then it will be a good and cheap destination for a couple of years for sure!