Whether the idea of visiting Croatia started with a love for the movie 'Game of Thrones' or from photos of the wonderful Adriatic coast; thus the Balkans has become a region that challenges traditional European destinations. Neighbors around Croatia and their cities like Kotor Bay in Montenegro and Mostar in Bosnia have also attracted the attention of travelers. While the whole region is beautiful and culturally rich, it is time for Albania to return to the spotlight.
So suggests New York magazine "Paste", which has given 4 reasons why to visit Albania.
In addition to their historical impact on Albania, there are many reasons why this country's coastline has become a holiday destination for Italians, but we'll start with four reasons:
From fresh fish and seafood to the incredible beaches spilling into the Ionian Sea, the southern coast is very similar and could rival Greece. Cities like Saranda, Dhermi and Ksamil, which is within Burtint National Park, remain among the most popular beach towns. Ksamil, however, is easier to reach thanks to a nearby airport and ferries from the Greek island of Corfu. Further inland, Gijrokaster, a UNESCO World Heritage City, is another rich cultural sight. Known for its preservation of Ottoman-style architecture, a visit to the city and its castle is like going back in time.
Albania is a small but diverse country, located near the 45th "magical" parallel. This means that the country can cultivate a wide range of chestnuts, sagebrush, pomegranates, cherries, plums, grapes and much more. Starting from the north between the Crown Mountains, or the Albanian Alps, the country is seemingly sinking and rolling toward the sea. Central Albania consists of smaller plains and mountains and valleys rise and fall in the Ionian Sea. This means one thing to visitors: the ability to experience deeply the culture from one village to another. Thanks to the ever-changing landscapes, there are plenty of in-house microclimates allowing the prevailing crops in one village region to be very different from another. Changing the types of food that are available results in many variations on traditional dishes and the types of food that travelers can try around the country.
Between 1809 and 1810, the British poet Lord Byron embarked on a two-year tour of Europe, during which he traveled the southern Albanian valleys, where he was fascinated by the rich culture and costumes (which also vary from region to region, within country). Traditional culture lives on today, but recent history and modern culture are well worth exploring during a trip to Albania.
Introduced to communism by Mussolini, who annexed Albania in 1939, the Balkan state remained under communism until 1985 when Enver Hoxha died. Paranoia and pressure from his former Yugoslav rival Tito prompted Hoxha to build more than 170,000 concrete nuclear bunkers across Albania - nearly six bunkers per half-square mile. As this period of history passes, bunkers are slowly being transformed into shops, cafes and even hotel rooms, though some of them are now museums in Tirana.
As the country has progressed from the communist era, modern culture has taken shape to celebrate the past while embracing the present. For example, the rebuilding of the Toptani Fortress in Tirana is a fusion of the old and the new.
International travel has steadily grown over the years - and 'over-tourism' with it. That is why traveling beyond Europe's least visited regions is introducing a return to authentic travel. Crossing into less crowded but very safe territory means that travelers get real experiences.
From north to south, staying in the guesthouse of the village are some of the most authentic experiences travelers can have in Albania. Suitable for adventurous hikers in the north or guests keen on the culture of the south, the inns are essentially Balkan and Airbnb attitudes and experiences combined into one. Visitors can stay in a private room or separate home, learn to cook traditional foods, play traditional games and listen to popular music. Cheese and traditional dishes like burek, stuffed grape leaves and baklava are just the beginning.