If you are telling people you are off to visit Albania, you are often met with shocked responses, like “why there”, or “but it isn’t safe!”. The truth is, Albania is a country so filled with natural beauty and cultural vibrancy, you will be wondering why more people aren’t flocking to this underrated country. As for safety, the people of Albania are extremely open and welcoming, eager to accept travelers and show off their country. It had a rough past, but that park of what makes this country so enthralling; Albania has persevered and come out the other side an even better version of itself. The only concern now is how to get there faster!
Tirana, Albania’s capital city is all at once relaxing and overwhelming, chaotic and friendly, familiar yet adventurous. It is a colorful city, a little rough around the edges, but with plenty of culture and architecture -cementing its status as one of the “It” European capitals. Head out in the morning to enjoy the locals hard at work, and then find a café and indulge in a hot (but thick) cup of coffee and a pastry. The food in Tirana is some of most comforting you will find anywhere; plates of fresh veggies and bowls of stewed meats and bread often arrive at your table family style, all while being friendly on your wallet! The people are what make Tirana so enjoyable; the historical landmarks are beautiful, but the locals are so hard working and charming, you cannot help but feel the sense of pride right along with them.
More commonly known as the “Town of the Windows”, Berat is famous for its rows of Ottoman houses embedded into the hills. Although more difficult to get to than the capital, Tirana, Berat is well worth the journey because of its incredible unique characteristics and architectural planning. If you plan to visit, it very well could be your highlight of Albania; the white Ottoman houses and rows upon rows of windows leading up to castle on top of the hill are stunning. At times, when the clouds are low and the weather is misty, it has an almost ethereal feel to it. Wandering around the streets you are exposed to more Albanian hospitality, as well as lovely, quaint streets and historical buildings.
3. Coastal Living
Unbeknownst to even the most seasoned travelers, Albania has some of the most spectacular coastline in all of Europe. The beaches are white stand, leading one way to bright blue sea, and the other, spectacular, dramatic mountains. The towns right along the popular main road are quite developed and have lost some of their charm, but venture off the main path and you will find some quintessential coastal villages waiting for your arrival.
Along with Berat, Gjirokastra is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, known for its typical, Ottoman architectural characteristics. This town gives true meaning to multicultural; it is a mecca of different religious and cultural communities that have managed to coexist for centuries. It has many historical buildings, like a castle and many churches, as well as a bazaar and mosque; the streets are brimming with history to fill any traveler to cultural satiety.
Located in the north of Albania, Kruje, at only 20 kilometers from Tirana, it is a quick day trip from the capital city. Kruje is nestled at the foot of Mount Kruje, in a truly spectacular natural setting; even if you had no interest in history, the landscape will turn every single head. But the town itself has its own little history; the Castle, found at the highest point in town, is a perfect example of a medieval fortress, offering a great view of the city. The food is delicious and filling, and the town receives surprisingly few tourists, so don’t be alarmed if some of the locals invite you in for a coffee or a meal! Kruje makes for an excellent day trip; although one could very easily stay for a week- it is a great place to recharge your batteries after a chaotic trip to Tirana!