Overview of Albania
Nestled on the shores of the Adriatic sea, Albania is an independent nation with a strong ethnic identity. Despite having a wealth of natural beauty, hospitable locals, and an abundance of history from ancient to modern, this country is one of the lesser-traveled destinations and very underrated.
The modern history of Albania has been far from pleasant. Albania was locked in the grip of a tyrannical Communist dictatorship for over 40 years and descended into civil war soon after breaking free of the regime in the 1990s. It then underwent a grueling civil war during the same era. Since then, Albania has become safe for travel with a lot to offer and is progressing towards a brighter future and trying to shake off the stigma left from its dark past.
YPT has been visiting Albania with our Eurasian Adventure, Balkan Badlands, and private tours for a number of years. With Pioneer Media, we also worked on a US horror movie for a number of months in the country. So it’s fair to say, we’re the go-to experts when it comes to this underrated country nestled on the Adriatic.
Our tours can feature a range of highlights from traverse through the jaw-dropping Albanian mountains, passing villages infamous for vendettas and blood feuds, and of course, exploring the vibrant capital of reaching Tirana where we’ll explore the shocking history of a Communist regime that was one of the most brutal, secretive and isolationist during the Cold War era.
Why visit Albania?
As a result of the various empires that have passed through Albania, the country is home to a wealth of different cultures, foods, and history. For foodies, Albania is a dream come true. The grim period of Fascist Italian occupation during WW2 introduced world-class coffee and cuisine to Albania which they have since mastered. Roman, Greek, and Ottoman influence through the centuries have heavily impacted Albanian food and as such, it is a delight to behold.
In summer, the country’s Adriatic Sea coastline is a hub for foreigners and locals alike all seeking sun, sea, and relaxation. Most importantly, the hospitality of local people in Albania means you’re guaranteed a warm welcome and great quality service in all kinds of accommodation, from five star hotels to cosy family owned guesthouses. Visitors can expect relaxation in great surroundings well away from the crowds, and all at a very good price.
Things to do in Albania
Albania is a small country with a lot to offer tourists. The natural beauty of the region is abundant and there are various locations listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites. These include physical and cultural landmarks.
From the Romans to the Ottoman Empire, Albania has a wealth of ancient relics from the various empires that came through here. Additionally, the country is teeming with communist era sights from the hundreds of thousands of concrete bunkers that were installed to secret police HQ that is now an excellent museum.
How to get to Albania
There is an abundance of ways to enter Albania. All of the borders can be crossed via road and there are various airlines that serve Tirana airport. American, Canadian, all European Union member states citizens can visit Albania visa-free for up to 90 days within a 180 day period. However, this varies for other nationalities so it’s best to check the visa rules laid out by Albania on the country’s ministry of foreign affairs.
Hotels in Albania
Like most countries in Eastern Europe, Albania has a range of hotels that offer everything from the height of luxury to the lesser luxurious Communist-era nostalgia. The cheaper the hotel, the bigger the chance of unfortunate surprises, this can be a problem for those not familiar with the Communist-era style of service which still remains in many places.
There are a number of 5-star hotels in Tirana, and other major cities. but a better option is to rent an apartment online in advance. There are many to choose from in major cities and they are very cheap. If you would like to go down this route you can either look at Airbnb which will have English speaking hosts or Facebook groups.
What to eat in Albania?
Albanian food is famous for being some top notch cuisine. The country produces a range of quality vegetables and dairy products and a variety of spices. Lamb and chicken tend to be the most common forms of meat, though fish and veal dishes are also popular. But lamb has a special traditional place in Albanian cooking. And of course no visit would be complete without tasting the seriously underrated Albanian wines.
Nightlife in Albania
Albanians are known for being a fun-loving nation that likes to drink, party and have fun. There is a lot on offer in Albania, from classy piano bars to casual pubs and from noisy rock clubs to booming nightclubs. Dancing and having fun is obligatory. And you won’t have to worry about the party ending at midnight either because the big clubs in Albania stay open until the early hours and 24 hour bars are also popular here.
Shopping in Albania
For shopping, Albania has an abundance of things on offer. Albanians themselves like to shop
and all tourist towns have malls. Naturally, big cities like Tirana have the most options and are home to a variety of malls, bustling markets, and boutiques. Popular souvenirs from Albania include ceramics, jewelry, art, and handmade rugs. For our clients, Communist-era relics are the most popular.
When is the best time to visit Albania?
In our opinion, the best time to visit Albania is either side of summer in May-June or September. Temperatures are comfortable, sightseeing is less crowded and there are fewer holidaymakers heading to the Adriatic Sea beach resorts.
However, if you like skiing as well as the real Cold War-era vibe and can handle the cold, then winter is also an attractive time to visit Albania for many people.