Get to This Balkans Country Before Everyone Else Does

Ksamil Beach on the Albanian Riviera, Albania

Explore this Balkan country on the cusp of change. 

So you think Europe has been “done”? Think again. After decades as a reclusive communist state, the now democratic Albania is slowly re-emerging onto the world stage. Nestled between Greece and Montenegro and boasting a lively capital, hillside vineyards and a glorious swathe of Adriatic and Ionian coastline, it’s not going to stay off the beaten track for long. In fact, we predict it will be the new Croatia in 10 years. Get there first.

Stay

In the heart of the capital, Tirana, The Plaza hotel is all about five-star amenities wrapped up in Scandi-accented contemporary design, plus a spa that features a Finnish sauna and Turkish bath. Though taxis are cheap, you’re within easy walking distance of sights such as the National Gallery of Arts and Grand Park.

Eat + Drink

Albania’s bright young things let their hair down at Tirana hotspot Radio Bar. Decked out in electronic memorabilia and vintage posters, it serves up arty cocktails and live music.
Mullixhiu is the nation’s stand-out fine-diner, where chef and Noma alumni Bledar Kola puts a modern spin on traditional cuisine. Expect dishes such as jufka (a type of pasta) with wild juniper berries and sweetbread with porcini.

Overlooking the beachfront in Sarandë, Mare Nostrum Cuisine (Rruga Bilal Golemi 1; +355 85 224 342) reflects the locale with a seafood-focused menu; think tuna carpaccio and grilled catch of the day.

National Historical Museum in Tirana, Albania

In Fishtë, 80 kilometres north of Tirana, farmhouse restaurant Mrizi i Zanave is championing the nation’s food traditions with dishes such as green-apple soup and wines like the indigenous varietal kallmet.

Do

The start and end points of the Albanian Riviera are in dispute.

Whether it stretches from Vlorë to Sarandë or the Llogara Pass to Ksamil, there’s no doubting its attractions – among them Ksamil’s white-sand beach and the bubbling turquoise waters of the Blue Eye spring, near the village of Muzinë. World Heritage-listed Butrint, 28 kilometres south of Sarandë, inhabits a beautiful peninsula. Tour the archaeological site’s ruins, visit its museum in a hilltop castle or hike the forest trails.

Explore the brutal four-decade rule of Enver Hoxha with a visit to museum and art gallery Bunk’Art, housed in a nuclear bunker built by the communist dictator in the hills outside Tirana.

SEE ALSO: How to See the Best of Prague

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