The cuisine of Albania is uniquely influenced by Turkish, Greek, Syrian and Italian cuisines.
Albanian gastronomy is known for its high nutritional values and delicious taste.
Albanians enjoy a variety of appetizers, soups, casseroles, stews, pilaf, pies and desserts. The main meal of the Albanians is lunch which usually consists of the main dish of slowly cooked (usually lamb or beef) meat, and a salad of fresh vegetables, such as tomatoes, cucumbers, green peppers, olives and feta or cottage cheese. The salad is dressed with olive oil, vinegar and salt.
Seafood specialities and fish dishes are common in the coastal areas of the Ionian and Adriatic Seas or Albanian cities by lakes Durres, Vlorë, Shkoder, Pogradec and Sarandë.
Among the non-alcoholic drinks in Albania, it is "boze" - a refreshing drink made of corn, which is produced in the north of Albania, especially in Kukes, and also "rehani" a drink made from grape juice, which is the typical drink of central Albania. Skenderbeu is the famous Albanian cognac brandy with a great taste.
In all the Albanian cities you can find numerous shops, which offer different goods of well known brands, Glasses, antique objects, etc. Of great interest for the tourists are the traditional bazaars of Kruja, Korca, Shkodra, Gjirokastra and Tirana, where you can find artisan works produced by Albanian people during the troubled years. You can buy wood carved objects, ceramics, embroidery with popular motifs and also copper objects.
Albanian shops are open 09:00-20:00 usually, and until 22:00 at summer. Most of the shops stay open on Sunday.
Today many, if not all, Albanians accept the Euro.
Souvenirs: raki, alabaster bunker ashtrays.
Albanian is the official language. Other useful languages include Italian, which is often viewed as the second language due to various Italian occupations, the most famous being during World War II.
English is understandable in Tirana and to a lesser extent in frequented tourist cities. In the southernmost areas of the country, you might also encounter minority speakers of the Greek language.
Note that from a country of 3 million, there have been about 1.2 million emigrants, and many of them have returned to Albania from countries such as Germany, France, Greece (especially those in the south of Albania) and Italy so you'll find a lot of people who speak the respective languages.
Albania has a lot of immigrants in Greece, from which around 200,000 people have returned back and now live in Albania, Greek is also understood. Macedonian is also occasionally understood in areas near Pogradec and Korca.
The national currency is the Lek.
Some Albanians write prices with an extra zero. They are not trying to charge you 10 times the going rate; they are merely using the old currency.
Hundreds of new ATM's have been installed in most major cities. Use the MasterCard ATM Locator or Visa ATM Locator to find them. The ATM's accept most international VISA and Mastercard Credit/Debit cards.
Many rural convenience stores will not accept any other method of payment other than cash. However supermarkets, the better book stores and the better boutique stores will accept Credit or Debit Cards. The most widely accepted cards are VISA, Mastercard, and Diner's Club.
Official tourist websites:
For those travellers who prefer active holidays, Albania has a lot to share as well.
Hiking in the Peaks of the Balkans
▪ Albanian Alps — This mountainous complex on the north of the country forms the border between Albania and Montenegro. Rich on rainfalls, sheep, bare rocks and scenic views it is one of the places in Albania you should see. One of the places where you can be less than 10 km away from the nearest village and still have a day long trip there.
▪ Albanian Riviera — Featuring crystal clear waters, unspoiled beaches, and picturesque villages, this is the Mediterranean coastline as it once was.
▪ Butrint — Largest archaeological site from Greek era in Albania. It lies on the coast in the southernmost tip of the country, near the Greek border. Minibuses are available from Sarandë.
▪ Bylis — second largest archaeological site from Roman era in Albania
▪ Dhërmi — one of the finest of the many beaches along the coastal road between Vlore and Saranda, perfect for camping.
▪ Durres — is Albania's main entry port and one of the most ancient cities. The town's ancient amphitheater is the biggest in the Balkans. 90 minutes from Vila Florika, it has an established, Mediterranean feel, featuring a long, palm-lined beach area.
▪ Lura National Park — a 1,280 hectare national park with high mountains, big meadows, and glacial lakes.
▪ Tomorr — Mountain ridge in the southern part of Albania, not far from Berat. This part of the country is formed by parallel mountain ridges (up to around 2000-2500 m) separated by valleys. Although the ridges are not very long, they offer few days of hiking with enormous scenic beauty and fantastic panoramic views. Tomorri is one of the most known ridges with a Bektash monastery and chapel on the very top. Recently, a beautiful waterfall was discovered near Tomorr called Sotira Waterfall which is definitely worth a visit.
▪ Valbona river in Tropoja
▪ One of the canyons in Skrapar
▪ Ksamil — An absolute gem on the edge of the Butrint national park, this is a coastal town encompassing three spectacular islands.
▪ Shëngjin — A growing beach town located in northwest Albania known for its Adriatic Sea views.
▪ Tirana (Tiranë) — the capital. Trees and mountains surround the city. Mt. Dajt is a popular tourist site for a great view of the city.
▪ Elbasan - A large, poor, intriguing industrial city that is full of life. The market is fascinating, and the breakfast "Bugace" legendary. The Via Ignatia, an old Roman road to Istanbul, runs through the city. The Lakes of Belsh near Belsh are also worth a visit.
▪ Berat — Thought to be one of the oldest towns in Albania, it is a new member of the UNESCO world heritage list. Berat has long been known as the "city of 1001 windows" because of its unique Ottoman/Albanian architecture. It has a well preserved castle with residents still living inside its protective walls.
▪ Fier — Lively seaside city, and only about 8 km (5 mi) away from the ruins of the ancient Greek city of Apollonia.
▪ Gjirokastër — another UNESCO city, located in the south is known for its unique Ottoman period architecture. There is a large castle on the hill in the middle of the city which served as a jail for many generations. A Military Museum and Art Gallery are now located inside. Gjirokastër is also the birthplace of former communist Leader, Enver Hoxha, as well as Albania's most internationally famous author, Ismail Kadare, their homes now serve as museums.
▪ Korce (Korça) — Located in southeast Albania, several miles from the Greek border, this city is full of life during the summer when you can find couples and families strolling through the city's main park, Parku Rinia. You can hike to the top of the beautiful mountain Moravia and view the city and its surrounding landscape. Don't miss the Korca Brewery (famous throughout Albania) which sponsors a week long Beer Festival every August!
▪ Kruje (Krujë) — ancient city of the national hero Skanderbeg. It consists of beautiful mountains; Skanderbeg's castle is now a museum. Kruje also contains an old style bazaar with shops selling traditional goods amid cobblestone streets.
▪ Pogradec — Overshadowed by its glitzy neighbors on the Macedonian side of the lake, the town of Pogradec has been experiencing a revival recently.
▪ Sarandë — a city in southern Albania known for its unforgettable beaches and colorful spring blooms.
▪ Shkodra — the biggest town in Northern Albania. Shkodra is considered the capital of Albanian culture. In Shkodra is located "Migjeni" theatre, the first in Albania and also was held the first cyclic race and also the first football match and the first photograph was developed (by Marubi). The Rozafa Castle is a major tourist attraction here,but also "The Great Cathedral", "The mosque Ebu Beker" ect.
▪ Vlorë — Lively seaside city, nice beaches south of town. Passenger ferries to and from Italy dock here.
▪ Tepelena — castle of Ali Pasha Tepelena
▪ Dajti Mountain, a popular sight in Tirana allows you to get a whole green view of the capital.
▪ A walk around southern cities like Butrint, a UNESCO world heritage site, is always ideal and memorable. Butrint is home to many ancient ruins.
Castles are in many cities in Albania. Their beauty reminds one of the ancient times of Albania. There is Petrela Castle near Tirana, Rozafa castle in Shkodra, the inhabited castle of Berat, and Skanderbeg Castle in Kruje, (named after the national hero and now a popular museum holding his belongings).
▪ Palasa, Near Himara. Palasa is a beautiful village in Himara with great beaches and amazing nature. This is the place where Julius Caesar rested his legion at the pursuit of Pompey.
In southern Albania you can see the influence of Turks and Greeks. In northern Albania you can see many ancient Illyrian ruins and very little foreign influence.
For those, who are interested in the World History, Albania is the place to come. Historical tours around the towns of Butrint, Gjirokaster, Berat, Durrës and many others would not leave you disappointed.
Places to see - Things to do
Skanderberg statue, Tirana.
The aincient theatre at Butrint
Sunset in Sarandë, as seen from Lekursi Castle