Culturally, historically, visually – Albania’s unique in many different ways. Yes, each country’s unique, yet Albania differs from other European countries in more ways than they differ from each other. The language is like no other; atmosphere’s special. Because of communism, the country was isolated for many years. If you’ve lived or traveled in Europe and want to feel as if you’ve just entered another world this time, that’s the best option. Besides, nature’s beautiful; there are mountains, unspoiled beaches, lagoons, waterfalls and other wonders. For history lovers, Albania has countless archaeological sites, castles, forts, museums and pretty old churches. Here’s a list of 8 facts about Albania, Europe’s most exotic country, that you should know of before you go there.
8 Facts about Albania
- There are fabulous beaches that you can have all for yourself
Albanian coast is stunning and, considering its beauty, not very crowded. Some of the places are quite touristy, but still not as much as coastal areas in most European countries. Albanian coast contains flat regions in the central and northern part of the country, as well as the Albanian Riviera that stretches from the Ceraunian Mountains. The last part is especially spectacular, with impressive peaks, crystal-clear water, lovely villages, small islands and rocky beaches. It’s also the least touristy part because most people head to the central and north areas, where beaches are sandy.
Many of those rocky gems are empty, especially in the afternoons. Before you go for a swim, take some watermelons, they’re delightful and juicy in Albania and never taste better than eaten on the beach. You can watch the sunsets (they’re gorgeous), try kayaking, sailing or diving. Vlorë and Sarandë are great coastal towns. As for the villages, there are plenty of them; you can just wander along the coast. Ksamil is enchanting, Jale as well.
- The language sounds like nothing else in the world
Albanian is a phenomenon. It’s an Indo-European language but doesn’t have many commons with other languages belonging to this group. It’s complicated, original and fascinating. Moreover, the body language used by Albanians is also tricky and unique. They nod their heads for “no” and turn them for “yes,” in the opposite way most Europeans do. Keep it in mind before you agree to something!
- You must be a survivalist to drive around Albania
While roads connecting major cities have been recently repaired and they look quite okay, the minor roads are hardcore – surfaces are weak or non-existent. That’s not everything though. Whether you drive a highway, a village road or move around a city center, beware of the drivers. Before 1991 there were barely any cars in Albania, so it’s still sort of a new thing. Many drivers lack experience, patience, and reason. Besides, cows and donkeys occasionally walk along the highways; it looks sweet but can be dangerous if you don’t expect it.
- …Or even walk
When walking around Tirana or other large cities, be careful. Since, as mentioned above, the drivers tend to be inexperienced and hotheaded, they often don’t pay much attention to pedestrians. Before crossing the street, look around. Then, once you step on the road, look around again and keep doing it before you reach the other side.
- It’s ideal for outdoor enthusiasts
Albania has a lot to offer for adventurers. Its rivers, such as Vjosa or the Black Drin, are perfect for rafting. If you’re into kayaking, the Riviera’s your place. Albanian Alps are a paradise for hikers. There are many diving sites with lagoons, shipwrecks, colorful fish and crystal waters. Most of the activities are best in the summer, but if you visit Albania during the winter, not all is lost – you can always try snowshoeing. Don’t worry about the cold, raki (a traditional and vigorous spirit) is usually a part of snowshoeing trips and it’ll surely keep you warm. Skiing is an option too; Albania has lots of picturesque peaks that get covered with snow during the winter.
- Albania isn’t as dangerous as stereotypes claim
Okay, we mentioned the roads, they’re dangerous indeed, but there are many countries across the world with insane traffic and people somehow manage to survive. Otherwise, Albania isn’t as bad as it’s often described. Many stereotypes about this country are being spread all over Europe. There’s a lively crime scene in Albania indeed, but it doesn’t affect tourists. The only thing you must do is to stay cautious as you would in any other place. The locals are lovely and kind, they’re often willing to help and share their culture, so there’s no reason to be overly suspicious.
- Many Albanian cities have beautiful castles and other historic sites
There are many fascinating historical sites around Albania. The town of Berat is delightfully historic, with fabulous Ottoman and Albanian architecture and a castle so well-preserved that people still live there. It’s included on the UNESCO world heritage list, just as another city – Gjirokastër. Of course, Gjirokastër has a castle as well. A cultural hub, Shkodra, has lots of historical sites too, including the famous Rozafa Castle, the mosque Ebu Beker, the Shkodër Cathedral.
- Albanians are very hospitable
Like everywhere in Balkans, in Albania hospitality is a problem too. Locals are more than happy if they can receive guests, show them around, invite for dinner or, most importantly, a shot of raki. If you refuse, they’ll try to convince you, and their persuasion is so strong it can beat almost every person’s resistance. They might even get slightly offended by a refusal. It’s seriously important for them to share with visitors and getting a rejection isn’t a pleasant experience.
Are you convinced Albania’s a country worth to visit? We hope so! Despite being a great place, Albania’s often misunderstood and, as a result, it’s not a popular destination. To spread the good information, share the article to let your friends know what a wonderful country it is!