When you think of the best European vacation spots you probably think of locations like France, Italy, and Greece.
But the country whose tourism sector has made the fastest record-breaking recovery from years of travel restrictions will probably surprise you.
The number of tourist arrivals in Albania was up by 56% this year compared to 2019. Albania beat better-known European destinations like Croatia, France, Greece, and Spain to this top spot.
Here’s why Albania is the fastest-growing destination in Europe:
A Rich History
The history of Albania is just as rich as that of neighboring Greece and Italy.
For 5 centuries Albania was ruled by the Ottoman Empire before proclaiming independence in 1912. Then after WWII, Albania became a Stalinist state.
The capital of Tirana boasts stunning architecture and a huge offering of museums and galleries. In Berat, you will find a 13th-century castle still standing. Travelers visit from across the world to see the UNESCO world heritage site of Butrint.
There are 4 different UNESCO World Heritage sites in Albania, while another 4 sites are currently sitting on the organization’s tentative list.
History lovers love Albania because of the wide and diverse range of historical events you can explore here.
Like other Mediterranean countries, Albania has warm and dry summers followed by mild and wet winters. That means that the winter months are a great time for sightseeing and exploring the country.
Albania is often considered the hidden gem of the Mediterranean. It Is located in the southeastern part of the Adriatic and the northeastern part of the Ionian Sea.
Albania boasts incredible turquoise waters and golden sand beaches. It has a prime location between Italy and Greece and its own host of idyllic beach resorts.
With 280 miles of stunning coastline, some of the best beaches in Albania include the pale pebble beach of Dhermi, and the bustling beach town of Himara. The Albanian Riviera is home to sandy lagoons and unspoiled sand beaches.
And although visitor numbers have risen significantly, Albania doesn’t get anywhere near the same number of tourists as other Mediterranean countries like Italy and Greece.
That’s not to say that summer on the beaches of Albania isn’t busy. But the summer months in Albania are nowhere near as busy here as they are in many of Europe’s other Mediterranean hot spots.
If you’re not interested in a beach vacation, then there are still plenty of reasons to visit Albania. The landscapes of Albania are incredibly diverse, and it boasts stunning scenery.
The north of the country is wild and untamed, making the perfect destination for adventure travelers. And outdoor explorers will enjoy the stunning national parks of Thethi and Llogara. These are great spots for hiking in the summer and for cross-country skiing or snowshoeing in the winter.
During the winter months, the snow-covered peaks of the Albanian Alps are a great spot for snow sports and a much more affordable place to take to the slopes than the Alps of France or Italy.
A Year-Round Destination
Though the summer months are considered the high season in Albania, the country is a year-round destination. In fact, many travelers believe that the off-season is the ideal time to discover Albania.
The number of tourists in the country is lower, which means that you will have many of the attractions to yourself. And because Albanians are very welcoming to visitors, this is a great time to see the authentic heart of the country and live like a local.
The months between September and November are the best time to visit Albania if you want to enjoy walking, cycling, sightseeing, and watersports.
No matter what time of year you visit Albania it is a very affordable destination to visit. You get great value for money on both food, tours, and accommodation, meaning that it is a brilliant choice for budget travelers.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com