Italy is a bucket list destination for many travelers, and it has so much to offer that it’s easy to see why.
Visitors flock to Italy for its history and heritage sites, delicious food, and diverse nature that includes both beach and mountain regions.
Italy depends on this tourism. But the hoards of travelers cramming into its cities and onto its beaches have made it an uncomfortable and expensive destination to visit this year.
American travelers still love Italy, with 6.1 million Americans visiting Italy in 2019. The country is expecting to beat that record this year.
But Albania is a great alternative destination instead right now. Here’s why:
A Growing Tourism Industry
Albania is currently enjoying its most successful year for tourism ever. During the first half of the year 3.4 million foreign travelers visited the country. More than 1 million of those travelers arrived in June alone.
Albania tourism is growing, but that doesn’t mean you’ll find the same crowds as in Italy. The beaches are open with plenty of space for visitors.
The tourist attractions are quiet enough that visitors can explore them at their own pace.
Albania has the same Mediterranean climate as Italy, which means hot dry summers and cooler wet winters. This means that, like Italy, it is a good year-round destination for travelers looking for beaches in the summer and culture in the cooler winter months.
Even the Italian Prime Minister has chosen to spend her summer vacation in Albania this week relaxing on the quiet beaches with her family in a way that would definitely not be easy in her home country.
Sea And Do
Beach lovers won’t be disappointed in Albania. Its coastline stretches 296 miles, and its position is on the Adriatic and Ionian seas inside the Mediterranean Sea.
This forms the iconic Albanian Riviera, which is known for its beautiful vistas and crystal clear waters.
For culture vultures, there are 4 sites on the UNESCO World Heritage list in Albania and another 4 currently on the list for consideration.
Albanian architecture and history were influenced by both ancient Rome and Greece. This means that you’ll find some of the same styles of temples, statues, and amphitheaters in Albania as you would expect to find in Rome.
But Albania also boasts its own unique Eastern influences. The capital of Tirana is packed full of Ottoman influences and is a great place to explore if you’re looking to discover a distinctly Eastern European destination.
Safe And Secure
Albania has a difficult and turbulent history that many people remember, and means some are still reluctant to visit. It was the final Eastern Bloc country with a communist government until 1992.
In its more recent history, Albania is known for organized crime and a drug trafficking industry, driven by the high rates of poverty in the country.
But this difficult past has had very little impact on the growing tourism sector in the country, and crime rates impacting tourists are very low.
The U.S. Government’s travel advisory level for Albania is currently Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution. This is due to the minor street crimes you can expect to find in many tourist destinations, such as pickpocketing.
For comparison, this is the same risk level that the U.S. Government has given to Italy.
Albanians are very welcoming and hospitable to foreign visitors and because the Albanian government is trying to grow their tourism industry significantly you are likely to find that people, including the local police forces, will go out of their way to make sure you have a good experience.
This means that travelers can feel safe and secure when they visit Albania.
Easy And Affordable
For travelers on a budget, a week in Albania is considerably more affordable than a week in Italy. Prices in Italy are at an all-time high driven by crowds, demand, and overtourism.
As a result, budget travelers have flocked to Albania this year.
If you visit the culture-rich capital city of Tirana you can expect to pay $42 for a two-course meal for 2 including wine, $2.60 for a beer and $66 for a night in a 3-star hotel.
In the beautiful coastal city of Sarande you will pay $47 for a two-course meal for two including wine, $2.70 for a beer and $67 for a night in a 3-star hotel.
The cheapest place to visit in Albania for those looking to get the best possible deal is the fascinating Medieval city of Berat, where a two-course meal for two will cost £34, a beer will cost just $1 and a night in a 3-star hotel will set you back $39.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com