Discovering Albania in Winter: Carnivals

February 4, 2022

Summer is the main tourist season in Albania. Soaring temperatures draw locals as well as visitors to the idyllic beaches and impressive mountainous areas where they, no doubt, have the time of their lives. If, however, you are not a friend of the heat or prefer to escape the masses, you should consider Discovering Albania in Winter. Depending on where you go, it will be a bit cold, possibly even snowy, and many tourism businesses may be closed due to the off-season. But exactly this will also give you a unique opportunity to experience the country from a much more authentic, almost intimate side. Also, no worries about the cold. A good glass of raki and some delicious Albanian coffee or mountain tea can deal with that.

Parades, Parties and Politics

When discovering Albania in Winter, you should not miss out visiting one of the carnivals that take place in many cities throughout the country. They are usually a highlight of the local festival calendar and often include a large parade, parties and other events. During the parades, residents show off colourful costumes as groups or individuals. The costumes may be both traditional and modern. The latter often represent characters from history and popular culture, or even mockingly portray members of the political and social elites. As in many places elsewhere in the world, the Carnival masquerade in Albania has always been an opportunity for a great party right before Lent, but also an accepted occasion to express political criticism in a hidden, yet very obvious way.

A fun way to learn about Albania’s history
carnivals korca

Visiting a carnival parade in one of Albania’s cities, you can also learn a lot about history. Did you for example know that hundreds of years ago, Shkodra was part of the Republic of Venice? Until today, Venetian masks are produced in the city and showcased during the annual carnival parade.

The exact dates when Carnival is celebrated varies from city to city and from year to year. It is often set according to the beginning of lent and thus dependent on the date of the Easter holidays. Most carnivals, such as the ones in Berat, Gjirokastra, Shkodra, Narte or Himara are celebrated between February and April. One exception is the carnival in the ‘City of Serenades’, Korça. The Carnival of Korça is probably the largest and most famous carnival celebration in Albania, that is attended by participants and visitors from all over the country and even from abroad.

Written by: Julianne Zimmerman, intern at Elite Travel Group

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