Tourism in Albania
|Tourism in Albania|
The official logo of Albania, used to promote the tourist attractions in the country
Tourism in Albania has been a key element to the economic activity in the country, and is one of the country's most significant sectors. The bulk of international tourists going to Albania are mostly from Europe as well as from Asia and the United States. It is characterized by the rich 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, low prices, and the wild and peculiar atmosphere of the countryside.
With a total of 3.8 million visitors, Albania is the 25th (out of 47 countries) most visited country in Europe. Lonely Planet ranked Albania as the number 1 destination to be visited in 2011. The New York Times ranked Albania fourth among 52 destinations to be visited in 2014. Although still underdeveloped, Albania is set to prime its debut on the world scene as it celebrates a century of independence. A Huffington Post article outlined 10 reasons for visiting Albania in 2013. Recently, Albania has been officially dubbed as Go Your Own Way. Previously, it was dubbed as A New Mediterranean Love. According to the Polish Tour Operators Association, Albania is the 10th most visited country by the Poles.
Although a small country, Albania is distinguished for its rich biological diversity. Over a third of the territory of Albania – about 10,000 square kilometres (3,861 square miles);– is forested and the country is very rich in flora. About 3,000 different species of plants grow in Albania, many of which are used for medicinal purposes. Phytogeographically, Albania belongs to the Boreal Kingdom, the Mediterranean Region and the Illyrian province of the Circumboreal Region. Coastal regions and lowlands have typical Mediterranean macchia vegetation, whereas oak forests and vegetation are found on higher elevations. Vast forests of black pine, beech and fir are found on higher mountains and alpine grasslands grow at elevations above 1800 meters.
Some of the most significant bird species found in the country include the golden eagle – known as the national symbol of Albania – vulture species, capercaillie and numerous waterfowl. The Albanian forests still maintain significant communities of large mammals such as the brown bear, gray wolf, chamois and wild boar. The north and eastern mountains of the country are home to the last remaining Balkan lynx – a critically endangered population of the Eurasian lynx.
With its coastline facing the Adriatic and Ionian seas, its highlands backed upon the elevated Balkan landmass, and the entire country lying at a latitude subject to a variety of weather patterns during the winter and summer seasons, Albania has a high number of climatic regions relative to its landmass. The coastal lowlands have typically Mediterranean climate; the highlands have a Mediterranean continental climate. In both the lowlands and the interior, the weather varies markedly from north to south. The lowlands have mild winters, averaging about 7 °C (45 °F). Summer temperatures average 24 °C (75 °F). In the southern lowlands, temperatures average about 5 °C (9 °F) higher throughout the year. The difference is greater than 5 °C (9 °F) during the summer and somewhat less during the winter.
World Heritage Sites
Albania is home to two World Heritage Sites (Berat and Gjirokastër are listed together)
- Butrint, an ancient Greek and Roman city
- Gjirokastër, a well-preserved Ottoman medieval town
- Berat, the 'town of a thousand and one windows'
The following is the UNESCO Tentative List of Albania:
- Gashi River and Rrajca (latter part of Shebenik-Jabllanica National Park) under primeval beech forests of the Carpathians and the ancient beech forests of Germany
- Durrës Amphitheatre
- Ancient Tombs of Lower Selca
- Natural and Cultural Heritage of the Ohrid Region
- Ancient City of Apollonia
Most of the international tourists going to Albania are mostly from Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Greece, and Italy. From Eastern Europe, particularly from Poland, Slovakia, Ukraine and the Czech Republic, but also from Western European countries such as Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, France, Scandinavia, and others.
Northern Albania is known for its alpine mountainous landscape, conservative highlands, historic regions, large hydroelectric reservoirs, traditional inns and camping areas, and where the southern most glaciers of Europe are located. Some increasingly popular features include:
- Theth and Valbona Valley national parks in the Albanian Alps, part of the Prokletije or Accursed Mountains range in Northern Albania. Kelmend region and Shkrel are located southwest of Vermosh, the northernmost point of Albania.
- Lake Komani Ferry, a unique journey amidst spectacular mountain views
- Emerging agritourism areas of Puka, panoramic Ulëz Lake and nearby Vau i Dejes, Barbullush and Fishte villages in Zadrima region near Lezhe, and Katund i Vjeter in Mirdita region near Rubik
- Shishtavec near Kukes, and alpine area of Nikaj-Mertur in Lekbibaj region near Bajram Curri
- Fishing village of Shiroka, Zogaj, and Grile/Omaraj along Shkodër Lake
Coastal western lowland of Albania
The western lowland of Albania alternates between archaeological sites, castles, long stretches of curative sandy beaches, and lagoon areas perfect for bird-watching. In total, the coastline of Albania stretches over 476 km (296 mi) and is administered by the AKB National Coastal Agency . Some emerging coastal areas include:
- Curative beaches of coastal Shengjin near Lezhe, and Velipoja close to Ada Bojana near the Montenegrin border
- Coastal areas of Lalzi Bay north of Durrës near Rodon Cape, Golem Beach south of Durres, and General's Beach near Kavaje
- Kune-Vain Lagoon near Lezhe, and Karavasta Lagoon near Divjake along the Adriatic Sea
- Picturesque areas of Fushe-Kuqe and Shenkoll near the Kune-Vain-Tale Lagoon Area
- Protected coastal area of Pishe-Poro in the Vjosa River Delta near Narta Lagoon featuring bird-watching, sand dunes and medicinal herbs
- Krujë is called by the locals as the Adriatic Balcony from the stunning view that offers day and night
Central Albania alternates between hilly and mountainous topography, ancient castles and rich culinary traditions of rural Tirana, Elbasan, and Gramsh.
- Tirana suburban areas of Berzhite and Petrela along Rruga e Elbasanit (SH3), and panoramic villages of Mount Dajt east of the capital
- Belsh Lakes near Belsh, Elbasan District
- Emerging agritourism villages of Gjinar near Elbasan, and Rovje in Gramsh District
- Alpine Shebenik-Jabllanice National Park home to the Balkan lynx near Librazhd
Southern and Southeastern Albania
Southern and Southeastern Albania are mostly mountainous and known for UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Orthodox monasteries, Albanian Renaissance figures, and long stretches of shingle and sandy beaches along the Albanian Riviera and Lake Ohrid.
- Albanian Riviera, the coastal area stretching from Vlorë to Saranda along the Ionian Sea.
- Naturally occurring phenomenon of the Blue Eye Spring near Sarande in extreme Southern Albania
- Radhime coastal stretch south of Vlora, and Tragjas near Orikum emerging agriturism area
- The 20 km long Osum Canyon, the largest in Albania located near Corovode in Skrapar District, and the Sotira Waterfall in Gramsh District near Tomorri Mountain
- Nivica and Progonat Canyons near Tepelene and the Langarica Canyon in Përmet
- Shelegur protected mountain area near Leskovik, Erseke
- 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. Drilon Swans Park is located east of Pogradec.
- Area of Përmet in southeastern Albania, and Libohovë village near Gjirokastër
The Butrint National Park has been included in the list of Top 10 national parks in Europe by The Guardian. Butrint is known for its unique Ancient heritage which includes UNESCO-protected Butrint National Park. It was inhabited since prehistoric times and was a city of the Illyrian tribe of the Chaonians, later a Roman colony and a bishopric. Butrint is some 14 kilometres south of Sarandë and close to the Greek border. A number of major monuments are still extant including the city walls, late-antique baptistery, great basilica, theatre and Venetian castles.
In addition to archaeological remains, the site of the ancient city is situated within natural woodland with a complex ecosystem which depends on the nearby freshwater Lake Butrint and Vivari Channel, which drains the lake into the Ionian Sea. It is this combination of historic monuments and natural environment which makes Butrint such a unique place, a landscape with monuments as beloved of the Grand Tourists of the 18th and 19th centuries.
Karaburun-Sazan National Marine Park is the only national marine park of Albania. It lies southwest of Albania, in the county of Vlorë, whereas the Strait of Otranto separates it from Salento in Italy, by only 72 kilometres (45 mi). The western coast of the Karaburun Peninsula comprises a rough relief, steep cliffs, caves, small bays and rocky beaches, such as Gjiri i Kakomesë, Gjiri i Arushës (Bear's bay), Gjiri i Dafinës (Laurel bay) and 14 km (8.7 mi) southeast of Gjiri i Arushës is located the most interesting Gramata Bay, a small bay where ships and vessels anchored since antiquity.
The Llogara National Park is known from its vibrant flora and fauna with over 100 different types of wild animals and birds including: deer, wild cats, foxes, etc. The mixture of refreshing high altitude mountain air and proximity of the sea makes it very attractive destination for tourists. The area is also important for the growth of eco-tourism, picnic, hiking and air sports. The Divjakë-Karavasta is the largest lagoon in Albania and one of the largest in the Adriatic Sea. It is separated from the Adriatic Sea by a large strip of sand. The lagoon is part of the Divjakë-Karavasta National Park. It was chosen as an area of international importance, protected by the Ramsar Convention of 29 November 1995.
Dajti National Park is located 26 km east of the capital, Tirana. It's accessible all year round and can be reached on foot or via cable cars. Lurë National Park is home to many rare species of wildlife. The twelve glacial lakes of Lurë that were formed during the Würm glacial period are an identifying attraction. The Prespa Lakes are the highest tectonic lakes in the Balkans, standing at an elevation of 853 m (2,798 ft).
Theth is a national park in the extreme north of the country, designated by government decree in 1966. It covers an area of 2,630 hectares and is located along the Theth River. The main attractions in the park are the Grunas Waterfall and the Lock-in Tower. The Valbonë Valley was designated in 1996, the park covers 8,000 hectares including the Valbona Valley and the Valbona River and lies between high and craggy peaks bordering Theth, Gashi River, Plava and Gucia (Montenegro), all strictly protected natural areas.
Fir of Hotovë-Dangëlli contains the largest area of Bulgarian Fir in the Balkans. Other tree species include maple, black hornbeam, ilex, red and black juniper, raspberry and others. The Shebenik-Jabllanicë is one of Albania’s newest, created in 2008. Within the park region dwell a number of different species that are fast becoming rare in Albania, including the brown bear, gray wolf and the endangered Balkan Lynx.
The majority of Shtamë Pass National Park is mostly undeveloped mountain land with forests, in which pine trees, and oak dominate. The park of Fir of Drenova has a particular importance on the trans-boundary exchanges of flora and fauna elements. It represents a key habitat and bio corridor for large vertebrates, such as the bear (Ursus arctos), wolf (Canis lupus), roe deer (Capreolus capreolus); a habitats variety of: natural subalpine and alpine pastures, beech forest (Fagus syvaticus), pine (Pinus sp.), fir (Abies sp.) and hazelnut (Corrilus avellana).
In the classical period, Mount Tomorr was originally known as Mount Amyron who was a central feature in the region of Dassaretis, which was named after its inhabitants the Dexari, a tribe of Epirus belonging to the Chaonian people. Zall-Gjoçaj National Park is a wonderful park 40 km northeast of the town of Burrel. Featuring a variety of springs and ravines, it is resplendent in natural beauty.
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 Vlorë into Llogara Pass and along the Ceraunian Mountains
- Rreshen-Kalimash motorway connecting Albania with Kosovo between mountains along the Fan River Valley in Northern Albania
- SH78 Jergucat-Delvine along Muzina Pass overlooking the Dropulli Plain in Southern Albania
- SH75 Korçë-Ersekë-Përmet
- Ancient Via Egnatia along modern SH3
- History of Albania
- Geography of Albania
- Cuisine of Albania
- Transport in Albania
- Architecture of Albania
- Visa policy of Albania
- List of castles in Albania
- List of national parks of Albania
- Albanian Tourism Association
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