Albania is a small, virgin country in the Southeastern of Europe. It is bordered by Montenegro to the northwest, Kosovo to the northeast, the Republic of Macedonia to the east, and Greece to the south and southeast. It has a coast on the Adriatic Sea to the west and on the Ionian Sea to the southwest. It is less than 72 km (45 mi) from Italy, across the Strait of Otranto which links the Adriatic Sea to the Ionian Sea.
Albania has so many natural beauties and very interesting sites to see. It seems to be unbelievable that it has taken this country so many years to develop as a tourist destination, but finally it is beginning to develop! Since the end of the particularly brutal strain of communism in 1991, Albania remained so backwards in time that when it finally emerged to the large bright light of its freedom, it needed more than two decades, just to catch up with the rest of Eastern Europe.
From my personal experiences from my travels to and around Albania, I felt as if I was spoiled by a very comfortable life and by technology. The beauties of the country are unbelievable, the mountains, the rivers, I fell in love with everything about Albania. I also learned a very important lesson from the culture and the way of life of the everyday Albanian person. We have forgotten the necessitates of life; the Albanian people live such a simple life, like most countries used to be like over 100 years ago. We all consider that we need so many things in life, but this is in our minds and not the truth. A journey to some of the towns in Albania will make you feel lucky and spoiled in a way of the life that you are living, rich or poor. It’s like a journey back in time, if the people need milk or cheese, they must milk the cow, if they need water, they must carry containers to the well, the small details are noticed and appreciated, which unfortunately is not this way in many countries. Travel to Albania, means travelling back in time to the virgin, innocent, pure kind of life and it will be an important lesson for everybody!
Now, Albania has almost caught up and will soon be in competition with many of the Eastern Europe countries. Albania offers a remarkable array of unique attractions, not least due to this very isolation: ancient mountain behavior codes, forgotten archaeological sites and villages where time seems to have stood still are all on the menu. With its stunning mountain scenery, its thriving capital city, Tirana and its virgin, crystal clear beaches and rich history, the future of Albania as a tourist destination will put many other Eastern European countries in a competition! Albania has become one of the best hits of the Balkans, travelling to Albania still reminds you of travelling back in time and I personally like this feeling, but you must hurry if you want to visit as, as the time passes, the word about this beautiful country is spreading well, fast and truly out.
The Flag of Albania (Albanian: Flamuri i Shqipërisë) is a red flag with a silhouetted black double-headed eagle in the center. The red stands for bravery, strength and valor, while the double-headed eagle represents the sovereign state of Albania located in the Balkans. The country of Albania has often been described as the country of the eagles and this description suits the country’s people.
There are many stories about the two headed eagle that is on the Albanian flag, one of the stories is:
The tale of the Eagle is an Albanian folk tale that explains how Albania and Albanians received their indigenous name: A youth was hunting in the mountains. An eagle flying above him alighted on top of a crag. The eagle was especially large and had a snake in its beak. After a while, the eagle flew away from the crag where it had its nest. The youth then climbed to the top of the crag where he saw, in the nest, an eaglet playing with the dead snake. But the snake wasn't really dead! Suddenly it stirred, revealed its fangs and was ready to pierce the eaglet with its deadly venom. The youth quickly took out his bow and arrow and killed the snake. Then he took the eaglet and started for his home. Suddenly the youth heard above him the loud whir of the great eagle's wings.
"Why do you kidnap my child?" cried the eagle. "The child is mine because I saved it from the snake which you didn't kill," answered the youth.
"Give me back my child, and I will give you as a reward the sharpness of my eyes and the powerful strength of my wings. You will become invincible, and you will be called by my name!"
Thus the youth handed over the eaglet. After the eaglet grew, it would always fly above the head of the youth, now a grown man, who with his bow and arrows killed many wild beasts of the forest, and with his sword slew many enemies of the land. During all of these feats, the eagle faithfully watched over and guided him.
Amazed by the valiant hunter's deeds, the people of the land elected him king and called him Shqipëtar, which is to say Son of the Eagle (shqipe or shqiponjë is Albanian for eagle) and his kingdom became known as "Shqipëria" or Land of the Eagles. The two heads on the eagle represent the north and the south.
The capital of Albania is Tirana, Tirana is the largest and most developed city of Albania, like most capital cities, Tirana is full of energy, colors, movement and fun. Many people choose to use the national airport that is in Tirana, where you can also rent a car, a hotel and pick up lots of useful information. (Link to airport: http://www.tirana-airport.com/)
Hundreds of night clubs, cafes, bars, restaurants and hotels are waiting for you to visit! Tirana stays awake 24/7 which means that the warm hospitality will welcome you day or night, whatever season of the year! The hospitality shown by the Albanians in Tirana is wonderful and it will immediately make you feel comfortable and at home. As a capital, Tirana has the country’s finest museums, theaters, and galleries representing the national arts. A visit to the National History Museum, the Archaeological Museum, the private “Mezuraj Museum,” and the National Gallery of the Arts will leave wonderful memories. You can also pass a pleasant evening in the National Theater or the Opera and Ballet Theater. There are different thoughts regarding the origin of the name of the city. Some think that it relates to Tyrrenia (a name of Etruscan origins), while other believe that it relates to the word Theranda (harvest), or to the Tirkan (a castle at the foot of Mount Dajti). Your own journey might begin by visiting the museums and the key spots such as Sheshi Skënderbej, where you will be able to see the Mosque of Et’hem Bey (which was built between 1798 and 1812) and the 35 meter high Kulla e Sahatit (the Watch Tower), built in 1822 with a San Marco style cupola. Moreover, you can visit the famous Mosaic uncovered on the floor of an old Roman lodge. Its center configures the walls of the castle of the Roman emperor Justinian (A.D. 520). The monumental Tomb of Kapllan Pasha and the Ura e Tabakëve (a bridge constructed in the beginning of the 19th century, located on Bulevardi Zhan D’Ark) are other interesting place to visit. Tirana will be glad to offer you both a rich traditional cuisine and a variety of foreign fares, from Italian to Chinese. There are also several clubs and restaurants in Mount Dajti to discover and enjoy. There is the possibility to travel there by cable car, which is a very special experience. In the region of Tirana you may also visit the castles of Petrela and Preza, as well as some natural attractions, such as Pëllumbasi Cave, Shkalla e Tujanit, and much more.
The geography of Albania
Albania has a total area of 28,748 square kilometers (11,100 square miles). It lies between latitudes 39° and 43° N, and mostly between longitudes 19° and 21° E (a small area lies east of 21°). Albania's coastline length is 476 km (296 mi):240 and extends along the Adriatic and Ionian Seas. The lowlands of the west face the Adriatic Sea. The 70% of the country that is mountainous is rugged and often inaccessible from the outside. The highest mountain is Korab situated in the district of Dibër, reaching up to 2,764 meters (9,068 ft). The climate on the coast is typically Mediterranean with mild, wet winters and warm, sunny, and rather dry summers. Inland conditions vary depending on elevation, but the higher areas above 1,500 m/5,000 ft are rather cold and frequently snowy in winter; here cold conditions with snow may linger into spring. Besides the capital city of Tirana, which has 420,000 inhabitants, the principal cities are Durrës, Korçë, Elbasan, Shkodër, Gjirokastër, Vlorë and Kukës. In Albanian grammar, a word can have indefinite and definite forms, and this also applies to city names: both Tiranë and Tirana, Shkodër and Shkodra are used. The three largest and deepest tectonic lakes of the Balkan Peninsula are partly located in Albania. Lake Shkodër in the country's northwest has a surface which can vary between 370 km2 (140 sq mi) and 530 km2, out of which one third belongs to Albania and rest to Montenegro. The Albanian shoreline of the lake is 57 km (35 mi). Ohrid Lake is situated in the country's southeast and is shared between Albania and Republic of Macedonia. It has a maximal depth of 289 meters and a variety of unique flora and fauna can be found there, including "living fossils" and many endemic species. Because of its natural and historical value, Ohrid Lake is under the protection of UNESCO. There is also Butrinti Lake which is a small tectonic lake. It is located in the national park of Butrint.
Some popular touristic areas of Albania are: Durres, Korçë, Elbasan, Shkodër, Gjirokastër, Vlorë and Kukës while I also found some of the unknown touristic areas Permet, Fieri, Berat and Elbasan also very interesting and virgin!
You can get to Albania by air or by land