In the vast hinterlands of Ulcinj’s famous Long Beach (at least with the party crowds of the Balkans), lies a unique habitat of shallow waters, collapsing channels, and muddy basins.
Stretching across 1.500 hectares, more than 250 different species of birds (including flamingos, Dalmatian pelicans, and sea hawks) use the area of this former saline for breeding, feeding, and wintering, crowning it as one of the most important bird sites in the Adriatic. No less than 20 endangered species find sanctuary amidst the reeds, accompanied by the presence of Albanian water frogs, European pond turtles, and the European otter.
Moreover, it serves as one of the main stopovers for birds migrating between Europe and the African continent.
Along muddy canals, dandelion-covered dams, and dried up salt pans, a single asphalt road leads deep into the heart of this biodiverse land, before it is recommended to abandon your bike (you will find a wooden bicycle rack there) and continue your avian adventures on foot.
It is possible to walk around the entire lake if you wish to do so.
Be warned that you might have to follow the dirt path, running along the shores of the lake, for quite some time before spotting birds in the promised abundance (I saw more sheep grazing than birds fly, still beautiful though!).
Whether you witness the winged stars of the show or not, a stroll along the reed-covered banks of the nature reserve is highly recommended simply for the natural beauty and tranquillity alone!
URBAN EXPLORING IN THE SALINA
For the curious excursionists among us, the Salina is a perfect place for some urban exploring, as well.
Constructed almost a century ago, the saline, once one of the largest in the Mediterranean, provided hundreds of jobs and produced 60% of Yugoslavia’s salt consumption.
When production ceased in 2013, the industrial complex at the edge of the salt pans was abandoned and fell into disrepair. Warehouses, workshops, and administrative buildings have been in a state of decay for nearly a decade now, and nature is slowly claiming back her territory.
Since the complex is quite extensive, you can easily spend an hour (or even more) wandering between these crumbling remains of the salt industry.
Who knows what you might discover amidst the debris.
HOW TO GET THERE FROM ULCINJ
From the city centre take Bulevardi Nëna Terezë towards the east until you reach the M1 highway. At the roundabout opt for the exit that leads towards Shkodër, Albania. After roughly 500 metres, you will spot a brown sign pointing you towards “Ulcinj Salina”. Simply follow the road all the way to the end.
I highly recommend renting a bike for this excursion, as it is the single best option to reach the Salina and move around once you are there.
Upon arriving, a guard will ask for an ID before letting you on the premise of the nature reserve, so make sure to bring one!
Furthermore, visiting the Salina is completely free.