by our Albania expert Terry Emery
A coastline on both the Adriatic and Ionian seas; an interior with some of the deepest and most spectacular lakes in Europe plus easy-reach mountains; an ‘unknown’ capital, Tirana, that is full of charm. Albania may be relatively unknown, and is certainly unspoilt, but as the reputation hangover from the previous regime fades, it would be wise to get there before everyone else wakes up to it.
Founded in legend by Trojans fleeing the Greeks, the country has been deeply influenced by Greece, Rome, Venice, and the Ottoman empire – and has peoples, cultures, ruins, and even cuisine to show for it. Lake Shkoder has some 57 km of coastline itself and is overlooked by mountains that offer some of the least-crowded winter pistes in Europe. From the long sun-drenched Ionian beaches, you can look across at the busier neighbours on Corfu. Butrint (a UNESCO World Heritage site) and Apollonia are ancient cities with still visible links to Corinth and classical Greece. And Tirana’s most ‘dominant’ building is simply the 35m high Clock Tower that houses a striking-bell cast in Venice and prompts reminders of San Marco. The large student population ensures a lively social atmosphere into the bargain.
... and a 'not-many-know' fact – Mother Theresa was Albanian!