When you think of a European capital, on your mind crosses Paris, Berlin, Vienna, and other special cities like these. But, if you haven’t heard of Tirana before these lines, then this is your lucky day. Besides that the Albanian capital is located in the same time zone as the above capitals, the city has been taking a more and more European apparence in the past years but still it has it’s own distinctive elements of the Albanian culture and from it’s communism period.
Being the country’s capital since 1920, Tirana has been enlarging ever since, from a humble small trade town almost a century ago, to a busy metropolitan city hosting almost over half a million “Tiranas”, where you can get something from everything. And while in Tirana, don’t miss your chance to take a picture of some landmarks like: Scanderbeg Monument, the Pyramid, the Clocktower, Et’hem Beg Mosque, etc.
Berat, with an ancient history from 2400 years ago, is located along the stream of river Osum and in the middle of the great mountains of Tomorr and Shpirag. It is located on the side of a rocky hill and in the same place was settled the ancient town from the Illyrian tribes. It has been conquered many times but its castle has always been famous of being very difficult to invade as it was situated in a hilltop overlooking the whole area. Today it has the nickname of the city of a thousand and one windows, coming from the panoramic view of the houses on the hill. It is a part of UNESCO World Heritage List with the well preserved houses of original Ottoman architecture. Besides the warm atmosphere that the city itself offers to you, you will also get a glimpse of the Albanian tradition here, starting with the cheerful welcoming.
Gjirokastra, the stone city, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site is situated in the southern part of Albania, on the slope of the hills of (Mali I Gjere), overlooking river Drino. The first traces are to be found in the 1st century A.D. It became an urban centre by the 13th century. Gjirokastra is mentioned for the first time in a document of 1336, under the name Argyropolihne (the township of Argyro). Later the town became known as Argysokastro. Gjirokaster had been under the Byzantine dominion till late 14th century, when it passed under the control of the Albanian feudal Prince Zanebisha. Gjirokaster was captured in 1432 by the Ottoman Turks, who called it Erigeri. In 1811, the Great Ali Pashe Tepelena, after bombarding the fortress with artillery, forced the town to capitulate. Later Gjirokastra played an important role as the cradle of the patriotic movement of the Albanians for freedom and independence. Nowadays Gjirokastra is one of the most attractive towns in Albania. Gjirokastra or so called “the town of one thousand steps” or “the stone town” is of particular interest for its native architecture.
The ancient city of Butrint is much preferable to be visited as an archaeological centre, where antiquity and beauty intertwine. The archaeological excavations show that Butrint has been an important center of the Kaonian Illyrians, one of the big tribes of southern Illyria. According to discoveries made in the area, it has been proved that the site was inhabited as early as Paleolithic period. In the 6-th century BC Greeks from Corfu settled here, alongside with Illyrians and the new colony prospered as the result of the trade. By the fifth century BC, Buthroton was an Illyrian fortified city. In the fourth century BC Butrint had fallen to Epirus, and in 167 BC it was taken by Rome. It was a seat of a Byzantine bishop in the 10-th century. Butrint was captured by the Normans in eleventh century and passed to Venice from 1690 to 1797, when Ali Pasha Tepelena captured it. With the fall of the Pashallek of Janina, in 1822, Butrint passed under Ottoman rule until 1913. Several excavations dating from the 1-st and 4-th centuries AD can now be visited, among them the Old Amphitheatre, the temple of Asclepiads or Aesculapius, the Baptistery, Nymphaeum and the ancient city walls. Do not miss the Baptistery, with a floor of colorful mosaics. An old fortress housing a small museum watches over the whole site.
There are 14 national parks and a marine park in Albania They cover a surface area of 2,106.6848 km2 or roughly 6.7% of the overall territory. The Parks have a diverse terrain, suitable for sightseeing, fishing, relaxation, recreation, mountain climbing and winter sports.That offers opportunities for excursions, skiing, sky sports, mountain climbing, etc.
The Fir of Hotovë-Dangelli National Park is the largest national park in Albania located in Gjirokastër County with a surface area of 34,361 ha (343.61 km2) but there also other amazing natural parks such as Lura,Thethi,Valbona,Llogara,Dajti etc.
Albania has also 4 sites designated as Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar Sites), with a surface area of 98,181 hectares.The national parks of Albania are well known and visited a lot by tourists every year because of the rich flora and fauna.
In these destinations, hiking, cycling, wildlife watching, landscape photography and rock climbing are extremely popular activities. Albania’s natural beauty and variety will undoubtedly surprise you and make you rave about it to your friends and family back home.
If you’re wondering what to do in Albania after exploring Tirana and the Albanian Riviera, a visit to one (or more) of the national parks in Albania is absolutely a good idea.
The Karavasta Lagoon is the largest lagoon in Albania and one of the largest in the Mediterranean Sea. The Karavasta lagoon has many pine trees and small sandy islands. The lagoon is famous for the rare Dalmatian Pelican which nests there: In fact 5% of the world’s population of this type of pelican is found in this lagoon.
The Karavasta Lagoon is within the List of Ramsar wetlands of international importance and part of the Divjake-Karavasta National Park. The Divjaka-Karavasta National Park is the largest non-coastal complex in Albania with an area of 22,230.2 hectares, made of four lagoons with a total of approximately 5,000 ha. There is a Mediterranian Pine Forest near the Karavasta lagoon, and it contains one of the most interesting faunas of the country. Divjakë-Karavasta area provides the special conditions for accommodation of a number of plant communities and animal species, among which many of them are at risk of extinction in the world such as Pelican (Pelicanus crispus Bruch).
The lagoons provide living conditions and breeding sites above the 5% of the world population of this bird. The islands in the lagoon are one of the most important features of the area for the conservation of birds. Although in the past, the Dalmatian pelicans have nested in other parts of the lagoon, they now only nest on these islands, owning to disturbance elsewhere. In addition, many of the other important breeding birds of the lagoon nest on the island because they are safe from predators and human disturbance.
Albania is strategically positioned on the Adriatic and Ionian Sea inside the Mediterranean Sea, with a coastline of about 476 km (296 mi). All the coast has some amazing and crystal clear beaches which attracts a big number of tourists especially during summer time. The coast between Velipojë and Shëngjin in the north is characterized by curative sand beaches, and a few lagoons near Lezhë, perfect for bird-watching. Between Durrës and Vlora in Central Albania, the coast is characterized by long stretches of sandy beaches and several lagoons. Along the Albanian Riviera in the south, the coast is mostly rocky but it also has sandy beaches, with the presence of several islands like Sazan, Zvernec, Ksamil, and Tongo. Albanian Riviera is the one of the most preferred destinations in Europe by the tourists because of the unexplored beaches. Delicious food, amazing beaches, friendly people, that’s what makes it attractive for everybody.