The summer is almost here, so it is time to plan your perfect holiday to place where you can really relax, enjoy under the sun, dive in the crystal clear sea and be amazed by the sunset.
Before booking your summer getaway I want to share my experience about one lovely Albanian village that took my breath away.
Last summer, while trying to chose between Greece or Montenegro, the most popular tourist resorts for Macedonian people, someone suggest to visit Ksamil, a little village on the Ionian Sea in Albania, our western neighbor. Considering the conflict in the years before, we were skeptic, but the positive reviews and comments set us on right way, the way to Ksamil.
Albania via Greece
It was a long drive, almost 12 hours, but totally worth every second of it. After getting lost, asking for directions, 57 tunnels and good coffee we passed the border and stepped on Albanian lend. The first impression was devastating; it felt like we were in a war zone. Forsaken roads, mountains, ruined houses, dust yet there was no sign of the exotic palm trees, blue sea and exclusive villas that we had seen on the Internet. Where were we?
After few miles, we got a glimpse of the sea, felt the cool breeze, the salty tang in the air, what a good feeling! It was the city of Saranda, the largest tourist resort in Albania; with its luxurious hotels and villas, modern restaurants and a long promenade.
From Saranda, we hit the road to Ksamil-the place with turquoise sea. It felt so different then Albania we knew of from TV or the internet. I can truly say, that this holiday have change my view of the Albanian land and people, I have only the best to say for them now. It seems like we were in a Greek village, Greek language was spoken, and gyro was served as the local delicacy.
Ksamil-exotic, yet a tad boring
We were more than surprised; the owner of the villa was so kind and gave us a first-class deal, only 20 Euros for an apartment for four people. A price like that cannot be found in, let say, Greece or Montenegro. Off we go to the beach, and we were amazed…the photos did not do justice to it. The sea was warm and marigold blue; my legs were slowly dipping in the white sand. Yet, the view astounded me; that view was million dollars worth. Astonishing sunset, the three small islands, the baby palm trees…serenity beyond measure.
All the beaches were furnished, more or less, in the same style. The bars and the restaurants had the kindest employees, smiling their welcome and a greeting in your own language. They had poor English, but they do everything to understand us and take our order.
Although we were surprise with the beaches, the biggest surprise for us was the prices. Everything was so low-cost, yet so fresh and tasty. Cold Albanian beer and pizza like just came from Italian oven. We had fish, just caught from the sea, calamari and little octopi; a real treat to us, and our budget.
Our days seemed to be perfect, exploring new beaches, swimming to the islands; but the nights were boring, no clubs, no parties, not even cocktails. That was the only unsatisfactory thing during our 10-days escapade to the seaside. The night went by playing cards and drinking refreshing Albanian beer. Well, it could be worse….
In few years from now, this place will be one of the most desired holiday destinations, not as cheap like this and years back. All the time, even on 40 degrees the workers were building high and modern hotels, new bars…The same was in Saranda, which is getting the look of California…long promenade, lots of palm trees, exclusive dinner places. However, additional effort is needed into spicing up the nightlife. I hope that an airport is due soon, so the place will be more accessible and the long car drives will be a matter of preference over air traveling.
If Saranda is the place of luxurious hotels, Ksamil is the place with white beaches and magnificent sea. Both of these towns complement each other, having what other is missing. One should put these two rustically exotic destinations in the next holiday planner and will not regret, because the experience of great food, sunny days, swimming and fishing is guaranteed….and, it will not cost you an arm or leg.