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5 Reasons Why This Lesser Known European Country Is Breaking All-Time Tourism Records

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At a time when travelers are moving away from overcrowded hotspots and toward lesser-known, though more authentic destinations, one European gem has emerged into the international tourism scene as one of the continent’s best-kept secrets. 

A woman walking on the road in the Valbona Valley, Theth National Park, Albanian Alps, Valbona Albania

Albania, a small coastal nation nestled in the heart of the Balkans, recorded an influx of over 10.1 million tourists from across the globe this past year, a number never seen before in the country’s centuries-old history.

Though the newly set record was to be expected after so many reports dedicated to the country’s allure, value, and remarkable tourism growth, travelers are still wondering – what is it about Albania, a country of just 2.8 million people, that’s drawing in visitors at these rates?

Experiencing The Allure Of The Mediterranean On A Budget

With prices around the world rising beyond control and the U.S. dollar experiencing one of the sharpest declines of these past few years, U.S. travelers are more than ever seeking budget-friendly destinations that still provide the type of picture-perfect views and memorable experiences most of us seek from our adventures abroad.

aerial view of a beach in Ksamil, Albania

That’s exactly what Albania is currently offering its visitors.

With a coastline that rivals even Europe’s most coveted beaches, the prices in Albania will often feel too good to be true – remember, though, “often” is the operative word here.

While prices across the country, especially outside of the capital (Tirana), are significantly lower than what you’d find in the rest of Europe, lately there have been rising concerns about restaurants and hotels located along the country’s iconic Riviera overcharging tourists during peak season.

aerial view of Saranda, Albania

A good way to make sure you get a good deal on your Albanian summer holiday is to always book ahead, stick to reputable establishments with clearly marked prices, and do some research on the local currency’s exchange rate – that’s how most places will try to squeeze some extra money from you.

Other than that, though, your Albanian trip will probably be cheaper than you’d think.

restaurant in Korca, Albania

In most cities, you can get an espresso for $1, a basic ham-and-cheese sandwich for $2, and water is often provided for free along with your meal or drink (though that’s not the case in Tirana).

So Much To See And Do

There’s been a lot of talk about the Albanian Riviera’s jaw-dropping beauty this past summer; however, it’s important to note that the country’s allure goes well beyond its (admittedly stunning) coastline.

In fact, considering how crowded the likes of Vlora and Saranda have become these past few years, my advice to those looking to experience Albania in its most authentic form would be to focus their travels on lesser-known regions.

Aerial View Of Saranda, A City On The Albanian Riviera Facing The Turquoise Colored Adriatic Mediterranean Sea, Albania, Balkan Peninsula, South Eastern Europe

Ancient ruins, picturesque landscapes, idyllic villages, and pristine lakes are scattered all over the country – and they’re all worth exploring. 

Tirana, the capital, offers the ultimate city break experience.

Characterized by a lively atmosphere, vibrant street art, and burgeoning café culture, the Albanian capital, though a bit hectic, is sure to stand out among other hotspots in the Balkan region.

If you have a bit more time, though, my advice would be to spend a couple of days exploring the jaw-dropping architecture of Berat and Gjirokastër, take an organized tour through Valbona Valley, or roam around the cobblestoned streets of the country’s top domestic destination – Korçë.

berat albania white houses

Those visiting Korçë during fall or winter, in particular, won’t want to miss out on a tour of the Christmas lights or a short trip to the nearby picturesque villages of Voskopojë and Dardhë (the latter is home to the country’s only ski resort).

A Welcoming Destination From Where You Can Visit The Rest Of The Balkans

Albanians’ welcoming nature has long been one of the nation’s most defining characteristics.

People are warm, friendly, and will guide tourists with a genuine smile – not to mention most people living in bigger cities have had to learn English to some degree, given that Albanian is such a sparsely spoken language, so you shouldn’t find it too difficult to communicate your wants and needs.

Modern Pedestrianised Street In Tirana, Capital City Of Albania, Eastern Europe

Moreover, the country’s strategic geographical location has helped it establish itself as a crossroads between the Adriatic and Ionian seas, making it that much easier for travelers to explore the Mediterranean’s greatest wonders.

Albania is also nestled in the heart of the Balkans, and from there, Greece, Montenegro, and North Macedonia, along with almost every other country in the region are just a short drive away.

blue lakes and mountains in Albania

Finally, as the Tirana National Airport expands, more airlines, including some low-cost favorites, are introducing new direct routes from Tirana to many of Europe's biggest hotspots – I’ve personally booked a round-trip flight from Tirana to Rome for just $35.

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