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Some basics about Albania
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Climate is what we expect, weather is what we get.
– Mark Twain, Author
While the coast faces the Adriatic and Ionian seas, the highlands are backed by the Balkan landmass, thus creating a wealth of micro-climates for such a small area.
This is today’s weather forecast for four areas of Albania:
Expect in the lowlands average summer temperatures of 24°C and mild winters at 7°C, the weather changes south-bound, resulting in a 5°C higher average summer-temperature. Very rarely cold winds from the interior sweep the lowlands in winter.
Inland the most dominant factor is elevation but after all temperatures are lower in any case. Expect cold winters with northeasterly winds much of time, in summer encounter big daily fluctuations with high daytime maximums (especially in valleys) and cold nights. Many locals move from cities and villages to the traditional summer pastures in the mountains or the coast to flee the blazing heat that can easily surpass 40°C.
[simple_box]Don’t worry most hotels are equipped with air conditioning and where the road conditions allow for it we use modern minibuses with AC.[/simple_box]
95% of the annual precipitation fall in winter, the amount varies greatly between highlands and coastline – outside of mountainous areas rain in summer is quite uncommon. The so called “dry valley” of Boga at the Western end of the Albanian Alps receives some of the strongest rainfall in Europe at around 3,000 mm. Vertical currents at places where the humid Mediterranean air rises to meet the cold continental air mass result in frequent thunderstorms with strong winds and torrential downpours.
The snow lasts to about 100 days per year in mountainous regions, where the snow depth go to more than 2 – 3 meters. The snow line is situated in the Albanian Alps at 1,500 m compared to the European Alps at circa 2,500 m.
I need the seasons to live to the rhythm of rain and sun.
– Sophie Marceau, Actress
“When finally the colors of the valley change from the white of snow to lively green in spring the Malisores (highlander) awake from their long winter hibernation to work their fields and herd the animals. The hot summer that turns the pastures yellowish pale is often spend on the high altitude alps until blood red beech woods dominate the picture.”
You can start hiking as early as April along the coastline and hills when apple and cherry blossoms cover the roadsides with their pastel-toned blossoms, in May spring starts to arrive in the mountains and most roads are open again.
Arriving between mid May and end of June, people will be greeted with a wealth of flowers that changes every week. Downright colorful rainbows of spring flowers and herbs cover the meadows and with every step they emit new odours. Admist them one can discover beautiful endemic plants like the lilium albanicum and waterfalls and gushing rivers are enjoyed at their best, as often they dry up completely or become little drizzles in August.
While it is true that most snowfields will only be gone in midsummer we believe that snow capped mountains only add to the atmosphere and experience tells us that people tend to visit the valleys and areas below 2000 m where snow disappears well ahead. Be prepared to find snow at medium altitudes till the beginning of June, it still lingers higher up well into July. Well equipped mountaineers who’re not afraid of snow will be able to climb slopes, that turn into vicious gravel fields later in the year, and every descend, no matter if done by foot or ski, becomes a piece of cake.
For the man sound of body and serene of mind there is no such thing as bad weather; every day has its beauty, and storms which whip the blood do but make it pulse more vigorously.
– George Gissing, Writer
In September the last snowfields that served hikers as water-sources disappear, the month is suitable for hikes in the valleys and other areas throughout the country. The last leaves turn red in October and fall has arrived. Many locals will argue that autumn from late September to October is the best time to visit Northern Albania and we can just agree.
We love the fog-shrouded landscape, first snow dotted peaks and plenty of edible mushrooms that pop up everywhere. Mountaineers should be aware that in the higher ranges temperatures plunge during the night and unsteady weather conditions as well as sparse water sources provide more difficult conditions for the ones that aim high.
In the lowlands the orchards blaze with the bright orange of the persimmons and the cooler colors of the citrus fruits, the sea is still warm enough for swimming while the crowds have already departed.
November is often very rainy and December can bring the first snow that blocks the roads. That’s why in winter time visitors are a very rare phenomena and one should be prepared not only to encounter blocked roads but difficulties with public transport and long power outages. It’s a real adventure and unique experience for the ambitious but requires thorough preparation and planning.
Most people of Kelmend and many in Valbona spend the whole year in the mountains. In stark contrast Theth is almost deserted during the harsh winter as the shortest road connection (Qafa Thores) is blocked and there’s no working school. The reason why most families leave for Shkoder after first snow, only to return between beginning and mid of June. The ones that stay will be happy to receive you as their guests in the meantime though.