Albania is a small, mountainous country in the Mediterranean that is bordered by Montenegro, Kosova, Macedonia, and Greece. It is actually called Shqipëria, which means “land of the eagles” by its people, instead of Albania as most people know it. It has a very long and interesting history, beautiful landscapes, and is rich in culture. I highly recommend you put this little country firmly on your list of “places to see” and then see it sooner than later…before everyone else discovers it.
For four decades Albania was under the rule of Communist leader Enver Hoxha and was characterized by isolation, poverty, and, most of all, paranoia. Thankfully since the early 1990’s that has changed and it is now building itself back up and has opened its doors to visitors from all over the world.
If you are from one of the following countries, please visit these links for information about visa requirements, passport validity and other entry requirements, health and vaccinations, safety and security, laws and culture, and assistance from embassies.
OUR TRIP TO ALBANIA
In May 2015 we joined Cosmos Tours for their Mystical Albania tour and it was awesome!
As visitors to Albania we were treated to stunning scenery from mountains (lots and lots of mountains), rivers, lakes, and then scenic coastal drives along the Adriatic and Ionian seas with their sandy or pebbled beaches. Along with all this beautiful scenery we visited historic Ottoman-Era towns, like Berat and Gjirokastra, and modern cities like Tirana and Durres. There are Byzantine churches alongside Muslim mosques, and then monasteries to explore. We visited natural wonders, like the Blue Eye, which is a water spring that bubbles up from more than 50 meters below as the source of the Bistricë river. We then learned about Albania’s more recent history of the people’s life under communism and all those bunkers. Then, the icing on the cake, we visited ancient Greek and Roman ruins and two UNESCO World Heritage sites.
At the end of each day we relaxed in some nice hotels, some with stunning views, and tried each and every new Albania dish we were offered. Delicious!
All in all it was an amazing week visiting a little country, that although not very well known yet, is one I’d encourage everyone to add to their travel list. I don’t think you’d be disappointed.
To see more of what Albania has to offer please feel free to read through my posts about our trip through Albania.
- My trip summary post is a day-by-day overview of our whole trip with lots of photos to give a preview of Albania.
- A little taste of some of the things we learned about Albania that played a part in why we chose to visit, and why we enjoyed it so much while we were there.
- Historical and charming Kruja was a great start to our trip and offered us a spectacular sunset.
- On our way from Kruja to Vlora we stopped to visit an Orthodox monastery with tons of history, a beautiful rose garden, and a view over the valley below.
- Another stop on our way to Vlora was a guided tour of the Greek ruins of Apollonia.
- Our drive from Vlora to Saranda was the most scenic of the trip as we wound our way up through the Llogara Pass, down the mountain around hairpin turns, and along the coast.
- In Porto Palermo we stopped to visit a castle on the coast with great views and a much debated and intriguing history.
- For a great evening stroll, the beach city of Saranda is the place to stop for a night or two.
- Visiting the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Butrint was my favourite stop on the trip.
- Skipping rocks and enjoying the beautiful colours of the Blue Eye are must dos on any trip to Albania.
- Gjirokastra is full of history, Ottoman style, and it’s UNESCO too!
- High above the city of Berat we spent an afternoon visiting a 13th century castle.
- A modern port city, Durres still has some history to take in with its Roman forum and amphitheatre.
- And finally our last stop on our trip, the capital city of Tirana is full of colour and energy and I tell you about five must-see sights to visit when you’re in the city.
TRIP PLANNING RESOURCES
UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE IN ALBANIA
Sites marked with ✓ are sites we visited.