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With one of the most fascinating histories in Europe combined with an incredibly diverse landscape, it is no wonder that tourism to Albania has increased by almost 1000 percent in the last ten years.
With one of the most fascinating histories in Europe combined with an incredibly diverse landscape, it is no wonder that tourism to Albania has increased by almost 1000 percent in the last ten years. This increase, however, has come almost exclusively from Balkan and Eastern European countries, with English speaking tourists constituting only a very small proportion of overall travelers. Idyllic beaches, warm weather, rich history, spectacular mountain scenery and bargain prices; it sounds like an impossible wish list for a European destination. Yet Albania fulfills all of these criteria and more besides. Over the past quarter of a century, this Balkan land has gradually emerged from its austere communist cocoon and savvy travelers have been taking note.
The capital, Tirana, is a curious and cosmopolitan place. Its countless communist-era apartment blocks have been enlivened with licks of brash, bright paint, and in parts of the city these sit shoulder-to-shoulder with Ottoman and Italian architecture. It is haphazard and disorderly, but wildly alive, with the constant whir of traffic and cacophony of voices adding to the buzz. Leading down to the Greek border is Albania’s greatest asset: the Adriatic coastline (touted as the “Albanian Riviera”). It would be disingenuous to call it undiscovered; the beaches here draw significant sunbathing crowds during July and August. Even so, these heavenly stretches are fresh to foreign tourists, and among the best in the Med. If you can tear yourself off the towel, there are also interesting remnants of Greek, Ottoman and communist history to be explored in nearby towns. Of particular note are the now deteriorated and occasionally re-purposed domed bunkers, paranoid follies ordered by the isolationist ex-ruler Enver Hoxha.
Located in Southern Europe with a direct proximity to the Mediterranean Sea, the Albanian cuisine features a wide range of fresh fruits, growing naturally in the fertile Albanian soil and under the warm sun. In consideration of being an agricultural country, Albania is a significant fruit importer and exporter.
Mountain tea has a long tradition in Albania and is the most popular tea of the locals. Tea is a widely consumed beverage throughout Albania and particularly served at cafés, restaurants or at home. The country is rich in the cultivation of a wide range of herbs. The most popular varieties of tea drinking in Albania include Albanian-style mountain tea, which grows in the Albanian mountains and villages, and Russian- and Turkish-style black tea with sugar to tea with lemon, milk or honey. Coffee is another popular beverage in Albania, but more particularly in the cities and villages. There are various varieties of coffee popular in Albania, including filter coffee and instant coffee such as espresso, cappuccino, macchiato, mocha and latte. Dhallë is a traditional and healthy yogurt-based drink in Albania made by blending yogurt with water or milk and spices. It is especially popular during the summer month and it may be served with salt, according to taste. Raki is the most popular spirit in Albania. It is considered as the national spirit beverage of the country. The most common types of raki in the country are grape, plum or blackberry.
Bakllava is made frequently in Albania, especially around certain religious holidays of Muslims, Catholics and Orthodox. It is prepared on large trays and cut into a variety of shapes. Baklava is either with hazelnuts or walnuts sweetened with syrup. Petulla is a traditional fried dough made from wheat or buckwheat flour, which is as well a popular dish among the Albanians and served with powdered sugar or feta cheese and raspberry jam. Ballokume is an Albanian cookie, which originated in Elbasan during the Middle Ages and prepared every year on Summer Day, a public holiday in the country. It has to be brewed in large copper pots, tightly whipped with a wooden spoon and baked in a wood oven.
An Albanian-style meze of fresh and cooked vegetable salads, pickled cucumbers and other vegetables, hard boiled eggs, prosciutto ham, salami and feta cheese, accompanied with roasted bell peppers, olive oil and garlic is served at festive meals and in restaurants. Fërgese, is a traditional vegetarian and a national dish in Albania made of green and red peppers, along with skinned tomatoes and onions and often served as a side dish to various meat dishes.
The country’s cuisine is largely meat-based. Beef and veal are the most commonly consumed meats in Albania, followed by pork. Albania has many small eateries specializing in beef and lamb, goat and veal. In high elevation localities, smoked meat and pickled preserves are common. Animal organs are also used in dishes such as intestines and the head among other parts, which are considered a delicacy. The most common poultry consumed is chicken and duck. Chicken is prepared in a multitude of ways, from simple oven roasted to elaborate casseroles with rich sauces. As a country with an Islamic majority, Muslim Albanians follows the dietary law called halal which forbids the consumption of pork. Although, in other parts across of Albania where there are significant numbers of non-Muslims, pork specialities are commonly consumed. Fresh fish is readily available and caught off the coastal areas of the Adriatic and Ionian Sea inside the Mediterranean Sea but also from the Lake Butrint, Lake Shkodër, Lake Ohrid, Lake Prespa as well as Karavasta Lagoon, Narta Lagoon and Patos Lagoon. Fresh fish is served whole, in the Mediterranean style, grilled, boiled, fried whole or in slices, dressed only with freshly squeezed lemon juice. Fish dishes are often flavoured with white vinegar and virgin olive oil, which particularly grows in Southern Albania.
Albanian pies are among the most characteristic and emblematic dishes in traditional cuisine. They can be either sweet or savory. Thus, a piece of such a pie may well serve as the main dish of a meal. Pite is considered as well as one of the national food of Albania and most of Albanians. Pite is a pie made up of homemade filo pastry with many different types with the most common being Pite me Spinaq, Pite me Mish and Pite me Djath.
Most travellers make a beeline for the capital, Tirana, a buzzing city with a mishmash of garishly painted buildings, traditional restaurants and trendy bars. However, those seeking to take Albania’s true pulse should head to the mountainous hinterlands, particularly sleepy hillside towns of Berat and Gjirokastra – both essentially open-air museums of life in Ottoman times. Keen hikers will want to explore the valley of Valbona, where karst limestone mountains harbour astonishing biodiversity, and as the snowcapped peaks of the interior drop down to the ocean, the immaculate beaches along the Ionian coastline are among the Mediterranean’s least developed sands.
Car Hire: You can hire cars in Tirana from the usual international companies, although they are expensive compared to northern Europe and North America. It may be cheaper, and is certainly less stressful, to arrange a chauffeur-driven car in advance through one of the Tirana-based travel agencies.
Documentation: International Driving Permit (technically this should be accompanied with a certified translation) and national driving licence are required. If bringing your own car into Albania, you should ascertain before departure that your insurance is valid there; emergency breakdown cover is also worth considering.
Urban travel: Taxis are plentiful and relatively economical for short journeys within city limits. Urban buses are very cheap but usually very crowded. In Tirana, there is a flat fare for any bus journey; within the city centre, taxis also have a flat fare, which you should agree with the driver before setting off.Share this tour
Travel Albania manages and organizes trips and holidays, short trips to the city, beach holidays, family vacations, sea excursions, trekking and much more.
Travel Albania manages and organizes trips and holidays, short trips to the city, beach holidays, family vacations, sea excursions, trekking and much more. We have a decade of experience in incoming tourism services and specific technical training in Italy.
Ndre Mjeda Street, Rezidenca Libeskind, Tirana
Mon – Sat 8.00 – 18.00 Sunday CLOSED