New Discoveries in an Ancient Land
Hugging the southwestern corner of the Balkan Peninsula, Albania has an uncommon number of tourism charms. A combination of Old World traditions and a preserved, dramatic landscape of mountains and sea provides travellers with a look into an ancient culture that is only now being truly rediscovered after decades of secrecy following the end of communism. Today, this open and safe country welcomes guests with the open arms of a culture that respects visitors with a duty-bound and uncompromising grace.
Albania’s landscape is as varied as anywhere in Europe. Throughout its eastern half, mountains soar above a largely unsullied landscape. The tallest being Mount Korab, on the Macedonian border, which rises to 2,764 metres. The densest range belongs to the so-called Albanian Alps (part of the Balkans’ Dinaric Alps Range) in the the northern third of the country. Here, tiny villages are tucked into valleys and on hillsides. Strangers are invited in for coffee, fresh cheese, and bread.
Perhaps the aspect of the country’s geography that has received the most attention in the last few years is its pristine coastline. Its Adriatic shore stretches from Montenegro to the north and Greece in the south. Along the way, several popular spots—including Durrës, Vlorë, and Sarandë—punctuate a coast brimming with hidden coves, secluded beaches, and welcoming villages.
The culture here can be traced back to the Paleolithic Period. Civilisations that were the precursors to today’s populations began to appear more than 5,000 years ago. After, the Illyrians settled on the strategic stretch of land. Over the millennia, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, and Ottomans have also left their mark on this area that became important for sea access and trade. In 1991, following four decades of a dictatorship and nearly five decades of communism, Albania began holding elections and opened this multi-dimensional culture to the world.
How to get there?
Visitors can reach Albania by car, bus, and plane—with an international airport in Tirana. Active travelers can also pedal through the country by bicycle, which crosses the border through the EuroVelo 8 route, or trek on the Via Dinarica hiking trail, which traverses the entire Western Balkans region.