Albania is a wonderful country located in the Balkans region of Southeast Europe. It has a coastline on the Adriatic and Ionian Seas and shares borders with Montenegro, Kosovo, North Macedonia, and Greece. It’s one of the smallest countries in Europe that many know nothing about, so we wanted to introduce some fun facts about Albania to those interested.
There’s a lot to know about this country. Albania has a rich history, with evidence of human habitation dating back to the Stone Age. For years Albania was a communist state under the leadership of Enver Hoxha. The country remained isolated from the rest of the world for many years and underwent a series of political and economic reforms after the fall of communism in 1991, and perhaps this is still why so many know nothing about Albania.
There’s a lot more to Albania than meets the eye. With a diverse landscape, high mountain ranges, rolling hills, and sandy beaches there’s a lot to love about this small country. Let’s learn more with these Albania facts!
Fun Facts About Albania
1. Cheaper than Most on the Continent
You’ve likely heard stories about how expensive it is to travel to certain countries in Europe. Fortunately, Albania isn’t one of them. In fact, it’s one of the cheapest countries to travel to in all of Europe and one of the cheapest destinations in the world.
2. Oil is King but…
It’s hard to believe but the small country of Albania has Europe’s biggest oil reserves. The country is also big on copper, coal, and nickel production and for those who are keen on moving towards greener energy, Albania is also one of the biggest producers of hydroelectricity.
3. A Strong Nation
While Albania may not be strong in Olympic sports, its strength can be found in the many weightlifting competitions that are hosted in the country and the competitions that were won by Albanian participants.
4. There are Fewer Albanians Inside than Out
One of the more interesting facts about Albania. After the fall of communism in Albania and other communist countries in the region, the economy took a pounding and this resulted in mass outmigration. Today, there are more Albanians living outside the country than there are living in it.
5. Growing Grapes Long Before Almost Everyone Else
There is plenty of evidence pointing to grape vines having been planted in Albania way back in the Ice Age. Seeds that are thought to be between 4,000 and 6,000 years old were uncovered which also points to a long history of grape production in the region.
6. Scarecrows and Teddy Bears in Strange Places
Around Albania, you’ll notice that there are scarecrows, skulls, and teddy bears placed in some peculiar places. The reason for this is local people believe that placing a scarecrow on a home or building discourages jealousy from neighbors, particularly if the building is under construction. Some people believe that hanging one of these items, also called Dordolec, also brings about good luck.
7. A Stunning and Pleasantly Uncrowded Coastline
The coastline around Albania, otherwise known as the Albanian Riviera, is much less developed than any other riviera area in Europe.
This also means that the beautiful, sandy beaches don’t get the large crowds that other stretches of beaches around the region in places like Italy and Greece get. Fancy an unspoiled beach almost all to yourself? Want to escape the tourist crowds? Head to Albania’s coast, they are some of the best beaches in Europe.
8. A Beloved Heroine
Locally, she was known as Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu but you likely know her as Mother Teresa. What you may not have known is that she was Albanian and is a revered heroine to her fellow Albanians and to people the world over. She is also the only person from the country to have ever won the Nobel Prize.
9. Albanians Enjoy Sunshine almost all Year Long
While you may associate a mountainous nation such as Albania with cooler, damper weather, the truth is actually the opposite. The country sees around 300 days of sunshine throughout an average year and that means rain is a lot rarer than you thought! Most of the country’s rain that does fall does so during the winter months and some areas see more rain than others depending on elevation and proximity to bodies of water.
10. Albania’s Highest Point
Situated right on the border with Macedonia, Golem Korab is the highest point in Albania at just over 2,700 meters. The mountain is a popular destination for outdoor lovers who come to hike, climb and simply enjoy being out in nature.
11. A Ban on Religion
Many people around the world consider themselves to be atheists but it wasn’t until 1967 that the first country declared itself atheist. That country was Albania and from that year until the early 1990s, religion was banned.
Many places of worship were deliberately destroyed following that declaration. Today, it’s quite the opposite; Albania is one of the more tolerant countries in the world when it comes to religious freedom.
12. Almost All Alone in a Big World
Up to 1991, Albania was very much alone in the world except for an allied partnership with China. Today, the country has many allies around the world and has even been a member of NATO since 2009.
13. A Land of Many Bunkers
The communist era was a strange time in Albania and one of the strangest things ordered by Enver Hoxha, who ruled the country during that time, was the construction of more than 173,000 bunkers, the remnants of which are now scattered all over the country.
The bunkers weren’t built for any particular reason although the people were told they were for protection from an impending war. In recent years, many of these old bunkers were transformed into tool sheds and art studios among other things.
14. A Mountainous Landscape
Many people come to Albania to enjoy the coastline full of beautiful sandy beaches but many people also come to enjoy the mountains. Around 70% of the country features mountain terrain and this mountainous landscape provides visitors with a place to participate in many outdoor activities including hiking and wildlife viewing.
15. Siestas are an Afternoon Thing!
It’s a known fact that afternoon siestas are common in warm climates such as Spain and Mexico but you likely didn’t know that they are a thing in some areas of Albania too! Between the hours of 2:00 PM and 5:00 PM, which is the hottest part of the day, many shops and businesses close and workers relax and enjoy the afternoon sunshine over coffee or a much-needed nap.
16. A lot of Plant Life
There are well over 3,000 different plants in Albania which is equal to approximately 30% of Europe’s plant life.
17. A Cannabis Capital
The village of Lazarat is often called the Cannabis Capital of Albania as it produces the largest amount of Cannabis exported to the rest of the continent.
18. An Ancient Lake
Based on fossils found at the bottom of Lake Ohrid, it’s thought to be the oldest lake in Europe. It’s so old that UNESCO has listed it for protection.
19. A Country with Many Endangered Species
Albania is full of pristine natural spaces and wildlife is abundant. 91 of the country’s wildlife species are on the endangered species list.
20. A Mother Tongue like no other
The Albanian language doesn’t have any close relatives in the world of languages. It features two distinct dialects, one that’s used in the south and the other used in the north, and neither sounds anything like any other language. Because it’s so unique, it’s one of the hardest languages to learn.
21. Yes Means No
In Albania, yes means no, and no means yes when it comes to head nodding. While you might be used to nodding up and down for yes and side to side for no, in Albania, it’s the complete opposite!
22. Midday is Reserved for the Heartiest Meal of the Day
While much of the world eats their main meal later in the day, Albanians reserve the afternoon hours for their main course. A typical meal consists of meat and vegetables and eating earlier in the day seems to be a key factor in the country’s low obesity rates.
23. A Unique Way to Chase Bad Luck Away
In Albanian culture, it’s customary to pour water over any spill to chase bad luck away. It’s considered bad luck to spill your drink or any other liquid so naturally, you’ll want to prevent spilling anything or at the very least, do some damage control before it’s too late!
24. Olympic Medals: Nil for Albania
Only a few countries around the world can make this claim although it may not be one they are proud of. I’m talking about Olympic medals and the fact that Albania is one of only a few nations that have never won a single medal. Not one of the most fun facts about Albania.
25. The Great Car Ban
Before 1991, there were no more than 3,000 cars in the entire country of three million people and those cars were reserved for people who worked for the communist party. Cars started to trickle in after the fall of communism but the choice was limited.
26. Hidden Glaciers
As hard as it seems to believe, four giant glaciers were only discovered fairly recently in the Cursed Mountains region of Albania. A group of explorers from an American university discovered them in 2009.
Perhaps their low altitude, which also makes them the most southern glaciers on the continent, is one of the reasons they were able to hide for so long.
27. A Time-Honored Tradition
Locally, it’s known as xhiro but this tradition is quite simple; it involves local people coming out of their homes every evening to take a walk around their neighborhoods. The purpose of this walk is to stretch the legs, get some fresh air and meet up with neighbors and catch up on gossip.
In some towns that take this tradition very seriously, the roads are closed for a few hours to allow people to safely go about their evening walk. The walking and talking can go well into the late hours of the evening. You may even see some stalls set up with farmers selling fresh goods and sometimes there are even impromptu barbecues.
28. Mercedes Rules the road
In Albania, you won’t find a wide variety of vehicles on the road but you’ll find that Albanians have a taste for luxury when it comes to their wheels!
Mercedes wins the top spot for the most-driven car in the country with around 40% of all vehicles on the road. Many of these cars came back with migrants returning home from working in other nearby countries.
29. Fast and Cheap Communications
For most of us in the developed world, one of the downfalls of technology is the ever-growing cost of having it. In Albania, that’s not as big of a problem as it is in many other places. Albania’s internet service is said to be the fastest and cheapest on the European continent. Residents can get a decent package for just over two dollars a month.
30. You won’t Find a Big Mac In Albania!
This is one of my favorite fun facts about Albania. There are very few countries left in the world that don’t have a McDonald’s franchise and Albania happens to be one of them. That’s right; there are no McDonald’s restaurants anywhere in the country including the larger urban centers.
Whether the reason is to inspire a healthier lifestyle in the local people or just a lack of interest in American fast food is anyone’s guess but you won’t miss it as you tour this amazing country. That’s because there are plenty of restaurants serving up delicious, local fast food.
31. Curbing Human Trafficking one Banned Speedboat at a Time!
It’s illegal to own or operate a speedboat in Albania but the reason is not because the authorities want to ruin everyone’s fun. The reason for the ban is to curb the amount of human trafficking that takes place between Albania and the countries that are accessible by water including Italy and Greece.
32. Help is Always Nearby
Albania is a fairly safe country to travel in but, like anywhere in the world, danger can and does surface. As long as you know the Code of Besa, you’ll be able to summon help anywhere, any time, one of the coolest Albania facts.
This code of honor of sorts is a promise the local people make to help one another when in need. Just call upon anyone in your vicinity and they will be there to assist you in any way they can.
The best example of this code of honor at play was during World War II when Albanians kept their promise to be there for one another. When the government ordered citizens to turn over any Jews living in their communities, the people instead hid them from the dangers and rescued countless people who would otherwise have met their faith in the concentration camps.
We hope you enjoyed these fun Albania facts! See below for more facts around the world!