Exploring coastal Albania: Durres
We haven’t met many people who have traveled in Albania, but when reading some travel stories and blog posts about it, we got the impression that the coast is very beautiful. Also, it seems that the towns in the coast are quickly becoming very popular holiday destinations, not only for backpackers but for package tourists as well. We started our road trip in Albania with a week in Tirana and after that headed to the coast, slowly moving south towards Greece.
Related post: Nomad life in Tirana
First stop on the coast was Durrës, the second largest city of Albania and the main port of the country. It lies in the central coast, just around 30 km west of Tirana. Durrës is an ancient city; it was founded already on 7th century BC by Greek colonists. Unfortunately there is not that much remains from the first centuries left. But right next the city center lies the remains of an amphitheater from 2nd century AC and part of the ancient city walls with entrances still exist. The wall has been strengthened several times.
In 4th century BC, when Durrës (back then known as Dyrrachium) was the capital of Roman province Epirus Nova, a strong earthquake destroyed the city’s defenses. Emperor Anastacius rebuilt and raised the city walls up to 12 meters and built the Durrës Castle. That construction project made Durrës walls the strongest fortifications in the Western Balkans.
At the turn of 19th and 20th century Durrës was active in the Albanian national liberation movement. In 1914 it became Albania’s second national capital, and the status remained until 1920 when Tirana was named the new capital. During 20th century there has been heavy constructions, first due to an earthquake that damaged part of the city in 1926 and then after the Second World War bombings.
Durrës has been a pacemaker of beach tourism in Albania, and after the collapse of communism rule the amount of also foreign visitors has increased. Many streets and parks were rebuilt during a sort of a construction boom in early 21st century, and the built-up beach south from the city center is 10 km long.
Durres during off-season
Have to say that for those looking for a beach paradise with fine sand and palm trees, Durrës may not be the perfect spot. Still, it is a warm and sunny holiday destination combining city life and beachfront. There is a nice walkaway along the beach, lined with restaurants and bars with very affordable price level. We paid around 13 € for a dinner for two in a decent beach restaurant, including carafe of local wine. Surprisingly many of the beach front restaurants were open still late November when we visited, even if there surely wasn’t many tourists around. The empty hotel buildings next to the beach seemed quiet and somewhat sad, but it was still easy to imagine how the beach is full of life during the summer season.
We stayed in the city for four days, in an apartment rented via booking.com. Our pick was Vila Vela, situated few hundred meters away from the shore. It was is a big apartment with several rooms for rent. At the time of the visit it was under some renovations; probably they were building still new rooms to the upper levels of the house.
Even if the weather was sunny, late November is not warm enough for actual beach life. So instead of sunbathing, our days were filled with working, sports and cooking. And of course we also checked out the main sights of the city and tried to catch the sunsets into pictures.
All in all, Durrës was nice, but when heading south, the coast just keeps getting better and better! More about that will follow in coming posts.
Have you already been in Albania? If so, how did you like it?