Destination: Albania

Albania, a state covering about 30,000km2, borders Montenegro to the northwest, Kosovo to the northeast, North Macedonia to the east, and Greece to the south. Tirana is the capital and Albanian the official language. Albania also has several ethnic and linguistic minorities, such as Modern Greek, Macedonian, and Serbian. Knowledge and mastery of English and Italian are also widespread.

In recent years, the country is becoming an increasingly popular destination for tourists because of the historical, cultural and natural beauty it offers. Breathtaking maritime and mountainous landscapes, historical relics of all kinds “thanks” to the many invasions and influences it has undergone, and last but not least, the culture, hospitality and heart of the Albanian people.

Ohrid lake in Albania

History

The Albanian people became a parliamentary republic only recently, in 1998 to be precise, after being invaded and occupied by peoples such as Romans, Byzantines, Greeks, Barbarians, Ottoman Turks etc.

On November 28, 1912, it declared its independence from the Turks and in 1913, the first provisional government was born in the midst of the Balkan wars, the Kingdom of Albania. Unfortunately, it lasted very short because, only 26 years later, in 1939 it was occupied again and annexed to the Kingdom of Italy and finally, from 1944 to 1990 it lived under communist rule.

Between 1478 and 1912 migration flows to Italy, especially the south-central area, increased dramatically.

A noteworthy detail for which it will be remembered and praised is that it was the only country that did not hand over a single Jew to the Nazi-Fascist forces; because of this, it will become a destination for large escapes of Jews from all over Europe.

In 2009, Albania joined NATO and five years later officially became an EU candidate.

 

Territory

The total area of the country is 28,748 km².

Albania’s territory is for a small part flat (the coast) and mostly hilly and mountainous. The highest peak is Mount Korab (2764m) from which the “serpentine” mountain range of the same name also starts.

Its coasts are washed by the Adriatic Sea and the Ionian Sea, the same seas that also bathe Puglia: in fact, the two territories are only 72 km apart and are separated by the Otranto Channel. A low coastal strip extends from the northern border southward to the Vlora area.

Albania’s most important rivers are the Drin (282 km), the Voiussa, the Seman, and the Skumbin, and its main lakes are 3: that of Shkodra, that of ‘Ocrida, and those of Prespa (Large and Small).

 

Climate 

Albania has a large number of climatic regions despite its modest surface area: the coastal regions have a typical Mediterranean climate, while the mountainous regions have a continental climate. The temperature varies significantly from north to south. The lowlands are characterized by mild winters with temperatures as low as 10° and summers as high as 34° with plenty of fluctuation between low and high humidity.



Local cuisine and typical products 

Albania offers, within its gastronomy, typically Mediterranean products: the use and cultivation of olive oil, fruits, and herbs make Albanian cuisine very close to that of Italy (given also the short distance separating the two territories).

We can define three typically regional cuisines:

  • Northern offers a rural cuisine and makes use of the ingredients that grow in those areas such as potatoes, corn, beans, but also cherries and dried fruits;
  • Central which has predominantly Mediterranean characteristics;
  • Southern which makes use of agricultural and livestock products especially dairy and citrus fruits.

Onions are the most produced, used and consumed ingredient within the recipes of Albanian gastronomy. Fresh fish is eaten in abundance by the sea.

The most typically Albanian savory and sweet dishes are an amalgamation of all the influences that have characterized its long and rich history. We mention: the Japrak (vine leaves stuffed with vegetables, beef and onions) accompanied by Tarator, a sauce or soup made of yoghurt and cucumber; the Tavë Kosi, a dish of baked lamb and rice, served with a yogurt sauce is loved throughout the country. We then have Gullasch, Pite, and Baklava.

A fundamental custom associated with Albanian gastronomy is that of BESA, or the hospitality of the inhabitants. It is, in fact, not an unusual practice that while visiting the villages in the area in question, one is invited to eat at the tables of the local natives: this fine practice is very much felt throughout Albania.



Places and attractions to visit

Considering that, Albania has only recently opened its doors the tourist industry is galloping to make up for all the years lost. Moreover, indeed the beautiful things to see and absolutely not to miss are many.

Albania has several sites that are World Heritage and UNESCO World Heritage Sites such as Butrint “The Museum City,” Argirocastrao “The City of Stone,” and Berat “The City of a Thousand and One Overlapping Windows.”

With beautiful mountainous landscapes and 15 inviting National Parks, Albania is a great destination for nature lovers, trekking and cycling. But also for those who love art, culture, good food and lively nightlife there is much to visit, such as the many important tourist cities: Croia, Vlora, Durres, Tirana, Shkodra, Alexei, Gjirokastra, Berat, Saranda–one by one worth visiting.

Port of Saranda

Our Tours in Albania

Albania, amid fascinating culture and enchanting nature

a 10 day cycling holiday
Cycling Tour
Albania by bike: a challenging but wonderful bicycle tour filled with huge snow-capped mountains, inviting beaches, pretty rural villages, a genuine subsistence culture and an exceptionally friendly welcome is what you will find here.

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