Albania

Pristine shores along with clear turquoise seas with innumerous islands are a part of the magic that beckons visitors to Albania. Officially known as the Republic of Albania, this tiny country in the Balkans is bordered by Greece to its southeast, Montenegro to its northwest, the Republic of Macedonia to its east, and Kosovo to its northeast. A majority of the inhabitants of this country, with a population of 3,600,523 (as of July 2007), are Muslims. Albania, which is gradually progressing towards integration with the EU, received an invitation to join NATO in the year 2008.

Albania enjoys a Mediterranean continental climate with winters in the lowlands averaging 7ºC and summers averaging 24ºC. However, there is a variation to these temperatures in the southern lowland with the temperature over there being approximately 5ºC higher. These differences in the temperature are generally due to the differences in elevation. Tirana, the capital and the financial hub of Albania, has a population of approximately 607,467. This country is now receiving lots of foreign investment, especially in transportation infrastructure and in the energy development sectors due to its free market reforms.

Most Albanians are atheists and do not follow any religion. The year 1967 witnessed the closure of Mosques and Churches and a ban on religious observances. This rule was revoked in 1990, following which, private religious practices were permitted again. By tradition,

Albanian culture honors the person and role of the guest and expects the same in return. Though there are no visa charges for entering Albania, visitors may be charged an entry fee of one Euro. Flights from both major and budget airlines connect Mother Teresa International Airport, located 15 minutes away from Tirana. Taxis, which operate round the clock, are available at the airport’s exit. Tariffs to the center of the city as well as to other locations in the country are posted on a placard, just outside the airport’s exit doors.

Tourists can also opt in for the bus service that leaves every hour, on the hour, traversing from the airport to Skanderberg Square, the heart of the city. One can also avail of coaches that connect Tirana with Istanbul, Athens, Sofia, Tetovo, and Prishtina. One can also travel to Albania by boat or by car. Albanian is the official language of this country followed closely by Italian. The locals of Tirana and other popular tourist destinations also understand English. Carrying cash is not necessary due to the easy availability of hundreds of ATMs that accept most international Mastercard and VISA debit/credit cards.

Some of the popular tourist attractions of Albania include the Dajti Mountain, a popular tourist spot from where tourists can view the entire capital. Albania is famous all over the world for its ancient castles like the Skanderberg castle, Kruje; Rozafa castle, Shkodra, and the Petrela castle located near Tirana. Lovers of nature should check out Palasa. Located near Himara, this beautiful village is famous for its pristine beaches. Lack of tourist resorts should not act as a deterrent since tourists can avail of a comfortable overnight stay in a local apartment. You can gather further details about the same from local cafes.

Do not miss out visiting the local shops, known locally as bazaars, from where you can purchase memorabilia like intrinsically carved wooden figurines, cute objects made from glass, and copperware. After a tiring day of traveling, enjoy foods and drinks in any of the innumerous restaurants, where you can find gastronomic delights like the byrek, cheese, and boza.

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