Albania, officially Republic of Albania is small, mountainous country in Southeast Europe which covers an area of 28.748 sq km situated in the southwestern part of the Balkan Peninsula. Albania shares a border with Greece to the south/southeast, Macedonia to the east, Serbia-Kosovo to the northeast, and Montenegro to the northwest. Western Albania lies along the beautiful Adriatic and Ionian Sea coastlines of nearly 450 km, with the Adriatic Sea running from the Montenegrin border south to the Bay of Vlora, where the Ionian Sea begins, along the road that offers one of the most scenic and spectacular views along the Adriatic and Ionian coasts. The Adriatic Sea separates Albania from Italy via the Strait of Otranto /72 km/. The rivers of Albania that flow into the Adriatic Sea have created fertile alluvial plains on these lowlands and, at their mouths, exceptionally rich wetlands, which are home to many waterfowl and migratory birds.
Population of Albania is 3,5 million inhabitants. Religions of Albanian population: Muslim /ca 70 %/, Orthodox /ca 20 %/ and Catholic /ca 10 %/. Albania is visited by more than 4.2 million tourist every year (more than its population of 3.1 million). According to a 2010 survey, religion today plays an important role in the lives of only 39% of Albanians, and Albania is ranked among the least religious countries in the world.
Albania is a country of rich culture and fascinating ancient history, and this richness is reflected in its surviving archaeological remains, fascinating Ottoman cities and ancient villages. Albanian temples, theatres, and basilicas have impressed visitors for ages. Butrinti, Apollonia, Durrës, and Byllis are a few of the better-known sites of the classical antiquity; Butrint, one of the world’s archaeological wonders and UNESCO World Heritage site in the south of Albania provides a glimpse of Mediterranean civilization from the Bronze Age through the Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Venetian and Ottoman periods – all atop a cliff overlooking Corfu. Albania has a number of castles and forts from the early antiquity to the Middle Ages. Some of them continue to be inhabited to this day (the most important of these is magnificent Berat). The main castles of Albania are Rozafa, Lezha, Gjirokastra, Butrinti, Porto – Palermo, Kruja, Petrela, Kanina.
Albania is predominantly mountainous country, and magnificent mountains and hills constitute 2/3 of its total area, but flat along its coastline with the Adriatic Sea. The highest peak of Albania, breathtaking Mount Korabi on the Macedonian border is 2.753 meters high. In the north of Albania the stunning and wild Prokletije Mountains – Albanian Alps with their highest point rise on 2.694 meters above the sea level and offers incomparable nature beauties. You have mountains behind you, and mountains alongside you, and mountains in the distance and from everywhere you could hear water falling with a rattling sound, as if it had absorbed the bellicose spirit of the country. Those are wild streams rushing from the mountains to empty into the most enchanting lakes. Please see High Albania – Edith Durham
Climate of Albania is mild, temperate with cool and wet winters and dry, hot summers with about 300 sunny days per year. The country is divided into 12 regions, comprising 36 districts. The districts of Albania are themselves divided into municipalities (urban centers) and communes (rural territories). Agriculture comprises a fifth of Albania’s GDP and employs more than half of the country’s population, but the EU recently proposed the country implement Union standards to improve competitiveness.
Albania is country of breathtaking landscapes, crystal clear rivers and lakes, infinite fields and meadows of lush vegetation and abundant in flowers and medicinal herbs, clean and healthy air, secluded and serene places and charming villages far away from the bustle of civilization. Albania offers wonderful opportunities for out-door activities as walking, trekking, mountaineering, alpinism, sun-bathing, swimming, sailing and mountain biking. Still relatively unspoiled by globalization, Albania is an inspiring mixture of civilizations and cultures, providing truly unique experiences. Please read the travel memories and watch interesting travel video from an amazing 13 days road-trip across Southern Albania of Giulia Blocal blogger, www.blocal-travel.com : from the Albanian Riviera to Gjirokaster, Permet, Korca, Berat, Elbasan & Tirana. Reuters says that while many years ago Albania was considered as the “wild west of the Balkans” today is a developing country moving rapidly towards EU. Reuters has interviewed PM Edi Rama who says that he believes that in a 2-year period Albania will be changed and will be a new charming destination in the Mediterranean, because it is an unspoiled country which features superb beaches and mountains.
Ksamil islands and Berat city have been included in a list of “16 of the most breathtaking places in Europe as seen through Instagram” compiled by the known website Business Insider. Photos of Ksamil and Berat have been selected randomly by Instagram users who have visited the places recently. The famous site considers Ksamil as one of European continent’s undiscovered places. “Along with the rest of Albania, this remains one of Europe’s undiscovered gems.”
In Albania there is also a number of lakes. The most significant lakes of Albania are:
Shkodra Lake – Scaar Lake is the largest lake in the Balkans and straddles the border between Albania and Montenegro. Thousands of cormorants winter on this lake each year. Scadar Lake is relatively shallow and is fed by many different rivers as well as by springs, making it quite varied in its aquatic life, with various species of carp and trout in its waters.
Ohrid Lake is shared between Albania and Macedonia in the southeastern part of Albania. Around the lakeshore there are some tourist areas such as Lini, Pojska, Pogradec, Tushemisht, and Drilon. It is exceptionally deep and fed mainly by springs around the edge of the lake and on its floor.
Above Ohrid Lake lies Prespa Lake, which is distinguished by its solitude and beautiful landscapes. In this lake there are very important breeding populations of Dalmatian and white pelicans. Lakes of Ohrid and Prespa are between two and four million years old, and unique species of fish have evolved in them, among them the delicious koran and belushka.
Albania is notably recognized for its rich biological and landscape diversity. Almost three quarters of Albania is densely covered with natural vegetation making it one of the greenest countries in the world. Majority of Albania territory – about a million hectares is forested and the country is very rich in flora. About 3.000 different species of plants are grown in Albania, many of which are used for medicinal purposes. The Albanian forests are home to a wide range of animals such as wolves, bears, wild boars, and chamois. Lynx, wildcats, pine martens and polecats are rarer, but survive in some parts of the country. There are various national parks in Albania that hold a great significance in the wildlife tourism of the country.
The Tale of the Eagle
A youth was hunting in the mountains. An eagle flying above him set down on top of a crag. The eagle was especially large and had in its beak a snake. After a while, the eagle flew away from the crag where it had its nest. The youth then climbed to the top of the crag where he saw, in the nest, an eaglet playing with the dead snake.But the snake wasn’t really dead! Suddenly it stirred, revealed its fangs and was ready to pierce the eaglet with its deadly venom. Quickly, the youth took out his bow and arrow and killed the snake. Then he took the eaglet and started for his home. Suddenly the youth heard above him the loud whirring sound of the large eagle’s wings.
“Why do you kidnap my child?” cried out the eagle.
“The child is mine because I saved it from the snake which you didn’t kill, ” answered the youth.
“Give me back my child, and I will give you as a reward the sharpness of my eyes and the powerful strength of my wings. You well become invincible, and you well be called by my name!”
Thus the youth handed over the eaglet. After the eaglet grew, it would always fly above the head of the youth, now a full-grown man, who, with his bow and arrows, killed many wild beasts of the forest, and who, with his sword, slew many enemies of the land. During all of these feats, the eagle faithfully watched over and guided him. Amazed by the valiant hunter’s deeds, the people of the land elected him king and called him “Albanian” which is to say “Son of the Eagle.” And his kingdom became known as Albania or Land of the Eagles.