WHY VISIT ALBANIA
Only recently opened to tourism, Albania is, never the less, a welcoming country with untouched natural areas, protected wildlife and numerous archaeological riches from various civilizations.
The Capital, Tirana, with its colorfully painted buildings, merits a prolonged visit, especially the Skanderberg Place, around the Ethem Bey Mosque and the National History Museum.
More to the north, at Krujë, you can visit the Skanderberg Museum or the Ethnographical Museum. A stroll around the bazaar will capture you with its picturesque atmosphere.
To the east, Korçë possesses an excellent Medieval Art Museum or you could visit the Cathedral and there is also a 500-year-old Mosque that is definitely worth a visit. The surrounding area has various old orthodox churches decorated with magnificent frescoes.
Gjirokastër, in the center of the country, has been designated as a World Heritage site by UNESCO due to its medieval houses with (flagstone) roofs, its cobbled streets and the 11th Century castle. There is also a weapons museum and an ethnographical museum. Close by, the town of Berat is another popular destination due to its white houses, its castle, Byzantine churches, and the Onufri Museum.
On the southern coast, you will discover creeks and cliffs, with beaches in between that, are for the most part deserted. Visit the Greek city of Apollonia, the Ardenica Monastery, the villages of Vunoi and Himara, and of course Butrint, the old Greco-Roman city with its acropolis, theatre, baptistery mosaics, and its fortifications.
WHAT TO SEE IN ALBANIA
The top destinations in Albania are:
WHEN TO GO TO ALBANIA
Weather in Albania
The best period to visit Albania is from June to September.
The best time to visit Albania is summer, when the weather is typically warm and dry, while winter is usually fairly mild and wet. Temperatures can vary quite a bit from one region to the next – the western half of the country, for example, is generally milder – but are rarely that extreme. Unlike its neighbors on the Adriatic and Ionian seas, Albania doesn’t see a mass influx of tourists at any point throughout the year, which can make the country one of the best summer destinations in Europe – particularly if you want to get on and in the water.
Following a list of typical festival and celebrations of Albania
Gjirokastër National Folklore Festival. This is the most important folklore event in Albania. It is organized in Gjirokastra Castle every four years. All Albanian folklore groups participate together with Albanian groups from Kosova, Montenegro, Macedonia the arbëresh of Italy, Turkey, the United States, Greece, and other countries. Folklore groups from other countries as well as international guests participate as well.
National Typology Festival of Saze and Folk Orchestras, Korça. Saze (Albanian traditional clarinet) music is played throughout southern Albania and especially in urban centers such as Korça, Vlora, Pogradeci, Përmeti, Berati, Leskoviku, etc.
National Festival of Rhapsodists and Folk Instrument Players, Lezha. This festival showcases rhapsodists from Northern Albania. It is the only event that is wholly dedicated to rhapsodists and bards who interpret their songs with instruments such as lahuta, (a very special instrument with only one wire ) çifteli and sharki.
National Festival of Urban Folk Songs, Elbasan. This festival is organized every March as a tribune of folk songs from Albanian urban centers where inherited traditional music has been revised through more modern methods of orchestration and interpretation. The resulting sounds and rhythms are therefore more fresh and dynamic and require less of an acquired taste for Albanian folk.The Festival is organized on the first day of spring which is a traditional celebration in Elbasan. Every group competes by representing the music of its particular region. The festival also helps promote the most talented young singers and players of Albanian urban folk music.
National Festival of Iso-Polyphony, Vlora. The National Typological Festival of Iso-Polyphony is a powerful promoter of one of the most original strands in Albanian folk music iso-polyphony. The festival not only helps promote iso-polyphony in areas beyond their immediate reach, but it also helps the regions where iso-polyphony is a tradition to maintain and further develop this wonderful type of singing.On 25 November 2005, UNESCO declared Albanian Iso-Polyphony “Masterpiece of the Oral Inheritance of Human Kind”.
National Festival of Folk Instruments, Gjirokastra. This is a multicultural event where besides the festival showcasing folk music instruments in Gjirokastra Castle, fairs, book promotions, seminars and other events are organized in Gjirokastra’s historical center. The event promotes cultural tourism and local business in the city.
International Festival Multicultural Përmet, Përmet. This is the only international festival of ethnic, cultural and linguistic minority in Albania under the patronage of CIOFF, an international organization that promotes folklore. The Albanian CIOFF branch is located in Përmet. This event is a great asset to Albanian folklore as it helps promote it in the international stage.Përmet was selected to hold a festival for minorities because in this setting a number of cultural traditions from different minorities coexist with each other. Moreover, it is the city where masters of Albanian folk such as Laver Bariu, Mentor Xhemali, Remzi Lela, etc., were born.Besides the festival, a number of other activities such as symposiums, shows, and book promotions are organized in the town. By showcasing the musical traditions of minorities, the festival promotes peace and understanding between ethnic groups of the region.
Folklore Festival “Sofra Dardane“, Tropoja. The festival aims to promote research, preservation, and enrichment of Northern Albanian and Kosovo folklore and ethnography. The two are grouped together because the cultural foundation of both regions is one and the same.The competition is held in the town’s main square and in the beautiful Valbona valley thus combining tradition, music, and nature.
Festival “Oda Dibrane“, Peshkopi. Although “OdaDibrane” started only in 1994, now it has become a tradition of humorous dances and songs. The festival brings under one roof Albanian artists from throughout the world. Ancient rites, allegory, and comedy are all showcased here at the accompaniment of traditional music instruments. Parallel to the festival, a number of other shows such as photography exhibitions, painting exhibitions, and others are organized.
HOW TO REACH AND TRAVEL THROUGH ALBANIA
Be careful in the southern areas, they are susceptible to seismic disturbances.
If you travel in the country’s interior, the bus is the best form of transport even if they are irregular and a little uncomfortable. Renting a car (preferably a 4 wheel drive) is obviously the best solution although the state of the roads is often bad, sometimes awful.
by plane: Tirana Airport
GENERAL INFORMATION ON ALBANIA
health tips & vaccination: avoid drinking tap water and watch out for gastro-enteritis which occurs frequently. No vaccination needed.
local currency: Albanian lek
local time zone: GMT+1 (+2)
electricity: type C and type F (230 V – 50 Hz)
mobile phone operators:
WHAT TO DO IN ALBANIA
typical food in Albania
- Koran: A species of trout unique to the Ohrid and Prespa lakes.
- Gjize: A salted curd cheese often used to bulk out dishes.
- Paçë koke: A thick sheep’s head soup.
- Kukurec: Sheep’s innards in a gut casing.
- Jufka: Handmade pasta created using durum wheat flour.
- Byrek: A triangular filo pastry usually filled with cheese, spinach or meat.
- Fërgesë: A comforting casserole made with green peppers, tomato, egg and curd cheese.
- Qofte Fërguara: Fried meatballs combining ground lamb or beef with herbs, feta cheese and bread.
- Flija: Enormous pie-like pancake consisting of layers of crepes and melted cream cheese.
- Tavë Kosi: Egg, yogurt, and lamb baked with soufflé-esque results.
- Kafe turke: Turkish coffee made in the traditional Balkan way, with grounds and sugar brewed together.
souvenirs from Albania
- Carpets and kilims
- Handwoven bags with typical shapes and symbols
- Embroidery and tablecloths
- Two string guitar (çifteli)
- Spices and olive oil
- Cognac, rakia, and wines
How are you?: Si jeni?
Thank you: Faleminderit
What is your name?: Si e ke emrin?
How much is it?: Sa kushton?
Sorry: Na vjen keq