WHERE TO GO
Albania’s official motto is “The Faith of Albanians is Albanianism.” Faith, or ‘besa’, is in fact a cornerstone of Albanian cultural identity and can be best translated into English as “honour”– it’s an idea of the right way to live your life. Tirana, the capital, is a colourful, vibrant and noisy city, currently undergoing a major facelift with newly painted buildings and enjoyable squares. The number of Albanians living in Albania today is around 3 million, although the number residing abroad is anything from 7-10 million, mostly settled in the other Balkan countries.
- There are some 750,000 concrete bunkers scattered around Albania
- Albania was declared the world’s first atheist state in 1967
- Albania has 7 symphony orchestras, ten times more symphony orchestras per capita than Great Britain!
- Albania fully or partly contains the 3 most important lakes of the Balkan Peninsula (Lake Shkodra, Ohrid and Prespa)
- Lonely Planet ranked Albania as the number one recommended destination to visit in 2011
- Besides Tosk, Albania’s official language, there are 7 other spoken languages, including Greek, Vlach, Romani, Macedonian, Aromanian and Serbo-Croatian
Tirana: has an endless movement and energy about it. With its clubs, pubs, cafes and taverns, it is a city well worth discovering. In particular, the Skanderberg place is quite an attraction, with its famous equestrian statuette from which roads shoot off in many directions like a star.
Appollonia: in the middle of Albania are the ruins of an ancient town named after the god Apollon. Apollonia was the biggest and most important city of the ancient world. The ruins are still impressive today and give a glimpse of their original glory.
Gjirokastra: As a result of its unique architectural style this city in the south of Albania was granted UNESCO world cultural heritage status. Its ‘Balkan architecture’ style has small, castle-like houses made of stone.
Berat: is known as “the city of one-thousand windows” and has been declared a museum city. It sits on the slopes of the Tomorri mount, where the city’s castle city rises from a dominant hill. Within the city walls are dwelling houses and the “Onufri Museum”, with paintings and icons by the outstanding Albanian painter giving his name to the museum also exhibited there. The old part of the city also has some religious buildings, both churches and mosques.
Pogradec: is one of the most charming tourist resorts in Albania because of its setting on Lake Ohrid, captivating with its clear water and mountain views. The Koran fish, similar to trout, can be found in the lake.
THE MOST ...
- Albania, Armenia and the Vatican City are the only European countries without a branch of McDonald’s.
- Albania is one of Europe’s largest cannabis exporters.
- The Albanian language, as one of the 9 Indo-European languages, is one of Europe’s oldest and is not derived from any other language.
- The first printing house in the Balkans was established in Voskopoja, in eastern Albania.
- The Karavasta Lagoon by the Adriatic coast is one of the largest lagoons of the Mediterranean Sea.
WHAT ELSE TO DO
- Try dough-based desserts inspired by Turkish cuisine – baklava or kadaiff.
- Visit Voskopoja and admire the vibrant colours of the frescoes in Albania’s little-known churches. Voskopoja was one the largest cities of the Balkans and is full of churches and basilicas.
- Go white-water rafting through the spectacular canyons of the Osumi River.
- Go skiing in the Albanian Alps. During the Soviet era, Albania was a popular skiing destination for those in the Eastern Bloc. Given the high altitude of many of its peaks, skiing is available almost all-year round.