When you think of countries with great beaches, Albania might not be the first country to come to mind. But we had high hopes for the beaches here, given Albania is next door to Greece and has the same coastline as Croatia and Montenegro.
Our first beach visit in Albania was Ksamil, 15 minutes from Saranda. We didn’t know what to expect from Ksamil but it was stunning. And the secret is well and truly out, as the beaches were packed!
Before we could find a spare deckchair in the crowds, a huge grey cloud appeared, bringing summer showers along for the ride. There would be no swimming for us today.
All wasn’t lost. The area is famous for it’s mussels (one of Kristen’s favourite foods). So we found a table that looked out over the water and had some of the best mussels we’d ever eaten for the princely sum of $5. If this is going to be the standard of the seafood in Albania, we’re going to be very happy indeed!
Despite the rain, we still had a fun afternoon. The dark and moody sky looked stunning against the aqua green water. And the beach, which had been packed on arrival, now looked more like a ghost town.
We liked Ksamil so much we decided to try again the following day, and this time the sun and blue skies were out in full force. We were looking forward to a swim as temperatures were in the high 30s.
We had great fun watching Albanian beach culture. Couples and groups of friends played backgammon or cards on the tables between the chairs. Vendors walked the lines of deckchairs selling sweetcorn, chocolate-covered donuts, used mobile phones and, of course, cigarettes. There is A LOT of smoking in Albania.
After a swim, it was time for some more mussels before we headed out on our paddleboat to visit the islands just across the water. Paddleboats are the new craze of 2014, or maybe it’s just our new favourite thing to do – either way, costing only $10 for 2 hours on the open seas it’s great value. And the perfect way to get away from the crowds.
Facing the beach at Ksamil, there are three islands you can visit by boat, or paddleboat if you’re feeling energetic. The first you can also swim to, but the better island beaches are on the two islands furthest away from the main beach of Ksamil.
Heading out from the beach, the water close to the shore was a beautiful clear aqua, but once you get out a bit further, it turns a dark shade of blue. Diving off the paddleboat into the open ocean is such a great feeling. After paddling in the open waters for a while, we headed to one of the island beaches for a rest and another swim before all too soon it was time to take our paddleboat back in.