OK, be honest, how much do you know about Albania ?
• Mother Teresa was Albanian and their only Nobel prize winner. Her full name is Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu and no, I can’t pronounce it either.
• Albanians nod when they mean “no” and shake their head when they mean “yes”.
• Albania was never part of the USSR but fiercely communist.
Don’t worry, you are not alone! Albania has been described as Europe’s last unexplored corner, with stunning mountains, sandy beaches and boasts more than 3,250 species of plants, around 30 per cent of all the flora in Europe. This small Balkan country sits just across the Adriatic and Ionian seas, only 45 miles from Italy, where the Strait of Otranto squeezes the Adriatic to its narrowest point. Greece is to the south and Montenegro to the north, and it’s backed by high mountains.
After World War II, Albania became a Stalinist state under Enver Hoxha, and remained staunchly isolationist, even from Russia until its transition to democracy after 1990. The 1992 elections ended 47 years of communist rule. Having spent nearly half of the 20th century isolated from the rest of the world, Albania remains somewhat a land of mystery. While ‘the land of eagles’ may be better known for its stormy communist past (with some 750,000 concrete bunkers still scattered around to prove it), it has a rich and diverse historical and cultural legacy.
Home to Illyrians, Romans and centuries of Ottoman rule, all have left their mark with impressive castles and fortified villages for us to wander in. This recce will explore the Southern mountains and beaches, great off road driving and fascinating villages with time to chill on world class beaches before heading to the mountainous north. If snow melt allows then we’ll explore the high northern Alps. The huge network of forest and mountain tracks are rough, rocky and typically neglected as a program of major road building has taken place. Expect some winching and slow progress, this is about as wild as you can get in Southern Europe.