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10 Of The Prime Issues To Do In Gjirokastër, Albania

The southern Albanian gem of Gjirokastër is steeped in historical past and bursting with attraction. With a picturesque Outdated City stuffed with Ottoman-era buildings, a bustling bazaar, and superbly preserved Seventeenth-century houses, Gjirokaster feels prefer it got here straight from a fairytale.

This hillside metropolis has a protracted and storied previous and was as soon as part of the Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman empires, although there’s proof exhibiting that Gjirokaster has been inhabited for round 2,000 years.

Curiously, Gjirokaster is the birthplace of Alabania’s former dictator, Enver Hoxha, who famously constructed the nation’s numerous nuclear bunkers.

There’s far more to Gjirokaster than its fascinating historical past, although, as town is surrounded by rolling inexperienced landscapes and majestic mountains, making it a hotspot for nature lovers. It was simply my favourite vacation spot in Albania!

Plan your journey to Gjirokaster, Albania

1. Wander Round Gjirokaster Fortress

  • Opening hours: Day-after-day, 9:00 AM – 7:00 PM
  • Admission charge: 400 Lekë
  • Location: Google Maps

The focus of this enchanting metropolis is the Gjirokaster Fortress, a towering fortress that dates again to the 14th century.

Gjirokaster Castle with a clock tower; blue sky and white clouds in the background.

That is one web site you completely can’t miss throughout your keep. Not solely will you be capable to journey again in time as you wander the grounds, recognizing the clock tower, the church, and the arched walkways, however you’ll additionally discover essentially the most rewarding views of Gjirokaster from right here.

For those who’re visiting in summer time, I’d advocate exploring it early within the day, to keep away from working up a critical sweat below the Albanian sunshine. This Gjirokaster Fortress tour additionally has Blue Eye, which I’ll discuss later, as one in all its stops. This different tour can be an choice if you happen to’re coming from Tirana.

2. Brush Up on Your Historical past on the Fortress’s Museums

Gjirokaster Museum

  • Opening hours: Day-after-day, 9:00 AM – 7:00 PM
  • Admission charge: 200 Lekë
  • Location: Google Maps

Arms Museum

  • Opening hours: Day-after-day, 9:00 AM – 7:00 PM
  • Admission charge: 200 Lekë
  • Location: Google Maps

Gjirokaster Fortress can be residence to some museums, every of which you’ll be able to enter for a small further charge, together with the Gjirokaster Museum and the Arms Museum.

The Gjirokaster Museum is one of the best place to study in regards to the historical past of this long-standing citadel and town itself. Having been conquered a number of occasions, this museum brings Gjirokaster’s turbulent previous to life, from photographs depicting life throughout Communist occasions to artifacts from the Ottoman Empire.

The outside of a museum in Gjirokaster, Albania with canyon, old aircraft, and a view of the city below and the mountains.

Anybody eager about weaponry ought to cease by the Arms Museum. It’s not as informative because the Gjirokaster Museum, however you’ll discover the likes of World Battle II equipment and centuries-old weapons inside.

Maybe the good addition to the Arms Museum is an outdated aircraft belonging to the U.S. Air Power, which some imagine was taken down throughout the Chilly Battle.

3. Discover the Outdated City

My absolute favourite factor to do in Gjirokaster is to easily stroll across the Outdated City, which has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Web site. In every single place you look, you’ll be greeted by beautiful examples of white Ottoman structure, cobblestone streets, and hilly walkways.

Streets of Old Town in Gjirokaster, Albania with stores.

You’ll have your decide of cute cafes, and eating places dotted alongside the streets, that are the right locations to seize a chew to eat and watch the world go by. This a part of city is much more beautiful when the solar begins to go down, as fairy lights make every avenue much more magical.

4. Step Contained in the Spectacular Skenduli Home

  • Opening hours: Day-after-day, 9:00 AM – 7:00 PM
  • Admission charge: 300 Lekë
  • Location: Google Maps

Maybe one of the best place to admire the native structure is on the Skenduli Home, an genuine Gjirokaster residence that’s been in the identical household for generations.

The outside of Skenduli House in Gjirokaster, Albania.

Regardless of being as soon as occupied and used as a museum throughout the Communist period, Skenduli Home is at the moment operated by a descendant of its unique house owners, who you’ll greater than probably be guided by while you go to.

The inside of Skenduli House in Gjirokaster, Albania.

In the course of the tour, you’ll be given an perception into life in Gjirokaster throughout the 1700s as you discover bedrooms, dwelling areas, and a bunker, however the premier room, full with a hearth and frescoes, is the spotlight for me.

5. Prepare dinner Up a Storm at a Culinary Class

For those who fancy making an attempt one thing a little bit completely different, throw your apron on and study some recipes you could showcase to your family members again residence in your return!

Albania has some severely tasty meals, however Gjirokaster additionally has a few of its personal specialties, similar to qifqi, shapkat, and japrak.

Food, utensils, and a glass of drink on a table on a street in Albania.

Cooking lessons are at all times a lot enjoyable, even if you happen to’re a whole novice and don’t price your culinary expertise very extremely.

To whip up some Gjirokaster favorites, take a look at this local-focused class. Nevertheless, this vegetarian class is a superb various if you happen to want to go meat-free, and it even contains some complimentary raki. For these of you who’ve but to strive raki, that is Albania’s selfmade, usually very sturdy, spirit of alternative.

6. Expertise the Eerie Chilly Battle Tunnel 

  • Opening hours: Day-after-day, 9:00 AM – 6:00 PM
  • Admission charge: 200 Lekë
  • Location: Google Maps

When Gjirokaster native Enver Hoxha turned more and more paranoid about international invasion throughout the Nineteen Seventies, he started constructing numerous bunkers all through Albania, together with the Chilly Battle Tunnel.

This 59-room pit was constructed to shelter the likes of presidency officers and elite members of society from potential nuclear assaults. It stays very a lot in its unique state at the moment, minus some stolen furnishings.

Excursions run each hour and final for round half-hour, throughout which your information offers you some background info and an evidence of varied rooms within the bunker.

If I can provide you one piece of recommendation, it’s to convey a jacket or cover-up of some kind, because it’s fairly chilly in right here even when it’s a blistering 95°F exterior.

7. Do Some Purchasing on the Gjirokaster Bazaar

People on the streets of Gjirokaster, Albania Old Town at night.
Gjirokastër, Albania

Inside the Outdated City lies the Gjirokaster Bazaar. Now, simply to set expectations, this isn’t some massive roofed purchasing area as you may think from bazaars in Turkey or Morocco. That is actually simply two streets lined with small retailers, although they’re within the precise historic location the place retailers gathered since historic occasions.

Having as soon as stood as a conventional market for locals for lots of of years, at the moment, the winding streets of the bazaar principally cater to vacationers.

That is the place you’ll need to refill on souvenirs, as there are heaps of shops promoting distinctive trinkets and colourful keepsakes, from patterned carpets and handmade jewellery to ceramics and artworks.

While you’ve had sufficient retail remedy, head to one of many ice cream parlors or bakeries and decide up a candy or savory deal with.

8. Step Contained in the Bazaar Mosque

  • Opening hours: Weekdays, 9:00 AM – 4:30 PM
  • Admission charge: Free
  • Location: Google Maps

When Gjirokaster was below Ottoman rule, town boasted fifteen mosques, most of which existed up till Albania turned a communist state. All these locations of worship had been destroyed throughout this time, other than the Bazaar Mosque.

The outside of a mosque and a clock tower in Gjirokaster, Albania.

Except you observe Islam, you may’t enter throughout prayer occasions, however you’ll typically discover folks worshipping at any time of the day, and also you may even encounter the imam throughout your go to.

At current, the mosque is free for all to enter, although it’s vital to recollect to decorate conservatively and guarantee your shoulders and knees are lined while you arrive.

9. Hike to the Ali Pasha Bridge

Regardless of being a much less visited spot than a few of the different locations on this record, trekking as much as the Ali Pasha Bridge is among the many prime issues I’ve performed in Gjirokaster.

This stone bridge is the one remnant of the Nineteenth-century aqueduct that introduced contemporary water into town and is without doubt one of the most outstanding websites exterior of the Outdated City.

Mountains and a bridge at Ali Pasha, Albania.

You’ll must deal with a brief however arduous hike to achieve the bridge, with some rocky and steep patches alongside the best way, although it ought to solely take you round 30-40 minutes to finish.

Anybody with a worry of heights ought to be warned that the trail throughout the bridge is freed from fencing, which might be fairly unnerving.

Head off early within the day if you happen to’re making the trek throughout the summer time, as there’s little or no shade for a lot of the path.

10. Admire the Vivid Blue Eye

Situated round an hour’s drive from the Outdated City of Gjiokaster is a pure spring with crystal clear blue waters that should be seen to be believed! Aptly referred to as the Blue Eye, this pure phenomenon is actually magical and has change into one in all Albania’s most beloved sights.

An aerial view of people at Blue Eye natural spring in Albania surrounded by trees.

Although a number of Albanian legends inform the story of how this web site got here to be, the water comes from an unwater cave, which varieties the pupil of the ‘eye.’

What’s fascinating in regards to the Blue Eye is that divers have made it to 50 meters under the floor of the spring, however it stays unknown simply how deep the water goes.

To guard the readability of the water, swimming isn’t allowed right here, however sadly, many individuals proceed to ignore the foundations, and it’s not unusual to see folks bathing or leaping in.

Some hyperlinks could also be affiliate hyperlinks, that means I could earn fee from services or products I like to recommend. For extra, see web site insurance policies.

Posted APR 08, 2024

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