Text by Global Travel Editor Costas Christ

Albania’s isolation from the rest of the world for decades during the Cold War had an
unintended consequence. The country today retains its wild landscapes, uncrowded
historical sites, and traditional villages in a region that is one of the most
crowded tourism destinations on the planet—the Mediterranean.

I recently joined a group of 64 Albanians in the coastal town of Durres to discuss a
sustainable tourism plan, one that would help protect the natural and cultural
heritage, while improving the livelihoods of the local people. The fact that
Albanians are coming together to talk seriously about sustainable tourism as a means of economic development puts them ahead of many nearby countries that followed the
path of mass tourism development, which has left behind damaged ecosystems,
polluted beaches, and vanishing local culture (think Santorini in Greece,
Provence in France, or the Costa del Sol in Spain).
While uncontrolled tourism has already spread to some parts of Albania (the coastal town of Durres suffers from chaotic concrete block hotel development, a glut of tourist bars, and litter in the streets), much of the rest of the country still offers a chance to experience traditional Mediterranean life that has become increasingly rare in the region. 

During my trip, the Albanians I met were friendly, the prices
cheap, the local food excellent. Traditional music thrives, and the rugged
mountains provide truly off-the-beaten-trail Mediterranean hiking. Of course,
there is also a down side to being an emerging tourism destination (if you
consider it that way). Like all less trodden countries, very few businesses
outside the capital city of Tirana accept credit cards or even take travelers checks, so carry cash. Because tourists remain a rarity in the remote mountains, the locals still have their sheep dogs trained to attack anything that comes close to their flocks, just as they have done for centuries. My advice, if you get cornered by a sheep dog on the trail, is just to back away slowly–the apologetic and smiling shepherd will
show up quickly to call off his dog (and probably invite you to share food with
his family, too). Expect short travel distances between towns and villages, but
long drives to get there–the roads are not up the standards of the rest of Europe. For the more adventurous traveler, these are not problems, and might even be welcome signs that all uniqueness is not lost in the age of global-brand tourism.

If Albania plans it right—and a growing number of Albanians are calling for sustainable tourism development to avoid the mistakes of tourism gone wrong in other parts of the Mediterranean—the once forgotten
country could emerge as a model of destination stewardship in ten years time (or
even less). By supporting the Albanians who are working hard to put sustainable tourism into action in their country,we can help that process. I am already planning my next trip to Albania in June,
this time to the Korca region. Here are the resources you’ll need to plan your own
trip.

Adventure Guide: Albania

Ben Cipa, owns Sipa Tours (www.sipatours.com) in southern Albania (bordering the Greek island Corfu and organizes guided treks across isolated beaches and sea-hugging mountains, eating and sleeping in villages along the way. He comes from a family of Albanian artists and poets and is an incredible folk dancer (his real passion), whom I had the good fortune to see in action during a late night of wine and raki.

Sonia Popa, operates Gulliver OK (www.gulliver-OK.com), a travel company based in the capital, Tirana. She specializes in cultural experiences and historical sites and is passionate about making sustainable tourism a reality in her country. She’ll send someone to meet you at the airport and set up an itinerary suited to your own interests, including places like Butrinti National Park, a World Heritage Site.

Gent Mati and Laura Payne run Outdoor Albania (www.outdooralbania.com)
and can get you into the farthest and most wild areas of the country – trekking,
biking, and kayaking – including the northern Albanian Alps. These are the folks
to go to for less touristed experiences in a place that isn’t even on the
tourist path to start with.

Comments

  1. www.edialtour.com
    February 19, 2010, 2:38 pm

    Ti have a wonderfull holidays in Albania now is very easy, visit http://www.edialtour.com and find hotels in tirana, vlora, berat, durres, saranda, shkodra, dhermi, pogradec, korca etc.

  2. www.albanian-hotels.com
    February 19, 2010, 2:41 pm

    Welcome to the Albanian hotels, We are a tour operator in Albania to offer hotels in all cities and villages of Albania, Tirana, Durres, Vlora, Saranda, Korça, Pogradec, Shkodra, Voskopoja, Shengjin, Velipoje, Radhime, Dhermi , Kukes, Golem, Lushnja, Berat, Gjirokastra, Voskopoje, Fier, Elbasan, etc.We also offer a categories hotels in Albania such as hotels and business hotels, beach hotels, hotels mountain hotels airport, hotels, etc. At http://www.albanian-hotels.com page you’ll be able to obtain all relevant information for each hotel in Albania, and also located using Google Earth, the exact price by type of hotel rooms that you can see what is included in the price, picture gallery for each hotel, etc and meny other information of Albania Hotels. This web-site take all those details from a database of highly detailed information from the Albanian Hotels Portals that is http://www.edialtour.com.

  3. www.albania-hotel.al
    February 19, 2010, 2:43 pm

    Welcome to the Albanian hotels, We are a tour operator in Albania to offer hotels in all cities and villages of Albania, Tirana, Durres, Vlora, Saranda, Korça, Pogradec, Shkodra, Voskopoja, Shengjin, Velipoje, Radhime, Dhermi , Kukes, Golem, Lushnja, Berat, Gjirokastra, Voskopoje, Fier, Elbasan, etc.We also offer a categories hotels in Albania such as hotels and business hotels, beach hotels, hotels mountain hotels airport, hotels, etc. At http://www.albanian-hotels.com page you’ll be able to obtain all relevant information for each hotel in Albania, and also located using Google Earth, the exact price by type of hotel rooms that you can see what is included in the price, picture gallery for each hotel, etc and meny other information of Albania Hotels. This web-site take all those details from a database of highly detailed information from the Albanian Hotels Portals that is http://www.edialtour.com.

  4. Escape Lodges
    July 28, 2010, 1:20 pm

    I’m alway looking for somewhere different to visit, Albania was somewhere I’d never thought off, thanks for the link, i’ll look into it for next year :o)

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    July 30, 2010, 10:35 am

    Green and eco hotels are becoming so much more popular these days. I believe that this will become more prominent in the future as we as human beings become more in touch with our roots to nature

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    October 27, 2010, 6:48 pm

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  7. hotels in Huntington beach
    November 7, 2010, 8:01 am

    Albania is awesome.Bravo, keep up the good work!EVERYONE SHOULD GO TO ALBANIA!! once in there life.

  8. www.digi-travel.com
    November 26, 2010, 4:31 am

    Shqiperia ka shume vende te bukura qe nuk njihen nga turistet dhe kane nevoje per promocion. Gjithashtu ka nevoje edhe per hoteleri dhe guida turistike. Operatoret online qe ofrojne keto sherbime si psh: http://www.digi-travel.com, etj. sapo kane filluar promovimin e ketyre bukurive.

  9. www.digi-travel.com
    November 26, 2010, 4:33 am

    Discover Albania with http://www.digi-travel.com Find Hotels in Albania, Tirana, Vlora, Saranda, Durres, Berat, Korca, Pogradec, Shkodra, Himare, Orikum, Dhermi, Borsh, Ksamil, Golem, Divjake, Theth, Valbone, Velipoje, Shengjin, Spille, Radhime, Llogara

  10. Shkelqim (Jimmy)
    December 18, 2010, 4:44 am

    Dear Sir/ Madam
    I’m Tour operator here in Albania, i would like if is possible to have any kind of cooperation in the domain of tourism. My website; http://www.albaniaprivatetours.com
    Welcome, your Albanian-run one-stop shop for all your needs down here. Welcome to Albania
    My name is Shkelqim (Jimmy) Lama and I have been working in tourism site since 2003 in Albania and abroad. This has not only allowed me to travel the world and marvel at its beauties, but also to understand how my own country, Albania is now a new destination for many foreign Tourist as a new experience of the world… what makes it unique and worthwhile to discover by foreign guests. This is what inspired me to become a licensed local guide and start introducing my country to others. I have since organized and lead sightseeing trips in Tirana and All around Albania,
    I work well as a hop on guide on bus tours, but my strong point lies in tours with individual travelers or small groups, to whom I also provide transportation. Such a group size allows me to build a close relationship with my travelers, to better cater to the wishes of each and every one of them and to highly customize the tour itinerary according to those wishes.
    I look forward to hear from you,
    TIRANA SERVICES

  11. Elton
    January 13, 2011, 9:45 am

    Come to Albania as this is probably one of the less “untouristic” countries in Europe. In a positive sense of course. For many of the french, english or italian tourists i showed the country to, this is what the countries of their grandfathers used to look like about 50 years ago. This is a trip in time, space, cuisine, hospitality and of course landscape! This is a trip! This is http://www.albaniantrip.com!

  12. sdfghjk
    February 6, 2011, 4:35 pm

    http://www.hotel-albania.com – Hotels in Albania: A Directory of Hotel Listings in Albania

  13. Tour operator Sri Lanka
    June 13, 2011, 5:30 am

    Albania is the Medieval Latin name of the country which is called Shqipëri by its people. In Medieval Greek, the country’s name is Albania besides variants Albanitia,It is a nice country would like to recommended to everybody.

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  16. Orieta
    January 8, 2012, 1:43 pm

    If you choose to visit Albania through Korca Region you definitely had to organize your trip through the Tourist Info Center in Korca City. There you can find professional tourist guides, or arrange your visit to the museums through the office. Please check http://www.visit-korca.com and have a nice trip to the Korca Region :)

  17. Endri
    January 15, 2012, 6:13 pm

    If you are searching info for hiking trails in Albania I recommend visiting palmtreeproduction.com and endritstrail.blog.com
    Other good sources for adventure GPS tracks are also everytrail.com and wikiloc.com
    Enjoy

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