Albania

Like many of its neighbours in the region of southern Europe, Albania has had its fair share of strife over the years since its independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1912. Like the ball in some weird European game of four-square, Albania had been tossed between a couple of monarchies before being bounced around again between Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany before landing in the court of Communism, who refused to continue, took their ball and went home to sulk for 50 years. In 1990, Albania’s pleat in the iron curtain opened and the country, once again, came out to play. The following decade was not pretty, however, as the country tried to reintegrate itself into a world that, economically speaking, had left it behind. A couple of economic crises and a few instances of social unrest – both at home and just beyond its borders – affected the country greatly. Today, however, the country is moving forward with an eye toward the future and with a hand that beckons you in. From the tips of the Albanian Alps to the shores of the Mediterranean, Albania offers up everything from archeological sites and historic towns to eco-adventures such as rafting and hiking. It is also home to two UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including Berat – Town of a Thousand Windows – and the ancient town of Butrint. Though the country’s travel infrastructure still leaves a lot to be desired, they are working on it. And with a number of travel publications – including this one! – heralding the country’s visitor potential, Albania is definitely a ‘must see’ on any trip to the region. ~ Samantha McDonald-Amara


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 Full name: Republic of Albania

 Population: 3.0 million (CIA, 2012)

 Capital: Tirana (Tirane)

 Largest city: Tirana (Tirane)

 Area: 28,748 sq km (11,099.6 sq miles)

 Major languages: Albanian, Greek, Vlach,  Romani and variou Slavic dialects

 Major religions: Muslim (70%), Albanian    Orthodox (20%), Roman Catholic (10%)

 Monetary unit: Albanian Lek

 GDP per capita: US $7,800

 Internet domain: .al

 International dialling code: +355

 Source: CIA World Factbook