Historical Tour in Albania
Historical Studies in Europe
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There’s nothing quite like international travel! You’ll arrive in the capital city of Tirana in Albania, but that’s not your final destination for the day. To make the most of your time, you’ll board a bus to Theth. The ride is about 3.5 hours, but this will give you time to both enjoy the beauty of the Albanian landscape and rest up for a long day ahead.
Start your time in Albania with the perfect view of the Balkan region. Explore this gorgeous mountain town by hiking through it and seeing some of their 170 caves. Stop in one of the many cafes to stay hydrated and rest up since it’ll be a long walk. Also, don’t miss the gorgeous waterfall.
Once in the nearby national park, you’ll be able to explore the Valbona River. Go for a swim or a canoe ride and enjoy the beautiful flora around you. Rest up for the night and get ready for an early start to your next stop!
All aboard! From Theth, you’ll reach Shkoder via boat ride. Once in the area, your first stop is at the Rozafa Castle. Surrounded by two rivers, the castle is a shocking 430 feet tall! Originally a Venetian construction, the castle has been previously besieged by the Ottoman Empire and the people of Montenegro.
From the castle, you’ll go to the Site of Witness and Memory, a museum commemorating those who suffered under communist rule. Initially built in the 19th century, the building was once a seminary before being taken over by the Ministry of Interior when communists took control. The museum houses many items from the building’s prison era, and even the façade stands as a monument to the violence.
Spend the rest of your day taking a stroll around the old town, sitting by the largest lake in southern Europe lake or visiting the Ebu Bekr Mosque which was once a center for Islamic scholars and theologians.
Welcome back! While your last time in Tirana was short-lived, just 1.5 hours away from Shkoder you’ll be back in the capital. Tirana is very different from many capitals. Your day will begin by exploring the underground bunkers which to communist times and have been converted to museums housing historical pieces and contemporary art.
Next, you’ll visit the National History Museum which has exhibitions on Albanian independence, the National Liberation Anti-fascist war, communism and even Mother Theresa. Then you’ll visit a rather unexpected museum called the Museum of Secret Surveillance: House of Leaves. The building once served as a Gestapo headquarters, but now offers a journey through its 31 rooms including a panopticon and a room where you can hear actual tapes from spies.
End your day by taking a stroll along the New Bazaar (Pazari I Ri). In the area, you’ll not only find fresh fruits and veggies, along with meat and wine but you’ll also see a historic mosque by the name of Kokonozi dating back to the Ottoman Empire. This mosque stands out as one of the few that survived the communist regime. It was also once a storehouse and a tobacco store but was restored to its former glory in 1991.
Nearly two hours away from the capital you’ll find Berat. Also, known as the City of a Thousand Windows, this UNESCO World Heritage Site has a lot of charm. Your first stop will be the Berat Castle: a 13th-century fortress with Byzantine churches and Ottoman mosques. While what currently stands is from the 13th century, the fortress dates back to the 5th century and was destroyed and rebuilt multiple times.
The next gem of Beret is the Thomorri Mountain Park. Created to protect ecosystems and biodiversity, the park’s been around since the 70s. Some of the forest’s highlights include the waterfalls, limestone hills, and caves.
Today is a day for relaxation. Visit Livadi Beach to enjoy the beautiful clear waters of Albania. Go for a swim or a kayak ride – or simply relax in the warmth of the sun! Then you’ll visit Porto Palermo which not only has another gorgeous beach, but also houses a Venetian castle.
Start your day off differently in Sarande by hiking to see the Castle of Lekursi. The castle dates back to 1537 when the Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent took over. It went on to be invaded and raided by Ali Pasha. Enjoy the beautiful views and the round towers – and maybe grab a bite at their restaurant.
Next, you’ll visit the ancient ruins of a synagogue that was once a community center and a school. The ruins date as far back as the 5th century, and went on to be converted into a basilica that was subsequently destroyed by an earthquake or an invasion. Enjoy the beautiful mosaics and Jewish symbolism throughout. Finish with a stroll along the promenade.
Gjirokaster can be found about an hour away from Saranda. Stop number one is a visit to the Museum of Weapons within the Gjirokaster Castle. The castle is a fortress from the 12th century and overlooks the river valley. If you come during the right time of year, you might even be able to partake in the National Folk Festival!
Then, you’ll see the Cold War Tunnel. Tunnels and secret rooms unravel a story buried by time right before your eyes. Untouched by modernity, the tunnels have been preserved in their original state. Lastly, stop at the Blue Eye water spring. Due to its depth, you can definitely go diving while you’re here. The crystalline waters and contrasting tropical and forest vegetation make the Blue Eye a unique experience.
Water ahead! You’ve been to beaches, lakes, and a water spring, but today you’ll visit the Benja Thermal Baths. You’ll find this beautiful oasis near an Ottoman-era bridge. Relax and unwind in these healing baths and take in the breathtaking views! Permet also houses the Langarica Canyon. Explore the canyon and then take a kayak ride down the Vjosa River.
On your last day, don’t forget to plant that seed packet! Restoring and maintaining nature is a difficult job, but you can contribute in continuing to help beautify Albania. Just remember to make sure what you plant is local and won’t be invasive! Now you’ll head back home having experienced the trip of a lifetime. Albania’s unexpected beauty is sure to stay with you for a long time and beckons you to return for all that’s still left to explore!
Albania might not be on everyone’s radar, but the country’s gorgeous landscape, unique features, and complex and fascinating history make it a perfect destination for international travel! While here, you’ll get to hike mountains, explore caves, and take a dip in the thermal springs. Learn about the complicated history and all the country has overcome! From communist era museums to UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Albania has everything you could want and more!
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