Described as the land the world passed by, this Mediterranean gem is making up for lost time. Get there now before the hordes arrive
Albania is the secret Mediterranean. Closed off for decades during its Communist years, and then suffering an economic meltdown, it has escaped the mass development of other chunks of the Med, so Albania's beaches remain largely resort-free.
Times are a-changing, however. You will now find decent accommodation in most towns. You'll also find some fascinating archaeological sites (don't miss Butrint), castles dot the countryside, old bunkers lay on the beaches, and lakes beckon to watersports' lovers (try Lake Shkodër, in the country's north-west, or Lake Ohrid, shared with Macedonia). Also, some pretty untramelled paths wind across the country, 70% of which is mountainous, so hikers will be spoiled for choice.
Capital Tirana is a fun find too: visit the interesting museums then head to a cafe in the buzzing Blloku district for a strong dark coffee and a chance to people-watch in this resurging nation.
Church in Theth village, Prokletije mountains, Albania (Shutterstock.com)
Tiny villages clinging to rock faces; ancient olive trees dotting the hillsides below and huge stony peaks rising stark behind: that’s the Albania Jeremy Head discovered when he visited and he explains how you can too. Phoebe Smith, ventured further east into the mountains where blood feuds still simmer but intrepid visitors are treated to unmatched hospitality and untamed views.
If you’ve got the time, Lyn Hughes recommends including Albania as part of a Balkan odyssey including Kosovo and Macedonia. Each are unique in their own ways, she says, but are culturally and historically entwined. Besides, it gives you the chance to have a macchiato in Pristina – the best in Europe, according to locals.
Trekking in Albania – Jeremy Head
Albania's wild, wild east – Phoebe Smith
Rediscovering Kosovo, Albania, and Macedonia – Lyn Hughes
Giant Head in historic city of Berat (Shutterstock.com)
Life in Albania, especially in the mountains, has not changed for centuries. Flocks are tended the old way. And household tasks are performed as they always have been. While you may feel that makes a great photo, the locals may not feel the same way.
The key, says Steve Davey, is to engage with your subject. Take an interest in what they are doing rather than take a sneaky pictures from a distance.
If it's inspiration you're after, look no further than the images captured by our readers on their travels in Albania.
Photography tips: respecting locals – Steve Davey
Inside traditional Albanian home, Gjirokaster (Shutterstock.com)
Ready to start planning your trip? Our Albania Travel Guide is the place to start. Make sure you drop by the Albania Essential Info page as well, for more everyday (but equally vital) information. And we’ve rounded up the latest travel news from Albania too.
If you have a particular question about Albania, pop over to the myWanderlust Forum where our knowledgeable community are ready to spring into action and share all that they know. Or check out the questions that have already been asked about Albania. The answer to yours might already be there.
Albania Travel Guide – Wanderlust Team
Albania Essential Information – Wanderlust Team
St. Theodores church in Berat city, Albania (Shutterstock.com)
Here's a selection of fantastic tours from our partners. From Albanian highland adventures to tours of the nations UNESCO sites, there's something for every taste and budget.
Main image: Albanian Alps (Shutterstock.com)