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This Gorgeous Spot Is Known As The Maldives Of Europe And It’s Incredibly Cheap To Visit

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Mediterranean Europe is the go-to summer destination for millions of Americans. Famous for its crystal-clear waters, picturesque coastal villages, and incredibly ancient nations, the region is bracing for a record increase in tourism this season.

As strange as it sounds, one of the Mediterranean's most beautiful swimming spots, which has recently earned the nickname of ‘the Maldives of Europe‘, is still flying under the radar of most travelers.

Ksamil In Albania, On The Ionian Sea, Mediterranean Sea, South Eastern Europe, Balkan Peninsula

We're not talking Croatia's Dalmatian Coast, the increasingly trendy Montenegro, nor any of these off-path Greek islands: it's Ksamil, in the hugely underrated Albania, that should be on your bucket list.

The Maldives Of Europe Is An Underrated Balkan Country

‘The Maldives of Europe' is a small beach town in Southern Albania, in a coastal strip commonly called Albanian Riviera, straddling the turquoise-colored Ionian Sea and a stone's throw away from the Greek island of Corfu.

In the post-pandemic scene, Albania has risen to prominence as one of the trendiest sunny spots in Europe due to stunning nature and cultural wealth, though there is a catch:

Tourists arriving at the airport in Tirana, the country's largest, are often disappointed when they don't immediately get the ‘Maldives' vibes they had manifested:

Aerial View Of A Beach In Durres, Central Albania, A Port On The Mediterranean Sea, South Eastern Europe, Balkan Peninsula

More often than not, they will take a short trip to Durres, the closest port to Tirana, and pay the under-developed municipal beach a visit, where the seas are an uninviting gray and the beaches excessively pebbly, usually calling it a day.

In order to experience Albania's coastal charm, you must head South.

The Long Drive South To Paradise

The Albanian capital, and its accompanying port, are ridden with communist-era landmarks, and though they make for an exciting city break, Tirana or Durres exist in a different realm altogether than that of the Southern Albanian Coast.

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Aerial View Of Tirana, Albania, Balkan Peninsula In Southeastern Europe

The easiest way to travel Albania is renting a car, as inter-municipal buses regularly do not run on time, and train service between cities is non-existent, which makes the mission of reaching the European Maldives slightly more complicated.

Driving down the rugged Albanian coastline on a road path that traverses subtropical reserves, deep valleys, and beachfront villages, you will be met with breathtaking panoramas of the azure Adriatic and Ionian seas, arguably the prettiest minor seas that form part of the wider Mediterranean.

The shortest distance between Tirana, where the main international airport, is Saranda, the largest city in Southern Albania, is only 4h55. Here the seas are already crystal-clear, and there is a booming resort scene, as well as daily ferries leave for Corfu, in Greece.

Beach Lounges And Paraols On A Sandy Beach Lapped By The Turquoise Colored Ionian Sea In Ksamil, Albanian Riviera, Albania, Mediterranean Sea, Eastern Europe, Balkan Peninsula

A short 14 km from Saranda, along the SH81 route, there is a much more quaint town that's set to become the Mediterranean's next big thing.

The Quaint Ksamil

Ksamil is a coastal workers' village built during the communist years, when Albania was under a dictatorship, just outside the municipal boundaries of Saranda, and on the road to Butrint, with the sole goal of boosting olive oil and tangerine production.

With a population of just under 10,000 people, it's come a long way since then, turning its focus to tourism, which has kept growing at a rapid rate since democracy was reinstated in Albania, and it's now a highly affordable, idyllic sunny getaway most Americans are completely unaware of.

Quiet Beach Club In Ksamil Beach, Albanian Riviera, On The Ionian Sea, Mediterranean Europe, Albania, Western Balkans

With its white beaches, laid-back atmosphere, and crystalline seas, it's easy to see why a Maldives comparison would have arisen.

Ksamil is essentially a relaxation retreat, with only a handful of tourist accommodations, AirBnBs, and boutique stays to supply demand. You will not find ultra-luxurious resorts, all-inclusive hotels, or those dreaded gated expat communities, known to drive prices up.

In fact, there are no five-star properties listed on Booking.com, making this one of Europe's last surviving beach locations not yet swallowed up by luxury brands.

Incredibly Affordable

Ksamil Beach in Albania

Some of the most expensive hotels in the area, such as Hotel Livia or Hotel Piramida, welcome guests on nightly rates of just US$84 and US$135, respectively, a shockingly-affordable price for the Mediterranean high season, while there are numerous private, secluded villas, and beachfront apartments in the center of town for as cheap as US$66 per night.

To draw a comparison, nightly rates for similar properties in Oia, one of the largest settlements in the Greek island of Santorini, start at a whopping US$221 for August dates on the same booking platform, though they can go as high as an eye-watering US$7,903 (for a private villa with a pool).

Spain's busy Balearic island of Mallorca is no different, where a double room in a ‘good' hotel with breakfast included can set you back by as much as US$215 per night. Staying in Ksamil, you get to enjoy similar amenities for a much cheaper price.

A Couple Of Girl Friends Wearing White Robes And Drinking Tea As They Smile At Each Other From Inside Their Hotel Room

When it comes to daily expenses, you should know your tourist dollars will stretch a lot further here, as pints of locally-brewed beer can be found for a negligible one dollar, while wholesome meals at inexpensive eateries will cost you a grand total of US$7.37 (on average).

Want to treat yourself and have a nice dinner at a mid-range beachfront restaurant in the neighboring, vibrant city of Saranda? You should budget in a mere US$36.86 for a three-course meal… For two people.

If you're a culture enthusiast, you're also in luck, as a majority of historical attractions in the vicinity are either free to visit or have a symbolic ‘entry fee'.

Greek Amphitheatre In Butrint, Albania

Visiting the ancient Greco-Roman ruins of Butrint, where you'll see a well-preserved Roman theater and numerous edifices from the Hellenic period that are still standing, you'll be charged only US$10.55.

At the same time, the landmark Kalaja e Lëkurësit, a medieval castle perched on a hilltop featuring a spacious restaurant overlooking Saranda, Ksamil, and the wider Riviera, is free for visitors.

You won't find a better vacation deal than the Albanian Riviera anywhere in the Mediterranean.

But why is Ksamil so cheap and under-visited if it's so gorgeous, you may be wondering?

A Hidden Subtropical Gem

Aerial View Of Saranda, A City On The Albanian Riviera Facing The Turquoise Colored Adriatic Mediterranean Sea, Albania, Balkan Peninsula, South Eastern Europe

Unlike Greece or Spain, or indeed any major Mediterranean power, Albania is neither in the European Union nor the Eurozone, which makes it significantly less-developed than its counterparts.

Tourism in Albania had also not taken off well into the early 2000s, following a deep economic recession in the late nineties and the legacy of the communist years, which resulted in much of the country facing a severe lack of critical infrastructure, let alone tourist infrastructure, up until recently.

For instance, Southern Albania doesn't even have an international airport, and the country's only major hub in use is in Tirana, the inland capital, a four to five-hour drive North.

Aerial View Of A Beach In Sarande, Albanian Riviera, On The Adriatic Coast Of The Mediterranean Sea, Albania, South Eastern Europe

While plans for the construction of a secondary airport on the coast are underway, it will be a good number of years until it's all up and running. This means beautiful, unspoiled coastal gems like Ksamil will stay protected from over-tourism for a long while, though it is definitely getting trendier.

This year, it ranked as the second most sought-after vacation spot on AirBnB worldwide, so the secret seems to be out; nevertheless, it is harder to get to, and a majority of vacationers, especially Americans flying from across the pond, tend to favor more ‘traditional' destinations they can fly to directly, or that wouldn't involve long, complicated layovers or land transfers.

Ksamil may be poised to become the Mediterranean's next hotspot, but Albania's disadvantaged economy and less-than-impressive efforts to develop tourism locally may hold mass tourism back for more years.

Ksamil Albania beach with blue water and umbrellas

Is Under-development To Blame?

On top of that, despite being an official candidate for European Union (EU) membership, Albania is still a long way off from becoming a member or adopting the Euro as the official currency.

This means the depreciated Albanian lek will remain in use for the next years, keeping Albania ‘cheap' for foreigners, unlike Croatia, which ditched the kuna recently to become a Euroized state, edging ever closer to Western European prices.

Other beach areas in Southern Albania, Pema and Thatë are going viral on TikTok as well, due to their peaceful beach huts equipped with hammocks swinging over the ocean, available for daily rent starting at only US$9.90.

Next time, don't think too hard: add the budget-friendly, stunning Albanian Riviera to your summer wishlist.

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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com

Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.


Susan Coates

Saturday 20th of April 2024

Which AirB&B would you suggest in Ksamil, do you use Enterprise for car rental? hopefully after securing our sleeper from Budapest to Bucharest our final destination was going to Be Tirana flying from there to Warsaw. As Albania seems a difficult country to navigate we may reconsider., or is there anything worthwhile to see? Appreciate any input.🇨🇦🇨🇦

Miro

Saturday 9th of September 2023

Well .if you want hear constant very loud music on beach from different direction, go to the Ksamil or pay for double lounge chair with ambrella minimum 20€.or.pay for beer 5 euro it's for you .

Marsha

Thursday 27th of July 2023

If I were you I would pack mosquito repellant and go see your doctor for wellness check when you get home moreover dont let your little girls out alone after dark.

Caitlin

Friday 21st of July 2023

I just got back from Butrint. We stayed at Hotel Livia. The smell of sewage and the NOISEY cable ferry are big turn offs to a beautiful place 😫

Daruman

Wednesday 19th of July 2023

As nice that you make an article about Albania, and as deserved it should be to value its beauty as it is a beautiful country, but don't overdo it with the Maldives of Europe bullcrap. Albania cheap, great value. But while Albania has 400+km coastline, Greece has 16.000 with the most incredibly diverse and gorgeous coastlines one can imagine, of ANY kind. By far the most in the Mediterranean.

Greece also lies on 4 tectonic earthplats coming together in Greece (European, African, Asian and the 4th smaller plate), 80% mountains and these elements are the reason for Greece's immense range of mountains, coasts, and incredibly diverse geography.

You can find virgin forested islands, all the way to beaches with the only natural palm forests in Europe. From volcanic islands to geological islands, and from the most rugged wild islands to alpine mountains across its coasts all around the country.

Fteri, Myrtos in Kefalonia, navagio in Zakynthos, Egremni in Lefkada, Voutoumi in Anti Paxos, Balos lagoon or Elafonisi in Crete, Evia island for its complete untouched wild coastlines, Milos for geological island coasts, Santorini with the largest sea caldera on earth, Thassos or Skopelos with bizar green virgin forests till the coats (watch the long Skopelos video on YT from Robert Polasek), or Halkidiki with its 500km sand coast, koufounisia with its own bizar waters, and so on and so on and so on. The list is endless.

Before you talk about the Maldives Europe you better investigate first before you make clickbait titles which are entirely incorrect. I rather just read about Albania of beautiful places that it has, but dont make nonsense claims that does injustice to other countries simply by lack of knowledge or simply rolling with such style of writing. I dont like favoritism, nor lies. Just write what is correct