Located across the Adriatic Sea from Italy, north of Greece, west of Kosovo and Macedonia and south of Montenegro, Albania is definitely an experience like no other. This tiny country offers a remarkable array of unique attractions, including the thriving capital of Tirana, sun-drenched beaches to rival any other in the Mediterranean, a stunning mountain landscape, forgotten archaeological sites and villages where time seems to have stood still. An additional bonus is the never-ending supply of fresh produce that fills the markets and roadside fruit and vegetable stalls.
Albania, bordering the northwestern corner of Greece, is often overlooked when it comes to ancient Greece remains and unlikely place to contain such a vast body of archaeological finds. However, this is far from being accurate: Albania was important to ancient Greece as the region where many successful colonies flourished. Today archaeologists excavate the country's prehistoric, classical, and later sites. The discovery that most directly relates to the period of the Greek colonies is that of a temple that may indicate the actual location of Epidamnus, which is today Albania's second largest city, Durres. Next to this, Albania also contains remains from other periods, from the Paleolithic to the Byzantine. As these recent finds tell us, Albania is not a backwater but an archaeological hotspot.
The castles dotted around Albania’s landscape tell of Albania's long and eventful past. You find them everywhere: atop hills, along the Adriatic coast, or even in the middle of the fields. Some have been turned into museums, cafés and restaurants, while others simply rest on the grassy areas where sheep graze. The most well-known castles are Rozafa, Lezha, Gjirokastra, Butrinti, Porto Palermo, Kruja, Petrela and Kanina… But don’t worry: whichever castle you visit, you will be taken back in time, into some of the most magnificent periods of Albania’s history.
Once upon a time, more precisely from the end of WWII until his death in 1085, the slightly paranoid dictator Enver Hoxha lived in Albania. Considered one of the most isolationist Stalinists, his paranoia at being invaded by neighboring countries led him to build a defense system of over 750,000 concrete bunkers strategically located throughout the country. Today, many of them still dot the shores and hillsides, city blocks and even the front yards of private houses as a reminder of Albania's communist past. They come in different shapes, colours and sizes and many of them have even been converted into hotels, beverage stands or even burger restaurants?shops. Pretty amazing don’t you think?
Albania is the place to go for brilliant smiles. Although it might appear strange, the dental industry here is thriving. Dental clinics can be found on every street corner in every town and settlement. And if you take a look, you will see that from young to old, the majority of Albanians have perfect teeth, which proves our point. So if you are in search of high-quality and affordable dentistry, combine your visit to Albania with a visit to one of the dental clinics.
Tirana is the heart of Albania. After awakening from its communist slumber in the early 1990s, the capital became a fusion of Italian, communist and post-modern architectural styles, boasting trendy bars and cafés, chic boutiques, grand boulevards and fascinating relics of the past. There’s plenty to keep you occupied on the southbound stretch from Skanderbeg Square to the Grand Park, which narrowly bypasses the trendy Blloku district on the way. Apart from that, Tirana is one of the best shopping destinations in the region.
If you’re in search of endless pebble or sandy beaches, tasty food, friendly people, reasonable prices and great weather, then the Albanian Riviera is the place to go. It covers the area of Southern Albania, stretching to the boarder with Greece, and boasts spectacular scenery and beaches, including Ksamil, Himara, Borshi, Dhermi or Lukova, and UNESCO listed towns brimming with Greek, Illyrian, Ottoman, and Albanian history.
Located on the Osum River in the heart of one of the Albania’s wine-making regions, the charming UNESCO listed town of Berat is a must-visit spot for all history and culture enthusiasts. Its most striking feature are white Ottoman houses climbing up the hill to the castle, which is why it is often referred to as the town of a thousand windows. Apart from that, there is also the ancient Berat Castle, one of the city's most well-known attractions.
The hilltop medieval town of Kruja, located northwest of Tirana, is the hometown of Skanderbeg, Albania's national hero, who defended the town from the Ottomans until his death. Alhough this was over 500 years ago, his likeness can still be seen all over the town. You’ll find his statue there and numerous other reminders, including a massive Skanderber Museum that juts out of the ancient Kruja Castle. Must-visit sites include the ethnographic museum, which is also located inside Kruja Castle, and the traditional bazaar, which you can visit on your way up to the castle. It is a medieval-type bazaar with traditional handicrafts such as filigree, alabaster, silver, copper, wooden objects, woolen carpets etc. Its most striking feature is that all the shops are made of wood.
The hillside town of Gjirokastra is one of Albania’s most attractive towns, located in southern Albania. Defined by its castle, chunky?? limestone and shale roads, the collection of mainly nineteenth-century slate roofed Ottoman houses, an imposing citadel and magnificent views of the Drina Valley, Gjirokastra is also the birthplace of the former dictator, Enver Hoxha, who built the impressive system of defensive bunkers. At the same time, Gjirokastra is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as it is an outstanding example of an Ottoman merchant town and one of the few still surviving in the Balkans.
There is nothing that can take the sunshine, the sea, the sandy beaches away, nor the ancient culture, the monuments they have built the warmth of greek people. Not even the financial crisis.
The pocket-size country contains two faces, the mediterranean and the mountanious, one next to another. Famous for the breathtaking scenery, proud inhabitants who are also the tallest in Europe and more and more luxorious resorts.