Albania is a small country in Southern and Southeastern Europe strategically positioned on the Adriatic and Ionian Sea inside the Mediterranean Sea, with a coastline of about 476 km (296 mi). It is bounded by Montenegro to the northwest, Kosovo to the northeast, North Macedonia to the east and Greece to the southeast and south.
Most of Albania rises into mountains and hills, tending to run the length of the country from north to south, as for instance the Albanian Alps in the north, the Sharr Mountains in the northeast, the Skanderbeg Mountains in the center, the Korab Mountains in the east, the Pindus Mountains in the southeast, and the Ceraunian Mountains in the southwest. Plains and plateaus extend in the west along the Albanian Adriatic and Ionian Sea Coast.
Few of the most considerable and oldest bodies of freshwater of Europe occur in Albania. The second largest lake of Southern Europe, the Lake of Shkodër, is located in the northwest surrounded by the Albanian Alps and the Adriatic Sea. Nevertheless, one of the oldest continuously existing lakes in the world, the Lake of Ohrid, straddles in the southeast, while the highest tectonic lakes of the Balkan Peninsula, the Large and Small Lake of Prespa are well hidden among high mountains in the southeast.
Rivers originate in the east of Albania and loops towards the west into the sea. They are encompassed by the drainage basins of the Adriatic, Aegean and Black Sea. The longest river in the country, measured from its mouth to its source, is the Drin that starts at the confluence of its two headwaters, the Black and White Drin, though also notable is the Vjosë, one of the last intact large river systems in Europe.
For a small country, Albania is characterized for its biological diversity and abundance of contrasting ecosystems and habitats, defined in an area of 28,748 square kilometers. This great diversity derives from Albania’s geographic location on the Mediterranean Sea, with typical climatic conditions, varied topography, as well as the wealth of terrestrial and marine ecosystems providing a variety of habitats, each with its own typical flora and fauna.
There are 799 Albanian protected areas covering a surface of 5,216.96 square kilometers. These include 2 strict nature reserves, 14 national parks, 1 marine park, 8 archaeological parks, 750 natural monuments, 22 habitat/species management areas, 5 protected landscapes, 4 protected landscapes, 4 managed resources areas and 4 ramsar wetlands. The national parks cover a surface area of 210,668.48 hectares (2,106.6848 km2) or roughly 13.65% of the overall territory.