Eternal Arrival
day trips from Saranda Albania
Albania

75 Reasons to Travel to Albania ASAP

For too long, Albania has been ignored as a tourist destination. I get it. The country has had to bounce back from a lot. For years, Albania was under one of the most repressive communist totalitarian regimes in history – even North Korea has more trade partners and diplomacy than Albania did thirty years ago. It emerged from the shackles of totalitarianism in 1991 with basically no GDP and virtually no economy. A countrywide pyramid scheme in which Albanians lost a total of 1.2 billion dollars (a fortune, considering how Albanians had only had six years of free market in order to actually obtain money to invest) in 1997 sent the country into chaos.

But things are way, way different now, and while the country still has far to come to catch up with its neighbors in Europe, it’s making great strides towards lasting progress. Albania is a country with an unfathomably long history, almost 5,000 years, with influence from Greeks, Illyrians, Romans, Venetians, Byzantines, and Ottomans.

To sum up Albania as just what’s happened in the last century is myopic. Yes, Albania has suffered, but it’s bouncing back with incredible fortitude and rightfully emerging as a tourist destination. Seeing as I’ve unofficially become an ambassador for this country, telling everyone who’ll listen about this beautiful place, I figured I’d put it in writing and save myself the trouble. Without further ado, here are 75 reasons why you should book a trip to Albania as soon as possible!

  1. It’s off the beaten path. Can you imagine going to 2,000 year old Roman ruins and not having to wait for people to get out of your shot constantly? Well, in Albania, it’s not only possible – it’ll happen all the time.

day trips from Saranda Albania

2. It’s not just affordable – it’s cheap. Budget backpacking anywhere in Balkans, with the exception of Croatia, is inexpensive compared to Western Europe. But Albania is leaps and bounds cheaper than its neighbors, especially when it comes to transit and food costs. A six hour bus ride will set you back only $7 USD; a gyro, $1 USD; a 3-course meal with an espresso, $8 USD.

3. The beaches are the best in Europe. Sorry, Croatia, Italy, Greece, and Montenegro, I know you’ll disagree, but Albania has got the best beaches in all of Europe. The stony beaches make the water a gorgeous, crystal-clear turquoise that feels like your real life has been Photoshopped.

copyright Janet Newenham - drone over Albania Drone shot courtesy of Janet Newenham of Journalist on the Run & Your Irish Adventure

4. … And they’re not crowded. Unlike their more famous Northern and Southern neighbors, you’ll have plenty of space to yourself when you go to the beach in Albania. There are also tons of hidden beaches that you can have basically to yourself with a little creativity (or a little guts!). Himara is an excellent hub close to the best Albanian beaches in the Riviera – accommodations in Himara are really cheap as well, as in $8 for a dorm cheap!

Albanian riviera gjipe

5. Albanian people are insanely generous. I’ve never been offered more things in my life – whether it was cake on the side of a road from someone I asked directions, half of someone’s lunch who we hitchhiked with, an espresso at a cafe, or rakia (so much rakia).

6. The sunsets along the coast are incredible. From many spots along the Riviera, you’ll  be treated to breathtaking sunsets, just as beautiful as Greece’s or Croatia’s — at a fraction of the price.

sunset-in-albania

 

7. You need to learn the love-hate relationship with rakia. Rakia is basically moonshine, distilled typically from grapes or plums, popular all throughout the Balkans, but especially loved in Albania. The best nights (and the worst mornings) usually are courtesy of rakia.

8. Besa, which is loosely translated as “faith” or “trust”, is extremely important to Albanians. For centuries, Albanians have abided by the code of “besa” which basically means it’s their duty to look after people who need it. That means that even if you’re traveling solo through Albania, you’ll never really be alone.

Besa means that my friend's cousin - who I had never met before - took two days to show me around her hometown.

Besa means that my friend’s cousin – who I had never met before – took two days to show me around her hometown, beautiful Korca.

 

9. Albanians are keen to change their image. Albanians are aware that they’ve been associated with mobsters and gangsters, and more than a few Albanians bitterly remarked me that “we’re not all like Taken.” Which is true – I never once felt unsafe or unwelcome in my three weeks in Albania. Besides, as one local slyly remarked me to me, “All the Albanian mafia has left. Who would they make money off of here?”

10. Albanians are honest. I’m always on my guard for scams, having been ripped off and nearly pickpocketed within 12 hours in Hanoi. It turns out I didn’t have to worry at all. Meanwhile, in Albania, a man who changed money for a friend ran down the street to the bus station to find us, panicked that he hadn’t given us the right change (but he had).

11. The country is safe. Albania is just as safe as pretty much anywhere else in Europe. You’re less at risk for petty crime in Albania than you are in, say, Madrid, Barcelona, Rome, or Paris, and violent crime is extremely rare.

cute-albanian-men

Ok, this photo is of Albanians in Kosovo, but you get the idea. So threatening with their rainbow umbrella and bear phone. Definitely shouldn’t travel here.

 

12. Street harassment is extremely uncommon. As a women who travels alone, I’m often subjected to street harassment, which makes me feel uncomfortable, unsafe, and irritated. In my entire time in Albania, not one man bothered me on the streets, even when I walked home alone late at night in to my hostel in Tirana. It was such a breath of fresh air to be around such polite, respectful men.

13. Albanians give the best directions. Which is to say they’re either extremely detailed if they speak English, or oftentimes they’ll just walk with you to your destination because they’re afraid of you getting lost. After a flurry of hand gestures did nothing, I once had an old lady in a robe and house shoes pull me by the sweater tied around my waist, leading me up on a ledge, in order to show me how to get to the Berat Castle via the back way. You can’t say these people don’t try.

 

14.There are countless fortresses and castles that you can explore. Most are have little infrastructure such as informational plaques or warning signs, so you get to feel a bit like Indiana Jones as you explore castles totally on your own.

 

castle-shkodra

15. Albanians love Americans. Okay, so this is maybe only exciting for me and my fellow countrymen, but we’re a bit of an unpopular lot in some parts of Europe. And I get it, I really do – I definitely cringe whenever I see the telltale shorts-and-fanny-pack of a clueless American tourist speaking loudly and slowly at someone who speaks perfect English like they’re an idiot. But in Albania, Americans are well-liked – so much so that they’ve even named a street after George W. Bush in Tirana (cool your jets, guys, even we don’t like him!). The town of Fushe Kruje which he visited even has a statue of him! You’ll also find a Hillary Clinton statue in Saranda, Albania, close to SR Backpackers, where I stayed while in Saranda. Fingers crossed we never need to find out if they’d erect a Trump statue. (edited to add: UGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH)

 

16. But really, Albanians just love all foreigners. You’ll never feel more special as a tourist than when you visit Albania. I was traveling around with a lot of Australians and you should have seen the look on locals’ faces when they found out people from Australia were visiting their country. It was the most delightful mix of confusion, excitement, and pride.

 

17. Forget buses and planes – Albania is all about the furgon. Furgons are minibuses, which are often Mercedes vans converted to fit the most human life possible inside them. They’re democratic institutions – first come, first served, they’ll pick you up and drop you off anywhere along the route, and they’ll charge you based on the distance you travel. Sure, some of the seats aren’t that comfortable, especially the ones above the wheels, but I actually quite love the humble furgon.

The closest thing to a bus station I encountered in Albania

18. Honestly, the public transit is actually quite reliable – it’s just different. Furgons will get you basically everywhere you need to go, although you do sometimes have to make a tranlsfer rather than going direct. Occasionally, on less popular routes, a minibus won’t run every day, and as the season winds down, minibuses are less frequent. Still, I visited in mid-October as the summer season was done and gone, and even some less popular routes were still roaring. I traveled from Korca to Berat and Berat to Vlora no problems, perfectly on time – in fact, even early in some cases!

 

19. Infrastructure is improving. I had heard that the roads in Albania were awful – I was happy to find that it really wasn’t the case. Of all the routes I took, I only really encountered one road that was pretty rough and tumble, and it was only because they were working on the main road and re-routed us another way. If you travel very rural in Albania, you’ll encounter some rough roads I’m sure, but the main roads connecting the coastal cities, Tirana, Shkodra, and some of the southern cities like Berat, Gjirokastra, and Korca were all fine. That said, there are still some major flaws. There is no national recycling program and litter continues to be a major issue. Tirana and other cities in Albania have an admirable program to neuter and vaccinate the stray dogs in the cities, but it’s a slow process. Still, considering the country’s economy started from basically nothing in 1991, I think they’ve made tremendous strides.

 

20. You can even drink the tap water now in many parts of the country. I had heard that Albania’s tap water was totally undrinkable. This was far from true! I drank the tap water without incident in Saranda, Tirana, Shkodra, Berat, and Korca – always after asking a local first just to double check. Since the country is without a recycling program (my inner Californian cringes at this, but progress is slow in the Balkans), try to aim to curb your plastic consumption as much as possible if you go.

 

day trips from Saranda Albania

 

21. They make excellent Italian food. Albania is so close to Italy, and they’ve absorbed a lot of their culture. Pizza in Albania is top-notch, probably the next best thing to Italian pizza itself.

22. The coast has amazing seafood. You can eat delicious fresh prawns, mussels, fish, calamari… all for bargain prices and fresh as can be. Up north near Lake Shkodra, the lake trout is also incredibly delicious – so make sure you try that if you’re visiting Shkodra (which I highly recommend — stay at the Wanderers!) or other cities up north.

 

food-at-ksamil-beach

 

23. Local dishes are delightful. Traditional Albanian specialties like tavë kosi (baked lamb with yogurt) and patëllxhanët mbushur (stuffed eggplant) are unique and delicious, always cooked with local ingredients and fresh produce.

 

24. A lot of the cuisine is vegetarian. Many of their dishes incorporate veggies in a way that other countries in the Balkans don’t. Their stuffed peppers and grape leaves are almost always vegetarian and filling, they offer a wide variety of salads, and grilled vegetables are available everywhere.

 

love the food in albania - a reason alone to travel to albania

25. But they also make a mean grilled meat plate.

Ahh, a well-balanced meal...

Ahh, a well-balanced meal… look, there’s even lettuce!


26. They make excellent coffee. Albanians love their coffee, especially espresso, and you can get an espresso for as little as 50 lek – about 40 euro cents. I will say that sometimes their definition of a cappuccino would make Italians shudder, as they sometimes come topped with whipped cream, but there are worse things than free whipped cream, right?

 

27. The produce is fresh, delicious, and often organic. Of course, it won’t be labeled as such, but most produce in Albania comes from small, local farmers who frankly probably don’t have enough money to spend on pesticides. For that reason, the tomatoes and cucumbers are some of the best I’ve had in the world. Perfect for…

 

28. Amazing Greek salads and gyros thanks to its Greek minority population. Yup, in addition to rocking Italian food and traditional Albanian food, you can get delicious Greek food like grape leaves, tzatziki, gyros, and Greek salad. The two cuisines share a lot in common and the line between what’s Greek and what’s Albanian vary on where you are and who you ask (as many things do in the Balkans…)

 

Processed with Snapseed.

 

29. The mountains are absolutely beautiful. My biggest regret about Albania is that I didn’t get to do the hike from Valbona to Thethi that I had planned on. Crazy storms were raging when I was in Shkodra, making the hike I was planning to do the next day impossible, so I rerouted to Kosovo and traveled through the rest of the Balkans. By the time I returned to Albania, it was mid-October and reaching below freezing at night, so a hike didn’t feel like the best idea. But seeing the same mountain range in Montenegro and Kosovo, I can only imagine how beautiful it is in that part of Albania. But you don’t need to travel to Valbona to see mountains – they’re everywhere, even leading right down to the beaches in some cases.

 

Another Janet Drone shot courtesy of Janet Newenham of Journalist on the Run & Your Irish Adventure

 

30. The Albanian language is unlike any other. Albanian (called Shqip, which is pronounced “shchip”, which gives you a little preview of the beautiful chaos that is the Albanian language) is one of the oldest living languages. Some consider it a language isolate, some think it’s related to Illyrian or Armenian… let’s leave it to the linguists and just say it’s incredibly difficult – though beautiful to hear – and, to my totally untrained eyes and ears, reminds me of Dothraki on GoT. (nerd alert)

 

31. That being said, locals will love you if you try to speak Albanian. Albanians know how difficult their language is, and they really appreciate it when you take the time to learn a few words of Albanian. Mirëdita (meer-deeta) – good day, faleminderit (fah-le-min-DER-it) – thank you, diten e mirë (deet-en ay meer) – Have a good day, and of course, gëzuar (guh-zoo-ar) – cheers: master these four and people will be delighted.

 

32. The rural parts of the country are stunning. I haven’t seen many Albanian villages or rural life, which I’ve been told is where the real heart of the country is. But my method is to always leave a stone unturned, so I know I’ll come back. What I’ve seen of rural Albania from the furgons is incredible, and I’d love to discover it more deeply.

The calm before the storm in Shkodra, Albania

 

33. The Albanian flag is so dope. A double-headed eagle…  god, could a flag get any cooler? Albanians are obsessed with their flag, and honestly, so am I. So epic.

 

34. On a similar note, Albanians are really patriotic. While sometimes this patriotism can border on nationalism (which is not unique to Albanians, of course), what this means in practical terms for the traveler is that Albanians will do anything to make sure you love their country just as much as they do. If you tell them you love their country, most will beam with pride.

 

35. Hitchhiking is incredibly easy and safe throughout Albania. The combination of a lack of a centralized public transit system, the Albanian hospitality and belief in besa, and an outsized love for their cars all merge to make it probably one of the easiest places to hitchhike in the world and definitely in Europe. It’s also quite safe, which you wouldn’t expect if you take your travel advice from Liam Neeson, but it’s true!

 

hitching in albania

 

36. In fact, hitchhiking is an amazing experience there and I recommend it to all travelers. During my hitching experience, I was picked up by a trucker who didn’t speak a word of English but was all smiles, two young college students who brought us all the way to Kosovo even though they weren’t planning on crossing the border, and more than a couple Mercedes Benzes.

 

37. Mercedes Benzes are the national car. OK, not really, but it’s kind of ironic that one of Europe’s poorest countries has more Mercedes Benzes than anywhere else I’ve been – including NYC and California. For a more detailed explanation, read on here.

 

38. It’s easy to travel to and from other countries in the region. There are frequent public buses from Montenegro via Ulcinj and Shkodra as well as direct buses run by hostel companies from hotspots like Kotor to Tirana. Going from Tirana to Prizren or Prishtina in Kosovo is also quite easy. If you’re thinking of going onto Macedonia, there are Tirana to Skopje buses and in peak season direct buses between Ohrid as well, which can also be accessed via Berat, Elbasan, or Korca. Greece is close to Saranda and Korca, and you can take a ferry to Corfu in about thirty minutes.

 

nearby Prizren, Kosovo

Nearby Prizren, Kosovo – just a few hours away from Tirana by bus

 

39. Oh, and Italy is only a short boat ride away, too! If you’re in Italy and want to make your way over to Albania, it’s actually really quick and affordable to catch a ferry to Albania. A bonus? The views are beautiful.

turquoise-water-vlora

 

40. Tirana is unlike any other capital city I’ve seen. It’s chaotic and exhilarating, unique and intriguing, improvised and improving. There’s a sense that it’s stuck in the past at the same time that it’s accelerating towards the future, and it’s fascinating to be right there with it.

 

41. Tirana was more influenced by communism than other cities in Albania, making it ideal for history and communist architecture geeks. There are some absolutely strange pieces of architecture in Tirana, in particular, Piramida, the abandoned memorial to deceased dictator Enver Hoxha that is now a TV station/slide/tourist oddity.

 

quirky things to do in tirana

 

42. The nightlife in Tirana is really fun. I loved going out in the Blloku neighborhood, the old heart of the communist party loyalists. This has turned into a hipster/upscale neighborhood of sorts, where a draft beer goes for (*gasp*) 2 euros.

 

I promise these glasses are medically necessary.

At Radio in Blloku


43. The bunkers offer a fascinating, if unsightly, look into the past.
I enjoyed visiting Bunkart in Tirana, which used to be the former dictator Enver Hoxha’s bunker in case of attack. It’s a fascinating insight into the psyche of a sick, paranoid man. An estimated 700,000 smaller bunkers dot the countryside, in places you’d never think would be at risk of attack.

bunkart quirky things to do in tirana

 

44. In fact, there’s no country quite comparable to 20th century Albania. Under Enver Hoxha, even Tito’s Yugoslavia, Mao’s China, and Khruschev’s USSR were all just too liberal and not purely communist enough. As a result, Albania had no external ties with other countries from 1978 until 1991. When the dictatorship finally fell, things like bananas and blue jeans were totally brand-new phenomena. Even today’s North Korea has a more open economy than pre-1990s Albania.


45. But there’s so much more than just the Communist past. 
I understand (and share!) the fascination with Albania’s insane communist past. But before that, Albania has almost 5,000 years of history, with influence from Greeks, Illyrians, Romans, Venetians, Byzantines, and Ottomans. That all has shaped the country so much more than its Communist era, even though those have the most obvious visual influence.

day trips from Saranda Albania

Albania is home to some of the best-preserved Christian mosaics in the world

 

46. The 400-year occupation of the Ottoman empire forever changed Albania in unique ways. As a result of the occupation, Albania became a majority Muslim country — approximately 60% — although most Albanians follow a very loose interpretation of Islam – if they follow anything at all. Most Albanians, even if they’re of Muslim origin, eat pork and drink alcohol (in fact, I think your Albanian citizenship is revoked if you don’t drink rakia. I kid, I kid), and very few women wear headscarves, regardless of origin (although those who do don’t get any odd looks).

 

47. Yet for years, Albania was the only country in the world to have an outright ban on religion. That’s right. In 1967, the practice of religion was completely banned within the country of Albania. As a result, unfortunately many churches and mosques throughout the country were destroyed. Albanians have been working hard to rebuild these places of worship throughout the country. Precious few remain of the pre-Communist era – only those that party leaders deemed worthy of cultural preservation, such Et’hem Bey mosque in Tirana, pictured above.

 

48. Albania is a true cultural mixing pot. Throughout time, Albania has had the influence of Greeks and Romans, Slavs and Italians, Muslims and Christians. These divisions don’t really seem to faze Albanians, and the unifying fact of language, tradition, and patriotism seem to be more important than ethnicity or religion.

 

49. Despite all this, Albanians are incredibly tolerant of other religions. Interfaith marriages are quite common in Albania, and friend groups are typically well-integrated and have little to do with religion. Religion appears to be more of a cultural signifier than any deeply held convictions. Unlike countries like Bosnia and Herzegovina, where ethnic strife was in large part exacerbated by religious differences, Albanians really don’t seem to care that much about religion.

 

korca-cathedral

The Orthodox cathedral in Korca was only built in 1992, replacing the church that communists had destroyed in the late 1960s.

 

50. In fact, for many, “the only religion of Albania is Albanianism.” This quote was co-opted by Enver Hoxha to justify his religious ban; however, it originally appeared in Shkodra-based poet Pashko Vasa’s nationalist poem “O moj Shqiperi”. Basically, that is to say, Albanians are much more concerned with sharing an ethnic and cultural legacy based on the concept of being Albanian, rather than being concerned with any religious ties.

 

51. Albania is a UNESCO darling, with three major sites having UNESCO Status.

day trips from Saranda Albania

 

52. One of them, Butrint, is a 2,000 old set of Roman ruins. It has alternately been ruled by Romans, Byzantines, Venetians, and Ottomans. It’s set on a beautiful lake near the border with Greece, and it’s almost always completely deserted, making it a beautiful place to wander, snap photos, and imagine a simpler world taking place exactly where you stood over two millennia ago.

53. Gjirokastra is another UNESCO site, just as breathtaking as Butrint. It is an Ottoman era “museum city” complete with a gorgeous ruined castle perched atop a massive hill surrounded by houses with layered flat stone roofs. (Note: I just did a day trip to Gjirokastra, but friends raved about Stone City Hostel, open seasonally)

gjirokaster awesome day trip from saranda

 

54. In fact, Gjirokastra is also home to iso-polyphony folk music, which is a uniquely Albanian tradition honored by UNESCO’s intangible heritage designation. Every year, performances are held in the castle, keeping the tradition alive. To be honest, the music isn’t my cup of tea, but it’s incredible what they are able to do with their voices, creating unique, haunting sounds without the use of a single instrument.

55. Berat is twinned with Gjirokastra, though it’s worth visiting totally aside from Gjirokastra. It is the more famous twin, and equally gorgeous in my opinion, yet quite different. Berat is marked with only white paint and large square windows that look almost like eyes, giving it the nickname “City of a Thousand Windows.” Honestly, I think UNESCO made a mistake by twinning these cities together, which suggests that you can see one of the two and “get the idea.” They’re both incredibly unique places, and each warrants its own visit.

When in Berat, I can’t say I recommend staying at Berat Backpackers. Everyone there was incredibly kind and the rooms were clean and comfy… but the wifi was practically nonexistent, but the shower pressure was the worst I’ve ever experienced in 10 years of traveling. Try another one of the great budget options in Berat instead.

 

 

56. There are many other places on UNESCO’s tentative list that are also worth a visit. The Durrës Amphitheatre, Apollonia, and Ohrid, among others, are all on the list for consideration.

 

57. But historic cities aren’t all Albania has to offer – it has incredible lakes. Lake Komani is the gem of Albania, followed closely by Lake Shkodra (which it shares with Montenegro), Lake Ohrid (which it shares with Macedonia), and Lake Butrint. All so different, yet so beautiful.


Thanks to Dan Flying Solo for letting me use his epic video of Lake Komani.

 

58. Besides its lakes, Albania has deep-flowing natural springs. These springs are called “Blue Eyes,” and while there is an incredibly famous one in the south (called Syri I Kalter in Albanian), there is an equally beautiful though lesser known one in Thethi as well.

blue eye syri i kalter day trip from Saranda

 

59. It has gorgeous waterfalls as well that locals love to swim in. The waterfalls in Begova near Berat are a favorite of locals when the summers get hot — with rakia, of course! It’s too bad I was in Berat in mid-October so I didn’t go to these waterfalls.

 

60. It even has a wine region with surprisingly delicious wine. I did, however, sample the surprisingly excellent local wines in Berat, made by Cobo Wineries.

 

61. It’s yet to be Westernized with American fast food chains… well, except the one. I love the fact that the country’s first international chain, KFC, is opening literally across the road from Enver Hoxha’s old mansion. I believe that’s what we call “throwing shade”, Albania. Nicely done.

kfc-tirana

 

62. You’ll meet a lot of like-minded travelers in Albania. I guess because not many people travel to Albania, the tourists who do go there are really interesting, easy-going, and open-minded. I never met more interesting and fun people than I did when traveling in Albania!

 

63. Sometimes, it seems as if parts of Albania are stuck in a time capsule. You’ll be driving along a surprisngly smooth highway when suddenly, hey! There are goats and cows wandering the roads.

 

goats-in-berat

64. Albania is squarely outside the Schengen zone, making it perfect if you’re staying in Europe for over 90 days. Many countries in the Balkans, including Montenegro, Macedonia, Serbia, Kosovo, and Bosnia are also outside Schengen, so it’s easy to plan a little detour to Albania if you’ve used up the 90 days on your Schengen visa.

 

65. It’s quite easy for foreigners to get visas. 77 countries and territorities, plus every EU country, can visit Albania visa-free for 90 days. But even if you’re not one of those countries, if you’ve had and used a valid UK, US, or EU visa, you get the same 90 day visa policy as all other qualifying countries.

 

66. Though hostels are new the country, they are surprisingly excellent. Literally every single hostel I stayed at in Albania was great (with the minor exception of Berat Backpackers), and far better and cheaper than a lot of hostels I’ve stayed at in Western Europe, including cities like Rome and Barcelona. In fact, Trip’N Hostel in Tirana is probably the best hostel I’ve stayed at, period. They even brew their own beer!

 

The best hostel I've ever stayed at for $12 a night, with this delicious omelette and Albanian coffee included.

The best hostel I’ve ever stayed at for $12 a night, with this delicious omelette and Albanian coffee included.

 

67. Albania is a delightful mix of discovered and undiscovered. You can really choose your own adventure here… whether you want to stick to the slightly-well-trodden path of Tirana and Saranda, or if you want to get a little more off the path and visit the quaint smaller cities of Shkodra and Korca, there are tons of options, all within furgon distance.

 

68. Albanian wedding parties are the best parties. I stumbled across one happening in the street next to the gyro restaurant in downtown Himara. It was just a giant circle dance that got bigger and bigger, more and more intricate throughout the night.

 

69. Albania will teach you patience. I will admit that traveling in Albania is not the most straightforward, though I don’t think it necessarily makes it difficult. Sometimes, your bus will be late, or it will be unclear where you’re supposed to go. However, things always have a way of working out here. Give yourself some extra time and enjoy the ride.

 

But patience is easy when your surroundings are this gorgeous. Photo courtesy of Janet Newenham yet again But patience is easy when your surroundings are this gorgeous. Photo courtesy of Janet Newenham yet again

70. Albania will also teach you trust. Because Albania isn’t the easiest place to get around, especially since the public transportation system is run mostly by word of mouth and there’s no online timetable, you’ll have to learn to trust strangers. But that is actually a blessing in disguise, because it’ll show you just how kind and caring most people in the world are. And even moreso in this special little corner of the world.

 

71. English is actually fairly widely spoken – followed closely by Italian. The second language of Albanians tends to fall on strictly generational lines. Those who grew up under communism likely stole television and radio signals from Italy as the only way of having contact with the outside world; therefore, the older generation by and large speaks Italian to some extent. Younger people, and anyone who works in hospitality, has a fairly good understanding of English.

 

72. But what Albanians may lack in language skills, they’ll make up for in doggedness, body language, and effort. It’s not like an Albanian to shrug their shoulders and ignore you – they will do their damnedest to either answer your question through dramatic gesturing, dragging you down the street to finding someone who can help you, calling a friend on their phone and having you speak to them, or walking you right to your destination.

 

73. In short, Albanians are resilient and resourceful. They survived the most oppressive communist regime in history, saw the other end, and are now welcoming to outsiders from around the world. It’s astounding to me, a one-time New Yorker who hasn’t suffered anything more than the indignity of being trapped on a sweaty train car with five breakdancing teenage boys shouting “Showtime,” how people who have dealt with so much can be so welcoming, but they are.

 

74. Albania is changing… fast. With foreign investments coming in and the slow march of tourism coming down from the Croatian coast through Montenegro, it won’t be long until Albania changes. When cruise ships start regularly stopping at Albania… I must admit, I’ll be a little worried about what’ll happen to precious Himara and Dhermi.

 

75. Albania is never boring. No matter where you go in the country, I can guarantee you, you’ll have never seen any place quite like it.

 

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From the Albanian Riviera to the UNESCO towns of Berat & Gjirokastra, Albania is one of the most beautiful countries in Europe. Here's 75 reasons why you need to go now -- before mass tourism changes it forever.

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79 Comments

  • Reply
    Emily
    October 25, 2016 at 7:55 pm

    Thanks for shedding light on places less traveled that are worthy of tourists exploring and falling in love with! Kudos to you for coming up with such a comprehensive list, now Albania is on my map! 🙂

    • Reply
      Allison Green
      October 25, 2016 at 8:15 pm

      Thank you for reading! I do hope this post encourages at least one person who never would have considered traveling to Albania to go there. I hope you get a chance to go soon!

  • Reply
    Ciara Gunn
    October 25, 2016 at 9:13 pm

    I’m not going lie, Albania, has not somewhere I had considered however between yourself and Janet, my mind had very changed

    • Reply
      Allison Green
      October 25, 2016 at 9:36 pm

      That’s so great to hear! I hope you go soon! <3

  • Reply
    Sophie Mitchell
    October 25, 2016 at 9:30 pm

    Great post, I didn’t know much about Albania till now, lots of info here!

    • Reply
      Allison Green
      October 25, 2016 at 9:37 pm

      I tried to cram in everything I remembered – such a fascinating country 🙂

  • Reply
    Lisa
    October 25, 2016 at 9:32 pm

    This is amazing, Albania has never entered my head as a place to visit and after reading this I really want to go there. Thanks for literally broadening my horizons!

    • Reply
      Allison Green
      October 25, 2016 at 9:39 pm

      That is such wonderful news to hear Lisa!! I really do hope you go! It can be quite cheap get there if you fly to Corfu & take the ferry, that’s what I did 🙂

  • Reply
    Laura
    October 26, 2016 at 9:54 am

    Well you had me sold by point 4 and planning a trip by point 35 😀 Albania looks insanely amazing!!!!

    • Reply
      Allison Green
      October 26, 2016 at 1:05 pm

      So glad to hear it! — though now my fingers are cursing me that I kept going past 35 haha 😉

  • Reply
    Christina
    October 26, 2016 at 11:44 am

    Oh this neverending growing bucket list, damnit. Thank you for this absolutely wonderful post! I adore your writing and view on things, really. Keep up the good work! Great to see, what fellow eager bloggers achieve in just a one week’s challenge <3

    • Reply
      Allison Green
      October 26, 2016 at 1:08 pm

      I feel the same about that bucket list — the more I read, the more I want to go everywhere! Thank you so much for your incredibly kind comment and encouragement. I’m off to give your Epic 100 in NZ list a read now — I’m going to be there for two months starting next June!

  • Reply
    Elena
    October 26, 2016 at 1:44 pm

    Great articol Allison Green. Thankyou for promoting our country better then we do. Great job

    • Reply
      Allison Green
      October 26, 2016 at 1:52 pm

      Thank you Elena – to be honest, your country promotes itself if you give it a chance. Great website btw!

  • Reply
    Irina Leti
    October 26, 2016 at 9:00 pm

    I am from Albania and I moved to USA 2 years ago. I’m glad that people like you bring out the best of Albania because it really is a beautiful place( not trying to be biased)
    This got me homesick. Thank you for this beautiful post.

    • Reply
      Allison Green
      October 26, 2016 at 9:41 pm

      Thank you Irina for your lovely comment. It is a stunning place, full of natural beauty. I get why people move to the USA for more opportunity (many of my Albanian coworkers in NY have done the same), but it is truly a beautiful place to be from and you’re right to be proud of it 🙂 I hope you get to go back and visit soon <3

  • Reply
    Klajdi Fejzullau
    October 26, 2016 at 9:31 pm

    Thank you to everyone who is not in dilema anymore about our safety nature culture and all oportunities . No because is our country but the summer in Albania is much better than the majority of places in Europe outside Spain. Once you come here you all understand what we are talking about. 🙂

    • Reply
      Allison Green
      October 26, 2016 at 9:39 pm

      I definitely felt very safe the entire time I was in Albania – I think fears are about two decades behind the times 😛 And yes, I actually think the beaches in Albania are way better than the beaches in mainland Spain (haven’t been to any of the Spanish islands, which I’m sure are incredible). Glad you enjoyed the article!

  • Reply
    Frida Hasani
    October 27, 2016 at 8:57 am

    Thankyou Allison for seeing (and writting) the best of my country. It is funny to read the way other people see the things, you probably not like. I am very happy that you had a good time (and Food) in Albania (even without seeing Valbona and Theth)
    Hope you come again soon during Summer time so you can enjoy swimming on the great beaches of Drymades, Gjipe, Dhermi, Livadh, Jala. After doing this, you will write some other 75 reasons
    Thankyou again for this amazing article,
    Huge hug (I am albanian, I dont need to know you to do that )

    • Reply
      Allison Green
      October 27, 2016 at 10:34 am

      Hi Frida, I really hope to come again soon in the summer and enjoy all the beautiful beaches you named. Gjipe especially is one of the best beaches I’ve ever been to. And also to finally succeed in seeing Valbona and Theth! So glad you enjoyed the article and thank you for the virtual hug 😉 Sending one back!

  • Reply
    Lorela
    October 27, 2016 at 3:36 pm

    The most wonderful post about the reasons to visit Albania !! thankyou 🙂

    • Reply
      Allison Green
      October 27, 2016 at 5:41 pm

      Thank you so much for taking the time to comment 🙂 I’m glad you enjoyed reading!

  • Reply
    Xhuliano
    October 27, 2016 at 5:28 pm

    Great read! You wrote about a lot and it seems you have seen a lot of places, but there is still so much more to see! If you haven’t been to Kruja, you must. Also, if you go to Lezha, they have this huge sand dune at their beach, it is called Rana e Hedhun. Amazing scenery from there too. Elbasan also being a nice city to visit with their interesting castle in the middle of the city. Anyways, how did you like the music, newer and traditional music if you heard any?

    • Reply
      Allison Green
      October 27, 2016 at 5:47 pm

      I absolutely agree with you that there’s so much to see! I would love to see Kruja, Lezha, and Elbasan – my Albanian friends did recommend these all to me but even with three weeks in the country I didn’t get a chance to see these all 🙁 On the plus side, that means I need to return! The sand dune at Rana e Hedhun sounds amazing and now it’s jumped to the top of my list for a return trip 🙂 Thanks for all the suggestions, they are duly noted!!

      As for the music – the newer music was fun and really catchy! When I was there “Shake it” and “Like Rihanna” were really big (don’t know if those are their actual titles or just the catchy parts). I heard the traditional music on the buses as well, and I thought it was quite nice – it actually reminded me a lot of Turkish traditional music, which I suppose would make sense given the Ottoman occupation? Do you have any music recommendations for me?

      Thank you again for your comment!

      • Reply
        Xhuliano
        October 28, 2016 at 1:26 am

        Yes, Rana e Hedhun is actually amazing, I wish I could post a picture I took to show you! And yes, Alban Skënderaj is one of the best Albanian artists in my opinion and you can definitely search him on YouTube. I’m sure you would enjoy his music, especially if you love actual singing in songs. And a few traditional songs that is most popularly known are Shota and Valle Kosovare. I’m sure you’ll like both those too. And actually, yes “Shake It” and “Like Rihanna” are the actual names.

        • Reply
          Allison Green
          October 28, 2016 at 11:27 am

          Email it to me! allison at eternalarrival.com. I will definitely check out Alban Skënderaj and those traditional songs you recommended – I’m sure they’re better than the silly pop stuff on the radio and TV 🙂

          • Xhuliano
            October 28, 2016 at 3:17 pm

            I have sent an email. Don’t hesitate to use them if you want to for anything!

          • Allison Green
            October 28, 2016 at 5:55 pm

            Wow, it’s really stunning! I’d love to include it in my post – with credit to you, of course. I’ll add it soon, thank you so much!

      • Reply
        Fitim
        October 28, 2016 at 11:45 am

        For really unique “jazz albanian” try song “i dehun” from Zig zag Orchestra….you will love it. i did show this bad and kind of music to my american friends from Neshwille ad they loved it. Thanks for the post.

        • Reply
          Allison Green
          October 28, 2016 at 1:47 pm

          Awesome! I will definitely check it out – thank you for the recommendation 🙂 I love jazz!

  • Reply
    Saimir
    October 27, 2016 at 5:35 pm

    So pleased you enjoyed your stay in my country and of doing a much better job at describing it than I could have ever done, perhaps because guests notice things that we take for granted and indeed at times fail to appreciate.

    So here’s another grateful Albanian wishing to thank you, and since I read in one of your other posts that you are thinking of going to Cyprus, and I happen to have been posted here, feel free to email me if you fancy a free pic-up from the airport or any other help whilst over here.

    On the downside, you would have to settle for a boring car rather than a “furgon”.

    Best of luck and keep enjoying your travels!

    • Reply
      Allison Green
      October 27, 2016 at 5:55 pm

      I definitely agree with you – it’s much easier to describe a place as a guest. I used to live in NYC and when people ask me what it’s like living there, it’s so hard to give them a good answer… I mostly go with “sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad” — not super informative or interesting haha.

      Thank you so much for your kind offer regarding Cyprus! My travel plans don’t have me going there soon, but that’s always subject to change 🙂 If I’m ever planning on going to Cyprus I’ll get in touch – even if it means settling for a boring car ride (as long as it’s a vintage Mercedes :P)

      Thanks for your well wishes and taking the time to comment!

  • Reply
    Memli
    October 28, 2016 at 3:01 pm

    Spot on summary, whether socially or geographically.

    I feel bad you did not get the chance to see Theth, Valbona, the forest is breathtaking.

    A few tips, info and trivia i’d like to share for any traveler.

    Do not get fooled by the “Accursed Mountains”, they are called so due to their high inaccessibility, the place is completely safe, if you manage to spot any small village, you’ll most probably be treated with a meal :).

    Mount Tomorr is incredible as well, with ancient tales (all friendly ones) and stunning form, it has been even reported to help people with various illnesses such as asthma.

    Sea wise, head for the Ionian, which is the southern part of Albania. The “Karaburun Peninsula” (known as The Finger, just in front of Vlora, next to Sazan Island) is a newly opened up from the military zone with untouched beaches, although only accessible through long walks or expensive boat trips.

    Any beach that resides next to a mountain has unprecedented water quality, that is all due to the washed down Calcium. The beaches are deep right after 10m distance, are slightly more salty and barely have creatures. This ensures for perfect visibility, so good that your own shadow may scare you. Not to forget, the pebble beaches are very hygienic, and lovely for back problems.

    Top Beaches: All the ones in the Karaburun Peninsula, Sazan Island*, Gjipe
    Very good ones: Dhermi, Palasa, Drimadh, Borsh, Bunec, Kakome
    Very good ones but more family oriented: Ksamil, Qeparo.

    None of the above locations are big cities, so houses around should be cheap to rent.

    All Brown Traffic signs indicate historical sights, and there are quite a lot of them.

    If you are camping, although there are camp sites, nobody will bother you whether you camp in near forests or even on the beach, not even the police.
    There are no animal dangers, the Balkans fauna is very peaceful, and i bet you wont even encounter any.

    People wise, as the article says, every 3rd can speak a second language, every 5th is fluid at it. Helping is part of our culture so don’t hesitate to ask if you need it.

    • Reply
      Allison Green
      October 28, 2016 at 6:05 pm

      I’m glad you agree with my summary! It’s quite a challenge to capture a place like Albania in so many words so it’s an honor to hear I did it justice. Thank you so much for all the additional information. It’s my big regret that I didn’t get to see the Accursed Mountains. I did get to see parts of the Dinaric Alps in Montenegro and Kosovo and they were truly stunning; I can only imagine how beautiful they are near Valbona and Theth. And thanks for all your wonderful beach recommendations. I went to Gjipe beach and it was truly stunning. Ksamil was lovely but as you say quite family oriented and very crowded. I had never heard of the Karaburun peninsula or Sazan island before so those have moved right up to the top of my must-see list! You are right that the visibility is stunning and the seas are lovely and salty – it’s so calm and easy to float, perfect for a lazy swimmer like me. Aah, what I wouldn’t give for a sunny summer day in Albania right now!

  • Reply
    Alberto
    October 29, 2016 at 7:16 pm

    Complimenti Allison. Bellissimo articolo. I am Italian thath says he has known for many years Albania, and that having a tour operator fatigue a lot to make it known and to bring tourists in this beautiful country. I do everything conferences in Italy, internet, news letter, fairs ect. also tourists … Brava continua così and if you come in Durres, I offer you a coffee.
    Ciao Alberto.

    • Reply
      Allison Green
      October 29, 2016 at 7:34 pm

      Grazie mille per i tuoi complimenti 🙂 I’m glad you enjoyed the article. I went to Italy right after Albania, and many Italians I met hadn’t even been to Albania, which I think is funny because the countries are so close. Even my Airbnb host in Brindisi hasn’t been, and the ferry to Vlora is right there! Thank you for your offer for a coffee – I hope to come back to Albania one day soon to take you up on it! Ciao!

  • Reply
    Eva
    November 4, 2016 at 11:44 am

    I have been to Albania before and this post just brings back so many lovely memories. I hope the country gets more tourist so they can develop their tourism infrastructure.

    • Reply
      Allison Green
      November 4, 2016 at 8:01 pm

      I’m so glad you enjoyed Albania! I agree, I hope they get more tourists and further develop their economy, while still staying true to their roots.

  • Reply
    Rian
    November 5, 2016 at 11:52 am

    I really appreciate your writing and can’t thank you enough. Being an Albanian makes me proud that you enjoyed your stay and took the initiative to write about it. We as Albanians have never been into writing and although our language is one of the oldest it’s been always a spoken language. To the point that my granny is 92 and can’t read or write. My aunt is in her late 60s and can’t read or write. So again thank you for your post and I am glad you enjoyed your stay and hope you do come back to experience the rural Albania. It’s in the rural Albania that you get to see the real tradition, besa, the most kindness and a taste of dishes with ingredients taken straight from the garden.

    • Reply
      Allison Green
      November 5, 2016 at 1:02 pm

      Interesting point about reading and writing… I didn’t know that! I definitely plan to return to Albania soon and I’m hoping to get more off the beaten path and visit rural Albania, it seems absolutely magical. And thanks for posting that awesome video! So nice to now the science behind what gave me all those rough mornings 😛

  • Reply
    Rian
    November 5, 2016 at 12:19 pm

    I forgot to add a link to how Rakia for those curious to know. This is made by almost every house in villages. http://youtu.be/xD7UP-TVMhM

  • Reply
    Sui Thanasi
    November 7, 2016 at 10:18 pm

    wow, 75 is a lot. But so much needed especially for us Albanians. We are often blinded by the negativity of media so we forget where we live and what we have. We love Albania too though, as you rightly say, we are patriotic, and sometimes nationalists – but we often get mad at each other and especially to those who lead/serve. We often get mad at ourselves too but that’s a longer story :D. Rrofsh! Faleminderit!

    • Reply
      Allison Green
      November 9, 2016 at 4:47 pm

      I think that all comes from a love of your country, though, and a desire to make it better 🙂 I’m glad you enjoyed the read! Faleminderit to you as well

  • Reply
    Greta Bolani
    November 19, 2016 at 11:44 am

    Wow!!! Now i get why foreigners love Albania! You made me have another understanding of my country love it in its best and in its worst! I am very glad you enjoyed it but even more promoting it, in the best way possible. It happens to me as I have a consider number of international friend who think yet Albania is in its1997′, civil war, unsafety… We need more people like you, out true ambassadors all over the world. You and every one is more than welcomed in our Albania!

    • Reply
      Allison Green
      November 19, 2016 at 10:41 pm

      Thank you so much for your kind comment Greta, I’m really glad you enjoyed reading and feel that I was able to represent your beautiful country fairly and accurately. It really is a special place in this world, I can truly say I’ve never been anywhere else like it and I’ve traveled to 38 countries so far 🙂 I hope to come back next year and write more!

  • Reply
    Liljana
    November 30, 2016 at 11:49 pm

    GREAT POST ALLISON! Can’t believe that for only 3 weeks you have captured the spirit of Albania so nicely. BIG WOW! And you are right. You are not considered an Albanian if you don’t drink raki ( alcohol).
    I agree with you about the beaches. I have been in Croatia, Montenegro and I genuinely think our beaches are way better, even though we do have our problems with rubbish and illegal buildings. I wish you could have seen communism Albanian beaches. They were a real heaven on earth,super clean, toilets, showers, not a single building, pure nature. I had the privilege to go on most of those beaches at those timing, but we never thought we had to appreciate them. Now when I see them I feel like crying. The magic has gone, human greed is too much for nature to survive.
    As for the beaches,Memli and Xhuliano are right. For the moment Karaburun and Sazan Island are yet the untouched beaches. Fingers crossed they stay that way longer. As for the North of Albania, Shengjin area at Rana e Hedhun is just the best for me at the moment. Small little bays with curative sand for children and family and crystal clear waters due to the proximity of the stony mountain covered in dense pine forest. I still have one or two secret beaches under my sleeve which only us locals know, but I think I’ll keep it to myself.
    As for the mountains I can assure you wherever you go,you’ll see majestic views, even though some of the most beautiful parts are known only on local terms.
    Albania may have many flaws but is never boring. PERFECT IS BORING.
    About safety I feel much safer in Albania than in London where I live. When I was in Rome someone tried to snatch my bag in the middle of the city, but nobody say that Rome is dangerous.
    Thanks Allison for promoting my country, even though my selfish side sometimes makes me happy that tourists stay away from it due to our bad reputation.

    selfish

    I’m glad tourists stay

    o t

    • Reply
      Allison Green
      December 3, 2016 at 11:05 pm

      Thanks so much for your sweet comment Liljana! I’m so happy that you think I was able to capture the spirit well 🙂 I’m really hoping to come back next summer… I’m inspired by your comment and everyone else who has commented with great suggestions on what else to see. I’ve raved about it so much to my aunt and uncle that they may even join me too! I can’t say I blame you for keeping some of the best secrets to yourself. Unchecked tourism can be devastating, especially on developing economies. It’s hard because I want to see the country succeed and tourism dollars can really help, but I also don’t want it to change too much. I absolutely agree that I felt much safer in Albania than in many Western cities. The way people perceive risk and travel is really odd to me… but hey, maybe it keeps the boring travelers out.

  • Reply
    Liljana
    December 4, 2016 at 9:22 pm

    Hello Allison!
    A big thank you for taking your time responding to our comments.
    Last time I touched the button by mistake and the message got sent without finishing my comment,but I have to finish it now.
    Allison for the way you have been writing about Albania with an open mind , I would make a recommendation to all Albanians in Albania to give you PERMANENTLY FREE HOLIDAYS whenever you come to my country. YOU DESERVE IT..
    I wish you all the best in your travels and in your daily life.!!!
    Take care
    Liljana xox

    • Reply
      Allison Green
      December 4, 2016 at 11:57 pm

      Of course! It’s the least I can do to thank people who take the time out of their day to read my writing and have something to say 🙂 And hey, I certainly won’t say no to permanently free holidays in Albania 😉 Sounds like a dream come true!

      Thanks for all the well wishes, I wish you all the same!! <3

  • Reply
    Jean
    December 18, 2016 at 1:21 am

    I try not to take my travel advie from Liam Neson. I’m crazy I know. Great photos of Albania. Can’t wait until I’m back in that part of the world

    • Reply
      Allison Green
      December 19, 2016 at 7:02 am

      Totally crazy, I usually make him approve all my itineraries first ;D

      I can’t wait either! As soon as winter blows over, I’m hoping to head back to Eastern Europe and that part of the world again <3

  • Reply
    ADAM DOOLITTLE
    December 18, 2016 at 2:43 am

    I gotta say, I never thought of Albania much of a tourist destination. I’m glad you did this write up as it definitely shows one of those hidden gems worth going to. Thanks!

    • Reply
      Allison Green
      December 19, 2016 at 7:01 am

      I’m so happy to hear that! It really is a wonderful destination, very friendly and welcoming to tourists. I hope you get a chance to visit one day!

  • Reply
    Davide uTravelShare.com
    December 18, 2016 at 8:39 am

    Allison you have an incredible post about this lovely country! Never though it was stunning as you described it! I read every single point you mentioned here! I am nature lovers and my passion is History, so I focused my attention to some of those points you wrote above!! Like you said Albania has been ignored for long time but I am sure they are making everything possible to becoming quickly a hot travel destination!
    Just one note, I am absolutely disagree to your point n°3! I have been in Greece, Spain and along Adriatic Sea, my home is Sardinia, take a look some pics on google 😀 thanks for sharing, great post and have a wonderful Christimas

    • Reply
      Allison Green
      December 19, 2016 at 6:47 am

      Thank you so much, I’m so glad you liked the post and even happier that it kept your interest all the way through! I too love nature and history, which is why I feel so compelled to go back to Albania.. there’s so much I missed even in 3 weeks there. I am actually planning to return next year 🙂

      Fair enough – in all honestly, I’ve never been to Sardinia (which is huge on my travel wishlist!) or the islands of Spain, so I’m comparing to my experiences in mainland coastal Italy/Spain and Corfu. Albania beat them out for me – but now I have to go visit Sardinia just to investigate for myself 😀 y’know, for research purposes.

  • Reply
    Jen Morrow
    December 18, 2016 at 2:20 pm

    So informative! I had no idea about the cuisine, safety, beaches, and well most of these! I knew it was pretty inexpensive and close to Italy, but that was the extent of my Albanian travel knowledge.

    • Reply
      Allison Green
      December 19, 2016 at 6:44 am

      I’m so glad you enjoyed the post! It’s really a wonderful place and I hope you get a chance to visit and see for yourself one day soon 🙂

  • Reply
    Katie
    December 18, 2016 at 6:14 pm

    Albania looks like an incredible place to visit and there is so many reasons to visit! thanks for sharing 🙂

    • Reply
      Allison Green
      December 19, 2016 at 6:42 am

      Glad you enjoyed, I really hope you get a chance to visit one day!

  • Reply
    Taylor Fuller
    December 18, 2016 at 6:34 pm

    i had no idea that albania was cheap to travel! good to know for this summer!

    • Reply
      Allison Green
      December 19, 2016 at 6:42 am

      It’s so cheap 🙂 You can live like a queen there on a budget. Hope you get a chance to visit!

  • Reply
    The Travel Ninjas
    December 19, 2016 at 1:13 am

    You make Albania sounds so irresistible. Love how off the beaten path it is in so many ways. Those sheep eating the tree are so cute.

    • Reply
      Allison Green
      December 19, 2016 at 6:41 am

      Aren’t they adorable? I couldn’t resist snapping a pic!

  • Reply
    LJ LEGEND
    December 19, 2016 at 1:47 am

    I really enjoyed this post and have recently watched a documentary with Eliza Dushku exploring her routes in Albania and it sparked my interest to visit, but your post as confirmed that I want to visit there, it so beautiful. I loved the passion you have written this with and your photo’s are fab as well.

    • Reply
      Allison Green
      December 19, 2016 at 6:41 am

      Ooh I will have to look into this documentary! I had heard she was Albanian but I didn’t know she had done a documentary about it. Amazing, thanks so much for the heads up 🙂 I hope you get a chance to visit soon!

  • Reply
    Kathy (from walkaboutwanderer.com)
    December 19, 2016 at 5:57 am

    Albania was completely off my radar but with so many reasons to visit, it is now completely on it. Thanks for such a great post 🙂

    • Reply
      Allison Green
      December 19, 2016 at 6:39 am

      So glad to hear that! You won’t regret it 🙂

  • Reply
    Lucy
    January 3, 2017 at 3:40 pm

    Super useful for planning our spring/summer holiday to Albania – thank you! How long would you say we ideally need to spend in Albania to get a good enough taste of coast/mountains/cities? (Bearing in mind we can’t take too long off work but want to do it “properly”!)

    Thanks!

    • Reply
      Allison Green
      January 3, 2017 at 10:11 pm

      Hi Lucy! I think that you probably need a minimum of one week. I would spend 2-3 days in Saranda or Himara, then take a bus to Tirana for 2 days (6 hours from Himara), then take a bus to Berat (3 hours) or Lake Komani (not sure exactly on the time, but I would guess 3-4 hours?), also for 2 days. I’d minimize time in Tirana in favor of time other places, though, to be totally honest – it’s interesting to be sure, and I happily spent 4 days there, but if you’re pressed for time I think there are far more beautiful things to do and see in Albania 😀 You’ll have to figure out bus times once you arrive as there’s no online or central bus system. Hope that helps!

  • Reply
    Armando Boni
    January 11, 2017 at 11:55 am

    As an Albanian I cann’t agree more wtih your points. Most of them made me smile. 🙂

    • Reply
      Allison Green
      January 17, 2017 at 12:06 am

      Aww so glad to hear that! I’m glad you enjoyed the read and it was able to make you smile!!

  • Reply
    Viss Shuli
    January 19, 2017 at 1:29 am

    Firstly as an Albanian i want to say that It is one of the best posts that i have read about my country. It is a pleasure for us when we read and hear such nice words for our country.

    Secondly as i read you have been around only for three weeks. What i like is that you have lived , seen , touched and felt it all the time …I want you to beliave that you have learn a lot (but you still got to learn )

    To end it I have to much to say but I thing you have to much to discover
    P.s one of rules never take the first or the last cigarette from somebody who has the packet..
    2) when the packet is in the table
    you don’t ask to take cigarette , just take them If you wanna smoke. but not the first or the last.

    • Reply
      Allison Green
      January 20, 2017 at 3:04 am

      Oh, it warms my heart to hear that! I’m so glad that you feel I was able to understand your country well after only three weeks. I definitely intend to visit again next summer – in fact, I talked about Albania so much my aunt and uncle want to join. I’ll keep the cigarette rules in mind (I’m actually not much a smoker but something about being in the Balkans brings it out of me). Thanks for the lesson!!

  • Reply
    Donika Gashi-Silver
    January 27, 2017 at 1:23 am

    I am so glad I found this site. I am now planning to go to Albania to visit the homeland of my father. I’ve wanted to go for my entire life! Now, I plan to take my 11 year old son, and my husband to discover my heritage. I can’t wait. Beautiful post. I wish my father could see what it is like today.

    • Reply
      Allison Green
      January 27, 2017 at 2:29 pm

      Oh you will love it so much Donika! It’s a beautiful country and your special connection to it will only make your experience all the more special. I wish he could have seen it too – the country seems to be looking forward 🙂

  • Reply
    Jamie
    January 27, 2017 at 3:28 pm

    Hi Allison, great article. My wife and I are planning a trip there at the end of May/early June and we were wondering about renting a car from Sarande to Tirana. What are your thoughts? We plan on driving the coast for 4 days and then heading up to Tirana and Theth (at this point we would return the car). Any tips would be greatly appreciated.

    • Reply
      Allison Green
      January 27, 2017 at 3:54 pm

      Oh you will love it! I think you have a good plan! Renting a car is definitely a great way to experience the Albanian coast and gives you more freedom. The road from Saranda to Tirana is in good condition, though often narrow and windy. Albanian drivers are a bit… speedy shall we say 😛 so you do have to take caution when driving. It’s good to return the car in Tirana and take public transit to Theth as the roads there are not so good, I’ve heard. I wouldn’t miss Lake Komani if you can help it! You can take a minibus from Shkodra (another city worth seeing) to Koman, take the ferry across the lake, and then go to Valbona and hike to Theth from there. But I don’t know how much time you have 🙂

  • Reply
    Mirel Meta
    February 10, 2017 at 11:19 am

    God what a surprising description of my country! it looks like you have been raised in Albania. I enjoyed it a lot and sometimes laughed because it was so vivid and realistic! I am proud of being an Albanian!

    • Reply
      Allison Green
      February 10, 2017 at 4:15 pm

      Aw Mirel that is so good to hear and I’m really honored that in my short time visiting I was able to paint such a vivid picture 🙂 I’m glad you enjoyed and laughed a bit!

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