Albania & North Macedonia

These are truly among Europe’s last hidden secrets, but probably not for long. Both countries have remained mostly untouched by large-scale tourism and it is only in the last few years that adventurous travelers have started discovering their pristine natural beauty, medieval monasteries, rugged castles, ancient archaeological sites, and delicious food prepared from the freshest local ingredients.

Berat Castle in Albania - UNESCO World Heritage Site
Lake Ohrid, Macedonia - UNESCO Natural and Cultural Heritage
  • Situated along the eastern Adriatic and Ionian coast between Montenegro and Greece and just across from Italy, Albania is a wonderfully underexplored country of contrasts – bustling cities and sleepy villages, sandy beaches just a short drive away from craggy mountain peaks, donkey carts sharing the roads with Mercedes sedans, and mosques neighboring churches. Through the centuries, it has been a melting pot of cultures, with Illyrians, Greeks, Romans, Venetians, and Ottomans all leaving traces of their heritage behind. Albania is also a paradise for mountain biking, hiking, and river rafting, and because mass tourism has not yet overrun the country, local people are still genuinely warm and welcoming.

  • The small country of North Macedonia is rich in vineyards, forests, Orthodox monasteries, and old villages. Its main attraction is the alpine Lake Ohrid on the border with Albania. Protected by UNESCO as both Natural and Cultural Heritage, the historic lake town of Ohrid draws crowds thanks to its charming cobblestone streets, Byzantine-era churches, and open-air cultural events. Nearby, the Galicica National Park offers a quiet refuge and a chance to hike to the mountain peak and enjoy the gorgeous views over both the Ohrid and the Prespa lakes simultaneously.

  • If you have a week or less to spend in this region, you may consider flying in and out of Albania’s capital Tirana. This will allow you to spend a few days there to explore the city and take day-trips to nearby Kruja (to visit the medieval castle and the old bazaar) and the seaside town of Durres (for the Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman sites) before transferring east and across the Macedonian border to Ohrid where you could spend another several days touring the town, the lake, and hiking in the Galicica National Park.

  • With 8 – 12 days to spare, you should certainly head south of Tirana and explore the coast all the way down to Saranda to visit Butrint – the country’s best-known archaeological site and on the UNESCO World Heritage list. Also in southern Albania, the medieval towns of Berat and Gjirokastra (also UNESCO-protected) with their hilltop castles and unique architecture are a must-see. From there, drive north-east to the highlands around Korca and continue to the Galicica National Park and the Ohrid Lake before looping back to Tirana. 

  • Not ready to go home yet? From Tirana, you can transfer north and head to Montenegro and end the trip there with a few days relaxing and exploring this small country. 

Visiting these countries requires meticulous planning and willingness to sometimes leave your comfort zone and travel off the beaten path.  Let's chat and we will tell you all about it. 

Cultured Adventurer is an independent affiliate of Palm Coast Travel and a member of Signature Travel Network.
Florida Seller of Travel Number ST14303.

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