Tourism in Albania
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. Although still underdeveloped, Albania is set to prime its debut on the world scene as it celebrates a century of independence. Lonely Planet ranked Albania as the no. 1 destination to be visited in 2011. A Huffington Post article outlined 10 reasons for visiting Albania in 2013. In August 2011, American actress with Albanian origin Eliza Dushku visited Albania to film a promotional documentary on her father's country of origin entitled Dear Albania. Albania has been officially dubbed as "A New Mediterranean Love" or more recently as "Europe's Last Secret".
The bulk of international tourists going to Albania are from Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Greece, and Italy. Foreign tourists mostly come from Eastern Europe, particularly from Poland, and the Czech Republic, but also from Western European countries such as Germany, Belgium, France, Scandinavian countries, and others. 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. 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. 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.
Towns and archaeological sites
Stemming from a rich history of civilizations, Albania holds a mix of interesting artefacts. The most visited towns are:
- Durrës Amphitheatre
- One thousand and one window town of Berat
- Old port city of Durrës (Dyrrhachium)
- Stone city of Gjirokastër
- Krujë, the balcony over the Adriatic sea
- Shkodër, the city that is home, among others to the Rozafa Castle
- Tirana, the capital with a vibrant nightlife
- Beach city of Vlorë (the city of olives and grapes)
- Lezha, the historic diplomatic capital of Albania
- Poet's city of Pogradec
- Honeymooners' city of Sarandë
- Year round festive city of Korcë
The most visited archaeological sites are
Albania is known for its breathtaking landscape. Some increasingly popular features include:
- Albanian Riviera, the coastal area stretching from Vlore to Saranda along the Ionian Sea. The whole coastline of Albania stretches over 450 km.
- Albanian Alps, part of the Prokletije or Accursed Mountains range in Northern Albania bearing the highest mountain peak. Seventy percent of Albania's terrain is mountainous.
- Kelmend region in northern most point of Albania.
- Naturally occurring phenomenon of the Blue Eye Spring near Sarande in extreme Southern Albania
- Lake Komani Ferry, a unique journey amidst spectacular mountain views in Northern Albania
- The 20 km long Osum Canyon, the largest in Albania located near Corovode in Skrapar District
- Coastal areas of Lalzi Bay north of Durrës near Rodon Cape, and General's Beach near Kavaje
- Curative beaches of coastal Velipoja in Ada Bojana near the Montenegrin border, and Shengjin near Lezhe.
- Kune-Vain Lagoon near Lezhe and Karavasta Lagoon near Divjake along the Adriatic Sea
- Sotira Waterfall in Gramsh District near Tomorri Mountain
- Belsh Lakes near Belsh, Elbasan District
- Nivica and Progonat Canyons near Tepelene and the Langarica Canyon in Kolonje District
Albania is a rural and agricultural oriented country. The main emerging agritourism destinations are:
- Historic Moscopole, and alpine Dardhë, Vithkuq, and Boboshticë villages near Korcë
- Albanian stretch of Ohrid Lake in Hudenisht stretching from Qafë Thanë/Kjafasan, Pogradec to Tushemisht
- Area of Përmet District in southeastern Albania, and Libohovë village near Gjirokastër
- Fishing village of Shiroka along Shkodër Lake
- Drilon Swans Park east of Pogradec
- Emerging agritourism villages of Gjinar near Elbasan, Rovje in Gramsh District, and Shishtavec in Kukes County
- Picturesque areas of Fushe-Kuqe and Shenkoll near the Kune-Vain-Tale Lagoon Area of Lezhe District
- Suburban area along Rruga e Elbasanit and panoramic region of Mount Dajt, both in the outskirts of Tirana
Due to the varying geographic elevation, Albania features endless panoramic routes with the main being:
- Vlora-Saranda route in Southwestern Albania along the Albanian Riviera starting from coastal Vlore into Llogara Pass and along the Ceraunian Mountains
- Rreshen-Kalimash motorway along the Fan River Valley in Northern Albania
- SH78 Jergucat-Delvine route overlooking the Dropulli Plain in Southern Albania
- 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
The Albanian culture is known for its rich folklore and unique traditions showcased in various forms:
- Gjirokaster National Folklore Festival is held every five years in Gjirokaster (last held in September 2009)
- Lock-in Tower of Theth as an artifact of the bloodfeud tradition
- National Historic Museum in Tirana, Skanderbeg Museum in Kruja, Skanderbeg's Tomb in Lezha, and the many Ethnographic Museums scattered in various cities
- 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.
- Throughout the year, many regions organize local exhibitions and festivals of regional crafts and delicacies.
UNESCO World Heritage Sites
Albania is home to three World Heritage Sites:
- Butrint, an ancient Greek and Roman city
- Gjirokastër, a well-preserved Ottoman medieval town
- Berat, the 'town of a thousand and one windows'
Issues affecting tourism
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, and unclear land ownership. On the education aspect, there lacks a clear accommodation classification system and qualified hospitality sector personnel.
- Transport in Albania, including road construction updates
- Geography of Albania
- History of Albania
- List of castles in Albania
- List of national parks of Albania, including archaeological and marine ones
- List of World Heritage Sites in Albania
- Tourism in Kosovo
- Richardson, Whit (22 October 2012). "The Place: Albania Steps Into the Spotlight". National Geographic.
- 400,000 More Tourists Visited Albania in 2008 "From BalkanTravellers.com http://www.suite101.com/content/lonely-planet-albania---in-from-the-cold-in-2011-a303777". BalkanTravellers.
- Giray, Leyla (27 December 2012). "10 Reasons 2013 Is The Time To Visit Albania". Huffington Post.
- Rider, Taryn (July 3, 2012). "Eliza Dushku On Her Albanian Passion Project: I Have An Emotional Connection To This Country (EXCLUSIVE Q&A)". Celebuzz. Retrieved July 10, 2012.
- Dushku, Eliza (September 2, 2011). "Why You Must Visit Albania". Huffington Post. Retrieved March 11, 2012.
- "Eliza Dushku në Tiranë, promovon vlerat turistike të Shqipërisë". Koha.net. August 6, 2011. Retrieved August 7, 2011.
- ALBANIE 2009 LE PETIT FUTE By AL. DOMINIQUE page 7
- Turizmi ne Shqiperi: Reklama per Evropen Lindore, Shqiperia.com
- Tourist Attractions in Albania – VirtualTourist
- Middleton, Christopher (8 May 2013). "Europe's last corner: Beaches and beauty in Albania, the hidden bargain of the Balkans". Daily Mail. Retrieved 8 May 2013.
- Reeves, Edward (2 September 2012). "Albania's surprising side". Telegraph. Retrieved 3 September 2012.
- Probst, Carol (2 December 2012). "Albania – enjoying Europe without the costs and crowds". International Travel News ITN. Retrieved 8 December 2012.
- Gloyer, Gillian. 2012. Albania: Bradt Travel Guides
- Gorica, Klodiana. 2005. Albanian Tourism Management: The Future Path to Sustainable Development, Amfiteatru Economic 7, no. 18: 104-112
- Gorica, Klodiana. Issues of European Integration for Tourism: Challenges of Albania as an Emerge Destination. University of Tirana
- Kruja, Drita and Albana Gjyrezi. 2011. The Special Interest Tourism: Development and the Small Regions, Turizam 15, no. 2: 77-89
- Kushi, Evis and Enkela Caca. 2010. Some Problems of the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises in Albanian Holiday Hotels, Regional Science Inquiry Journal 1, no. 2: 63-70
- Inter Press Service. Unknown Albania - A Case Study. UNDP Albania: Tirana, 2007
|Wikivoyage has travel information related to: Albania|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Tourism in Albania|
- Albanian Tourism Official Portal
- National Tourism Agency Portal
- Albania at In Your Pocket City Guide
- Interactive Topographic and Travel Map of Albania
- Albanian Travel Magazine
- Authentic Albania Accommodation Standard
- Ministry of Tourism, Culture, Youth, and Sports of Albania
Official Regional Travel Guides
- Visit Korca
- Visit Permet
- Himara Travel Guide
- Municipality of Berat
- Thethi Guide
- Journey to Valbona
- Durres Guide
- Visit Kukes Region
- Discovery Kelmend & Shkrel
- Pogradec Guide
- Visit Saranda
- Velipoja Guide
- Shengjini Travel & Tourism
- Visit Vlora
- Albanian Mountains
- Visit Moscopole