Head on the Albanian Riviera, one of the best kept jewels of the Adriatic

Head on the Albanian Riviera, one of the best kept jewels of the Adriatic

Soyons honnêtes. Que connaît-on de l'Albanie ? Sa dictature communiste, ses vieilles Mercedes, ses bunkers et peut-être l'écrivain génial Ismail Kadaré, c'est à peu près tout. Son héritage hellénique ? On le connaît peu. Son passé ottoman ? On l'ignore. L'Albanie, c'est pourtant ça, plus de 2000 ans d'histoire, une culture propre, des cités antiques et des paysages variés. Au nord, ses montagnes et ses vallées profondes. Au centre, ses villes classées. À l'ouest, sa capitale bouillonnante, Tirana. Au sud, sa côte et ses plages, la région la plus touristique du pays.Cap sur la Riviera albanaise, l'un des joyaux les mieux gardés de l'Adriatique Cap sur la Riviera albanaise, l'un des joyaux les mieux gardés de l'Adriatique

Albania is one of the best kept jewels of the Adriatic.Pass Vlora and see the Ionian Sea cut the coast.Before your eyes, small berries, turquoise waters and perched villages.No, it's not Greece but the Albanian riviera, 100 km of coastline, hidden coves and archaeological sites.The Greeks, the Romans and the Byzantines had established themselves there.Tourists are now coming to bathe.Guided tour.

Read also 48 hours at Belgrade: energizing promenade in the capital of the Balkans

The Llogara pass, between heaven and sea

Caesar broke his teeth.It was in 48 BC.-VS.And the passage was snowy.Since then, the road has been paved.The Llogara pass is mythical in many ways.First, because the Romans went there.Then, because it marks the entrance to the Albanian Riviera.The pass peaks at 1043 m altitude.From above, we can see the sea, calm and turquoise.To get there, you have to take the SH8 road.It winds, rises then descends over 23 km and 1000 m elevation.At each turn, a plunging view of the Ionian Sea, the beaches and the villages, one of the most beautiful panoramas of the country.Don't just go there and stop, the pass is located in Llogara National Park.Since Roman times, the site has been fitted out and restaurants have settled there.The place offers beautiful mountain walks.We walk among black pines and Bulgaria fir trees.We escape the heat of the coast a little.We meet suede, chamois and royal eagles.

Read also Missonénegro, in the splendor of Kotor's mouths


The collar is located along the national Sh8 road.You will have no problem finding it by car.Count 3:30 road from Tirana and 2 hours from Saranda.All minibuses for Himarë and Saranda pass there.To access the park, simply ask the driver to go down to the collar.


Llogara Tourist Village

Rooms, bungalows and apartments between 50 and 80 € per night depending on the season.Located in a park where deer walk around.Restaurants, beer bar, closed swimming pool and fitness room on site.Llogara Tourist Village, Vlorë, Albania.Such.: +355 69 33 444 00.

Dhërmi, pearl of the Ionian Sea

The "coastal pearl".This is how we nickname it.We understand: clear water, pebble beaches and bars almost in the water.Dhërmi is one of the most popular seaside resorts on the coast.She has quality infrastructure and a dream environment for her.Another advantage: the beach is long.No place on the city side?Walk south, you will find deserted expanses, translucent waters and an exceptional setting.Around you, the mountain, the real one, summits of more than 2000 meters.Dhërmi is the seaside but also an old town.Climb it and stroll a little.You will find cobbled alleys, stone houses, figs, vines and flower roses.The village has more than 30 Orthodox churches, including the Panagia monastery, perched on the hill. À l'intérieur, de belles fresques du XVIe siècle.

Where to bathe

Below the village, two beaches: that of Dhërmi and that of Dhral.Further north, Drymades beach is very beautiful but also very lively.Still just above, the famous Palasa beach.Between the two, there is a small isolated cove and little frequented.It is accessed by climbing a few rocks above.

Read also 48 hours in Athens, our guide to vibrate with the Greek capital

Cap sur la Riviera albanaise, l'un des joyaux les mieux gardés de l'Adriatique


Splendor Hotel & Spa

Spacious and design rooms just above the beach between 40 and 130 € per night depending on the season.Parking, private beach, restaurant, outdoor swimming pool, massage room, hammam, sauna, fitness room. Splendor Hotel & Spa, Dhërmi Vlorë, Albanie.Such.: +355 69 756 7007.

The Gjipe canyon and its hidden beach

She is a little away, discreet, less frequented.We access it after 25 minutes of walking.Here, no noisy club or party atmosphere, just a few parasols and a small bar.Gjipe beach is one of the most beautiful in Albania.400 meters of pebbles, clear water and cliffs around.Ideal for swimming, lazing and walking.The rock wall is pierced by a canyon, impressive.You can explore it on foot freely until you find yourself blocked by the rocks and the vegetation.To access it from Dhërmmi, you must follow the Saint-Théodore monastery route.He is in ruins and drowned under the vegetation but explore it, it served as a barracks under the communist era and continues each year to welcome pilgrimages.Above all, it offers a magnificent view of the coastline.


By car, follow the panels indicating the Saint-Théodore monastery.The road winds nearly 3 km before arriving at a parking lot.Stay (300 Lek = 2.5 €) and walk 25 minutes.

Himarë, the most Greek of Albanians

Blue and white flags everywhere.“GR” license plates.And even paintings to the glory of Athenian football clubs.Welcome to Himarë, Greek enclave in Albanian territory.Not a real, of course, but the corner has been populated by Greeks since Antiquity.The city has long claimed its attachment to the neighboring country.Today, the local hero is called Pyrros Dimas, born here, but triple Olympic Champion of weightlifting under the Greek flag.Himarë is 2,800 inhabitants, direct access to the sea, multiple beaches, but also an old fortified town, the Kastro, 180 meters above the sea.Up there, Byzantine churches, typical alleys and a magnificent panorama.We see the coastline and even a piece of Greece, the island of Corfu, just opposite.

Where to bathe

In Himarë even, the Spile beach is very busy.Small beach at the entrance to the city, Sfageio is easily along the road.

Long stretch of sand with bars and restaurants, Potami beach is 1.5 km south of Himarë.Diving site renowned 4 km south of Himarë, Llamani beach is 200 meters long.Loungers, parasols and restaurants on site.

Small beach of 100 meters difficult to access 2.5 km south of Himarë, Filikuri is a quiet place frequented by nudists.

The famous and huge Livadhi beach is about 4 kilometers from Himarë and easy to access.

Finally, an isolated beach: Akarium, above Livadhi.Before arriving in Livadhi, take a track that spans a river then walk thirty minutes towards the northwest.


1932 Guest House

Beautiful rooms with terrace overlooking Spile (city center) beach between 50 and 100 € depending on the season.Mediterranean restaurant and specialties.

1932 Guest House, Himare Spile, Albania, 9425.Such.: +355 69 472 1509.

Porto Palermo and Qeparo, calm and authentic

There would be no inhabitants, no population, no one.Officially, Porto Palermo is part of the neighboring city, Himarë.Officially, only.In real life, the corner deserves a full -fledged visit.From above, it looks like an atoll, round and hemmed with clear water.From below, the site invites swimming and exploration.It is a beautiful and preserved bay.Porto Palermo is regularly cited among the most beautiful destinations in Europe.We come there to bathe on the sand isthmus, explore the fortress of Ali Pacha (100 Lek) and visit another village next to it.Qeparo is considered the most beautiful in the Riviera.We see it from the coast, hanging on its hill, 300 m above the sea.Up there, you have to walk among the houses with roofs in Roman tiles and above all take your time.Qeparo is authentic Albania, a breathtaking view of the bay and the calm of the mountain.

Where to bathe

In Porto Palermo Bay, you can bathe on the sand isthm leading to Ali Pasha's fortress.Otherwise, a little further, you will find space on Borsh beach, 5 km long.


The villas of Qeparo

Three charming houses held by French in the old hamlet of Qeparo.All modern comfort in an incredible setting.Between 45 and 120 € per night according to the house and the season.

The villas of Qeparo, Qeparo Village, Albanie.Such.: 00355 (0) 692087941.

Saranda, its bay and its surroundings

Let's be clear.Saranda is the most touristy city in the country: 17,000 inhabitants, a marina, buildings and a concrete bay.We come mainly to enjoy the beach, infrastructure and journeys for the Greek island of Corfu.Advice: favor the surroundings.First, go for the source of the blue eye, about twenty kilometers.On site, a bright green blue water arises on the surface.Before, the place was reserved for the communist party executives.Since the fall of the regime, tourists have flocking.Favor a visit in the morning.On the way back, stop at the Saint-Nicolas monastery in Mesopotam, one of the largest Byzantine churches in the Balkans, with its 10 m walls and its four domes.Finally, go up to the castle of Lëküres, an Ottoman fortress built to control the region.On site, the view stretches over Saranda, Corfu, the hinterland and the Butrint site.

Where to bathe

Do not bathe in Saranda, the waters are polluted.15 km further south, impossible not to mention Ksamil, which houses among the most beautiful beaches in the country but also the most popular.In summer, finding a calm place is the impossible mission.


If Saranda has little tourist interest, it constitutes a practical stop for visiting the South and Butrint.

Half Hotel

Warm and refined rooms with balcony overlooking the bay.Parking, small private beach, restaurant, bar.Between 70 and 150 € per night depending on the season.

Half Hotel, Lagjja nr.1 Rruga Butrint, Sarandë, Albania.Such.: +355 69 784 4712.

Butrint, ancient and mythological

It is the most beautiful site in Albania.He inspired Racine, Virgile, Lord Byron and Eugène Delacroix.He has nothing to envy to the Greeks.The ancient city of Butrint is magic.It would have been founded after the Trojan War by Hélénos, the only surviving son of King Priam.Today, the vestiges are visited: Greco-Roman ruins, the Venetian tower, the Sanctuary of Asclepius, the theater, Roman Forum, the Palais du Triconque, Le Baptistere or even Roman fortifications.For UNESCO, the site constitutes a "microcosm in the history of the Mediterranean".The city has prospered for more than 2000 years thanks to its location and its exceptional situation.Around, wooded hills, two lakes and the strategic strait of Corfu.The region was classified as a national park in 2000.


From Saranda, a bus every hour from 5:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. (100 Lek = € 0.80), according to the city's official website.Departures from the Park of Friendship (Friendship Park) or the ruins of the synagogue.By car, count 40 min journey.


Hotel Livia

Only hotel around Butrint.Not luxury but well equipped and comfortable rooms.Restaurant.Between 30 and 100 € per night depending on the season.

Hotel Livia, Butrint, Albania.Such.: +355 67 347 7077.

Gjirokastra, the beautiful Ottoman

By far, it seems a little severe, dreary, extinct.The houses stack, we see them gray, like the citadel at the very top, strong and austere.Once inside, change of printing.White facades, cobbled alleys, warm inhabitants, animated cafes, a real village life and a mosque that must be visited.Gjirokastra is considered the most beautiful city in Albania.It is above all an example of a preserved Ottoman city.Some dwellings look like forts: no window on the ground floor and loopholes on the first floor.They are Kullë, houses in Tourrelle, reserved for executives of the Ottoman administration.The most beautiful ?Zekate house (200 Lek = € 1.70), on the heights, three floors, two side towers and a large double arch facade.Not far away, another house, that of the writer Ismaïl Kadare (200 Lek = € 1.70), Albanian most read in France, born here.Walk for another 15 minutes to the east and you will come across the most important site in the city, the citadel (200 Lek = € 1.70). Elle est là, massive et immense, 600 m de longueur, sur son éperon rocheux construite par les Byzantins au Ve siècle puis renforcée par les ottomans.Inside, we visit a mausoleum, the big alley, the clock tower, part of the ramparts, the court of the fortress, a tunnel and even the carcass of an air force hunterAmerican captured in 1957, in the midst of a cold war.


Count 1h15 of road from Saranda.By bus, five links per day with Tirana and two per day with Saranda.


Kodra hotel

Rooms with a view of the new city and the old city.Very good restaurant of local specialties.Between 49 and 120 € depending on the room.

Kodra hotel :Such.: +355 84 262 115.



As much as possible, favor April, May, June, September or October.These are months when the temperature is pleasant without being too hot, when the water is good and where tourists are not too many.You will understand, in July and August, the Albanian Riviera is full of tourists and most of the beaches taken by storm.


To go to the Albanian Riviera, two options: the Paris plane in Tirana then the car or the bus to the coast.Or the plane for Corfu, in Greece, then the regular ferry for Saranda, Albania, from where you can rent a car or move by bus.

How to move?

Know that the Albanian Riviera is traveled by the SH8 motorway to Saranda.Many small secondary roads then connect the villages, the seaside and the hinterland.Renting a car is therefore a good way to get around.Please note, the state of the roads is far from good and the highway code not always respected.Avoid driving at night when the brightness is low.De Tirana, the capital, at the Llogara pass, the entrance to the Riviera, count at least 3:10 a.m..From Llogara to Butrint, the southernmost town of La Riviera, count 100 km and 2h30 drive.To join Gjirokastra from Saranda, it takes about 1:15.If you want to move by bus, it is possible but not most practical: the country has national transport companies or bus station.Private drivers therefore offer their services on minibus.You will easily find it on the coast to go from one point to another.