The 13 best places to visit in Albania

 

South of the capital, Tirana, in the centre of the country is the partially abandoned Kucove Air Base. In 2004 many of the aircraft were set aside to be scrapped in a bid to modernise the fleet, today some of those jets have been left lying around like an unofficial open air museum.

13. Kucove Air Base

 

In the centre of the country close to the western coast is the Ancient Greek city of Apollonia, the most important of several towns of the same name. Abandoned in the 3rd century the area is now a tourist attraction thanks to the few ancient structures that remain, the most notable of which are the Odeon Theatre, the Monument Of Agonothetes and the Church Of St. Mary.

Pictured is the Monument Of Agonothetes.

12. Apollonia Archaeological Park

 

Built in 1992 in the east of the country, within the town of Korçë is the pink, blue and brown coloured building known as the Resurrection Of Christ Orthodox Cathedral. The previous cathedral on this site was destroyed by Communist authorities in 1968, with the new building today seen as the landmark of the town of Korçë.

11. The Resurrection Cathedral

 

At the southern tip of the country close to the border with Greece is the former Ancient Greek and later Roman city of Buthrotum. Having been abandoned in the middle ages when a major earthquake flooded the city, today it is an archaeological site within Butrint National Park. Such is the importance of the archaeological remains, Buthrotum has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Pictured are the ruins of the ancient theatre.

10. Buthrotum

 

In the extreme east of the country is the city of Pogradec, located on the edge of Lake Ohrid that forms the natural border with Macedonia. Surrounded on the southern and western side by hills and low lying mountains, the city along with its surrounding terrain is often cited among the prettiest in Albania. 

9. Pogradec

 

In the south west of the country, within an area known as the Albanian Riviera is the relatively small 10 square kilometre (4 square mile) Llogara National Park, centred on the Ceraunian Mountains. The landscape is one of alpine meadows, rocky mountains and dense forest along the coast of the Ionian Sea. One of the best ways to view the park is by driving the Llogara Pass, reaching a height of 1,027 metres (3,369 ft) above sea level, zigzagging its way across the mountainous terrain, it is often regarded as one of the finest driving roads in the country.

Pictured is the Llogara Pass.

8. Llogara National Park

 

In the south of the country, within the Drinos River Valley is the city of Gjirokastra, a city that features a series of outstandingly preserved two storey houses that date to the 17th century. With its original 18th century mosque, two churches and a bazaar from the same period, the Historic Centre Of Gjirokastra has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

7. Gjirokastra

 

A few hours north of Gjirokastra is the city of Berat, nicknamed the 'City Of A Thousand Windows'. Visitors will find the 13th century Kala Castle, the Citadel with its many Byzantine churches as well as many Ottoman built mosques that date back to the 15th century. With this wealth of history, the Historic Centre Of Berat has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

6. Berat

 

Built in the 15th century, just to the north of the capital, Tirana, is the well preserved medieval Kruje Castle, a cultural monument of Albania. Sitting at an elevation of 557 metres (1,827 ft) above sea level, this iconic fortress cuts a fine figure beneath the peaks, and offers visitors fantastic views over the town of Kruje and the surrounding mountains.

5. Kruje Castle

 

In the western centre of the country, surrounded by hills with the high Dajti Mountain Range to the east lies Tirana, the capital and most populated city of Albania. With so many hours of sunshine per year it is one of the sunniest cities in Europe, combined with so many historical buildings and monuments from the Roman, Greek and Ottoman periods, Tirana is becoming a popular place to visit.

Pictured is the Skanderbeg Square, the centre point of the capital since 1968. The square is currently undergoing a huge re-construction process, building what are being called the ten new towers of Tirana.

4. Tirana

 

To the east of the capital, Tirana, is a 294 square kilometre (113 square mile) area of protected land known as the Dajti Mountain National Park, encompassing a mountainous area of sloped forests, canyons, caves, waterfalls and lakes. Highlights of the park include the picturesque Lake Bovilla and the enormous Mount Dajt, standing at 1,613 metres (5,292 ft) above sea level it is the parks highest peak.

3. Dajti Mountain National Park

 

In the extreme north of the country, covering a relatively small area of 26 square kilometres (10 square miles) in the Albanian Alps is the beautiful Theth National Park, a mountainous area of long deep valleys and wild forests. Dominated by high terrain, the park is notoriously difficult to navigate with accessibility either by long trek or using an extreme off road vehicle. As such this landscape of valleys, mountains, rivers, waterfalls and dense forests is one of the wildest and least visited parks on the continent.

2. Theth National Park

 

In the extreme north of the country, covering an area of some 80 square kilometres (31 square miles) within the Albanian Alps is the Valbone Valley National Park, sometimes referred to as the 'Albanian Miracle Of The Alps' or simply the 'Gem Of Albania', one of the most protected natural areas in Europe. Part of the Prokletije Mountain Range that runs into the  neighbouring Montenegro and Serbia, it is also one of the most strikingly beautiful national parks on the continent.

In an area of mountainous terrain, alpine landscapes, glacial springs, deep gorges and dense forests, the park is centred around the Valbone River Valley, formed by glaciers and tectonic detachments. Running from Mount Jezerca, 2,694 metres (8,838 ft) above sea level and down into the Shtretjti Canyon, the vast Valbone Valley really is the gem of Albania.

1. Valbonë Valley National Park

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