By: Divya Bhardwaj

When you think of a nice European vacation, your mind probably goes to the French Riveira, or the Italian countryside, or the Swiss Alps. However, there is one destination that has all of the benefits of the more popular regions of Europe without the cost and crowds: Albania. This overlooked Balkan country has pristine beaches on the Adriatic, quaint, scenic villages, and beautiful mountain views. Below are three especially lovely places in Albania that you should consider visiting. 

  1. Durrës

This coastal town is nicknamed the “place of mermaids,” and for good reason. The sparkling blue water is reminiscent of the Caribbean Sea, but the uncrowded white sand is a welcome contrast. Aside from the beaches, the second most populated city in Albania boasts a rich history. There is an ancient Roman amphitheater, as well as a Hellenistic church covered with mosaics.

2. Tirana

The Albanian capital, this is a very historic city. This city has withstood the test of time, dating back to the Ottoman empire. The rich past can be traced back through the Ottoman, Facist, and Soviet era architecture. This colorful city, with its beautiful backdrop of mountains, is not one to miss. 

3. Shkodër

This city has been dubbed as the gateway to the Albanian Alps. Situated in the mountains, but not at a very high altitude, this is the perfect destination. The Alps as a whole are some of the last wild, undisturbed mountains in the world. Make sure to make time to visit them.

Lastly, I must acknowledge that Albania has a bit of a bad reputation when it comes to safety. Due to a war in the country in the 1990s, people are wary of visiting it. However, the US Travel Advisory rates Albania as a 1, meaning it is completely safe to visit (the scale goes from 1-4 with 1 being the safest and 4 being the most dangerous). In fact, places Americans wouldn’t think twice about visiting, like France and Italy, are actually rated at 2. So, go ahead and visit Albania. I’m sure you won’t regret it.