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I’ve never been anywhere as beautiful. It was almost a physical shock. A brass-knuckled punch to the gut that left me grasping for words.

After years of scouting for the world’s best-value real estate—first for International Living, and now as part of international real estate expert Ronan McMahon’s team—I’ve been to many stunning places.

Volcanic islands in the South Pacific are cool. I love old stone villages in Spain’s Pyrenees. I will not forget my first sight of Vietnam’s beaches…or sipping lattes in Borneo…or walking Tulum’s white sands down into the Sian Ka’an Biosphere…

But a recent trip to the most developed beach town on Europe’s hidden Riviera—75 miles of stunning Mediterranean coast—is now my answer to the question, “where’s the most beautiful place you’ve ever been?”

A hikers’ paradise, mountains crown this corner of Europe, and run right down to sparsely developed Mediterranean beaches. This place is almost undiscovered. I say “almost” because, although things are very ground floor and early days, I found significant signs this Riviera is being discovered.

Tourism is increasing year-on-year. It was growing at 12% annually pre-COVID. Skyscanner saw a 48% increase in flight bookings here for 2022 compared to 2019. And now this Riviera is the “hush hush” trendy destination for a European beach vacation with a difference.

The travel press are calling it southern Europe’s hottest destination. Where is it?

It’s in tiny Albania—a country that, by the way, loves Americans. I mean really loves Americans. People name their pets after U.S. presidents. Some folks fly the Stars and Stripes in their gardens. I’d heard that before I went, and I can confirm it as I saw the American flag proudly hoisted in several villages. U.S. citizens can stay in this little European country for a year without a visa and getting one after that seems pretty straightforward.

Sandwiched between Greece and Italy, farther down the coast from Montenegro, this is a stunningly beautiful country that was cut off from the world for decades by a communist dictatorship.

The regime collapsed in the 1990s and the country plunged into anarchy amid a giant web of Ponzi schemes that saw many citizens lose all their savings. The army simply dissolved, gangs ran amok. Ordinary people armed themselves or fled the country—thousands left to find work in Italy, England, and Germany.

From that chaos, a more stable Albania has now quietly emerged. One that’s been using World Bank money to pay for ambitious infrastructure projects that could open up the country and the Albanian Riviera to mass tourism.