Overview

Albania
Albania © Artur Malinowski

Increasingly celebrated as one of the more remarkable and unusual tourist destinations in Europe, Albania is something of an undiscovered gem of coastal beauty and traditional culture that has remained untouched by the diluting tendrils of globalisation.

History enthusiasts will spot the influence of the recent past on this Balkan treasure from its life under Soviet rule. It wasn't until 1992 that the Communist party finally relinquished power and Albania established a multiparty democracy. But the country's various treasures date back a little further than that, glimpsed in the ancient UNESCO World Heritage Site of Butrint. One of the world's archaeological wonders, this old settlement sits atop a cliff overlooking nearby Corfu. It provides visitors with insights into Mediterranean civilisation from the Bronze Age through the Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Venetian and Ottoman periods.

In the leafy capital city of Tirana, tourists enjoy gorgeous views over the city from Mount Dajt or head to one of the many sidewalk cafes to sample some traditional Albanian fare, which has a primarily Turkish influence.

Saranda in the south is known for its unforgettable beaches and colourful spring flowers, while Shkodra features the major Albanian tourist attraction of Rozafa Castle. Orchards burst with ochre, burnt oranges and yellows in autumn while spring sees apple and cherry blossoms carpet the roadsides. Indeed, spring and autumn are considered the best times to visit Albania, as even in September it is still warm enough to swim on the southern coast.

With both coastal and mountain holidays on offer, as well as fascinating ancient culture, Albania merits its reputation as one of the world's best up-and-coming tourist destinations.