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Albania is a country that until now is only recognized by a few travellers. Although the country on the Mediterranean Sea has many advantages. For example, it is much cheaper and less crowded than more popular holiday countries.
Furthermore, those loving the wild nature, charm and sweet air of the Mediterranean should take a chance on Albania. But do it soon before word gets out about the paradise that awaits.
Places to See & Things to Do in Albania
Berat (The City of a Thousand Windows)
The city of Berat is located next to the river Osum in the middle of the country. Its crowning glory is the castle on the hill known as the Citadel of Berat or Kalaja.
The castle walls contain a sort of village with residences on cobblestone streets and numerous Byzantine churches and Ottoman mosques as well as the castle itself. It is known as one of the most beautiful castles in Albania and the views alone are worth the visit.
Berat is also called the “city of a thousand windows” because of all the large windows on the front of the Ottoman houses. Most photos of Berat will show these houses and their many windows layering the side of the castle hill.
The stone and white houses are listed buildings to keep the original appearance of the city. In addition, in 1961 Berat was elected “city of museums” and therefore is a great destination for those loving history and culture.
In the southwest of the country, there is a scenic steep coastline. It is often compared to the Italian Riviera but it is much quieter and less crowded. The gorgeous beaches are enticing for swimming and sunbathing. Plus, the modern hotels and attractions hold the promise of a great holiday.
The countryside is mostly untouched and dramatic mountain scenes frame the beaches below. An exploration of these mountains finds numerous small romantic villages perfect for day trips.
Apollonia Archeological Site
Next to the city of Fier, in the middle of Albania, are the ruins of an ancient town named after the god Apollon. Apollonia was the biggest and most important city in the ancient world. The ruins are still impressive and show a little piece of the original glory.
Libraries, temples, theatres and other buildings can be visited, as well as a triumphal arch and decaying mansions. Also, the countryside view from the hills is not to be missed.
The big city of Durres on the coastline of Albania is the most important harbor city in the country. Not only from an economic viewpoint but also culturally. Cultural events and festivities take place all through the year.
The amphitheater plays an important role in these events and is one of the most important attractions of the city. At one time the impressive ancient building could hold 20,000 people and can still be visited today. Durres is one of the touristic centers of the country. Along with culture and history, it provides beaches and holiday fun.
Gjirokastra (The Stone City)
The city of Gjirokastar in the south of Albania is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was elected for this distinction because of the unique architectural style of most of the buildings.
The style is called Balkan architecture and contains small castle-like houses made of stone. The stones were used to 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 on 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 city’s castle.
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.
Other places to see near the town are the tomb of Sari Saltiks and Qafe Shtama National Park. The small town has a large historical background and can also be visited as day trip from the capital Tirana or from Durres.
Tirana (The Capital of Albania)
Tirana is the capital city of Albania and forms the economic and political epicenter of the country. Many important facilities are in Tirana including the parliament and the government. The city is also home to many political parties.
The city is located by a river some 30 kilometers away from the coast. On one side it is enclosed by hills. Until 1920, when the city was named the capital, Tirana was not very important. But today it is full of modern architecture and cultural facilities. The small cafés lining the streets are full of energy and the city has a pleasant charm.
Those who want to immerse in the culture of the country should go to one of the museums or to the Palace of Culture. Then there is Skanderberg Square with the famous equestrian statuette which is a landmark in Tirana. Other places of interest are the Et’hem Bey Mosque with the clock tower of Tirana and the city castle.
Skanderberg Square forms the center of the city from which roads lead off in all directions like a star. The numerous political facilities, universities and botanical and zoological gardens are also worth a visit.
Shkodra (The City of Rain and the City of Bicycles)
Shkodra, in the north of Albania, is the fifth-largest city in the country. It is located near Lake Skutari at the Montenegro border. Shkodra was the site of many battles and conquests by the Romans as well as from different aristocratic families. After recovering from the battles, the city rose to an important trading center and today enjoys a distinctive culture.
The town’s landmark is the ruins of Rozafa Castle. According to a tragic legend the castle was built by three brothers and every night the walls of the castle came tumbling down. One day an old man told them to immure one of their wives into the walls and then they would never collapse.
The brothers agreed to keep the plan quiet and to sacrifice the wife that brought their lunch the next day. The youngest brother kept his word and said nothing. But the two older brothers told their wives of the plan.
When the wife of the youngest brother arrived alone the next day she learned that she was to be sacrificed. She agreed to be buried alive in the walls but asked if they could keep out her right eye, right arm, right leg and right breast to keep feeding and comforting her young son.
The castle can be visited as well as a museum about the past of the city.
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Author’s Bio: Adam Picaku is an Albanian and the co-owner (along with his wife) of ALBANIA EXPRESS TRAVEL, a Travel Agency and DMC Balkan Tour Operator with great experience in arranging group tours, individual tours, accommodation, transport, experienced guides in different languages, events and meeting, Trekking, hiking and walking tours, holidays to Albania and its neighboring countries such as Montenegro, Macedonia, Kosovo, Croatia, Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.