Located in Southeastern Europe, Albania lies next to Montenegro, Kosovo, Macedonia, and Greece. The coastline faces the Adriatic and Ionian seas, making the country prime beach-going territory. In the other direction, the Albanian Alps host an array of charming lakes and expansive valleys.
Albania may be a small country, but by no means does the land lack in regards to biodiversity: being comprised mainly of rugged terrain — 70% of Albania is mountainous — the republic offers an inspiring array of flora and fauna. Travellers to Albania can admire over 3000 plant species (that’s approximately 30% of Europe’s entire flora species!), a great number of which are used medicinally. Oak, black pine, beech, and fir forests, as well as alpine grasslands, shelter and feed Albania’s 350+ bird species and 80 mammal species, including wolves, bears, wild boars, lynx, and wildcats.
Places to Visit in Albania
- Tomorr National Park
- Lagoon of Karavasta
- Ohrid Lake
- Gjirokastra (the “City of Stone”)
- The “Albanian Riviera”
Unique Things to See and Do in Albania
- Visit the Roman amphitheater in Durres that dates back to the 2nd Century AD
- Tour one of the 700,000+ bunkers built during Communist rule
- Taste Byrek, a local sweet phyllo dough delicacy
- Sip unique Albanian coffee with a local at a local coffee shop
- Search for the golden eagle, Albania’s national symbol
What Makes Albania Unique
Not only are visitors attracted to Albania’s pristine seashore (in particular, the dreamy capes and coves) and jaw-dropping mountains, they’re also taken by the country’s produce. If you’re looking for the crème de la crème of tobacco, olives, peppers, leafy greens, grapes, sugar beets, figs, meat, honey, and dairy, look no further: unique Albania has it all. Off the coast, you’ll find ample carp, trout, sea bream and mussels, so you can imagine the treat you’ll get at Albanian restaurants.
Albania’s cuisine is strongly influenced by its past, and since the country has been either occupied or claimed by Greece, Serbia, Italy, and Turkey, the food is incredibly varied, and beneficially so. Albanians’ main meal is lunch, which is typically a salad of fresh vegetables dressed simply with olive oil and vinegar, followed by the likes of fire-roasted meat, rice, and yogurt sauces. Seafood is common along the coast while smoked meat (namely lamb) and pickled produce are staples in high elevation localities. Fresh baked white bread graces nearly every meal, and while you’re in Albania, we recommend getting into the local coffee culture. Albanian coffee is strong, but drinking a cup is a lovely cultural experience.
Besides food, Albanians are also proud of their viticulture — their specialty is Raki, an unsweetened anise-flavored alcohol — and, if food and drink aren’t your thing, they also boast an impressive art and entertainment scene. But museums aren’t the only places to admire local iconographic art: some of the most beautiful exhibits are outside; the heart of Albania, Tirana, has undergone a facelift since the days of communism, and instead of sporting grey concrete buildings, the capital’s structures are now painted a rainbow of colors, earning it the nickname, “The City of Colors.”
Getting Around Albania
Taking public transportation through Albania may call for extra time — it’s not the speediest means of getting from A to B — but it’s an experience in and of itself. The charming trains are old (hence the cracked windows!), and they wind through stunning mountainous terrain as they make their slow ascents. The Albanian bus and train system may also run less frequently than desired (beware: furgons, minibuses that supplement the regular ones, do not necessarily run on a schedule, and drivers are not obligated to depart until capacity is reached), but it’s reliable, and it allows you to truly take in the surroundings, or simply chat with other travellers or locals. What’s more, bus and train tickets are inexpensive, so you can justify spending that much more on good food, drink, and souvenirs.
Another option is to rent a car, but remember that international permits are required. Also, taxis are readily available in cities and towns. Those who enjoy physical activity are welcome to bike, but be warned that the roads are not in the best condition; expect to come across the likes of open, unprotected drains.
Best Time of Year to Travel to Albania
To enjoy the unique Albanian coast at its absolute best, travel to Albania in June. At this time of year, the weather is warm and the beaches are deserted. Climate-wise, August is another fabulous time to travel to Albania, but since it’s more populated during this holiday month, your best bet is to head away from the coast and into the mountains. Others attest September is the prime time to visit because the days are long and the fruit and vegetables are aplenty. If you’re a skier curious to test Albania’s unique skiing terrain, travel to the Albanian Alps between late November and March. Overall, the best months to visit Albania are May, June, and September.
Ready to plan your visit to Albania? Check out these popular guides and trips.