Petrela Castle tower, dating to the 5th century, is one of many historical
sites in and around the capital, Tirana.
One of the smallest countries in Eastern Europe, Albania is big on history, natural beauty and pristine beaches, as well as extending a warm welcome to visitors and guests.
As an early outpost of the ancient Roman Empire, and later part of the medieval Turkish Ottoman Empire, the country today remains dotted with reminders of its past in a unique melding between East and West.
Along with more recent concrete monstrosities to remind tourists of its associations
with 20th century communist rule, Albania is a history buff's dream filled with castles, monuments and other ancient historical sites from end to end.
Anywhere you go in Albania little English is spoken, so it is best to have at least a smattering of Albanian to help navigate your way through a restaurant meal, or to find the nearest bathroom.
If all else fails, pointing and gesticulating will also do the trick for the average Albanian who, although historically known for their blood feuds among each other, are more than happy to give a complete stranger a helping hand.
Nestled between Italy and Greece, Albania's landscape ranges from mountain vistas
in the north to sunny coastal resorts in the south along the Ionian sea.
Tirana (or Tiranë), the capital city, is where most tourists set down to explore the rest of the country. While here, take the cable car ride up Mount Dajt for a spectacular view of the city and surroundings. Also don't miss a night out on the town for a Tirana tasting tour including stops at the "Gjelltore", or traditional Albanian restaurants which serve up generous portions of fasule & pilaf (beans and rice), qofte (meatballs), and tasqebap (lamb fricasee).
Albanian travel phrases:
NO - jo (yo)
HELLO - tung or tungjatjeta (toong-yat-yayta)
GOODBYE - mirupafshim (mee-roo-paf-sheem)
PLEASE - ju lutem (yu-lutaim)
THANK YOU - faleminderit (fal-eem-in-derit)
DO YOU SPEAK ENGLISH? -
A flisni anglisht? (a-fleece-nee-angleesht)
TOILET - tualeti (too-ah-lay-tay)
HOW MUCH? - sa kushton?
POLICE - policia
PHARMACY - farmaci
TAXI - taksi
TRAIN - treni
BUS - autobus
Just outside the city, take a stroll around Petrela Castle. Farther afield, you can also make plans for an Albanian castle tour at such UNESCO world heritage sites as Berat - "the town of a thousand and one windows" - or Gjirokastër with its many ancient ruins; the Rozafa castle in Shkodra; and Skanderbeg Castle in Kruje.
Did we mention natural beauty? Head for the Adriatic or more southerly Ionian Sea for breathtaking views of crystal waters and white sandy beaches, along which have sprung 5-star hotels, and even a proposed Club Med (planned for Velore along the southern coast.)
Traveling further south, Korça is often designated as Albania's cultural capital lying several miles from its neighbor, Greece. While here, join the masses for a leisurely stroll through Rinia
Park, or stop by for a taste of the national drink at Korca Brewery which famously sponsors a week-long beer festival each August.
More about Albania travel around the Web:
Albania - Wikitravel - Great overview and intro on what to see and do with thumbnail descriptions of major cities and UNESCO sites, mini-guides to hotels & restaurants, seeing the country
by car or bus, travel etiquette and safety tips.
Welcome to Tirana - Excellent insider guide to the capital city by an expat who shows visitors around major attractions including tips on Albanian cuisine and restaurants, shopping, a guide to
Albanian currency, photos, maps, and how to's on getting around.