ALBANIA

Closed to outsiders for much of the 20th century, Albania has long been Mediterranean Europe’s enigma. Until fairly recently its rumpled mountains, fortress towns and sparkling beaches were merely a rumour on most travel maps. But, with the end of a particularly brutal strain of communism in 1991, Albania tentatively swung open its gates. The first curious tourists to arrive discovered a land where ancient codes of conduct still held sway and where the wind whistled through the shattered remnants of half-forgotten ancient Greek and Roman sites. A quarter of a century after throwing off the shackles of communism, Albania’s stunning mountain scenery, crumbling castles, boisterous capital and dreamy beaches rivalling any in the Mediterranean continue to enchant. But hurry here, because as word gets out about what Albania is hiding, the still-tiny trickle of tourists threatens to become a flood.

Tirana

Tirana, a city with never-ending movement and energy Tirana, the heart and capital of Albania, like all other European metropolises has never-ending movement and energy.
With its clubs, bars, cafes, and taverns, Tirana is worth discovering by both day and night. The hospitality shown towards tourists is something that will mark your journey not only in Tirana but also all over the country. There are different thoughts regarding the origin of the name of the city. Some think that it relates to Tyrrenia (a name of Etruscan origins), while other believe that it relates to the word Theranda (harvest), or to the Tirkan (a castle at the foot of Mount Dajti).

Tirana Attractions

Your own journey might begin by visiting the museums and the key spots such as Sheshi Skënderbej, where you will be able to see the Mosque of Et’hem Bey (built between 1798 and 1812) and the 35 m high Kulla e Sahatit (the Watch Tower), built in 1822 with a San Marco style cupola. Next, you can visit the famous mosaic uncovered on the floor of an old Roman lodge. Its center configures the walls of the castle of the Roman emperor Justinian (A.D. 520). The monumental Tomb of Kapllan Pasha and the Ura e Tabakëve (a bridge constructed in the beginning of the 19th century, located on Bulevardi Zhan D’Ark) are also worth visiting. As a capital, Tirana has the country’s finest museums, theatres, and galleries representing the national arts.

A visit to the National History Museum, the Archeological Museum, the Natural Science Museum, the private Mezuraj Museum, and the National Gallery of the Arts will leave wonderful memories. You can also pass a pleasant evening in the National Theatre or the Opera and Ballet Theatre. For dining, Tirana offers both a rich traditional cuisine and a variety of foreign fares, from Italian to Chinese, or even Indian. There are also several clubs and restaurants on Mount Dajti to discover and enjoy. The mountain is reachable by cable car, which provides a fantastic view of the city. In the Tirana region you may also visit the castles of Petrela and Preza, as well as some natural attractions, such as Pëllumbas Cave, Shkalla e Tujanit, and more.

Nightlife in Tirana

Tirana is unquestionably the dynamic center of Albania thanks in part to its lively nightlife, comprised of theaters, restaurants and clubs. There are a variety of places to entertain you and most of them stay open all night. Bars and clubs can be found throughout town, particularly in the “Blok” area, playing all kinds of live music, including jazz, house, funk, Latin, etc. You can choose to go to the Murphy’s Irish pub or to an American-style bar playing hard rock music. Tirana is home to the Opera House, the National Theater and many other galleries and museums, which in recent years have hosted many artists and world-famous performers. Tirana also offers a wide range of cocktail bars, where you can enjoy some of the best cocktails while listening to music from the best DJs. Downtown, the Regency Casino invites people out to test their gambling luck.

Food & Restaurants

Tirana is unquestionably the dynamic center of Albania thanks in part to its lively nightlife, comprised of theaters, restaurants and clubs. There are a variety of places to entertain you and most of them stay open all night. Bars and clubs can be found throughout town, particularly in the “Blok” area, playing all kinds of live music, including jazz, house, funk, Latin, etc. You can choose to go to the Murphy’s Irish pub or to an American-style bar playing hard rock music. Tirana is home to the Opera House, the National Theater and many other galleries and museums, which in recent years have hosted many artists and world-famous performers. Tirana also offers a wide range of cocktail bars, where you can enjoy some of the best cocktails while listening to music from the best DJs. Downtown, the Regency Casino invites people out to test their gambling luck.

Albanian Coastline

Albania’s southern coastline, with its lovely traditional hamlets, cobblestoned streets and small Orthodox churches, has plenty of beautiful beaches lapped by pristine waters, rivalling nearby Greece for half the price. And if you get your fill of coastal bays, you can head for the natural springs near Saranda or the lake shores near the Macedonian border – Albania has plenty of surprises. To name all of the beautiful beaches would be impossible, but here’s a list of the eleven most stunning beaches in Albania.

Korca

The city is known for its typical quarters, composed of low houses and villas, which are paved with cobblestone. The city of Korça has a range of museums such as the Education Museum (located in the building where the first Albanian school opened in 1887), the renewed National Museum of Medieval Art (to visit absolutely), the Prehistoric Museum, the House-Museum of the famous landscape painter, Vangjush Mio, the Museum of the Oriental Art “Bratko”, Gjon Mili Photography Museum etc. In the vicinity of the city is the cemetery of French soldiers fallen during the First World War.

The Theatre Cajupi is also a place to see concerts or theatre performances depending by the season .

Apart from the museums and monuments, Korça is the city where the largest carnival in Albania is organized, taking place before Orthodox Easter. Musically, the city is known for the local songs, called serenata. In the city you will find many taverns with tasteful traditional cooking such as various types of pie which perfectly combines with the good music and the traditional drink, raki.

Korça is a very good base for exploring many tourist points located in the nearby mountains such as Voskopoja, Dardha, Vithkuqi and Boboshtica. These villages are well known for offering the possibility to practice many outdoor sports and activities. The area is also famous for the Byzantine churches of Vithkuqi and Voskpoja, whose walls were painted by famous medieval Albanian painters. Close to Korça you can visit Prespa Lake (which is the country’s largest National Park), Drenova National Park, the Illyrian tummulus of Kamenica, etc.

Berati

The city’s life began in the 6th-5th century B.C. as an Illyrian settlement. Later, in the 3rd century B.C., it was turned into a castle city known as Antipatrea. The castle expanded afterwards, particularly during the feudal dominion of the Muzakaj family. Inside the castle, they built churches with valuable frescoes and icons, and also a calligraphy school. Uniquely today, residents still live inside of the castle walls. The three major neighborhoods of the old city are Mangalemi, Gorica, and Kala, where the castle itself is located.

In Mangalemi, below the castle, you can see the famous view of the facades of the houses, with windows that seem to stand above each other. In general, a traditional house has two floors, where the second is prominent and has many cambered windows and wood carvings. With its houses built along the steep hill, the view of Mangalemi is the reason that another name for Berat is the City of the Floating Windows.

Across the Osum River lies the Gorica neighborhood, whose houses face those of Mangalemi. The arched bridge of Gorica, built in 1780, is a beautiful architectural monument constructed to link Gorica with Mangalemi.

The ensemble of the Byzantine churches in the castle of Berat is extraordinary. At the foot of the castle, there is the Byzantine Church of Shën Mëhilli (Saint Michael), while the 13th century Church of Shën Maria e Vllahernës (Saint Mary Blachernae) , the Church of Shën Triadha (The Holy Trinity), the post-Byzantine monumental Cathedral of Shën Maria (Saint Mary) and many other churches are located in the castle.

The Cathedral of Shën Mëria houses a museum of works by the famous iconographers of the 16th century: Onufri, and his son, Nikolla. There are over 100 icons on display and they also include works of other artists such as Joan Çetiri, Onufër Qiprioti, and many anonymous painters.

You also can visit the Monastery of Shën Spiridhoni (Saint Spyridon) in Gorica. In 1417, the Ottomans occupied Berat and this conquest left its mark with the building of monuments to the Islamic faith, such as the Xhamia e Kuqe (Red Mosque) inside the castle, the Xhamia e Plumbit (1555),  the Xhamia e Beqarëve (Celibataires Mosque)(1872) in Mangalem quartier but also Xhamia Mbret (King Mosque) (16th century), and the Halveti Tekke or Tariqa in the medieval center . Other sites worth visiting are the Ethnographic Museum, situated inside an 18th century çardak building, and the Edward Lear Gallery of Art, a well-known English painter who painted much of Berat and Albania. In addition Berat is known for its traditional dishes. It is worth tasting specialties such as pula me përshesh and çorba e Tomorrit in the local restaurants. Is suggested also to visit the Saint Mountain of Tomorr .

Gjirokastra

The main characteristic of Gjirokastra is the intensive use of stone in building the houses, which look like small fortresses, the streets of cobblestone, which all lead to Bazaar. You can also visit the Mosque of Bazaar here, built in 1557.  Due to all these features, Gjirokastra is also known as the “The Stone City”. The most important structure of the city is the castle, which is the biggest castle in Albania. Inside the castle, you can visit the Museum of Weapons,opened in 1971. Weapons from the prehistoric times up to the World War II are exhibited on here. The National Folk Festival has taken place in this castle during the years. During your stay in Gjirokastra, you can visit the Ethnographic Museum, located in the house where the former communist dictator Enver Hoxha was born. This house (today a museum) is located in the Palorto quarter. You can also visit the house of Zekati family in Palorto, in a dominating position, which has undergone restoration. It is one of the most magnificent and characteristic buildings of Gjirokastra. Built in 1811-1812, it is a magnificent three-floor building and has two twin towers. A special feature of the house is the wooden carved ceilings and the characteristic guest room. From the wooden balcony in the third floor, you can enjoy an impressive view of Gjirokastra.Other important traditional buildings to visit are Angonati House , Babaramonewly restored house , Skendulaj house , Eqrem Cabej House under restoration , Kikino House and many others but also the statue of the main square dedicated to the patriot Cerciz Topulli and other important religious monuments of Bektashi sect and Orthodox religion . One of the famous spotsto visit at Sokaku i te Marreve that means Mad People Street is also the reconstructed house of the famous Albanian writer Ismail Kadare  The town of Gjirokastra is also known for its culinary art; we can mention special dishes like pasha qofteshapkatoshaf with dried figs (a dessert with sheep`s milk, sugar and dried figs), etc. In Gjirokastra you can visit interesting sites, part of the cultural heritage as well as natural wonders.

Antigonea

The archaeological park of Antigone is located near Saraqinishte village in the region of Lunxhëria, east of Gjirokastra. It is 14km away from Gjirokastra. The archeological park has a surface of 92 hectares. Antigone was founded by King Pyrrhus of Epirus in 295 B.C., who named the town after his first wife, Antigone. At the end of 3rd century and the beginning of 2nd century BC, it grew into an important economic, cultural and political center and took the form of a state (polis). It was surrounded by walls, 4,000 meters long. There are many attractions to be visited in the archaeological park Antigone such as: the mosaic, columns, promenade, an antique scale, the surrounding walls, etc. In the village of Labove e Kryqit, located near the small town of Libohova, you can visit one of the oldest and the most beautiful Byzantine churches in Albania, dedicated to St. Mary. It is built in a style similar to that of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. It was thought that the church used to have a relic, which is missing now. It was part of the cross where Christ was crucified.

Hadrianapolis

The ancient theatre of Hadrianapolis is located near the village of Sofratika, 14 km away from Gjirokastra, along the Gjirokastra – Kakavije (Greece) highway. The Hadrianopolis amphitheater was discovered by the Austrian archaeologist Prashniker. It dates back to the 2nd century B.C; it has a capacity of 4,000 seats and has 27 steps. Cajupi’s field lies in Lunxheria area, which is 1,310 meters above sea level; it is a flat area, which is used as climatic resort and surrounded by many sources of cold water.