Text by Global Travel Editor Costas Christ
Albania’s isolation from the rest of the world for decades during the Cold War had an
unintended consequence: The country today retains its wild landscapes, uncrowded
historical sites, and traditional villages in a region that is one of the most
crowded tourism destinations on the planet—the Mediterranean.
I recently joined a group of 64 Albanians in the coastal town of Durres to discuss a
sustainable tourism plan, one that would help protect the natural and cultural
heritage, while improving the livelihoods of the local people. The fact that
Albanians are coming together to talk seriously about sustainable tourism as a means of economic development puts them ahead of many nearby countries that followed the
path of mass tourism development, which has left behind damaged ecosystems,
polluted beaches, and vanishing local culture (think Santorini in Greece,
Provence in France, or the Costa del Sol in Spain).
While uncontrolled tourism has already spread to some parts of Albania (the coastal town of Durres suffers from chaotic concrete block hotel development, a glut of tourist bars, and litter in the streets), much of the rest of the country still offers a chance to experience traditional Mediterranean life that has become increasingly rare in the region.
During my trip, the Albanians I met were friendly, the prices
cheap, the local food excellent. Traditional music thrives, and the rugged
mountains provide truly off-the-beaten-trail Mediterranean hiking.
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