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 Shkodër 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 peculiar fauna.
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.