Vlorë, on the central coast of Albania, is a place that upon first glance might not seem all that appealing to spend much time in comparison to some of the other spots further south along the Albanian Riviera, but recently I had a chance to see it like I had never before - through a spotting scope and a pair of binoculars.
Alongside the Albanian Ornithological Society and the Western Balkans Geotourism Network, I spent three days discovering what is quite possibly one of the best areas for birdwatching not only in the Balkans, but all of Europe. Albania is unique in that you can find a variety of different landscapes in a relatively small area and in 2011 they placed a complete ban on hunting which means birds feel much less threatened by man.
In and around Vlorë is a perfect example where you have lagoons, salt beds, forest, and the sea all within a 40 kilometer radius. The Vjosë-Nartë Protected Area just 20 minutes north of Vlorë is a top spot where out of the roughly 320 bird species which can be found in Albania, 220 can be seen here alone. On our first day out there we spotted 57 different bird species including flamingos, Dalmatian Pelicans, and Great White Egrets in just a few hours. Orikum Lagoon and Llogara National Park just 40 minutes south are two other important birdwatching areas and regardless of whether you are a hardcore twitcher, amazingly beautiful places to spend some time.