Albania sightseeing guide

Albania sightseeing guide

Albania, which is considered the most exotic country of the old continent, is seeking membership in the European Union, referring to the legacy of the ancient Illyrians. Until recently, Albania was hard to reach and remote, today it is open to holiday-hungry tourists from mass excursions and crowded beaches.

Butrint

Butrint is a UNESCO-listed ancient settlement and the archaeological jewel of Albania. Butrint was founded according to legend by refugees from Troy. Ruins of the temple of the Greek god Asclepius and is located next to the theater, where priests prayed for the health of the sick. After heavy rains, the stage of the theater is covered with water, in which small turtles swim, and tourists walk along the footbridges.

In 1959, Butrint was visited by Nikita Khrushchev. To protect the distinguished guest from the sprawling vines, a row of eucalyptus trees was planted behind the entrance gate. A visit to Butrint is ideal for tourists who love monuments and are particularly interested in history. Here you can admire, among other things, the remains of defensive walls, the temple of Asclepius, the ruins of a Byzantine basilica, an ancient amphitheater, a baptistery, the ruins of a Roman bath and a 5th century chapel. The archaeological park is located right on the border with Greece, about 20 km south of Saranda. It is one of the greatest tourist attractions in Albania. Situated on a hill, among water and greenery, Butrint makes an astonishing impression.

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Butrint

Logara Pass and Lookout Point

The Logara Pass is the place where the mountains meet the sea, where the massif of the Tzeraun mountains rises up to a thousand meters above the Albanian Riviera. The road through the mountains winds upwards, offering spectacular views. Tourists can travel through the pass by bus. They should bring a jacket, as it is cool at the top of the mountain, especially when the wind blows. At the mountain inn, one can warm up with a glass of homemade yogurt with honey and walnuts.

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Logara Pass and Lookout Point

Porto Palermo Redoubt

In the 18th century Ali Pasha of Tepelena, national hero in the battles against the Ottoman Empire, built a small fortress on the coastal promontory. The sightseeing takes 15 minutes. From the central “living room” just beyond the entrance one can see the most stellar rooms: the well, the kitchen, the commander’s and crew quarters, and the prisoner’s cell. Stairs lead up to the roof of the defensive tower, which overlooks the beautiful bay. During the time of Communist dictator Enver Hoxha, a tunnel was cut into its rocks for a submarine base. Trenches of pillboxes were built and rows of agaves were planted on the nearby slope.

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Porto Palermo Redoubt

Port City of Vlore

Vlora is a port city at the junction of the Ionian and Adriatic Seas, the closest (only 130 km) to Italy. It is one of the most important cities on the Albanian coast. On the square in the center of the city, where in 1912 the independence of Albania was declared, there is a 17 meters high monument to freedom fighters in the style of socialist realism with the first Prime Minister Ismail Kemali. Nearby is a plaque dedicated to the victims of the fatal 1997 riots that shook the country after the collapse of the pyramid schemes. The panorama of the city and its surroundings can be admired from Kazum Baba Hill, which has stone steps leading up to it. One of the tourist attractions of the city is also the Independence Museum, where you can see, among other things, the office of Albania’s first prime minister.

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Port City of Vlore

Sacred Mount Tomorr

Mount Tomorr, 2,416 m above sea level, on whose slopes, according to legend, the two giants Tomorr and Spirag fought for the favor of a woman. They both died and the woman drowned in her own tears, from which the Osum River rose. At the top of the mountain is a mausoleum containing the relics of Abbas ibn Ali, grandson of the Prophet Muhammad. In the local national park area, there are scenic hiking trails leading to Sotira Falls, among other attractions.

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Sacred Mount Tomorr

Berat – The City of a Thousand Windows

The city of Berat is famous for its white houses that climb the slope, making it look as if they are standing on top of one another. The best view is from the observation deck on the hill of the huge fortress of Kalaja Berati, where people live to this day. In the cathedral church of St. Theodore, you can admire the masterpieces of the 16th century iconographer Onufri, which have an impossible shade of red . The master took the secret of its making with him to his grave. Also worth seeing is the stone bridge over the Osum River at the end of the 18th century, Berat is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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Berat – The City of a Thousand Windows

Elbasan

Elbasan is one of the largest cities of Albania, located in the central part of the country. At the same time it is an important city for domestic tourism due to its numerous monuments and historical value. In the 16th century, the Turkish Sultan Mehmet II, during his fight against rebels led by the Albanian national hero Skanderbeg, enlarged the ancient Roman fortress and changed the name of the city from Albanopolis to Elbasan (from Turkic fortress). The city is the main center of Islam in Albania, with the oldest mosques in the country. In 1908, students of local Koranic schools revolted in protest against the reform of the written Albanian language, which resulted in the introduction of the Latin alphabet instead of the Arabic alphabet. Elbasan is home to the largest steelworks in the Balkans with miles of rust along the Shkumbin River, built by the Chinese during the time of Hoxha.

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Elbasan

Albania’s capital, Tirana.

Founded in 1614 by the Albanian janissary Suleiman Pasha Barjini, who was made a general in the service of the Ottoman Empire. Due to its location in the geographical center of the country, Tirana was proclaimed the capital of Albania in 1920 . During a walk through the city center you can see the monument to Skanderbeg, a collapsing glass pyramid (the supposed mausoleum of Enver Hoxha), the parliament and government residence, a real small bunker and barbed wire from a Soviet labor camp, and a fragment of the Berlin Wall and a monument to the Albanian Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

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Albania’s capital, Tirana.

Kruja – Albanian Krakow

The capital of the first independent principality was Albanian Krakow. From the local fortress, the rebellious janissary Gjergji Kastriota, the same one who started the anti-Turkish revolt, led the defense of Albania for 20 years. In recognition of his outstanding leadership qualities, the Turks nicknamed him Skanderbeg, deeming him worthy of the name Iskander (Alexander) of Macedonia.

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Kruja – Albanian Krakow

Shkodra and the legend of evil forces

The city is located at the mouth of the rivers Buna and Drin to Lake Skadar, the largest on the Balkan Peninsula. The action takes place around an ancient Illyrian fortress with which a dark legend is associated. According to the legend, the construction of the fortress was hindered by evil forces craving victims, so the young mother was walled up alive in the foundation of the building. Over the course of several days, the hole in the wall gradually shrank so that she could breastfeed her son.

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Shkodra and the legend of evil forces

The port city of Durres and the city walls

Durres is the biggest port city in the country, from where, as from Vlora, 1/3 of the Albanians left for bread after the fall of communism. Visitors are impressed by the impressive ramparts of the Byzantine era. The Roman amphitheater, one of the largest in the Balkans, was discovered accidentally in the 1960s after the collapse of the basement of a house built on a landfill.

Durres is now also one of the most important resorts . Thanks to the beautiful beaches, good tourist management and hospitality of the inhabitants it is visited with pleasure by tourists from all over Europe.

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The port city of Durres and the city walls

Apollonia – an ancient port

In ancient times it was an important port at the mouth of the river Aoos in the Adriatic Sea, known for its slave market with high revenues . After a major earthquake in the 3rd century A.D., the river moved away from the city, turning the marshes into arable fields and later the name Vjosa. It was here that the Balkan section of the Via Egnatius (in another version, with Dyrrhachium or Durres) began, connecting Rome with Thessaloniki and Constantinople. In the village of Poyani, just opposite Apollonia, there is a large bunker that you can enter.

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Apollonia – an ancient port

Gjirokastra or “city of the white roofs”

The “city of white roofs”, inscribed in the UNESCO list, with its houses covered with tiles of the local transparent slate, is an important point on the tourist map of Albania. Enver Hoxha’s family home houses an ethnographic museum. In turn, a military museum was organized in the fortress towering over the surrounding area. One of the exhibits is a World War II-era Fiat tank and an American Lockheed T-33 spy plane shot down over Albania in the 1960s. You can also visit the Museum of Albanian Socialist Realist Art in the fortress for a fee.

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Gjirokastra or “city of the white roofs”

Blue Eye – Siri and Kalter

About 30 kilometers from Saranda, from a depth of 50 meters, a breeze of crystal clear water with a temperature of 10 ° C comes to the surface and forms the river Bystrica a few meters wide . In communist times, it was a private property of the party nobility led by Enver Hoxha, fenced with barbed wire.

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Blue Eye – Siri and Kalter

Sightseeing in Albania

Albania is a small state in terms of territory, but extremely interesting by the number of attractions. There is a lot to see and do here.

Albania’s long coastline borders Macedonia, Greece, Montenegro and is one of the most beautiful in Europe. The popularity of Albania among tourists is growing every year, but the country remains largely pristine and unexplored. Clean Mediterranean air, wide sandy beaches, beautifully preserved Ottoman architecture, famous ancient fortresses, delicious food and at the same time affordable prices – that’s what makes Albania so attractive to travelers.

Today we will tell you what places to visit, where it is best to relax, what sights to see in Albania in the first place!

Interesting sights of Albania

The compact size of the republic allows you to visit all the interesting and significant sights of the country in 10 days. To have time to see all the natural beauties, it is best to rent a car.

Tirana

Tirana. Monument to Skenderberg

The capital of Albania, Tirana, traces its history back to the 1600’s. Here you can immerse yourself in the past and present of the republic. Rugged Soviet buildings, monuments of Italian architecture, Ottoman heritage are all vividly intertwined in one city. The best place to start exploring the capital is the central square of Skenderberg, which bears the name of Albania’s national hero. Around it are the administrative buildings and government offices. Here you can also admire the ancient mosque of Efem Bey, which has become a symbol of religious revival of Albania. To explore the history of the country you can go to the National Museum of History. The most photographed landmark of the capital is considered to be the Clock Tower, which was built in 1822. You can climb the spiral staircase to the observation deck for free. Of particular interest is the government bunker, which was built during the communist period of the country’s history and is now a museum. Five floors, more than a hundred different rooms, including a conference room for 200 people – this shelter could withstand not only a long siege, but also a nuclear explosion.

Berat

This is one of the oldest cities in Albania. It is known to travelers as the City of a Thousand Windows. The mix of Ottoman and Albanian style in architecture led to its originality and uniqueness. Most of the attractions of Berat date back to the XIII-XVIII centuries. It is definitely worth visiting the museum of ethnography, the city fortress, castle, royal mosque, the Church of St. Mary of Blachernae with unique frescoes. The town is historically divided into three parts: Kaladzha, Mangalem, and Gorica. Kaladzha is a residential quarter within the ancient fortress, which existed in the era of ancient Rome. Most of the houses in Kaladzha are made of stone and have survived the periods of multiple conquests perfectly and have come down to us in pristine condition. Christian churches from Byzantine times have also survived. For its abundance of attractions Berat was included in the list of World Heritage Sites under the auspices of UNESCO.

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Saranda

On the coast of the Ionian Sea is the resort city of Saranda. It is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country. People come here for the beautiful beaches, delicious cuisine and warm sea. However, this is not all. The city has several interesting sites that are worth visiting for the curious traveler. First of all, you should go to Butrinti. This is an archaeological museum-reserve, where you can admire the remains of the Roman heritage. Here are well preserved residential buildings, theater building, city gates, sanctuaries, and Roman thermae. Lekursi Fortress, located within the city, is considered the best place to spend a sunset. There is also a restaurant, which offers a beautiful panorama of the coast. Another advantage of a holiday in Saranda will be the opportunity to go to the neighboring Greek island of Corfu, with which Albania is connected by a regular ferry service.

Blue Eye (spring)

It is a karst spring on the outskirts of Saranda. Eighteen springs gush out of the ground with great force, which form a body of water with an unusual coloring. The water is dark blue in the center and blue at the edges. Hence the name Blue Eye. Interestingly, the water temperature does not depend on the season and always stays around 13 º C. But this fact does not stop travelers who are happy to swim here and take pictures. After swimming you can refresh yourself in a restaurant, where you can enjoy grilled lamb, vegetables and rakija (Balkan samogon).

Gjirokastra

This is one of the best places to visit in Albania. The museum city has been on the list of World Heritage of Humanity under the auspices of UNESCO since 2005. The main attraction of Gjirokastra are the old Turkish tower houses dating from the XVII-XIX centuries. Such houses are common throughout the Balkan Peninsula, but in such numbers and preservation are found only here. The narrow paved streets, mosques, ancient churches, and Ottoman architecture give this place its special and distinctive charm. Be sure to visit the oriental bazaar, where you can buy souvenirs, clothes, spices, ceramics, oils. Every five years, the citadel Gjirokastra is the site of the Albanian national folklore festival. Vocal and dance groups come here from all over Albania, as well as from Kosovo, Turkey, Macedonia and Montenegro. The last time the festival was held was in 2015.

Cruja

It is impossible to imagine the history of Albania without its national hero Skanderbeg. He led a liberation movement against Ottoman rule and successfully defended the independence of Albania for several decades. The center of resistance was the town of Kruja. This place is a must-see for anyone who comes to Albania for the first time. The main tourist object on the map of the town is the ancient fortress of Kruja, where nowadays the museum of Skanderbeg is situated. The impregnable citadel withstood several major sieges of the Turkish troops and forever inscribed its name in the history of the country. The ethnographic museum keeps exhibits from the period of George Kastrioti (Skanderbeg). Among them are weapons, ceramics, icons, ancient books, documents, stamps, furniture. After viewing the exposition be sure to climb the fortress wall, from here you can enjoy a magical panorama of the Adriatic Sea.

Teti National Park

This is one of the most beautiful places in Albania. The park is located among the majestic Albanian Alps. This region of Albania is accessible to tourism only in the warm season. In winter the roads are impassable. The center of tourism and a starting point for hiking trails was the village Teti (Tet). Permanently there are no more than 100 people. In the season the national park and the village is visited by up to 10 000 tourists. For their convenience a modern hotel and a cafe was built here. But people come here not for comfort, but for the pristine nature, mountain gorges Grunas, waterfall Giechaj, two thousand meters meters Radohima and Arapi.

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Xamil Islands

These are four islands, which are located in the Ionian Sea at a small distance from the mainland Albania. It is a crystal clear sea, snow-white sand and untouched pristine nature. You can get to the islands only by boat. Here is one of the most popular resorts of the country. The peak tourist season is in July and August, but even at this time you can find a secluded place. The Xamil Islands are part of the Butrinti National Park and are protected by the state.

What you can see in Albania

Most tourists come to Albania between May and September to have time to enjoy the warm sea. However, the republic is ready to offer travelers not only a beach holiday, but also excursions to historical sites.

Shkoder (Skadar)

Shkoder (Skadar). The fortress of Rosafa

This is the largest city located in the north of Albania. It is often called the cultural capital of the country. Shkoder has become a venue for a huge number of different festivals, including international festivals. Tourists from all over Europe come to Shkoder during the Carnival, the Lake Day, the Jazz Festival, the Children’s Festival. In addition to the rich cultural program Shkoder has a rich historical heritage. What stands out the ancient fortress Rosafa, for the construction of which was sacrificed human sacrifice. The best way to learn about the legends and legends of the citadel can be found in the local museum. Skadar Lake, on the shores of which stands the town, is the largest on the territory of the Balkan Peninsula. It is one of the most beautiful and deep lakes in the region.

Vlora .

This is a famous sea resort situated on the Adriatic Sea coast. The history of the city begins in the VI century BC with the founding of the Greek colony. An amphitheatre, baths, and fortress ruins have survived from the ancient period. A landmark for every Albanian was the Independence Museum, where in 1912 the country declared its independence. For a short period, Vlora became the capital of Albania. In 1972, the Independence Monument appeared in the city to commemorate this event. The most important economic sector of the city is the production of olive oil. In the vicinity of Vlora grow about 300 thousand olive trees, which is the highest in Albania. Here you can book a tour of the farm to see not only how olives are grown, but also to take part in a master class in oil production.

Apollonia

A visit to Apollonia is a must for anyone visiting Albania. It was once the largest ancient Greek port in Illyria. One of the first mentions of Apollonia goes back to the writings of Aristotle. Over time, the inhabitants left the area because it was swampy. Archaeological excavations that began in the early twentieth century give an indication of the scale and wealth of the ancient polis. The excavations are still going on. But even now you can admire the theater building, thermae, villas with Roman mosaics, the ruins of the library, ancient Greek statues, and sanctuaries.

Durres

This is one of the richest in the country in terms of attractions. Durres was founded by Greek colonists on the shores of the Adriatic Sea. Thanks to its advantageous location it was and is a major port hub. In the city there is an ancient amphitheater, built in 100 AD, with a seating capacity of 20,000 spectators. This makes it the largest amphitheater on the territory of the Balkans. The Byzantines also left their mark on the history of Durres. The main architectural monument preserved till our days is the Byzantine tower. It is a remnant of the once powerful fortifications that protected the city from invasion from the sea. Nowadays there is a cafe in the tower, which can be visited by anyone. The Archaeological Museum has a rich collection of ancient artifacts, which are sure to please connoisseurs of history. As a reminder of the existence of the monarchy in Albania, in Durres stands the Royal Villa. It is a silent witness to the pre-communist period in the life of the country.

Lake Coman

This is an artificial lake that appeared on the Drina River during the construction of the hydroelectric plant. The area of the lake is about 34 km². It is surrounded by tall cliffs, covered with impenetrable thickets. The journey around Lake Koman begins with the hydroelectric power plant, behind which there is a pier. There are always a lot of boats, designed for both large tour groups and individual travelers. A walk on the lake includes not only stunning scenery, but also the opportunity to swim in the cool waters. Small villages can be found along the lake’s shores, where you can sample Albania’s national cuisine and learn about local life.

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Pogradec

The ancient town on the shore of Lake Ohrid has a rich historical heritage. The first settlement on this place dates back to the Neolithic Age. Nowadays it is one of the cultural centers of Albania, specializing in folklore and traditional crafts. One of the most interesting events in Pogradec is the Festival of Puppet Theatre which gathers spectators from all over the country. Gastronomic delicacies can be tasted during the Wine Festival and the Lake Day. But the attractions of the city are not limited to this. There are ancient Byzantine churches, castle ruins, royal Illyrian tombs and monasteries. In the vicinity of the city there are karst caves with underground lakes and the famous Drilon National Park. It is famous for its underground fresh water springs and the Christian basilica, which dates from the 5th century AD.

Korca

Korca is a cozy little town, where life is measured and unhurried. It is worth coming here for the beautiful original architecture, narrow cobblestone streets and the atmosphere of antiquity. This is one of the art centers of Albania, which is famous primarily for carpet weaving. There is also a beer brewery of the same name, which is known throughout Albania and the Balkans. Be sure to grab a tasting set at a local restaurant to pay tribute to the beer. In winter, the town turns into a ski base. It is here that mountain skiing and snowboarding enthusiasts come to ride the snowy slopes.

Karaburun Sazan National Marine Park

Karaburun Sazan National Marine Park

This is the only national marine park in Albania. It covers a vast territory that includes Sazan Island, the Karaburun Peninsula and part of the coastline between them. The park is located in a terrain that is not easily accessible and can only be accessed from the sea. The coastal waters are home to rare and endangered species. Here also grow rare species of algae, sponges, red corals. For tourists, the park is interesting especially the opportunity to do scuba diving. The main attractions rest at the bottom of the sea. When diving here you can see the remains of the ships of ancient Rome and ancient Greece, as well as to see the ships sunk during the Second World War.

Daiti

This is the name of the national park of Albania and at the same time the name of the mountain peak of the park. The height of Daiti is just over 1600 meters above sea level. In winter there is a ski resort here, and in summer lovers of hiking and rock climbing come here. The mountain slopes are covered with pine forests, there are also oak groves and beech forests. Climbing to the summit of Daiti on foot is a separate pleasure that requires good physical preparation. But the reward for the effort is a stunning panorama of Albania’s capital city and the surrounding area of the national park. Of course, you can also get to the top with a cable car, but this way you will miss many interesting places on the way: canyons, waterfalls, gorges and a mountain lake.

Lake Skadar

This is the largest lake in the Balkan Peninsula. Its waters are divided between Montenegro and Albania in the ratio of two to three. The length of the shoreline on the Albanian side is 60 km. Much of the lake and coastal territory belong to the protected area. But this does not prevent local residents from fishing and actively use the water resources for their needs. The lake is navigable, including a ferry between Albania and neighboring Montenegro. Tourists are attracted here not only by the pristine beauty of nature, but also by the opportunity to practice water sports.

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