Raving in The Albanian Riviera
Mar 2, 2023
6 min read
Europe is a continent oozing with countries of spectacular beauty and culture. Each one waiting to be unearthed. With some more discovered than others, it's fair to say that the untouched, hidden-gems remain the most special.
This exact notion brings us to Albania - a modest country situated in the Balkans, surrounded by Ionian, Adriatic and Mediterranean waters, unspoiled beaches, mountainous landscapes, as well as exhibiting traditional cuisine and a fascinating history.
Don’t dismiss Albania as a holiday destination because of its untraversed nature and tourism dearth, embrace for those same reasons.
In recent years early adopters have caught on, having realized it’s a place embodied in natural charm, community, culture, and one with enormous potential.
These early adopters being event brands and festival promoters, are the same as those who put Croatia on the map as a popular holiday and festival destination over a decade ago.
It now appears that Albania is starting to follow a similar path to Croatia in 2011 with the inaugural Hideout Festival, which was closely followed by an avalanche that included Outlook, Love International and later Defected.
Adopting small seaside towns and villages as the epic backdrops to these events, promoters grasped the opportunity in both hands to do the same with Albania and its beautiful coastal town of Dhërmi.
Now a location that hosts some of the coolest, most sought-after music festivals in Europe including ION, AnjunaDeep, UNUM, and Kala, there are many reasons to visit, yet music seems to be the driving force behind the significant upheaval of tourists to the country.
We spoke with the founders of LWE (London Warehouse Events) who are the proud hosts of ION, and brand new boutique festival SISO, to gain some more knowledge of the unchartered territory.
What makes Albania desirable from an aesthetic standpoint?
Albania is one of Europe’s last remaining secrets, still untouched by the hands of mass tourism in the same way as Croatia, Greece, and other destinations. This means you’ll have the privilege of Albania’s huge sandy beaches all to yourself, free from crowds and overdevelopment.
Dhërmi is sandwiched between the Ionian sea and the luscious Ceraunian mountain range, providing stunning views of the landscape from all around. The air is fresh, the water is crystal clear, and the general atmosphere is one of rest and rejuvenation; it’s the perfect escape.
Dhërmi, and Albania as a whole, offers everything you could want from a festival location, with fantastic weather, welcoming locals, amazing culinary experiences, and, of course, top-tier music. Albania is ahead of the other locations as it is less touristy, with quieter beaches and a more authentic atmosphere. It is more cost-effective than other European locations, with very good value prices for food, drinks, and amenities.
Unfamiliar territory for many, why should festival goers choose Albania over other party destinations?
If you want incredible music, with the added bonus of unspoilt beaches and hidden party locations, excellent food and drink, friendly locals and great value, Albania is the place for you.
ION Festival - Dhërmi, Albania 2022
You heard it here first. With Dhërmi boasting an abundance of holiday destination musts, there is so much to be discovered. It is also markedly cheaper than popular neighboring countries Greece and Italy, meaning that those pennies will stretch that little bit further.
With all this being said, you’re probably wondering how this sudden influx and spike in tourism is impacting such an unspoiled, authentic environment.
Well, LWE works in conjunction with Mainstage: an overseas events company which has been working closely with the Albanian government to get more tourists into the country in a sustainable and viable way. Through this collaboration, ethical policies have been put in place throughout every step of the festival curation process (including pre and post), which has enabled such events in Dhërmi to soar.
ION Festival - Dhërmi, Albania 2022
How has the local economy/community welcomed this new change and influx of festivals/people?
They have welcomed us with open arms, and are excited at the new prospects brought on by new festivals and other music events. Albanians are passionate about their beautiful country, and love sharing their culture and history with us when we visit. There’s also a small but thriving community of electronic music lovers within the country, who are obviously over-the-moon that we are bringing parties to Albania.
With the green light from local authorities and communities, it appears that they have put their own plans in place in order to accommodate what looks like a hopeful future of tourism for the country.
What makes Dhërmi/Albania desirable from a business standpoint?
The country is still developing from a tourism and business standpoint, with the first hotel only appearing in the mid-2000s. Since then, the number of visitors has skyrocketed, leading to a number of unique business opportunities in the world of travel, tourism and entertainment. These include an in-progress project to build a tunnel through the main mountain range in the country, halving the journey time from Tirana to Dhërmi, alongside a new airport that is coming.
Not only this, but temporary ferry ports will be built closer to Dhërmi, as well as the closing off and pedestrianization of the entire seafront during both festivals, transforming the whole area into a 3,000-capacity festival site.
ION Festival - Dhermï, Albania 2022
With artists and party-goers flying in from all directions, what you get in a location like this is a sense of unity. It is said that at previous festivals in Dhërmi, the DJ’s have been seen to be staying at the same hotels as the ticket holders, wandering the cobbled streets and trying out the same local offerings as the rest. You don’t often get that at large festivals in well-established areas.
Through Dhërmi’s quirky characteristics as a small seaside village, promoters like LWE are able to curate one of a kind experiences that simply cannot be replicated. With particular reference to ION festival's unique set-up, the paradisal partisë consists of five different stages which are all completely unique in their own way.
ION Festival - Dhërmi, Albania
From stages nestled in quiet coves to secret set-ups that can only be accessed via boat, it is Dhermi and its beautiful people that allow for talented event brands to access and use such incredible spaces.
It is clear to see that this is just the beginning of Albania’s new age, with a plethora of opportunities being thrown at Dhërmi and the surrounding areas.
If you’re thinking about getting down to a festival on the Albanian Riviera, now is the best time to do so – before the country opens for mass tourism and the landscape is inevitably transformed.
If it’s not already, Albania is well on its way to becoming the next major European festival destination.