When we do Europe, we tend to tick off the classics. While Italy and France have well-earned their prestige, there are so many smaller countries that simply go unnoticed. Situated on Europe’s South-eastern Balkan Peninsula, Albania is one of the most overlooked destinations that European locals have been keeping to themselves. Enough is enough, we say!

Bounded by Montenegro, Greece, Kosovo and Macedonia, Albania oozes exploration and wonder. This traveller’s wonderland has the refined beauty of the European coastline, paired with luscious valleys carved deep into mountains. Boasting a varying diversity of dry Mediterranean summers and harsh, frosty winters, the Albanian landscape has a touch of everything. Their beaches are as translucent and tranquil as Greece, and their snow-capped Alps are as towering and majestic as Scotland’s peaks. Albania is truly picturesque.

 

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It wasn’t until the 1990s that a long-coming revolution occurred, ridding the hold of Communism and forming the fourth Republic of Albania. Bathed in such a rich and recent history, Albania is no ordinary destination. Any amount of time spent here is eye-opening to the effects of war, but this has also made the locals as humble as they come.

Hands down we are just going to claim this right now – Albania is the new Croatia. Tourism has spiked, and it is easy to see why.

 

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You might have noticed the capital city Tirana, on most Contiki and Top Deck destination stops. Tirana’s streets are scattered in market stalls selling locally grown produce and dripping in colour. A former Mayor who doubled as a painter commissioned a colour campaign (the best kind of campaign) that is giving us some serious De Blob Wii flashbacks. Building parks of greenery and literally painting the town in colour – while not very politically effective at the time – made for one seriously attractive makeover. You can now roam the streets of Tirana to find reduced crime rates, vibrant colours and geometric patterns scattering the buildings of a proud nation. While it’s not the lustrous, pastel perfection of Notting Hill, Tirana offers an authentic, imperfect city view.

 

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If you’re seeking an off-the-beaten-path location other than the capital city, check out Durrës, Sarande, Korçë, Krujë and Shkodër – there’s nothing more enticingly foreign than umlauts on e’s! Filled with medieval castles, bird watching, monasteries, and citadels, do your research and safely travel the depths of Albania.

P.S: Keep an eye out and you’ll see the name Illyria from She’s the Man, scattered around Albania as the ancient location of the Twelfth Night, Shakespeare inspired comedy.

For a little more travel inspo, check out the doco Dear Albania on Netflix and bathe in wanderlust.It is the unconventional destinations that can end up being the most remarkable.

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