Ruins of Apollonia, Albania

Ruins of Apollonia, Albania

Long left behind as one of the most backward places on the continent, Albania – a beautiful Mediterranean country located just north of Corfu, Greece, and across a narrow strip of the Adriatic Sea from Italy – is emerging as a prime European beach destination. For decades, the country was beleaguered by the harsh communist dictatorship of Enver Hoxha, a paranoid autocrat who ruled the country from 1944 until his death in 1985. Hoxha spent a fortune of his country’s budget preparing for an invasion that never came, enlisting the entire citizenry in a reserve military force, training 12-year-olds to fire rifles and building more than 750,000 concrete bunkers – one for every four Albanians, 24 per square kilometre – all for no apparent reason.

Albania  has a  remarkable national museum, which houses a cross-section of collections showcasing Albania’s long history, including mosaics and statues from antiquity, items from communist prison camps, a piece of the cord used to pull down a statue of Hoxha and a tribute to the country’s most famous daughter, Mother Teresa.

Ruins of Apollonia

Founded around 600 BC by the Greeks and expanded by the Romans, it was once a prominent Illyrian city – and one of the most important centres in the ancient world. The place rivals other, major archeological sites like those in Turkey and Greece – attractions invariably teeming with tourists.

Looking over the surrounding countryside, on one side, the shimmering line of the Adriatic shore, and on the other, terraced fields, olive groves and a shepherd driving his sheep to greener pastures – the scene marred only by the gaping mouths of four grey, square bunkers, built into the side of a large hill. In a few years, this place will be swamped by visitors.


A number of major carriers service Tirana International Airport Mother Teresa, including British Airways, Lufthansa, Austrian Airlines and Turkish Airlines.

Where to stay

The Sheraton Tirana Hotel offers solid accommodations, including club-level rooms, business facilities and a fully equipped gym within walking distance of the capital’s main attractions. The hotel also provides some respite from the crowds, set in a green space that overlooks a lake and a national park, right on the edge of Mother Teresa Square. Rooms from €82 ($115);

Built into the side of a cliff, Hotel Liro offers amazing views of the Aegean and a small beach, which grows and shrinks with the tide. It also boasts good on-site dining, a seaside pool and concierge services to help arrange activities and tours. From €40 ($56);

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