Archaeologists and art-lovers, hikers and historians, oenophiles and ornithologists: all will take home unforgettable memories from a trip to Albania.
A holiday in Albania has something for almost everyone. Less than four hours’ flight from the UK, its towering mountains provide one of Europe’s last refuges for bears, wolves and the elusive Balkan lynx, while the country’s location on major migration paths makes it a Mecca for birdwatchers. The complexity and richness of its archaeological sites rival anything in neighbouring Greece, with a fraction of the tourists. Its ancient cities, with their stone houses and cobbled streets, are UNESCO World Heritage Sites; its medieval castles are everything that castles are meant to be, with dungeons, water cisterns and vaulted tunnels. Delicious fresh food and local wines will delight gastronomes.
The national museums hold unrivalled collections of Illyrian silver, Byzantine icons and Socialist Realist art. National and local authorities have recently begun to invest in conserving some of the more notable communist sites and curating them so that Albanians and visitors can learn about this difficult and controversial period. There are now three main sites in Tirana: Bunk’Art 1, Bunk’Art 2 and The House of Leaves, as well as the Site of Witnses and Memory in Shkodra which you can visit to learn more about Albania’s communist heritage.
Traditional costumes and household items can be found not only displayed in ethnographic museums, but in daily use throughout the country. Meanwhile, the capital, Tirana, is a lively and modern city where young professionals sip coffees or cocktails in fashionable bars and clubs. Finally, the wide sands of the Adriatic coast, the sought-after coves of the Ionian and the resorts of Lake Ohrid offer the full range of beach activities. Archaeologists and art-lovers, hikers and historians, oenophiles and ornithologists: all will take home unforgettable memories from a trip to Albania.
Elizabeth Gowing takes a look inside on of Albania’s most powerful sites of memory.
There’s more to European beaches than the Costa del Sol.