As more and more of the hidden gems of Europe get discovered, it gets increasingly difficult to find an authentic piece of heaven. But fear not. There are still slivers of it around. You just have to look harder. The wait is worth it. And in the Mediterranean, one doesn’t have to look too hard. For one reason or another, overdevelopment hasn’t occurred in the eastern Med. Or at least, it hasn’t developed at the speed of Alicante or Benidorm. Beaches are still public space, the environment is taken into account and the sense of tranquility is overpowering.

The eastern Med is full of history, charm and natural beauty, not to mention some pretty exciting nightlife. And when we talk of the eastern Med, it is Greece and the Balkans in particular that get the lion’s share of votes.

There is a stretch of land on the Adriatic, north of the Ionian sea, that often gets overlooked. We dont know why. We do, however, know that its nothing short of a miracle. Because once the secret is out, the turquoise green waters of the Adriatic Riviera will be forever populated with tourists.

The charms of the Ionian islands are well documented. Zakynthos (shpwreck beach, anyone?), Leukada, Ithaca and Kithira get their fair share of the limelight. And rightly so. But venture further out and you’ll discover the wonderful island of Paxi.

The Undiscovered Beauties of the Ionian Islands: Paxoi-Greece

With a rich mythological backstory that features the Greek God of the sea, Poseidon, and the nymph Amphitrite, Paxi is a postcard picture destination. In a sense, it encompasses all of the qualities of Greek island life. Secluded beaches, a small island population and rich bio diversity are some of Paxi’s calling cards.

There, you are assured of peace, serenity and none of the drunken antics of nearby islands (ahem, Laganas). It is a love nest for couples and lovers of authenticity.

The Undiscovered Beauties of the Ionian Islands: Saranda-Albania

Further up north, another jewel is starting to get noticed. In the tiny enclave of Saranda, in Albania, the getting’s good. Lapped up by Ionian sea, the town’s bay is a beauty (Miami beach has nothing on it). A promenade with bars and cafes, fringed by palm trees and awesome beaches like Mirror beach, possibly the beat beach in the Riviera. Heck, there’s even a natural spring phenomenon (Syri Kalter) that occurs due to the oxygenated bubbles that rise up to the surface. The effect is a deeply mysterious and satisfying spectacle that relies on the surrounding vegetation to lend it its magic.

Theres culture to take in, too. The name Saranda comes from the Forty Saints monastery on top of the hill overlooking the harbour. Saint Nicholas Monastery is as ancient as they come. It apparently predates Christianity. Saran also houses the remains of a Jewish synagogue and various artefacts found all around it, attesting to its rich fabric.

Theres also the Leukesi Castle. A remnant of Ottoman rule, it’s crumbling watch towers and walls are a reminder of its history.

The Undiscovered Beauties of the Ionian Islands

If you’re looking for authentic pieces of land, look no further. If you haven’t heard of it before, the rule of thumb is generally thats its a good sign.

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