The tiny coastal nation of Albania is having something of a moment and it’s about time. Take a glance at Instagram, YouTube or any other platform of that ilk and you’ll notice globe-trotting travellers of all kinds raving about the delights of this underrated jewel in the Balkans. And with 280 miles of glittering coastline stretching from the Adriatic to the Ionian Coast, you’re truly spoilt for choice when it comes to unspoilt beauty. That said, most of the best beaches in Albania are concentrated in the south of the country, where the turquoise sea of the Ionian is clearest, the beaches the whitest, and the atmosphere the most vibrant.
Saranda – the Capital of the Albanian Riviera
The coastal town of Saranda, the unofficial capital of the Albanian Riviera, swells from 10,000 to nearly 30,000 during the summer months. And while the main pebble beach of Saranda can feel a little overcrowded at the height of the season, the town is still a great base to explore beautiful nearby beaches. Head out on a private sailing boat to Kakome, a long, almost deserted beach bordered by startlingly blue waters and wild emerald hillsides. Saranda is also a great base to enjoy some of the region’s top sites and we can arrange personalised guided trips to ancient cities, archaeological sites and the incredible Blue Eye (a crystal-clear turquoise water spring that supposedly holds the gateway to the underworld in its seemingly bottomless depths). It is also quick and easy to get to Greece’s Corfu Island, where we can arrange for you to sample the local lifestyle with a nutritious beachside Mediterranean lunch.
Ksamil – the ‘Pearl of the Ionian’
Slightly further down the coast, near the border with Greece, is Ksamil Beach, an oceanside enclave widely considered among the best beaches in Albania. It’s no surprise the beach is often referred to as the ‘Albanian Caribbean’: the transparent turquoise waters are teeming with colourful sea life, the white-sand beach is lined with charming seafood restaurants and the atmosphere is refreshingly relaxed. There are also three uninhabited islands just off the coast of Ksamil that can be easily reached by boat or, if you’re feeling adventurous, by canoe, jet ski or paddle board. The main beaches of the closer islands are alive with a pleasant hum of activity – think pop-up beach bars, straw parasols and happy-go-lucky travellers. If you continue slightly further out, you’ll find the lesser-visited islands, where you can live out your Robinson Crusoe fantasy in utter peace and quiet.
Borsh Beach – the Locals’ Favourite
Turning to the north, further on from Saranda, you’ll soon stumble across Borsh Beach, the longest beach on the entire Albanian Riviera with over four miles of intense blue waters and fine white pebbles bordered by stretches of olive groves climbing the rolling hillside. It’s the place to soak in the laissez-faire lifestyle of the locals as you frolic in the peaceful waters, read a book under the shade of straw parasol, enjoy a signature cocktail from one of the luxurious beach clubs (Cocoon Beach is one of our favourites) and build a bonfire under the stars. For a dose of culture, you can also head into the hills surrounding the small town of Borsh to admire some charming pocket-sized mosques frequented by the local population of Albanian Muslims.
Jale Beach – the Capital of Cool
Next up is Jale Beach, a wildly picturesque spot that is quickly growing in popularity thanks to the highly saturated colour of its clear turquoise waters. During the week, it’s a hot spot for snorkelling and diving, either in the sheltered waters of hidden nearby coves (Aquarium Bay is particularly beautiful) or further out to a collection of caves once frequented by pirates. Things in and around Jale kick into high gear on the weekends. The beach clubs of Jale and nearby Dhermi are among the finest in the country, often hosting rambunctious entertainment with international DJs. There’s Latin music at Havana Beach Club, local live music at Sanur Beach House, dance beats at Peperron the Beach and a little bit of everything at Folie Marine. Jale Beach is also within easy reach of some other popular coastal haunts, including Gjipe Beach, Livadhi Beach and Dhermi Beach.
Durress Beach – the Jewel of the Adriatic
And finally, for those looking for a beachy getaway from Tirana, nearby Durress Beach is a great option, taking less than an hour to reach from the capital. The main stretch of golden-sand shoreline, which reaches over six miles in length, is perfect for families, with clear, shallow waters and plenty of good facilities. There is also no shortage of more hidden beaches to visit in the area – Lalzi Bay Beach, the Cape of Rodon and Karpen all offer beauty in spades. The city of Durress is also well-worth exploring as it encompasses so much of Albania’s unusual history; it’s a place where classic Soviet-era block houses stand side by side with ancient Roman ruins (the Roman amphitheater is a must-visit).