24 November 2014

Albania Opens Five-Storey Secret Bunker Built by Communists

A great attraction is added to Tirana, the capital of Albania. Visitors, but also Albanian themselves will be surprised to find out what was underneath the communism regime they lived and suffered. 
Work on the bunker, 100m (330ft) underground, was completed in 1978 but it was never used
A large secret bunker that Albania's communist regime built in the 1970s to survive a nuclear bomb has been opened to the public for the first time.
Then dictator Enver Hoxha wanted the bunker near the capital Tirana to guard against Soviet Union or US attacks.

Prime Minister Edi Rama showed several Western ambassadors around the 106-room, five-storey complex on Saturday.

"We have opened today a thesaurus of the collective memory that presents thousands of pieces of the sad events and life under communism," Mr Rama said in a speech in the bunker's 200-seat hall.
Hoxha's regime built up to 700,000 bunkers before he died in 1985. The communist regime was toppled in 1990.

How to get to Bunkart Museum: From Tirana International Hotel in the center of the capital take the bus with the logo of Bunkart. This service is free of charge for
Bunkart Opening hours: Everyday 9.00-16.00
Bunkart  Entry tickets: free of charge November -December 2014

Map of Bunkart  in Tirana

If you need any help arranging your trip to Tirana, Albania email us at: contact@albania-holidays.com

03 November 2014

Albanian UNESCO listed ancient towns of Gjirokastër and Berat

Albania has it all that you mention here unspoiled beaches, wild mountainous areas and lake shores, but above all it has its own unique culture. And the top of the list are these antique, in fact magical cities like Gjirokastra and Berat. Thank you Giulia, once again you nailed it.

Despite its beautiful nature and its rich cultural heritage, Albania is still not such a touristic destination: most of the time we were the only two foreigners enjoying unspoiled beaches, wild mountainous areas and lake shores. The only two times when we weren’t the only foreigners around –besides of course in the capital town Tirana- there were in the two UNESCO listed ancient towns of Gjirokastër and Berat. Both Gjirokastër and Berat are well-known for their ancient neighborhoods preserving historic Ottoman-era architectures, a style originated in Turkey between the 14th and 15th centuries and arrived in Albania during the 18th and 19th centuries, but that's not the only reason why I found them both very fascinating!

  The ancient town of Gjirokastër

In Gjirokastër you can spot tourists by the way they face Gjirokastër’s steep cobbled streets. 
For this time I was definitely not acting as a local by taking ant-steps and being constantly so terrified to slide that sitting in a bar was usually a huger consolation to my paranoid mood rather than to my feet. Locals –instead- do climb their streets as they were goats: old ladies more often than not overtook me, even if they were carrying their grocery; kids ran so fast up and down the alleys that I almost wanted to scream them to be careful. Streets are narrow and curvy, the town itself keeps climbing over the nearby mountain year after year and its urban plan, from above, looks like a maze. 

The ancient town of Berat

Old Berat is divided in two parts by the river Osumi and on those two banks there are the the two old neighborhoods of Mangalem and Gorica, both inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list to protect their old Ottoman typical houses. These ancient neighborhoods are characterized by picturesque cobbled alleys and houses with beautiful wooden structure, bright white walls and so many windows that Berat’s epithet is “city of a thousand windows”.

Read full article here: 

06 October 2014

Përmet and the Balkan side of Albania

Why should visit Permet city? Because nowadays claims to be the cleanest and greenest town in Albania according to blogger Giulia Blocal

By Giulia Blocal

Permet city is an authentic Balkan charm: Small houses with admirable vegetables gardens, elders chatting on a bench, locals gathering on the main street for the traditional xhiro, fresh and tasty fruits and vegetables not only in every restaurant but also on sale along the streets, unspoiled nature, evenings spent sipping a beer at the bar on the main square, home-made raki and an excellent local wine, rational communist architecture, groups of kids dominating the streets, several different religions coexisting, old vintage cars, decadent buildings, fresh mountain air and in general the warm, beautiful feeling of being lost into the Balkans... 

Read more this article for Permet city:

Korca and the hinterlands of South-Eastern #Albania

No doubt #Korca is one the most beautiful cities of Albania. Discover why Korca is so amazing, from the eyes of a tourist and blogger.
Thank you so much Giulia for this detailed astonishing description of Korca and #Pogradec's beauties.

By Giulia Blocal

If you would ask me which is the place I liked the most of the overall Albanian road-trip the answer is Korça.
The town of intellectuals, artists and poets really got me, and I wouldn’t mind to spend some time living there in the future. I would love it, actually!
A lot of Korça life is going on along those beautiful boulevards: vendors selling each kind of goods from cigarettes to socks and corns on the cob, elders playing dominoes, children running around with their gang (the leader of which –of course- has got a bicycle), youngsters showing off their new cars (which -more often than not- are Mercedes) and the whole town gathers along Korça boulevards at evening to take the traditional xhiro, meaning they stroll around stopping to chat & catch up when they meet someone they know. During our three days in Korça, the boulevards have been our favourite and most rewarding place to engage in some people-watching!

Read more:

23 September 2014

#Albania showed its model of religious coexistence and harmony to the world on #Pope 's visit

#Albania showed its model of religious coexistence and harmony to the world on #Pope 's visit to Tirana on 21 September 2014! God bless Albania!

Albanian Riviera- Travel off-the-beaten touristic path

This article discover some of the lesser known itineraries of Albanian Riviera, Hidden beaches, "abandoned" villages, but superb views and great food.  Thank you Giulia for your passionate writing! 

By Giulia Blocal

Our base to explore the Albanian Riviera was Himarë; we liked this small town so much that just after our first relaxing afternoon at Himarë beach we decided to revise my original travel plan in order to skip the more touristic area of Sarandë and let Himarë be the longest stop-over of our Albanian journey: a whopping 4 nights out of 13!
Of course we didn’t spend all four days lying down on Himarë beach (although Silvia would have loved that!) but we explored both the Northern part of the Albanian Riviera (and so Gjipe, Vuno and Jalë) and the Southern area too (Porto Palermo, Borsh and Qeparo).


26 August 2014

Family Tree of Languages, Albanian one of the oldest -New York Times

Albanian Language is among 3 oldest languages! What a great discovery! Albania is ancient, and we are proud of that. Thank New York Times for publishing the findings! 

Biologists using tools developed for drawing evolutionary family trees say that they have solved a longstanding problem in archaeology: the origin of the Indo-European family of languages. 

The family includes English and most other European languages, as well as Persian, Hindi and many others. Despite the importance of the languages, specialists have long disagreed about their origin.
Linguists believe that the first speakers of the mother tongue, known as proto-Indo-European, were chariot-driving pastoralists who burst out of their homeland on the steppes above the Black Sea about 4,000 years ago and conquered Europe and Asia. A rival theory holds that, to the contrary, the first Indo-European speakers were peaceable farmers in Anatolia, now Turkey, about 9,000 years ago, who disseminated their language by the hoe, not the sword.
The new entrant to the debate is an evolutionary biologist, Quentin Atkinson of the University of Auckland in New Zealand. He and colleagues have taken the existing vocabulary and geographical range of 103 Indo-European languages and computationally walked them back in time and place to their statistically most likely origin.
The result, they announced in Thursday’s issue of the journal Science, is that “we found decisive support for an Anatolian origin over a steppe origin.” Both the timing and the root of the tree of Indo-European languages “fit with an agricultural expansion from Anatolia beginning 8,000 to 9,500 years ago,” they report.
But despite its advanced statistical methods, their study may not convince everyone.
The researchers started with a menu of vocabulary items that are known to be resistant to linguistic change, like pronouns, parts of the body and family relations, and compared them with the inferred ancestral word in proto-Indo-European. Words that have a clear line of descent from the same ancestral word are known as cognates. Thus “mother,” “mutter” (German), “mat’ ” (Russian), “madar” (Persian), “matka” (Polish) and “mater” (Latin) are all cognates derived from the proto-Indo-European word “mehter.”
Dr. Atkinson and his colleagues then scored each set of words on the vocabulary menu for the 103 languages. In languages where the word was a cognate, the researchers assigned it a score of 1; in those where the cognate had been replaced with an unrelated word, it was scored 0. Each language could thus be represented by a string of 1’s and 0’s, and the researchers could compute the most likely family tree showing the relationships among the 103 languages.
A computer was then supplied with known dates of language splits. Romanian and other Romance languages, for instance, started to diverge from Latin after A.D. 270, when Roman troops pulled back from the Roman province of Dacia. Applying those dates to a few branches in its tree, the computer was able to estimate dates for all the rest.
The computer was also given geographical information about the present range of each language and told to work out the likeliest pathways of distribution from an origin, given the probable family tree of descent. The calculation pointed to Anatolia, particularly a lozenge-shaped area in what is now southern Turkey, as the most plausible origin — a region that had also been proposed as the origin of Indo-European by the archaeologist Colin Renfrew, in 1987, because it was the source from which agriculture spread to Europe.
Dr. Atkinson’s work has integrated a large amount of information with a computational method that has proved successful in evolutionary studies. But his results may not sway supporters of the rival theory, who believe the Indo-European languages were spread some 5,000 years later by warlike pastoralists who conquered Europe and India from the Black Sea steppe.
A key piece of their evidence is that proto-Indo-European had a vocabulary for chariots and wagons that included words for “wheel,” “axle,” “harness-pole” and “to go or convey in a vehicle.” These words have numerous descendants in the Indo-European daughter languages. So Indo-European itself cannot have fragmented into those daughter languages, historical linguists argue, before the invention of chariots and wagons, the earliest known examples of which date to 3500 B.C. This would rule out any connection between Indo-European and the spread of agriculture from Anatolia, which occurred much earlier.
“I see the wheeled-vehicle evidence as a trump card over any evolutionary tree,” said David Anthony, an archaeologist at Hartwick College who studies Indo-European origins.


20 June 2014

All about Albania- London Evening Standard

With the Pope planning a visit to the once cut-off country, Tim Adler samples its eccentricities first hand

Stride along the seafront at Durrës, a seaside town an hour from the capital Tirana, and as you look up at hot peach and lime green hotels and apartment blocks you could be in a jolly cross between Blackpool and Miami. But then everything in Albania is a clash between something, which is what makes the country so hard to define. “Even for us it’s hard sometimes,” one Albanian told me. After all, what did I know about Albania before coming here — other than that Pope Francis is gracing the nation with a visit in September?
 Read more

18 June 2014

Walking Albania: Beautiful country and intriguing cities in this Balkan nation

Yet, another writer, Richard Webber from UK,  falls in love with the beauty of our country, stunned by our spectacular mountains and tasty, bio and cheap food! Enjoy the reading.

This forgotten Balkan country has some of Europe's most specular mountains and as it hopes to join the EU, some of its cheapest prices too…

Not far to go, just another hour," said Alix, our ebullient guide, as we bounced along the deeply rutted track. As the bone-shaking minibus crawled its way farther into the rugged mountains, I felt every bump and vowed never to complain about British potholes again.

When the occasional oncoming vehicle meant our driver steered perilously close to the track's edge and the steep-sided valley below, I started wondering if I had been right to embark on an eight-day walking tour of the former Communist country of Albania.
While the main routes are surfaced - there is even a stretch of motorway in the south - many secondary roads, especially in the mountains, are nothing more than rocky tracks.
My fellow walkers, who included a biochemist, vicar, software engineer, supermarket manager, and accountant, and I cheered through sheer relief when Alix pointed towards flickering lights ahead and announced: "There's Thethi!" This tiny village was our base for the next two nights. Surrounded by jagged peaks up to 9,000ft high, Thethi's remoteness means only the most intrepid travellers make it to this scenic spot.

Read the full story here!

15 June 2014

Huffington post : planet appetite into mysterious Albania

Planet Appetite: Into Mysterious Albania

The author could see only Tirana, Durres and Lezha, but he is very impressed about our country, especially food! Finally his call ...Albanian tourism has a great future, but get there before everyone else finds out.

Long seen as one of the severest former communist countries, Albania has now emerged from the darkness and is a surprisingly attractive tourist destination
.. The most curious building in the centre is what was meant to be a museum, dedicated to the memory of former dictator Enver Hoxha. It's an ugly rumbling concrete pyramid, designed by his daughter and has been a nightclub, then TV HQ, but is now desolate.

23 April 2014

Albania is number 7 on Top Ten Best Value Destination Worldwide by Rough Guides for 2014

Rough Guides listed #Albania as number 7 among top ten best value destination in the world. Albania truly is  a best value offering rich history beautiful nature with lowest prices in #Balkans region!

 Unfairly shunned by many tourists because it’s seen as dangerous or backward (neither of which are true), Albania offers secluded beaches, locals who take a genuine interest in travellers, tasty Turkish-style food, Ancient Greek ruins and Ottoman towns. Imagine a trip to the Balkans before it got discovered and you’ve pretty much got it, with prices to match.

Tell your friends or family that you’re off to Albania, and you’ll likely receive a stock response: “Isn’t it dangerous?”, “Isn’t there a war going on there?”, and “Is that even in Europe?” are some of the most common. Speak instead to those who have been, and the associations with the country’s name become infinitely more positive – you’ll hear of rippling mountains, Ottoman architecture, pristine beaches and endlessly hospitable locals. Following decades of isolationist rule, this rugged land still doesn’t seem to fit into the grand continental jigsaw, with distinctly exotic notes emanating from its language, customs and cuisine. Pay a visit to this beguiling corner of Europe now, before it garners the popularity it deserves.

 Things not to miss :
  1. TIRANA -Sip an espresso in Albania’s colourful, chaotic capital
  2. BERAT The 'town of the thousand windows' is known for its pretty rows of Ottoman houses lining the hills
  3. IONIAN COAST-Albania has some wonderful stretches of beach along its Ionian shore 
  4. GJIROKASTRA-Birthplace of dictator Enver Hoxha, this stone city with its busy bazaar is now listed by UNESCO
  5. KRUJA-Hilltop scene of national hero Skanderbeg’s resistance


10 April 2014

Travel Top 5: Rivieras you’ve never heard of- Albania Riveria no 2

#Albanian #riviera - Nice to be number 2 among top 5 "Rivieras" you would start hearing more and more. Listed from @canadadotcom

There was a time when travellers spoke of their holidays on the riviera and they were referring to a trip to Italy, or maybe France, but these days just about any coastal area with an eye on attracting tourists is calling itself a riviera.
The word is actually from Italian and means coastline but in today’s tourism marketing lingo the connotation is luxury living by the sea. If you look hard enough, you’ll find several dozen regions around the world that style themselves as “rivieras.”
Here are five of them that have probably never heard of:
1. Chinese Riviera
China is famous for copying consumer goods from other countries, so why not copy destination names? The Chinese Riviera refers to the coastal region near the city of Zhuhai in Southern Guangdong Province. But they’re already fighting over the title because the trendy area on Hainan’s west coast between Sanya Haitang Bay and XianghsuiWan also refers to itself as the Chinese Riviera.

2. Albanian Riviera
Albanian Riviera

Sandwiched between Greece and its Balkan neighbours is the overlooked country of Albania. On its southern shores is a gorgeous coastline that lines the Ionian Sea. Dotted with mountains, castles and sandy beaches, this region is a bargain compared to many of the world’s other “rivieras.”

3. Austrian Riviera

So how does a landlocked country get its own riviera? It doesn’t. You have to go back in time to when the Austro-Hungarian empire spread to the shores of the Mediterranean. In those times, the elite flocked to the resorts near Trieste, which is now in Italy, and south along the coast of Slovenia and Croatia. Travellers still go there today to enjoy a relaxing lifestyle by the sea.
4. English Riviera

England isn’t famous for its warm waters, so to dub the coast of South Devon a riviera might sound like a stretch, but you will find palm trees in Torbay, so maybe it deserves the moniker after all. The town of Torquay is also famous as the birthplace of Agatha Christie so you can always read a book if the sun isn’t shining.
5. Brazilian Riviera

The euphonius beach names of Ipanema and Copacabana are already world-famous, so why does Brazil need to promote its coast with a “riviera?” Because there’s a lot more to the South American country than Rio de Janeiro. The nation’s long coastline has a bounty of beautiful beaches and just a few hours northeast of Rio, you can head to Armação dos Búzios, or Búzios for short, to sample the sands of the dozens of nearby beaches and stay in its many of the Brazilian Riviera’s resorts which range from budget to extravagant.
Have you been to any of these rivieras? What about the original rivieras or some of the many other regions which have adopted the label? We’d like to hear about it in the comments.

Adria Airways launches new routes- 4 times weekly flights between Tirana and Frankfurt

Welcome on board! The crew of the first Adria Airways flight from Warsaw Chopin Airport to Ljubljana get ready to greet the route’s first customers on 1 April. The airline will operate the route thrice-weekly with CRJ 200s and faces no direct competition.
  • Adria Airways has launched two new routes in the last week. On 1 April it began thrice-weekly flights on the 810-kilometre route between Ljubljana (LJU) and Warsaw Chopin (WAW) using its CRJ 200s. The following day it started four times weekly flights on the 1,290-kilometre route between Tirana (TIA) in Albania and Frankfurt (FRA) using its A319s. Neither route is served by any other carrier. This summer Adria Airways will be operating non-stop to 20 destinations from Ljubljana. The Tirana-Frankfurt route was previously served by Albanian Airlines.
Source: http://www.anna.aero/2014/04/10/adria-airways-adds-new-routes-frankfurt-warsaw/

08 April 2014

15 Undiscovered European Destinations: Number 1 is Porto Palermo in Albania - by huffingtonpost.com

Another top ranking in European tourism destinations, this time with our undiscovered gem Porto Palermo and Ali Pasha Castle. Thank you @HuffPostTravel

When it comes to the very best European destinations, bigger does not always mean better. While travelers typically gravitate toward larger cities like London and Paris, some of the region's most rewarding and best-kept secrets are alternatively set well off-the-beaten path. From a tiny Albanian cliff town with stunning mountain vistas, to a Swiss mountain village known for its beer and cheese, it's well worth the extra effort to get to any of our 15 picks for the best undiscovered European destinations.
By Emily Wasserman
1) Porto Palermo, Albania
puerto palma
Nestled among rolling green hills just south of the town of Himarë is Porto Palermo. This Albanian village keeps a low profile, but features a towering 18th-century castle that overlooks a sparkling bay. Visitors can explore its well-preserved grounds, and take in the coastline's picturesque scenery.

Photo Credit: Yelena011 | Dreamstime.com
Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/fodors/undiscovered-european-destinations_b_5078795.html

07 April 2014

BA unveils new flights from Gatwick to Albania


BRITISH Airways has announced its biggest ever summer schedule, launching a new route and adding flights to existing popular destinations from Gatwick.
The airline's summer schedule kicked off on Sunday (March 30) with new daily services from Gatwick Airport to Malta.
Short-haul improvements include extra flights to Faro – from eight to 14 a week – and Naples – from 14 to 17 a week.
Journeys to Tirana, in Albania, and Larnaca, in Cyprus, are increasing from three to five times a week.
There are now daily flights to Jersey, from Monday to Friday, and extra flights to Paphos, Marrakech, Catania, Salzburg and Dubrovnik.
Long-haul services are boosted with additional journeys to Punta Cana, in the Dominican Republic, up from two to three a week.
There is an extra flight to Grenada, giving a total of two a week, Antigua goes from five to six a week, Kingston increases from three to four and St Lucia is becoming a daily service. Flights to Orlando increase from ten to 13 a week.

27 March 2014

Traveling With History...Albania

Albania continues to surprise tourists with its history,natural beauty, tasty food and very welcoming people. 
..An Hawaiian reporter was told that Albania is a mafioso-style country, but then a knock on the door of a nearby house brought a call to three men who spent well over an hour, determined to free him from a very challenging problem with his car. ..
An article written with passion and love for the yet undiscovered Albania..Enjoy!

Unexpected surprises in a once closed land.. Looking to add something exotic to an upcoming trip to Switzerland, I set out for Albania.A story by Allan Sklar, well-established writer, photographer and historian published at Hawaii Reporter
Butrint: sunset after a rainy day-powered by Viva Zoom

Separated by politics as a Maoist ally of communist China,its long history of isolation is bred of mountainous terrain and a will for independence. With Italy a mere 160 miles to the west, across the Adriatic, it had been incorporated into the Roman empire by 145.  Greece is even closer at hand. The town of Sarande is only a few miles from the Greek island of Corfu, reached by ferry and hydrofoil.
It is mountains even more than the sea that define Albania.  The valleys they create provide land for agriculture, with sloping hillsides planted in olives and pasture for goats and sheep, with sheep-herding still a traditional occupation in the rural south.
Five centuries of Turkish rule have left their mark on the people and the land. Music, dress, architecture, and religion were all Ottoman imports.
The walls of Berati date back seven centuries. They enclose what remains of a once thriving fortified town, that is still home to a small number of families, with panoramic views on all sides.
Hillsides were fortified to assure control of the valleys below. Towns like Berati and Gjirokastra preserve their fortifications and are UNESCO World Heritage sites.                                                       
     My wife, coming from Italy, advised me of Albania’s reputation for mafioso-style thugery.
I found nothing of the sort, never felt-threatened in any way. I found people focused on the rewards of freedom and the promise of greater prosperity beginning to take hold.
Family still defines things. “I will soon be getting married,” a 30-year-old waiter in Tirana told me. “My father is now adding a floor to his house that will belong to us.. My brother and his family already live there. This is very common in Albania.”
       While Islam is the majority religion, pockets of Christians are found in the south near Greece and in the north near Serbia.
Islam, largely disempowered by decades of communist rule, has also separated Albania from its Christian neighbors, with Greek Orthodox to the south, Serbian Orthodox to the east, and Catholic Italy to the west. As part of the Ottoman Empire, with an influx of Muslim settlers, many Christian Albanians converted to Islam in the early Middle Ages. But Christian communities remained, with an obvious presence as we traveled south, driving through a landscape of steep hills radiating the blue-green of olive trees and the lovely sound of bells ringing from the necks of the sheep and goats that link southern Albania to Macedonia and Greece.
         Driving in Albania provided some challenge, with  roads only intermittently surfaced or smooth> That provided a challenge I enjoy, which was amplified on our last full day on a 6-hour-long drive along that's called the Albanian Riviera, a stretch about 60 miles of spectacular coastal mountains north of Sarande. 
Not everyone has a car, and there are still cattle-drawn carts in the countryside, and even in Tirana. But change is in evidence everywhere, from stylish fashions in Tirana's shops to house construction in burgeoning Tirana and vicinity. Most are only partly finished, lower floors topped by tall concrete posts designed to additional floors when resources permit. Transportation infrastructure has only been marginally addressed by a cash-poor government.
       My on-line choice of the centrally located Hotel Areela... small, but with full modern amenities, proved a perfect base in Tirana, a family-run hotel with warm, welcoming and helpful proprietors.  Grown to more than a million people, Tirana lies at the foot of mountains that are already snow-covered on my mid-November visit.
In terms of weather, November certainly wasn’t the best time of year to go, with heavy rains interfering with driving and touring.  Other days were blue-sky clear and scenic. Summer brings a flood of visitors, the majority crossing the Adriatic by car ferry from Brindisi or flying in from Rome. “There are more Italian restaurant than Albanian restaurants, our taxi driver remarked when we asked him to recommend a restaurant featuring traditional Albanian food.  Luckily we tracked some down in Tirana and Gjirokastra, where chef Defrim Gjoca prepared qilfi (eggs, rice, and cheese), specate mbushura medjath (stuffed peppers with cheese), and a deliciously abudant mix of greens and goat feta.  Fresh ingredients, fabulously tasty, washed down with a cold bottle of Korca, a refreshing local beer. 
          Italy’s links to Albania start in Roman times, with lands now part of Albania were part of the province of Macedonia. When the Roman Empire split, Albania became part of the Byzantine Empire until 1453 when it was overrun by the Ottoman Turks. Under Mussolini, Albania was annexed as a part of Italy in 1939, following a failed attempt at annexation of south Albania in 1920.
Zog, the Albanian king, fled to Greece, and Italy’s Victor Emanuelle III, was named King of Albania. That forced union ended in 1944, when communist partisans secured control of the country. For the next 56 years it was Allied with the Stalinist Soviet Union and then Maoist China.
    Albania offers bargain pricing on hotels and dining,  It’s hard to spend $30, for two, at dinner and easy spend a lot less on lamb, pork, chicken, and deliciously fresh vegetables on the menu. Breakfast at our Tirana hotel was an elaborate offering of bread, eggs, ham, fruit, juice, cheese, coffee and more, included in the $39 nightly room rate, pricing matched elsewhere on our travels. Rental cars are easy to find, we  booked a comfortable and road-worthy Volkswagen that proved adequate to Albania’s notoriously rough roads. Gas was the budget exception, priced at more than $8/gallon, but driving allowed full access to the scenic southeast quarter of the country.
Albania makes a great getaway from tourist-clogged Europe, an easy-to-reach alternative (it’s a 75-minute, $95 flight from Rome) alternative, with plenty to do to stay busy for a week or two, if you want to add northern Albania to the itinerary.
         The Albanians proved to be open to outsiders, friendly and helpful when the need arises, that fact proven on a cold, dark night in Gjirokasta, when what appeared to be a road, proved to be a ditch, leaving the right front wheel spinning free over the inky black of a five foot deep ditch, with a stone wall  mere inches from the rear of the car.
         A knock on the door of a nearby house brought a call to three men who spent well over an hour, determined to free us from a very challenging problem that would have been made even worse by the rainy weather that followed the next morning. No one was home the next morning when I returned with gifts, including macadamia nuts from Hawaii, likely an unknown taste treat.

The Basics
Travel: No visa required, passport stamped upon entry. The lek is the currency. It trades at about 100 to the dollar, which makes pricing simple. High fashion isn’t the thing here, unless you’re a bride, with wedding shops as ubiquitous as nail salons in the U.S.  In some places dollars and Euro are accepted.
Credit cards are not widely in use, so coming with cash is the recommend.
Plenty of on-line resources with detailed information. www.albaniantourism.com.The well-written, informative, and useful Bradt Guide by Gillian Gloyer is an excellent resource. We made hotel reservations based on its recommends outside of Tirana, which worked for off-season travel.
An excellent, conveniently located, quiet, inexpensive  choice.

Source http://www.hawaiireporter.com/traveling-with-history-albania/123

25 February 2014

Is Albania safe?

"Definitely. Being reasonably newish to tourism they adore tourists and will go out of their way to make you feel comfortable". -this is how Lisa Eldridge answers this question in the Albania section of her blog. Thank you Lisa for your positive article about Albania!
Travelling Alone in Albania
I was still on my 16 week tour of Europe and had made my way from Montenegro to Albania and for a country that I was very nervous about entering, it completely surpassed my non expectations and has been one of my favourite countries on my European tour.
What do I love about it? It has mountains, it has beaches, UNESCO sites, and it has a very colourful capital city with great bars and restaurants. In fact, there are so many different areas of the country that spending a week here just wasn’t enough.
Places to see in Albania
Shkodra - Unless you stay at the lake, there’s not that much to see here except the castle with apparently great views of the lake (make sure you go left for the entrance and not right which I did and walked for an hour before realising it wasn’t the way in and then gave up getting to the top). The area near the casino is great for restaurants at night too but everywhere seems to close quite early. There are only 2 hostels here and I stayed at Mi Casa es Tu Casa which was clean and sociable but the rooms were a little overcrowded.
Thethi - In the Albanian Alps, the village of Thethi is dotted with stone houses and a rocky landscape with great walking tracks and clear, mountain air. The journey time from Shkroda is approx 5 hours with the majority of the time on winding, rocky roads which adds to the rustic experience. This area is totally different from the rest of Albania and it is so relaxed that you’ll want to stay for longer than a weekend.
Tirana – A lovely capital city with a large manmade lake, pretty colourful buildings and surprisingly good bars. I didn’t make it to the museums but if you want to go then make sure it’s not on a Monday when they close.
Dhermi – Buses from Tirana take 6 hours and the scenery is gorgeous! The bus drops you off at the top and it’s a 20 minute walk down the winding hill to Dhermi to the beach areas.
Vuno – This is a little locals town in the mountainside on the route between Dhermi and Himare and has a really lovely feel. There is only one shop which doubles up as a restaurant and bar where you will find the locals and occasional donkey walking past.
Sarande – A seaside city with a Mediterranean climate and great beaches. From here you can visit the ancient city of Butrint, the ‘Blue Eye,’ Ksamil and monasteries. This is one of my favourite places to stay.

11 January 2014

Albania - This is Europe when it was fresh and cheap! - The New York Times 2014

 “This (Albania) is Europe when it was fresh and cheap.” - Thank you so much @nytimestravel and @tim_neville for praising Albania with the 4th place in you 52 world places to visit in 2014 and the 1st place in European destinations. We cannot described our country better than what you have done, and probably we need your eyes from outside to see and value our country better. Thank you also for reminding the new Albanian government for the responsibilities they have taken for keeping the coast and Albanian tourism authentic. We do appreciate it !

4. Albanian Coast
On a rugged shore, Europe at its best.

What if you could combine the rugged beauty you’d find on Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast with the ruins of an undiscovered Turkey or Greece, all wrapped in the easygoing nature characteristic of rural Italy — at a fraction of the cost? Turns out you can, on the coast of Albania. The roughly Maryland-size country, between Greece and Montenegro, sits about 45 miles east of Italy on the eastern shores of the Adriatic and has limestone-ringed beaches, ancient ruins like Butrint and waterfront inns where you can stay for less than $50 a night. Rampant development threatened to turn it all to concrete in the years after Communism, but a new government took office in September on promises of keeping the coast authentic. Head to villages like Qeparo, within sight of Corfu, where you can kayak past Cold War submarine tunnels, swim by abandoned forts and watch the tide rise during a dinner of fresh fish at an inn called the Riviera. This is Europe when it was fresh and cheap. — TIM NEVILLE