Butrint also deserves its place on the UNESCO list. The indelible traces of the Greeks and Romans emerge in the old arena, basilica and baths. This abandoned city is strikingly set on its own peninsula with a web of walking trails winding around the ruins and the shady trees. Meandering around the herb-laden forests with water shimmering all around you is a sublime experience.

Albania may soon boast an impressive third UNESCO site. The town of Berati is slated for a place in August. This urban timewarp, with its houses stacked up the hillside, is topped off with a sprawling castle complex. Like many Albanian historical sites this is no museum piece and today hundreds of people still live within the sturdy old fortifications.

Albania is already popular with sun seekers from neighbouring Macedonia and Kosovo. The main coastal resorts of Saranda, Durres and Vlora are a bit overdeveloped, but between Saranda and Vlora there are much better beaches and isolated spots where you can find your own slice of sand. Dotted along the sands are concrete bunkers that were meant to help repel the long anticipated invasion during the Cold War.

Just a half hour drive from the capital of Tirana is Durres. It may be a busy beach resort, but its Roman arena, port city buzz and socialist-era monuments are the real attractions. Durres is a seductive place with a serious dash of languorous Mediterranean living, the sort of city in which you linger around in cafés all day before enjoying an evening promenade as the sun slips down over the sea.

Away from the coast, voluminous mountains rise all around. While some areas have marked trails, much of the time you are left to your own devices in a wildscape of striking ridges and lofty peaks, a world where man definitely plays second fiddle to nature, and bears and wolves still roam wild.

Adventure tourism in Albania is still in its infancy, but mountain biking on old tracks through the mountains has developed a cult following in recent years. It may not be long before adrenaline junkies are heading here too for the skiing, climbing, spelunking (caving), paragliding and kayaking in one of Europe’s least explored corners.

What organised activities there are tend to be run in the national parks of Mali Dajtit, Lura, Thethi and Llogara. Llogara is typical of what Albania offers – rugged mountains all around. At first they look impregnable, but head through the lower wildflower strewn meadows and soon cracks appear in the crags, leading all the way up to chunky ridges.

Albania’s mountains dwarf anything that you find in the British Isles and on top of the higher peaks the entire country seems to open up, with the Adriatic Sea drifting off towards Italy in one direction and the Ionian Sea to Greece in the other. Like many experiences here, hiking in Albania makes you feel like a real pioneer discovering a part of Europe that was shut off to visitors until all too recently.