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What To See And Do In Albania In Winter
Although Albania, located between the Dinaric Alps and the Adriatic and Ionian Seas, is best known for its warm Mediterranean summers and amazing beaches, there’s plenty to do in Albania in winter.
In fact, winter in Albania means minimal tourist crowds, spending cozy quality time with friends or family in resorts or restaurants, and fantastic outdoor winter activities.
So, what are the 9 top things to see and do in winter in Albania?
While the coasts of Albanian don’t get much snow in winter, the inland Albanian Alps do. All along its northern and eastern border, you’ll find opportunities to go skiing, snowboarding, or sledding.
Winter in Albania is also a great time to immerse yourself in the country’s culture and history. Visiting a museum or two, exploring a castle, attending a festival, or indulging in typical Albanian food are all excellent winter activities in Albania.
Celebrate Christmas And New Year’s In Tirana
Albanians cherish their cultural customs and historical traditions, which are visible all over the country and throughout the year. However, the Albanian love for celebrations might be at its peak in December during the winter holidays.
The heart of Christmas celebrations in Albania is Tirana, the nation’s vibrant capital. In Tirana, you can enjoy atmospheric Christmas lights across the city, from famous Skanderbeg Square to Saint Teresa Square, which hosts a beautiful Christmas market.
On the other hand, Skanderbeg Square is where you’ll want to ring in the New Year together with thousands of Albanians. Named after the national hero Georg Kastriot Skanderbeg, Tirana’s main square is a venue for all kinds of annual celebrations and events.
In winter in Albania, it’s the location of a giant Christmas tree and a popular spot to watch the New Year’s Eve fireworks. Additionally, numerous major Tirana attractions surround the square, making great places to visit if the weather’s terrible. Our recommendations include the National Historical Museum, the Et’ hem Bey Mosque, and the Clock Tower.
Ride The Dajti Ekspres
Without question, a major Tirana highlight and one of the most fun tourist attractions in Albania in winter is the Dajti Ekspres. This 1-kilometer-long ride is the longest cable-car ride in the Balkans. You will ascent more than 800 meters from the Tirana city center to Mount Dajti, a trip that takes about 15 minutes.
A tourist complex of restaurants and hotels lies at the top, while the views are absolutely spectacular. This is called the “Balcony of Tirana” for a good reason. It’s incredibly scenic when a dusting of fresh snow covers the city and its surroundings.
During winter in Albania, from November 1 to April 30, the Dajti Ekspres cable car in Tirana runs from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
(If you’re afraid of heights or don’t want to ride the cable car, there’s the possibility to drive up to the top by car, which takes an hour or longer.)
Enjoy Winter Sports And Scenery In Korçë
Arguably the leading Albania winter sports destination, the Korçë area in southeastern Albania is dotted with ski resorts, groomed trails and slopes, and all kinds of other facilities for wintertime visitors.
Villages around Korçë that are particularly amazing for winter activities like skiing and snowboarding are Voskopoja and Dardhë. Especially the latter one is incredibly popular, thanks mainly to the presence of the well-equipped Bigell Ski Resort.
The excellent winter sports facilities in and around Korçë are why Albania has been featured as one of the world’s most affordable winter sports destinations.
Additionally, in the unlikely event that the weather doesn’t allow for outdoor activities, you could visit the National Museum of Medieval Art in Korçë, housing over 7,000 artistic and cultural artifacts.
Visit Valbonë Valley National Park
Situated in the far north of Albania, bordering Montenegro to the north and Theth National Park to the west, Valbonë (or Valbona) Valley National Park is another sensational destination for Albania winter trips.
With its dramatic, barren summits and forested vales, glacial springs, and waterfalls, it’s a heavenly place for both humans and animals. The park’s Gashi River is part of the multi-unit UNESCO Primeval Beech Forests World Heritage Site, which encompasses sites all over Europe.
Besides floral diversity, Valbonë Valley is also home to lots of wildlife. This includes brown bears, lynx, chamois, grey wolves, wild goats, and countless bird species. Although you probably won’t see any of these iconic animals during winter in Albania, there’s still plenty to do in this epic national park.
Situated in the heart of the majestic Albanian Alps, the Valbonë Valley offers world-class cross-country skiing and snowshoeing opportunities. There are also some excellent winter guesthouses in the area. It’s easily one of the best destinations for magnificent winter wonderland scenery in Albania.
Attend Dita E Verës Festival
Dita e Verës—literally “Summer Day” in English—is an annual celebration of paramount importance in Albanian culture. Suppose you’re visiting the country on March 14, which is technically still winter in Albania. In that case, you’re in for a treat as there are huge celebrations all around the country, with families and children often spending time together.
You’ll find lots of traditional food, dancing, and general merriment around this time. This celebration is Albania’s largest pagan holiday and one of its main annual holidays. It celebrates the day when the goddess of forests, greenery, and nature comes out of her temple to break the winter season.
It’s essentially the celebration of winter moving on to spring, which comes with a strong emphasis on nature. The day before Dita e Verës, you’ll see people searching for a clump of grass containing soil and the roots, as they will then keep it in their home as a sign of good luck.
Explore Tirana’s Bunk’Art 1 And 2
Housed in an anti-nuclear bunker constructed by Albania’s communist government under Enver Hoxha, Bunk’Art 1 is one of the most extraordinary attractions in Tirana and one of the best museums in Albania.
This vast underground bunker, comprising no fewer than five stories and more than 100 rooms, is a phenomenal place to visit in winter in Albania. It offers a great escape from possible adverse winter weather.
Visitors can walk through the passageways and rooms where ex-dictator Hoxha and his aides were to seek shelter from possible nuclear attacks during the Cold War. Nowadays, Bunk’Art 1 is a unique place featuring video exhibitions and tons of art. A history museum and contemporary art gallery in one offers a one-of-a-kind immersion into life in Albania in the Communist Era.
Similar to Bunk’Art 1, Bunk’Art 2 is also in a former bunker. This one is located in the heart of Tirana, a short walk from Skanderbeg Square. It used to be the Ministry of Internal Affairs’ bunker, a 24-room shelter transformed into another remarkable Albanian museum.
Dedicated to the Ministry of Internal Affairs history, which ran from 1912 to 1991, it showcases the work done by the “Sigurimi,” the former political police and essentially a persecution force. This is the best museum to learn about the many people who fell victim to communist terror.
Go Heliskiing In The Prokletije Mountains
Thrill-seekers might be interested in a more adrenaline-heavy activity than museums, visits, festivals, and food can offer. In that case, you should definitely check out heliskiing in the Prokletije Mountains.
This majestic mountain range lies within Prokletije National Park in northern Albania, a subrange of the Dinaric Alps. Towering peaks, glacial valleys characterize it, and steep slopes—this is the location of the southernmost glaciers in Europe.
Heliskiing is, without question, the most exciting thing to do in winter in Albania. Seriously, can you think of anything else that even comes close?
You’ll be dropped off by a helicopter at the summit of a pristine, snow-covered peak, after which you’ll have to find your way down on sheer, ungroomed slopes. This is world-class skiing in locations where few other people have ever been before.
Visit Krujë Castle
Constructed as early as the 5th or 6th century, imposing Krujë Castle was the headquarters of Georg Kastriot during the 15th-century Ottoman sieges. From this small elliptical castle and with merely 3,000 men, Kastriot effectively withstood multiple attacks and halted the Ottoman Empire’s expansion into Central Europe.
The Ottomans, his mortal enemies, called him Iskender Bey, which means as much as Lord or Leader Alexander and is thought to compare to Alexander the Great himself. The English derivation of his name is Skanderbeg. Not surprisingly, Skanderbeg became a national hero in Albania, nicknamed the “Dragon of Albania.”
Getting to Krujë Castle from cities like Durrës or Tirana as a day trip is a piece of cake. It’s relatively small, too, so you should really only need a few hours to explore the area.
Indulge In Traditional Albanian Cuisine
On a cold and snowy winter evening in Albania, few things are as cozy, soul-warming, and enjoyable as indulging in a hearty traditional Albanian meal. It’s the perfect way to finish off a day of outdoor activities, museum visits, or other Albania winter activities.
Staples are garlic, onions, and herbs, which are used in the majority of recipes. More often than not, fish or meat—lamb, pork, poultry, and beef—are essential ingredients, too. There are several vegetarian options as well, though.
Albania Winter Weather
The climate in Albania is as varied as its topography. From the Adriatic and Ionian coastlines to the Albanian Alps and inland highlands and lakes, you can expect various weather conditions throughout Albania and throughout the year.
Since this post is about winter in Albania, let’s focus on Albanian winter weather. Its different regions have climates that range from subtropical to warm Mediterranean and continental. So, the weather you can expect depends significantly on your destination.
In general, though, winters in Albania are cool and wet. Although it doesn’t freeze or snow everywhere in the country, many parts can expect at least some sub-zero nighttime temperatures and snowfall at some point in winter.
In the Albanian Riviera, temperatures remain relatively comfortable through the winter season, while the inland mountains can see temperatures drop to well below freezing.
There are also very few hours of sunshine per day in winter in Albania. December, January, and February all have merely five daily sunshine hours on average. As a comparison, in summer, this average is at 15 hours or more per day.
What To Pack When Visiting Albania In Winter
When you visit Albania in winter, you should pack for chilly, humid, and wet weather conditions. On top of your Albania packing list should be warm sweaters, a raincoat, a hat and scarf, and comfortable boots or sturdy shoes.
Check out some recommended clothing for trips to Albania in winter:
- Packable down jackets
- Lightweight rain jackets
- Travel shoes
- Women’s travel pants
- Men’s travel pants
- Travel umbrellas
- Travel hair dryers
- Compression socks
You won’t need any swimwear or sunscreen in winter in Albania!Share