Members of the first Regent Holidays group who went on holiday to Albania in 1971 would struggle to recognise the country today. Gone are the virtually traffic-free roads, collective farms and churches and mosques converted into sports halls, but the warm Albanian welcome, dramatic wild scenery, evidence of 400 years of Ottoman occupation and enthralling archaeology are still the same.
Fiercely independent as a result of centuries of occupation, Albania embraced Communism after the Second World War and then firmly rejected it in 1992 with its first free elections. With so much history, an Albania holiday is guaranteed to offer you an insight into another time.
Albania holidays offer the perfect opportunity to discover a country of wild, natural beauty with dark, brooding mountains, a dramatic undeveloped coastline and hills clad with olive trees. Explore the museum cities of Berat and Gjirokastra, both dominated by towering castles, and learn about Albanian national hero, Skanderbeg, in Kruja Castle Museum.
Marvel at Albania's archaeological sites - the extraordinary 3rd-century BC amphitheatre at Butrint and the ancient city of Apollonia where much remains to be discovered. Drive the roller-coaster road along the Albanian Riviera, pass remote mountain villages and gaze down on the pristine, unspoilt beaches of Durres. Join the evening promenade in Albania's capital Tirana, now more Mediterranean in style, and meander through the neighbourhood where the Communist party leaders used to live.
Regent Holidays were the first UK tour operator to operate tours to the People's Socialist Republic of Albania. Back in 1971 when the first Regent group entered the country, it discovered a closed society, rather like a Stalinist theme park, whose paranoid government insisted that visitors were closely controlled and monitored for any revisionist tendencies.
The Government gave visitors strict rules to abide by - "No male with long hair or full beard will be allowed into the country. A beard is permitted providing there is a large shaven area between sideboards and start of beard. Should the authorities not be satisfied in this respect, hair will be cut by the barber on arrival."
Despite this, the warmth and fun of the Albanians shone through and we were treated like guests of the family. The wild beauty of the country, the raw archaeology and the quirkiness of life there, with very little traffic and no religion, drew hundreds of people over the years and many left with a deep affection for Albania.
Towns and villages throughout Albania now have a relaxed mediterranean feel and the churches and mosques throng with people. The country and its capital Tirana feature numerous pavement cafes, chic boutiques, family run eateries and Turkish Bazaars, all vieing for the visitor's attention.