Awaking Sleeping Beauty–like in the 1990s from her hardline communist isolation, Albania was a stranger from another time. Her cities weren’t choked by car fumes, her beaches were unspoilt by mass tourism, her long-suffering people were a little dazed and confused. While things have changed a lot since then, this ancient land still offers something increasingly rare in Europe these days – a glance into a culture that is all its own. Raised on a diet of separation and hardship, Albania is distinctly Albanian.
You’ll continue to find beautiful pristine beaches on parts of the Ionian Coast (try the charming town of Saranda), fascinating classical sites like ancient Berat, and dramatic mountain citadels, but the mad traffic of Tirana is symptomatic of a bustling, bright city shrugging off its Stalinist grey patina. Squat toilets are no longer the norm and you can even sip cocktails at hip bars while listening to rock bands. Meanwhile, Northern Albania keeps the country's reputation as a wild frontier alive and well, with bleak mountains and the occasional blood feud.
Not just the preserve of the adventurous, Albania is a warm and sincerely hospitable country – with enough rough edges to keep it interesting.
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Best places to stay in Albania
Mediterranean Europe - Albania (Chapter)
Albania offers an array of unique attractions, including ancient mountain codes of behaviour, forgotten archaeological sites and villages where time seems to have stood still. It also has stunning mountain scenery, a thriving capital in Tirana...
Eastern Europe: travel books to read before you go
This reading list excerpted from Lonely Planet's guide to Eastern Europe provides an interesting introduction to the complexities and idiosyncrasies of Eastern Europe as a region. Stalin’s Nose by Rory Maclean...
Adriatic Adventure—Dubrovnik to Athens
You could see Europe the same as everyone else, or you could live it like you mean it. With magnificent Dubrovnik as a launching pad, you’ll head south through Montenegro and undiscovered Albania, hit Corfu and its fabulous beaches en route to a history fix in ancient Athens. Along the way, you’ll climb the lanes of walled towns and get down in exclusive clubs.
Eastern Europe - Plan your trip (Chapter)
Your journey to Eastern Europe starts here. You’ll find the tools to plan your adventure: where to go and when, how much to budget, plus in-depth info on how to explore Eastern Europe’s amazing history.
Lively, colourful Tirana is the beating heart of Albania, where this tiny nation's hopes and dreams coalesce into a vibrant whirl of traffic, brash consumerism and unfettered fun.
Eastern Europe Phrasebook - Albanian (Chapter)
Get all your essential travel phrases, with sections on transport, accommodation, shopping, meeting people and more. A guide to pronunciation will have you chatting with the locals in no time.
Adriatic Adventure - Zagreb to Athens
From cultural Zagreb to ancient Athens and historic walled Balkan towns to the dance floors of exclusive nightclubs, this 15-day adventure promises a Europe you didn’t know was there.
Europe on a Shoestring - Montenegro & Kosovo (Chapter)
Imagine a place with sapphire beaches as inviting as Croatia’s, rugged peaks as dramatic as Switzerland’s, canyons nearly as deep as Colorado’s, palazzi as elegant as Venice’s and towns as old as Greece’s, and you start to get a picture of...
Southeastern Europe travel guide
Europe’s sea- and sun-blessed southeast is ripe for adventure. Explore epic Greek remains, sophisticated Croatian resorts, Turkish spice bazaars, the wild forests of Romania and medieval towns in Montenegro.