Discover Balkan - Vlora

Vlora is one of the largest, mostpopulous cities in Albania. It is 130 km from the capital , 120 km from Mother Teresa International Airport and is home to the second largest port in Albania.
Vlora is rich with history and antiquity. This historic city dates back to the sixth century B.C., when it was known as Aulona. Fragments of the massive wall surrounding Aulona have been found in the center of the city, close to Sheshi i Flamurit ("Flag Square"). In 1081, the city fell under Norman dominion. In the 14th century it was part of the "Kingdom of Arbëria" ruled by the Balshaj, Albanian princes, until 1417 when the city was invaded by the Ottomans. In 1812, the city came under the control of Ali Pashë Tepelena, and one century later, on November 28, 1912, it became the first capital of an independent Albania, ruled by the government of Ismail Qemali. The most interesting sights in Vlora include the Independence Museum (in the headquarters building of the first government), the History Museum, and the Ethnographic Museum. Among the religious objects in Vlora, one of the most important is the Mosque of Muradie, built in 1542 by the chief architect of the Ottoman Empire, Mimar Sinani, who was originally from the region. He is the constructor of the famous Suleymanye Mosque in Istanbul and also in other cities in Turkey such as Edirne (Selymie Mosque), Erzurum and others. Also, a prominent hill above the city is home to the Bektashi Tekke of Kuzum Babai. The site offers an amazing view of the city of Vlora, the peninsula of Karaburun, the island of Sazan and the lagoon of Narta. There are also several interesting clubs and restaurants in the city of Vlora.


North of the city of Vlora is the lagoon of Narta, the second biggest lagoon in Albania. There are 195 species of waterfowl living in the area, and Mediterranean woods cover the tract of land dividing the lagoon from the sea. It’s a good place to observe the seabirds or to fish. The water is full of different kinds of fish, especially eels and bass. The village of Narta stands south of the lagoon on the water’s edge, and is surrounded by low hills covered with vineyards that are used to make one of the best artisanal wines in Albania. The lagoon also offers the picturesque view of the village of Zvërneci and of the nearby island, which hosts the Byzantine-style Church and the Monastery of Saint Mary. The lagoon ends with the Cape of Treporti, which joins the forest-covered hill to form a beautiful natural ensemble. Radhima Continuing the journey southward, you will be able to see and enjoy the panoramic view of this part of the Gulf of Vlora. After passing through the tunnel in the area known as Uji i Ftohtë ("Cold Water", named after a nearby mountain stream that flows into the sea), you will see the tourist area of Jonufër, with its small rocky beaches well known for their crystal-clear waters. Beyond Jonufri lies Rradhima, which continues for several kilometres up to the Dukati stream, near the small city of Orikumi. The beaches in Rradhima have beautiful colors, with vivid contrasts between the deep blue of the sea and the green hills, with their Mediterranean olive and citrus plantations. The Gulf of Vlora is also the perfect place to go diving. There are several sunken ships like "PO", the Italian ship that sank in 1941 during the Italian- Greek war. You might also want to dive into the waters of Zhiron to observe the green and black algae.


The small city of Orikum lies on the southern end of the Gulf of Vlora, near a marina that can berth 650 yachts. Orikum was one of the most important cities in the ancient world; the settlers from the island of Eubea founded it during their retreat from the Trojan War. Orikum’s strategic position turned it into the main port of the Illyrian Amant clan and it played an important role in the civil wars between Caesar and Pompey. During the Byzantine period, the small port of Orikum took the holy name "Jerico". This is because of the presence of a Jewish community in the bay of Vlora. During the Ottoman occupation, Orikum took the name of "Pasha Liman". The most important archaeological object is the antique theater of Orikum, with 400-500 seats. Another notable local site is the Church of Marmiroi, from the Byzantine period. Orikum is a good start point if you want to explore the peninsula of Karaburun, which encloses the western part of the Gulf of Vlora. The western shore of Karaburun is spectacular, with small gulfs and isolated beaches with deep and clear water. The marine Cave of Haxhi Alia (a 17th century sailor from Ulqin) lies north of the peninsula. Antique writings have been found in the steep slopes close to the beach of Grame (the name derives from the Greek word Gramata). In this place was supposed to be the ancient temple of Ledea, a Pelasgian princess.


The ruins of the antique city of Amantia stand south-east of the Vlora District, close to the village of Plloçë. Amantia was declared an archaeological park in 2005. It was the capital city of the Illyrian amant tribe. It was founded in the fifth century B.C. and covered an area of 13 hectares. The most interesting objects for visitors are the antique Stadium of Amantia, 60 m long and 12.5 m wide, and the fortifications.


The Llogara National Park lies approximately 40 km south of the city of Vlora. It is situated on the slopes of the Llogara Mountain and covers a surface area of 810 hectares, with elevations ranging from 470 to 2018 m above sea level. The park combines the beauties of a mountain with a seaside climate. You can enjoy part of its magical beauty while travelling along the Vlorë-Sarandë National Highway at Qafa e Llogarasë, 1025 m above sea level. Here, medicinal and decorative plants are interspersed within a forest of pine trees. The park is also home to several animal species. After 20 minutes of driving along the National Highway, you will enter the Albanian Riviera. Here, you can stay overnight in the park and enjoy the restaurants, contemporary clubs, activities and excursions. It is also a great place to enjoy aerial sports as it is known for international aerial sports events like parachuting and hang-gliding.


After passing Qafa e Llogarasë on a road that dates back to the time of Pompey, you descend into the Albanian Riviera. This warm Mediterranean zone has nearly 300 sunny days a year, and the average temperature in July is 25°C (77° Fahrenheit). The list of places to visit begins with the beach of Dhraleo (Palasë) known for its clear waters. Pompey and his army stopped at this beach in ancient times, when it was known as Palestra.


Dhërmiu is famous for its crystal-clear waters, and small, intimate pebble beaches like Jaliksari, Shkambo, and Gjipea. Situated at the foot of a 70 m cliff, Gjipea is a rare beauty. Close to Dhërmiu is the legendary Cavern of the Pirates.
Dhërmiu is a picturesque village thought to have first been inhabited in 49-48 B.C. The village is home to the Monastery of Shën Maria, the Church of Shën Todhri, the Church of the Ipapandia and the Church of Shën Mitri with its frescos from the 12th -14th centuries. The main entertainment options in Dhërmiu are swimming, water sports, and diving. There are many hotels, restaurants, pubs, discotheques. The restaurants combine traditional and foreign cuisines, and serve many seafood specialties.


Eight km south of Dhërmiu is the village of Vunoi, well known for its traditions and patriotism. From here, follow the road to the wonderful beach of Jala, whose gulf is distinctive from those in the rest of the Riviera. Vunoi is built on a hill facing the sea. Here you can visit old churches like the Church of Shën Spiridhoni, built in 1778, and the Church of Mesodhia with paintings from 1783. There are also several architectural landmarks such as the ruins of the House of Odise Kasneci and the tower like House of Shane Kote.


Continuing your tour towards the south, you will come across the small city of Himara, which has two neighborhoods: Old Himara built on the hill, and New Himara in the gulf ofSpille. Himara has four beaches: Filikuri, Spille, Llamani, Potami and Livadhet. They are all gravel beaches with deep, clear waters. The city comes to life during the summer tourist season, when visitors take up residence in the hotels or in rented houses. Himara is the ancient residence and city of the Illyrian Kaon clan. It was settled in the fifth century B.C. and its name is of Pellazgë (pre-Illyrian) origin. There are several religious sites to visit such as the Church of Shën Maria e Athalit, the Church of Cassiopeia, the Church of All Saints, and the House of Lilo Llazari, which has been turned into a cultural monument.
Another site to visit is the Castle of Ali Pashë Tepelena, built on a small peninsula in the tectonic gulf of Porto Palermo. The castle was built in the shape of a triangle and has 20 m high walls. Ali Pasha dedicated this castle to his wife, Vasiliqia. It is said that it was built on top of the ruins of an ancient castle. Himara is particularly noted for its traditional Albanian iso-polyphonic songs (part of UNESCO oral art patrimony).


The village of Qeparoi is located close to the gulf of Porto Palermo and has its own distinctive beach. Old Qeparoi, built on the hillside, has several historical sights including the three-story Towers of Ali Pasha, the Monastery of Shën Dhimitri, and the House of Minella Gjika.


The village of Borshi is situated a few hundred meters away from the shore, about 20 minutes from Himara. It is the largest beach of the Albanian Riviera and its clear water stretches for almost 6 km. Several hotels, clubs, discotheques, and restaurants are built along the length of the beach. The hospitality of the villagers and the traditional dish of grilled lamb are distinctive features found in Borshi.


The last seaside village on the Albanian Riviera is the village of Lukova, which is well known for its terraces of citrus and olives. Two km further you will find the popular Buneci Beach whose crystal-clear stream flows directly into the Ionian Sea. South of Lukova towards the Gulf of Kakome are several kilometers of coastline characterized by its gleaming white flint stones. You also can find a number of underwater caves in this area.