Albania is an ancient country with interesting historical monuments, beautiful landscapes and unique local flavor.
Who and why should come here
Albania at one time survived the Roman Empire, the Ottoman yoke and communism. It will be interesting for history buffs here — almost in every large settlement there are old buildings worthy of attention. The country even has ancient cities turned into real open-air museums. From the times of Ancient Greece and Rome, well-preserved buildings remained here, and from the Ottoman Empire — majestic mosques and fortresses.
Adherents of outdoor activities will also not sit idle. There are many interesting places for divers in Albania: the coast of Saranda, Vlora, Ksamil and the Karaburun-Sazan Marine Park. For lovers of rock climbing, there is a direct road to Jipea Canyon. Cyclists can recommend routes from Tirana to nearby cities and Shkodra — Lake Koman. And lovers of extreme sports — rafting on mountain rivers. Rafting tours are led by instructors from the Albanian Rafting Federation (ARG).
Those for whom relaxation means sunbathing on a sunny beach can choose to visit resorts in Pogradets, Saranda, Durres and Ksamil. Warm waters of the Ionian Sea, sunny weather, clean beaches and lack of crowds of tourists are the main advantages of Albanian resorts. For supporters of a relaxing pastime, national parks and boat trips are suitable. There is also a place where you can safely go fishing — this is Lake Ohrid in the Drilona National Park.
Museum cities of Albania
An ancient city founded in 855 BC. Now no one lives there, but quite interesting buildings have been preserved in the city: an amphitheater, a mosaic house with a fountain, a city fortress, a Byzantine church.
This city-museum is more than 2500 years old. Every building here is a monument of architecture. The most significant of them is the main fortress built in the 6th century. Some of the old houses in Berat are located in tiers on a rock, and people still live in them.
Of the Muslim temples, the most interesting is the Lead Mosque, for fastening the blocks of which liquid lead was used. It was not built according to Muslim standards — it has many domes and no minaret.
Another ancient city — this time built during the Ottoman Empire. Its main attraction is the 12th century citadel, which is considered the largest defensive structure in the Balkans. Other interesting places worth noting are the Palorto quarter with Ottoman mansions and the clock tower. By the way, Enver Hoxha was born here, so the ancient buildings were not destroyed during the abolition of religions.
The Archaeological Museum-Reserve of Butrint is located near Saranda. Monuments of four empires have been preserved here: Roman, Greek, Byzantine and Ottoman. The most interesting sights are the Venetian fortress, the sanctuary of Asclepius, the baptistery, the amphitheater and the cathedral. To get around the whole city, you have to spend almost the whole day.
Clock tower in Tirana
This tower was built in 1822 as part of an architectural ensemble with the Etem Bey Mosque. Its height is 35 meters. The observation deck is a narrow balcony around the perimeter of the tower. To get there, you need to overcome 90 steps. But from the site you can clearly see the main square of the city and the surrounding area.
Rozafa Fortress in Shkodra
The citadel stands on a hill between two rivers. It was built in the III century BC. According to legend, the wife of one of the builders of the tower was immured alive in its foundation. Not out of bloodthirstiness, but purely with a “utilitarian” goal — so that the fortress would stop falling apart every night.
The bridge was built by the Ottomans in 1768 to connect Shkodra with the rest of Albania. Its length is 108 meters. You can’t drive a car across the bridge, but you can easily walk or bike.
Amphitheater of Durres
An ancient structure dating back to the 2nd century, where gladiator fights took place. Seats for spectators were made on the hillside — a typical architectural solution of those times. They found it only in 1966. Moreover, in order to carry out excavations, it was necessary to relocate residents and demolish modern houses.
The stone bridge with three arches was built in the 18th century. By the way, its name did not come from the fact that tobacco was transported along it, but from the word tabakane, which means “tanning”. This eight-meter bridge connected the tannery settlement on the eastern highlands with the capital. In those days, the Lana River flowed here, which changed its course in the 30s.
Turkish fortress in Elbasan
The main attraction of the city of Elbasan is the 16th-century fortress, which consists of 26 towers. Only a few of them and the gate have survived to our time. Now the fortress is given over to the museum.
The ancient road, worked out by the slaves of Rome in the 2nd century BC, began in Durres and led all the way to Istanbul. Naturally, only fragments of it have survived to our time. The part that can be seen in Albania is made of large stone blocks.
Ilyaz Bey Mihroy Mosque in Korçë
A monument of the Ottoman period is a mosque named after one of the rulers of the city. This is a beautiful building with non-standard minarets for the Ottomans — not round, but stepped. Such towers can only be seen in North Africa.
The Archaeological Museum in the capital of Albania boasts a collection of artifacts from prehistoric times, as well as exhibits from the Middle Ages. These are icons, Neolithic stone tools, gold jewelry.
National Historical Museum and National Gallery
The Historical Museum of Tirana contains every conceivable document and artifact illustrating Albania’s turbulent past, from antiquity to the present.
And the gallery of fine arts contains more than 4,000 paintings by Albanian and foreign artists. The paintings are divided into 6 expositions in accordance with the genres of the works.
Museums in Korce
The Museum of Medieval Art houses the largest collection of icons in the world. Basically, these are Christian works related to the Byzantine period.
The castle museum in Kruja is also well preserved. Inside it is an exposition dedicated to the national hero of Albania — Skaderbek.
The former mausoleum of the dictator Enver Hoxha, which he never needed. Now there are various exhibitions. Tourists have fun by climbing to the top of the building, where there is a small platform. If you decide to join them, be careful: the sides of the mausoleum are quite steep — it may turn out that you will not be able to go down without help.
The largest bunker museum is located in the capital. The bunker itself was built in communist times for Enver Hoxha. It has as many as 106 rooms and a rich exposition, entirely dedicated to the reign of the dictator.
Natural attractions and national parks
Marine Park Karaburun-Sazan
Karaburun-Sazan is a huge marine reserve near Vlora. There are no access roads to it, so you can only get there from the sea. But this is an ideal place for divers — here is clear water and a colorful underwater world with unique marine animals. Tourists can go on underwater excursions and look at the sunken ships of different times — from antiquity to the Second World War.
Drilona National Park
The park, 5 km from Pogradets, is located at the very border with Macedonia, so tourists can only go to the Albanian part of Lake Ohrid. By the way, the lake itself is about 5 million years old and is considered the cleanest and deepest body of water in the Balkans. White swans and ducks live on the lake. Also there you can catch trout on a bait and drink water from underground sources.
The Blue Eye karst spring is a unique natural phenomenon. This is a powerful stream, forcefully breaking through to the surface. And in the center of it, a spot of saturated blue is clearly visible. The water in the spring is icy and does not heat up even in the heat. The depth of the spring is unknown — due to the strong current, it simply could not be determined. Mystically inclined people call this spring “God’s eye”.
The largest lake in the country is best viewed not from land, but from a boat. It has many islands with ancient tombs and churches. On the shores of the lake there are original villages and monasteries of the Middle Ages. About 270 species of birds also live here.
The caves in Saranda are a unique natural and historical monument. Ancient people lived there from the Neolithic to the Iron Age — this is confirmed by numerous finds of scientists.
National park near Tirana. The slopes of the mountain are covered with forests, where a large number of animals live. There are also canyons, waterfalls, lakes, caves and even an ancient castle. At the top there is a memorial “cemetery of Heroes”, a monument “Mother Albania” and the grave of the country’s communist leader Enver Hoxha. The park can be reached along the mountain road on foot, by bike or by lift.
The man-made Lake Komani is sometimes called a stone labyrinth because of the coastline, whimsically indented by fjords. It is better to view it from the water — the view from there is simply amazing. Forested gorges give way to snow-covered cliffs, waterfalls alternate with rocky beaches. Sometimes you can see small mountain settlements.
Llogara National Park
Located near Vlore. This is a forest on a mountain pass, the height of which is 1000 m above sea level. Many rare trees grow in the park, and deer roam freely around the territory.
Natural climbing wall in the open air. The route of the canyon is very difficult and is intended only for experienced climbers.
Resort area Ksamil
The beaches of Ksamil are clear water of bright blue color and unusual white sand. In fact, these are not ordinary grains of sand, but ancient stones that the sea has processed to such small sizes. It’s always sunny there, it rarely rains. You can dive to the bottom with scuba diving, go boating or just sunbathe.
Drymades in Dhermi is an option for a purely beach holiday. Here the Adriatic Sea meets the Ionian. And there are many entertainment venues, so mostly young people come here.