Albania…A Country Coming Into Its Own

From her hard-line communist isolation in decades past, Albania is like a stranger from another time. Her cities weren’t choked by car fumes, her beaches weren’t spoiled 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, well…Albanian.

Ottoman Houses in Berat

Ottoman Houses in Berat

You’ll find beautiful pristine beaches on parts of the Ionian Coast, fascinating classical sites like ancient Berat and dramatic mountain citadels scattered throughout the country. The mad traffic of Tirana (the capital) 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.

Butrint Amphitheater

Roman amphitheater in Butrint – photo courtesy Nicolas Miquelon

If you only have a limited time in Albania, then you absolutely must see the three UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Butrint, Gjirokastra, and Berat. These sites have been declared by the United Nations as having an extraordinary cultural significance to the whole of humankind, and we invite you to explore them in depth.

Gjirokastra in the south is Adventures in Preservation’s main area of concentration.  It is a unique testimony of a cultural tradition of life during the 14th and 15th centuries. This city impresses everyone who visits it.  The stunning architecture, the surprising images of Drinos valley and the spectacular crown ridge of calcareous Bureto and Lunxhëria make Gjirokastra a treasure trove of natural beauty and proud culture.  Declared as a “Museum City” by the Albanian state in 1961, it was also declared a world heritage site by UNESCO in 2005.

The market in Gjirokastra

The market in Tirana

Lonely Planet travel guide ranked Albania as the number-one recommended destination to visit in 2011.  Not so long ago, when the Balkans were considered an obscure travel destination, only the bravest of the brave soldiered into Albania. Since backpackers started coming here in the 1990s, tales have been told in ‘keep it to yourself’ whispers of azure beaches, astoundingly good cuisine, significant heritage sites, affordable excursions and hip nightlife.  As a result, Albania won’t be off the beaten track for much longer.  We’re delighted to share this exciting journey with you and we promise that you will return home viewing history from a new vantage point and with a greater appreciation for cultural preservation.

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Volunteer to help restore an Ottoman tower house in Gjirokastra with Adventures in Preservation

About Adventures in Preservation

Huge fans of the world's architectural heritage, making it a point to seek out historic buildings wherever we travel. Bloggers include co-founder of Adventures in Preservation, a non-profit organizing historic preservation-based volunteer vacations, and AiP interns.
This entry was posted in AiP Projects, Cultural Travel, Experiential Travel, Heritage Travel, Historic Sites, Volunteer Vacations and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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