A board at “Mother Teresa” airport welcomes you to the “Land of the Eagles”. It is Called “Albania” by foreigners, where hospitality is a centuries-old tradition and reality turns into a fantasy
With its favorable climate, that offers opportunities for many tourism activities, the diversified landscape, where are combined sandy and shallow beaches of Adriatic Sea with small and deep beaches of Ionian Sea, large and small Lakes, fields and river valleys, high snowy mountains, with an ancient history, rich with archaeological parks, castles, medieval monuments, cities with typical architecture, Albania is a tourist destination to be visited!
Located on the Balkan Peninsula in southeastern Europe, Albania is located near to the main European markets and can be visited easily by air, land and sea. Albania lies in the subtropical belt and is included also in the Mediterranean climate, with relatively short and mild winter and hot and dry summer. The climate of Albania varies a lot from one region to another with big contrasts in terms of temperature, rainfalls, solar lighting, air humidity, etc. The annual rainfall is averagely 1,430mm per year, decreasing from west to the east. It is believed that the prehistoric flow of Albanians is from a very ancient IndoEuropean tribe, which the Greek historian Herodotus described as the “Pelasgians”. They are considered as direct descendants of an ancient Illyrian tribe called “Albans”, who settled in today’s Albania. Others believe that Albanians and Illyrians are direct descendants of the Pelasgians, who lived thousands of years before Christ. Through this guide we aim to provide you practical information on our country, which will somehow come to your help during your travel and stay in Albania. This brochure contains information about the geographic position, population, history, climate, national parks, museums, coastline, forests, language, religion, most attractive tourist sites, information on border crossings points, etc. In addition, visitors can find information on how to come to Albania, suggestions and accommodation in various hotels and houses for rent that meet all tourists’ needs. “The sun in Albania never sets and Albania will never fade as a tourist attraction.”
Republic of Albania has a total area of 28,748km2. It lies in Southeastern Europe, in the western part of the Balkan Peninsula, with a significant seafront by Adriatic and Ionian seas. It is located between the geographical coordinates: 390 38’- 420 16’ north geographical latitude and 190 16’- 210 04’ east geographical longitude. The extreme points of the geographic area of the Republic of Albania are: Vermosh in the north, Konispol in the south, Sazan Island in the west and Vernik village in Devoll district in the east. The airline distance between North and South is 355 km and 150 km from east to west. Albania is bordered by Montenegro in the north, Kosovo in the Northeast, with Macedonia in the east and with Greece in the south and Southeast. In the west the country is surrounded by the waters of the Adriatic and Ionian sea. The Strait of Otranto, 72 km wide only, separates Albania from Italy. Albania’s coastline length, including lagoons area, is 450 km. Albania is divided into four physical-geographical units which are: Albanian Alps, Central Mountainous Region, Southern Mountainous Region and Western lowlands. The majority of the Albanian territory (2/3 of the surface) is occupied by mountains and hills. Such prevalence of mountains and hills creates very favorable natural conditions for the development of several mountain tourism types. There are over 10 peaks that exceed the height of 2,000 meters above the sea level. The highest mountain peak of the country is Korab, which rises in the northeastern part of the country, in the region of Dibër along the border with Macedonia. The highest peak of this mountain reaches 2,750 meters above sea level. Spectacular and highly preferred by tourists are the Albanian Alps in northern Albania, along the border with Montenegro and Kosovo. The rest of Albanian territory 1/3 is occupied by lowlands, which lie in the western part of the country and in Korça area. The country is rich with large and small lakes. The Lake of Shkodra, with an area of 370km2, is the largest lake of the entire Balkan Peninsula. The Ohrid Lake, with a maximum depth of nearly 300 meters, is the deepest lake in the Balkans and the Prespa Lake represents the highest tectonic lake of the Balkan Peninsula. These lakes are located at the border with the neighboring countries. The coast is one of the main and most important assets for the tourism industry. The Albanian Adriatic Sea is noted for its sandy and shallow beaches, which are very suitable for family vacations. The Ionian coast, also called the “Albanian Riviera”, stretching from Vlora to Saranda, is well-known for its beautiful and attractive coastline, small and intimate beaches and above all, the high quality of marine waters. This coast is rocky and mainly harsh, with craggy mountains that fall sloping into the sea. Such a geographical position of Albania is considered very favorable for its overall development, especially for the tourism. Therefore, Albania is often referred to as the “gateway to the Balkans”, or “a linking bridge in the Southeastern Europe”. The most important roads connecting the East and the West of the Southeastern Europe have traditionally crossed and currently cross through Albanian territory.
Population and language
The Albanian population is approximately 3.2 million inhabitants, with a density of 113 inhabitants per square meter. The Albanian population is generally young and it is distinguished for its vitality. The most populated parts of the country are the area of the capital city, the port of Durrës and generally the western lowlands of the country. Albania is a country with a homogeneous population. The minorities represent about 3 percent of the population. The largest one is the Greek minority (located in the southern part of the country, in the provinces of Dropull, Pogon and Vurg). Other minorities are the Macedonians, located in the area of the Great Prespa Lake, Serbian, Roma etc. The largest population is concentrated in the cities of Tirana, Durrës, Elbasan, Shkodra, Vlora, Korça etc. Other cities of tourist importance are Berat, Gjirokastra, Saranda, Kruja and Pogradec. The official language is Albanian. It constitutes a special and original branch of Indo-European family. Albanian language is a sequel of the Illyrian language and it’s without doubt one of the oldest languages spoken in the European continent. Its vocabulary contains words from other languages like Turkish, Greek, Latin and Slavic languages, but it has preserved its originality as an unique language. Albanian language is recognized for its two distinct dialects, which are: “Gheg” and “Tosk”. Shkumbini river, which divides the country into two almost equal parts, is the natural border of these two dialects. Gheg dialect is spoken in the North, while Tosk is spoken in the South. The Albanian alphabet has 36 letters.
Albania is considered as one of the regions with the most ancient population traces in the Balkans and Europe. There are precisely the evidences of numerous archaeological findings in different parts of the Albanian regions, such as those of Xara in Saranda, nearby Shkodra, at Dajti Mountain, Prizren etc., that prove for traces of ancient population on Albanian territory. By studying these archaeological objects, it has been proved that thefirst Albanian settlements have started to be inhabited in the middle of the Paleolithic period (100,000 to 40,000 years BC). Likewise, during the Neolithic period (6000 – 2600 BC), it’s indicated a much more dense population on Albanian territories. This is noted in the archaeological excavations, carried out in the area of Korça, where 12 settlements are found belonging to this period. Such settlements have also been discovered in Cakran, Kolonjë, in the valley of the Black Drin River in Mat, in Përmet etc. The Indo-European population settled here at the beginning of the III millennium BC. As a result of this merger, a new population was created in the Balkan Peninsula (Pelasgians), which preserved the specific cultural and language characteristics. This ancient population became the ancestors of the Illyrians between the II Millennium and I century B.C. After its fall in the year 30 B.C., and at the end of three IllyrianRoman wars, Illyria fell under the control of the latter. After the division of the Roman Empire (395 B.C.), Illyria became part of the Byzantine Empire. Although they were under Roman conquestthe Illyrians retained their language and traditions for centuries. “Via Egnatia”, the most important trade route between Rome and Constantinople (Byzantium), passed through the port of Durrës. The first three Byzantine emperors (Anastasius I, Justin and Justinian I) were of Illyrian origin. The attacks by Barbarian migrating tribes (Visigoths, Huns, Ostrogoths and Slavs) continued during the V and VI century. In 1344, Albania was under the rule of the Serbian Kingdom. After its fall in the war against Turkey in 1389, the Arbëresh principalities were created. The Principality of Balshaj was the most important one. The region was open to the Ottoman attacks, which gradually managed to take Arbëria under the rule. The culmination of the antiOttoman resistance reached during the years 1443-1468, when the Albanian national hero Gjergj Kastriot Skanderbeg led the revolt of the Albanians against the Ottomans. During this period, Arbëria turned into a key factor in the entire Europe. After the formation of a coalition of Arbër Feudal in the Historical League of Lezha, held on March 2nd, 1444, the National Hero, Gjergj Kastrioti Skanderbeg, led for 25 years the resistance against the Ottoman threat. There were three Ottoman attacks n Kruja, all of which failed and only 10 years after the death of Skanderbeg, in 1478, they finally managed to capture Kruja. For more than 400 years, Albania was under the Ottoman regime. Albanian Resistance continued during the subsequent periods, being inspired especially by the Illuminist movement of the Albanian National Renaissance, which emerged in XIX century. Successive revolts and efforts reached their peak with the proclamation of the National Independence on November 28th, 1912. The Assembly of Vlora established the first Albanian government led by Ismail Qemali. During the First World War, which broke out in 1914, Albania turned into a battlefield for different occupation troops, such as Austrian-Hungarian, Italian and French troops. The Congress of Lushnja, held in 1920, aimed to maintain the territorial integrity of Albania after the First World War. This Congress proclaimed Tirana as the capital of Albania. In the same year, Albania adhered to the “League of Nations”. After a period of political turmoil in 1924, the country went through a bourgeois-democratic revolution and immediately after it, the country was led by the government of Fan Noli. In 1928, the country was declared a monarchy under King Zog I. The latter pursued a policy of rapprochement with Italy and Great Britain, but without being able to avoid a military occupation of Albania by Italian fascists. On April 7th, 1939, the country was occupied by Mussolini’s troops, putting an end to the monarchy regime that lasted 11 years. In 1943, the country was occupied by Hitler’s Nazi forces. The resistance to foreign attacks is known as Anti-Fascist National Liberation Front. The end of World War II brought into force the Stalinist regime of Enver Hoxha. For about 50 years, the totalitarian regime followed a policy of isolation, leaving the country in economic poverty and totally isolated from the international community. Its economic policy was based on the principle of “relying on its own forces”, by banning loans and credits from abroad. This situation continued until 1991 when Albania, as a consequence of new winds that blew in Eastern Europe, eventually emerged from isolation. Since 1991, Albania holds pluralistic elections. The Socialist Party, along with its allies, is currently in power since 2013. Since 2009, Albania adhered to NATO as a member with full rights. The country is now undergoing a series of reforms, which aim the integration of Albania into the European Community.
There are four official religious beliefs in Albania. These belong to the Muslim (Sunni), Orthodox, Catholic and Bektashi. The Muslim belief is widespread across the country. Catholics are concentrated in the northern part of the country, the Orthodox ones are in the south and center of the country, and the Bektashi sect is found in some specific regions such as Skrapar, Krujë, Elbasan, Mat, Mallakastër, Korçë etc. The right to freedom of religion is guaranteed by the Albanian Constitution. Albania is a secular state where religious authorities are separated from the state. Besides the official religions, it has also followers of other religions as those of Baha’is, Evangelists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, etc. Likewise there are also atheists and non-religious people. Albania became a unique case in Europe in 1967, since all kinds of religions were banned by closing down churches, mosques, religious schools and tekkes. For about 23 years, Albania was the only atheist country in the world. In 1990, after the democratic movement, the freedom of religion was restored and all the churches and mosques were rebuilt, as well as many other objects of religion. Albania offers several types of religious pilgrimages. The most important are those in honor of Shna Nues (St. Anthony) on 13 June at the Church of Lac, the pilgrimage of Abas Ali on 19 August in Tomori Mountain, the one in honor of St. Mary on 15 August in some of the churches across the country, the pilgrimage in honor of Sari Salltiku in Kruja, etc.
The Republic of Albania is based on a pluralist democratic system. The highest figure in the country, the President, is elected every five years by the parliament. The parliament is elected every four years by people’s vote and the executive power is exercised by the Council of Ministers, which is chaired by the Prime Minister. Local governments are led by officials elected directly and proportionately.
The Albanian economy is based on the following most important sectors: construction, hydro energy, agriculture, garment industry, extractive industry, services and transport. In the private sector operate more than 60,000 enterprises. Most of these enterprises are based in Tirana and in the largest cities of the country. Similarly, the agricultural economy is almost completely privatized in over 400,000 small private family enterprises located in the countryside. Regarding mineral reserves, Albania is rich in chrome (reserves which are estimated to rank Albania third in the world after the Russian Federation and the Republic of South Africa), copper, bitumen, iron, nickel, oil etc. Of a major importance in Albania are hydro reserves. Albania ranks second in Europe after Norway, regarding the hydro reserves per capita. Over 95 percent of electricity is generated by hydropower plants. The largest cascades are over Drin River. There are projects for further utilization of these resources for power generation. Very rapid developments have been observed in recent years in the sectors of construction, transport, trade, tourism, etc.