Ladies and gentlemen, fasten your seat belts and get ready to take off, because we’re about to research a trip to Albania, one of the most underrated places to visit in 2023. This little gem of a country is the perfect destination for a romantic getaway with your significant other.
When we looked at my upcoming anniversary trip to Greece, my husband and I both wanted to visit one more country. When we saw Albania was close, I knew I had to consider adding it to our Greece trip.
This country kept popping up on my For You page in TikTok, and I kept saving so many videos! Little did I know I would be visiting Albania this year!
Before I share with you more about my upcoming Greece and Albania trip, let’s first talk about Albania.
Picture winding coastal roads, picturesque mountain ranges, and charming villages that will make you feel like you’ve stepped back in time. And the best part? Tourists haven’t really found it yet, so you’ll have plenty of intimate moments without a lot of people.
Albania is a perfect European country for a honeymoon.
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A Little History of Albania
Albania has a population of about 2.9 million people, which is small in comparison to other European countries. The majority of the population is Albanian, but there are also minorities such as Greek, Macedonian, and Roma.
Albanian, the official language of the country, is a language all its own with no close linguistic relatives. However, many Albanians also speak English, particularly in the cities and tourist areas. Italian and Greek are also widely spoken in the country.
People from Albania embody the country’s rich cultural heritage. The Albanians have a strong sense of national pride and are very protective of their traditions and customs.
The country’s population reflects the diversity of its religions, which include Islam, Orthodoxy, and Catholicism: they are open-minded and respectful of those who practice other faiths. Albania is becoming an increasingly popular tourist destination for travelers from all over the world.
Visiting Albania as an American Tourist
Locals in Albania are generally warm and welcoming to Americans. However, visitors should respect local customs and be aware of any threats they may face while in the country. Also, read Is Albania Safe blog post.
Travelers from the United States can enter Albania visa-free for up to 90 days within a 180-day period. However, you should confirm the most up-to-date visa requirements with the Albanian embassy or consulate in your home country.
In addition, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, visitors to Albania may be subject to additional screenings or entry requirements. As of right now you don’t need
At this time, you don’t need to do a Covid test nor have a vaccine to enter Albania, but if you need to get tested while yo are there, you can do so. There is also Covid testing available at Tirana airport.
Best Time To Visit Albania
The timing of your trip to Albania will largely depend on your objectives. Your reasons for visiting Albania will determine when you should go there. When organizing your trip, keep the following in mind:
- In terms of weather, Albania experiences hot, dry summers and mild, wet winters.
Because of the pleasant weather and low likelihood of precipitation, June through August are regarded as the busiest travel months. Visit in May/June or September/October during the shoulder seasons to experience cooler weather and fewer visitors.
- Albania hosts festivals and cultural events all year long, with the National Folk Festival in Gjirokastra in July and the Tirana International Film Festival in November serving as highlights. If you want to attend one of these events, it’s crucial to plan your trip around it.
- Albania is best visited during the summer if you want to go hiking, swimming, or engaging in any other outdoor activity. There are numerous breathtaking natural landmarks in this nation, including the Valbona Valley National Park and the Albanian Alps.
There are numerous breathtaking natural landmarks in this nation, including the Valbona Valley National Park and the Albanian Alps.
In general, if you want to take advantage of Albania’s stunning beaches and warm weather, the best time to travel there is from June to August.
You might prefer to travel between May and June or September and October if you prefer cooler temperatures and fewer visitors.
Is Albania Worth Visiting?
The idea that Albania is a developing country with few tourist attractions has deterred some potential visitors.
On the other hand, Albania rivals many of Europe’s most popular tourist destinations in terms of its history, culture, and landscapes. Beautiful beaches, picturesque mountain ranges, and mouthwatering cuisine can all be found there.
In addition, the nation has a fascinating history and culture that can be explored, including historic buildings from the Ottoman era and ancient ruins.
Albania is a fantastic choice for those looking to travel on a tight budget because it is also reasonably priced when compared to other European nations. Overall, Albania is very worthwhile to visit because it has so much to offer.
Here are 5 reasons why Albania is worth visiting:
- Friendly locals. Albanians are known for their warm hospitality and willingness to help tourists in any way they can. They are committed to ensuring that guests have a memorable experience.
- Crystal clear water. The beaches on the Albanian Riviera are some of the most beautiful in the world, and we plan to see them for ourselves. The Albanian Riviera is one of the most stunning parts of the country, drawing in many visitors in search of sea, sand, and culture.
Many tourists visit the beaches along the Albanian Riviera because they are among the best in the country. Albania has much to offer thanks to the variety of cultures it contains. They are characterized by their fine white sand, crystal-clear waters, and lush vegetation. Some of the most popular beaches include Jalë, Borsh, and Dhërmi.
These beaches not only provide the standard fare of swimming and tanning, but also a variety of water sports like jet skiing and parasailing.
- Diverse cultural experiences. Albania has much to offer thanks to the variety of cultures it contains. You will experience traditional folk dances, quaint villages, and delicious local cuisine.
- Delicious food. I’ll go into more detail about the distinctive dishes later in this post, but you can expect a heavy Mediterranean influence on the fare.
Its location. Albania, a European country in the Balkans, is bounded by Montenegro to the northwest, Kosovo to the northeast, North Macedonia to the east, and Greece to the south and southeast. Albania is home to a wide variety of landscapes, from the snowy peaks of the Albanian Alps in the north to the lush forests of the Shkoder Lake region in the northwest and the sunny beaches of the Adriatic and Ionian Seas in the south.
The Mediterranean plays a major role in shaping the weather of this country, which otherwise has mild, wet winters and hot, dry summers. But the weather is different depending on where you are. For example, the weather in the mountains is much cooler than the weather on the coast.
Due to its Mediterranean climate, Albania is pleasant and warm for the majority of the year. The summer months along the coast can reach temperatures as high as 30°C (86°F), but the winters are mild, with temperatures rarely falling below 0°C (32°F).
Visitors from chillier climes are drawn to the country’s long, hot summers and short, mild winters. However, weather can be unpredictable anywhere, so it’s best to check the forecast before making any major plans.
How to Get Around Albania
For couples who want the flexibility to explore the country at their own pace, renting a car is convenient. You can plan your trip how you want it and go to places the public transportation either can’t or won’t take you to.
I will be looking into driving in Albania to see if this is the best option for us.
Depending on your needs and budget, there are a variety of ways you can travel around Albania as a couple. Some of the most popular options include:
- Renting a car is practical for couples who want the freedom to tour the nation at their own pace. You can plan your trip how you want it and go to places the public transportation either can’t or won’t take you to.
I will be looking into driving in Albania to see if this is the best option for us.
- Albania has a highly developed bus network that offers inexpensive nationwide travel options. All the major urban centers are connected by the buses, which run frequently and are comfortable.
- Although Albania’s train system is not as developed as its bus system, it is still a viable option for getting around the nation. Many major urban centers are connected by trains, which are comfortable and convenient.
- A private tour might be a good option for couples who want to explore a country’s history and culture together. There are private tours available that provide transportation and a knowledgeable local guide to show you the best of the country.
- Biking: If you’re visiting Albania in the summer, you should definitely bring your bike along. You can rent bicycles for the day or for an extended period of time from any number of businesses across the country. We won’t be doing this, lol. Please keep in mind that we are not hikers and travel at a leisurely pace.
- Taxis: Taxis are easily accessible in Albania; however, it is recommended that you negotiate the fare before entering the vehicle. We may do this in a pinch.
In general, we notice that many people opt for private drivers or buses, so once I have our final itinerary, we will choose the most suitable mode of transportation.
Best Places to Visit in Albania
Albania has many beautiful cities to visit, each with its own unique charm and attractions. Here are some of the most popular cities to visit in Albania:
- Tirana: Tirana is Albania’s capital and largest city, and it’s a great place to begin your visit. The city is well-known for its vibrant street art scene, numerous cafes and restaurants, and colorful buildings.
- Berat is a historic city in central Albania known for its stunning Ottoman-era architecture. There are several museums and cultural sites in the city, including the 13th-century Berat Castle.
- Saranda is a coastal city in southern Albania known for its beautiful beaches and pleasant weather. There are also a number of ancient Greek and Roman ruins in the city, including the UNESCO-listed Butrint National Park.
- Gjirokastra is a historic city in southern Albania known for its beautiful Ottoman-style houses and hilltop castle. There are also a number of museums and cultural sites in the city, such as the Ethnographic Museum and the Museum of Weapons.
- Shkoder is a city in northern Albania known for its beautiful natural scenery and numerous historical sites. The Rozafa Castle, a 4th-century fortress with stunning views of the surrounding countryside, is located in the city.
These are just a few of the many lovely cities in Albania.
|Tirana||Albania’s capital city, vibrant and cosmopolitan||Skanderbeg Square, National History Museum, Et’hem Bey Mosque|
|Berat||Known as the “City of a Thousand Windows,” filled with Ottoman architecture||Berat Castle, Onufri Museum, Gorica Bridge|
|Gjirokastra||A UNESCO World Heritage Site, well-preserved Ottoman-era city||Gjirokastra Castle, Skenduli House, Ethnographic Museum|
|Shkoder||One of the oldest cities in Albania, gateway to the Albanian Alps||Rozafa Castle, Marubi National Museum of Photography, Shkoder Cathedral|
|Kruja||Birthplace of Albania’s national hero Skanderbeg, rich history and culture||Skanderbeg Museum, Kruja Castle, Bazaar of Kruja|
Off the Beaten Path Cities in Albania
- Korca is a city in southeastern Albania known for its rich cultural heritage and vibrant arts scene. The city is home to several museums and galleries, as well as the well-known Korca Beer Festival, which takes place every August.
- Pogradec is a small city on the eastern shore of Lake Ohrid, one of Europe’s oldest and deepest lakes. The city is famous for its beautiful natural scenery, picturesque waterfront promenade, and numerous historic sites, including the ancient Illyrian city of Lychnidos.
- Fier is a city in southwestern Albania known for its ancient Roman ruins and breathtaking natural scenery. The Apollonia Archaeological Park, a sprawling complex of ancient ruins that includes a theater, a temple, and a forum, is located in the city.
- Elbasan is a historic city in central Albania known for its beautiful Ottoman-era architecture and lively bazaar. There are also a number of historic sites in the city, such as the 15th-century Elbasan Castle and the 18th-century King Mosque.
- Kukes is a small town in northeastern Albania known for its rugged natural beauty and abundance of outdoor activities such as hiking, mountain biking, and skiing. The Kukes Museum, which features exhibits on the region’s history and culture, is also located in the city.
These are just a few of Albania’s many off-the-beaten-path cities to visit. Each of these destinations provides a unique glimpse into Albania’s rich cultural heritage and stunning natural scenery, and they are well worth a visit for anyone looking to explore the country outside of the usual tourist traps.
|Korca||Known for its art, architecture, and local cuisine||Korca Old Bazaar, National Museum of Medieval Art, Saint George Cathedral|
|Pogradec||A tranquil lakeside town, popular for its stunning views and fresh fish||Lake Ohrid, Drilon Park, Pogradec Beach|
|Saranda||A coastal town with crystal-clear waters and a lively nightlife scene||Butrint National Park, Lekursi Castle, Ksamil Islands|
|Fier||A city with a rich agricultural history, home to ancient ruins and archaeological sites||Apollonia Archaeological Park, Ardenica Monastery, Fier Castle|
|Kukes||A small town located in the northeast of Albania, surrounded by stunning mountain views||Kukes Lake, Kukes Castle, Kallmeti Winery|
These off-the-beaten-path cities provide a more authentic and one-of-a-kind experience for travelers looking to venture beyond the usual tourist hotspots.
Each city has its own unique charm and attractions and is well worth a visit for those interested in learning more about Albanian culture and history.
Food in Albania
Albania is well-known for its delectable cuisine and distinct culinary traditions, which are heavily influenced by Ottoman, Italian, and Balkan cuisines. Here are some facts about Albanian food and drink:
A typical Albanian meal includes a variety of mezze-style dishes such as frges (baked peppers and tomatoes with cheese and spices), burek (phyllo pastry filled with meat or cheese), tav kosi (baked lamb or beef with yogurt), and byrek (savory pastry filled with meat or vegetables). Seafood is also popular in coastal areas, and dishes with lamb or goat meat can be found in the highlands.
Alcohol consumption in Albania: Alcohol is permitted in Albania. Albanians, in fact, have a long history of producing their own rakia, a strong brandy made from distilled grapes or other fruits. Wine and beer are also popular, with many varieties available locally. Alcohol consumption is prohibited in some public places, such as parks and streets, and is punishable by fines if caught.
Albanians take their coffee seriously and have a vibrant coffee culture. Throughout the country, you’ll find a variety of coffee shops where locals congregate to socialize and enjoy a cup of coffee. Turkish-style coffee is the most popular, but espresso and other varieties are also available.
While Albanian cuisine is predominantly meat-based, vegetarian and vegan options are available in most restaurants. Look for dishes that include vegetables, beans, and rice, or ask the restaurant for suggestions.
Foods To Try in Albania
Here is a list of the top five Albanian foods to try:
Sure, here’s a table for the five must-try foods in Albania:
|Tavë kosi||A savory dish made with lamb or beef and yogurt, baked until it forms a golden crust on top.|
|Byrek||A flaky, savory pastry filled with meat, cheese, or vegetables. Often eaten for breakfast or as a snack.|
|Fërgesë||A vegetarian dish made with peppers, tomatoes, onions, and cottage cheese. Served with bread.|
|Qofte||Traditional Albanian meatballs made with beef or lamb, onions, and herbs. Often served with fries or salad.|
|Baklava||A sweet pastry made with layers of filo dough, honey, and chopped nuts. Albanian baklava is often made with walnuts or pistachios.|
Do’s and Don’ts When Traveling to Albania
When traveling in Albania, it’s important to be aware of local customs and etiquette, just as it is in any other country. Here are some general pointers to remember:
- Wear modest clothing when visiting mosques or other religious sites.
- If you are not invited to discuss politics or religion, don’t bring it up.
- Do extend a handshake and a smile when greeting others.
- Do not take photographs of people without their permission.
- Try to learn a few Albanian phrases; the locals will appreciate your efforts.
- In markets, don’t haggle too aggressively, as this can be perceived as disrespectful.
- Avoid these gestures: Tourists are generally welcomed by Albanians, but there are a few gestures that are considered rude or offensive. These are some examples:
- Crossing your legs in front of someone, especially someone older or of higher social standing.
- Instead of pointing with your finger, make a gesture with your entire hand.
- It is considered impolite to show the soles of your feet.
- Using the “OK” hand gesture, which can be considered an insult in some situations.