This forgotten Balkan country has some of Europe’s most specular mountains and as it hopes to join the EU, some of its cheapest prices too.
Albania has applied for EU membership but is not expected to join before next year. Whether it will eventually adopt the euro remains to be seen. Until then prices are, arguably, the cheapest in Europe.
While the main routes are surfaced – there is even a stretch of motorway in the south – many secondary roads, especially in the mountains, are nothing more than rocky tracks.
Thethi village is surrounded by jagged peaks up to 9,000ft high, and its remoteness means only the most intrepid travellers make it to this scenic spot, it has crystal clear streams and spectacular waterfalls en route to the 200ft deep Grunasi Canyon.
City of Shkodra, having been part of the Venetian Republic until the Ottoman conquest in the 15th century, Shkodra still shows a heavy Italian influence, lined with pavement cafes, ice-cream parlours and bars, to Vila Bekteshi, one of the city’s most popular restaurants.
In the south there is swapping mountainous terrain of city of Vlora, Albania’s second largest port, and the gentler hills of Llogora National Park.
In the capital city Tirana, cacophony of car horns echoed around Skanderbeg Square in the heart of the city. Named after a national hero, it acts as a focal point from where boulevards lined with trees, street cafes, stalls and boutiques head in every direction.
It is no Paris or Barcelona but it is a city eager to embrace what its European counterparts have enjoyed for years. Much of Tirana’s architecture is influenced by Italian architects who designed, among other landmarks, Skanderbeg Square.
Tirana is an intriguing city in a naturally beautiful country. From miles of white sandy beaches to rugged, unexplored mountains, how long it will be before this little country in the Balkans registers on everyone’s holiday radar? Get here quick.
Explore (0844 499 0901/explore.co.uk) offers an eight-day Walking In Albania tour from £787pp (two sharing), B&B. Price includes return flights from Gatwick with British Airways, five nights’ hotel and two nights’ guesthouse accommodation, some meals, transport and the services of a tour leader and driver. Visit Albania: http://www.albania.al
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