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Albanian cities

TIRANA
Tirana has been the capital of Albania since 1920. It is relatively new city established in 1614 from Sulejman Bargjini, feudal of the area at the time. The city began to grow at the beginning of the 18th century. “Tirana “, it is thought that comes from the word “ Theranda”, mentioned in the ancient Greek and Latin sources, that aborigines called Te Ranat, because the field was formed as a result of stiff materials that the waters from the surrounding mountains brought. Today Tirana is not only the most populated city in Albania, but also the biggest political and economic centre in the country. The Adriatic Sea and Dajti mountains are near to the city. It takes you less than one hour drive to reach the sea. A Great Park with an artificial lake is located immediately at the southern part of the city.

What to see:
- The Mosque of Ethem Bey is situated just at the centre of Tirana. It was constructed in 1789. Together with the Clock Tower (1830) they make an important historic part of Tirana.
- Ministries represent architectonic values. They were built in the year 1930, when Albania was a kingdom. After the Second World War several buildings were erected: The Palace of Culture, The Palace of Congresses, The National Historic Museum, The Centre of International Culture etc.
- The bridge of Tabakeve is situated along the boulevard “Zhan Dark”. It belongs to the XVIII century.
- The fortress of Pertrela. It is located at south of Tirana on the right side of national road linking capital with the city of Elbasan. It was built up by the middle age. The castle was under the command of Scanderbeg sister, Mamica Kastrioti. Petrela castle used to control the Egnatia road, the Durres - Tirane branch, a part that for that time had a particular importance. This castle was also part of the signaling and defending system of the castle of Kruja. These castles used to communicate with each other through fire signals.
- The fortress of Preza belongs to the XV century. It has a very nice and dominant position in front of Kruja Mountain. This castle is declared as a "Monument of Culture".
- Martyrs Cemetery which contains the “Mother Albania” monument.
- The Tomb of Kapllan Pasha, built in 1814. It honors Kaplan Pasha, who ruled Tirana in the early 19th century.

Source: http://www.tirana.gov.al/?cid=2,22

Museums:
- National Historic Museum
- Archaeological Museum
- Gallery of Fine Arts

 

VLORA
Vlora is a coastal city. It is not only one of the major ports, but also of great historical importance as it was here that in 1912 the Assembly was convened to proclaim Albania as an independent state and to set up the first National Government headed by Ismail Qemali. Thus Vlore became the first capital city in independent Albania.
One can learn more about the background of this event at the Museum of Independence. On a hill above the city one can enjoy the religious place of “Kuzum Baba”. From there you can see the beach and the view of the whole city.

What to see:
- Ethnographic Museum 
- Historic Museum 
- The Museum of Independence
- Kanina Castle is believed to have been erected in the 3rd century B.C.
- Apollonia represents one of the most important archaeological sites of Albania. The most interesting objects to be visited are the magnificent wall of Agonothetes II Century B.C.
- Pojan Monastery is not far away from the ancient town of Apollonia and it is famous for the beautiful St. Mary's Chapel. This is an ancient monastery and was reconstructed by the Byzantine Emperor, Andronicus Palaeologus the Second.
- Muradie Mosque is a sultan-style mosque, with a dome that was built in the 2nd half of the 16th century. The design and construction of this mosque were carried out by Sinan, an architect of Albanian origin who was one of the great mosque builders in the Ottoman Empire.
- Oricum is an ancient town that used to be a civilized urban centre and has various archaeological ruins, such as part of an Orchestra, a small theatre, which is thought to have seated 400 spectators, traces of wall ruins and streets that are clearly seen, albeit lying under the water of the lagoon, and the Marmiroi Church. This is a church of dating back to the early Byzantine period.
- Ali Pasha's Castle-Porto Palermo Bay. This is a small castle located on a lovely peninsula in the small tectonic bay of Porto Palermo. Ali Pasha built the castle in honor of his wife Vasiliqi.
- Church of St. Stephan, Monastery, Church of Panajia (Dhërmi). The village of Dhërmi goes back to at least the first century B.C. The village used to have 31 churches. The icons of the Church of St. Stephen were painted on the 18th century. The church is a place of pilgrimage every mid-August when religious rites are performed on the day of St. Mary.

Between Tirana and Vlora there is the district of Fier, which boasts different historical sites with great interest. The most important are:
- Historic Museum in Fier
- Archaeological site of Bylis, in Hekal village

 

BERAT
It known as “the city of one-thousand windows” and is declared as a museum city. It is on the slopes of the Tomorri mount where the castle of the city rises in a predominant hill. Inside its walls there are dwelling houses and the “Onufri Museum”. Paintings and icons by the outstanding Albanian painter are also exhibited there. The old part of the city has some religious buildings like churches and mosques.

What to see:
- The Museum of Iconography “Onufri”
- The Museum of Ethnography
- The Castle of Berat is a fortress overlooking the town. There are fourteen churches inside the castle, which have made this castle very famous. One of them is the Church of St. Triadha, dating back to the end of the thirteenth century and beginning of the fourteenth century. Very interesting frescoes are found inside it. Behind the Church of St. Todri, there are the churches of St. Kolli, St. Constantine, St. Helen, St. Mary Vllaherna, and others.
- Ruins of the White Mosque. Its internal walls are found inside the castle of Berat.  They are built on the foundations of Illyrian walls, followed by reconstructions in Byzantine and Ottoman style.
- The Church of Saint Mehilli, (Michael) is well known for combining European and Byzantine construction techniques;
- The Church of Saint Triadha (Trinity). Speculations are that the chapel might have been built on the foundations of the ruins of a pagan temple. The temple was built to honor the goddess Artemis, from which the present name Ardenicë derives.

DURRES
The principal port of Durres is the second largest city of Albania. The city was colonized by the colonists from Corinth and Korkyra in 627 B.C. It was named Epidamnus, which later became Dyrrachium. The most important object is the amphitheatre, the largest in Balkan with 15,000 seats, dating back to the 2nd century AD and containing an Early Christian crypt with a rare wall mosaics . Between the 1st and 3rd centuries Durres was an important port and trading centre on the Via Egnatia trading route, between Rome and Byzantuim (Istanbul). After a great number of earthquakes, much of ancient Durres sank into the sea or collapsed and was subsequently built over. Today the city is well known for the nearby beach resort of Durres and its sandy beaches and warm sea waters.

What to see:
- The Archaeological Museum
- The Amphitheater, partially excavated starting since 1960, has a seating capacity between 15.000-20.000 people and is situated on the middle of the modern city;
- Byzantine Forum
- Venetian Torra (small castle open as a bar)
- Ancient city wall
- The Exhibition of Folk Culture
- The mosaic of Arapaj, Arapaj village (it can be opened only with special permit)

 

KRUJA
Kruja is a medieval town near Tirana. The name of Kruja is closely connected with the name of the National Hero, George Kastriot Scanderbeg, who fought against the Ottomans for 25 years in succession, defending European civilization from their threat in the 15th century. At a prominent and strategic place near the city, there is a castle, within is housed the Scanderbeg Museum (National Museum). On the way to the castle there is a medieval bazaar.

What to see:
- Museum of Gjergj Kastrioti Scanderbeg
- Ethnographic Museum 
- Archaeological site of Albanopoli, in village of Zgerdhesh
- Traditional Bazaar.

 

KORCA
Is the largest city of south eastern part of Albania. It is situated at the foot of Morava Mountain on a plateau 800 m above sea level. It became an important trading and handicraft centre in the 18th century due to the development of trade with neighbouring regions. The museum for Medieval Art is in Korça. It presents the spiritual and material culture of the Albanian people. There are also the Museum of Education, where the first Albanian School were opened in 1878 and the new museum of “Bratko Collections” with antiquaries from the Far East.

What to see:
- The Museum of Medieval Arts
- The Gallery “ Guri Madhi”
- The “Bratko” Museum of antiquaries and collections from Far East
- National Museum of Education
- The Archaeological Museum
- Watering Greensward (a suite place for emigrants, where young ladies use to shed tears).

 

POGRADEC
Pogradec is one of the most charming tourist resorts in Albania because of its position on Lake Ohrid which distinguishes itself for clear water and mountain views. The Koran fish, similar to trout, is found in this lake. Besides the beautiful beach, your stay in Pogradec is made more interesting by the excursion to the tourist centre in Driloni (5 km eastward) surrounded by ornamental plants and trees.

What to see:
- The mosaics of Lin, in the village of Lin at north of Pogradec
- The sources of Drilon
- The monumental graves of Selca e Poshtme, in village of Selca
- The Goliku Bridge on the old Via Egnatia.

 

GJIROKASTRA
One of the most important cities of southern Albania has been declared a “Museum City”. It is built on the slope of a mountain and is known for its characteristic and narrow stone paved streets. The dwelling houses have the form of medieval towers consisting a building ensemble with characteristic architecture. The castle of the city stands like a balcony over the city. It enables the visitors to enjoy a very beautiful landscape. The National Museum of Weapons is housed in the interior of the castle. Weapons are produced and used by the Albanian since the ancient times are displayed there.

What to see:
- The Museum of Weapons is situated inside the Castle of Gjirokastra. It shows the development of weapons in Albania, from antiquity to the present.)
- The Ethnographic Museum. It is otherwise known as the birth-house of the former dictator Enver Hoxha. It is currently visited by many tourists interested in Albanian tradition, culture, and ethnography.
- The Castle of Gjirokastra is a grand fortress with a fantastic location, dominating the whole valley of the Drino. Its construction continued for several centuries and only in the twelfth century did take the shape of a castle. When exiting the castle, visitors walk along a road on both sides of which are 200 stone houses;
- The Mosque of Pajazut Khan is within the castle as well. To the north there is the old market, called the Castle Market. 
- The Church of Labova e Kryqit, in the village with same name;
- The archaeological site of Antigonea, in the village of Saraqinisht;
- The ruins of archaeological site of Adrianapol, in the village of Sofratike.

 

SARANDA
Saranda is most southern city of Albania. Situated opposite of Corfu Island, Saranda is now mostly visited by day trippers who come to enjoy this previously inaccessible resort. It is one of the most tourist sites in Albania and is very preferable by “honeymooners”. Near Saranda there are the ruins of the ancient city of Butrint and the spring of “Blue Eye”.

What to see:
- Ethnographic Museum;
- The Archaeological Museum of Butrint;
- The ruins of ancient town of Onhezmi in Saranda;
- The monastery of Mesopotam is located to the South of Finiq. In earlier times, this was a pagan temple. It is one of the largest and oldest churches of its period. Its icons depict mostly quadruped and mammal motifs. In its main hall, a mosaic depicts a dragon with spread-out wings.  Visitors can see the ruins of the old surrounding walls of the monastery with seven quadrangular towers. These walls predate the church.
- The Quadrangular Castle of Butrint. This small castle of Ali Pasha Tepelena built on 1807-1808 is located on a cape jetting out into the sea. It was built to prevent the French from taking Butrint from their base in Corfu.

 

SHKODRA
It is one of the most major cities in the north – western part of the country. It is situated near the lake sharing the same name and along the road that leads to Montenegro. It is an ancient city with rich history. One can find old characteristic houses where wood and other traditional motifs are used. Near the city there is the castle of Rozafa built on a rocky hill from where you can see attractive and beautiful views. During your stay you can visit the Historical Museum of the city. Shkodra is a good point to start your trip to Albanian Alps.

What to see:
- Historic Museum has a number of sections on archaeology, history and ethnography. It also has its own library with a considerable number of Albanian and foreign books-about 15,000 titles altogether. The library is a great source for students of Albanology;
- The Castle of Rozafa rises on a rocky hill to the west of Shkodra. According to the legend, Rozafa, the wife of the youngest of three brothers, accepted to be buried alive in the walls of the castle. The brothers had been building the castle in the day only to find that the walls had collapsed during the night. At the entrance to the castle one can see the Rozafa bas-relief. According to popular imagination, the lime water that leaks at the main entrance is the milk running from Rozafa's breast which was left outside the wall so that she could feed her newborn baby.
- Museum of Rozafa Castle explains the various periods in the life of the castle;
- The Lead Mosque is a famous cultural monument in the city of Shkodra that was built in 1773 in the style of the Blue Mosque in Istanbul.
- The Church of Shirgji is located 20 km from the city of Shkodra, close to the village of Obot. It is built in Romanic-Gothic style. The Shirgji church used to be a favorite of Albanian and Montenegrin princes and was especially used for wedding.
- The Mesi Bridge is located about 8 km from Shkodra, on the Kir River. There used to be three bridges on this river but only this one has survived to this day. The Mesi Bridge is a unique bridge and considered a 'cultural monument'.
- The Illyrian ruins of Gajtan
- The ruins of medieval city of Sarda are found in an island of the artificial lake of Vau i Dejës, built in 1971. Among the remains are the defense walls, church ruins and the gate to the Dukagjini palace. Sarda is a very picturesque location.

On the way from Tirana to Shkodra in the town of Lezha is interesting to visit the memorial dedicated to burial place of Albanian National Hero, Scanderbeg.

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