If you have never been to Albania think again. It is an ‘awakening sleeping beauty’ (Lonely Planet words) that has everything to impress, beautiful secluded beaches with crystal blue waters, dramatic landscapes with high peak mountain raising up behind beaches, rich culture and old history and great food at amazing prices.
While British and other European tourists continue to be chartered to neighbouring Corfu, Albania’s tourism remains exclusive to foreign tourists who love uncharted waters and to Albanian nationals living in other countries.
So if you are part of the lucky ones I would recommend you go to one of the best beaches on the southern coast, Drimadhes beach and to one of the best bars there, that keeps playing some awesome music. The once called ‘Dar bar’ but recently renamed ‘Drimadhes beach’ bar. The bar is now part of the same company that owns Drimadhes Inn nearby, a complex with cabins, a restaurant and swimming pool.
‘Dar bar’ was one of the first bars to open some 8 years ago when the whole bay was empty and undeveloped. It continues to be a cool place to go for a late afternoon beer or mohito, just in time to catch red sunsets over the sea.
What makes this place special is the Lounge and Chill music played during the day, with sounds from Londinium, CocoRosie or Bjork. In the evening Albi, a singer plays live music and at weekends DJs are invited.
The position of the bar right by the sea and a number of sun chairs and beds on the beach add charm to the place.
I have time to speak to Bledi Mone who in between making coffee and fixing the wifi talks about his biggest passion, windsurfing. Windsurfing is not a very popular sport in Albania so seeing someone on the beach doing it is rare. Bledi boasts abut his skills, which I witnessed on a very windy day when he managed to come back against very strong winds.
Bledi originally from Fier, was first initiated to windsurfing while working in Greece, by a group of Australian tourists. He continues to practice and wants to make it more popular in Albania with groups of young people and adults, wanting to learn. But it is still early days and while Bledi practices his passion, he still has to make a living. While he speaks about going to very remote corners of the coast where not many people have been and being caught at sea by storms, other people around the bar listen, impressed.
So how are things going with the bar, I ask Bledi. ‘This summer was good’ he says, ‘more people have visited the area’. ‘At the same time competition has become tougher as many other bars and restaurants have opened’.
But Bledi and his colleagues remain upbeat. Whatever happens people will always come to this bar, to have a moment of peace and unwind from busy lives.
September is considered past the season in Albania and most places will close down until next summer. Drimadhes bar is still going and although the weather wasn’t great, a Saturday morning a number of visitors arrived at the bar parking their cars with Kosovo plates, nearby. They had travelled a long way to come to this place for the weekend. ‘We love it here’, says a mother of two little boys, who are having fun playing in the waves. ‘Despite the long journey, the climate here is good, for the children and for us’.
In the morning not much happens, people sip their expressos while contemplating the sea and chilling with the waves of ‘Cafe del mar’ beats. The afternoon becomes more animated and in the evenings I am told, in high season it is party time. Albanians can be very expressive with their dancing and partying style, wearing minimal dresses and high heals and enjoying a good old dancing on the bar. Spontaneous parties can make a breakthrough during a hot afternoon and part of the enjoyment is spraying with beer and water over bodies barely clothed in bikinis and shorts. This has come to be called the Albanian Mallorca ‘partying style’.
‘We have that here as well’, says another waiter smiling, while he serves coffee.
Having gone to Drimadhes in September, outside the season I didn’t witness the hot fiestas but had a great chilling out time at Drimadhes beach bar.
I would invite you all to put this place in your diaries for your next year’s adventures. This place is only the first in line on the southern coast of Albania and is followed by many more similarly impressive beaches and local villages, so if you want to discover more there is plenty.