Things to do in Albania

| June 19, 2020

Things to do in Albania

Albania is a small country, with the majority of the sights and cities in the central and southern parts. The north of Albania is more isolated and wild. The mountainous landscape here is astoundingly beautiful – perfect for some incredible hiking into remote valleys and villages.

Central Albania

Tirana is a buzzing capital, enjoying its freedom after the constraints of the Communist era. Visit the National Museum, which houses an impressive collection of items from the country’s earliest history to the modern day and the National Art Gallery, displaying the brief history of Albanian painting.

Just north of Tirana is Kruja, which can be easily reached on a day trip from the capital. Kruja is the birthplace of Skanderbeg, forever Albania’s hero. In the 15th century Skanderbeg defended this region of Albania against the Ottoman empire and encouraged resistance against the Ottoman Muslims. He has since become an icon for the Albanian National Awakening and he is celebrated throughout the town.

Out to the west on the Adriatic Coast is the main port of Durres. This city has been inhabited since the Greeks founded it in the 7th century BC and it was briefly capital of Albania from 1914 to 1920.  The main sight to see here is the amphitheatre, dating back the second century AD. It is the largest amphitheatre in the Balkans and was only discovered in 1966.

Southern Albania

Known as ‘the city with a thousand and one windows’, Berat is a fine example of the Ottoman-inspired architecture which prevails throughout the region. Set in a mountainous area, this Unesco world heritage site has a hilltop fortress around which cluster pretty white houses with tiled rooftops and cobblestone alleys running through them.

Further south and on the coast, where the Adriatic meets the Ionian Sea, is Vlora, a major port. It was here in 1912 that the Albanian Declaration of Independence was proclaimed. Independence was messy and short lived, with the invasion of Italy in 1939, but there is a National Museum of Independence here in the former headquarters of Albania’s first government.

Further south still along the Ionian coast is Saranda. This popular destination for sun seekers in the summer was briefly renamed Porto Edda when Albania was under Italian occupation, in honour of Mussolini’s eldest daughter. The town serves as a good springboard for visiting the ruins of Butrint, close to the border with Greece. This ancient site which was first settled by the Illyrians became a great trading city for the Greeks and Romans. Explore various remains including an acropolis, bath houses, theatre, baptistery and fortress.

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