Albania in winter remains an enigmatic destination for many countries. Most of you are unaware if there’s even any snow here. The mysteries of spending winter in the mountains or resorts of Albania are securely guarded behind seven locks. This article will bring clarity and understanding, helping you decide whether it’s worth coming here for New Year’s or skiing.

albania in winter
In Albania, each region prepares for winter differently. Take a look at the balcony of the second floor:

Albania in Winter: Unraveling the Weather

Today, our fellow countrymen are increasingly drawn to spending Christmas ans New Year’s in Balkan cities. Many venture to Belgrade for 3-5 days or to Zagreb. They say there’s no snow there, but it’s warm, cozy, affordable, and exudes Balkan hospitality. If you glance at the map, Tirana lies south of these cities, offering similar charms: warmth, affordability, delicious cuisine, and plenty to do.

Though Albania may be small, it features three distinct temperature zones that significantly differ from each other, especially during winter.

Zone One: The Warmest

  • This includes the entire coastline and the capital, Tirana.
    • These are the cities situated at sea level.
    • The average temperature during the coldest winter months fluctuates between +5 to +15 degrees Celsius.
    • Specific cities include:
      • Tirana
      • Durres
      • Vlora
      • Dhermi
      • Himara
      • Saranda
      • Ksamil
  • In these cities, the temperature almost never reaches 0, and snow is an extremely rare occurrence.
  • The further south the city, the warmer it becomes by a few degrees. Saranda is ideal for a winter seaside getaway.
saranda in january
Saranda in January. The temperature on a sunny day is around +18 degrees Celsius. If you look closely, there isn’t a single person on the beach, but the promenade is bustling with strollers.

Zone Two: The Balkan Mountains

  • The second zone encompasses areas 30 km away from the coastline and further inland, south of Tirana.
    • On the map, it covers everything south of Tirana and not on the coast.
    • These are the Balkan Mountains, characterized by their moderate height, with peaks not exceeding 2000m.
    • The cities, therefore, are not situated on the mountain peaks.
    • The highest-altitude cities in Albania are Pogradec on Lake Ohrid and its neighboring town, Korca.
    • Both cities are located at an elevation of 700-900 meters above sea level.

Interesting Fact:

This fact pertains to the whole world, not just Albania. As a rough estimate, for every 100 meters increase in altitude above sea level, the average air temperature decreases by 1 degree Celsius. Those who frequent the mountains are well aware of this. This fact allows for predicting the temperature at the peak of a particular mountain.
  • While the coastal area has an average temperature of +5 to +15 degrees Celsius, this region experiences temperatures between -2 to +8 degrees Celsius.
    • It usually stays above freezing, but both Korca and Pogradec can experience snowfall. Although, it generally doesn’t last long. Occasionally, winters may see snow cover lasting for a month.
    • Another interesting fact is that there’s no centralized heating in the country. While people on the coast manage fine, it’s a different story for residents of cities with temperatures hovering around 0 degrees Celsius. You can see how they cope in the photo selection below.

Zone Three: The Albanian Alps

This area comprises the highest mountains in Albania, located in the north, known as the “Accursed Mountains” due to their inaccessibility and sharp peaks resembling the fangs of wild animals.

In winter, the valley is completely sealed off. All residents, a mere 30 households, move to the city. And if someone remains in the village of Theth, in the Valbona Valley, it receives no less than 3 meters of snow annually.

It’s interesting to note that

despite being an ideal location for a ski resort, the mountains are so inaccessible that there’s no place to build ski runs.
winter in albanian alps
Valbona Valley in the Albanian Alps, early November. In a week, all the leaves will fall, and by the end of November, snow will fall. From that point on, it’s inaccessible until spring.

Albania in Winter: Ski Resorts

In brief, but substantiated. There are no ski resorts in Albania. Despite more than 70% of the country being covered in mountains, it is situated in a latitude where snow may occur, but it is scarce, quickly melts, and is insufficient for a proper ski resort. As you read earlier, the “Accursed Mountains” in the north are simply inaccessible.

Interesting Fact:

Perhaps the southernmost real ski resort in the Balkans is Kopaonik in Serbia and Kolasin in Montenegro. South of that, there are no proper ski opportunities.

Actually, I misled you; there is one ski resort in Albania. I marked it on the travel map; you can find the link in the travel guide header. The resort is called Bigell and is located in the village of Dardhe, 18 km from Korca. However, to give you an idea of what this resort is like, here are a few facts about it:

  • The combined length of all ski runs is, attention, 3 km!!!
  • The elevation difference is less than 100 meters.
  • There is even a lift, although a T-bar one.
  • Due to the warm winters, the season is short, merely two months, starting from late December. After that, the snow simply melts away.

Author’s opinion:

It’s more like a hill for sledding near my hometown. I’ve been there, and it feels like someone rented a part of the slope on a hill, built a lift, and is attempting to call it a ski resort. It’s suitable for children’s sleds, but since it’s located who-knows-where, I won’t continue any further. It’s not of much interest to anyone.
albania ski resort
Well, that’s the whole resort.

Winter Resorts on the Albanian Coast

It’s quite simple. Almost all tourist infrastructure is closed during winter. Besides, there are hardly any tourists around. The most reasonable place on the coast to experience some life, with open restaurants and opportunities for sunbathing on warmer days, is Saranda. And don’t forget Tirana; it’s a bustling city all year round, but Tirana is not on the coast.

  • You needn’t bother going to the neighboring Ksamil; it’s a small village, and everything there is closed.

In Saranda, there are many expats, and it is the warmest Albanian region during winter. You can rent excellent apartments with a sea view on the first line for as low as 300-400 euros per month. During the summer, such options are all rented out daily for 30-40 euros each.

Useful to know:

Saranda is also fantastic because fast ferries to the Greek island of Corfu depart from its port daily, even during winter. It takes just 25 minutes, covering about 8 kilometers, and you find yourself in Greece, where it’s even warmer. You can take a day trip or stay for a week; all you need is a Schengen visa. Read all about ferries in Albania here.
beach holidays in albania in winter
On the main promenade in Saranda in December. No tourists around, but it’s generally comfortable, with a temperature of +12 degrees Celsius. When the sun comes out, it reaches +18.

Albania in Winter: Christmas and New Year’s Eve

It’s a fantastic idea. For celebrating Christmas and New Year’s Eve in Albania, Tirana is the perfect choice.

  • No snow. The temperature is around +10 degrees Celsius and above.
  • All necessary infrastructure is available.
  • It’s a lively city that is much closer to Europe than you might think.

Author’s advice:

The ideal plan is to arrive in Albania on December 30th, celebrate New Year’s Eve in Tirana. There are plenty of restaurants here, and the cuisine and local hospitality will pleasantly surprise you. Then, on January 2nd, head to Saranda for a peaceful vacation week. While you might not be swimming, you’ll get your dose of sunbathing. For those who don’t know, Saranda boasts over 300 sunny days a year.
  • By the way, via the link, you’ll find all about Albanian holidays, what is celebrated, and when.
christmas in albania
In the center of Tirana on December 29th. The weather is perfect for New Year’s Eve: dry and warm.

In conclusion: Albania in winter is far from a popular tourist destination. However, if you delve into it and explore, you’ll find it warmer, sunnier, and more affordable than for example Paris. Yes, there are no ski resorts here. Think for yourself, decide for yourself, but spending winter in Albania is, at the very least, original and unconventional.

Wishing you more sunshine and warmth during your winter journey in Albania!

Resources to help you plan your dream trip to Albania

  • Flights at the best prices with best discounts
  • Car rental in Albania (cheaper – only by bus):
    • DiscoverCars – a major international resource
    • LocalRent – the leader in the Albanian car rental market. Very low deposits, even in cash.
  • Hotels and apartments throughout the country:
    • Hotellook – compares prices among dozens of platforms and offer you the best one.
    • Booking – large online booking platform.
    • Agoda – even more accommodation options in Albania.
  • Tours, excursions and activities:
    • GetYourGuide – more than 550 tours
    • Viator – 920+ excursions and activities throughout the country
  • Comprehensive travel insurance: EKTA
  • Internet and Calls:
    • Airalo eSIM in Albania from $4.5
    • DRIMSIM – universal SIM card (or eSIM) in any country in the world.
  • Taxi and airport transfer: Intui.Travel