Albania is a beautiful country located in southeastern Europe along the Adriatic and Ionian Sea. With its rugged mountains, stunning beaches, historical cities, and hospitable culture, it has become an increasingly popular tourist destination. However, as with any place, there are certain times of the year that are less ideal for visiting. Here is an overview of the worst times to visit Albania and why you may want to avoid these periods.
Summer: June to August
Summer is arguably the worst time for visiting Albania. This is the country’s peak tourist season, which brings hordes of visitors, especially in July and August. The weather is hot, with temperatures frequently reaching into the 90s Fahrenheit/30s Celsius. Beaches and attractions become very crowded and accommodations fill up quickly, so you’ll need to book well in advance. Prices also surge during this busy summer season.
The influx of tourists strains infrastructure. Roads are congested, sites have long lines, and beaches are packed. Service at restaurants and attractions declines. Locals also leave major cities during summer, so the vibe isn’t as authentic. The seaside resort towns particularly become overrun. Overall, summer is a challenging time for budget or solo travelers looking for an off-the-beaten path experience. Visiting in June or September may be better than July and August.
Winter: December to February
Winters in Albania are relatively mild near the coast, but cold and snowy inland and in the mountains. While southern beach destinations remain popular in winter, much of the country shuts down. Many hotels, restaurants, and attractions in places like Tirana, Shkoder, Berat, and mountain towns have limited operations. Attractions like archaeological sites may have shorter hours or even close.
The weather poses challenges for getting around. Mountain roads become difficult or impossible to access due to snow and ice. Frequent rainfall creates flooding risks as well. With fewer daylight hours, it’s more difficult to see the main sights. If you want to visit Albania’s interior or enjoy outdoor activities, aim for spring, summer, or fall instead. The winter months are best suited for city breaks in Tirana or along the Riviera coast.
Major Holidays: Easter, Christmas, New Year’s Eve
Visiting Albania during major holidays like Easter, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve can be tricky. The country essentially shuts down during these periods as families gather. Businesses, restaurants, museums, and other attractions will have limited hours or close entirely.
Public transportation operates on a reduced schedule or stops running. Roads and sites will be more crowded right before a holiday as people travel. Prices also increase for accommodations and transport. Make sure you have a place to stay during the actual holiday dates, as many hotels will be fully booked. These periods are best avoided if you want to sightsee, but can be ideal if you want to experience Albanian culture and celebrations.
Political Elections and Protests
Albania’s political scene can be unpredictable. Visiting around elections or during times of civil unrest due to protests creates uncertainties. Transportation may halt and sites can unexpectedly close. Protests may turn unstable, posing safety risks, especially in city centers.
Scheduled large-scale protests are also best avoided. Keep up with local news when planning your trip and have contingency plans in case situations arise. Avoiding direct overlaps will minimize hassle and disruption to your travels.
Ramadan and Bajram Holidays
Islamic holidays like Ramadan and Bajram are important in Albania due to its Muslim population. Ramadan is a month-long holiday marked by fasting from dawn until dusk. During this holy month, you’ll need to avoid eating, drinking, smoking, or other temptations in public during daylight hours. Most restaurants and bars will be closed until sunset. It’s also important to dress and behave modestly.
The two Bajram holidays, at the start and end of Ramadan, are celebrated by feasts and gatherings. Businesses and attractions may have limited operations. Travel delays can occur as people visit loved ones. Hotel availability is lower. If you visit during Ramadan or Bajram, be respectful of those observing this religious occasion.
Rainy Season: October to January
Albania’s rainy season lasts from October through January. While rainfall averages under 200mm per month along the coast, it’s significantly higher inland. Steady rain and storms can persist for days at a time, especially in autumn. This makes travel more challenging. Flooding may impact roads or sites. Outdoor activities get cancelled. Beaches become less appealing.
The rain can hinder travel to areas like Theth National Park or the Accursed Mountains region. Mudslides occasionally lead to road closures as well. For sunnier weather and outdoor adventures, it’s best to avoid autumn through early winter. Visiting Albania’s archaeological sites and museums can be a good alternative during the wet months. Just have backup indoor activities planned.
Construction Season: April to September
Since Albania is still developing its tourism industry, you’ll find construction projects underway across the country. The peak season for construction runs from April through September. You’ll frequently encounter roadwork and closed streets, especially in places adding infrastructure like Vlora. Scaffolding may cover buildings and monuments while renovations occur.
Popular sites like archaeological parks, castles, and museums may have construction areas that detract from enjoyment or impact accessibility. The noise, dust, and visual disruptions can be annoyances. While progress is positive overall, the construction takes away from Albania’s historic charm and ambience. Avoiding spring through summer minimizes, but doesn’t eliminate, construction’s impacts on your trip.
While Albania offers spectacular scenery, heritage, and culture year-round, some periods are better than others for visiting. Avoid the peak summer months if you don’t like crowds and inflated prices. Skip major holidays and rainy season for the best access and weather. Political issues, Ramadan, and widespread construction projects also create challenges. With some strategic timing, you can experience Albania’s highlights in a more pleasant and authentic way.