Albania, called also Shqipëria, is one of the countries in the Balkan Peninsula, in the south-east of Europe. It borders Montenegro to the North-West, Kosovo to the north-east, Macedonian to East and Greece to South. Its coasts are bordered by the Adriatic and the Ionic Seas.

In short

Area: 28,748 km² -- Population: about 28 million -- Government: repubblica parlamentare -- Capital: Tirana -- Language: Albanian -- Religion: the majority of the population are Muslim -- Currency: Lek -- Telephone code: +355 -- Abbreviation: AL -- Province: 12 counties subdivided into districts -- Member of: the UNO since 1955


The Territory

The 80km-long Channel of Otranto separates Albania from Italy. The territory is mountainous with the highest peak being MountKorab (2764 m) in the Albanian Alps. There is a small percentage of plains and agricultural lands (approximately 700,000 hectares). The rivers are generally short, winding and subject to seasonal variation. Its coasts are sandy and low. Albania has a Mediterranean climate along the coasts and a continental climate in the inside of the country.


The majority of the Albanian population belongs to the Albanian ethnic group, which derives from the Illyrians, an Indo-European population that lived in this area since antiquity. It became a Roman Province called "Illiricum" under Julius Caesar. During the 1st century AD Christianity started to spread, then with the fall of the Eastern Roman Empire in the 15th century Albania was included in the Turkish dominions, and there was a massive wave of refugees to Europe, while those that stayed had to convert to the Muslim religion. In the early part of the 20th century Albania was for a time an Italian colony. From 1944 to 1991, Albania was a Communist republic, with ties to the Soviet Union until 1962, then to China; after 1990 the communist regime gradually collapsed and the strong political unrest and economic crisis drove many Albanians to emigrate to Kosovo, Greece, Italy. More recently however the migration is decreasing, and more opportunities are emerging.

Cities and places of interest

The capital, Tirana (279,000 ab.), situated in the center of the country, was founded by the Turks in the 12th century and still preserves today Eastern-style buildings as mosques, bazaars and dwellings. The main attractions in Tirana are: the Tanner bridge, the Fan Noli statue, the National History Museum and the Skanderbeg Museum.

Other important cities are Durazzo, one of the most ancient places in Albania, which was the main port in Illyria; conquered by the Byzantines and later by the Turks, it maintains traces of all these different civilisations in its architecture.

For those who love the mountains the best destinations are Voskopoja, situated approximately 21 km from Korca on a plateau 1160 m. above sea level; Razma, a picturesque village approximately 41 km north of Scutari, the National Park of "Lugina and Valbones" and the Thethi National Park. Historic destinations are Butrint, whose ancient name was Buthrotum, a World Heritage Site, and the Museum-City of Gjirokastra in the valley of the Drinos river in the south of Albania, a rare well-preserved Ottoman town, which is also another UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the fortress of Kruja, which was built during the 6th century. Tourist destinations along the sea are Valona, Saranda and the Divjaka beach, with a 12 km long stretch of beautiful sandy beach.