Unesco

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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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

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

 

Boston Globe : Albania, an undiscovered gem!

Albania and the city of Berat are considered by Boston Globe as a touristic destination for 2016. The author of this article, Christopher Muther refers to Albania as an undiscovered gem.

The author describes the lack of infrastructure, the bad condition of roads, not a good public transport and the limited access on the internet.  But according to him these are the reasons why this country is worth visiting.

In his article he also mentions’ the beautiful Albanian Riviera, referring to it as breathtaking.

Description of the Boston Globe:

This is not a place for tourists in search of luxury, or for inexperienced travelers, but I can assure you that what you get for the price you pay is really great. If you are not sure about traveling there by your own, you can contact a travel agency. For many years Albania was an isolated country, but since the fall of the communist regime it is a well - known travel destination. In Albania you may notice lack of infrastructure, bad road conditions, not a good public transport and limited internet access. But exactly because of these you should visit this undiscovered gem. The beaches along the Riviera are breathtaking.

Direct flight? NO. Best time to travel to Albania? September.          

Why Albania should be high on your travel list

Why Albania should be high on your travel list

 

From a trading city founded in 8th century BC to stunning Unesco World Heritage Sites: Why Albania should be high on your travel list (and not just for the Adriatic beach parties)

 

As the sun went down, a line of men in felt hats, baggy shirts and scarlet sashes performed a joyous dance on the terrace of a hilltop castle. 

Across a narrow ribbon of sea, the silhouette of Corfu ebbed into purple shadow. I had to remind myself that this wasn’t Greece but its less visited neighbour, Albania.

A two-hour taxi ride along roads lined with oleander bushes had brought me across the border from Greece’s Preveza airport.

A visit to the hillside town of Gjirokastra, a Unesco World Heritage Site, should be on the list of any holidaymaker in Albania

A visit to the hillside town of Gjirokastra, a Unesco World Heritage Site, should be on the list of any holidaymaker in Albania

Diana trying the First and Second World War weaponry displayed at the Gjirokastra fortress
The fortress is one of the city's most famed attractions

Diana (left) trying the First and Second World War weaponry displayed at the Gjirokastra fortress, one of the city's many attractions

A stunning night view of Berat shows that the fun is definitely not over as night falls at the Unesco World Heritage Site

A stunning night view of Berat shows that the fun is definitely not over as night falls at the Unesco World Heritage Site

Sheep and goats grazed under olive groves – a timeless pastoral scene were it not for a few small domed concrete bunkers on the hillside, survivors of the 700,000 built by Albania’s obsessively isolationist dictator Enver Hoxha.

How much had Albania changed in the 30 years since his death, I wondered? 

Arriving at the Adriatic resort of Saranda, pulsating techno music, squeals of children delightedly dodging a giant foam gun at a beach party, and people on jet skis zipping over an improbably blue sea suggested an answer.

From Saranda we set off for Butrint, a trading city founded in the 8th century BC, according to legend, by people escaping Troy. 

From there we wound through stark limestone mountains to Gjirokastra, a Unesco World Heritage site, where a massive oval fortress squats over a jumble of steep, narrow lanes and stone-roofed Ottoman houses.

The fortress is intact, but what surprised me most was the collection of First and Second World War weaponry displayed in its high-vaulted rooms.

From Gjirokastra we followed a river valley northwards to Tepelene, where a plaque commemorates the visit of Lord Byron to the castle of warlord Ali Pasha. 

Albanian men gather at the Old Bazaar Quarter in Gjirokastra with its trademark cobbled, narrow streets

Albanian men gather at the Old Bazaar Quarter in Gjirokastra with its trademark cobbled, narrow streets

Why not visit the Castle of Ali Pasha Tepelene in the bay of Porto Palermo between Qeparo and Himare while in Albania?

Why not visit the Castle of Ali Pasha Tepelene in the bay of Porto Palermo between Qeparo and Himare while in Albania?

Continuing along quiet roads with fruit sellers dozing in the shade, we reached Berat.

So many limestone Ottoman homes cluster the steep, cobbled streets that their windows have earned it the name ‘city of a thousand eyes’. 

Berat’s fortress also has eyes – 27 watchtowers. 

On an adjacent mountainside is the word ‘NEVER’ – a rearrangement of stones which once spelled Hoxha’s first name, and an affirmation that the bad times must never return.

That night at my hotel, I drank merlot from Berat’s Luani winery. 

It went down very well with the buttery pumpkin pie and lamb’s liver cooked with tomatoes and herbs. 

Plenty to do: The bustling port of Saranda has pulsating techno music, beach parties, and people riding personal watercraft

Plenty to do: The bustling port of Saranda has pulsating techno music, beach parties, and people riding personal watercraft

Gjirokastra is famed for its castle, roads paved with  limestone and shale- and slate-roofed houses that look out to the Drina Valley

Gjirokastra is famed for its castle, roads paved with limestone and shale- and slate-roofed houses that look out to the Drina Valley

In fact all the food I tasted was delicious, especially the fried mussels, known as midhje.

Peach and melon vendors hawked their wares along the road to Albania’s capital, Tirana. 

Driving in, I looked for signs of its communist past. 

A few dour barrack-like buildings remain, but modern Tirana seems lively and upbeat, with wide roads, sleek new buildings and smart shops.

My week was nearly over but a final pleasure remained – the coastal drive south back to Saranda. The shoreline was at times wild and rocky, at others dulcet and full of golden sands.

I hadn’t known what to expect of Albania but I was very glad I’d come.

Source : Daily Mail