Best time to visit Albania

Best time to visit Albania


April-June and Sep-Oct are the best time to go to Albania – you’ll avoid scorching coastal summer heat and bitter winter mountain cold, making these ideal for walking, cycling, sightseeing, watersports and flopping on the beach. If you're tied to traveling in the summer vacations, don’t fret; many beaches get a fraction of the visitors of their Mediterranean neighbours, despite being possibly even more beautiful. The crisp winter in the mountains is ideal for snowshoeing – though the rest of the country is cold and damp.

Things to do in Albania


Things to do in Albania

Get off the motorways. Many of Albania’s highlights are linked by main roads, and it’s easy to zip between them. But while this may allow you to check out UNESCO-rated sights, you’ll really be missing the heart of Albania. Trekking with a local farmer through the Accursed Mountains or cycling along lush valleys and past idyllic waterfalls takes you away from big roads and big crowds – into places where traditional dress is still worn, guesthouse owners welcome you like long-lost friends and food is grown just a few metres from where it is served.
Snowshoeing is a fantastic way to get fit – but it’s also a sneaky way to immerse yourself in alpine life. In rural northern Albania, snowshoeing is used by farmers simply to get around their land; by strapping the snowshoes on you are, literally, traveling like a local. Accompanied by a farmer, you’ll learn about life in this traditional and still rather isolated region, once characterised by blood feuds and fortresses – but now a peaceful winter wonderland of beech and pine forests and incredible rural hospitality.
Try all the food, says Olly Pemberton, from our supplier Exodus: “The food is fantastic, I loved it. It’s really fresh, there’s lots of Greek influence but also Balkan. So you’ve got a great blend of lots of yogurts and veg but also interesting meats as well.”

Things not to do in Albania

Try and count all the concrete bunkers. There are around 700,000 of these unsightly, domed structures squatting around the country – on the beaches, in the middle of the street, in graveyards… The former dictator ordered their construction to save Albania from an invasion which never took place, and the bunkers are seen as a symbol of his hatred and mistrust of the outside world. Today, however, their purpose has flipped – rumour has it that they are used as covert meeting points for young lovers…
Plan on losing weight. Albanian cakes and sweets are something special – with heavy Greek and Turkish tones, filled with nuts and slathered in syrup, there’s a new one to try every day of your vacation. All the more reason to head up into the mountains to walk it off…
Stay only in Albania. You could spend weeks exploring Albania’s nooks and crannies without getting bored – but while you’re in this part of the world, it’s worth nipping over the border into Kosovo. The stunning town of Prizren is well worth a visit, with its well preserved Ottoman houses, Turkish baths and 11th century fortress – there are also notable spots for snowshoeing and trekking.
Drink Raki out of an unmarked bottle. The locals may be able to handle their home brewed, grape-based moonshine, but rude as it may seem to decline their hospitality, it’s probably still better than the undignified alterative.

Albania travel advice


Accommodation tips

Olly Pemberton, from our supplier Exodus, shares his Albania travel tips:

“We stay in three star hotels and in guesthouses, which are comfortable, just a little more basic. But what you lack in comfort you make up for in experience and the unbelievable hospitality that you just don’t get in the hotels. The hotels are actually very nice, they are three stars but I’d say they’re actually a bit more. Tourism has only arrived in the last 10-15 years, so all the hotels are brand new and you don’t have anything that’s really ramshackle.”

Meeting the locals

“On our snowshoeing and trekking tours, we have a farmer with us who takes us through the mountains. We have a local guide as well who translates, but people love having the local guy who is telling the stories because you’re really getting an experience of the culture firsthand. He’s telling you stories about life during the winter, during the summer, what it’s like living up in this area... Our guests love the feeling of being taken through the area by a local guy who genuinely lives here. They really liked having this wealth of local knowledge, the guide is very culturally aware and he makes sure you’re walking though areas where you can interact with the locals – he’s a proud Albanian himself so he’s promoting Albania as much as he can. It definitely gets a thumbs up from me!”

Have the place to yourself

“The best thing is that you have all these places like Butrint that are Greek and Roman cities. Anywhere else – let’s say you had this Roman city in Greece – this place would be absolutely flooded with tourists. But because it’s in Albania, you’ve got nobody there. You’re walking around amphitheatres, temples... It’s like somebody’s shut the gate and allowed you to go in on your own. It’s brilliant – the fact you can spend time there without crowds bothering you.”

Celebrating Albanian culture

“The passion’s evident from all our guides. All of them are really passionate people and they’re so concerned about people leaving Albania and not having the best time of their life. They really want people to realise how great it is. So they’ll go overboard talking about the history and taking them to places that visitors wouldn’t normally go to. Albanians wear these white felt hats, and in the rural areas people wear more traditional dress, you see it every now and again. They like to cling onto their culture – and quite rightly so. No one’s been able to see their culture for so long, and they’re not about to change it any time soon just to cater for tourists. The fact that you’re still in Europe and you’ve got so much culture and tradition is always quite nice to see. They’re very proud of it, and so they should be.”
Photo credits: [Temp chart: Artur Malinowski] [Meeting the locals: godo godaj] [Celebrating Albanian culture: NH53]
Written by Vicki Brown
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