15 August 2016

Albania is a completely unique country. 10 reasons to visit it!


Before I was offered a job in Albania, I couldn't even find this country on a map. Now that I've lived here for a year, I am absolutely convinced that everyone should know about this amazing country. Are you planning your next adventure abroad? Before you jetset to another crowded city somewhere, consider adding this unique Balkan country to your itinerary.

1. Albania is spectacularly cheap
With fresh seafood dinners costing around $5 , your wallet will love this Mediterranean destination. With a low cost of living, accommodation at nice hotels is also inexpensive: many hotels charge between $40-$50 a night, with upscale resorts only putting you out $80 or $90. Transportation is also cheap, with local buses costing around a dollar to ride between cities. Albania is a country where you can budget cheaply and still live like royalty.

2. The Albanian Alps
The Albanian alps, the name of which translates to the “Accursed Mountains” due to their rocky, untamed terrain, offer breathtaking views in one of the most remote areas of Europe. Jagged peaks, snow-capped mountains, and unbelievably crystal clear waters all reward the intrepid traveler who ventures into the north of Albania.

3. Albania is like a living time capsule
Traveling in Albania, you might get the impression that someone hit the “pause” button on Albanian culture in the 1950’s. Having been closed to the world for so long, the older generations still dress and live as they did 50 years ago. And while the cities have hardly changed in the last few decades, the villages have hardly changed in the last few centuries. It's a fascinating glimpse into a different pace of life that has largely been left behind in the modern world.

4. Albania offers a rich taste of the unspoiled Mediterranean
Like its famous neighbor Greece to the south, Albania borders the glittering cerulean waters of the Adriatic and Ionian seas. A rich span of coastline known as the Albanian Riveria boasts numerous quiet, undiscovered beaches all along the south of the country. The residents of coastal cities like Vlore, Sarande, and Dhermi easily enjoy some of the most beautiful beaches on the Mediterranean, and they have it all to themselves.

5. Albanians are kind and helpful
A few months ago, when my car blew a flat tire on the side of the road, a wonderful local man changed it in under ten minutes— and refused to be paid for his labor! Just last weekend I purchased some groceries from a local shop, but quickly realized I didn’t have enough money to pay for them all. Unfazed, the kind shopkeeper insisted that I take home the groceries anyway and bring back the money the next day. I am still blown away by their selfless generosity and willingness to help.

6. Albania is very safe
As a female traveler in Albania, I have always felt perfectly safe. Families and solo travelers alike are able to travel freely without being bothered. Albanians pride themselves on their hospitality, so foreigners are welcomed here. While travelers should always remain aware of their surroundings, Albania is definitely one of the safest places I’ve ever traveled in.

7. The amount of ancient history here is staggering
Having been occupied since pre-history, Albania has artifacts from thousands of years of some of the world’s greatest empires. Wandering through any town here, you might just stumble across ancient ruins from the Romans, Greeks, Byzantines, Venetians, Illyrians, Ottomans, and more! History buffs will definitely love the rich width and depth of historical sites and cultural influences found in this region of the world.

8. Albania proudly boasts multiple UNESCO World Heritage Sites
...including Butrint, an archeological site previously inhabited by the Romans and the Greeks, and Berat and Gjirokastra, two “museum cities” and fabulous examples of Ottoman architecture. Other Albanian sites currently in the UNESCO candidacy stages include the Durres Amphitheater, Lake Ohrid, and Apollonia, all of which are now undergoing repairs, promotions, or renovations.

9. Albania is a completely unique country
You will never visit another country like Albania. It is a beautiful contradiction of charm and grit alike, celebrating its very own unique heritage and history. It proudly claims the ancestry of celebrities like pop singer Rita Ora, actors Jim and John Belushi, and Mother Theresa. Albania even has its very own branch on the language tree, completely unrelated to any other language on earth! This is a unique country reserved not just for travelers, but for adventurers.
And last but not least, the most important reason to visit Albania…

10. Albania is emerging as a top tourist destination
..and is consistently landing high spots on international travel lists, such as Rough Guide’s “Top 10 Places to Visit in 2016.” Albania has also been dubbed the “best kept secret in the Mediterranean” by the UK’s Telegraph, and the “hidden bargain of the Balkans” by the Daily Mail. With the world gradually taking notice of the treasures Albania has to offer, I highly recommend you travel there before the secret gets out!

Author: Briana Averwater

18 July 2016

Albania: a coast that resembles the Caribbean by Mediaset/TGCOM24

source: @tgcom24.mediaset.it
The online newspaper of Mediaset has dedicated an article for Albanian beaches, which they compare to Caribbean with tittle: "Albania: una costa che assomiglia ai Caraibi"

This how TGCOM24 describes Albania: “Still a diamond in the rough, but with very beautiful facets. It seems this is the image that is most suited to Albania, a country a little 'snubbed from the tourists but that hides landscapes of great beauty, beaches that look like those of the Caribbean, great hospitality.”
Here are some of the most beautiful places for a seaside holiday in Albania that, rest assured, will surprise you.  Email us now at: contact@albania-holidays.com to book your tour to Albania

Vlora, history and beaches

source: @tgcom24.mediaset.it
Vlora is one of the oldest cities in Albania. It was founded in the sixth century BC with the name of Aulon. In 733 it was annexed in Constantinople belonged then to the Normans, and the kingdom of Serbia since 1345. In 1464 it was conquered by the Turks and, for a short time and was also Venetian.
source: @tgcom24.mediaset.it
Not far from here is the beach Vlora, Jal which is located in the south of the city, just a few kilometers from the most famous of Drymades , near the village of Vuno. A small beach lovely and very quiet, sandy, bathed by beautiful turquoise waters of crystalline transparency. Drymades is a charm: the beautiful bay of golden sand where you can camp or rent a bungalow and enjoy one of the spectacular sunsets of this characteristic trait of Albania.
The Cave of Pirates
source: @tgcom24.mediaset.it
The Beach Livadhi , at the foot of the castle of the city, framed by thick vegetation behind and rock walls on either side: even the sea here is exceptionally transparent, evidence of a still preserved nature. Here the range of accommodation is the richest of the coast. Many restaurants of Himara are managed by offering tasty and inexpensive dishes based on fish, squid and shrimp. 
Next to the old village Dhermi and full of attractions with beautiful crescent beach, here it is small and charming bays, Shkambo , Jaliksari and Gjipea, stretching for about two kilometers. Do not miss the Cave of the Pirates that once gave shelter to the predators of the sea and now famous for the intimacy of his cloaked space of intense blue.


14 July 2016

Walking in the miracle of Albanian Alps



"Boom on a once enchanted place". The beautiful of Northern Albania has captured the eye of a German journalist, Florian Sanktjohanser, who wrote a whole article published at online magazine “NWZ Online”. He describes the mountains of Northern Albania as a long been forgotten corner, poorer even than the rest of the run-down state. But now more tourists venture into the picturesque valleys. There it looks like in the Alps 200 years ago. During his journey he met local people and has unveiled their lifestyle in the villages. The top staggering places mentioned in the article are: the city of Shkodra, Thethi village, Valbona Valley and Lake Koman.
Shkodra 
"The foreigners are asking to buy "The tower of vendetta", known as “Kulla e Ngujimit’ who has guarded my family for 400 years. But I would not give up the tradition," says Sokol Nikolle Koçeku, the owner of this tower. The tower survived during the rule of the Ottomans and the Communists, and is one of the few such historic houses in Albania. Now I will not let this place to be sacrificed to the latest invasion: the onslaught of tourists. The Kulla is in Theth, a village in the "Cursed Mountains" in far north of Albania. It is a wild area where the Kanun, the tradition of common law governs life even in these days. The people here have been extremely poor for centuries. But now a small miracle happens: Since a few years, more and more tourists come walking in the Albanian Alps. And with them sweep the people,( who left the area for years), back to their villages.
In the well-kept pedestrianized area, you can see young Westerners sit in cafes, walk to the fortress, or book their ferry for the next morning to Valbona Valley. For the fastest and most stunning way to the Valbona Valley leads over the Koman dam. 
Valbona Valley: Since 2007, the Valbona National Park is in guidebooks. Albanian television crews came and turned documentaries about the ancient traditions. Even more important was that the only road was pave into the valley. Since then, the number of day-trippers has increased rapidly. "Valbona has for many Albanians something mystical. In July and August rose at least 50 hikers per day up to the pass. And every year would more.
Thethi Village: ‘I think no place where human beings live has given me such an impression of majestic isolation from the entire world. It is a spot where the centuries shrivel; the river might be the world’s well-spring, its banks the fit home of elemental instincts–passions that are red and rapid’, the English writer Edith Durham wrote in early 20th century about Theth. The "majestic" can continue to let them stand until almost 2700m, the craggy peaks on.  At least the residents of Theth have preserved their traditional architecture. Most houses are built of stone and covered with shingles. And the church, destroyed during the atheistic republic, was restored thanks to wealthy Albanians in the diaspora.
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12 July 2016

Business Insider: There is no better time to visit Albania than now

Locked between dramatic mountain faces and azure blue seas; it’s nothing short of a miracle that Albania hasn’t made it onto the mainstream tourist trail yet.
Shqipëria” to the locals, it’s known to its natives as the land of the eagles, a moniker adopted from folklore tales passed down from generation to generation. They tell of how a young Albanian saved an eaglet from certain death at the fangs of a venomous snake. And it’s that willingness to do things for others that sums up the spirit of the country.
Albanians are known for their hospitality, kindness, and affinity for knocking back glasses of homemade Raki. The days of communist dictatorship are a distant memory for all but a few. Albania is looking ahead to a brighter future. There is no better time to visit than now. 
The author of article, the blogger Tiny Rucksack suggest 5 places in Albania that everyone should visit. Here they are:
                                BERAT
Tucked between the Tomorr mountain (which locals claim to be the resting body of a fallen giant) and the Osum river, Berat is the jewel in the crown of Albania. Home to 60,000 people, many of whom tell tales of being forced to work in the munitions tunnels carved by the Communist government into nearby hills. It’s a town of two halves – the winding medieval white-washed streets cut a course on the right bank of the river, while an altogether more modern settlement is the hub of the town on the left bank.
High above the town lies its castle – a fortress built to protect the town and her inhabitants from Byzantine raiders. Once it was a front line of wars between powerful empires vying for control. Now a slippery marble paved road keeps all but the most determined flip-flop clad tourists from reaching the top.Consecutive invasions of Berat have left the town with a mixture of architecture. The Turks brought their influence, as did the Communists. An interesting mish-mash of styles pleasing to the eye, and the camera.

                    Valbona National Park
Misty mountains and alpine streams dominate in this untouched corner of europe’s unexplored country. The traditional way of life is slowly changing in the steep-sided valleys. Farmers are turning their hand to hosting trekkers looking for adventure.
The region borders Kosovo, territory fiercely claimed by both Serbs and ethnic Albanians. It’s home to wild dog,  wolves, and some say bears. But don’t let this put you off. The mountains offer fantastic trekking, climbing and camping.

Albania is becoming a stoic pinpoint on the map for travellers from around the globe. New roads are being built, hotels are under construction, and the country is planning to build a second airport, at Kukës – development which’ll make getting to northern Albania much easier, and visiting a more attractive prospect.

                The “not to be missed” Lake Koman ferry
A ride along Lake Koman is only comparable to a trip on the Norwegian fjords. Bottle green trees meet the waters edge along the breathtaking route.  The landlocked lake through the ‘accursed mountains’ is actually a hydro-electric damn, but also forms part of an ancient route from Kosovo to Albania. The rickety ferry stutters into life several times a day, passing which scenery has to be seen to be believed.
photographers dream, the landscape could have been plucked from the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Mountains tower above the lake as it weaves its way to Fierza. It’s a route used by tourists and locals alike – meaning it’s a great chance to practice pigeon Albanian (or sit back, have a beer and take in the views). 
Lake Koman is the most scenic route to travel to the Valbona National Park from Shkodër. It has been described as “one of the world’s great boat trips”.

                                              Himarë
This sleepy fishing village on facing out toward the Ionian Sea remains relatively untouched by Aussie backpackers flaunting flip-flops and tales of far-flung lands. Sea food restaurants line the sea front enjoying unspoilt views over the town’s beach.
 Less than half an hour’s stroll away from the Xhiro is ‘Albania’s Ibiza’ – Jala. Toned men and bikini-clad women descend on the beach to drink at its bars, swim in crystal clear waters and ‘be seen’ during the summer month. It’s a world away from the serenity of the surrounding villages.
Reminders of Albania’s communist dictatorship past are ever present.  On a clear day the Greek island of Corfu is visible – too visible for those once in Tirana’s corridors of power awaiting an imminent invasion which never came. The now defunct fortifications line the roads leading between the coastal towns and villages.

                                         Tirana – the capital city
Probably Europe’s weirdest capital city. At first glance Tirana doesn’t have a huge amount to offer a wondering soul, but its quirkiness makes it worth at least a day stop-off. The International Center of Culture (or the Pyramid of Tirana) tops the Albania’s list of the weird and wonderful. Opened in October 1988 was intended to be a museum to Enver Hoxha – the leader of Albania’s communist cult. The pyramid new sits empty and derelict. It’s an ad hoc climbing frame for plucky locals and tourists hoping to get that “perfect selfie”.
Tirana of the centre of Albanian life. Smartly dressed men and women weave their way between the chaotic traffic like in any other European capital. It’s the home of the country’s night life, especially the Blokku area, a section of town formerly reserved for the country’s elite.



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06 July 2016

Exploring ancestral lands- fascinating Albania


"Traveling in the ancestral lands of Alexander the Great, I recently explored the unique sights found in the Balkan countries of Macedonia, Albania and northern Greece.
The three Balkan countries I visited preserve a tremendous amount of antiquity and ancient history, as they all have very rich heritages..

Our journey from Greece took us across the border to fascinating Albania, which was the most isolated and closed country in the world following World War II.
Its brutal Communist dictator had closed its borders, and his irrational fear of an invasion led him to construct an unbelievable number of 700,000 small bunkers, plus tunnels, to allegedly protect his population. I have never seen such a weird sight as these bunkers still lining the highways and its cities.

Stunning Ottoman-style homes, ancient fortifications
In Albania, we spent two evenings in the UNESCO world heritage city of Gjirokaster, a very old historic town on a steep hillside containing several Ottoman-era mansions with stone slate roofs and crowned by a massive 15th century castle.
We visited its Ottoman bazaar dating from the 17th century. Later we toured the town of Berat, containing stunning Ottoman-style homes and a 2,500 year old fortification.

Tirana, Albania's capital, was our next destination. It is a fairly modern city with wide boulevards, parks and high rises.
Here we learned about the turbulent history of the country that included 400 years of occupation by the Ottomans, Italians and Nazi's during WW II, and the 45 years of a Communist dictatorship."



 "Exploring ancestral lands", is an article published in Sun Times by Dave Pattison also known as “The Marco Traveler". The author choose these 3 places Albania, Greece and Macedonia to write about in his last article for the Sun Times."This is my last article I will write for the Sun Times, which is ceasing publication, and I hope readers have enjoyed learning about places known and unknown, and have gained an understanding about unique and varied cultures that can be discovered around the world", he wrote.


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