This is a list of tourism sites that are worth visiting. The list will be updated continuously with sites you have never heard before because our aim is to promote every beautiful part of the country and to discover for you places you have to visit.
Albanian Alps: Western Alps – Razem – Boge – Theth – Vermosh
The alpine tour of Albania is not complete without a visit to the Western Alps (Alpet Perëndimore). Here you will enjoy something unique: you will walk, breath, sleep and eat amidst the legends starting from Homer and ending with the modern tales of our days. This tour gives you the chance to enjoy a unique place at the heart of the Albanian Alps, Gropa e Thethit.
The journey to this mountainous area begins from the city of Shkodra and leads to the closest stop – 41 km away from Shkodra – the city of Razma, situated on a blackberry hill at the feet of the Veleçik Mountain. Razma stands amid infinite forests of pines and birch trees. There are also many meadows and amazing alpine pastures. The journey to Razma is possible even in the winter when the snow is at its highest level. There are several hotels already and others are on their way to completion. The most common activities are excursions, mountain climbing, skiing, and. during the summer, camping.
The road will lead you from Razma to the village of Dedaj and then onto Boga, a village surrounded by the Alps and described by Edith Durham in her book The Burden of the Balkans. Boga is the perfect place for mountain climbing, skiing, and spelunking. Among the most famous caves, you can visit the Cave of Mulliri (“Mill”), Akullore (“Ice Cream”), and Njerëzve të lagun (“Wet People”). The Cave of Puci is one of the most attractive, situated at 1,087 m above sea level. It is 5 km long and rich in stalactites, stalagmites, and wall veils. The cave has many levels, five alone in the center. By passing through its galleries you can connect with another cave, the Cave of Husi.
After Boga, you will reach the main tourist center of the entire area, Thethi, located 70 km from Shkodra. Before arriving at Thethi you must pass Qafa e Tërthores at 2,000 m above sea level. From here, you descend to Gropa e Thethit, crossed by a stream with the same name.
The area is rich in attractive sights like the Cascade of Grunas, 25-30 m high. You will be amazed by the cold-water sources of Okol and the caves “Birrat me rrathë” (“Round Holes”) and “Arapi”. In the park, you can amuse yourself by trekking, mountain climbing, skiing (especially on the eastern slope), or fishing, mountain biking and exploring caverns. The flora is impressive: the most common tree of the area is the beech, which covers almost 90 percent of the surface of the park. There are different types of flowers such as Eulfenia of Baldachi discovered by the Italian botanist Baldachi, which can be found only in Theth. The fauna is just as rich, distinguished by the Golden Eagle and Rreqebull. The waters of the Stream of Theth are home to marble trout.
While in Theth you can stay in local hostels with traditional alpine architecture. The characteristic dish of the area is “fërliku” (baked meat) and different plates of trout. From Theth, the trip continues to the valley of the Shalë River approaching the heart of the Alps.
Another interesting spot of the Western Alps is Vermosh, part of the northern-most region of the country. Vermosh is 95 km away from the city of Shkodra. Vermosh is part of the region of Kelmend, a name that originates from the Roman word “Clemens”, meaning gentle, simple, and good. The first thing that catches the eye during this journey is Qafa e Rrapshit where you can see the crystal-clear waters of the Cemi River that create a beautiful contrast with the surroundings. During summer, the ponds of the river are perfect for sunbathing.
Vermoshi stands in an alpine field at 1,100 m above sea level surrounded by high slopes. You can entertain yourself by trekking, mountain climbing, skiing, or fishing for trout. If you want to try something special from the traditional cuisine, be sure to taste the dairy products of the area!
The journey to this part of Albania will give you not only the chance to live between a mythical atmosphere and the contemporary world but will also let you taste the proverbial hospitality known and mentioned by every foreigner who has visited this place.
Albania Eastern Alps: Valbona River Valley – Canyon of Shoshan – Dragobia – Selimaj – Rragami
The Valbona River Valley lies in the eastern part of the Albanian Alps. A national park of 8,000 hectares, it is one of the most beautiful natural areas in Albania. The park lies at 20-30 km from the alpine city of Bajram Curri. Before entering the valley you will find the water source (vrellen) of Shoshan located only 3 km away from Bajram Curri. This karstic source heads to the Valbona River creating an attractive canyon 2-3 m wide and 50 m deep.
After entering the valley, you will pass several picturesque villages. The first, with alpine style houses, is called Dragobia, and it is where the valley narrows. Past Dragobia, at the foot of a mountain where the Cerremi stream joins Valbona, there is the famous cave where the national hero Bajram Curri was besieged and killed. The city than took his name. Valbona (or Selimaj) is located 25 km away from the city of Bajram Curri and is the most important inhabited center of the valley. It is full of traditional houses that create a picturesque view in symmetry with the natural wonders of the valley, which widens again at this point.
In Selimaj, you will find a comfortable and traditional hotel, or you may have the opportunity to stay at a village home, for the inhabitants’ generosity and hospitality are well known. The zone is also known for its characteristic regional cooking, with specialties such as mazja, flija, and pitja masterfully prepared in traditional village kitchens.
Beyond Selimaj, the road continues through the valley among marvelous views of nature with rich colors of both springtimes and of the snow that covers the peaks of the craggy mountains. The final village before you arrive at the source of the Valbona River is Rragam. Rragam is a remote village surrounded by virgin and intact nature. The whole valley has such rare colors and beauty that one may think a divine hand made it. On one side, you see the crystal-clear waters of the Valbona, and on the other the sharp but verdant mountain edges. Until May you can enjoy the contrast of the clean white snow on the treetops against the blue sky. The flora of the national park includes a variety of plants and trees, the most wide-spread formations of which are the Hormoq tree. The rest consists of beechwoods, arnen, walnuts, chestnut trees, and wild apple trees. There are also many forest fruits such as bilberries and strawberries.
The animals in the park include bears, wolves, and wild cats, while on the rocks there are herds of wild goats. Down in the river, there is the so-called “marble trout”, a rare fish of the crystal-clear waters of the Valbona with an exquisite and special taste.
The valley, the park, and all the surroundings are known for snowfall, which starts in early November and lasts almost until May. The average level of the snow in this region is 100 cm. There are lots of outdoor activities that can take place in the national park, such as fishing, excursions and trekking throughout the valley and the streams (Cerrem, Kukuaj), canoeing along certain parts of the river, and skiing or mountain climbing. Valbona may also serve as a starting point if you wish to climb the Jezerca Mountain, the second highest mountain in Albania.
Apollonia, the ancient ruins of the Albanian history
Apollonia was an ancient city in Illyria, located on the right bank of the Aous river (modern-day Vjosë). Its ruins are situated in the Fier region, near the village of Pojani, in modern-day Albania. Apollonia was founded in 588 BC by Greek colonists from Corfu and Corinth, on a site initially occupied by Illyrian tribes and was perhaps the most important of the several classical towns known as Apollonia. Apollonia flourished in the Roman period and was home to a renowned school of philosophy, but began to decline in the 3rd century AD when its harbor started silting up as a result of an earthquake. It was abandoned by the end of Late Antiquity.
The site of Apollonia lay on the territory of the Taulantii, a cluster of Illyrian tribes that remained closely involved with the settlement for centuries and lived alongside the Greek colonists. The city was said to have originally been named Gylakeia after its founder, Gylax, but the name was later changed to honor the God Apollo.
It is mentioned by Strabo in his Geographica as “an exceedingly well-governed city”. Aristotle considered Apollonia an important example of an oligarchic system, as the descendants of the Greek colonists controlled the city and prevailed over a large serf population of mostly Illyrian origin. The city grew rich on the slave trade and local agriculture, as well as its large harbor, said to have been able to hold a hundred ships at a time. The city also benefited from the local supply of asphalt, which was a valuable commodity in ancient times, for example for caulking ships. The remains of a late sixth-century temple, located just outside the city, were reported in 2006 and it is only the fifth known stone temple found in present-day Albania.
Apollonia, like Dyrrachium further north, was an important port on the Illyrian coast as the most convenient link between Brundusium and northern Greece, and as one of the western starting points of the Via Egnatia leading east to Thessaloniki and Byzantium in Thrace. It had its own mint, stamping coins showing a cow suckling her calf on the obverse and a double stellate pattern on the reverse, which have been found as far away as the basin of the Danube.
The city was for a time included among the dominions of Pyrrhus of Epirus. In 229 BC, it came under the control of the Roman Republic, to which it was firmly loyal and it was rewarded in 168 BC with booty seized from Gentius, the defeated king of Illyria. In 148 BC, Apollonia became part of the Roman province of Macedonia, specifically of Epirus Nova. In the Roman Civil War between Pompey and Julius Caesar, it supported the latter but fell to Marcus Iunius Brutus in 48 BC. The later Roman emperor Augustus studied in Apollonia in 44 BC under the tutelage of Athenodorus of Tarsus; it was there that he received news of Caesar’s murder.
Apollonia flourished under Roman rule and was noted by Cicero in his Philippics as magna urbs et gravis, a great and important city. Christianity was established in the city at an early stage, and bishops from Apollonia were present during the First Council of Ephesus (431) and the Council of Chalcedon (451). Its decline, however, began in the 3rd century AD, when an earthquake changed the path of the Aoos, causing the harbor to silt up and the inland area to become a malaria-ridden swamp. The city became increasingly uninhabitable as the inland swamp expanded, and the nearby settlement of Avlona (modern-day Vlorë) became dominant. By the end of antiquity, the city was largely depopulated, hosting only a small Christian community. This community (which probably is part of the site of the old city) built on a nearby hill the church of the Dormition of the Theotokos, (Albanian: Shën Mëri), part of the Ardenica Monastery.
The city seems to have sunk with the rise of Vlora. It was “rediscovered” by European classicists in the 18th century, though it was not until the Austrian occupation of 1916–1918 that the site was investigated by archaeologists. Their work was continued by a French team between 1924–1938. Parts of the site were damaged during the Second World War. After the war, an Albanian team undertook further work from 1948 onwards, although much of the site remains unexcavated to this day. Some of the team’s archeological discoveries are on display within the monastery, known as the Museum of Apollonia (opened in 1958) and other artifacts from Apollonia are in the capital Tirana. Unfortunately, during the anarchy that followed the collapse of the communist regime in 1990, the archeological collection was plundered and the museum was temporarily closed. The ruins were also frequently dug up by plunderers for relics to be sold to collectors abroad.
In December 2011, a new museum opened, replacing an older museum dating from 1985, and was funded by UNESCO’s MDG-F Joint Programme ”Culture and Heritage for Social and Economic Development”.
In August 2010, a French-Albanian team of archaeologists unearthed a bust of a Roman soldier, 50 years after the discoveries of other full body statues in the 1958-1960 period expeditions, led by Albanian scholar Selim Islami and Russian Professor Blavatski.
A German-Albanian team has been working on the Hellenistic theatre at Albania, throwing light on the development of Greek theatres and also local variants.
One of the participants in the Council of Ephesus in 431 was a Felix who signed once as Bishop of Apollonia and Byllis, at another time as Bishop of Apollonia. Some assume that the two towns formed a single episcopal see, others suppose he was, strictly speaking, Bishop only of Apollonia, but was temporarily in charge also of Byllis during a vacancy of that see. One of the participants at a council held in Constantinople in 448 signed as Paulus Episcopus Apolloniada al. Apolloniatarum, civitatis sanctae ecclesiae, but it is uncertain whether he was associated with this Apollonia. At the Council of Chalcedon in 451, Eusebius subscribed simply as Bishop of Apollonia. In the letter of the bishops of Epirus Nova to the Byzantine Emperor Leo I in 458, Philocharis subscribes as Bishop of what the manuscripts call “Vallidus”, and which editors think should be corrected to “Byllis”. Whether Philocharis is to be considered Bishop also of Apollonia depends on the interpretation of the position of Felix in 431.
The Annuario Pontificio lists Apollonia as a titular see, thus recognizing that it was once a residential diocese, a suffragan of the archbishopric of Dyrrachium. It grants no such recognition to Byllis.
Velipoja is a village and a former municipality in Shkodër County, northwestern Albania. At the 2015 local government reform, it became a subdivision of Shkodra municipality. The population in 2011 was 5,031.
Velipoja is situated on the estuary of the Buna river (the only navigable river of Albania), where it flows into the Adriatic Sea while constituting the natural border with Montenegro. The Commune (i.e. the administrative unit) of Velipojë has a population of around 10,000, spread over several small settlements, the largest of which is the town of Velipojë itself.
Its economy is based on agriculture (arable land and livestock, sheep and cattle), some fishing, and chiefly tourism. The scenery is largely unspoilt: a mixture of sea-coast, river estuary, heathland, thick pine woods, farmland, and high mountains. It has been remarked by visitors that the heathland to the north of Velipoja is very reminiscent of Scottish scenery. A nature reserve lies within the commune. The area is a prime site for bird watching, game shooting and fishing. A long, sandy beach with a seaside promenade is a popular attraction in summer.
In recent years, several projects have been instituted with the aim of conserving the environment (including the marine life of the Buna) and the encouragement of ecological tourism. There have also been recent efforts to develop fish farming. The area has many small hotels and guest houses. There is a market, where local farmers sell their produce. In the commune, there is a church-sponsored kindergarten, several primary schools, two secondary schools, and one gymnasium. There is also a small theatre and a thriving local football team, KS Ada Velipojë and ground.
Historically a poor area, and like the rest of the country subject to much emigration, Velipojë has recently begun to expand as a tourist resort, favoured especially by the inhabitants of Shkodër, the chief city of northern Albania, which lies about 30 km inland.
Shengjin is a coastal town and a former municipality in the Lezha County, northwestern Albania. At the 2015 local government reform it became a subdivision of the municipality Lezhë. Shëngjin is a growing tourist destination, well known for its beaches and resort accommodations. Shëngjin is one of many cities within the District of Lezhë and is home to one of Albania’s entry ports, Port of Shëngjin.
Shengjin is located approximately 100 meters away from the waters of the Adriatic Sea, and below a mountain side called Rrenci that is approximately 159 meters in height. Shëngjin is also located approximately 60 km from the Tirana Mother Teresa International Airport.
Shengjin offers a wide arrange of environmentally friendly activities. To the south of the city is a nature preserves called “Pylli me pisha dhe Lagune Kunes” and “Laguna e Vainit”, which offers a beautiful and undisturbed place to enjoy the natural surroundings of wetlands and seafront. Similarly, just north of city center is “Rana e Hedhun” in Gheg Albanian or “Rera e Hedhur” in standard Albanian, which also offers a wonderful experience of rural and undeveloped sand dunes along the coastline.
According to EssentialAlbania.com, “Being an ecological city, Shengjin Albania offers some of the best fishing grounds that ensure that there is a balance between the rate of fishing and the frequent of fishing so that to ensure that there is not too much loss of fish from the sea. They respect the fact that the fish need to breed in order to maintain their population.”
Shengjn’s economy is focused on two major industries: seaport and tourism. The Port of Shengjin, or Shengjin Harbor, is the northernmost seaport in Albania and is frequently accessed by cargo and fishing vessels. The Port of Shëngjin provides the area with a strong industrial foundation. Shengjin has the third largest port in Albania and the Harbor’s access point is located in the northwest part of the city. The port is protected by lengthy rock walls that extend into the sea. Shengjin has approximately three km of beachfront.
Karaburun-Sazan National Marine Park
Karaburun-Sazan National Marine Park proclaimed in 2010 is the only national marine park of Albania. The park covers a marine area stretching 1-nautical-mile (1.9 km) along the coastlines of Karaburun Peninsula and Sazan Island near the Bay of Vlora. The marine park is 16 kilometers long and covers 12,428 ha of the surface in total. Karaburun Peninsula itself is a Managed Nature Reserve while Sazan Island is a military zone in Albania. In July 2015, Sazan Island was opened to the public by the Albanian National Coastal Agency.
In 2014, the Regina Blu ferry was established by a Radhime based hotel owner making trips to the above area and stopping along the secluded beaches. The marine park features ruins of sunken Greek, Roman and World War II ships, rich underwater fauna, steep cliffs and giant caves, ancient inscriptions of sailors on shore, secluded beaches, and scenic views of the coastline. Be advised that the park is located nearby military bases so permission may be required from local authorities first. The hiring of a professional local diver for serving as tour guide is strongly recommended. Roads are in inaccessible and the only ways to reach the above areas is by sea or through all day hiking.
The park is part of the Karaburun Peninsula, the largest peninsula of Albania, located in the Vlorë County, southwestern Albania, at the eastern side of the Strait of Otranto, where the Adriatic Sea meets the Ionian Sea. It has an area of 62 km2 and has no population. It is 16 kilometers long with a width that varies from 3 to 4.5 kilometers. The peninsula is a Managed Nature Reserve and contains the Pasha Liman military base. The surrounding sea waters form part of the Karaburun-Sazan National Marine Park. In 2014, the Regina Blu ferry was established by a Radhime-based hotel owner making trips to Karaburun Peninsula and Sazan Island while stopping along the secluded beaches.