From the Accursed Mountains to the welcoming locals, Joey Tyson explores the appeal of untouched Albania

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Albania is a bit of a mystery. Its language is unique, its people are friendly and open despite decades of fierce oppression, and it is home to spectacular mountains, untouched beaches and ancient, historical cities.
Yet it remains off the radar for most, even though it sits among European heavyweights Italy, Greece and Croatia. Like most emerging travel destinations, the answer is in the not-too-distant past.
Under ruthless communist dictator Enver Hoxha, who ruled over the Balkan nation from 1944 to 1985, Albania was cut off from the world for much of the last century. In effect a secret state, few people were allowed to enter – and even fewer allowed to leave.
As communism collapsed around Europe in the late 1980s, Albania began to awaken from its enforced slumber, but it would take another decade before travellers began to arrive in meaningful numbers.
Of course, getting over almost half a century of political and economic turmoil takes some doing, but the signs of progress are all there. Over the past decade, travel to Albania has increased steadily, with 2018 likely to be another record-breaking year.
In his recent BBC series, comedian Romesh Ranganathan brought the country’s epic scenery and cultural quirks to our screens. Finally, the secret is starting to get out.

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