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TOP 10 things to do in Vlora, Albania

Reasonable prices, beautiful landscape and wonderful beaches

Located in the southwestern part of Albania, Vlora is a beautiful city overlooking the Adriatic Sea and the Italian coast. During communism, Vlora was the number 1 vacation destination for Albanians (obviously no foreigners were allowed in during communism).

Vlora’s coastline is where the Adriatic sea meets the Ionian sea.

Vlora carries a very important historical event for the Albanians, as this is where the declaration of the Albanian Independence from the Ottoman Empire was signed on November 28th, 1912. Today, Vlora has been developed in a gorgeous Mediterranean city, especially with the construction of the Lungomare promenade, an amazing seafront boulevard where people walk every night. The Lungomare promenade has given the city elegance, but also new spaces for the sea to be enjoyed. Here’s what we suggest you do in Vlora.

1.Visit the historical museums

National Museum of Independence

It was created in 1936 and is the first Albanian museum. The building itself and everything that is exhibited in it, represent one of the most important moments in the history of the Albanian nation. In this building, the foundations of the Albanian state have been laid. For 6 months, the Government of Ismail Qemali was established and functioned there, which was created after the declaration of independence.

Museum of Historical Relics

Hundreds of original objects are exhibited and preserved here, which represent and reflect different historical periods, starting with antiquity and continuing with modern day history. In this museum, visitors can see archeological objects belonging to various ancient cities in the district of Vlora, such as Orik, Amantias, Ploca, Olympias (Mavrovo) and further, Kionina (Kanina).

Ethonographic Museum

In 1909, the first Albanian language school for city girls was opened here, run by the patriot Marigo Posio. It reflects the peculiarities of the traditions of the district of Vlora. Among them, also included are the best traditions of material culture, made by inhabitants of the district of Vlora, most ditinguishly those of metalworking, wood, clothing, embroidery, fishing, and more.

Monumental Tomb of Ismail Qemali

On November 28, 1932, on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Albanian Independence, at the request of the people of Vlora and by decision of the Royal Government, the body of Albanian’s founding father, Ismail Qemali, was moved to Vlora, in the city garden, in a monumental tomb. This tomb was the work of the famous Albanian sculptor, Odhise Paskali. The place where the tomb is located, was previously Qemali’s house where he was born and raised, and also the place where he declared Albania’s Independence from. Today, next to his tomb, there’s a magnificent monument, symbolizing that November day, which would give the beautiful name to that large square, “Flag Square”.

2. Visit the ancient cities and castles

Kanina Castle

Kanina Castle is located less than 4 miles (6 km) away from the city of Vlora. The castle has been mentioned in the book since the 4th century. However, there have been traces discovered there that belong to the Illyrian period. It is thought to have been built in the 3rd century. Subsequent traces are those of the Byzantine, Venetian and Turkish periods. The castle was rebuilt by Justinian in the 5th century and repaired by Sultan Suleiman in 1531. The castle rises to the top of a hill, about 1250 ft (380 meters) above sea level. It has an area of about 9 acres (3.6 hectares). From the castle, a very beautiful view opens up towards Vlora and its bay.

Gjon Bocari Castle

The Gjon Bocari Castle is built on a dominant hill above the plain of Dukat, Tragjas and the village of Radhimรซ, controlling the coast and the roads leading to the Llogara Pass. From the architectural elements, the castle coincides with the enclosures of the Albanian monasteries built in the second half of the 17th century, and it is still necessary to study if there was any construction in the time of Ali Pasha Tepelena, as it does not turn out to have any typical building elements from this period.

Porto Palermo Castle

The small castle is located in a rather beautiful position on a peninsula in the small tectonic bay of Porto Palermo (in antiquity known as the bay of Panormes). Ali Pasha built this fortress in honor of his wife, Vasiliqia.The castle is located not far from the village of Qeparo and has a unique triangular shape. The castle is much older than Ali Pasha. He restored the castle and he controlled this point. Fun fact, he only visited the Porto Palermo castle as a visitor; he never lived there.

Traces of Vlora Castle

The castle was built by Suleiman the Magnificent in 1531, about 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) away from the city. According to Vlora historians, its predecessor is the so-called “Venetian Castle”. Medieval Vlora lay along the present-day Wharf, near the ruined octagonal castle. It coincides with the medieval castle “Castrum Avellonen” of the 12th century and had Byzantine origins.

New traces of the ancient city of Orik

Albanian and Swiss archaeologists have recently discovered traces of a 2400-year-old wall in the ancient town of Orik, an important center in that period that, among other things, served as the main port for the Vlora region. During the excavations, traces of the wall were found that correspond to the 4th-3rd centuries BC, or of the later periods of Justinian , as well as amphorae belonging to the earlier periods, 6th and 5th centuries BC, and have served for oil or wine transport.

The ruined village of old Tragjas

Archaeological finds around it show the existence of an inhabited center since antiquity. This settlement burned down three times and completely destroyed during the Second World War. Today, it’s an open museum left in oblivion, a silent testimony of the past. Although uninhabited for 60+ years, its constituent elements are clearly visible within the village boundaries: A main road that runs the length of the village and the silhouette of the ruins of former dwellings. A small village with 300 houses, lies on a hilly site, both picturesque and strategic. The houses are placed almost next to each other and are distinguished for the found modeling, rationalization, good adaptation to the terrain, pronounced movement of volumes and monumentality.

The Treport Castle and the acient wall

Treporti is a strip of land about 5 miles (8 km) northwest of Vlora. In the past, the connection of Narta lagoon with the sea was realized by three entrances, of which today only one is still operatirng. In the widest and highest part of it you will find the village of Zvernec (Zvรซrnec). In the southern part of Zvernec, there’s a strip of land that extends towards the sea, where remains of an ancient port have been discovered.

3. Walk through the ‘Street of the Jews’

There’s an unusual friendship between the Albanians and Jews. The origins of this friendship go back centuries and are thought to have a history of almost 600 years. The traces of this history have already remained in the memory of the citizens of Vlora, who preserve the best impressions for those noble inhabitants who became part of the life in the city of Vlora, until the early 1990s. A consolidated Jewish community lived in the city of Vlora. A large part of them lived in a street, which today has been declared a cultural monument and is named “Jewish Road”. This road is located near the center of this city and has a length of 150 ft (46 meters) and a width of 15 ft (4.5 meters). On both sides, characteristic two- and three-storey dwellings are erected, which were built in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

4. Discover the churches and monasteries

Monastery of St. Mary, Zvernec

There are several opinions for determining the time of construction of this Christian shrine. One of them being that the church belongs to the 13th or 14th century. While others think that the time of construction belongs to the 10th century. On its foundation, there’s belived to be a tombstone. Written in Byzantine Greek, it served as the cover of a sarcophagus, which was either there from the beginning, or was taken by the builders to be placed on the floor of the church hall.

Marmiro Church

The church is of the free cross type, with a dome. Other parts of it consist of the narthex and the cylindrical drum. Perhaps this chapel served as a model for the construction of the church of the Monastery of St. Mary of Zvรซrnec. It is thought that this object once belonged to a small monastery. The church is built with raw stone taken from the bed of the nearby creek. Wrought stones were used for the gates and facades, which were taken from the ruins of ancient Orik.

The towers of the Dervish Ali

Close to the village of Dukat there is a construction complex with historical values. Built at the beginning of the 19th century, these towers are known as the ‘Dervish Ali Towers’. Dervish Ali was a figure known as the organizer of village revolts against the Tanzimat reforms in Albania during the years 1847-1848.

5. Camping at the Narta Lagoon

Nartes Lagoon represents one of the largest and most important lagoons in Albania. It is located at the southern tip of the coastal lowland, near the city of Vlora. The whole landscape creates a very beautiful natural ensemble, full of contrasts and where the beauty is in harmony with the tranquility of this place. In addition to natural beauty, of particular interest to visitors is the Monastery of St. Mary, which is located on the island of Zvernec, which you can visit via a narrow wooden pedestrian bridge.

6. Discover the Inscriptions in Grama Bay

The name of Grama is clearly associated with the engraved inscriptions that in antiquity. There were numerous rock inscriptions in the Grama Bay, with about 1500 of them counted. The Greek inscriptions are more ancient and belong to the 1st century BC, followed by some Latin inscriptions of the imperial period, before medieval Greek was predominant with inscriptions related to Jesus Christ.

7. Visit Sazan Island and Karaburun Peninsula

The Karaburun Peninsula itself is a nature reserve, while the Island of Sazan was off limits to visitors until about 5 years ago. In July of 2015, the Albanian government decided to open the island to the public. The island offers some of the most beautiful beaches that the Albanian coast has to offer, mainly because the public wasn’t allowed to step foot in it for a few decades. Today, Sazan is accessible by boat which you take from the city of Vlora. In the island, you’ll be able to visit the cave of Haxhi Ali, where you’ll learn the special history of this sailor from Ulcinj, Montenegro.

8. Throw a party in aย boat tour

You don’t have to be rich to party in a boat in Vlora! Unless you want a yacht. There are several boats around the coast who organise daily tours from 9am to 5pm for an average of 30-40 euros (lunch included) where you can enjoy a beach and schiuma party on board. You will find there drinks, good music and a few strange pirates if you happen to be in a pirate boat. We recommend you take your parrot with you!

9. Catch those lungomare vibes

Any time of the day is a good time to visit lungomare. An early morning scroll, a warm coffee, a midday restaurant, an afternoon desert, a night party, a walk on the promenade, it will all work just fine. The vibes of lungomare are calling, so make some time to pay a visit.

10. Pisha Flamur, or ‘Flag Pinetree’, Llogara Pass

Located in the Llogara National Park, just a little north of the Llogara Pass, there’s a pine tree that’s shaped like a flag, because of the strong southeast winds.The tree is about 66 ft (20 m) high, and about 30 inches (75 m) in diameter. This century-old tree has scientific, bilogical, aesthetic and touristic values.

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