Friendly, tolerant people, fascinating Ottoman cities teeming with history, magnificent mountain scenery and charming villages: Albania is a varied destination offering many pleasures. Hikers will love the Albanian Alps or the Tomorri massif, whilst cyclists will find a network of ancient tracks criss-crossing the country. Archaeology buffs can spend hours in the complex sites of Butrint and Byllis, history-lovers have plenty of ancient castles, Ottoman fortresses and the museum cities of Berati and Gjirokastra to explore, and art connoisseurs should visit the little-known medieval churches, with their beautiful frescoes, and the icon collections in Tirana, Korça and Berati.
At the end of a full day's exploration, enjoy menus boasting delicious seafood, mountain lamb, organic fruit and vegetables and, of course, excellent Albanian wine.
Things to see and do in Albania
Birdwatch in the coastal wetlands of Karavastaja, the westernmost breeding site of the Dalmatian pelican, or Kune-Vaini, home to spotted eagles, spoonbills and herons.
Don't miss the ancient city of Butrint, with archaeological remains spanning 2,500 years. Embark on one of the suggested walks or take a boat trip around the park.
Cycle through the Gramoz mountains from Korça to Përmeti. Allow time to enjoy the dramatic views and sample the food in the restaurants along the way.
Explore archeological sites
See interesting and accessible archaeological sites, such as the abandoned city of Apollonia and the Roman amphitheatre in Durrësi. Byllis is a little harder to get to, but well worth the effort.
Gjirokastra and Berati
Explore the Ottoman cities of Gjirokastra and Berati, with their unique domestic architecture and their imposing hilltop castles.
Hike in Albania's magnificent mountains. The two areas with the best infrastructure (in terms of accommodation, guides etc) are the Albanian Alps in the far north and the Tomorri massif in the southeast. Outdoor Albania organises hiking, skiing and mountain-biking tours throughout the country.
Make the easy day trip from Tirana to the family seat of Albania's 15th-century hero, Skanderbeg. Within the medieval castle's walls are two interesting museums. The restored Ottoman bazaar just outside the castle offers the best souvenir-shopping in Albania.
Lake Komani ferry
Take the ferry up the jade waters of Lake Komani, hemmed in on both sides with towering cliffs. Look out for pygmy cormorants, herons and golden eagles.
Built before the Roman conquest, this castle in Shkodra was last used for military purposes as recently as 1913. Rozafa was the last fortress in Albania to fall to the Ottomans, in 1479.
Tirana's communist past
Sights include the murals and statues in the city centre, the house where Enver Hoxha lived and the Pyramid, built as his mausoleum. Afterwards, take a bus or taxi up to the Martyrs' (partisans') Cemetery, with its statue of Mother Albania.
View religious art
The national collections of religious art, in Tirana, Korça and Berati, contain wonderful icons painted by the 16th-century artist Onufri and his successors in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Admire the vibrant colours of the frescoes in Albania's little-known churches. Voskopoja, near Korça, was once the largest city in the Balkans, full of churches and basilicas, and with its own academy where artists were trained.
Go white-water rafting through the spectacular canyons of the Osumi River. Outdoor Albania has qualified and experienced guides, or the Castle Park Hotel in Berati organises rafting weekends.