Albania is a country that until now is only recognized by a few travelers, although the country on the Mediterranean Sea has many advantages. It is for example much cheaper and less crowded than more popular holiday countries. Those loving the wild nature, charm and Mediterranean air should definitely take a chance on Albania. Do this fast since at the moment it is still quiet and not that many people know what paradise awaits them there. A round trip to the most important places is a great opportunity to get to know the country.
Berat is the ninth largest city by population of the Republic of Albania. Berat is located in the south of the country, 120 km south of Tirana. It is surrounded by mountains and hills including Tomorr on the east that was declared a national park. The total population is 60,031. Berat, designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008, comprises a unique style of architecture with influences from several civilizations that have managed to coexist for centuries throughout the history. Like many cities in Albania, Berat comprises an old fortified city filled with churches and mosques painted with grandiose wealth of visible murals and frescos.
Berat is one of the main cultural centers of the country. The town is known for its historic architecture and scenery and is known as the “Town of a Thousand Windows”, due to the many large windows of the old decorated houses overlooking the town. It is unclear whether it really means “Thousand” or “One over Another” windows. Indeed, the quarter is built in a very steep place and windows seem to be one over another. The Citadel overlooks the river and the modern city as well as the old Christian quarter across the river. It is a well-preserved area containing narrow streets, Turkish houses and Orthodox churches.
Vlora is the fifth most populous city of the Republic of Albania and the capital of the eponymous county and municipality. Geographically, the city is located on the Bay of Vlorë and the foothills of the Ceraunian Mountains at the Strait of Otranto along the Adriatic and Ionian Sea within the Mediterranean Sea. Historically, the city was founded as Aulon as an ancient city of Illyria and was centuries later conquered by the Romans, Byzantines, Normans, Venetians and Ottomans. Between the 18th and 19th centuries, the Albanian people gathered both spiritual and intellectual strength for national consciousness in the city which conclusively led to the Albanian Renaissance. Thus, it was in the 20th century when the Albanian Declaration of Independence was proclaimed following the Assembly of Vlorë on the 28th of November 1912.
Tourism in Vlora has become a major industry in recent years, with many hotels, recreational centers, and vast beaches. The city has a good view over the Bay of Vlorë, which is considered the frontier between the Adriatic Sea and the Ionian Sea. The Island of Sazan is close by, at the entrance to the bay. Italy is just 80 kilometres (50 miles) away. With 300 sunny days per year Vlorë is a good location to stay for business or vacations. Some nearby beaches include Palasë, Dhermi, Vuno, Himara, Qeparo, and Borsh. The bay offers good conditions for navigation at sea and anchorage of ships. Other attractions include food, wine, mountains, and sports. In 2019, Vlorë was cited in Financial Times’ ‘Five destinations to watch’ article that listed new and exciting holiday destinations from around the world.
The big city Durres at the coastline of Albania is the most important harbor city in the country. Not only from economic viewpoint but also culturally it is a capital. Cultural events and feastings take place all over the year. An important role in these events has the amphitheater, which is one of the most important attractions of the city. The impressive ancient building could provide place for about 20.000 people in the past and can be visited today. Durres is one of the touristic centers of the country and besides culture and history it provides beaches and holiday fun.
The city in the south of Albania was elected UNESCO world cultural heritage. Reason for this is the unique architectural style, most of the buildings show. The style is called Balkan architecture and contains small castle-like houses made of stone. The stones should control the temperature in ancient times and today form the town’s landmark. Therefore the city is also called “city of stones”. It is located at the side of a hill and the single quarters are connected with artistic roads. Gjirokastra has also many cultural attractions. Museums, theatres and religious places can be found in large numbers. Additionally every five years they celebrate the national folklore festival in the castle of the city.
Saranda is a coastal town in Albania. Geographically, it is situated on an open sea gulf of the Ionian Sea in the central Mediterranean, about 14 km (8.7 mi) east of the northern end of the island of Corfu. Stretching along the Albanian Ionian Sea Coast, Saranda typically has over 300 sunny days a year. The city is known for its blue deep waters of the Mediterranean. Near Saranda are the remains of the ancient city of Butrint, a UNESCO World Heritage site. In recent years, Saranda has seen a steady increase in tourists, many of them coming by cruise ship. Visitors are attracted by the natural environment of Saranda and its archaeological sites.
Kruja is an Albanian town some 20 kilometers northeast of the capital. It is located at the side of the Skanderberg-mountains. The most important building in the town is the Kruja castle, which is a national sanctum for the Albanian people. It contains the Skanderberg museum, which is reminiscent of the war in this area. Further places next to the town are the tomb of Sari Saltiks and the national park Qafe Shtama. The small town has a large historical background and can also be visited as daytrip from the capital Tirana or from Durres.
Tirana is the capital city of Albania and forms the economic and political epicenter of the country. Many important facilities are located in Tirana for example the parliament and the government. The city is furthermore domicile for many political parties. The city is located at a river some 30 kilometers away from the coast. On one side it is enclosed by hills. Until 1920 when the city was named capital Tirana was not very important. But today it convinces with modern architecture and cultural facilities. The small cafés at the side of the roads are full of energy most of the times and the city has a really pleasant charm.
Those who want to immerse into the culture of the country should go to one of the museums or to the palace of culture. Furthermore, the Skanderberg place with the famous equestrian statuette is worth a visit. They form the town’s landmark. More places to visit are the Et’hem Bey mosque with the clock tower of Tirana. The capital furthermore contains a castle, which can be visited. The Skanderberg place forms the center of the city, from which roads go to all directions like a star. The numerous political facilities, the universities and the botanical and zoological gardens are worth a visit as well. More parks and gardens are great places to enjoy the free time and recover.
Shkodra is a city in the north of Albania and the fifth largest city of the country. It is located at the lake Skutari at the boarder to Montenegro. Shkodra is affected by many battles and conquests, from the romans as well as from different aristocratic families. After recovering from the hard battles the city rises to an important trading center and has a distinctive culture till today.
The town’s landmark is the ruin of castle Rozafa. Recording to a tragic legend the castle was built by three brothers. Every night the walls of the castle came tumbling down. One day an old man told them to mure a woman into the walls, then they would never collapse and resist all enemies. The brothers agreed to sacrifice the wife that would bring food for them the next day. Two of the brothers told their women, so the third arrived alone the next day. She therefore was mured, but asked if they could keep out one arm, leg and breast to keep on feeding and hugging her child. The castle can be visited as well as a museum about the past of the city. The city also hosts other museums and the famous Migjeni theatre. The market of the city is also worth a visit.