Albania tourist information
Albania, officially known as the Republic of Albania, is a country in Southeastern Europe, in the Balkans region. It is bordered by Montenegro to the northwest, Kosovo[a] to the northeast, the Republic of Macedonia to the east and Greece to the south and southeast. It has a coast on the Adriatic Sea to the west, and on the Ionian Sea to the southwest. It is less than 72 km (45 mi) from Italy, across the Strait of Otranto which links the Adriatic Sea to the Ionian Sea. Albania is a member of the UN, NATO, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, Council of Europe, World Trade Organisation, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and one of the founding members of the Union for the Mediterranean. Albania has been a potential candidate for accession to the European Union since January 2003, and it formally applied for EU membership on 28 April 2009. Along with Kosovo, Albania has the distinction of being the only Muslim-majority sovereign countries wholly within Europe, although the population is largely secular.
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Albania is a parliamentary democracy with a transition economy. The Albanian capital, Tirana, is home to approximately 600,000 of the country's 3,000,000 people. Free-market reforms have opened the country to foreign investment, especially in the development of energy and transportation infrastructure. Albania was chosen as the No.1 Destination in Lonely Planet's list of ten top countries to visit for 2011.
Albania has a total area of 28,748 square kilometers. It lies between latitudes 39Â° and 43Â° N, and mostly between longitudes 19Â° and 21Â° E (a small area lies east of 21Â°). Albania's coastline length is 476 km (296 mi):240 and extends along the Adriatic and Ionian Seas. The lowlands of the west face the Adriatic Sea. The 70% of the country that is mountainous is rugged and often inaccessible from the outside. The highest mountain is Korab situated in the district of DibĂ«r, reaching up to 2,753 metres (9,032 ft). The climate on the coast is typically Mediterranean with mild, wet winters and warm, sunny, and rather dry summers.
Inland conditions vary depending on altitude, but the higher areas above 1,500 m/5,000 ft are rather cold and frequently snowy in winter; here cold conditions with snow may linger into spring. Besides the capital city of Tirana, which has 800,000 inhabitants, the principal cities are DurrĂ«s, KorĂ§Ă«, Elbasan, ShkodĂ«r, GjirokastĂ«r, VlorĂ« and KukĂ«s. In Albanian grammar, a word can have indefinite and definite forms, and this also applies to city names: both TiranĂ« and Tirana, ShkodĂ«r and Shkodra are used.
The three largest and deepest tectonic lakes of the Balkan Peninsula are partly located in Albania. Lake ShkodĂ«r in the country's northwest has a surface which can vary between 370 km2 (140 sq mi) and 530 km2, out of which one third belongs to Albania and rest to Montenegro. The Albanian shoreline of the lake is 57 km (35 mi). Ohrid Lake is situated in the country's southeast and is shared between Albania and Republic of Macedonia. It has a maximal depth of 289 meters and a variety of unique flora and fauna can be found there, including "living fossils" and many endemic species. Because of its natural and historical value, Ohrid Lake is under the protection of UNESCO. There is also Butrinti Lake which is a small tectonic lake. It is located in the national park of Butrint.
With its coastline facing the Adriatic and Ionian seas, its highlands backed upon the elevated Balkan landmass, and the entire country lying at a latitude subject to a variety of weather patterns during the winter and summer seasons, Albania has a high number of climatic regions relative to its landmass. The coastal lowlands have typically Mediterranean weather; the highlands have a Mediterranean continental climate. In both the lowlands and the interior, the weather varies markedly from north to south.
The lowlands have mild winters, averaging about 7 Â°C (45 Â°F). Summer temperatures average 24 Â°C (75 Â°F). In the southern lowlands, temperatures average about 5 Â°C (9 Â°F) higher throughout the year. The difference is greater than 5 Â°C (9 Â°F) during the summer and somewhat less during the winter.
Inland temperatures are affected more by differences in elevation than by latitude or any other factor. Low winter temperatures in the mountains are caused by the continental air mass that dominates the weather in Eastern Europe and the Balkans. Northerly and northeasterly winds blow much of the time. Average summer temperatures are lower than in the coastal areas and much lower at higher elevations, but daily fluctuations are greater. Daytime maximum temperatures in the interior basins and river valleys are very high, but the nights are almost always cool.
Average precipitation is heavy, a result of the convergence of the prevailing airflow from the Mediterranean Sea and the continental air mass. Because they usually meet at the point where the terrain rises, the heaviest rain falls in the central uplands. Vertical currents initiated when the Mediterranean air is uplifted also cause frequent thunderstorms. Many of these storms are accompanied by high local winds and torrential downpours.
When the continental air mass is weak, Mediterranean winds drop their moisture farther inland. When there is a dominant continental air mass, cold air spills onto the lowland areas, which occurs most frequently in the winter. Because the season's lower temperatures damage olive trees and citrus fruits, groves and orchards are restricted to sheltered places with southern and western exposures, even in areas with high average winter temperatures.
Lowland rainfall averages from 1,000 millimeters (39.4 in) to more than 1,500 millimeters (59.1 in) annually, with the higher levels in the north. Nearly 95% of the rain falls in the winter.
Rainfall in the upland mountain ranges is heavier. Adequate records are not available, and estimates vary widely, but annual averages are probably about 1,800 millimeters (70.9 in) and are as high as 2,550 millimeters (100.4 in) in some northern areas. The western Albanian Alps (valley of Boga) are among the wettest areas in Europe, receiving some 3,100 mm (122.0 in) of rain annually. The seasonal variation is not quite as great in the coastal area.
The higher inland mountains receive less precipitation than the intermediate uplands. Terrain differences cause wide local variations, but the seasonal distribution is the most consistent of any area.
In 2009 an expedition from University of Colorado discovered four small glaciers in the 'Cursed' mountains in North Albania. The glaciers are at the relatively low level of 2,000 meters â almost unique for such a southerly latitude.
Currently there are three main four lane highways in Albania: the highway connecting the city of DurrĂ«s with Tirana, that connecting DurrĂ«s with Vlore and the Albania-Kosovo Highway.
The Albania-Kosovo Highway links Kosovo to Albania's Adriatic coast: the Albanian side was completed in June 2009, and now it takes only two hours and a half to go from the Kosovo border to DurrĂ«s. Overall the highway will be around 250 km (155 mi) when it reaches Pristina. The project was the biggest and most expensive infrastructure project ever undertaken in Albania. The cost of the highway appears to have breached âŹ800 million, although the exact cost for the total highway has yet to be confirmed by the government.
Two additional highways will be built in Albania in the near future: Corridor VIII, which will link Albania with the Republic of Macedonia and Bulgaria, and the north-south highway, which corresponds to the Albanian side of the AdriaticâIonian motorway, a larger regional highway connecting Croatia with Greece along the Adriatic and Ionian coasts. When all three corridors are completed Albania will have an estimated 759 kilometers of highway linking it with all its neighboring countries: Kosovo, the Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, and Greece.
The civil air transport in Albania marked its beginnings in November 1924, when the Republic of Albania signed a governmental agreement with German Air Company Deutsche Luft Hansa. On the basis of a ten-year concession agreement, the Albanian Airlines Company Adria Aero Lloyd was established. In the spring of 1925, the first domestic flights from Tirana to Shkoder and Vlora began.
In August 1927, the office of Civil Aviation of Air Traffic Ministry of Italy purchased Adria Aero Lloyd. The company, now in Italian hands, expanded its flights to other cities, such as Elbasan, KorĂ§a, KukĂ«si, Peshkopia and Gjirokastra, and opened up international lines to Rome, Milan, Thessaloniki, Sofia, Belgrade, and Podgorica.
The construction of a more modern airport in Lapraka started in 1934 and was completed by the end of 1935. This new airport, which was later officially named "Airport of Tirana", was constructed in conformity with optimal technological parameters of that time, with a reinforced concrete runway of 12,400 m (40,682 ft), and complemented with technical equipment and appropriate buildings.
During 1955â1957, the Rinasi Airport was constructed for military purposes. Later, its administration was shifted to the Ministry of Transport. On 25 January 1957 the State-owned Enterprise of International Air Transport (Albtransport) established its headquarters in Tirana. Aeroflot, Jat, Malev, Tarom and Interflug were the air companies that started to have flights with Albania until 1960.
During 1960â1978, several airlines ceased to operate in Albania due to the impact of the politics, resulting in a decrease of influx of flights and passengers. In 1977 Albania's government signed an agreement with Greece to open the country's first air links with non-communist Europe. As a result, Olympic Airways was the first non-communist airline to commercially fly into Albania after World War II. By 1991 Albania had air links with many major European cities, including Paris, Rome, Zurich, Vienna and Budapest, but no regular domestic air service.
A French-Albanian joint venture Ada Air, was launched in Albania as the first private airline, in 1991. The company offered flights in a thirty-six-passenger airplane four days a week between Tirana and Bari, Italy and a charter service for domestic and international destinations.
From 1989 to 1991, because of political changes in the Eastern European countries, Albania adhered to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), opened its air space to international flights, and had its duties of Air Traffic Control defined. As a result of these developments, conditions were created to separate the activities of air traffic control from Albtransport. Instead, the National Agency of Air Traffic (NATA) was established as an independent enterprise. In addition, during these years, governmental agreements of civil air transport were established with countries such as Bulgaria, Germany, Slovenia, Italy, Russia, Austria, the UK and Macedonia. The Directory General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) was established on 3 February 1991, to cope with the development required by the time.
As of 2007 Albania has one international airport: Tirana International Airport NĂ«nĂ« Tereza. The airport is linked to 29 destinations by 14 airlines. It has seen a dramatic rise in passenger numbers and aircraft movements since the early 1990s. The data for 2009 is 1.3 million passengers served and an average of 44 landings and takeoffs per day.
The railways in Albania are administered by the national railway company Hekurudha Shqiptare (HSH) (which means Albanian Railways). It operates a 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1â2 in) gauge (standard gauge) rail system in Albania. All trains are hauled by Czech-built ÄKD diesel-electric locomotives.
The railway system was extensively promoted by the totalitarian regime of Enver Hoxha, during which time the use of private transport was effectively prohibited. Since the collapse of the former regime, there has been a considerable increase in car ownership and bus usage. Whilst some of the country's roads are still in very poor condition, there have been other developments (such as the construction of a motorway between Tirana and DurrĂ«s) which have taken much traffic away from the railways.
Albanian folk music falls into three stylistic groups, with other important music areas around ShkodĂ«r and Tirana; the major groupings are the Ghegs of the north and southern Labs and Tosks. The northern and southern traditions are contrasted by the "rugged and heroic" tone of the north and the "relaxed" form of the south.
These disparate styles are unified by "the intensity that both performers and listeners give to their music as a medium for patriotic expression and as a vehicle carrying the narrative of oral history", as well as certain characteristics like the use of obscure rhythms such as 3/8, 5/8 and 10/8. The first compilation of Albanian folk music was made by PjetĂ«r Dungu in 1940.
Albanian folk songs can be divided into major groups, the heroic epics of the north, and the sweetly melodic lullabies, love songs, wedding music, work songs and other kinds of song. The music of various festivals and holidays is also an important part of Albanian folk song, especially those that celebrate St. Lazarus Day, which inaugurates the springtime. Lullabies and vajtims are very important kinds of Albanian folk song, and are generally performed by solo women.
The cuisine of Albania â as with most Mediterranean and Balkan nations â is strongly influenced by its long history. At different times, the territory which is now Albania has been claimed or occupied by Greece, Bulgaria, Italy and the Ottoman Turks and each group has left its mark on Albanian cuisine. The main meal of Albanians is lunch, and it is usually accompanied by a salad of fresh vegetables, such as tomatoes, cucumbers, green peppers and olives with olive oil, vinegar and salt. Lunch also includes a main dish of vegetables and meat. Seafood specialties are also common in the coastal cities of DurrĂ«s, SarandĂ« and VlorĂ«. In high altitude localities, smoked meat and pickling is very common.