- Continent: Europe
- Area: 28,748 km²
- Population: 3,540,000
- Capital city: Tirana
- ISO code: AL
- National language: Albanian, Greek
- International dialing code: +355
- Currency: Lek
- License plate number: AL
- Flight routes from Albania: 697
- Flight routes to Albania: 576
- Popular airports: Tirana (TIA)
- Large cities: Tirana, Durrës, Elbasan, Vlorë, Shkoder, (( Fier-Çifçi )), Korçë, Berat, Lushnjë, Kavajë, Laç, Gjirokastër, Patos Fshat, Krujë, Lezhë
- Airlines based in Albania: Albawings, Air Albania
Albania travel guide (Europe)
The Republic of Albania is in southeastern Europe bordering on the Mediterranean Sea, Montenegro, Serbia, Macedonia and Greece.
Geography: Albania is one of the smaller European countries extending approximately 345 km or 214 miles from north to south, 140 kilometers (86 miles) from east to west with a coastline 360 kilometers (223 miles) in length on the Adriatic Sea. About 70% of the country's surface area is taken up by mountains, these have an average altitude of about 700 metres (2 296 ft). In the north are the Albanian Alps, characterized by highland plains and mountain valleys and the coastal plain is rather flat consisting largely of fertile fields and marsh areas.
Mountains and rivers: The highest mountain in Albania is the Korab with an altitude of 2 764 meters (9 064 ft), on the border with Macedonia. The longest river, measuring 282 km (175 miles) is the Drim, with its source at Lake Ohrid in Macedonia and flowing into the Adriatic. The country also has a large number of lakes, of which the Skadar, part of Lake Ohrid and Lake Prespan are largest.
Climate and the best time to visit: Albania has a typically Mediterranean climate, with mild winters and hot, sometimes humid summers temperatures reaching 40 °C or 104 °F. Due to the different landscapes, there are significant climatic variations. Inland and in the higher regions the climate tends to be continental with long cold winters and mild summers.
National language and communication: the official and national language is Albanian. The population of the country is the most homogenous on the whole planet, 94% of Albanians belong to the ethnic groups of the Gegen or the Tosken. Both groups speak their own languages, but are able to communicate with each other.
Entry requirements: a passport with six months validity is required to enter Albania.
Health and vaccinations: The Albanian health system is not of a western European standard. Visitors should therefore take out a comprehensive medical insurance when visiting and take a fist aid kit, as basic medicines are not always widely available. To reduce the risk of infection, drink only bottled water and pay attention to hygiene.
Travel and onward journey: Albania is served regularly from European and international airports. The national airline is Albanian Airlines, but the country is also served by Alitalia, Adria Airways, Malev or Turkish Airlines. There are no domestic flights within Albania, the main and hopelessly overcrowded means of transport within this Balkan country are coaches.
Capital: Tirana has been the capital of Albania since 1920. It lies at the foot of the mountain Datji and is hilly. Tirana’s urban population has increased massively in recent decades, and is estimated to be at 600,000 to 1 million, a fact resulting in many problems, including for example urban planning and air pollution. The city has much to offer the interested traveler with beautiful views, many museums and various art galleries and cultural centers, such as the Congress Palace, the Palace of Culture, the State Opera, the National Museum and the new national art gallery. Not to be missed is also the Et'hem Bay mosque; it is the only remaining mosque in the city. The lobby is decorated with beautiful ornaments and visitors can climb the minaret to enjoy spectacular views of the city.
Attractions and beaches: Albania has not been developed for tourism. In the next few years however some development is planned to lure more tourists into the country. A very popular seaside resort is in the port city of Saranda on the Ionian coast. The most famous archaeological site of the country, the ruins of Burint, is near this town. This ancient city was built in 167 BC by the Greeks and was occupied in the course of history by the Romans, the Byzantines and the Venetians. Burint finally disappeared in the Middle Ages and was then rediscovered after the 2nd World War. The site, set in a very beautiful park, has been on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites since 1992 and ruins include an ancient theatre, Roman baths and an early basilica from the 6th Century.
The port city of Durres, about 30 kilometers west of Tirana, is the second largest city in Albania and its main shipping center in the country. It was founded in 627 BC and, because of its strategic position, has over time become an important outpost of the Roman Empire. In the city center many buildings dating from this era are to be found, including a theatre from the 1st Century, which was the largest in the Roman province of Macedonia.
Another place worth seeing are the ruins of Apollonia near the town of Fier. Apollonia was also an important strategic town for the Romans, especially for the slave trade. After the fall of the Roman Empire in the 3rd Century, this site was replaced by the neighbouring town Vlora. Excavations by Apollonia began in the early 18th Century and are still not complete. Unfortunately, this important cultural monument was partly damaged during the Second World War and also looted several times.
Albania does not only have some fantastic ancient cities, but also important buildings from the Middle Ages. The city of Kruja, about 24 miles north of Tirana is one example of the finest examples of medieval architecture. It was once the capital of the prince and Albanian national hero Skanderbeg who in the 15th century for 18 years tried to prevent the Ottoman invasion of southeastern Europe. Kruja is home to a castle, which is still inhabited and offers visitors a picturesque old town with cobblestone streets, with a medieval atmosphere. Worth a visit are above all the Albanian People's Museum and the Skanderbeg Museum in the castle, where all that deals with the prince is to be found.
Not to be missed is the largest north Albanian city Skadar, near the border with neighbouring Montenegro. Towering over the city is the old citadel Rozafa, among the best preserved in the country, offering one of the most beautiful panoramas of the city and its surroundings. Another place worth seeing is Berat in the center of the country. The city is one of the oldest in Albania with records existing from 2600 BC. The city has a particularly good reputation with lovers of medieval buildings due to the many Ottoman style houses, the many sites and chapel ruins that are decorated with beautiful icons.
Albania also stands out for its beautiful, untouched, diverse and still very wild nature. The picturesque landscapes attract hill walkers, whether for a day trip or longer hikes in the Albanian Alps.
After visiting the many historic sites and buildings, visitors can recover on the Riviera, which stretches for over 100 kilometers (60 miles) between the Bay of Vlora and the border with Greece. The seawater is very clean thanks to a lack of industry and poor infrastructure. Many small villages adorn this picturesque coastal strip on the Mediterranean. Visitors will find accommodation in the small towns Palasa, Dhermi, Vunoi, Jali and Himara, which is also the largest resort on the Albanian Riviera.
Religion: The majority of the Albanian population, a total of 60%, are Sunni Muslims; there are also Catholic and Orthodox religious communities.
Large cities and accommodation: Tirana, Durres, Elbasan, Shkodra and Vlora.