Albania, in Eastern Europe, was closed to outsiders until the early 1990s. For those that take a road less travelled, it is a country of stunning mountain scenery, ancient castles, ruins, and some of the best beaches rivalling those in the Mediterranean.
Tirana is the capital and jam-packed with museums, galleries, fabulous bars, clubs, and restaurants. Don't miss a ride on the Dajti Ekspres, to the top of Dajti Mountain on the longest cableway in the Balkans. It is only a 15-minute one-way journey, and at the top, there are shops and eateries. In the summer, go hiking and horse riding, or skiing in the winter.
The Albanian Riviera is a series of long beaches fringed to one side by quaint coastal towns with cobblestoned streets where baskets of pretty flowers sway in the sea breeze, lapped by calm turquoise waters. Some famous towns are Dhërmi, Drymades beach, Vuno, Qeparo, and the seaside town of Himara. Saranda is renowned for its picture-perfect beaches and hot nightlife and club scene.
There is a string of UNESCO heritage sites from buildings, whole towns and archaeological sites. Butrint is the largest and most important archaeological park in Albania. The entire town of Gjirokastër, in the south, is listed for its unique Ottoman architecture - the views from the castle over the city are breathtaking.
Valbona National Park has waterfalls, glaciers, forests and is a pristine, untouched ecosystem that nature lovers will never want to leave. For skiers, head to Dardha near Korça, it is becoming the premier ski destination in Albania.
There is a festival for almost everything. The Unum Electric Music in May and continues to draw a range of visitors and locals who like fun, music, and not much sleep. The Korca Beer Festival in August features local and international beers, its a great party and it's free!
Every season has something to offer in Albania. If Albania is on your radar, consider visiting sooner rather than later. While tourists are only a few at present, as word spreads about this beautiful country, they will increase tenfold.
Spring and summer (April-October) are the peak periods and typically warm-to-hot and dry. Autumn starts to see the first snowfalls in the highlands with winter the perfect season for skiing, exploring museums, and sampling cocktails in cosy bars and dining in.