Durrës is one of the largest cities in Albania with rich history
and plenty of historic sites that date as early as the Antiquity
to magnificent, but abandoned palace of the Albanian monarchs of
the early 20th century.
Tirana, capital of Albania, is also
the largest city in the country. It was found by the Ottoman Turks in
1614 by Sulejman Bargjini. In 1920, shortly after gaining its
independence in 1912, Albanian capital was moved here.
Llogaraja Pass is a protected National Park that
is situated between Vlora and Dhermiu nearby.
Karaburun-Sazan National Marine
Park Karaburun- Sazan National Park is located in
the South- West part of Albania in a Vlore Region. It covers
a total area of 12,428 hectares with an offshore section of
Karaburun peninsula equal to 9849 hectares.
Vlorë is situated on the Albanian coast of the beautiful
Adriatic sea. The city officially was found in the 6th century
BC by the Greek colonists.
Geography of Albania
Albania is situated in the South Western corner of the Balkan
peninsula. Albania mild climate is owed to the shores of the Adriatic and Ionian
seas. The country is bordered by Kosovo, Montenegro, Macedonia
and Greece. Most of the country is covered by mountainous
terrain with deep valleys.
Albania is dominated by the subtropical Mediterranean climate.
Its summers are dry and hot while its winters are cool and
rainy. Average temperatures in summer range from 78F to 85F in
July and from 26F to 46F in winters. Mountains are usually
colder depending on the elevation.
Albania is a democratic republic. The head of the state is the
president, head of the government is a prime minister.
The legislative branch of the government is presented as an
The official language in Albania is Albanian, although many
people understand and speak Slavic languages, Italian and Greek.
Few people speak and understand English.
Religion in Albania
Albania is the only country in Europe that is predominantly
Muslim. Sunni Muslims make up 70% of the population, Greek Orthodox
make up 20% and Roman Catholic another 10%.
Many businesses are open between 8am and 4pm. Restaurants
usually work longer.
While on travel in Albania don't forget that tips are not included in the price of the order. If you find the
service satisfying leave about 10% of the order after paying the
bill. It is preferred to give the money directly to the waiter
instead of leaving it on the table.
Albanians usually nod for "no" and shake their head from side to
side for "yes". Don't confuse the two.
If you feel sick, broke your leg or have sharp unbearable pain
at your lower left abdomen suck it up and be a man. Going to
Albanian hospital will only make your suffering worse.
Numbers in Albania:
Road Administration: (42) 23 600
Traffic Police: (42) 34 874
Interesting facts about Albania:
Albanians call their land "Shqiperia" that means "land of the
eagles". Legend claims that the ancestors of the first Albanians
were in fact eagles who left their traditional homes in the
Albania is the only country in Europe that had more Jews after
the World War II than before its outbreak. In fact Albanian
resistance issued a warning in 1943 to anyone who can defend
Jewish refugees must offer any help they can. After all charity
is one of the five pillars of Islam.
-Albania is covered by UFO looking structures scattered all
around the country. These structures were constructed in the
1970's and 80's by the paranoid government who wanted to
provide a defensive structure for every Albanian family. It is
hard to say if they succeeded, but they certainly came close.
These forts can be found in every single corner of the city.
-Albanian King Zog I, Skanderbeg III of the Albanians survived
55 assassinations attempts during his long reign. On February
21st, 1931 he became the first head of the state who use weapon
to defend against an assassin who tried to shoot him when he was
leaving the Vienna State Opera House after performance of Pagliacci.
-Flag of Albania dates back to medieval times when it was a
symbol of resistance of Albanian armies against Ottoman Turkish
History of Albania
The first traces of the human presence in Albania,
dating back to the Middle and Late Paleolithic, were found in the
village of Dzarre (near Saranda) and on Mount Daiti (near Tirana).
The finds in the cave near Zarre include flint and jasper objects,
as well as petrified animal bones. Bone and stone tools similar to
those of Aurignac culture were discovered on Mount Daiti. The
Paleolithic finds of Albania bear great resemblance to artifacts of
the same era found in Crvene Stien in Montenegro and northwestern
In central and southern Albania, several Bronze Age
artifacts from burials in mounds were discovered that demonstrate
the close connection of these territories with southwestern
Macedonia and Lefkas. Archaeologists concluded that these regions
were inhabited from the middle of the third millennium BC. e.
Indo-Europeans who spoke the Proto-Greek language. Part of this
population migrated towards Mycenae around 1600 BC. e., which led to
the development of Mycenaean civilization.
In antiquity, the
territory of modern Albania was predominantly inhabited by many
Illyrian tribes. Illyrian tribes never collectively considered
themselves "Illyrians", and it is unlikely that they used any one
common name for all their tribes. This name, apparently, refers to
only one Illyrian tribe, which was the first with whom the ancient
Greeks came into contact in the Bronze Age, as a result of which it
was transferred to all tribes with similar language and customs.
The territory, known as Illyria, roughly extended along the
eastern coast of the Adriatic Sea to the mouth of the Vyos River in
the south. The first well-known description of the Illyrian groups
is contained in The Periplus of Pontus of Euxinus, an ancient Greek
composition from the middle of the 4th century BC. e. .. The south
was inhabited by the Greek tribe of Chaonians, whose capital was
Foinika. By the 7th century BC e. On the coast of present-day
Albania, ancient Greek city-states founded numerous colonies, such
as Apollonia, Epidamnos and Amantia. The West of modern Albania was
inhabited by a Thracian tribe of brigs.
The Illyrian tribe of
the Ardiyes ruled most of modern Albania. The Ardian kingdom reached
its greatest size under Agron, son of Pleuris II. Agron extended his
power to other neighboring tribes. After his death in 230 BC e. his
wife Teuta inherited the kingdom of Ardian. She managed to expand
its territory further south, reaching the Ionian Sea. In 229 BC e.
Rome declared war on the Illyrian kingdom over the looting of its
ships. The war ended in the defeat of the Illyrians two years later.
In 181 BC e. Theutus was succeeded by Ghent. In 168 BC e. between
him and Rome, the Third Illyrian War began, which the following year
led to the Roman conquest of the region. After this, the Romans
divided the region into three administrative units. The Illyrians
were finally conquered in the year 9 BC. e. Tiberius (Roman emperor
from 14 to 37 A.D.), who established the region of Illyria with an
imperial legate at the head.
In the 1st century AD e.
Christianity gradually penetrates into Illyria.
After the Roman Empire in the 4th century was divided into Eastern
and Western, the territory of Albania remained within the Eastern
Roman Empire. In the following centuries, the Balkan Peninsula
suffered from invasions of barbarians. Illyrians are last mentioned
in the text of the 7th century. In the late 12th – early 13th
centuries, Serbs and Venetians began to seize Albanian lands.
The ethnogenesis of the Albanians is unclear, however, the first
indisputable mention of the Albanians dates back to 1079 or 1080
years. The historical records of Michael Attaliat contain mention of
the participation of the Albanians in the uprising against
Constantinople. By that time, the Albanians were completely
The first fully independent Albanian state was
formed in 1190, when the archon Archon founded the Principality of
Arberia with its capital in Krua, which was part of the Byzantine
Empire. The progon was succeeded by his sons Gin Progon and Dimitri
Progon, with the latter it reached the peak of its development.
After the death of Dimitri, the last representative of the Progon
dynasty, the principality came under the rule of Grigor Camona, and
later the Golem. In the XIII century, the principality ceased to
A few years after the
collapse of Arberia, Charles I of Anjou concluded an agreement with
the Albanian rulers, promising to protect them and their ancient
freedoms. In 1272, he founded the kingdom of Albania and annexed to
it the areas conquered from the kingdom of Epirus. The kingdom
claimed the entire territory of central Albania: from Dyrrahia along
the Adriatic coast to Butrint. The expansion of this Catholic
kingdom contributed to the spread of Catholicism in this region of
the Balkan Peninsula. The internal struggle for power in the
Byzantine Empire in the XIV century allowed the Serbian king Stefan
Dusan to create a short-lived empire that briefly occupied all of
Albania, with the exception of Durrës. In 1367, various Albanian
rulers founded the Art Despotate. At the same time, several Albanian
principalities were created, the most famous of which were Topia,
Kastrioti, Muzaki, Balsa and Arianiti. In the first half of the 15th
century, the Ottoman Empire invaded most of Albania, in response the
Lezha League was created under the leadership of Skanderbeg, who
became a national hero.
Ottoman era The Ottoman invasion
of Albania marked a new era in its history and made enormous changes
in the political and cultural life of this region. In 1385, the
Ottomans first reached the Albanian coast. By 1415, they had set up
their garrisons in southern Albania, and in 1431 occupied most of
its territory. With the advent of the Ottomans, Islam became the
second religion in Albania as a result of the mass emigration of
Albanian Christians to other Christian European countries (arberes
in Italy). At the same time, Muslim Albanians were gradually moving
to Turkey and other parts of the Ottoman Empire, such as Algeria,
Egypt and Iraq.
In 1443, under the leadership of Skanderbeg,
a large and long uprising began, which lasted until 1479. He
repeatedly defeated large Ottoman armies led by Murad II and Mehmed
II. Skanderbeg first united the Albanian princes, and then
established centralized power over most of the territories not
conquered by the Ottomans, being recognized as the ruler of Albania.
Skanderberg tirelessly but unsuccessfully tried to create a
European coalition against the Ottoman Empire. He thwarted all their
attempts to return Albania to their power, which the Ottomans
considered the bridgehead for the invasion of Italy and Western
Europe. His unequal struggle with the most powerful power of that
time won the respect of Europe, and also received some financial and
military assistance from Naples, Venice, Sicily and the Pope.
When the Ottomans finally managed to regain control of Albania,
they divided it into four Sanjaks. Authorities contributed to the
development of trade in Albanian lands, placing a significant number
of Jewish refugees expelled from Spain in the region. The port of
Vlora was important in trade between the Ottoman Empire and Western
As Muslims, some Albanians gained important political
and military positions in the Ottoman Empire and contributed to the
wider Islamic world. So the post of the great vizier was held by
more than 20 immigrants from Albania, including Köprül Mehmed Pasha
and Fazyl Ahmed Pasha. Another Albanian, Muhammad Ali Pasha, being
governor of Egypt, carried out a number of successful modernization
reforms there, crushed the Wahhabi uprising in Arabia, rebelled
against the Ottoman Empire and founded the dynasty in Egypt that
ruled it until 1953.
The process of Islamization of the
population went gradually, only in the XVII century, most Albanians
became Muslims. This process has been gradual since the arrival of
the Ottomans. The holders of the timars were not necessarily
converted to Islam and sometimes rebelled against the Ottoman
Catholic Albanians predominantly converted to Islam
in the 17th century, while Orthodox Albanians followed their example
in the next century. Initially, the process of Islamization was
actively going on in urban centers such as Elbasan and Shkoder,
after which it spread to the countryside. The motives for
conversion, according to historians, were different depending on a
Independent Albania In November 1908,
after the overthrow of Sultan Abdul-Hamid II, the first national
congress was held in Bitola. In 1910, a rebellion broke out in
northern Albania. The following year, a new uprising set out to gain
autonomy for Albania. In the spring of 1912, a nationwide uprising
took place, the rebels captured Skopje, Dibra, Elbasan, and Permeti.
A truce was declared on August 23; The Albanian people were given a
certain autonomy, but administrative autonomy was not fixed.
In October 1912, the First Balkan War began. On November 28, in the
city of Vlore, a congress of representatives of various sectors of
the population proclaimed Albania an independent state and formed
the first provisional government.
Austria-Hungary, Great Britain, Germany, Italy, Russia and France
recognized autonomy at first, and then Albania's independence from
The first parliament of
Albania was created in 1920, during the struggle for the
independence of the country and against its division of the Paris
world between Greece, Italy and Yugoslavia.
In 1928 the
parliament was dissolved, Albania was proclaimed kingdom.
Second World War In April 1939, Italy occupied Albania, King Zogu
Ahmet fled the country.
The resistance movement was led by
pro-communist forces. In November 1941, a unified CPA structure was
created, which was to lead the liberation struggle. In September
1942, a congress of progressive forces that opposed the occupation
took place in Big Peso. A General National Liberation Council was
created, which was to lead the liberation movement. He became the
governing body of the National Liberation Front. In July 1943, the
General Council of the National Liberation Front decided to organize
the General Staff of the National Liberation Army. In May 1944, the
1st Anti-Fascist National Liberation Congress formed the
Anti-Fascist National Liberation Committee, which transferred the
functions of the interim government. In 1944, universal suffrage was
Socialist Albania In 1945, parliamentary
elections were held, in which the Democratic Front led by the
Communists received 97.7% of the vote (other political forces did
not participate in the elections). Gradually, Enver Hodge
concentrated his power in his hands, brutally cracking down on his
political rivals. Until 1956, Albania maintained relations with the
Union of Soviet Socialist Republics as opposed to Yugoslavia,
however, after the 20th Congress of the CPSU, a policy of political
isolation was adopted. Relations were maintained only with the PRC
and Romania. In 1968, protesting against Soviet intervention in
Czechoslovakia, Albania withdrew from the Warsaw Pact. The country
lived in a state of constant readiness for war: each family was
obliged to build a bomb shelter. Religion, wearing a beard were
forbidden. In 1967, Albania was proclaimed an atheist state.
In 1978, cooperation with China was sharply curtailed.
the death of Enver Hoxha in 1985, the new leader Ramiz Aliya began a
policy of radical economic reforms and expansion of relations with
With its coastline facing the Adriatic
and Ionian seas, its highlands backed upon the elevated Balkan
landmass, and the entire country lying at a latitude subject to a
variety of weather patterns during the winter and summer seasons,
Albania has a high number of climatic regions for so small an area.
The coastal lowlands have typically Mediterranean weather; the
highlands have a Mediterranean continental climate. In the lowlands
and the interior, the weather varies markedly from north to south.
The lowlands have mild winters, averaging about 7°C (45°F).
Summer temperatures average 24°C (75°F). In the southern lowlands,
temperatures average about 5°C (9°F) higher throughout the year. The
difference is greater than 5°C (9°F) during the summer and somewhat
less during the winter.
Inland temperatures are affected more
by differences in elevation than by latitude or any other factor.
Low winter temperatures in the mountains are caused by the
continental air mass that dominates the weather in Eastern Europe
and the Balkans. Northerly and northeasterly winds blow much of the
time. Average summer temperatures are lower than in the coastal
areas and much lower at higher elevations, but daily fluctuations
are greater. Daytime maximum temperatures in the interior basins and
river valleys are very high, but the nights are almost always cool.
Average precipitation is heavy, a result of the convergence of
the prevailing airflow from the Mediterranean Sea and the
continental air mass. Because they usually meet at the point where
the terrain rises, the heaviest rain falls in the central uplands.
Vertical currents initiated when the Mediterranean air is uplifted
also cause frequent thunderstorms. Many of these storms are
accompanied by high local winds and torrential downpours.
Holidays January 1: New Year's Day March 7: Teacher's Day
March 14: Summer Festival Easter (moveable) Eid al-Fitr and
Eid al-Adha (Islamic high holidays) October 19: Mother Teresa Day
November 28: Independence Day November 29: Liberation Day
December 8: Youth Day December 25: Christmas
Visas There is no longer a visa charge for any
foreigners entering Albania.
According to the
Ministry of Foreign Affairs, nationals of the following
countries/territories can enter Albania without a visa: Andorra,
Argentina, Armenia, Australia *, Austria *, Azerbaijan, Belgium *,
Bosnia & Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria*, Canada *, Chile, Croatia,
Cyprus *, Czech Republic*, Denmark*, Estonia *, Finland *, France*,
Germany *, Greece *, Holy See, Hong Kong SAR, Hungary *, Ireland *,
Iceland *, Israel, Italy *, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Latvia *,
Liechtenstein, Lithuania *, Luxembourg *, Macedonia, Malaysia, Malta
*, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands *, New Zealand *, Norway *,
Poland *, Portugal *, Romania *, San Marino *, Serbia, Singapore,
Slovakia*, Slovenia *, South Korea, Spain *, Sweden *, Switzerland
*, Taiwan (Republic of China), Turkey, United Kingdom *, USA *,
Ukraine, Qatar - in the period 25 May - 25 September 2012. United
Arab Emirates - in the period 25 May - 25 September 2012. Kingdom of
Saudi Arabia - in the period 25 May - 25 September 2012. (Those
countries with an asterisk can enter with an ID card).
whose citizens may enter without visas due to their visa
liberalization with Schengen area: Antigua & Barbuda, Bahamas,
Barbados, Brunei, Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica, Mauritius,
Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, El Salvador, Seychelles, St.
Kitts and Nevis, Uruguay, Venezuela, Macao (China). For staying more
than 90 days within the period of six months, they need to get visa
There is a €1 road tax for the first 60 days of your
stay. For every additional day it is €1 per day. Be sure to receive
a receipt and keep it with you, as guards may request it upon
exiting the country as proof of payment. The former €10 entrance fee
per person has been abolished. The Albanian guards are very nice and
do their best to help out and will, on occasion, allow fees to be
paid in dollars or will forget to charge you. It's worth making sure
you've got the Euros on you as the customs officers at Mother Teresa
airport don't give change.
Be careful not to be charged the
€1 road tax again when leaving the country. In that case the border
guard assumes that you didn't pay the road tax when entering the
By plane Tirana's "Mother Teresa" International
Airport TIA IATA is located just 15 minutes away from the city. It
is served by numerous European carriers such as British Airways,
Alitalia, Lufthansa, Austrian, and the low cost carriers Eurowings
and Belle Air. There is a large and modern terminal and a tourist
You can book your taxi online with
MerrTaxi Tirana 24/7 and it will cost you €10,99. The national
toll-free number to call a taxi is 0800 5555. The international
number to call a taxi is +355 67400 6610.
At the airport exit
there are also numerous taxis 24/7 that can take you to the city.
The taxi fee to the city center is €11-€15 (1500 - 2000 lek). Taxi
fees to other locations are available here.
There is a bus
that runs once an hour between the airport and Skanderbeg Square,
called Rinas Express. It costs 250 lek each way and leaves on the
hour from both the airport and from Skanderbeg Square. It runs from
about 8AM to 7PM. The trip takes around 25-30 minutes. From the
airport exit doors, walk towards the parking lot past the taxi touts
to find the bus stop. At Skanderbeg Square, the bus stop is located
around the northwest corner, near other bus stops. The bus is not
only punctual but sometimes even early, so plan to be there a few
minutes in advance. Do not be intimidated by the signs not
mentioning "airport" or any variation of it at the Skanderbeg Square
stop. "Rinas" means the bus goes to the airport. If in doubt, ask
the locals, who will be happy to point you to the correct bus.
Another cheaper and convenient way to reach the Albanian Riviera
in Southern Albania is by landing in Corfu and taking the hydrofoil
By train It is not possible to enter or leave
Albania via train. There are, however, trains that operate within
the country. Though the service is limited, the price is
inexpensive. There is no direct service to Tirana, due to closure of
the capital's only railway station. Tirana is served by renovated
Kashar station located 10 km west of the capital.
You can reach Tirana by coach from Istanbul, Turkey (20hr, €35
one-way) Athens, Greece (12 hr, €30-35) Tetovo, Republic of
Macedonia (7 hr, € 15) Prishtina, Kosovo (4,5 hr, € 10 )
Sofia, Bulgaria (12 hr, € 35)
From Montenegro There are 3 daily buses from Ulcinj in
Montenegro to Shkoder. They depart at 7am, 12:30pm and 16.30 at
Ulcinj bus station and traveling time is between 2 and 3 hours
depending on the time needed to cross the border. The 12:30 bus tend
to get full very quickly during the high season. Shared taxis
(mini-busses) are also an option to go to Albania from Ulcinj. They
depart from the parking place next to the market in Ulcinj. It goes
at 1PM and costs €5; it takes 1.5 hr. The stop is not marked, a
reservation can only be made by finding the driver in the cafe at
the corner of the parking place. Ask around and be persistent, as
not all the locals know about this.
There are also scheduled
buses twice a day from Kotor (Montenegro) to Tirana, passing through
Budva, Podgorica (both in Montenegro), and Shkoder.
Greece There are buses running daily from Ioannina to the border
at Kakavia (9 daily, €5.70, 1 hour). From there it's a short walk
between the Greek and Albanian checkpoints. Just make sure you don't
delay, as the furgon (minibus) to Gjirokastra won't wait for one
extra passenger and you will be forced to haggle with predatory cab
drivers. In Gjirokaster you can buy a bus ticket to Athens, Greece
or anywhere in between. The buses are new, cheap, air conditioned,
and stop along some gas stations.
By boat Ferries to
Durrës arrive from Bari (9h, €50) and Ancona (19h, €70). A
high-speed service operates from Bari (3h, €60). There are also
two reliable overnight ferry services operated by Skenderbeg Lines
and European Seaways from Brindisi to Vlore. Ferries from Corfu
to Saranda every day. Ferry between Brindisi and Shengjin by
European Seaways operating twice a week in the summer (2015). By
yacht Yachts can be anchored at Albania's only marina in Orikum,
south of Vlore. Contact Orikum Marina for details.
To enter the country, ensure that your International Motor Insurance
Card is valid for Albania (AL) along with the Vehicle Registration
and a Power of Attorney from the owner if the car is not yours. The
border guards are very strict about allowing cars through without
The road between Ioannina, Greece and Tirana
(E853/SH4) is of sufficient quality. Construction works between
Tepelene and Fier are mostly finished (2014). The new portion
between Rrogozhine and Durres is also mostly complete (2014). This
is the main north-south route between Montenegro and Greece.
The road between Struga, Macedonia and Tirana (E852/SH3) is of a
sufficient quality. There are a lot of slow moving vehicles along
the curvy mountainous route so extra caution must be exercised
especially around corners or during over-taking. A new motorway is
being constructed between Elbasan and Tirana (2011).
between Prizren (Kosovo) and Tirana (Albania) (E851/A1/SH5) is to
the levels of quality found in other parts of Europe. Extra caution
should be exercised along some bridges near the Kosovo border, as
they have not been widened while uncontrolled access points are
becoming dangerous. Also beware that cows run free on the motorway:
there is no fence and before dusk they return home using the
The road between Shkoder (border of
Montenegro) and Tirana (E762/SH1) is of sufficient quality for
driving but there are a lot of slow moving vehicles and uncontrolled
access points so extra caution must be exercised especially during
over-taking. A portion between Milot and Thumane has been widened to
dual carriageway standard.
There are two border control
points in the north of Albania with Montenegro. The narrow windy
road from Ulcinj, Montenegro to Shkoder via Muriqan/Sukobin
(E851/SH41) is used mainly by locals. There is a new Montenegrin
section near the Albanian border. However, it is worth a try to
avoid heavier traffic on the newly built main road (E762/SH1)
between Hani Hotit and Shkoder. Ask any police officer to point you
in the right direction from Shkoder. They are helpful, courteous and
By taxi Albania is geographically a small
country and as such it is possible to leave by taxi.
from downtown Pogradec to the Macedonian border at Sveti Naum is
about €5 (and less than 10 minutes). After Albanian exit procedures,
walk about 500m down the road to the Macedonian border control. The
beautiful Sveti Naum church is very close by, and from there you can
get a bus north around the lake to Ohrid (110 Macedonian denars).
(prices April 2010)
A taxi from Ulcinj in Montenegro to
Shkoder in northern Albania costs about €30. It takes 1hr. You do
not have to change at the border, the taxi will bring you all the
way. (June 2010)
Some taxis can take you into Greece; however
most will not go further then Ioannina.