The Albanian authorities have opened up the island of Sazan, a derelict military base, in the hope of increasing tourism in the country.
Sazan has been off limits to civilians for over a century, and is filled with bunkers and tunnels designed to withstand a nuclear attack. In addition to its ruined buildings, Sazan has a rich natural history. Although there is only one small beach, it is home to rare birds and reptiles and is apt for activities such as hiking and diving.
In 2014, the waters around Sazan became a national marine park. The island will also become the base for the R/V Hercules, a boat that has seafloor mapping and modeling capabilities for the identification of submerged cultural material sites such as shipwrecks. The boat has already discovered two submerged Roman ships in Albanian waters.
“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, of Albania’s National Coastal Agency, which has taken over responsibility for the management of the island from the military.
Tourism currently accounts for 4.8% of Albania’s GDP and the government is keen for this figure to grow. Mr Tare is inviting “western ambassadors” to visit the island, with the aim of cultivating excitement about Sazan and the country’s other attractions.
Sazan is half an hour by boat from the city of Vlora on the Albanian coast, 85 miles south of the capital Tirana.