Albania

Stay home today, travel tomorrow! The ancient ruins will still be out there!

  For those of you who are intrigued by the ancient times and their proof of existence, I assure you that all archaeological parks, amphitheatres, UNESCO heritage and old towns will be waiting for your visit after this pandemic of modern times comes to an end. Promise!
They have survived hundreds and thousands of years only for us to be amazed by their history and design and we are proud to have them part of our national heritage. 
Visit Albania and its town of 1000 windows (Berat), our largest archaeological park of Apollonia and its relics, Buthrotum (UNESCO Heritage), Gjirokastra’s traditional house architecture and its citadel and of course, so many more historical sites.

© Armela Qafoku, Ecotour Albania

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Let’s Embrace Mother Nature to recover physically and mentally!

  As we collectively share such unusual times of being threatened by an invisible enemy, nature is doing what it does best: amazes us. Looking out of the window or balcony, we can see all the beautiful colors of spring and summer. The trees have blossomed, the air is clean and the high far away mountains invite us to join their rich life. 
Whether it is hiking from one alpine village to another or simply enjoying the breathtaking views of rivers, waterfalls and canyons, the Albanian nature will be the best medication you could take for both your mind and body.
Oh and the food is delicious! You will connect more with the locals and learn about the history and tradition while tasting fresh products and dishes. Raki will be a good company too.

 

© Armela Qafoku, Ecotour Albania

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Wash the pandemic away!

Karaburun

Clear your mind & enrich your soul with a trip to Albania!

As we were impatiently waiting for winter to finally end and for summer to knock on our doors, we were taken by surprise by an invisible ‘guest’:

CORONA VIRUS

But, should we let it in only to shatter our dreams of a tanned body, mojitos under the sun and many more crazy adventures on the beautiful coast of Albania?

NO WAY!

Jump out of the bed into the sea! It is challenging in this period to be positive and think of a bright future. But honestly, have you ever seen a brighter world as now? Mother Nature is welcoming us again and invites us to discover her beauty. One of them is called Albania!

Not to forget about all the extra treats you washed yourself with during quarantine that now have to go away. Yes, is the fat I am talking about. Get rid of it while joining some adventure activities such as kayak to hidden bays, cycling old villages with amazing views to the sea or even hike in national parks until you reach the cool crystal water of the Riviera.

This is what I’m talking about:

 

riviere albanaise

© Armela Qafoku, Ecotour Albania

How do Albanians Celebrate?

I think we all agree on the fact that December goes by so fast and suddenly we find ourselves preparing for Christmas and New Year. I have a love-hate relationship with December, to be honest. I love it because it seems that is a time that brings people together and suddenly everyone is reflecting on the year that they are about to leave behind. On the other hand, this month is associated with a lot of expenses mainly for gifts about the loved ones and because Albanian mothers have this terrible urge of transforming the house into a supermarket, where you can find all kinds of groceries, drinks, desserts etc. Most probably, you wont even eat half of it, but it doesn’t mind…That’s how Albanians celebrate!

As we all know, during the communist regime, Enver Hoxha banned the freedom of religion and Albania became the first atheist country of the world. What a great start, right?

However, after the fall of communism, Albanians got to experience too the joy of celebrating and practicing their own religion. The majority of people in Albania are Muslims but you must’ve heard that here that it doesn’t matter because we all respect each other’s religion and we celebrate Eid in the same way we celebrate Christmas, all together.

In most Albanian families, there is a specific time to do the Christmas tree and that is on December 5th but those who feel in themselves the Christmas Spirit more than others usually do it on December 1st. And all suddenly, everyone is asking you “ What are you buying me for Christmas/New Year?”. That is a question I am trying to avoid this year.

The holidays energy and spirit is being felt everywhere, especially in Tirane since is the capital of Albania. Skanderbeg square doesn’t look that empty anymore; every year the square serves as a Christmas market, where small wooden houses offer a cozy place to stay, relax and drink hot wine or beer with your friends or family. You can spot all around the little children who seem to enjoy these days more than everyone and you can see them laughing out loud, begging their mothers and fathers for money to take a ride in the playground. Everything is shining and it feels good.

Albania Winter holidays celebration

On Christmas Day, every family makes sure that the table is full because a lot of people will be coming, even the people that my mother says will show up but never do, so there’s extra for anyone who wants to join.

Turkey and delicious desserts are the main dishes on Christmas day and on New Year’s Eve. A specialty of the Albanian Christmas/New Year’s dinner is "Bakllava", the famous dessert originally from Turkey.

And without even noticing, Christmas is over and then there comes the New Year. And if Christmas is all about family, New Year on the other hand is for family until 12: 00 PM, and then is for friends and partying until morning. If you are fortunate enough, you will have two days off to rest and come back to the “normal state of being”, if not straight to work. Fair enough!

©Elda Ndoja, Ecotour Albania

Albania guest of honor in Christmas market of Brussels

The Christmas market in Brussels in December 2017 will have an extra jewel to decorate it’s Christmas tree, Albania.

Brussels’ square will be animated by all what is the best from Albania. In order to know this beautiful country, we invite you to visit the stands dedicated to Albania.

The agents of the tour operator Ecotour Albania will tell you more about the holidays, tours, itineraries, cultural tours and adventure offered by Albania. The trips organized by Ecotour Albania respects the charters of responsible and sustainable tourism. 

Direct contact with locals, authentic places, beautiful mountain and seaside landscapes are part of the menu of Ecoutor Albania.

White wine, red or sparkling; beer, olive oil, typical dishes, crafts, but also traditional dance shows: this is what the city of Tirana and Albania will be offering you during the “Winter’s pleasures” which will be held from the end of the month in the city center. The Albanian capital will be the guest of honor of this 17th edition. 

All of the above will be installed on the St. Catherine Square in front of the church. 

Mire se vini ne Shqiperi

Welcome to Albania.

 

Visit of Apollonia

Visite d'Apollonia

Climbing in Bovilla

Escalade à Bovilla

Visit of Butrint, UNESCO

Visite de Butrint, UNESCO

Hiking in Albanian Alps

Ranndonnée dans les Alpes Albanaises

Holidays in Albania

Vacances en Albanie

Berat, Unesco

Berat, Unesco

Travel to Albania, off the beaten track

Voyage en Albanie, hors des sentiers battus

Ski and snowshoeing in the Albanian Alps

Ski et raquettes dans les Alpes Albanaises

Kayak in November in Albania?

Yess it's possible.

The sun, the blue sky, the blue-turquoise water and never ending olive trees...

Are waiting for you!

Contact us to experience this beautiful destination that is:

Albania

 

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A trip to Gjirokastër for the Fustanella Festival !

On this sunny Saturday was the Fustanella Festival. The term « fustanella » refers to an Albanian traditional piece of cloth worn by men from the XIIIth century. It is a sort of kilt but in a white color. Nowadays, the tradition to wear this type of cloth remains solely in the South of the country, in the region of Gjirokastër, during festive events.

 

This edition of the Fustanella festival took place on the heights of Gjirokastër, in the fortress garden. This place offers a perfect setting for this event, with an overhanging view on the stone city, facing the mountains. The old edifice, heritage from the past, reminds us in a certain way of the ancient traditions. On this day, it created a contrast with traditional music intertwined with modern and at times international notes.

 

The large audience then had the opportunity to enjoy traditional isopolyphonic music with Albanian Iso Phonic Choir. These unique songs are precious to Albania as they got classified by the UNESCO as a World Heritage.

Spectators also had the chance to appreciate the music of Koza Mostra, on an alternative rock and ska type of note this time.

 

The featuring between Fanfara Tirana and Transglobal Underground was a nicely surprising combination as well, mixing Albanian brass band sounds with exotic vocals. The evening ended on contrasted not with the American electronic band H.A.T.

This festival finished on a high note with an instrumental demonstration of electrical guitar, cello, and drums, led by Robert Bisha. Lastly, the band The River Voices consisting only of Albanian women wearing traditional clothes, sang some more isopolyphonic songs.

 

This was an opportunity to stroll in the little streets of Gjirokastër, on the look for the old stones of the UNESCO classified town. Visitors can there visit the refurbished house of the famous Albanian writer, Ismail Kadare, as well as the one of the ex-dictator Enver Hoxha, now turned into an ethnographic museum.

On top of that, the Skenduli house, one of the largest ottoman style habitations in Gjirokastër opens its doors to the curious. Mr Skenduli, the landlord, offers a commented visit in French, and her daughter in English.

Last but not least, travelers may wander in the bazaar, where embroidery and stone or wooden sculpted objects shops go one after the other.

 

An excursion to Gjirokastër gives the opportunity to every traveler to immerse him/herself into an authentic and traditional Albania, reflecting the habits and customs from the past.

Izmir Smajlaj - Albania's first ever European indoor gold medalist!

One jump. One moment to make history.

Congratulations Izmir Smajlaj - Albania's first ever European indoor gold medalist!

No one could have imagined the excitement which would take place in the final round as Albania's Izmir Smajlaj, 23, took his place on the runway, in the bronze medal position after a second round 8.02m.

His chances of gold looked over as he had a foul, a leap of just 6.58m, and then another foul before this final attempt. Surely, he was never in the form to win.

But what a last jump it proved to be as Smajlaj, who was ninth at last year's European Championships in Amsterdam, amazingly reached 8.08m, the same as Torneus, to break his own national record of 7.98m.

And even though he had those two fouls, Torneus had had three and on countback, Smajlaj was the champion as he won Albania's first ever medal in the history of the European Athletics Indoor Championships.

“I am feeling so good right now and I would like to dedicate this medal to my father,” said Smajlaj in a competition where Ukraine's Serhiy Nykyforov won bronze with 8.07m, just a centimetre away from the top two.

 

Izmir Smajlaj Izmir Smajlaj                        Izmir Smajlaj

 

 

National Geographic :Albania, one of 10 Places That Deserve More Travelers

The 9th of June, National Geographic, published an article about the 10 places that deserved to be visited the most. Albania was one of them, but also our neighbor Kosovo.

In the article is also mentioned the recent opening of the country towards the tourism compared to the other countries in the Balkan.

In the south coast there can still be found some ruins from the past. In particular Butrint, which is located only 20 min from the city of Saranda. Butrint is an archaeological site that is listed in the UNESCO World Heritage in 1992. Today it is an ancient city, under the open sky, which used to be inhabited for many centuries. The cities of Berat and Gjirokastra and the Ohrid Lake are also listed in the UNESCO. Albania is a country whose diverse aspects will know how to amaze you!

 

Autor Estelle Thomas ©Ecotour Albania

Source : http://www.nationalgeographic.com/travel/features/ten-places-that-deserve-more-travelers/

Gjirokaster

 

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Discovering Berat

Today we will head to Berat, a must visit city during your stay in Albania.

Also known as the city of thousand windows, in Berat you will enjoy the vibes of the past, an environment which you will find very pleasant.

With a very particular charm, this little city is part of World Heritage Sites by UNESCO since 2008.

The most adventurous will surely make their way up to the fortress of Berat by foot, but for the others to go there by car is also a possibility. To have a walk inside the fortress means to see closer the charming characteristic white houses of the city, to visit the ruins of this ancient fortress as well as to discover some little secrets such as the statue of the head of Constantine the Great, the church of St Theodor built with red bricks and the cistern of the Byzantine Era who was used to save the water.

In the fortress you can also find the museum of the famous Albanian painter of the 16th century, Onufri. Some of his works are placed in the museum together with other painters’ works. By entering the museum you can also visit a small church, where were found two codex of the VI th and IX th century. Today these codex’s are stored in Tirana and are also listed in the UNESCO.

From the ruins of the Berati castle you will have the opportunity to admire a view of the Tomorri Mountain, in the east of the city with a height of 2416 m. This mountain is also famous because it is a pilgrimage place for the Bektachi, second largest religion in Albania. From the castle of Berat you can also see a building that looks like the White House in Washington DC: Albanian University of Berat, a private one. Even though it is a relatively new construction it perfectly matches the architecture of the city and the traditional white houses.

Once back down in the city you can walk through the main street of Berat and so discover the main sites like the new cathedral and the big mosque.

We invite you to “get lost” in the Mangalemi neighbourhood, with small and narrow streets. There you can find the Bachelors’ Mosque and a big number of shops to pick up some souvenirs.

If you are still in for more you can cross the bridge and visit other neighbourhoods, Gorica and Kala, with multiple windows houses, who will surely enchant you.

Author Julie Terrol ©Ecotour Albania