As Seen in…
Why visit Albania?
Despite its relative isolation from the regular world of travel, the Albanian people embrace the novelty of travellers with gusto, making it both a safe destination to explore and an enriching cultural encounter. Famously and proudly secretive for much of the 20th century, the country was a communist enigma, looking heavily towards Maoist China for its inspiration; but the 1992 ushering in of democracy has meant that Albania is now beginning to yield up its rich bounty of historical and geographical sites.
Few are aware of the UNESCO world heritage site of the magnificent ruins of Butrint, a key strategic city that thrived for over 2000 years, fewer still of Benja’s six exquisitely beautiful thermal pools that nestle in the lap of the mountains and flow into the dramatic Lengarica Canyon. Successive invasions from sundry directions and by a variety of religious creeds have lent the landscape culture sites of military, monastic and communal importance, many of which now lie in ruins, overrun by nature. Visitors to these are uncommon and you may well find yourself entirely alone amidst the remains of once bustling sites. Of equal curiosity are the relics of Supreme Comrade Hoxha’s plethora of concrete bunkers which scatter the nation, legacy of the communist leader’s paranoia over foreign invasion.
Today, the country has shifted towards a far more tolerant and diverse culture – Catholic churches, orthodox basilica, synagogues and mosques stand side by side and indicate the live-and-let-live mindset that characterises this welcoming nation. Expect to luxuriate in the food and drink which synthesises the hearty lamb stews and earthenware baked pulses of the north Balkans with Greek specialities such as Baklava and the pizzas and pastas of Italy. Indeed echoes of the country’s origins and encounters still abound in the vibrant bazaars in its historic town centres. Albania’s past has always been shaped by the great empires of the Mediterranean and their influence stands at every turn, offering a splendid opportunity for what still feels like pioneering adventure.
It’s a uniqueness that beckons irresistibly.