Choose Albania if...
... you want to visit the seaside. The beautiful Albanian coast - a reason to pick Albania! If you're planning to visit the Balkans in the summer, when the temperatures can soar and heat waves are prevalent, you'll be grateful when you're near a beach. And luckily, with 476 kilometers of coastline snaking up and down the beautiful Adriatic and Ionian Sea, you'll have plenty of choices. While Macedonia has beautiful Lake Ohrid, which is beautiful in its own right, it's not quite the same as the Albanian Riviera, which is one of Europe's most stunning coastlines.
... you want the better local food. While I liked my meals in North Macedonia, I can't help but give the edge to Albanian food. Albanian cuisine is a wonderful mix of local delicacies as well as heavy Greek and Italian influences - I've had amazing Greek gyros and fantastic handmade pasta in Albania as well as fantastic local dishes like tave kosi, lamb baked in a yogurt sauce. The seafood you'll have in Albania all up and down the coast is incredible, and while Lake Ohrid trout is delicious, it doesn't beat the Mediterranean seafood of the coast.
Choose Macedonia if… … you want to see beautiful churches and mosques.Macedonia never experienced the same attack on religion as Albania has, and its religious architecture is some of the most impressive in Europe. Particularly of note for religious tourists is the city of Ohrid, which numbers 365 churches, one for each day of the year. The Church of St. John at Kaneo is an Ohrid icon, and one of the most famous churches in all of the Balkans.
Macedonia also has a significant number of ethnic Albanians who are part of the Muslim faith, and for that reason, there are a lot of beautiful mosques in Macedonia as well. Particularly beautiful is the Tetovo Mosque, with incredible tilework and beautiful paintings, located about halfway between Skopje and Ohrid.
… you want to do some wine tourism. While Albania has some great wines, I think I have to give the edge to Macedonia here. Plus, the wine industry in Macedonia is a little more established, meaning that it’s easier to visit some of the wineries here whereas many Albanian wineries are small family-run farms that don’t necessarily have visitor hours.
Tikves Winery is easily Macedonia’s most famous and it welcomes visitors frequently, though appointments for tours are recommended. Their temjanika is especially delicious, so be sure not to miss that! Stobi Winery in Veles is another fantastic winery that shouldn’t be missed if you’re curious to explore the Balkan wine scene.