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Are you wondering if Albania is worth visiting? I used to live in this beautiful country for three months, and I quickly realized that Albania is one of the most underrated countries I’ve ever visited. Albania has so much to offer that I can’t help but spread the word and convince others to go there as well!
From the moment I arrived, I was captivated by the stunning landscapes and warm hospitality of the Albanian people. Then there’s the unique blend of old-world charm and modernity, and each city, no matter how small, is buzzing with life.
But that’s just a few reasons why I fell in love with Albania, or as the locals call it, ‘Shqipëria’. Let me give you a few more reasons why I think Albania should be your next travel destination!
1) Relax at the Beautiful Beaches along the Albanian Riviera
When you visit Albania, you will be amazed by the incredible coastline that stretches along the Ionian Sea. The Albanian Riviera is a hidden gem, with picturesque beaches rivaling some of Europe’s most famous beach destinations.
The beaches along the Albanian Riviera are incredibly diverse, catering to all types of beachgoers. Whether you prefer secluded coves or lively beach clubs, there is something for everyone in Albania. The crystal-clear turquoise waters invite you to take a refreshing dip, while the soft white sand beckons you to relax and soak up the sun.
One of the highlights of visiting these beaches is their unspoiled nature. Unlike other popular beach destinations in Europe, many of these beaches remain untouched and undeveloped. This gives them an authentic and natural feel that is truly unique.
Some must-visit beaches along the Albanian Riviera are Ksamil Beach, Dhërmi Beach, and my favorite: Gjipe Beach. In the latter, you can combine sunbathing at one of Albania’s most beautiful beaches, enjoying seafood in one of the restaurants there, and even hiking through the nearby Gjipe Canyon.
As you explore the Albanian Riviera, you will also come across charming coastal towns that add even more character to your beach experience. From Vlore to Saranda and Dhermi and Himara in between, each town has its distinct vibe. Personally, I can say that the road trip along the Albanian Riviera was one of my absolute favorite parts of my trip through the Balkans!
2) Get Lost in Stunning Mountain Ranges like the Albanian Alps
Albania is a country filled with natural beauty, from its rugged coastline to its stunning mountain ranges. One of the most spectacular of these ranges is the Albanian Alps, located in the east of the country and extending over an area of 1,000 square kilometers. The highest peak is Korab at 2,764 meters above sea level.
If you love hiking, then this is the place to go, with trails that range from easy walks along lakeside paths to more challenging trekking routes that take several days to explore remote peaks or meadows full of wildflowers. Along the way, you will find mountain huts where you can rest for the night or enjoy local specialties prepared by friendly villagers.
The scenery in this region changes dramatically throughout the year making it worth visiting at any time but especially during autumn when much of the countryside takes on a golden hue due to its deciduous trees turning yellow and red before shedding their leaves completely. And in wintertime snow blankets much of the terrain giving it an almost magical feel while providing ideal conditions for skiing or snowshoeing through this pristine wilderness landscape.
No matter what time you visit Albania’s alpine regions there are plenty of opportunities to get lost among breathtaking views!
3) Embark on a Journey Through Albania’s Rich History
Albania is a country with a captivating history that dates back thousands of years, offering you a remarkable journey through time. Exploring its rich historical heritage is an experience that allows you to unravel the layers of Albania’s past and understand the influences that have shaped its culture and identity.
From ancient civilizations to Ottoman rule and communist-era struggles, Albania’s history is a tapestry of diverse narratives. Each era has left its mark on the country, leaving behind an array of archaeological sites, castles, and historic towns that tell stories of triumphs, hardships, and resilience.
As you delve into Albania’s history, you’ll come across ancient archaeological sites like Butrint. This UNESCO World Heritage Site boasts ruins from various civilizations, including the Greeks, Romans, and Byzantines. Walking among the ancient theaters, temples, and fortifications, you can’t help but feel a sense of awe at the layers of history that have unfolded here.
Beyond the architectural wonders, Albania’s history is embedded in its traditions, folklore, and cultural practices. Engaging with the locals and immersing yourself in their customs offers a unique perspective on the country’s past and its connection to the present.
As you embark on a journey through Albania’s rich history, you will also gain a deeper understanding of the country’s resilience and spirit. It is a testament to the enduring legacy of its people and their ability to overcome challenges while preserving their unique cultural identity.
4) Marvel at the Architectural Gems of Ottoman Influence
Albania’s rich history is beautifully reflected in its architectural gems, particularly those influenced by the Ottoman Empire. These stunning structures provide a glimpse into a bygone era and showcase the country’s unique blend of cultures and traditions.
One such architectural masterpiece is the Mosque of Et’hem Bey in Tirana, the capital city of Albania. Built during the late 18th century, this mosque stands as a symbol of religious harmony and peaceful coexistence. Its intricate design features colorful frescoes and delicate calligraphy, creating a serene atmosphere for prayer and contemplation.
Another notable landmark is the Clock Tower of Tirana, located in Skanderbeg Square. Standing tall at over 35 meters, this elegant tower was constructed in 1822 during Ottoman rule. Its distinctive design combines elements of Islamic and European architecture, making it a fascinating symbol of cultural fusion.
In addition to these iconic structures, you will find numerous Ottoman-era houses scattered throughout Albania. These traditional dwellings offer an intimate glimpse into daily life during that period. With their characteristic wooden balconies and ornate details, these houses exude charm and elegance.
Venturing outside of Tirana, you will discover other architectural gems like Gjirokastër Castle. This impressive fortress dates back to the 12th century but underwent significant renovations under Ottoman rule. Today, it stands as a UNESCO World Heritage Site with its imposing towers and stone walls that tell tales of centuries past.
Exploring these architectural wonders allows you to appreciate not only their aesthetic beauty but also their historical significance. Each structure holds stories that speak to Albania’s complex past and its enduring cultural heritage.
5) Experience the Genuine Hospitality of Albanians
One of the most compelling reasons to visit Albania is the warm and genuine hospitality of its people. From the moment you arrive, you will be greeted with open arms and made to feel like a part of the community. Albanians are known for their friendliness, generosity, and willingness to go above and beyond to ensure that you have an unforgettable experience.
The genuine kindness and warmth of Albanians can be felt in every interaction. Whether you are exploring a bustling city or a quiet village, locals will welcome you with a smile and offer their assistance whenever needed. They are proud to share their culture, traditions, and stories, creating an authentic connection that goes beyond surface-level tourism.
Hospitality plays a central role in Albanian culture, where guests are considered a blessing. It is not uncommon for locals to invite strangers into their homes for traditional meals or celebrations. This provides a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in local customs and gain insight into daily life in Albania.
Albanians also take great pride in showcasing their country’s natural beauty to their visitors. Whether it’s recommending hidden gems off the beaten path or offering guidance on the best places to eat or explore, locals are eager to share their knowledge and ensure that you have an enriching experience.
6) Wander Through UNESCO World Heritage Sites like Gjirokastër and Berat
Albania is a treasure trove of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, with two standout destinations being Gjirokastër and Berat. These historic towns offer a glimpse into Albania’s rich cultural heritage and architectural marvels.
Gjirokastër, also known as the “City of Stone,” is a beautifully preserved Ottoman-era town that transports you back in time. Its cobblestone streets wind through a maze of stone houses, each adorned with unique architecture and intricate woodwork. The highlight of Gjirokastër is its imposing fortress, which dominates the hilltop overlooking the town. Dating back to the 12th century, this fortress provides panoramic views of the surrounding landscape. As you explore its ancient walls and towers, you can almost envision the battles that once took place here.
Berat, often referred to as “The City of a Thousand Windows,” is another architectural gem that captivates you with its stunning beauty. Nestled among rolling hills, Berat boasts a well-preserved medieval old town filled with white-washed houses cascading down the slopes. The most iconic feature of Berat is its series of picturesque Ottoman-era houses lining the steep cobblestone streets.
Both Gjirokastër and Berat provide an opportunity to delve into Albania’s past and uncover stories hidden within their walls. Walking through these UNESCO World Heritage Sites allows you to immerse yourself in centuries-old traditions and witness firsthand how history has shaped Albanian culture.
7) Discover More, Spend Less
Albania offers endless opportunities to explore the country’s natural beauty and its historical sites, and the best thing is: doing so is surprisingly affordable! If you are seeking to discover more and spend less, this hidden gem of the Balkans is the place to go to make the most of your budget.
One of the key advantages of visiting Albania is the affordability of accommodation. From luxurious hotels to cozy guesthouses and budget-friendly hostels, there are options available for every type of traveler. Even in popular tourist areas such as the Albanian Riviera or mountain towns like Theth and Valbona, you can find reasonably priced accommodations without compromising on comfort or quality.
Transportation within Albania is also remarkably affordable. Whether you choose to rent a car, take public buses or minibusses known as “furgons,” or even hire a private driver, getting around the country won’t break the bank. The well-connected road network makes it easy to navigate between cities and regions, allowing you to explore multiple destinations without spending a fortune on transportation expenses.
When it comes to dining out, Albania offers excellent value for money. Local restaurants serve delicious traditional dishes at affordable prices, allowing you to indulge in authentic Albanian cuisine without straining your budget. Fresh seafood from coastal areas and hearty mountain specialties are among the highlights worth savoring during your visit.
And last but not least, admission fees for attractions and historical sites in Albania tend to be quite reasonable compared to other European countries. From ancient archaeological sites like Butrint or Apollonia to stunning castles such as Berat Castle or Rozafa Castle in Shkodra, exploring Albania’s rich history won’t cost you a small fortune!
8) Dive into the Vibrant Capital City, Tirana
Tirana is the captivating capital city of Albania with a unique blend of history, culture, and modernity. The city has undergone significant transformations over the years, from Ottoman rule to communist-era struggles. This diverse history is reflected in its architecture, with charming Ottoman-era buildings coexisting alongside modern structures. As you wander through the streets of Tirana, you can’t help but be captivated by the contrast between old and new.
The heart of Tirana lies in Skanderbeg Square, a bustling hub that serves as a meeting point for locals and tourists alike. Here, you can marvel at the iconic Clock Tower and absorb the lively atmosphere as people go about their daily lives. Nearby, you will find important landmarks such as Et’hem Bey Mosque and National Historical Museum which provide fascinating insights into Albania’s past.
Tirana also boasts an array of cultural attractions that showcase its artistic spirit. The Pyramid of Tirana stands as a symbol of post-communist architecture and now serves as an exhibition space for contemporary art. The National Art Gallery houses an impressive collection of Albanian artwork spanning different periods.
The city is also home to numerous restaurants serving traditional Albanian cuisine alongside international flavors. From cozy local taverns known as “qebaptore” where you can savor mouthwatering grilled meats to trendy cafes offering specialty coffees and pastries, there is something to satisfy every palate.
Beyond its historical and cultural offerings, Tirana embraces green spaces that provide respite from the urban bustle. The Grand Park, with its lush gardens and tranquil lake, offers a peaceful retreat where you can enjoy a stroll or a picnic. The artificial lake of Tirana is another popular spot for locals and visitors alike, offering opportunities for boating or simply enjoying scenic views.
But there’s much more to learn about Tirana and why it is one of the most unique capital cities in Europe. I invite you to read Ania’s guest post “Tirana – Between Bunkers and Pyramids” where she delves deeper into what it is that makes Tirana so special!
9) Indulge in Albania’s Delicious Cuisine
One cannot truly experience Albania without indulging in its delicious cuisine. Albanian cuisine is a true reflection of the country’s rich cultural heritage, blending flavors and influences from various civilizations that have shaped its history. From hearty mountain dishes to fresh seafood along the coastline, there is something for everyone.
In the mountainous regions of Albania, traditional dishes are known for their simplicity and use of local ingredients. One such dish is “Tavë Kosi,” a mouthwatering baked lamb and yogurt casserole. The tender lamb is marinated with garlic and oregano, then baked with creamy yogurt. Another must-try dish is “Flija,” a layered pancake made from thin layers of batter cooked over an open fire. It is often served with honey or yogurt, creating a delightful combination of sweet and savory flavors.
Along the Albanian Riviera, seafood takes center stage. Freshly caught fish and shellfish are prepared in a variety of ways to showcase their natural flavors. Grilled octopus marinated in lemon juice and olive oil should not be missed. “Gjelle me Arra” is another coastal specialty, a flavorful stew made with mussels, almonds, tomatoes, and aromatic herbs that will transport you straight to the seaside.
No visit to Albania would be complete without trying some traditional desserts. “Baklava” is a popular treat made from layers of filo pastry filled with chopped nuts and sweetened with honey or syrup. And for something lighter but equally satisfying, “Sheqerpare” are delicate butter cookies soaked in sugar syrup—they simply melt in your mouth.
To accompany these delectable dishes, don’t forget to sample some of Albania’s famous beverages. Raki, a strong fruit brandy, is a traditional Albanian spirit that is often enjoyed before or after a meal. And the country’s rich agricultural heritage also means that fresh and flavorful local wines are abundant. From crisp whites to robust reds, there is a wine to suit every taste!
10) Experience the Unique Blend of Eastern and Western Influences
Albania, also known as Shqipëria, offers a truly unique blend of Eastern and Western influences that sets it apart from other destinations in Europe. This fascinating fusion can be seen in various aspects of Albanian culture, from its architecture to its cuisine, creating an enchanting experience for visitors.
One of the most striking examples of this blend is found in the country’s architectural gems. Albania’s rich history is beautifully reflected in structures influenced by both the Ottoman Empire and European styles. These buildings showcase intricate designs, vibrant colors, and delicate calligraphy that create a captivating atmosphere. The Mosque of Et’hem Bey in Tirana stands as a symbol of religious harmony with its blend of Islamic and European elements. Similarly, Gjirokastër Castle combines Byzantine and Ottoman architectural features to tell tales of centuries past.
The unique cultural fusion can also be experienced through Albanian cuisine. Influenced by Mediterranean flavors and Turkish culinary traditions, Albanian dishes offer a mix of flavors and ingredients. From hearty mountain specialties to fresh seafood delicacies along the coast, every bite provides a taste sensation that reflects Albania’s diverse cultural heritage.
In addition to architecture and food, Albania’s music and dance traditions also showcase the country’s unique blend of influences. Traditional folk dances such as valle are performed with lively rhythms that combine elements from both Eastern and Western cultures. These performances provide a glimpse into the cultural tapestry that has shaped Albania throughout its history.
So whether you’re admiring the architectural wonders or savoring traditional dishes, each experience offers an opportunity to appreciate the harmonious coexistence between different cultures within Albania!
11) Unleash Your Adventurous Spirit
Albania is a haven for adventure enthusiasts, offering plenty of outdoor activities that are sure to satisfy your adventurous spirit. From thrilling hikes in the rugged mountains to exhilarating water sports along the coastline, there is no shortage of adrenaline-pumping experiences to be had.
If you’re seeking an adrenaline rush, hiking in Albania’s stunning mountain ranges is a must-do. The Albanian Alps provide the perfect backdrop for challenging treks and rewarding climbs. With trails that cater to all levels of experience, from beginners to seasoned hikers, you can explore remote peaks and meadows brimming with wildflowers. Along the way, you’ll encounter breathtaking views and have the opportunity to interact with friendly locals at mountain huts.
If you prefer water-based adventures, Albania’s coastline offers an array of thrilling activities. Scuba diving enthusiasts will be captivated by the underwater wonders found along the Albanian Riviera. Here you can dive into crystal-clear turquoise waters teeming with marine life and explore hidden caves and shipwrecks beneath the surface.
Water sports such as kayaking and paddleboarding are also popular options for those looking for excitement on the waves. Get ready to glide along the calm waters of picturesque lakes or challenge yourself with exhilarating sea kayaking adventures along the coastlines.
Thrill-seekers can also take advantage of Albania’s diverse landscapes by engaging in rock climbing or paragliding. The country’s craggy cliffs and soaring mountains offer ideal conditions for these heart-pounding activities, allowing you to soar through the sky or conquer challenging ascents while surrounded by awe-inspiring natural beauty.
12) Embrace Albania’s Unspoiled Beauty and Authenticity
Beyond its stunning beaches and majestic mountains, Albania offers a captivating sense of unspoiled beauty and authenticity that sets it apart from other destinations. From the moment you arrive, you’ll feel the country’s unique charm and the genuine warmth of its people. It’s a place where you can escape the crowds and immerse yourself in an untouched world that feels refreshingly genuine.
Albania’s unspoiled beauty extends far beyond its natural landscapes. While the Albanian Riviera and the Albanian Alps showcase the country’s remarkable nature, it’s the authentic experiences and genuine encounters that truly leave a lasting impression. As you explore Albania, you’ll discover a place where tradition and modernity coexist in perfect harmony.
It’s this authenticity that permeates every aspect of Albanian life, from the charming coastal towns with their colorful houses and local markets to the ancient archaeological sites that whisper tales of civilizations past. Albania’s history and culture are woven into the fabric of everyday life, allowing you to connect with a living heritage that feels both tangible and meaningful.
Unlike heavily tourist-laden destinations, Albania’s authenticity shines through in its unspoiled landscapes, charming towns, and genuine interactions. You’ll witness a country that has preserved its cultural identity and natural treasures, allowing you to embrace a way of life that feels untouched by mass tourism.
So, is Albania worth visiting? Absolutely! With its breathtaking natural beauty, rich history and cultural heritage, and unspoiled authenticity, Albania offers a truly unique travel experience. Not to mention, it’s also affordable!
Albania is a hidden gem which gained more and more popularity over the past few years. And as with most destinations, the more tourists come, the less authentic traveling to Albania may become in the future. Therefore my advice: go to Albania better sooner than later!
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