Welcome to Albania !

I. WHY ALBANIA
Albania is located across the Adriatic Sea from Italy. North of Greece, west of Kosovo and Macedonia and south of Montenegro, visiting this tiny Balkan nation is an experience like no other. And yes, there was a period of self-imposed isolationism during the mid- twentieth century when Albania's borders were closed to the outside world. Since the fall of Communism in 1991, however, the borders have been open to foreigners and they are coming. Albania is a member of NATO and engaged in a campaign to become the newest member of the European Union. The country is rich in heritage, culture, and spirit. Within a small territory, Albanian nature is amazing. The country is home to fourteen National Parks, all of them with something unique to offer. Divjaka National Park is the most western nesting point in Europe for the Dalmatian Pelican, an endangered species and draw for many birdwatchers. These wetlands have also been protected by the International Convention of RAMSAR since 1994. In the southern Albania, Butrint National Park is also a protected wetland due to its high diversity of flora and fauna. An added treasure nestled among the “jungle” of laurels and tall trees are the archaeological remains of the ancient city of Butrint.
Llogara National Park is located more than 1000 meters above sea level and is only a short distance for the inviting beaches of the Albanian Riviera, where visitors combine the pleasures of the fresh mountain air and the warmth of the sea. The clear, blue waters of the Adriatic and Ionian.
Albania is a mountainous country, with the highest peak, Mount Korabi (Dibra district), towering 2,751 m above sea level. Albania’s highlands offer travelers a variety of opportunities, from spelunking to skiing. Some of the areas renowned for outdoor activities are: Dajti, Llogara, Dardha, Bozdoveci, Voskopoja, Valbona, and Thethi.
II. THE TOP REASONS YOU SHOULD VISIT ALBANIA
The ancient ruins

If you have a limited time in Albania, then you absolutely must see the three UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Butrint, Gjirokastra, and Berat. These sites have been declared by the United Nations as having an extraordinary cultural significance to the whole of humankind, and we are proud to invite you to explore them. We promise that you will return home viewing history from a new vantage point.
Castles, castles, and more castles: Albania has lots of castles. Their sturdy stone foundations are as solid as the Albanian people themselves. Today some are little more than stone foundations while others are well preserved historic sites but all speak to Albania's long and storied past. They are located atop hills, along the Adriatic shores, or even in the middle of fields. Some are filled with museums, cafes, and vendors selling trinkets while others are simply grassy areas where sheep graze. Regardless of which castle you visit you will be stepping back into an important part of Albania's history. Just think about the work that went into erecting these masterpieces that have withstood the test of weather and time.


Diverse geography

Do you like the mountains? How about the beach? Or perhaps mountains that plunge into the sea. Regardless of where you are in Albania, you are within a few hours of all of her diverse biospheres. Albania is distinguished by its rich biological and landscape diversity in two main bio-geographical regions: the Mediterranean and the Alpine regions.

 
Religious freedom

Albania is an extremely religiously tolerant society with Christianity and Islam peacefully co-existing side by side. Religion runs parallel to the country's history and development with many of her early settlements being built as religious centers for the region. When Hoxha declared Albania an atheist state in 1967, the public practice of religion ceased. Churches were converted into government storage facilities but fortunately many of the most valuable religious icons were spared. A generation of Albanians was raised without a deep religious identity which has resulted in many Albanians claiming a religion in name only. Today the census says that 59% of the country identifies as Muslim and 17% as Christian. Orthodox churches do the hillsides in both the northern and southern parts of the country. It is refreshing to live in a place where one's religion isn't worn on their sleeve and individuals are free to worship (or not) as they please. In the link below you can see the perfect harmony between our religions: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-snFEPlNdjU


National pride

Albanians have a deep national pride that is evident where ever you look. They know their history dating back to ancient times, have museums, squares, and streets dedicated to their national hero Skanderbeg, and proudly wave their red and black double headed eagle flag whenever the opportunity arises. The best example of the intense national pride came last November when Albania celebrated a century of independence. In the days and weeks leading up to the 28th of November celebrations, red and black was everywhere. New double headed eagle statues were erected, flags were hung from every telephone wire and apartment block window, and car hoods were repainted with the country's flag. The culmination of the Independence Day festivities was giant cake that was entered the Guinness Book of World Records.


The cuisine

So come visit Albania. It is a country where old meets new on a daily basis. Your trip is sure to be an adventure and I promise that you won't be disappointed. If we are speaking about the food and drinks of Albania, then we must mention the country’s deliciously-unique cuisine. It has many similarities to Turkish and Greek dishes, but offers a healthier, Mediterranean twist. East meets west in many discernable ways throughout Albanian culture, but nowhere is it more evident than in the cuisine. Farmers and restaurants brag about their produce being organic and all natural which is due largely in part to their inability to afford chemicals and fertilizers. Come try our wide variety of phyllo dough delicacies, including a melt-in-your-mouth sensation called byrek, or the original sweet treat known regionally as baklava.

The landscape of Albania has been sprinkled with a boundless array of things to see and do. From a top the impregnable Rozafa fortress overlooking the city of Shkoder, which was the center of the Illyrian Kingdom in 4th and 3rd century B.C., to the Greek and Roman ruins of Butrint outside Saranda in the south, Albania’s geography reflects its legacy as a crossroads of civilizations and it guarantees something of interest for every traveler.


South / beaches

If you are seeking postcard-perfect weather, then look no further than along the Albanian Riviera, where we recommend you spend a couple of days on a sun-kissed beach. Located between the towns of Saranda and Vlore, the Albanian Riviera is Europe’s newest leisure destination. Hospitality is in our nature. Welcoming guests and ensuring their comfort is a hallmark of Albanian heritage and is epitomized by our very own Nobel Peace Prize recipient: Mother Teresa. The spirit of cooperation and friendship thrives in Albania, and it is not uncommon for guests to be invited to eat and drink with curious locals wishing to learn more about you.
III. DID YOU KNOW?
1. The Karavasta Lagoon is one of the largest lagoons in the Mediterranean Sea and is home to the Dalmatian Pelican, as well as to over 250 other species: birds, mammals, and amphibians. Five percent of the world’s Dalmatian Pelican population is found in this lagoon. Due to the biodiversity this lagoon is part RAMSAR convention since 1994.

2. The second largest Roman Amphitheater in the Balkans is located in Albania’s port-city of Durrës. Built in the 2nd century AD, the theater has a capacity to host as many as 20,000 spectators, about one-sixth of the population of nowadays Durrës.

3. Two of the seven “purple codices” written from the sixth to the eighteenth centuries are preserved in the UNESCO city of Berat in Albania. The two Albanian codices are very important for the global community and the development of ancient biblical, liturgical and hagiographical literature.

4. Onufri is “famous” as the most important icon painter of 16th century in Albania. He painted biblical and ecclesiastic motives according to the Byzantine canon. In his works, he depicted Albanian landscapes, towns, peasants, shepherds and especially knights. The most characteristic feature of Onufri’s pictures is the so-called “Onufrian red”.

5. The main legacy of the Albanian national hero, Skanderbeg, was to stop the expansion of the Ottoman Empire in Western Europe. His contribution is commemorated in monuments, statues, and squares named after him in Rome (Italy), Vienna (Austria), Geneva (Switzerland), Michigan (USA), Skopje (Macedonia), and Pristina (Kosovo), Paris (France), Spezzano (Italy) and Brussels (Belgium).

6. Albania is part of the three most important lakes of the Balkans Peninsula. Shkodra Lake is located in northwestern Albania and is the largest lake in the entire Balkan Peninsula, with an area of 370 km². Ohrid Lake is located in the southeastern part of Albania and is the deepest lake in the entire Balkan Peninsula, with a maximum depth of nearly 300 m. Prespa Lake consists of two branches, Great and Small Prespa. The latter branch cuts deeply into Albania's Galicica Mountain. It is the highest tectonic lake in the Balkans with an altitude of 853 m.

7. The Albanian language is one of the oldest living languages in the world and a stand-alone branch of the Indo-European language family and is now spoken by close to eight million people around the world. In addition to a large diaspora, over 80,000 Arbëresh speak Albanian in Southern Italy. The estimated 260,000 Arbëresh are direct descendants of Skanderbeg following a mass migration after his death in the late 15th century.

8. During the nearly forty-year leadership of Communist period, over 700,000 bunkers were built in the country – one for every four inhabitants. The bunkers are still a ubiquitous sight in Albania for visitors, with an average of twenty four bunkers for every square kilometer. Albania is maybe unique with its bunkers where some of them are decorated with brightful colors. Pencil holders and ashtrays in the shape of bunkers have become one of the country's most popular tourist souvenirs.

9. Did you know that the origins of iso - polyphony, one of the worlds most ancient a Capella singing traditions, can be traced to the Illyrians, the ancestors of modern Albanians? The term “iso” refers to the drone, which accompanies the iso-polyphonic singing and is related to the “ison” of Byzantine church music, where the drone group accompanies the song. This unique musical tradition was recognized by UNESCO in 2005 when it was added to the list of “Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.” Each region of Albania likes to specialize in its own brand of music, thus giving the music aficionado an incentive to explore the entire country in search of each community’s sense of style. For example, UNESCO has classified a type of music from southern Albania, known as Iso Polyphony, to have tremendous cultural value to humankind. Our music has even given rise to a few prominent artists of global acclaim, including opera lyric soprano, Inva Mula, and the distinguished violinist, Tedi Papavrami.
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