This blog post was updated on May 1, 2020.
While sending our travel experts to dig up the inside scoop on interesting destinations, we couldn’t help but take note of Albania. This Balkan beauty astounded us with its natural charm, complex history, and friendly people. So if you want a trip that’s really off the radar, why not make it your next destination? If you don’t know what to expect, don’t worry. Here are some amazing things you can do, see, and experience… only in Albania.
Enjoy the Architecture in the Capital City of Tirana
Whether it’s the luridly colored buildings along the Lana river, the iconic 19th century Et’hem Bey Mosque, or the curved contours of the TID Tower, Tirana is full of a colorful, ancient, and modern movement that’s trying to erase the cold, grey concrete of decades under communism.
Start Counting the Number of Bunkers
As the Cold War was in its climax, the paranoid Albanian dictator Enver Hoxha carried out a massive “bunkerization” of Albania, peppering the country with steel and concrete bunkers. Nowadays, you’ll notice them in the oddest places, sticking out like a sore thumb in green urban parks or in obscure hillsides in the countryside or on quiet beaches. Although they’ve been left to decay over time, some of them have been turned into works of art, cool cafés, and even storage units
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Eat Some Tasty (and Cheap) Burek and Trilece
Albania actually shares variants of the popular burek with the rest of its Balkan neighbors, but this pastry filled with meat, cheese, or spinach is a great meal for any time of day and is perfect for the backpacker on a budget. If you have a bit of a sweet tooth, you won’t be able to resist another local favorite: trilece – a soft cake soaked in milk and topped off with caramel.
Pay Your Respects at the Home of the “Dragon of Albania”
Just 20 km north of Tirana, you’ll find the mountainous town of Krujë, home to one of Albania’s most famous historical sites – Krujë Castle. The castle was the 15th-century garrison of national hero Gjergj Kastrioti, known widely as Skanderbeg. The “Dragon of Albania,” along with just 3,000 men, withstood three massive assaults by the numerically superior Ottoman Turks over a span of 17 years. The castle only fell 10 years after his death in 1468. The Skanderbeg Museum on the castle premises also has many interesting artifacts, including a replica of Skanderbeg’s signature goat-head topped helmet and sword.
Get a Budget Euro Beach Escape on the Albanian Riviera
If the French Riviera is just a financial fantasy, why not check out the beaches of Albania? The coastal towns of Saranda, Ksamil, Himara, and Dhermi are just some of the towns that offer plenty of clear waters, golden sand, and affordable seafood and wine. For the prices you pay, you’ll forget you’re in Europe! Also, don’t forget to check out the gorgeous turquoise waves of the secluded Gjipe Beach (close to Dhermi), that’s only accessible by a few kilometers trek on foot.
Make Some New Friends
Like most places in the region, you won’t find it hard to strike up a conversation with the friendly locals in Albania. In its cafes and bars, you’ll find there are plenty of interesting stories that’ll go down well over a coffee or a few beers!
Have you been to Albania? Tell us what you experienced in the comments section.