A Visitor’s Guide To Albania
The small country of Albania is to be found in the south eastern corner of Europe in the Balkan region and over the centuries has experienced plenty of Asian influences as well as from nearby European countries. Having been a part of the Eastern Bloc of Communist states, Albania wasn’t officially a member of the Soviet Union, but also saw the fall of Communism in 1991, and the country has been recovering from the subsequent war with Kosovo ever since. Despite this Eastern European history, the Albanian coastline is just a short distance from Italy, and the country has a strong heritage and history including an established Muslim population which makes it a fascinating place to explore.
While the threat of terrorism is considered to be quite low in Albania by the US State Department, visitors are still advised to be cautious, and are warned to avoid any public demonstrations as these have been known to turn violent. Visitors are also advised to be particularly cautious when traveling in the region around the town of Lazarat, where clashes between police and drug producers are known to happen.
Top Sight To See In Albania
Butrint – Located in the south of the country near the Greek border, this ancient city is known to be at least three thousand years old, and is one of the most important and impressive archaeological sites in the country, with superb Roman and Greek ruins.
Porto-Palermo – This lovely coastal area of Albania offers visitors some nice beaches and hills to explore, while visitors can also see the Porto-Palermo Castle, which is believed to have been built by the Venetians in the seventeenth century.
The Tombs Of Selca – This network of underground tombs is an impressive attraction that dates from the fourth to the third centuries BC, and are the places where the Illyrian kings were laid to rest during this period, and the tombs are still an impressive sight today.
The Karaburun Peninsula – Stretching out into the Mediterranean, this beautiful peninsula has some superb beaches and attractive hillsides, while it is also possible to arrange scuba diving trips to the stunning nearby marine reserve which has sea turtles, seals and the wrecks of many ships to see.
Berat – This attractive city is located in a central inland location in Albania, and is dominated by The Kala, which is an imposing castle built on a hill overlooking the city, while it is also home to many historic churches and mosques that trace the history of the city
Shurdhah Island – Located within the waters of a reservoir that was created in the 1970s, visitors can travel by boat to this pleasant island and see the historic Roman fort and a Byzantine church among the remains of what was once one of the most important settlements in the region.
Dhermi – One of the most popular tourist destinations in the country, this village has a beautiful beach with several beach bars open in the summer, while visitors can also explore the steep hillsides and the historic monasteries and churches in the village.
Tirana – This colorful city has been largely renovated since the Communist period, with the brightly painted buildings and large open squares making for a pleasant atmosphere, while it also has several of the country’s main museums, along with the beautiful Et’hem Bey Mosque.
Valbona Valley National Park – An attractive park that offers some superb mountain views of the Albanian Alps and the winding route of the Valbona River, this park is in the north near the borders with Montenegro and Kosovo, and is planned to be a part of the proposed Balkan Peace Park.
Gjirokaster – The historic center of this old city is an UNESCO world heritage site and is one of the most impressive examples of an ancient Ottoman city, with a historic mosque and the old fortress which is also home to an armaments museum.
Where To Stay In Albania
Dinasty Hotel – One of the more attractive hotels in the capital, visitors here can enjoy an outdoor swimming pool and grand surroundings, while the rooms are comfortable and have been well decorated with lovely bathrooms.
Capital Tirana Hotel – Offering a good balance between cost and facilities, rooms in this hotel are spacious and comfortable, while the convenient location is within walking distance of many of the sights of the city.
Adriatik Hotel – Just a short distance from the beach this pleasant hotel offers visitors a wealth of leisure facilities including tennis courts, an outdoor swimming pool and a fitness center, while it also has plush rooms that are very comfortable
Villa Belvedere Hotel – Situated within an attractive garden with an impressive outdoor pool area, this hotel is a great base from which to explore the city’s sights, and also provides comfortable accommodation at a good price.
Hotel Cajupi – With a prominent location in the city, this imposing hotel offers beautifully decorated rooms with large comfortable beds, and offers an ideal base from which to see the superb sights of this historic city
Hotel Gjirokaster – The pleasant and comfortable rooms at this hotel offer a good balance between cost and comfort, and the hotel has an attractive garden area along with being in a central part of the city near its historic buildings.
New York Hotel – Enjoying beautiful views over the Mediterranean, this hotel provides visitors with comfortable and spacious rooms with delightful bathrooms and a stunning outdoor swimming pool area.
Hotel Regina – A great place for those looking for a beach break on a budget, this hotel is just a short walk from the beach and offers well priced rooms with comfortable beds and flat screen televisions.
The cuisine of Albania can vary quite significantly from region to region, but it does have strong Mediterranean and Balkan influences, as well as including many dishes that are of Turkish origins. Seafood is common in many of the coastal areas, but for most of the country meat is an important part of the diet, with Tave Kosi being the national dish that is made of baked lamb served with rice in a yogurt sauce. Byrek is another common dish that visitors will try, which is most commonly a vegetable pie stuffed with feta cheese, spinach and tomatoes, although there are also variants of the pie that also include ground meat.
Currency and Visa
The national currency is the Albanian Lek, which is prone to fluctuation but in October 2013 was exchanging with the US Dollar for around 103 Lek per dollar. There are ATMs in the cities, but it is certainly worth carrying cash with you when leaving to explore some of the more rural areas where there are fewer ATMs available. Some retailers will show an extra zero on their prices, but refers to the old Albanian currency. Visitors from the United States do not need to arrange a visa in advance when visiting Albania unless they are planning to stay for over a year, but the passport does need to be valid for at least three months upon arrival.