Road trip on the Albanian coast: our favourite beaches

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.

Durres beach touristy

Isn’t it like in Italy? (Durrës)

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.

Apollonia

Apollonia – the best part of the ruined city.

Vlorë

Vlorë – under construction

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

Sunset at Llogara.

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.

A ladybug bunker on the school yard

A ladybug bunker on the school yard

Bunker walk-dance

Bunker walk-dance.

Finally, summer!

Finally, summer!

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.

Porto Palermo Tunnel

Porto Palermo naval base.

Castle of Porto Palermo

Castle of Porto Palermo.

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.

View to Borsh: olive trees everywhere

View to Borsh: olive trees everywhere.

Would you camp here?Borsh

Our spot in the Borsch riviera

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.

Lukova

Lukova.

Bunec: used to be a bigger harbour

Bunec: used to be a bigger harbor.

Ksamil , near Saranda. Looks cool, but for us too many people.

Ksamil, near Saranda. Looks cool, but for us too built-in..

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!

 

Exploring the best beaches in Albania. The water is crystal clear, the coastline is stunning. Exploring the best beaches in Albania. The water is crystal clear, the coastline is stunning.

Share it with your friends!
21
Arrival to Albania: we are on the BALKANS!
Hotel Europa, the abandoned hotel near lake Prespa, Macedonia
  • Anja – Live and Let’s Go

    Lovely pictures. Although I’ve been to the surrounding countries in Balkan, I’ve never been to Albania but it looks really nice. I think overall the Balkans are not made from sandy beaches but pebbles and rocks so you have to be prepared for that. A bonus with that though, is that you don’t have sand EVERYWHERE once you get home 😉

    • In Northern Albania you can find sandy beaches as well, but the coast in the south is more spectacular. Totally agree about the disadvantage of sandy beaches!

  • Klipdrifters Trail

    Albanian coast sound fantastic and Apollonia looks amazing! Fantastic post! We Love exploring ruins.

    • The whole country is full with ancient Greek and Roman remains (besides the bunkers)! You should pay a visit here!

  • Untold Morsels

    That sunset picture is amazing! Congrats. I love discovering new countries, especially ones with great beaches. Thanks for sharing your post, I’m putting these ideas into my wishlist for future reference.

  • Absolutely love this. Pinning it after I met some Albanians in Iceland (!?) who told me about the bunkers and how stunning Albania is. Loving your photos and hopefully I’ll see this for myself soon!

    • I hope you can visit it in the near future! The country has a unique atmosphere and amazing nature – but I guess you’ve heard a lot about it 🙂

  • So many stunning views! Albania wasn’t one of the countries I want to visit soon but your photos and experience are convincing. I love sunsets and that one at Llogara was absolutely beautiful. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  • Ulli Tomczyk

    I loved it since I saw the title ! It’s also nice to finally meet one more Polish blogger 🙂 I heard about road trip almost everywhere.. but not in Albania. Amazing read 🙂

    • Probably legends about quality of Albanian roads scare people from road trips there. We discovered that the legends are true only partially and our car didn’t have any major problems, but one has to be careful all the time driving in Albania. And some luck is needed to avoid any collision 🙂

  • Ivana Leturia

    Great pictures! I love how they have redefined the use of the bunkers, it’s very unique!

  • Christina

    Looks like a wonderful roadtrip! I like the idea of stopping at every beach you want to to have a swim.

  • Learning about the bunkers was really cool and something I hadn’t heard before. Where is the entrance?

    • You can enter the bunkers by the whole located on the opposite side from the shooting hole visible on the picture. It’s slightly bigger and a bit underground.

  • It was on my* bucket list for couple of years already! (*Katalin)

  • Pingback: Tirana and the bunkers – Our life, our travel()

  • Desiree Chance

    Sounds like you had an awesome trip! I’d never even considered Albania as a travel destination in the past so it was really interesting to see your perspective on it. I had no idea there were so many bunkers in existence there. Were you able to go inside any?

    Anyhow, thanks for sharing. The coast is truly beautiful!

    • Most of the little ones were open (and empty). They were actually never in use, but Enver Hoxha, their communist leader from the 20th century wanted to prepare for a potential war and built thousands of them all over the country.

  • Ellis Veen

    Love to visit Albanian. Such a great off the beaten path destination. Never considered it as a beach destination tough. Thanks for sharing the info 🙂

    • We loved it so much more than Italy or even Croatia. And of course the mountains, the culture and the food is also a must to experience!