Albania has a landscape of staggering beauty: rugged mountains, snow-capped for much of the year, tower above white sandy beaches and green mysterious valleys.
Besides incredible scenery, Albania also has a number of superb historical sites. Roman, Ottoman and, for a short period, Italian rule have all left their mark on the land. Ancient burial mounds, amphitheatres, castles and mosques are all to be found here.
Yet this country remained under wraps for much of the 20th century, isolated under Enver Hoxha and his Stalinist state. Over this time the people and the landscape remained cut off from the outside world, until the fall of Communism in 1991. The country is now a delight to explore with its majestic scenery and timeless Albanian culture.
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Flying time from London: 3 hours
Official language(s): Albanian
Time difference: +1 GMT
Visa requirements: Visas not required for UK passport holders
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During the height of the Cold War, the leader of Albania, Enver Hoxha commissioned his military to build over 750,000 concrete fortifications around the country. This have been christened by locals as ‘Hoxha's Mushrooms’ due to their shape and size.
Visit the Skanderberg Museum, Kruja
Akin to a shrine for the national hero, this museum houses artefacts from Skanderbeg’s life including armour, paintings and lively murals of battle scenes. The building itself was designed by Enver Hoxha’s daughter and son-in-law.
Admire Lake Ohrid
Visit Lake Ohrid, one of Europe’s deepest and oldest lakes, and combine a trip to Albania with a quick stop across the border in North Macedonia. Lake Ohrid stretches along the Albanian border with North Macedonia and has been named a UNESCO world heritage site. Visit the town of Ohrid on the North Macedonian shore. This ancient settlement has been dubbed the ‘North Macedonian Jerusalem’ as it once had an incredible number of churches.
These scenic ruins on the coastline south of Durres were once the buildings of a great city-state and Roman trading port, founded in the 5th century by the Greeks. Military and natural disasters drove the inhabitants out to re-establish themselves further in south in what is now the city of Vlora.
See Gjirokaster Castle
The birthplace of Enver Hoxha, Gjirokaster has a fantastic castle set up high on a hilltop. A fortress has occupied this high point since the 12th century but much of the construction today dates from the 19th century. During the communist era it was used as a prison. A US Air Force jet which was shot down during this period was displayed here as a sign of Albania’s strength against western powers. It remains here to this day, along with several museums which now occupy the buildings.
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