Albania rated 2019 under-the-radar, budget destination

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times January 16, 2019 17:48

Albania rated 2019 under-the-radar, budget destination

TIRANA, Jan. 16 – Albania has made it to a series of top under-the-radar and affordable destinations for 2019, hinting the country’s emerging and fast growing travel and tourism industry is set for another golden year.

The most important ratings come from prestigious Lonely Planet and booking.com, but also a number of travel writers, recommending Albania as a still off-the-beaten-path and budget destination.

In late 2018, Albania was the sole Western Balkan country to make it to Lonely Planet’s top 10 affordable adventure destinations for 2019 as one of Europe’s final frontiers that offers hiking amid beautiful mountain scenery, superb beaches and a unique history.

“Albania has been Europe’s final frontier for a while. Here’s a pocket of great value hiding in plain sight, with some superb beaches, a unique history and none of the crowds of Montenegro to the north or Greece to the south,” wrote Lonely Planet.

A world-renowned travel guidebook publisher, Lonely Planet has long been a standard for backpackers, budget travelers, and people seeking off-the-beaten-path destinations.

Earlier in 2018,  Lonely Planet also rated Albania’s capital city, Tirana, as one of the top ten European hotspots for 2018, describing it as a vigorous metropolis that has undergone transformation and offers much to visitors.

In late 2018, one of Albania’s most popular destinations, Ksamil town and its islands at southernmost Albania, made it to the top 10 under-the-radar places to visit for 2019 in a rating by Booking.com, one of the world’s largest e-commerce companies and the number one destination to book any type of accommodation.

The UK’s Independent has also rated Albania among the world’s cheapest travel destinations where low prices don’t compromise on quality.

“Albania is home to some of the best beaches in Europe, but without the typical Mediterranean price tag. Travelling to the Albanian Riviera… you’ll find some of the cheapest room rates, food and drink in Europe: a three-course meal in a decent restaurant should cost no more than £14, while a pint of beer comes in at £1,” writes the Independent.

The Independent’s online version has also rated the Albania Riviera among the 10 best beaches to visit in 2019.

“Sandwiched between Greece and Montenegro, Albania’s brilliant beaches were hidden behind the Iron Curtain up until the early nineties. Now, wily travellers are cottoning onto the fact it offers cheaper prices and fewer crowds than its better-known neighbours, even though it’s lapped by the same azure sea,” says The Independent.

“One of the most impressive bays is Ksamil, dubbed ‘the Ionian pearl’ because of its beauty, and reachable only by boat or swimming. Historic Saranda is the unofficial capital of the Riviera, or there’s the chilled-out village of Dhermi,” it recommends.

In an article examining overcrowded destinations such as Venice and Barcelona, The Traveller Australia suggests Albania’s Saranda or Montenegro’s Budva for those planning Croatia’s Dubrovnik which has limited daily visitors to its walled Old Town to 4,000 as it battles over-tourism.

Malaysia-based star2.com has also shortlisted Albania among the six new global destinations for 2019.

“This small country on Europe’s Balkan peninsula has much to offer, including the Albanian Alps, numerous castles and archaeological sites. In the capital city of Tirana are the Skanderbeg Square and the National History Museum, National Opera, National Library, Palace Of Culture and Ethem Bey Mosque. Further away is Ksamil, a village known for its secluded beaches and restaurants. Interesting sights include the Syri i Kalter [Blue Eye spring] and Butrint, an ancient city and UNESCO World Heritage Site,” it says.

Surprise news also comes from Italy, home to about half a million Albanian migrants, were Albania was on Google Italy’s top search list for vacations in 2018 along with top Italian destinations such as Sardinia and Sicily, according to Italian state-run Ansa news agency.

Albania was visited by around 408,000 Italians in the first 11 months of 2018, a 22 percent hike compared to the period a year ago, according to Albania’s INSTAT statistical agency. However, a considerable number of tourists counted in the number are Albanians who also hold Italian citizenship.

Last year, taking an adventure trip to Albania was rated as one of the top tours on travelers’ to-do-list for 2018 by National Geographic France which suggested discovering the UNESCO World Heritage sites of Berat and Gjirokastra, the Greco-Roman amphitheaters, the Adriatic and Ionian beaches and above all the country’s unexplored landscapes such as alpine summits, green valleys, wetlands and rich fauna.

Several outdoor tour operators in the country offer hiking, rafting, biking, horse riding and birds watching adventures in the country, while cross-border tourism is gaining an upper hand with the opening of several mountain hiking trails.

The communist past is also what fascinates tourists about Albania, which was cut off from the rest of the world under a hardline Stalinist dictatorship.

Albania’s tourism industry is dominated by so-called patriotic tourism from neighboring Albanian-speaking countries and minorities and a large number of migrants living and working in EU and North American countries who regularly spend their summer vacations in Albania.

Interest in visiting Albania by central European, Nordic and Russian-speaking tourists has also been considerably increasing in the past few years, with Poles leading tourist growth for a second year in a row and climbing to the sixth largest number of tourists visiting Albania.

The travel and tourism industry was one of the key drivers of the Albanian economy in 2018, generating around €1.5 billion in income in the first three quarters of 2018 when the country was visited by around 5 million tourists, with a key contribution to Albania’s expected decade-high 4 percent GDP growth for 2018, according to Albania’s central bank and INSTAT.

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times January 16, 2019 17:48