Vlore: All the beauty of the French Riviera, none of the price tag

The Albanian Riviera is the best Riviera

It’s like the French Riviera – just cheaper, with less people, and a bit dirtier. The last point is not always a bad thing, because who likes a city gleaming with unrealistic sparkle anyway? Vlore is the first of the southern Albanian gems that are the country’s closest thing to a beach resort. Here you’ll find beautiful sandy beaches, crystal-clear water, and plenty of other horrid cliches that I actually mean wholeheartedly. You can practically hear the crowds on the beaches in adjacent Greece getting ripped off for the cocktails you’re basically getting for free. There’s not a high-rise or beachside duplex in sight (yet) but bear in mind, there are plans in the pipeline. Get there before the resorts do.

Do:

Not quite Nice or Cannes, but close enough

Well, aside from it being quite pretty – realistically there’s not a lot to do here. If you’re happy with sitting on a beach, sipping a cocktail or two, you’ll be right at home though.

There’s also, another, hilltop castle – which offers fantastic (running out of synonyms here) views from the top.

STAY:

Couchsurf: My god, if you know what’s good for you, seek out Ednild Gjoka (not in a stalker-type way, like don’t stake out his house. Just send him a message). This lovely example of human being already had a surfer when we messaged him, but made sure to clear his schedule to take us around the city both days we were there, and refused to let us pay for even a bottle of water (while he was with his other surfer, might we add). This was one of the best experiences we had on the app we already loved so dearly, and we cannot think of a nicer person in the whole of Albania.

New friend after just two hours together, Ednild

Vlora Backpackers Hostel: Though the name is a classic example of tautology if I’ve ever seen one, Vlore’s only backpackers is a glorious place. Mostly because we owe the owner our first born child after he allowed us to stay on about a half-price discount after an ATM ate our card and we showed up on his front porch late at night and gave him basically no choice. The facilities are basic, if a little spartan, but the owner makes a mean omelette, and has a cat. So, he wins in our books.

Pro tip: If a local leads you down a shabby path by the sea that seems to leave nowhere, don’t immediately get suspicious and tell him in no uncertain terms you are not going down there and can he leave you alone now (yes, speaking from experience). By the main beach, right on the cusp of where the Adriatic sea meets the Ionian sea, there’s a nondescript pipe spewing water out of a rock. At least, to anyone else that’s what it looks like, to a local – it’s the natural mineral water spring that leads to the ocean, where Vlorean people come with vessels aplenty to fill up and take home. Take it from us and come prepared with a vestibule, rather than unprovoked sass.

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