Terrain shapes and bedrock
Albania's terrain conditions are strongly characterized
by the fact that it forms part of the Dinaric mountain range
zone, a continuation to the southeast of the Eastern Alps.
The bedrock originates mainly from Mesozoic times, while the
actual rock-chain folding with its north-west-southeast
weekly shafts took place in tertiary time. The bedrock is
mostly limestone, which shows pronounced karst formation in
the surface layer.
Nearly 3/4 of the country's area is mountainous highland
in the north, east and south. At the far north, the Albanian
Alps spread with a north-south strike, providing a coastal
direction that deviates from the rest of the Balkan
Peninsula. The jagged limestone ridges in the rock massif
reach considerable height (2,693 m above sea level). For the
detailed design, glaciers and karst processes have been of
the greatest importance. In the south, the mountain area is
bounded by a more than 1,000 m high slope towards the river
Drin, which eroded a deep, 50 km long valley. The eastern
mountainous regions have a complex structure, where several
parallel altitudes of different kinds can be distinguished.
They also rise steeply from the low western part of Albania.
The middle zone has strong rock masses, which are built up
by young, basic eruptive rocks, while the eastern zone is
dominated by the plaster block that supports Albania's
highest peak, Korab, 2 764 m above sea level. The southern
highlands are a continuation of the Greek mountain ranges
and with their limestone peaks reach 2 100–2 500 m above sea
level. The Albanian lowland to the west consists of clay and
sandstones from the Tertiary period. Out on the coast, the
cool plain turns into young swimming formations, smaller
lakes and brackish water swamps.
The coast of Albania towards the Adriatic is irregular,
with both cliffs and sandy beaches, and on long distances it
is bordered by narrow sandy reefs with lagoons within. There
are three major lakes in the country, all located on the
border with neighboring countries. Lake Shkodėr is in the
north, while Lake Ohrid and Lake Prespas are in the far
south-east. The rivers form a pattern that is determined by
the mountain chain structure. They are usually deeply cut
into the limestone bedrock and may have stray rapids. The
irregular water flow means that they are often dehydrated
during the summer.
The climate shows great variation. According to
COUNTRYAAH, the coastal area has a
Mediterranean climate with hot summers and mild winters,
while inland is more continental with cold winters and hot
summers (July temperature 24-27 °C). The annual rainfall is
in large parts 1 200–1 400 mm, while in the mountain areas
it is only half. It mainly falls in the fall and winter. The
country is affected by various local winds, such as boring
the coast, the dry and hot scirocco from North Africa and
the cold mountain wind mistral.
Plant-and animal life
Albania was originally wooded with various oaks, pines,
eastern deer and, at a higher altitude, beech, but the
forests have been greatly reduced by felling and hard
grazing of sheep and goats. The flora, which comprises a
total of about 3,300 species of higher plants, is a mixture
of Mediterranean and Central European elements with a fairly
large element of the Balkan endemic species.
The fauna is depleted as a result of the destruction of
the vegetation. Larger mammals are few; this includes wild
boar, gems, badger, jackal and fox. Goose ants and dirt
ants, snake eagles, Balkan hawks, stone hens, bee eaters and
alpine quays are typical birds in the area. The beasts are
fairly well represented. So, for example, Greek land
tortoise, sandworm, Tauric lizard and Dalmatian cow lizard.
On the northern Macedonian border is Lake Ohrid with a very
Although Albania is a small and poor country, in 2010
there were 15 national parks and some twenty other protected
areas, most small to the surface.