Cheap Vacation In Europe – Albania

 

While Albania has extraordinary scenery, above all the area is cheap — easily one-tenth the cost if you travel to Italy or France. The cost of living in Albania of a week would give you barely a few hours in other parts of Europe.

Introducing Albania

Albania may not appear on many tourists’ destination radar but this does not mean that it is not worth visiting. The opposite is in fact true because this part of the Balkans have managed to preserve much of the charm and appeal mainly due to the absence of mass tourism. However, it is only a matter of time before hordes of tourists begin pouring in to crowd the country’s lovely landscape and stunning coasts.

If you are a national of the US or other western countries – check Albania’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the complete list – you will not need a visa to enter the country. You will only be required to show your ID card but it is still recommended to bring along your valid passport (otherwise you may not get back into your home country). After payment of the minimal entry fee, you are good to go to explore Albania for 30-90 days.

Albania, being a relatively small country, is easy to navigate. You can simply travel around by public bus or furgon as it is locally known. These buses do not have a fixed timetable, so they are not a practical option if you are pressed for time. However, riding one makes an exciting Albanian experience so it is worth taking at least once.

Taxis are more convenient alternative because for as long as the price is right, taxi drivers will take you to whichever part of the country you want to go. Traveling by rail is also possible, one route in particular – between Lezhe and Shkodra – is recommended for a montage of spectacular scenery that will accompany you along the way.

There are plenty of things to see and do in Albania. You can go on for weeks, even months, and still find something interesting to discover. The coastal cities are one of the most popular places to visit in the country, which boast of cerulean seas, lively seaside resorts and several remarkable ancient ruins.

If you are on the lookout for some of the most stunning beaches in the area, then don’t miss a visit to the Albanian Riviera located southwest of coastal Albania. It is also home to the Llogara National Park and the Llogara Pass is the place to go to take a look at the breathtaking panorama of the entire Rivera.

The city of Butrint, home of the largest archaeological site of Greek and Roman ruins in the country, is another must-see. The coastal road is also ideal for road trips if you are in the mood for just meandering and enjoying the views. Camping is another popular activity with the many camping facilities you will find along the coast.

Albania is also castle country. One of the most popular in the area is Petrala Castle located not far from the capital. There is also Rozafa Castle near Shkodra and Skanderbeg Castle in Kruje. These castles are a delight to explore especially for those interested in history and architecture. The country is also home to several UNESCO World Heritage Sites such as the ancient fortifications in Butrint and the architectural wonders of the Ottoman period in Berat and Gjirokastra.

Aside from all these, each and every city of Albania has something exciting to offer the discerning tourist. So, take time to explore the country and you will surely find something to fascinate you while you are in the area. After you’re done with the many attractions, you can simply cross the border to Greece, Macedonia, Montenegro or Italy to extend your Mediterranean getaway.

Getting to Know Tirana – Albania

Although many tourists prefer to give Albania’s capital a pass for the more exciting coastal destinations in the country, Tirana is still worth a stop if you want to learn more about the country’s history and experience the local culture first hand.

Admittedly, there is nothing much to see in the city at first glance. However, if you just give it a chance, your exploration will bring you to scenic open parks, charming thoroughfares and a scrumptious feast of Albanian cuisine.  Here are some ideas on some of the sights to see and things to do while you are visiting Tirana.

If you want to see most of Tirana’s highlights in just one go then a walking tour of the city’s beloved street – the Boulevard of the Martyrs or Bulevardi Deshmoret e Kombit in the local tongue – is a must-do. Start from the Skanderbeg Square, at the imposing facade of the National Museum, in particular. You will notice right away that the gigantic mosaic on the museum’s facade is worth a photograph or two.

Walk around the building’s hallways for an interesting glimpse at the nation’s significant moments throughout its history. Then, it is time to move on to the next attraction – the Etíhem Bey Mosque. You will not miss this beautiful edifice, standing like a crown jewel in the middle of the square. Pay attention to its stunning frescoes and exquisite architectural details before you continue on your way. Move past lovely government buildings until you reach the end of the square which is the beginning of the grand Boulevard of Martyrs.

Cross the Rruga Myslym Syri Street to get to the Art Gallery. Browse through the impressive collection before you proceed in the opposite direction to get to the pine-covered Rinia Park. Rest your weary feet for a bit before you cross the wide boulevards of Zhan D’Ark and Bajram Curri to get to the opposite bank of the Lana River where the Pyramid is located. The site is also near the Prime Minister’s residence, the former Party Committee Building, the Palace of Congresses and the President’s Palace, all of which are major Tirana landmarks. At the end of your walking tour you will find the vast Mother Teresa Square where the Archaeological Museum, the Art Academy and the Polytechnic University are located.

If you are still up for more, move along further down the path until you reach the Grand Park, which makes for a perfect ending to your walking tour of the area.  The park is home to a lake and many restaurants, which makes the site ideal if you are in the mood for a meal with a view.

If you still have time to spare, don’t miss a cable car ride to Mount Dajt for a panoramic view of the city below. There are also several scenic trails to explore if you want a nature retreat before you move on to your next destination.

After the sun sets, it is time to experience Tirana’s night life. The city’s residents do not wait until late at night to go out. Join the locals in their animated xhiro – which translates to a mass evening stroll. Yes, you will find a throng of well-dressed people at the park doing nothing else but enjoying pleasant conversations and lazy strolls. From there, head to a nearby restaurant to sample Albania’s Turkish-inspired cuisine with a local twist. Many cafes and restaurants transform into bars and pubs later in the night so you may not need to change venue if you are in the mood to party all night.

Tirana is very much worth a visit when stopping in Albania – even if it just a change of pace and a chance to say you have been there!

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