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Albania travel ideas: beaches, history, cities

beaches, culture and capital, Tirana, make it one of Europe’s new travel hotspots.

Until recently, Albania was one of the world’s most closed-off and strictly controlled countries. With the fall of a communist dictatorship, Westerners are now welcomed with open arms and the tourism industry is starting to swing.

1) Deserted beaches

Albania boasts some of the best beaches in the Mediterranean.

Known as the Albanian Riviera, there’s a reason why it’s touted the ‘Mediterranean as it once was’.

Protected by the mountains, the peninsula’s rocky bays and sandy, deserted beaches are just waiting for the diving school, beach huts and large-scale tourist development to catch on.

Albania’s best beaches:

Vlora: Tourist town where the Ionian and Adriatic seas meet. Swimming here provides majestic mountain views.

Saranda: A shale and pebble beach with clear azure waters.

A beautiful sandy beach that could rival the Caribbean.

Dhermi: The city is nothing special but the nearby deserted beaches are the only place that trendy locals will go.

2) Unique culture

Hidden within Albania’s snow-capped mountain interior you’ll find elegant Ottoman mansions, historical fortress towns and ancient Greek ruins.

Unlike elsewhere in Europe, Albania offers a glimpse into a culture that is uniquely its own.

In rural villages, sun-aged women with long skirts and headscarves usher along their goat or cow for milking. Local men wear suits, albeit oversized and crumpled, as they barter at the local market.

3) Eat dinner in a war bunker

Although the last couple of years have seen dramatic improvements in the capital city of Tirana, Albania is still recovering from the 40-year rule of communist dictator Enver Hoxha.

You cannot go far in the Albanian countryside without seeing a bunker - concrete domes with ominous black spy holes.
Ironically, Albanians today are using the bunkers in novel ways to attract tourists. On the road to Vlora, artists have converted the otherwise depressing domes into psychedelic art installations, while on the seafront at Durrës, you can have a seafood supper under one concrete mushroom now named Restaurant Bunker.

4) Tirana’s nightlife

In the 20 years since communism ended, Tirana has grown from a sleepy town of a few hundred thousand to a lively, colourful metropolis of one million. With a huge student population, the capital’s outlook is fresh and forward-looking.

The brightly coloured Blloku (Block), the former – strictly off-limits – party leader’s residences, are today home to the city’s best open-air cafes and nightlife, while the grand tree-lined boulevards, built by Italian fascists for parading, are these days better used for romantic evening strolls.

5) Colourful Tirana

Mayor Edi Rama has had a huge hand in Tirana’s transformation. A former painter and sculptor, his love of art has transformed hundreds of ugly communist tower blocks into bright, garish splashes of colour throughout the city.

The capital has changed beyond belief in the last decade from the dull, grey city it once was. From one building covered with horizontal orange and red stripes to another with concentric pink and purple circles, it’s amazing what a lick of paint can do to a city and its psyche.

Albania: Essential information

WHEN TO GO: Summer is peak tourist season when coastal Albania will have a pleasant Mediterranean climate; the mountains often experience heavy snow between November and March.
GETTING THERE: BA flies to Nene Tereza Airport in under three hours from £200. From the airport, take an official taxi to Tirana’s centre for 2,500 lekë.
GETTING AROUND: Buses depart daily from Tirana to towns throughout Albania. You can hire a car, but driving conditions are some of the worst in Europe.
VISAS: South Africans will need to apply for a visa from the Albanian embassy in London, which costs ¤25.
CURRENCY: Lekë (ALL). 1 GBP = 159 ALL.
LANGUAGE: Albanian.
GOING OUT: A beer costs less than £1.


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Useful informations about albania

Useful info for your stay in Albania •  International telephone prefix :  +355 • Capital :  Tirana • Language:  Albanian-Shqip • Currency:  Albanian Lekë Emergency numbers Road police:  126 Police:  129 Emergency:  112 Ambulance:  127 Fire Brigade:  128 Visa regulations: What you need to know The visa policy of Albania grants 90-day visa-free entry to all Schengen Annex II nationalities, except for Dominica, East Timor, Georgia, Grenada, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Palau, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. Other countries which are not part of the Schengen Annex II nationalities but can travel in Albania without Visa are Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kosovo, Kuwait, and Turkey. All European Union citizens, or citizens coming from Australia, Canada, Iceland, Hong Kong, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland, Vatican City, USA, 

Albania moves towards legalizing recreational marijuana

Prime Minister Edi Rama said the government intends to pass the law on the legalization of medical cannabis during this parliamentary session that will close in the summer. "I said before, this is not the time to talk about this issue, but to keep the situation under control with illegal cultivation and trafficking, the situation is now under control," Rama said. "On the other hand, we have been working on this project for more than a year, to do analysis, and in fact now the conditions are ripe. Where the ideas come from, I'm not the one fighting for copyright. This is now a global trend. I know we are on time and we will push this project forward. We are in time to approve it by this parliamentary session," said the Prime Minister.

Oricum (Orikos)

Oricum is located to the right of the Vlora-Saranda national road and 42 km south of the Greek colony of Apollonia. According to Pseudo-Scymnos, the city of Oricum was established by Euboeans who, being on their way home from Troy were blown off their route by strong winds. Its geographical position made it an important harbor on the Adriatic coast. Oricum was used by the Romans in ancient times as a defensive base in the wars against the Illyrians as well as in the 3rd century B.C. against the Macedonians, who in fact occupied it in 214 B.C. Julius Caesar stationed his troops in camps there for several months, until they were taken by Pompey (Pompeius Magnus). Being in the crossroads of such influences, Oricum became a civilized urban centre, as evidenced by various archaeological ruins, such as part of an Orchestra, a small theatre, which is thought to have seated 400 spectators, traces of wall ruins and streets that are clearly seen, albeit lying under the water of the lagoon