I have been to Albania several times over the past 11 years and many people ask me why I Visit Albania so often, and here are a few of the reasons why I love to visit Albania.
Albania is unique.
Albania is one of the most unique countries in the world and maybe the most unique country in Europe. It has a unique language that is not connected to any other language in the world and the Albanians are not slavs or latinos, but their own tribe who are related to the Illyrians, if you go back to the time when the writer Homer. Modern day Albania is a fascinating mix of Balkan, Turkey, with a pinch of Italy in it, or I guess we can just say that is has a lot of Albania in it 🙂
Albania is safe.
Albania is a surprisingly safe country to travel. I have been to +70 countries over the past 26 years and I will put Albania in to top 3 when it comes to personal safety. I have never felt unsafe walking home late at night in Tirana, or camping wild in the mountains in Albania. Best thing you can do if you camp wild is actually let the locals know that you are camping there and they will most likely treat you with some Albanian hospitality in terms of food and so. This is one aspect where you really need to forget about the prejudice you might have about Albania. Of course things can happen, like in all places around the globe, but if you use general common sense, then you should have no problems what so ever when you visit Albania.
Albania is friendly.
All tourist brochures from around the globe will tell you that the locals are friendly and hospitable and this is true in most places, but in Albania it’s just a little more. I have been treated very well in the +70 countries I have visited around the globe, but Albania is in for a top 3 again in this regard. I think it’s a combination of just being generally hospitable and then the aspect that Albania was totally cut off from the rest of the world for more than 4 decades that has made the Albanians so curious towards visitng foreigners in a very friendly way. In the beginning you might even be a little worried and thinking whether people have other motives when they spend an hour walking you to the place you asked directions for or invites you for free food and drinks after knowing them for a few minutes, but this happens to me all the time when I visit Albania and I have so far never had a bad experience when accepting Albanian hospitality.
It’s your chance to visit what was the North Korea of Europe.
From the second world war and until 1991, Albania was the most closed country in the world together with North Korea. Albania was behind the iron curtain, but not part of the Warsaw Pact for very long and soon retreated in to isolation, where a paranoid regime spend most of the state income on building bunkers for the people, in case of an invasion. No private cars were allowed in Albania during these years and ordinary albanians were not allowed to leave the country, just like foreigners were only allowed in to the country in a very limited scale and only on state controlled trips. These days, Albania is the exact opposite and it’s one of the most open countries in Europe and very easy to visit and you will feel right away that you are very welcome in Albania.
Albania is for outdoor lovers.
Because Albania is still fairly undeveloped in an industrial way, it’s a really good country to visit if you are in to things like hiking, cycling, mountaineering, kayaking or almost any outdoor activity. The country has a lot of very nice places that are still seeing very few visitors and if you can live with an infrastructure that is not always western standards then you are in for a place that offers you fantastic opportunities if you like the great outdoors.
Albania is relaxed about religion.
Albania is very tolerant when it comes to different religions and also to being not religious for that matter. Religion is a lot less visible in Albania than most other countries in Europe and people are hardly ever asking me any question about my religion or lack of. One Albanian girl once told me that “the only religion we have in Albania, is being Albanian” and I can see what she means as they have a very strong national pride, but it’s not based on religious beliefs. The country roughly has 70% muslims, 20% orthodox and 105 catholics, but it’s a little hard to see what is what as fairly few people are concerned about dressing religious and such and most albanian muslims and happily drink alcohol and even eat pork meat. During the second world was, the Albanians also shielded their jewish population when Mussolini’s fascists and Hitler’s nazis invaded Albania and not a single jew was send to KZ camps during World War 2 in Albania. I think that story says a lot about albanian tolerance.