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Albania Trips

The proud Balkan nation of Albania is filled with rugged mountains, commanding hill-top palaces, and impenetrable fortifications. Its rural villages remain bastions of tradition – places to hear distinctive polyphonic folk songs that recall everything from epic hero struggles to long lost loves – whilst its ancient stone-built towns are filled with myth, bravado, and elegance.

Perched between Montenegro, Kosovo, Serbia, Macedonia and Greece, Albania fronts more than 450 km of coast and boasts 300 days of sun, making it a prime draw for beach-goers. Inland, some 70% of the national territory is mountainous, supporting a wide variety of micro-climates and eco-systems – great country for hiking and wildlife observation. Albania’s mountains and forests are home to 80 species of mammals, including wolves, bears, boars, and wild cats; 350 species of birds; 330 species of freshwater and marine fish; and 3250 plant species. The countryside also boasts plenty of waterfalls, canyons and gorges, rivers and lakes, all great for kayaking and rafting, swimming, or fishing.

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Albania has been inhabited since ancient times and its archaeological sites include a plethora of Greek, Roman, and early Christian structures, valuable murals and mosaics. Today, the country’s state-lines roughly correspond to the Kingdom of Arberia, established in the 13th century by the King of Naples.

In the 15th century, the region famously resisted Ottoman occupation - the military exploits of George Kastrioti Skanderbeg, hero and leader of the resistance, chronicle a titanic struggle that has long since entered Albanian lore. After his death in 1468, Albania finally succumbed to Ottoman rule, becoming a vital pillar of the empire until Albanian national consciousness awakened in the early 20th century. Numerous fine mosques and palaces – along with the widespread practise of Islam - are among the legacies of the Ottoman era.

During the Second World War, Albania was occupied by both Italian Fascists and German Nazis. It was liberated by Soviet forces in 1944 and declared the Socialist People’s Republic of Albania. The dictator Enver Hoxha banned religion, curtailed civil liberties, and destroyed many of the country’s finest religious architecture. On the plus side, Albania became the only country in the world not to impose taxes on its population.

The present-day Republic of Albania was established after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. Following some social and economic crises in the late 1990s, the country has now successfully adjusted to a market economy and is now in the process of re-discovering itself. The capital city of Tirana, exuding energy, determination, and youthfulness, is the place to see the new Albania.

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