Our team made this trip to Albania to visit the most popular tourist attraction in this country, and with this reportage inform our travelers about Albania, and encourage them to visit this amazing place with us.
The first thing that may be noticed when entering Albania are the numerous bunkers of which some are big, some are small, some are covered with inscriptions and graffiti and some are destroyed. All of them testify of a different time through which this country passed, a time of isolation that lasted for almost half a century, a time when no one could leave Albania, nor receive any information from the outside world. This is the time of rule of the communist leader Enver Hoxha. The bunkers testify of the paranoia and fear in which he kept his people. This was a time when they feared that any moment they may be attacked and invaded, so every citizen was supposed to defend the country from these bunkers.
Short Facts about Albania in Communist time
Total of 750.000 bunkers were built
That is around 24 bunkers for every square kilometer
These bunkers were never used
There were only 3000 cars in Albania prior to 1991
Only the high ranked communist officials were able to own a car
In 1967 Enver Hodza declared Albania as an atheist country
We are headed towards Tirana, a city with a population of half a million citizens, the capital and the largest city in Albania (2.8 million citizens). Today, Tirana is a modern city that pulses in the West European style of living. The packed restaurants, nice cars and wide boulevards do not give the impression that Albania is a poor country. Because it is one of the poorest country in Europe, Albanians are known for their emigration in the European countries. We walk on the main square in Tirana, where from one side there is a mosque, while from the other a church, which testifies of the different religions that may be found here. The dominant religion in Albania is the Islam, but a certain part of the population are Christian Orthodox and Catholic. The memorial of Skenderbeg, one of the biggest national heroes in Albania, may be found on the square. The main bunker of Enver Hoxha, which is a museum today, can be visited and a pyramid, a mausoleum of the communist leader, is not far from the square.
Short facts about Tirana
Tirana is one of the sunniest cities in Europe, with a total of 254 sunny days annually
Tirana has no McDonald's
Edi Rama, the current prime minister, is responsible for the colourful look of Tirana. He is also a painter.
From Tirana, we head towards the south of Albania, where we will visit the two most famous and most visited historical cities in Albania. There is almost no tourist that came here and did not visit these cities. Namely, Albania is one of the most mountainous countries in Europe, which have large potential for active tourism. These large mountains steeply descend to the sea coast. The 362 km of sea coast make Albania a more and more popular summer tourist destination. We leave the wonderful view of the sea and the seaside cities for the next day. We continue our path to the city of Berat, a historical Albanian city, with beautifully arranged houses in beautiful Ottoman architecture. The city is settled on the river Osum and is filled with mosques and churches. Above it, there is a fortress that gives a wonderful view of the entire city. Berat is also under the protection of UNESCO. In Berat, we use the opportunity to try the famous "trileche". Trileche is a dessert characteristic for Albania and is made of 3 types of milk, covered with caramel above. From Berat, we head to another historical city, the city of Gjirokaster also under the protection of UNESCO. The Ottoman architecture is also dominant here, and represents a real paradise for tourists. The beautiful streets filled with souvenir shops and Albanian restaurants, lead to the highest hill point on which the fortress is located, and there is a clock tower which Gjirokaster is famous for. We leave Gjirokaster and head towards the coastal city Saranda for overnight. After accommodation, we take a short walk along the quay of the city.
Tips for travelling to Albania
Many places in Albania are cash only, so make sure you take cash with you
Be careful on the roads, many Albanians don't respect traffic rules
Don't always trust Google maps, better ask the locals for direction
Shaking the head means “yes” and a nod means “no”
Saranda is one of the most popular summer tourist destinations in Albania. The great construction expansion that has taken over this city is immediately noticeable, along with many new buildings and hotels. This expansion has been inspired by the growing number of tourists and from a distance it is slowly starting to resemble the famous Monaco. Wake up in the morning with fresh sea air and a wonderful view, after morning coffee and breakfast, we leave Saranda and head towards Butrint, one of the most important archaeological sites in Albania. Butrint is under the protection of UNESCO and is only 10 km away from the border with Greece. Due to the beautiful nature that Butrint is being surrounded by, it is declared as a national park. The ride itself in the archaeological site represents a real pleasure, due to the beautiful views of the miracles that nature created in this national park. From Butrint, we head to the coast. A lot of oranges and olive trees indicate the proximity of the sea and the Mediterranean climate.
po - Yes
Jo - No
Mirupafshim - Good bye
Miredita - Hello
Faleminderit - Thank you
Te lutem - You are welcome
Si je? - How are you
Gëzuar - Cheers
Ditën e mirë - Have a nice day
We ride along a narrow path on steep mountains which gives us a beautiful sea view. Several times in front of us appear goat herds, which are common in Albania. From our right side, we may see high snowy mountains, while from our left side, wonderful sandy beaches on the Ionian and Adriatic Sea. Besides beaches, bunkers and some old abandoned military buildings from the period of communism may be seen on the shore. It is noticeable that Albanians have started improving their road infrastructure, so it is expected that Albania shall increase the number of tourists each year. We arrive in the city of Valona tired from our trip. Valona is another seaside town that is rapidly developing, not only due to tourism, but also because of the large port and the proximity of Italy, which is only 80 km away. The numerous ferries, the port and the beautiful sandy beaches, attract tourists from different parts of the world each year. We have decided to use the opportunity to eat seafood in Valona. Here, the seafood is really cheap, as well as the largest part of the services. We are served with Albanian cognac Skenderbeg as an aperitif before the main meal, which is the most popular drink in Albania.
A blend of traditional and modern, unique culture, lifestyle and beautiful landscapes are the words which describe this country. All this is being confirmed by our travelers, thrilled from their visits and this is the reason why Albania is often included in our Balkan programs.