Unspoiled, untouched and relatively unheard of as a tourist destination, Albania is one of Europe’s best kept secrets.
Albania is still uncharted territory for most UK tourists; only 38,000 of us made the journey in 2006. Compare that to more than 16,000,000 Brits who visited Spain and you can see how low profile this Balkan country is.
Albania almost has the same ring to it as places like Timbuktu or Outer Mongolia – giving the impression of being distant, slightly dangerous, inaccessible and exotic.
But in recent years Albania has opened up to foreign visitors and although the Albanian authorities do little to promote it as a holiday destination to international tourists – it doesn’t mean it’s not worth a trip.
Beaches and Lakes
Sun seekers will enjoy Albania’s 450 miles worth of Adriatic and Ionian coastline dotted with protected, sandy bays and empty beaches. Further inland, Albania’s Alps and Tomorri Massif mountains will excite climbers, hikers and bikers; Mount Korabi is the highest peak in the country at 2753 m tall.
Kayakers, fishermen and boaters will enjoy the range of fast flowing rivers as well as Lake Shkodra, which straddles the border between Albania and Montenegro and is the largest lake in the Balkans.
And let’s not forget the foodies; Albania’s delayed development means that farming methods are less intensive than in western Europe resulting in an abundance of organic fruit and veg. Albania’s Mediterranean garden yields ample fresh seafood, the mountain pastures provide tender lamb, and there is also Albania’s excellent wine to sample.
Danger and difficulty
No visa is required for British citizens for stays of up to 30 days. Apart from the northern border with Kosovo which the FCO currently advises against visiting to due to the risk of unexploded mines and ammunition, travel in Albania shouldn’t present any great hazards to visitors.
Albanian culture places great importance on hospitality, thus guests and especially foreign visitors are shown the highest respect, being offered the finest food and drink a family has to offer.
One confusing aspect to remember; Albanians shake the heads from side to side to indicate “yes”, and nod up and down to mean “no”.
Getting there and around
Flight time to the capital Tirana from London is around 3 hours direct. When travelling inside the country remember that road infrastructure is not as developed as elsewhere in Europe, so even short distances can take a long time by car or bus – plan accordingly.
For more information on visiting Albania see:
Read more from the Hidden Countries series