Travel Albania – A Small Country in the Balkans

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1 AlbaniaAlbania is a small country, bordered with Montenegro (northwest), Kosovo (northeast), Greece (south and southeast) and Macedonia (east). The country is divided into three regions: Northeastern Albania (inland region to the north of the Shkumbin River), Southeastern Albania (the region to the south of the Shkumbin River) and Coastal Albania (the Albanian coast bordering the Adriatic Sea to the west and Ionian Sea to the southwest). Almost seventy percent of the country is mountainous and some areas are often inaccessible from the outside. The Korab Mountain lies in the district of Dibër and is the highest mountain in Albania.
According to the World Wide Fund for Nature and Digital Map of European Ecological Regions by the European Environment Agency, the territory of Albania can be subdivided into three eco-regions: the Illyrian deciduous forests, Pindus Mountains mixed forests and Dinaric Alpine mixed forests. The country is rich in flora and almost three thousand different species of plants grow here. Forests of black pine, fir and beech are found on the mountains and are home to bears, wolves, wildcats, polecats, wild boars, chamois and pine martens. Albania is also a paradise for birdwatchers, offering more than three hundred bird species.
The Albanian Riviera
2 Albanian RivieraThe Ionian Sea coast is often referred to as the Albanian Riviera and popular among tourists. The Albanian Riviera starts from the village of Palasa and ends in Lukove. The Riviera consists of touristic coastal villages visited by an estimated 4.2 million tourists each year. Villages with excellent beaches include Shen Vasil, Piqeras, Sasaj, Nivice, Borsh, Spille, Qeparo, Jal, Pilur, Bunec, Llaman, Potam, Palasa, Ilias and Dhermi.
On your way from Tirana to the Albanian Riviera, as well as on the Mediterranean coastal road, you may find people riding on donkeys, old ladies in black carrying loads of wood or shepherds walking with their flocks of sheep. The coastal area offers a fantastic opportunity to experience the flower decorated footpaths in the villages, to meet the hospitable locals, try the local specialties and to enjoy the stunning beauty of strips of sand and mountains. You can even camp among the olive trees or alongside the white beaches.
While you are exploring the Albanian Riviera, make sure to visit the Ksamil Islands south of Saranda, Butrint archaeological site, the Gjipe canyon near Palasa and Llogara National Park. The Llogara Pass offers beautiful pine tree forests and magnificent views of the Riviera.
Great buildings to see in this area include Shen e Premte Church in Lukove, Ruins of Himara Castle in Himara, Kroreze Monastery and Shen Gjergji Monastary in Nivice and Churches of Shen Stefani and Shen Dhimitri in the village of Dhermi.
The most popular beaches in the Albanian Riviera include Dhermi Beach, Filikuri Beach, Llamani Beach, Porto Palermo Beach, Borsh, Qeparo and Lukove Beach.
Explore the Capital of Albania – Tirana
3 TiranaTirana is a charming and vibrant city and small enough to be explored by foot. You can use the Clock Tower in Skanderberg Square as a landmark. The tower is situated in the city center and is also one of the oldest constructions in the city. One of the most beautiful mosques is the Et’hem Bey Mosque in Skanderberg Square and you may find the art-work interesting.
Do not miss the National Historic museum in Skanderberg Square. The museum may be closed on Mondays; therefore it remains advisable to phone before you go. The phone number for the museum is +355 4 222 34 46.
The Petrelë Castle is by far one of Albania’s best preserved castles and lies south of Tirana. The castle has a rich history and contains a tower which was built in the 6th century AD. It is one of the most popular tourist locations in this area and attracts many visitors.
The National Art Gallery at Bulevardi Deshmoret e Kombit boasts modern art, as well as thirteenth century pieces. The International Center of Culture (Piramida) is situated across the Twin Towers in Dëshmore ë Kombit and was built in 1987.
National Archaeological Museum of Albania is located on Sheshi Nene Tereza, and can be contacted at 222 6541. The museum is well-known for its ancient artifacts from Illyrian to Roman and Hellenic times and features amazing statues and mosaics.
The Katedralja Ortodokse e Ringjalljes se Krishtit (Resurrection of Christ Orthodox Cathedral) is located west of Skanderberg Square in Rr. Deshmoret e 4 Shkurtit. The cathedral is home to fascinating iconography and architecture.
Ensure to visit the Sky Tower Rotating Bar (Rr. Ibrahim Rugova) for a great drinking experience. You can contact the rotating bar at phone number +355 4 2221666.
For magnificent views of the city, you can challenge the Dajti Mountain by cable car. You can visit the Pellumba Cave, enjoy a picnic or visit a restaurant.
The annual Tirana International Film Festival is held in the City of Tirana at the end of November and beginning of December. The festival presents the work of Albanian artists.
Shopping in Tirana
The Myslym Shyri Street is home to an array of small shops selling food, clothes and musical instruments. You can also visit the market Tregu i Madh, Rruga Ferit Xhajko, for souvenirs, clothes and food.
You can buy newspapers and magazines at the Adrion International Bookshop, Palace of Culture, Skanderberg Square. The Unique, Blloku, offers shoes such as Fendi, Moschino and Dsquared. For the best souvenirs available in Tirana, you can visit kiosques, Rr. Barrikadave and Rr. Durresit. The shop is north of Sulejman Pasha square and opposite the Tourist Info Center.
Albanian Cuisine

Byrek

Byrek

Albanian cuisine is influenced by Italian, Turkish and Greek cooking. The chefs are known for their love of Mediterranean hers such as mint, black pepper, rosemary, oregano and basil. Most dishes contain butter and olive oil. Seafood is more common in areas such as Shkoder, Lezhe, Sarandë, Durrës and Vlorë. Oven-baked trout with tomatoes and onions is popular among tourists.
In the northern regions of the country cabbage, carrot, beans and potato are grown locally and used for traditional cooking. Common dishes that you can find in this region include vegetable broth, casserole, pasta and chicken and rice (pilawa). In the central parts of the country you can eat meat baked in yogurt, beef roast in fermented milk sauce, cabbage cakes and curd stew.
Paçe is a very popular dish among the Albanians and eaten throughout the country. The dish is made with cattle’s, sheep’s or pig’s head. The meat is cooked and stewed with black pepper, vinegar, garlic and onions. You can also try Tavë kosi, a baked lamb and yogurt dish, or Qofte të fërguara (fried meatballs).
The pastiçeri (pastry shops) offer delicious cakes and pastries. A savory pie that is common in Albania and popular among tourists is Byrek. The pie is made with various fillings to choose from, such as meat and onion or spinach and feta cheese.
Entering Albania
Tirana is served by Tirana International Airport Nënë Tereza. Visitors to Albania must obtain a visa from one of the Albanian diplomatic missions unless they come from one of the visa exempt countries or are qualified for a visa-free entry.

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