Albania is a wild, wonderful old-world country that emerged from a tumultuous past, and is finding its way as an independent country-state in today’s modern times. In that, you’ll encounter a friendly culture that welcomes guests and is happy to talk about your world and theirs.
As tourism grows in Albania, it’s important that the infrastructure is in place to ensure that natural resources and regions are not exploited for the sake of the economy. To that end, numerous groups have emerged to plan and educate both local Albanians and tourists about how to enjoy this beautiful country is a sustainable way.
As Albania finds its way through the labyrinth of topics relating to sustainable tourism, as a guest in this country, you can participate by choosing those activities that do not negatively impact the environment, wherever you are in the country.
Albania is yet to suffer from the ‘over-tourism’ that is overwhelming some popular touristic countries nearby, but, as the word gets out, Albania will certainly need a plan to avoid the same outcomes in the future.
Because Albania was closed off from the outside world under a dictatorship for over 40 years between 1941-1985, it is still considered a “traditional” country, and you will find remnants of its past in its current culture.
For a fascinating glimpse of what was happening during Albania’s socialist/communistic time, you can visit the Bunk’Art1 museum in Tirana, Albania’s capital city. There you’ll learn about how Enver Hoxha’s fear of invasion led him to construct over 173,000 concrete bunkers of various sizes to defend the country in case of attack.
The mushroom-shaped bunkers can be found all over Albania and, as they were built as permanent structures to withstand attack, they are nearly impossible to remove. Many have been repurposed as restaurants, shops and for other uses and serve as iconic Albanian symbols of the past.
One positive aspect of Albania’s isolationist times is that the ruling party sponsored widespread agriculture, and, to this day, Albanian farmland produces an abundance of local fruits and vegetables.
Thanks to the many ancient olive trees that remain today, those who live in coastal areas of Albania are also engaged in artisanal olive oil production. Additionally, Albania is one of the largest producers of medicinal herbs in the region, with exports throughout the world.
Many agrotourism ventures have developed in recent years, particularly in the north of the country. Visit one of them and you’ll find hearty salt-of-the-earth Albanians who love the land and are heavily invested in sustainable agriculture and sustainable living.
Every area of the country is host to eco-tourism ventures on operating, sustainable farms, many with comfortable guesthouse rooms and exquisite farm to table dining, often with homemade wine and spirits.
Many tour groups offer excursions to the stunningly beautiful remote areas of Albania, with an eye for preserving the nature for the future.
On the other hand, you might be surprised, for example, to find trash in city streets, at the beaches and along roadsides throughout Albania. Especially in summer, when beaches are crowded, there may be times when beach-goers have littered the beaches.
There are trash pick-up services, and crews do clean the beaches every morning, but don’t be shocked to find Albanians taking it all in stride.
Also, though there are smoking laws in place in Albania, they are rarely enforced, so you’ll undoubtedly encounter cafes and restaurants full of cigarette smoke, and no one really bothers much about it.
Animal welfare in Albania is a subject that tourists have difficulty reconciling. Not as many Albanians keep pets as is widely prevalent in western countries, and stray dogs and cats roam the cities without much care or attention.
Some expats have created clinics for homeless animals, and if you‘d like to get involved while you’re in Albania, that is always welcomed by the volunteer service groups.
However, you’ll not get much support if you intervene on behalf of animals publicly. Most of the Albanian population is not sympathetic to the Western concepts of spaying and neutering strays, or imposing one’s views about animal welfare on others.
Planning a trip to Albania? Read our other Albania travel guides