Tourism in Albania is characterized by archaeological heritage from Illyrian, Greek, Roman and Ottoman times,unspoiled beaches, mountainous topography, delicious traditional Albanian cuisine, Cold War era artifacts, unique traditions and hospitality, low prices, and the wild and peculiar atmosphere of the countryside. Lonely Planet ranked Albania as the no. 1 destination to be visited in 2011. The New York Times ranked Albania fourth among 52 destinations to be visited in 2014. Although still underdeveloped, Albania is set to prime its debut on the world scene as it celebrates a century of independence. A Huffington Post article outlined 10 reasons for visiting Albania in 2013. Recently, Albania has been officially dubbed as “Go Your Own Way”. Previously, it was dubbed as “A New Mediterranean Love” and “Europe’s Last Secret”.
The bulk of international tourists going to Albania are mostly ethnic Albanians from Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro,Greece, Italy, and from the larger Albanian diaspora. Foreign tourists mostly come from Central and Eastern Europe, particularly from Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, and the Czech Republic. Tourists also come from Western European countries such as Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, France, UK, Scandinavia, and others including theUnited States, Turkey and countries in Asia.
Contrary to general perception, Albania is a very safe country with warm and helping people as reflected in the traditional Albanian expression Buke, Kripe e Zemer (Bread, Salt and Heart). To better enjoy ones’s stay and for useful information, first time travelers to Albania are strongly encouraged to consult online/print publications, travel forums and blogs on specific tips and itinerary, or can simply book a tour with a local tour operator. Some travelers include Albania as part of the wider Balkan tour package. Visitors with camper-vans and backpackers prefer resting at hostels or guesthouses, camping in the countryside, and along the coast. Organized groups visit the numerous archaeological sites, historic towns, or rest at seaside resorts of Durres and Shengjin. A growing trend has become canyon rafting, bird-watching, cycling, mountain biking, hiking, and off-road touring in the countryside. Other travelers enjoy exploring the trendy area of Blloku, Tirana’s entertainment district which transfers along the Albanian Rivieraduring the peak summer months. The adventurous Albanian railway system has been described by many travel guides as a tourist attraction and a de facto panoramic journey. Car rental agencies, tour operators, and tourist information centers have opened branches in the capital and other towns. Dental tourism has become popular as local dentists offer services with much lower prices. Local delicious cuisine can be tasted at traditional Albanian restaurants located in emerging agrotourism areas, near tourist attractions, and in scenic spots throughout the country.
However, tourism is hampered by local management issues such as poor road and public utilities infrastructure, unregulated waste disposal, illegal construction and hunting, uncertain land ownership, and an unqualified hospitality sector. These are due to Albania’s long isolation, but are being dealt with and improvement is being seen constantly. Most main and coastal roads, some mountainous ones, and water supply and treatment facilities have been recently reconstructed mainly through IPA pre-accession funds to the European Union. The private sector and foreign donors are heavily investing in accommodation and renovations at historical sites, while seasonal charter flights and all year round cruises are making their presence known in Tirana Airport and Albania’s main sea ports. Others are expressing interest or investing in building tourist resorts, yacht marinas, or in the attractive real estate market.