Albania is one of the most unspoiled countries of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Bloc. Although not as developed in terms of economy and tourism as many of its larger, more powerful Western European neighbors, Albania travel is a growing trend, as the country has gorgeous natural scenery, well-preserved historical towns and monuments, and a rich culture. Located on the Adriatic and Ionian Seas with a coastline facing that of Italy, Albania enjoys a mild Mediterranean climate similar to the coasts of Italy and Greece, its neighbors.

International travelers will most likely fly into the international airport at Tirana, and you can get around the country easily either by renting a car, though keep in mind that an international driving license is required, or by taking the inexpensive public or private bus systems.

Tirana, the capital city, is a bustling metropolis with lots of nightclubs, bars, and restaurants. Although quite crowded, the municipal government is making increasing efforts to beautify the city and make it more tourist-friendly, and you'll find it a charming introduction to the country. The main square has a mosque built in the 1800s, reflecting the religious and cultural background of some of Albania's inhabitants, as well as the National History Museum, a great place to get some background knowledge of the country and the achievements and suffering of the past. One of the most popular sights near Tirana is Petrela Castle, a fortress that has been in existence since the fourth century, although the parts that survive date from the Byzantine era. You'll also want to climb up Mount Dajti, which is a hub for mountain sports and has an amazing view of the entire surrounding area. In the evening, head to Tajvani, a downtown area with restaurants, casinos, ice cream parlors, and a giant lit water fountain.

Another popular destination for Albania travel is the historical city of Berat, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is one of the best-preserved examples of Ottoman architecture and historical monuments, and is situated in gorgeous natural surroundings. The town has been built in a gorge on the river Osum, with pine forests covering the craggy mountains all around. Berat Castle, the historical citadel of the town, is the main sight, with ancient ruins dating from the thirteenth century. The town is known for its traditional architecture, with Byzantine churches sharing the roads with fifteenth-century mosques and Ottoman-style buildings.

Mix your cultural wanderings with a little beach fun at one of the pristine beaches on Albania's coast. Head to Saranda on the southern coast of Albania for sunny weather and lovely views of the Ionian Sea. Known for its beautiful spring blooms, Sarande is also located in a sunny bay where you can walk on the waterfront promenade and jump in for a swim. Nearby there are quiet islands at Ksamili, a small beach town, along with some secluded islands where you can travel by boat. Close to Sarande and Ksamili is the archeological site of Butrint, a major stop for Albania travel. This ancient ruin houses the remains of buildings and churches from the Greek, Roman, and Byzantine periods.

Wherever you go in Albania, you'll be treated to friendly hosts, delicious organic and local food, colorful local culture, and a growing wine making tradition. You'll be amply rewarded for going slightly off the beaten track by traveling to this beautiful little country.

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