Albania, a former Eastern-bloc country rebranding itself a new Mediterranean love, is set to be one of the hottest destinations of 2011. Visitor numbers were up 42.5 percent for the first three quarters of 2009, the most recent figures published by Albania Tourism, and although the majority of visitors still come from neighboring states such as Kosovo, Albania is putting itself on the map.

So what can this year's tourists look forward to when planning a trip to Albania?

1. Dig Albania has a long history dating back to the Illyrian, Greek and Roman civilizations and is fast becoming an archeological hotspot again after a lull at the end of Communist rule. Don't miss learning about the history of Durres, which is built on top of the settlements of Epidamnos (or Dyrrachion).

2. Eat. Albania's food reflects its geographic position, partly Mediterranean, partly Asian. Tavë kosi, the national dish, is baked lamb and rice, served with yogurt sauce (phenomenally popular in its own right in Albania).

3. Get outdoors. Albania has a stunning landscape, offering adventure in the mountains and relaxation on the beaches. Don't miss Pogradec and Lake Ohri (on the Macedonian border), the 2.4 million-year-old lake protected by UNESCO for its biodiversity and harboring unique species covering the entire food chain. 

Source: The Independent