Vlorë, Albania

Photo: Hotel Liro
Photo: Hotel Liro

Early October is the perfect time for one last beach vacation. Sure, the days are shorter, and it can be a bit chilly when you aren’t in direct sunlight. But the seafood restaurants are empty, the crowds are gone, and, most importantly, the prices have dropped. You might have the pool or an entire beach all to yourself.

This year, you found a cute cliffside hotel that wouldn’t look out-of-place in France, Italy, or Greece. It’s still along a riviera, just not one that you’ve visited before. It’s surrounded by mountains on three sides and the southern end of the Adriatic Sea on the other. Still-flowering gardens, olive groves, and vineyards dot the hilly land. While the turquoise water beckons you despite the calendar warning otherwise.

You never would have guessed that Hotel Liro is in Albania. Tiers of the recently renovated hotel were built into the rocks. Your suite, the restaurant, and lots of balconies have views that look like a postcard. Albania’s only national marine park, Karaburun-Sazan, sits on a quiet peninsula to the south. Vlorë, one of the oldest cities in the country, is to the north. Bari and Salento—Italy—lie just across the water. The area—the Albanian Riviera—is also known for having more than 300 days of sunshine each year.

So you arrive in Vlorë to sit on golden-sand beaches, ride a motorboat across the shimmering water, and eat grilled octopus along the waterfront. You’ll drive along the narrow coastal road, watch old men playing chess on the promenade, and taste wines you wouldn’t dare try to pronounce. You’ll be welcomed in mosques and churches, be the lone visitor in the Museum of Independence, and hike to castles you can only see from the water. All while soaking up as much sunshine as possible.

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