Tourism in Albania

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The Albanian Riviera, panoramic view
World Heritage Site of Berat
Ancient Amphitheater of Butrint
Gjirokaster, the city of stone

Tourism in Albania is characterized by archaeological heritage from Illyrian, Greek, Roman and Ottoman times, unspoiled beaches, mountainous topography, delicious traditional Albanian cuisine, Cold War era artifacts, unique traditions and hospitality, and the wild and peculiar atmosphere of the countryside. In 2014, the New York Times ranked Albania fourth among 52 destinations to be visited.[1] Although still underdeveloped, Albania is set to prime its debut on the world scene as it celebrates a century of independence.[2] Lonely Planet ranked Albania as the no. 1 destination to be visited in 2011.[3] A Huffington Post article outlined 10 reasons for visiting Albania in 2013.[4] Recently, Albania has been officially dubbed as "Go Your Own Way". Previously, it was dubbed as "A New Mediterranean Love" and "Europe's Last Secret".[5]

The bulk of international tourists going to Albania are from Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Greece , and Italy.[6] Foreign tourists mostly come from Central and Eastern Europe, particularly from Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic, but also from Western European countries such as Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, France, UK, Scandinavia, and others including the United States, Turkey and countries in Asia.[7] To better enjoy ones's stay and for useful information, first time travelers to Albania are strongly encouraged to consult online/print publications and travel forums on specific tips and itinerary or can simply book a tour with a local tour operator. Backpackers are common and prefer resting at hostels, camping in the countryside or along the coast. Organized groups visit the numerous archaeological sites and historic towns. A growing trend has become canyon rafting, cycling and mountain biking, hiking, or off-road touring in the countryside. The latter can also be explored through the adventurous Albanian railway system. Recently, car rental agencies, tour operators, and tourist information centers have opened branches in the capital and other towns. Dental tourism has become popular as local dentists offer services with much lower prices. Local delicious cuisine can be tasted at traditional Albanian restaurants located near tourist attractions and scenic spots throughout the country.

However, tourism is hampered by local management issues such as poor road and public utilities infrastructure, unregulated waste disposal, illegal construction and hunting, uncertain land ownership, and an unqualified hospitality sector. These are due to Albania's long isolation, but are being dealt with and improvement is being seen constantly. Despite such setbacks, most coastal, some mountainous roads, and water supply and treatment facilities are being reconstructed mainly through IPA pre-accession funds to the EU. The private sector and foreign donors are heavily investing in accommodation and renovations at historical sites, while others are expressing interest in building tourist resorts and marinas.

Destinations and General Information[edit]

  • Flag: Black double-headed eagle on red background
  • International telephone prefix: +355
  • Government: Parliamentary Democracy
  • Population: 2,821,977 inhabitants (according to 2011 Census)
  • Area: 28,748 km2
  • Capital city: Tirana
  • Language: Albanian, Greek & Italian with English as a foreign language
  • Currency: Lekë

Official Holidays[edit]

Albania has other holidays as well but may not be official state recognised bank holidays as the above. Albanian Counties may have local holidays such as Greek National Day in Himara, that are not officially celebrated by the central government.

The Wild Albanian Alps in Northern Albania
Seaside town of Saranda across from Corfu

Towns and archaeological sites[edit]

Stemming from a rich history of civilisations, Albania holds a mix of interesting artefacts. The most visited towns are:

The most visited archaeological sites are

Blue Eye spring

Natural attractions[edit]

Albania is known for its breathtaking landscape. Some increasingly popular features include:

Skanderbeg Museum in Kruja Castle overlooking the Adriatic
Vibrant capital Tirana

Village areas[edit]

Albania is a rural and agricultural oriented country. The main emerging agritourism destinations are:

Climate[edit]

Scenic Llogara Pass overlooking the Albanian Riviera

Albania has a Mediterranean climate with each season offering distinct, yet pleasant weather. Some features of the climate vary by region: The coastal areas have a Central Mediterranean climate with mild, wet winters and hot, dry summers. The alpine areas have a Central Continental climate with cold, snowy winters and temperate summers. The lowlands have mild winters, averaging about 7 °C, and summer temperatures average 24 °C. Lowland rainfall ranges from 1,000 mm to more than 1,500 mm annually, with greater rainfall in the north. Nearly 95% of rainfall occurs in the winter and rainfall in the upland mountain ranges is heavier. Despite the rain, Albanians enjoy a great deal of sunshine, second only to Spain in average annual sunny days. The overall climate is pleasant and favors outdoor activity.

Panoramic routes[edit]

Lake Koman Ferry in northern Albania

Due to the varying geographic elevation, Albania features endless panoramic routes with the main being:

  • SH8-AL.svg Vlora-Saranda route in Southwestern Albania along the Albanian Riviera starting from coastal Vlorë into Llogara Pass and along the Ceraunian Mountains
  • Autostrada A1 Italia.svg Rreshen-Kalimash motorway along the Fan River Valley in Northern Albania
  • SH78 Jergucat-Delvine route overlooking the Dropulli Plain in Southern Albania
  • SH75 Korçë-Ersekë-Gjirokastër-Përmet-Këlcyrë-Tepelenë
  • SH3-AL.svg Tirana-Elbasan-Pogradec route along the Shkumbin River valley and Ohrid Lake
  • Koplik-Theth and Koplik-Vermosh in the Albanian Alps overlooking steep cliffs, challenging mountain peaks, and crystal clear rivers and waterfalls

Festivals and national heritage[edit]

Skanderbeg Grave in Lezha

The Albanian culture is known for its rich folklore and unique traditions showcased in various forms:

  • National Historic Museum in Tirana, Skanderbeg Museum in Kruja, Skanderbeg's Tomb in Lezha, and the many Ethnographic Museums scattered in various cities
  • Gjirokaster National Folklore Festival is held every five years in Gjirokaster (to be held in April 2015)
  • Lock-in Tower of Theth as an artifact of the bloodfeud tradition
  • Albanian traditional wedding celebrations mostly take place in the summer time and can be observed at historic sites as well. Moreover, some conservative older men and women mainly from the North still wear traditional clothing in their daily lives. Instead, older women from the South usually wear all black outfits.
  • Evening walkabouts are a traditional ritual usually in the summer months as locals promenade along the town squares or seaside promenades to relax after tiring hot summer days. Cafes are usually full mainly with retirees and students, while local parks with families. In addition, Tirana enjoys a very active nightlife where luxury cars and charming women invade the streets and bars of the former politburo residence area known as Blloku. The afternoon siesta is observed as some shops close down for a few hours after midday.
  • There is a strict code of conduct when meeting with Albanians.[9]
  • Throughout the year, many regions organize local exhibitions and festivals of regional crafts and delicacies.

Religious Coexistence[edit]

In Albania, there is a peaceful coexistence of those practicing a variety of religious faiths. Muslims, Orthodox, and those following the teachings of the Catholic Church comprise the majority of people adherent to religion. In 1967, religious worship was prohibited and the country became the world’s only official atheist state. Since the end of the Communism, Albanians have been guaranteed the freedom of religion and have exercised that freedom in various ways.

UNESCO World Heritage Sites[edit]

Albania is home to two World Heritage Sites (Berat and Gjirokastër are listed together)

Gallery[edit]

Albania tourism
Clockwise from top-left: Zvërnec Island, Golem Beach Baywatch, Albanian Riviera Hotel, Ksamil Islands, Orikum Marina, Shëngjin Hotel, Palasa Beach in Albanian Riviera, Porto Palermo Castle, Saranda Panorama, and Police Patrol in Durrës Beach.
Center: Durrës Pista

Panoramic view of Tirana from Mount Dajt.

Issues affecting tourism[edit]

The main problem to a viable tourism industry is the lack of a clear strategy. By far, tourism is not seen as the main economic industry of the country. Some problematic issues include spatial planning such as illegal construction, unregulated waste disposal, poor road and public utilities infrastructure, illegal logging and hunting, noise pollution, and unclear land ownership. On the education aspect, there lacks a clear accommodation classification system and qualified hospitality sector personnel.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Official Regional Travel Guides[edit]