Dhermi, Albania: The Hidden Seacoast of Europe

countryside Dhermi Albania
The countryside of Dhermi Albania

Dhermi is just one of many delightful Coastal Resorts in Albania

By Livia Neisat

My ultimate destination, the small town of Dhermi Albania, an hour and a half drive away from the nearest city Vlorë, was reached after passing beautiful mountains climbing up from the sea.

The land appeared unchanged and untouched from the 19th century when Lord Byron traveled here. It looks like in this way, communism worked fine for Albania.

An island off the coast of Dhermi, Albania.
An island off the coast of Dhermi, Albania.

Hoxha Memories

Enver Hoxha, who ruled the country as a dictator for roughly 40 years, declared the coastline as a military zone, cut off to all, including developers.

The houses that now dot the rocky land are more functional than pretty, but they don’t dominate.  Only a few bits of litter seem to go uncollected, but the water remains pristine.

Crossing Albania
on a Bicycle

In the charmingly old-fashioned seaside town of Qeparo, I settled into my villa apartment, which I chose from an Albanian agency. In many ways, tourism is in its infancy, still. We chose the villa, sight unseen because it had a very reasonable price.

True, the price of seclusion was a hike down a precipitous track, but the reward was a terrace with a fine sea view and its own private pier.:

Beach in Ksamil, Albania
Beach in Ksamil

I spent quite a long time on the beaches of Dhermia and Qeparo, happily isolated for days there. One day I decided to break up the monotony with a trip to Jale Bay which was a 10-minute drive from Dhermi.

The stops retained communist-era names – Beach One, Cave Four – but the beauty was timeless, in the end, that’s what matters. Definitely this place should be on your Europe Bucket List.

The very next day we took a trip to Sazan, Albania’s largest uninhabited island, which is strategically located between the Adriatic and Ionian Seas. By the way, all these places I visited are all within 15 km.

Road Driven by Top Gear Guys

Granted, this isn’t a typical beach holiday activity, but I am a former war correspondent.  I was shocked as we drove along a spectacular mountain road — used for Top Gear’s Albanian Road Trip – to the port of Vlore, in pursuit of the ship, which would take us to the beaches of the Karaburun Peninsula, a marine reserve cut off by road, and to Sazan.

A cave in Dhermi Albania.
A cave in Dhermi Albania.

Ominously, the ship was named the Black Pearl.  Staff steered us towards the lower deck; the top deck was reserved for bikini-clad teenagers, big speakers, and a DJ.

Once we docked, a dozen bodies dived from the top deck into the sea, a dance beat echoed off the nature reserve’s slopes and the water-filled with bubbles from the foam party raging above.

It seemed wise, then, to abandon the Black Pearl and for €25 persuade a local speedboat owner to power us to the intriguing island of Sazan.

The Island of Sazan

Black Pearl party ship to the island of Sazan, Albania.
Black Pearl party ship in Albania.

When I arrived, I found Sazan’s tree-lined cliffs dotted with roughly 10,000 round concrete bunkers that once housed Albania’s crack troops intent on keeping invaders at bay.

In the harbor, there are abandoned cranes, and up the slopes lie ruined homes, schools, and an open-air cinema. It is a stark reminder of the communist era within central Europe – like the Berlin Wall, but more attractive and peaceful.

A sunken WW II ship in the harbor.
A sunken WW II ship on the coast of Dhermia.

Oh, and also there was a sunken World War 2 ship which was impossible to notice from my point of view, but when the locals pulled the drone and took aerial pictures, I was shocked. This ship was attacked by the German army in 1943 while they were retrieving.

Later that evening, I sat on a terrace at a restaurant back in Dhermi, and overhanging the Ionian Sea, as the sun set – the beauty left even the noisy children in contemplative silence.

Dhermi coast in Albania.
Dhermi coast in Albania.

No wonder the Italian couple on the next table regularly sailed over to Albania. “The seafood is so cheap and delicious,” they crowed.  They continued: “Because it’s somewhere different in Europe.

It is not the Greek or Italian Coast, but it has a great charm of its own, and it was heavenly to be so isolated. Still, I cannot help but think Albania’s innocence will be trampled on when its secret is out.

Livia Neisat
Livia Neisat

Livia Neisat lived in Albania for five years and was formerly in the military. 

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