History | Demography | Geography | Flora | Fauna

Albania is what remains from Illyria , it is generally recognized today that the Albanians are the most ancient race in southeastern Europe . All indications point to the fact that they are descendants of the earliest Aryan immigrants who were represented in historical times by the kindred Illyrians, Macedonians and Epirots.

The Albanian language is entirely distinct from the tongues spoken by the neighboring nationalities. This language is particularly interesting as the only surviving representative of the so-called Thraco-Illyrian group of languages, which formed the primitive speech of the inhabitants of the Balkan Peninsula . Something very interesting is that the Albanian language offers the best rational explanation of the meaning of the names of the ancient Greek gods as well as the rest of the mythological creations, so as exactly to correspond with the characteristics attributed to these gods by the men of those times. The explanations are so convincing as to confirm the opinion that the ancient Greek mythology had been borrowed, in its entirety, from the Illyrian-Pelasgians.

The earliest known king of Illyria was Hyllus (The Star) who is recorded to have died in the year 1225 B.C. The Kingdom, however, reached its zenith in the fourth century B.C. when Bardhylus (White Star), one of the most prominent of the Illyrian kings, united under scepter the kingdoms of Illyria, Molossia (Epirus*) and a good part of Macedonia.

During the Roman Empire the Romans ruled Illyria (as the province of Illyricum ) for about six centuries. Under Roman rule Illyrian society underwent great change, especially in its outward, material aspect. Art and culture flourished, particularly in Apollonia, whose school of philosophy became celebrated in antiquity. To a great extent, though, the Illyrians resisted assimilation into Roman culture. Illyrian culture survived, along with the Illyrian tongue, though many Latin words entered the language and later became a part of the Albanian language.

When the Roman Empire was divided into east and west in 395, the territories of modern Albania became part of the Byzantine Empire . As in the Roman Empire , some Illyrians rose to positions of eminence in the new empire. Three of the emperors who shaped the early history of Byzantium (reigning from 491 to 565) were of Illyrian origin: Anastasius I, Justin I, and the most celebrated of Byzantine emperors: Justinian I.

In the course of several centuries, under the impact of Roman, Byzantine, and Slavic cultures, the tribes of southern Illyria underwent a transformation, and a transition occurred from the old Illyrian population to a new Albanian one. As a consequence, from the 8th to the 11th century, the name Illyria gradually gave way to the name, first mentioned in the 2nd century AD by the geographer Ptolemy of Alexandria, of the Albanoi tribe, which inhabited what is now central Albania . From a single tribe the name spread to include the rest of the country as Arbri and, finally, Albania .

The Ottoman Turks invaded Albania in 1388 and completed the occupation of the country about four decades later (1430). But after 1443 the Albanian of military genius Gjergj Kastrioti (1405-68), known as Skenderbeg, rallied the Albanian princes and succeeded in driving the occupiers out. For the next 25 years, operating out of his stronghold in the mountain town of Kruja , Skenderbeg frustrated every attempt by the Turks to regain Albania , which they envisioned as a springboard for the invasion of Italy and Western Europe .

At the beginning of the previous century, alarmed at the prospect of Albanian autonomy, Albania 's Balkan neighbors, who had already made plans to partition the region, declared war on Turkey in October 1912, and Greek, Serbian, and Montenegrin armies advanced into Albanian territories. To prevent the annihilation of the country, Albanian national delegates met at a congress in Vlora. They were led by Ismail Qemal, an Albanian who had held several high positions in the Ottoman government. On Nov. 28, 1912 , the congress issued the Vlora proclamation, which declared Albania 's independence.

After the defeat of Turkey the Great Powers while drawing the borders of the new state, owing to strong pressure from Albania's neighbors, they ignored demographic realities and ceded the vast region of Kosova to Serbia, while, in the south, Greece was given the greater part of Ameria, a part of the old region of Epirus centered on the Thamis River. Many observers doubted whether the new state would be viable with about one-half of Albanian lands and population left outside its borders, especially since these lands were the most productive in food grains and livestock. On the other hand, a small community of about 35,000 ethnic Greeks was included within Albania 's borders.
Albania then went through a monarchy with king Zogu and later on with a free government with Bishop Noli.

Using Albania as a military base, in October 1940, Italian forces invaded Greece , but they were quickly thrown back into Albania . After Nazi Germany defeated Greece and Yugoslavia in 1941, the regions of Kosova and Ameria were joined to Albania , thus creating an ethnically united Albanian state. After the WWII Albania became a communist country under the rule of Enver Hoxha. After his death in 1985 Albania continued to be a communist country until 1990.
The new democratic system has a very new political class with many parties but two of them are particularly important, the Democratic Party and the Socialist Party.

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Demography (Top)
The population of Albania is 3,5 million inhabitants, with a density of 113 persons per square kilometer. The overwhelming majority of the population (about 65%) lives in the countryside.
In Albania , the number of males is greater than that of females. For 1000 female, there are 1080 males in the countryside and 1030 males in the cities. The average life expectancy is 72 years, which is 75 years for the women and 69 for men.
National minorities represent about 2% of the population and they consist mainly of Greek (in the southern part of the country) and Macedonians (in the Prespa area).

Geography (Top)
Albania , coastline 362 km, with geographic coordinates: 41N, 20E, with 28.748 km2 (11.100 sq miles), with population of 3.350.000+ and density of 113.4 population/km2 is wild and mountainous, with extensive forests, sandy beaches and many beautiful lakes. It shares borders with Montenegro and Kosovo to the north, with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to the northeast and Greece to the south. To the west lie the Adriatic and Ionian Seas .
Tourism development in Albania becomes possible for several reasons:

* Rich culture with an amazing history
* Very favorable geographic position with a very favorable and healthy climate.
* On the average, there are 120 days yearly characterized by temperatures higher than 20 C and about 120 sunny days. Albania ranks second in Europe , that is after Spain , for sunny duration within a day.
* Unspoiled environment. The Albanian nature and ecology provide the possibility for the development of all kinds of tourism, green, white and entertainment tourism.

Albania lies on the Western part of the Balkan Peninsula . It is situated between latitude 39 grade 38'- 42 grade 39' North and longitude 19 grade 16'- 21 grades 4' East. It extends over an area of 28,748 square kilometers. It is located in the main cross roads linking the West and the East.
Albania is located in the area GMT+1 (From March 28 GMT+2)
In the western part of the country lie the Western Lowlands, with a mainly plain relief and rich vegetation of this type. Along the whole coastline, in the lowland area from Shkodra to Vlora, there are numerous beaches with healthy Mediterranean climate.
The Western Lowland area has a rich hydrograph. It is permeated by numerous rivers and spotted by lakes of tectonic and karst origin, which further adds the beauty to the area. In the northern part of the lowland area, there is the Shkodra lake. The Shiroka beach stretches along its shores.
Along the Adriatic coastline, the Western Lowland area forms numerous bays with clear water and fine sand, which are very suitable sites for coastal tourism.
The central Mountain Region lies in the Eastern and South-Eastern part of the territory. Here the relief is more complicated and horst - grabber type prevails. It is characterized by a rich Mediterranean and continental vegetation. The highest peak of the country ( Mount Korab 2751 m) is in this region.
The Southern Mountain Region consists of mountain ranges, slopes and separated mountains which are interwoven with gorges, hilly and pre-mount systems and valleys providing it the features of a grand mountainous region. This region is permeated by numerous streams. The coastal area of this region, for the magnificent beauty it represents, has been named after Albanian Riviera. The coastal mountains run from Vlora bay and Drashovica Pass in the North to Delvina basin in the South. What characterize them are their rising high from the Vlora Bay to the Mount of Cika (2045 m) and their running right down in the West of Delvina basin.
The Northern Mountain Region has mainly an Alpine relief characterized by a cold climate, alpine karst hydrograph and with partially endemic, but rich vegetation. The Alps of Albania resemble a big cupola. They have pyramid- shaped peaks (Jezerca 2694 m) and deep valleys, numerous rivers and glacial lakes which impart a magnificent beauty to the region. The abundant snow falls during winter create very favorable natural terrain for the development of white tourism, for those who love skiing and other winter sports.

Main Lakes
In the North-Western part of the country, there is the Shkodra Lake , which is the largest in the Balkan Peninsula . It is 368 square kilometers, out of which 149 square kilometers are within the borders of our country. Its depth is 10-12 m. It has a tectonic - karsts origin. In the North-Eastern part, there is the Fierza lake named after the Hydro-Power Plant. In the South-Eastern part, there is the Ohrid lake of a karsts origin and a surface of 367 square kilometers. A bit southward there are two other lakes of tectonic origin: Bigger and smaller Perspa lakes with 285 and 44 square kilometers respectively.
Other small lakes have dotted Albania as well. In the western part of the country, in Dumrea area, there are several karsts lakes 80 m above sea level. Whereas in Lura area 1600 m above sea level, there are several glacial lakes, which are located in groups, thus providing a magnificent view and leaving deep impressions in you.

Main Rivers
The main rivers permeating the territory of our country are: Drini (285 km), Semani (281 km), Vjosa (272 km), Shkumbini (182 km), Mat (115 km), Buna (44 km), Ishmi and Erzen.

Flora (Top)
Albanian flora is rather rich beginning with evergreen Mediterranean plants and ending with Alpine fir. It consists of 3220 kinds of plants (in addition to sub- species and varieties). They constitute 29% of the species of European flora and 47% of the kinds of the flora of the Balkan Peninsula . About 1% are endemic and 5% sub endemic plants. 85% of the kinds of plants are linked with Mediterranean flora, with the flora of Central Europe and less with that of Western and Eastern Europe .

Fauna (Top)

Albania claims distinction for a rich and varied fauna, which is linked with the diversity of geographical landscape and its location on the roads of emigration of birds.
Land fauna is represented, among meat eaters, by brown bear, wolf, fax, jackal, lynx, wild cat, otter, etc.; among insect eaters by long-nose animals; among grass eaters by wild goat, deer, boar, hare, etc. Rich is also the fauna of wild birds. It is represented by 350 species to be found all over the country. You come across with grouse, woodcock, snipe, pelicans and others. A number of reptiles are to be found as well.
Aquatic fauna: Different kinds of fish are to be found in sea and inland waters. Among the widest spread are: sardine, mullet, red mullet, carp, red cohortlebery, speckled trout, etc. Likewise, offshore of the Adriatic Sea there have been appeared rare species which are not characteristic for this sea such as whales, white breast seals, and oceanic whales.

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Various videos from Albania.
Lezha has a nice klimate and it home of rare flora and fauna species.
Kruja is the home of Skenderbeg, and it was one of the main defences of Albania from the Ottoman attacts.
Berat is a very special city that is a must-see destination.
Berat is Albania's second most important museum town. It is sometimes called "the city of a thousand windows" as the red-roofed houses seem to be filled with them. Along the ridge above the gorge is a 14th century citadel sheltering small Orthodox churches such as the Orthodox Cathedral of Our Lady, the Church of the Holy Trinity and the Church of the Evangelists, all of which should be seen. You should also visit the Mangalem, the old Muslim quarter, which is located on the slope below the citadel. A seven-arched stone bridge leads to Gorica, which is the Christian quarter. There are also several fine mosques, such as the Leaden Mosque, the King's Mosque, the Bachelor's Mosque and the Alveti Tekke. Berat is 75 miles southeast of Tirana.
Shkodra, one of the oldest cities in Europe, is the traditional centre of the Gheg cultural region. In 500 BC an Illyrian fortress was already guarding the crossing west of the city where the Buna and Drin rivers meet. The road to Kosovo also begins here. Shkodra's skyline is dominated by the very impressive Sheik Zamil Abdullah Al-Zamil Mosque, which is located next to the Muzeo Popullor which features exhibits of paintings and historic photos. There is also a pretty good archaeological collection. A visit should also be made to the Catholic Franciscan Church on Rruga Ndre Mjeda. Rozafa Fortress, Located near the southern end of Lake Shkodra, is also worth a visit. Legend has it that a woman named Rozafa was walled in here, and she asked that two holes be left in the wall so she could still feed her baby. Nursing mothers come here today to smear their breasts with the milky water for good luck. Below the fortress is the many-domed Leaden Mosque, the only mosque in town to escape destruction during the 1966 Cultural Revolution. Shkodra is accessible by frequent buses and trains from Tirana, about 50 miles to the south, and infrequent buses from Durrës.
The best options for transportation in Albania and what a tourist should expect. Information about border requirements.
Durres was established in the year 627 B.C. by Korintha and Korkyra colonists, on the area of an ancient settlement of the Illyrian tribe Taulant.
Tour Package
Vlora (pop. 72,000) is located in southwestern Albania, on the coast of the Adriatic, the second major sea port after Durres.
Saranda is situated in the very south of Albania. It offers an excellent combination of historic places to visit and wonderful beaches.
Tirana (pronounced: Tih-rana) is the capital and the largest city (2005 est. pop. 700,000) of Albania. It is the administrative, cultural, economic, and industrial center of the Republic of Albania.

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