France 2: Albania is the ‘Balkans’ Pearl’

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times July 28, 2017 09:30

France 2: Albania is the ‘Balkans’ Pearl’

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  • "One week of hotel accommodation, a round trip and food costs only about €500 a person," says French tourist Camille Bronner, adding that eating, drinking and a little entertainment can cost as cheap as €3 to €4

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TIRANA, July 27 – A country still neglected by tourists, Albania is a hidden paradise facing Italy and sandwiched between Greece and Montenegro with crystal clear waters, mountain landscapes and preserved nature. That is a how French public broadcaster France 2 describes Albania, an emerging European destination that is also attracting French tourists, dubbing it the “Pearl of the Balkans.”

Isolated from the rest of the world for a long time under communism, Albania is attracting more and more tourists with its low prices, still unaffected by mass tourism and overcrowded cities.

Speaking with France 2, two newly graduate Parisian young women who picked Saranda for a week of vacation said it was the low prices that drove them to make their first Albania trip.

“One week of hotel accommodation, a round trip and food costs only about €500 a person,” says French tourist Camille Bronner, adding that eating, drinking and a little entertainment can cost as cheap as€3 to €4.

U.S.-based Forbes magazine has rated Albania as the number 1 cheapest destination to travel to globally for 2017.

“This forgotten corner of Europe is a wonderfully off-the-beaten-track budget destination in an otherwise very touristy and expensive continent. With fantastic beaches along its coastline, including the fishing port of Saranda, Albania gives visitors the chance to enjoy the Mediterranean waters for a fraction of the usual price,” says the magazine.

A recent report by Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union, has also rated Albania’s restaurants and hotels as Europe’s cheapest.

At 40 percent of the EU average, Albania’s price levels on restaurants and hotels are the lowest among 37 European countries, including 28 EU members, three EFTA states and six EU aspirants.

Earlier this year, a TV documentary by Deutsche Welle in the local Albanian service featured a French couple who regularly spend their summer holidays in Qeparo village of the Albanian Riviera.

Qeparo is a characteristic old village, located along the south-west coastline of the country. The mountains there steeply dive into the sea. On the seaside, some small restaurants and hotels have their businesses.

Deborah Auge from Montpellier has been spending her summer holidays for seven years now with her husband Philippe. The couple have bought and reconstructed two village houses and are thinking of permanently moving there when they retire.

Asked about what she likes most about the coastal village, Auge says it is the authenticity of the village and the hospitality of Albanians.

“I think the landscape here is extraordinary and I consider Qeparo among the most beautiful destinations around the world. And what’s more important, people are so friendly. This is very important to me,” says her husband Philippe.

Back in 2015, French magazine L’Express ranked Albania as the top third global destination to, describing Albania as the new pearl of the Balkans.

Featuring a picture of the Qeparo village in the southern Albanian Riviera, the magazine recommended Albania for its beautiful beaches and mountains, the UNESCO World Heritage sites and its 2,500-year history with Roman and Byzantine elements.

What makes Albania a favourable destination for French tourists is also the direct flights to Paris and Brussels twice a week and the cheap prices and quality Albania offers, the magazine says.

Prestigious French newspaper Le Figaro had also placed Albania as one of the top five global destinations for 2016. Featuring a picture of the ancient Rozafa castle in the northern city of Shkodra, Le Fiagaro said Albania will surprise everybody just like it did with its first-ever qualification in a major football competition such as France 2016.

The tourism industry has been one of the country’s fastest growing in the past few years, attracting more than 4 million tourists and generating about €1.5 billion, about 8.4 percent of the country’s GDP, in 2016 alone.

The country boasts dozens of sandy and rocky beaches along its 476 km coastline stretching through the Adriatic and Ionian, the most famous of which are found on the Albanian Riviera south of the country.

Three UNESCO World Heritages, the Butrint archaeological park and the historic towns of Gjirokastra and Berat, in southern Albania, also unveil the rich cultural heritage in Albania, a gateway to the Mediterranean boasting a mix of Illyrian, Roman, Greek and Ottoman civilizations.

The communist past is also what fascinates tourists about Albania, which was cut off from the rest of the world under a Stalinist dictatorship for about five decades until the early 1990s.

 

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times July 28, 2017 09:30