READER REPORT:

Albania, busting misconceptions

ANDREW LEIGHTON
Last updated 10:00 25/07/2014
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BORN AGAIN: Ksamil Beach, Albania.

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As Nirvana celebrated being on top of the Billboard charts with Nevermind and Barbara Kendall took board sailing gold at the Barcelona Olympics, Albania was waking up to a new day, no longer under the communist iron fist.

Twenty-two years on, the country still perceived by many to be an unsafe travelling destination, is transforming itself into a holiday mecca. Stability is being restored as it eyes up membership into the European Union, although many roads are yet to be crossed before this becomes a reality.

Travelling through Albania for two weeks you soon fall in love with this beautiful country.

Starting in the southwest, the beaches of Ksamil, Saranda and Himare are certainly a highlight with chilled out beach life, pristine beaches and cheap living. While in this region, visit the spectacular Blue Eye - a 10 degree Celsius water spring with unbelievable clear water and colours.

After attacking the coast, a trip to the capital Tirana is a must with its vibrant bohemia bar scene on the old communist block and hidden communist relics, including a sheet-covered Stalin statue in the art gallery parking lot; Albanians desperately want to forget its dark past.

Heading north, target a trip to the very panoramic Albanian Alps. Visit the small mountain village of Theth with plentiful guest rooms available serving up traditional tasty Albania food and cool local English-speaking mountain guides earning tips from tourists.

Just a word of caution, be prepared for an entertaining three-hour off-road mountain drive with locals to access the village.

If you're willing to suck up the dodgy public transport timetables, corrupt taxi drivers and pedestrian crossings that are anything but, you'll be rewarded with an amazing experience.

Being closed off from the world for so long, Albanians show a desire to learn more about foreign travellers and make sure they have a fantastic experience.

Getting to Albania is becoming much easier, so really there is no excuse not to go.


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