5 reasons why this Albanian destination should be your next Mediterranean getaway


Hemmed in by blues and greens, with the impossibly azure Adriatic Sea on one side and the pine-wrapped Ceraunian Mountains on the other, Vlora has been beguiling local visitors since the days of Homer. But it’s only now, as Albania is becoming one of Europe’s fastest-growing tourist destinations, that it’s finally gaining wider attention. With its glorious weather, long sandy shores, ancient history and exciting new attractions — including a modern waterfront development being constructed — Vlora has all the ingredients needed to become the next great Mediterranean escape. Here are five reasons to beat the crowds and visit Vlora.

Butrint National Park is Albania’s most visited archaeological park. PHOTOGRAPH BY KATERYNA MASHKEVYCH

1. Explore the stunning coast

Follow the promenade from Vlora Marina and you’ll soon find yourself swapping the boardwalk for the beach. This mile-long stretch of golden sand is a major draw for visitors to the area — and there are plenty of opportunities to appreciate it, as the city enjoys more than 300 sun-filled days per year. Take a kayak or speedboat into the bay to see the stunning rocky coastlines and mysterious caves of the Karaburun Peninsula and Sazan Island. Or explore the wider county of Vlora, which is home to many more beautiful beaches, such as Dhermi, Gjipe, Radhim, Jala or Palasa — all easily accessible on a day trip from the city.

2. Soak up the culture

Come for the coast, stay for the culture. Vlora and southern Albania are blessed with some incredible heritage sites. After visiting the city’s Old Town and Kaninë Castle, head south to nearby Oricum, once a stronghold of Julius Caesar and now an archaeological park.

Visitors can also venture north to Apollonia, a hilltop town with Ancient Greek and Roman ruins. Further afield are the famous UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Gjirokaster and Berat. The former is a well-preserved Ottoman town scattered on a hillside, and the latter is a city with a mix of Illyrian, Roman and Byzantine influences, home to mural-filled churches and mosques.

Berat is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, home to striking Ottoman hillside homes. The city can be easily explored via a day trip from Vlora.PHOTOGRAPH BY ROSS HELEN

3. Stay at a brand-new marina

The city’s seafront is currently being transformed into Vlora Marina, a mixed-use development project. The area will have excellent accommodation options, including a 5-star hotel and stylish sea-view apartments. Stretching southeast from Vlora Marina is a long promenade which will be lined with restaurants, cafes, bars, shops and family entertainment.

Visitors will be able to wander along the floating pontoons that provide moorings for more than 400 yachts and mega yachts, watching their tall white sails swaying softly in the wind, reflecting onto the glassy waters below. There will be many spots for coffee, Italian gelato and high-end retail therapy, before relaxing at one of the resort’s luxury spas or seafront bars.

Currently under construction, Vlora Marina is being overseen by D-Marin, which manages premium marina developments across the Mediterranean and United Arab Emirates.PHOTOGRAPH BY MARINA RESIDENCES VLORE

4. Sample the Mediterranean cuisine

You can taste the Med in Vlora. The order of the day here is seafood, with everything from sea bass and red mullet to calamari and cuttlefish on the menus, best served with a squeeze of lemon or a dash of garlic. Other Albanian and Balkan delicacies can also be enjoyed, such as byrek (a savoury pastry filled with spinach, cheese or meat), grilled meats, qofte (meatballs) and tavë kosi (a quiche-like dish with lamb). Don’t miss kaçkavall cheese, which is popular with visitors (a traditional Albanian semi-hard, yellow cheese ), and, for dessert, delicious baklava. Accompany your food with a glass of wine, the fiery spirit raki (a traditional Albanian-produced alcoholic beverage) or even a dhallë (a popular yoghurt-based drink with spice).

5. Discover the natural habitat

Vlora is ideal for those looking to explore nature, with rolling hills and craggy mountains hugging the city. For amazing birdlife, venture a little north of Vlora to Narta Lagoon, a protected coastal wetland area renowned for its rich biodiversity. If dense green forests and vertical rock faces are more your thing, head 20 miles south of Vlora to Llogara National Park, where the Adriatic and Ionian seas meet. Or, for a full-day adventure, travel towards the Greek border for the beautiful lakes and marshes of the UNESCO-listed Butrint National Park.

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