Early in the morning, prior to the tourist crowds arrive and if the stones are still tinged from the yellow sunrise light, you may just envision the historical walls of Butrint are whispering secrets to you of long-past resides. Easily the most beautiful and romantic — not to say biggest — of Albania’s historical sites, Butrint, 18km south of Saranda, is well worth traveling a long way to see.
The evocative ruins of this early Illyiran town of Apollonia sit on a windswept hilltop a few 12km west of town of Fier. Even though a big portion of these ruins remains buried beneath the floor, what’s been excavated inside the 4km of town walls is absolute poetry. The highlights include the theatre as well as the tasteful columns of this restored facade of this town’s 2nd-century-AD administrative center.
Hidden beneath the crumbling walls of this fortress that crowns the hill above Berat is your whitewashed, village-like area of Kala; should you walk round the quiet cobbled streets of the historical neighbourhood so long enough you will always encounter someone’s courtyard, believing it is a church or destroy (no one appears to mind, however ).
The maximum point is inhabited from the Inner Fortress, where destroyed stairs lead into some Tolkienesque water reservoir. Views are magnificent in all directions. It is a steep 10 to 15-minute walk up the mountain from the middle of town. For a much more impressive perspective, continue on directly to the far southern end of the complex (the entire opposite end from the primary entry ) and you’re going to get to a view from where you can peer down on the town far below. In summer, guys sell new fruit from a booth.
This wonderful transformation — by a massive Cold War bunker on the outskirts of Tirana to some history and modern art museum — is Albania’s most exciting fresh sight and readily a Tirana highlight. With nearly 3000 sq metres of distance underground spread across many floors, the bunker was assembled for Albania’s political elite from the 1970s and remained a secret for much of its existence. It hosts displays that combine the contemporary history of Albania using bits of modern art.
Gjirokastra’s eerie hilltop castle is one of the greatest in the Balkans. There has been a fortress here as the 12th century, though much of what could be seen today dates to the early 19th century. The castle stays somewhat infamous because of its use as a prison under the communists. Inside there is an assortment of armoury, two great museums, lots of crumbling ruins to scramble about, and excellent views over the valley.
The Onufri Museum is located in the Kala quarter biggest church, the Church of the Dormition of St Mary (Kisha Fjetja e Shën Mërisë). The church dates from 1797 and has been constructed on the foundations of a previous 10th-century chapel. Now Onufri’s spectacular 16th-century spiritual paintings have been exhibited together with the church beautifully manicured 19th-century iconostasis. Do not overlook the chapel behind the iconostasis, or its own painted cupola, whose frescoes are now faded almost to invisibility.
Durrës Archaeological Museum
This bright, nicely lit and branded museum just back from the seafront includes a stunning selection of historic artefacts. Highlights include the fine-boned sculptures and sculptures, delicate gold jewelry, amphoras recovered in the seafloor and covered in barnacles and lovely painted ribbons and vases which are so perfectly maintained they look as though they were painted just yesterday. Allow at least an hour to get a trip.
Between Dhërmi and Vuno is your turn-off with this little-known stone, a stunning stretch of isolated white sand and stone backed by large cliffs — as yet almost completely undeveloped. Switch off the main road for the Monastery of St Theodor and follow indications to the one-hour (3.5km) hike to the shore. By vehicle, continue down the street before the paving ends then walk the last 20 minutes (1km).
With spectacular views across town and Lake Shkodra, the Rozafa Fortress is the most remarkable sight in the city. Founded from the Illyrians in antiquity and rebuilt much after by the Venetians and the Turks, the fortress takes its title from a girl who had been supposedly walled into the ramparts as an offering to the gods so the structure would endure.
National History Museum
The greatest museum in Albania holds all of the nation’s archaeological treasures along with also a replica of Skanderbeg’s enormous sword (the way he held it, wrapped his horse and struggled in precisely the exact same time is a puzzle ). The light may be bad, but the superb collection is nearly completely authorized in English and requires you chronologically from early Illyria into the postcommunist era. The group of statues, mosaics and columns from early Roman and Greek times is magnificent.
Cold War Tunnel
Gjirokastra’s most intriguing sight on no account relates to conventional structure, but rather to a far more contemporary type: this really is a giant bunker constructed deep beneath the castle to be used by the regional authorities throughout the full scale invasion that communist leader Enver Hoxha was paranoid about. Constructed in secret throughout the 1960s, it’s 80 chambers, its presence remained unknown to sailors before the 1990s. Private guided tours run out of the tourist info booth on the primary square daily.
National Gallery of Arts
Tracing the comparatively short history of Albanian painting in the early 19th century to the current day, this gorgeous area also holds temporary exhibitions. The intriguing collection incorporates 19th-century paintings depicting scenes from everyday Albanian life and many others with a far more political dimension, such as some truly fantastic examples of Albanian socialist realism.
The ground-floor region of the gallery is given over to temporary exhibitions of a far more contemporary and ambitious kind.
This infrequently visited yet glorious little monastery is located on a hilltop between the cities of Lushjë and Fier. With your own transport, it is well worth dropping by to observe the amazing insides — especially the iconostasis of saints and sinners, angels and dragons — of the 18th-century Church of St Mary. Equally remarkable is the gold pulpit, which favorably heaves with adornments, and of course that the frescoes of those Zografi brothers which may be viewed on display upstairs.
This unbelievable three-storey home dates from 1811 and contains twin towers plus a double-arched facade. It is intriguing to nose round the nearly unchanged interiors of an Ottoman-era residence, particularly the upstairs bedrooms, that have carved wooden ceilings, stained-glass windows, and thorough wall frescoes.
Marubi National Photography Museum
The Marubi Museum is a one-of-a-kind Albanian photographic museum. The heart of the series is your remarkable work of this Marubi’dynasty’, Albania’s initial and foremost family of photographers. The collection comprises the first photograph shot in Albania, by Pjetër Marubi in 1858, in addition to fascinating portraits, street scenes, and ancient photojournalism, all offering an intriguing glimpse into older Albania along with also the rise and collapse of communism.
Museum of Medieval Art
Korça’s best museum is placed within a brand new, purpose-built space that actually allows the stellar assortment of Orthodox icons to glow. Highlights of this spellbinding collection include bits by the Albanian master Onufri and, the magnificent centrepiece of this group, a 19th-century iconostasis in the village of Rehova. Give yourself lots of time to peruse the set, and do not overlook the icon of St Christopher with all the face of a puppy.
They may be rather modest, however these waterfalls, which from a distance seem to vanish in and out of these stones, possess a rare beauty and also make for a fantastic day trip in Berat. It’s possible to swim in the skillet in the foot of the drops but in summer the water is freezing cold.
The small cousin to the most important Bunk’Art, this museum, that will be inside a communist-era bunker and underground tube system beneath the Ministry of Internal Affairs, concentrates on the function of the authorities and security agencies in Albania throughout the tumultuous 20th century. Even though this may not seem especially intriguing, the entire thing has been very nicely put together and makes for an enjoyable trip behind police lines.
Only off the steep hillside that contributes to Berat’s castle is this superb museum, which will be housed in a gorgeous 18th-century Ottoman house that is as much of an attraction as the displays inside. The ground floor has exhibits of traditional clothing as well as the tools used by silversmiths and weavers, while the upper storey includes bedrooms, kitchens and guest rooms decked out in traditional fashion.
The lovingly restored Ottoman-era Skenduli House was at the hands of the identical family for generations (besides a couple of years during the period once the authorities took it on ), and you’ll probably be shown around by a part of their household. Dating in the early 1700s, but partly rebuilt in 1827, the home has many interesting features, such as a space used just for wedding ceremonies and with 15 windows, many with stained glass.
Blue Eye Spring
The Blue Eye Spring is a magical place: a hypnotic pool of deep blue water surrounded by electric-blue borders such as the iris of an eye. It is further wrapped in thick forests and is a few 22km east of Saranda on the path to Gjirokastra. Swimming is prohibited, though some people today seem to believe that this rule does not apply . If you do not head a cluttered 3km walk, buses between Saranda and Gjirokastra can drop you in the spring’s turn-off.
House of Leaves
This grand old 1930s building began life as Albania’s initial maternity hospital, but in a couple of years, the attention turned from making new life to finish lifestyles, since the hospital has been transformed into an interrogation and surveillance center (read: torture home ). It remained as such before the collapse of the communist regime. Now the House of Leaves is a tradition dedicated to surveillance and interrogation in Albania.
Dhërmi shore is well and truly under the tourist trance in summer: anticipate booked-out lodging, loud music and also half Tirana sprawled on the stones. Regardless of this, there’s fun to be had, and since the shore is so long, even in summer time it is possible to find quiet, unspoiled pieces. Turn left on the shore and walk south to escape the songs and discover empty stretches of shore startlingly blue waters.
Amphitheatre of Durrës
The weathered Roman-era Amphitheatre of all Durrës was constructed on the hillside in the city walls in the early 2nd century AD. In its prime it had the capability to seat 15,000 to 18,000 audiences, but nowadays a few inhabited homes occupy the point, a reminder of its current rediscovery (in 1966) and excavation. The Byzantine chapel from the amphitheatre has a lot of beautiful mosaics. You will find knowledgable English-speaking guides on website each day until 3pm; they operate using a tipping basis.
This intriguing museum is a superbly lit and introduced, entirely English-signed screen on the very long and intriguing history of this town. Some highlights include a 6th-century tomb containing the skeletons of 2 little kids, in addition to advice on these luminaries linked with Gjirokastra like Ali Pasha, Lord Byron, Edward Lear, and Enver Hoxha.
There are two chief beaches in Himara. The northern one is the most important town beach and contains a promenade lined with pubs and pubs. Round the headland to the south west is a far bigger shore with less improvement but also less air. Both shores are well maintained and kept tidy.
One of the more appealing beaches around the Albanian Riviera is Drymades. It is a lengthy, shingle white shore endorsed by olive groves and the first stirrings of growth.
Mt Dajti National Park
Only 25km west of Tirana is currently Mt Dajti National Park. It’s by far the most accessible mountain from the nation, and lots of locals go there to escape the city rush and also possess a spit-roast Shrimp dinner. A daybed, Austrian-made cable auto, Dajti Express, requires 15 minutes to produce the panoramic trip (nearly ) into the top (1611m).
Llogara Pass National Park
See clouds descending onto the hill, shepherds on the plains directing their herds, and thick woods where deer, wild boar, and wolves roam within this mountainside domestic park high over the Albanian Riviera. You are going to need to push through this unbelievable scenery if you choose the coastal road south from Vlora into Dhërmi, and that is an excellent place to break your journey and revel in an superb roast lamb lunch from one of many roadside restaurants here.
Down at the Muslim Mangalem quarter, you will find 3 grand mosques: the Sultan’s Mosque, the Lead Mosque along with also the Bachelors’ Mosque. All these are worth a trip and each has its own idiosyncratic history and design.
Floating off the shore of this distant Karaburun Peninsula, 5.7 sq kilometers Sazan Island is small known to most Albanians. Once employed as a submarine and chemical-weapons foundation by the Soviet Union throughout the Cold War, it is now home to an Albanian-Italian army base utilized to fight narcotics smuggling. In the summer of 2017, a little region of the island opened to people, making elements of its pristine shoreline and historical relics available for the very first time.
Sheshi Skënderbej is the best place to begin watching Tirana’s daily goings-on. Until it had been dragged down by an angry mob in 1991, a 10m-high bronze statue of Enver Hoxha stood, viewing over a mostly car-free square. Currently just the equestrian statue of Skanderbeg stays, and also the’square’ — after Tirana’s most popular meeting point in the years at which 99% of individuals were made to get around on foot — is presently a massive traffic roundabout.
Former Residence of Enver Hoxha
This easy three-storey villa has been the home of Albanian dictator Enver Hoxha for years, along with his wife chose to reside here for years following his passing in 1985. Though the Albanian literary leaders obviously lived a much easier life than their comrades in Romania, by way of instance, it had been another world for those folks on the road, who thronged here in amazement when the Blloku was eventually opened to the general public in 1991. The home is closed to the general public.
Produced by Enver Hoxha’s daughter and also son-in-law and finished in 1988, this monstrously gruesome building was previously the Enver Hoxha Museum and much more lately a conference center and nightclub. Now, covered in graffiti and surrounded with the encampments of Tirana’s homeless, its own once-white marble partitions are currently crumbling, however no choice on whether to demolish or revive it’s been attained.
Et’hem Bey Mosque
To one side of Sheshi Skënderbej, 1789–1823 Et’hem Bey Mosque has been spared destruction throughout the atheism effort of the late 1960s due to its standing as a cultural monument. Small and refined, it is one of the earliest buildings left in town. In the time of the study the mosque was closed to the public for significant renovations.