Albania Vacation, Tours, Travel Packages & Experiences
During much of the 20th century, Albania was known as just another mysterious, communist nation of the Balkans that was impenetrable to western travellers. However, since the fall of communism in 1991, Albania has slowly opened up to the world of travel. Those globetrotters lucky enough to have visited it in the past two decades have found it to be one of Southeastern Europe’s most appealing destinations. It has fascinating historical sites dating back thousands of years, sunny resorts along the coastal beaches, and mountain scenery in the interior that’s perfect for outdoor adventure.
Albania is located to the north of Greece, west of (North) Macedonia, southwest of Kosovo, and south of Montenegro. It sits on both the Ionian and Adriatic Seas, giving it an appealing coastal corridor known as the Albanian Riviera. Culturally, Albania remains very traditional compared to other European nations. People adhere to cultural rituals and codes of conduct that have fallen by the wayside in many other developed nations. However, people are accommodating and friendly to foreigners. That hospitality, combined with the country’s many historical and natural landmarks, makes it an attractive destination, one that’ll likely become a travel hotspot in the near future.
What are the best cities to visit in Albania?
Most trips to Albania centre on the capital, Tirana, which embodies the Ottoman and Soviet influences that defined the country for centuries. Skanderbeg Square is the heart of the city and is where you’ll find the National Museum of History, which traces the nation’s history from ancient times up to fall of communism and the present day. Other landmarks include Et’hem Bey Mosque, Tirana Castle, and the Presidential Palace. Due to its location between the Mediterranean Sea and the Albanian Alps, Tirana is among the sunniest and wettest cities in Europe.
Berat is another popular city. It is known as the Town of a Thousand Windows, due to the many windows of its Ottoman-style white houses. You’ll find castles, mosques, and churches throughout the city. The massive Berat Castle, which overlooks the city from the hilltop, is its most popular landmark.
Vlore is the third-largest city in the country and sits in the Albanian Riviera along the Ionian Sea. Muradie Mosque is among its historical highlights.
Historical landmarks in Albania
You’ll find historical landmarks throughout Albania. The UNESCO-listed archaeological site of Butrint is home to Ali Pasha Castle and was purportedly founded by the Trojans following the Trojan War over 3,000 years ago. Apollonia is an ancient Greek city dating back to the 7th-century BC.
What about food in Albania?
Albanian cuisine belongs in the Mediterranean tradition, which means a reliance on fatty foods, fresh fruits and vegetables, and ample quantities of wine and cheese. Olive oil is fundamental to Albanian food, as are garlic and onions. Eating together is central to social life, so don’t be surprised if locals invite you over for dinner as a show of hospitality and gratitude. Veal stew, cabbage rolls known as karma, and roast beef in fermented milks are prototypical Albanian dishes. Wine is popular in Albania, with local vintages being particularly sweet.
When is the best time to visit Albania?
Seeing as Albania has many different landscapes within its relatively-small size, the weather can vary a lot. The mountainous regions in the east are cooler than the coastal beaches in the west. June is the best month for its great Mediterranean climate and relatively lacks tourists. July and August are the peak months when travellers flock to the beaches. The country gets snow in the mountains in winter, while the coastal regions are wet and mild.
Travel within Albania
Travellers connect to Albania across one of the land borders with its Balkan neighbours or by flying into the capital, Tirana. There are no internal flights in the country, no boat transfers, and very little train travel, so the main ways to get around are by bus or car. Buses are the main form of transit and operate in most cities and towns. Minibuses known as furgons are also popular in the larger cities of Tirana, Berat, and Vlore. They’re cheaper than buses, but also less reliable. The country’s road infrastructure has improved dramatically over the past two decades, but don’t expect standards up to those in Western Europe. However, the highway between Tirana and Kosovo and the coastal road to Butrint are both in particularly good condition.
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