21 September 2015

Albania – Europe’s Hidden Jewel

"Pure, beautiful and full of spirit. This was the essence of Albania", described through amazing photos of Albania taken by Michael Jurick one of the best known as New York City’s photographer.
The article and photos was published in his website with the tittle: "Albania – Europe’s Hidden Jewel" (http://www.jurick.net/2015/08/abania-europes-undiscovered-jewel/ ). There are about 90 photos of #Albania, especially the seaside, southern riviera, as well as UNESCO cities of Berat and Gjirokaster.

Here is a summary of his article:
By Michael Jurick

"When we told our friends and family that we were going to Albania for our summer vacation, they all asked the same question, “why Albania?” After you see these photographs and read this journal, all your questions will be answered. We found Albania to be a gorgeous jewel of Eastern Europe’s southern riviera.

The lead photograph from our journey is of our daughter Eden. We stopped for chocolate and vanilla ice cream macchiatos at the edge of a cliff-side mountain cafe. Fashionista Eden soaks up sunshine between billowing drapes that reveal a jaw-dropping deep azure sky thousands of feet above straw-colored beach umbrellas. To me, this was the essence of Albania. Pure, beautiful and full of spirit. After establishing its independence from dictator rule in 1991, the country has now spread her wings to shre the world the hidden gems within. The Albanian riviera was a fabulous highlight of our trip.
The views from our drive along the rugged coast south from Vlora to Llogora to Himara were staggering! Most of Albania’s roads are steep, swirly switchbacks – but all reveal magnificent vistas at each hairpin turn. Soaring green mountains drop straight into the Ionian Sea thousands of feet below.
 Once we arrived in Himara, the charm of the Albanian riviera had completely taken over. The weather was absolutely pristine with just a hint of soft wispy breezes and 81 degree temps. The crescent cove of the coast anchored both the charming village below and homes that dotted the hillside rising into the mountains. The sun bathed it all in gold.
The drive from Himara to Sarandë featured another awe-inspiring set of breathtaking views of the southern Albanian riviera. Homes peppered the rocky edges and donkeys shared the winding roads. We stopped for lunch and cappucinos at the gorgeous panoramic cafe, Perla and ate fish soup and fresh salads. When we pulled into Sarande, the sun glittered on the colored hotels lining the crescent cove directly across the Greek Island of Corfu.

The penultimate stop on our Albanian adventure took us to the southern tip of the country to a town called Ksmali which featured small islands lining the channel to Greece’s Corfu island. Small rustic fishing boats anchor off the beach. There was color everywhere. We jet-skied, we ate fresh fruit, we enjoyed life. The vibe in the air here in Ksamili was perfect pristine paradise.

On our drive to Berat, we witnessed the most unusual and peculiar thing that ended up being the topic of conversation the entire trip. We saw hundreds of half-completed homes in nearly mint condition. We later learned from the people of Albania that after gaining their independence in 1991, Albanians began to build a home to secure property rights. Those homes are built in phases and until each phase has the funds, it remains incomplete. See the pink house in the photograph below to see what I’m talking about. You will also see how we shared the roads with all types of livestock.
When we arrived in Berat, we were smitten with it’s ancient charm. We explored the Citadel castle in Berat and walked, talked, and laughed until sunset. At sunset, we came to the peak of the castle mount and glanced across the Osumi River tothe Gorica neighborhood, whose houses face those of Mangalemi.

The arched bridge of Gorica, built in 1780, is a beautiful architectural monument constructed to link Gorica with Mangelemi. We then walked along the promenade for a stroll to enjoy summer life among this quaint Albanian town. The view of the white houses climbing up the hillside to the citadel is one of the best known in Albania and features homes with windows that seem to stand above each other. This city is the pride of Albanian architecture, and under the protection of UNESCO .I took many different photographs in this city – it was visually striking!

What we found so unique about Albania was it’s deep family roots. Everywhere we went, we experienced family-run businesses. Hotels, inns, restaurants, businesses, shop-keepers, and farmers all had multi-generational family members involved in some part of the business. Everything was organic. With farms everywhere you looked, and fresh seafood at arms length from most restaurants, the food was fresher than you could imagine.

On our drive back north, we stopped in Gjirokastër an ancient hilltop village rich in history.

If you like these photographs, do your self a favor and book a trip to Albania!

05 August 2015

Bild: Newcomer in the Balkans

In Albania? Yes, why not: The small country on the Adriatic and the Ionian Sea has beautiful beaches, rich culture, natural treasures - and friendly people. And moreover, the prices are more than moderate.

This is how one of the biggest newspaper in Germany describes our country, Albania. The author
Von Oliver Abraham is a newcomer in Balkans and in Albania too, and he is surprised with nature, history and culture of Albanians. His tour included Durres, Kruja and Berat, Gjirokastra and Blue Eye Spring, Saranda and Butrint, and at the end, Albanian riviera from Saranda to Vlora, through Llogara Pass. Also the article has beautiful photos starting with Ksamil.


28 July 2015

How to go to Karaburun Pennisula, near Vlora Albania?

Karaburun Pennisula is the new destination to be explored in Albania. 
Many people are going there by boat every day to see the undiscovered land in front of Vlora city. 
Karaburun is the biggest Peninsula in Albania, which is situated between the Vlora Gulf and the Otranto Canal. Its 16 km long, but have no good road for driving. People are using a narrow remote road starting from Pasha Liman military base, where you can drive only with '4X4' cars.
The easiest way to reach the site is by boat, only for 30 minutes. 
In 2014, the Regina Blu ferry was established by a Radhime-based hotel owner making trips to Karaburun Peninsula and Sazan Island while stopping along the secluded beaches. This year there are many boats and speedboat which sends more and more people to see and explore Karaburun. There are some beaches and the first restaurants, where you can drink, eat, and rest for all the day. But not to spend the night, because there are not hotels yet.   
One year ago, the Pennisula was all dark, no lights. But now you can see the first lights of bars in the other side. It’s amazing for the people of Vlora to see this view in front of their city.
Rexhina ferry remains the cheapest way to go in Karaburun. It costs about 12 euro per person for a trip of 7 hours. During this trip you can see some beaches of Karaburun, explore Sazan island, which is now open for the public after 25 years isolation, and also you can see the Haxhi Aliu Cave, an awesome place situated in the Cape of Gjuheza, at the end of Peninsula.  Then you continue the trip in Shen Vasili beach, were you can sunbathe for two or three hours and in afternoon come back to Vlora. It’s an amazing trip where you can see the pristine beaches, the amazing nature and crystal waters of our country. Feels like opening up a box of treasures  hidden for year from Albanian public eyes. (Photos: AH)

25 July 2015

Albania Holidays celebrates 10 years of success!

The story behind!
All started from the two well educated young  guys who were very enthusiastic about their country and its tourism potential. Kliton Gerxhani was graduated in International Tourism Management and Consultancy at NHTV- Breda University in Netherlands and Armand Ferra in Business Administration and Management in Oxford Brookes University UK.

As other people who studied abroad and wanted to invest their knowledge in their country, they founded in 2005 the incoming company named Albania Holidays. The company started with online tourism through a website for hotels, which is today the most popular website for booking hotels in Albania always top 1 in Google, www.albania-hotel.com. The website itself was an innovation as it brought Albanian hotels for the first time online, with description and prices. From years, hotels are bookable with credit card from this website and other websites added lately such as www.balkan-hotel.com and www.tirana-hotel.com
Albania Holidays  as an incoming agency as played a great role in promoting Albania abroad, by publishing rich information on tourism in Albania, not only in English but  also in German, Italian, French and even Russian language. One of the leading UK newspapers Mirror.co.uk. on  22 April 2006 in an article titled “Albania Mania “ would write:  Albania doesn't have its own tourist board in the UK, but you should visit albania-holidays.com, a dynamic little local company which offers three-night hotel stays in Tirana from and week-long tours around the country, including accommodation."

Albania Holidays DMC is today a Destination Management Company the only representative for Albania at World of DMC, member of Albanian Tourism Association and other important tourism bodies. It organizes successful Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Events for some international companies, and brands. 
The company operates tours around Albania and Balkans through partnering with some well-known international tourism companies, mainly from UK, USA but also other countries of Europe. Through its rich and updated websites, the company serves to individuals to book hotels and tours online. 
Due to its hard work and professionalism in offering top quality service, Albania Holidays has grown significantly in 10 years. It has opened a branch in Pristina Kosovo, named Kosovo Holidays, and employs 10 well educated people full time, while working with around 30 or more professional guides on tour bases. 
Albania Holidays  has contributed actively in lobbing for tourism and influencing government policies to support the development of the sector. All these make it a very reputable company in Albania and broader.

09 July 2015

Tirana – Aus grau wird bunt

Tirana - from gray becomes colorful. This is blog written from a German blogger Beatrice. She enjoyed her stay in Albanian Capital, and shared with us a guide about the most beautiful places of Tirana.  

Read and enjoy her article:

Tirana – Aus grau wird bunt

In den Top-Listen attraktiver europäischer Städte wirst Du Tirana (noch) vergeblich suchen. Kein Wunder, denn die Jahrzehnte des kommunistischen Regimes hatten aus der albanischen Hauptstadt einen grauen, düsteren Ort gemacht, in dem die Einwohner ein ärmliches Leben fristen mussten. Der Zusammenbruch des Kommunismus im Jahr 1992 und der Übergang zu einer demokratischen Regierung verschlimmerte zunächst die Situation.
Besser wurde es ab dem Jahr 2000, als Edi Rama Bürgermeister von Tirana wurde und im großen Umfang Maßnahmen zur Verbesserung der Lebensbedingungen durchführte: Illegale errichtete Gebäude wurden abgerissen und Pläne für eine sinnvolle Stadtentwicklung erstellt. Eine gezielte Begrünung wurde gestartet, die vorher grauen Fassaden bunt angestrichen und man begann, sich um die Müllentsorgung zu kümmern.
Für sein Projekt „Clean and Green“ wurde Edi Rama sogar von den Vereinten Nationen ausgezeichnet.
Heute ist Tirana im Aufschwung. Fast 1 Millionen Einwohner leben in der Stadt – immerhin ein Drittel der gesamten albanischen Bevölkerung. Chaotisch geht es immer noch zu: geschäftige Fußgänger, zähfließender Verkehr, staubige Großbaustellen und ein undefinierbares Häusergemisch von modern bis halbverfallen.
Die Aufbruchstimmung ist überall zu merken. Noch funktioniert nicht alles, aber es tut sich was. Schön? Manchmal ja und manchmal nein. In jedem Fall nicht zu vergleichen mit unserem wohlgeordneten (und manchmal ganz schön behäbigen) Leben – und gerade deshalb einen Besuch wert!

Full article: 


08 July 2015

8 Best Places to Visit in Albania That Are Safe And Beautiful

Another article is published for Albania in international media, this time suggesting 8 best place tourists should visit. The article is published at Insider Monkey, an online platform evaluating markets, economy etc. The tittle is: 8 Best Places to Visit in Albania That Are Safe And Beautiful.
The word 'safe' is surfaced again in international media after the death of two Czech tourists in north of Albania. But we can assure tourists  that all Albania is safe despite a sporadic and isolated tragedy, which can happen everywhere in the world.

Lets see how Insider Monkey ranks the beautiful places should be visited in Albania. The article suggest: Berat, Durres, Tirana, Albanian riviera, Apollonia, Gjirokastra. Kruja and Shkodra as most beautiful places in Albania. But the focus is Adriatic coastline, Albanian Riviera. It describes the beaches as very pristine, breathtaking, which amaze any traveler. Further inland into Albania are stony trails for hiking amongst the sun bleached and lunar mountains. The remote villages offer an inviting welcome to all inquisitive traveler. There is always the benefit of well-prepared tasty meals, great wine and hospitable locals... With its great combination of engaging history, sandy beaches and highly competitive pricing, Albania’s once anonymous charms are being shouted to everyone across the world. 
Here is a list of the best places to visit in Albania that are safe and beautiful.  Full article:


09 June 2015

18 foreigners dance to the Gjirokastra Folk Festival in Albania. Best closure ever!

There is no better closure for Gjirokastra Festival than 18 foreigners dancing professionally our folk dances and the crowd join them. It is so touching when you see foreigners to dance so beautifully and passionately our folk dances. 

"The last day of the Gjirokaster festival in Albania last week, the group of 18 foreigners I was in was asked to do a short performance on the main festival stage. Genci  Katsrati and Cees Hillebrand arranged costumes, we danced ... and later watched ourselves on Albanian television! At the end of the performance we went down from the stage and danced with the audience... this is how Lee Otterholt, one of the dancers from California comments the video on his Facebook Page.  

The initiator of all this is Cees Hillebrand the founder of  albanian-folklore.com designed to make Albanian folklore in all its aspects accessible for everyone who takes interest in Albanian folklore. The website, as Cees describes it  was named in respect to the Albanian people, living in Albania and neighboring countries like Montenegro, Kosovo, Macedonia and Greece. The folklore of the Albanians who left their country to Italy from the 16th century onwards, called Arbëresh, has evolved in a different way through the centuries and is not taken into account in this project for the moment, although it will be very interesting to see the similarities and differences.
Cees Hillebrand in cooperation with  Albania Holidays and  professional dancers from Albanian National Folk Ensemble  is running seminar and tours to Albania  since 2010. Many tourists from different countries who share the passion for Albanian folk music and dances come to visit Albania and combine their tour with dance seminars. Cees is doing a great job also in documenting this with photos and videos.

It is so touching when you see foreigners to dance so beautifully and passionately our folk dances. We have shared previously another video when they sing the famous song :Janines c'i pane syte" with a very professional "iso" and combination of voices.

About Cees Hillebrand

Cees was born  in the Netherlands and took interest in Albanian folklore during one of his visits to western Macedonia, at that time a republic of the Yugoslav federation, many years ago. As Albania was closed at that time for foreigners it was difficult to get reliable information.
Albania remained a mystery to him and he started to study the Albanian folklore from whatever kind of information source he could get and finally in 2004 he was able to visit the Gjirokastër festival and experience with  own eyes and ears the richness of the Albanian folklore.

He cooperates with people from the National Ensemble of Folk Songs and Dances (AKKVP) in Tirana, scientists from the Academy of Science, ethnology department, and the Academy of Fine Arts in Tirana, people from the Centre for Immaterial folk culture, the Institute for Albanology at the University of Kosovo in Pristine and many others.(source: albanian-folklore.com)

If you would like to take the tour, see description here http://www.albania-holidays.com/tours-to-albania/albania-folk-tour