Official name: Republic of Albania
Area: 28,748 square kilometers (17,864 square miles)
Highest point on mainland: Mount Korabit (2,753 meters/9,033 feet)
Lowest point on land: Sea level
Hemispheres: Northern and Eastern
Time zone: 6 P.M. = noon GMT; has Daylight Savings Time
Longest distances: 148 kilometers (92 miles) from east to west; 340 kilometers (211 miles) from north to south
Land boundaries: Total: 720 kilometers (447 miles); Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, 151 kilometers (94 miles); Serbia and Montenegro, 287 kilometers (179 miles); [Serbia 114 kilometers (71 miles), Montenegro 173 kilometers (108 miles)]; Greece, 282 kilometers (175 miles)
Coastline: 362 kilometers (225 miles)
Territorial sea limits: 22 kilometers (12 nautical miles)
Albania is one of the smallest countries in Europe. It is located in southeastern Europe on the west coast of the Balkan peninsula (the peninsula surrounded by, from west to east, the Adriatic, Ionian, Aegean, and Black Seas) along the Strait of Otranto, which connects the Adriatic and Ionian Seas. Albania covers 28,748 square kilometers (17,864 square miles), or slightly more area than the state of Maryland.
Albania has no territories or dependencies.
Albania has a coastal Mediterranean climate (hot, dry summers and rainy winters) in the western regions and a continental climate (hot summers and cold winters) in the east. The coastal plain has mild, rainy winters and hot, dry summers. In the mountains, air masses moving south across the European continent produce warm to hot summers and very cold winters with heavy snowfall; summer rainfall is also heavier in this region than on the coast. Albania's average annual temperature is 15°C (59°F). Average annual rainfall ranges from about 100 centimeters (40 inches) on the coastal plain to more than 250 centimeters (100 inches) in the mountains.
More than 70 percent of Albania's terrain is rugged and mountainous, with mountains running the length of the country from north to south. The remainder consists mostly of coastal lowlands. These lowlands stretch from the northern border to Vlorë, covering 200 kilometers (124 miles) from north to south and extending as much as 50 kilometers (31 miles) inland. A large part of this region is former marshland (soft, wet land; also called wetlands) that was reclaimed during the Communist era (1944–90). (Reclaimed land is an area in which the natural conditions have been changed, usually by building dams or dikes, to redirect the water.) The reclaimed land in Albania is now used for agriculture.
Albania lies on the southeastern shore of the Adriatic Sea and is also bordered by the Ionian Sea to the south.
Albania has no significant undersea features.
Albania has no good natural harbors. The Strait of Otranto, which connects the Adriatic Sea with the Ionian Sea, borders Albania on the southwest, separating it from the "heel" on the southeastern tip of the Italian peninsula.
The island of Sazan lies off the coast of Albania, west of Vlorë. The islands in the Ionian Sea off the south coast of Albania belong to Greece.
Albania's Ionian Sea coastal area is known for its rugged natural beauty, with rocky highlands extending right to the edge of the beach; the area between Vlorë and Sarandë is called the "Riviera of Flowers." The beaches along the Adriatic coast stretch about 300 kilometers (188 miles), with sandy beaches and shallow coastal waters.
Albania has three large lakes, which it shares with several neighboring countries: Lake Scutari (Skadarsko Jezero) with Serbia and Montenegro, Lake Ohrid (Ohridsko Jezero) with Macedonia, and Lake Prespa (Prespansko Jezero) with Greece. Lake Ohrid is the deepest lake, not only in Albania but also in the Balkans, with a depth of 294 meters (965 feet).
Albania's major rivers are the Drin, the Mat, the Buenë, the Seman, the Shkumbin, and the Vijosë. They all empty into the Adriatic Sea. The Buenë is Albania's only navigable river. (A navigable river is one that can be used by boats.)
There are no desert regions in Albania.
Citrus fruits, maize, and wheat are grown in Albania's coastal lowlands. Although the former marshland in the region was drained to create productive agricultural land, flooding still occurs.
Albania's mountains are located to the north, east, and south of the coastal lowlands. They can be divided into three groups. The north-ernmost range, the North Albanian Alps, is an extension of both the Montenegrin limestone plateau and the Dinaric Alps, which run parallel to the Adriatic coast in Croatia and in Montenegro. Some of the mountains in this region reach heights greater than 2,700 meters (8,800 feet). These limestone peaks are the country's most rugged. Albanians call them "the accursed mountains," because they present a barrier to travel.
The central uplands extend south along the Macedonian border, from the Drin River valley to the southern mountains. The central uplands are generally lower than the North Albanian Alps. However, Albania's highest peak, Mount Korabit, is located in these mountains. The southern highlands are lower and more rounded than the mountains to the north. At the southernmost end of Albania, south of Vlorë, the mountains reach all the way across the country, meeting the Ionian Sea.
There are a few caves with stalactites in Albania in the eastern region near the largest lakes.
There are no significant plateaus in Albania.
Several dams, the first of which was built in the early 1960s, generate hydroelectric energy. The Drin River has been dammed to produce hydroelectric energy, and marshland has been reclaimed for agriculture.
Lake Ohrid in Albania is one of only two places in the world (the other is Russia) where a rare fish called the koran can be found. The koran has a delicate flavor and is similar to carp and trout.
Carver, Robert. The Accursed Mountains: Journeys in Albania. London: John Murray, 1998.
Dawson, Peter, and Andrea Dawson. Albania: A Guide and Illustrated Journal. Old Saybrook, CT: Globe Pequot Press, 1995.
Sherer, Stan. Long Life to Your Children! A Portrait of High Albania. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1997.