Sazan Island (Sazani) in Qendër Vlorë will open for tourists this summer, Albania’s Defense Minister Mimi Kodheli announced on April 5, 2017 after an agreement with Economy Minister Milva Ekonomi. The island will be accessible from the beginning of May until the end of October. The agreement also establishes the schedule and areas that can be visited on theisland.
Albania’s largest island and the country’s westernmost point, Sazan was a military base from 1914 until the end of the communist regime, which described it as the country’s “airplane carrier, the port of defense, the key to controlling the Otranto Strait.” During the Cold War, the Soviets built a submarine base and a chemical weapons plant on the island. Don’t be surprised to find Soviet-era gas masks scattered around the island when you visit.
Sazan Island is a unique Albanian landmark. Unlike the rest of the country, which has a Mediterranean climate, the island is subtropical, and its flora and fauna reflect this: from seven species of amphibians living here three are rare species, while 13 from 15 species of reptiles (including one of the most dangerous snakes in Eastern Europe, Vipera ammodytes) are rare too. The island and its surrounding waters are a National Marine Park. Local officials hope the island will attract researchers and are confident that giving the public access to the site will also boost tourism in the area.
“No doubt Sazan Island is a tourist attraction due to its position,” said Defense Minister Mimi Kodheli during a press conference when the announcement was made public, adding that the opening represents great relief for local tourism.
“What once was an isolated, unreached spot, a mystery to almost all Albanians but a few then-communist leaders, may now turn into an attractive place, especially for foreign tourists,” said Auron Tare the General Director of the Albanian National Coastal Agency.
Defense Minister Mimi Kodheli also underlined that the safety of the Albanian coast is a priority for the local government and that Sazan Island is safe to visit.