Wanderlist Discover: Gjirokastra, Albania
Perched high above the magnificent Drina Valley, Gjirokastra is a magical town with beautiful cobblestone roads, dramatic slate-roofed houses, and an imposing 4th century castle that dominates the neighbourhood. The town enjoys UNESCO World Heritage status, thanks mainly due to the castle and the striking stone homes and structures that give the town an aura of a place suspended in time. Explore the long winding paved roads of Gjirokastra and take in the wonderful stone architecture and even spend some time at the Ethnographic Museum, located in the birth-home of former communist dictator, Enver Hoxha. Rest assured however, that despite the numerous natural and cultural attractions in its vicinity, the one thing you will NOT find in abundance in this lovely Ottoman town is a deluge of tourists!
A COUPLE OF ACTIVITIES YOU DON’T WANT TO MISS
- The Museum of Weapons : Gjirokastra means ‘Silver Castle’ in Greek, and today the imposing castle welcomes visitors to view the Museum of Weapons housed inside. The museum showcases artillery and memorabilia captured by the Communists fighting against German occupation as well as Imperialist Western powers. The castle is also the final resting place of a US Air Force T33 Shooting Star military jet that was forced to land in Albania in 1957.
- Ethnographic Museum : Housed in the birthplace of communist dictator, Enver Hoxha, the Museum preserves numerous household items, folk costumes and cultural artefacts from the personal collection of a wealthy local family as well as the Ottoman administrators from the 19th century.
- Old Town & Bazaar Mosque : Enjoy a walk down down Old Town, which comprises of classic 19th century homes, and imagine that you have stepped straight into a fairy tale. All roads in Gjirokastra eventually lead to the Bazaar, where you can also visit the only mosque in the city. Make your way then throughout the Bazaar to get a glimpse of other important religious monuments scattered throughout the town.
Best Time To Go:
April to may
Spring (April - May) is the best time to visit Gjirokastra. However, there can be heavy rainfall between February and April, so be prepared. You can also visit at the start of summer, in June, when the lovely mountain breeze still keeps the weather relatively cool. Also, try to plan your visit around the Gjirokastra National Folklore Festival, which happens every five years and is one of the most important cultural event in Albania. The festival showcases the traditional music, dress, dances and culture of Albania in a celebration that takes place in Gjirokastra Castle.
Where in the world:
Gjirokastra is located in southern Albania, high in the Gjere mountains, about an hour’s drive (about 60 kms) away from the port of Sarande.
Fun Fact: Gjirokastra is often referred to as “the City of Stone”, due to its distinctive silver-coloured limestone that gives the city a unique personality. The stone is excavated from a nearby quarry and is the most popular material for the construction of buildings, roofs and roads.
- Language : Albanian
- Currency : Albanian Lek (ALL); 1 USD roughly equals 110 ALL.
- How to Get Around : Walking around is the best option in Gjirokastra. To get to the town itself, you can take buses to the city stop on the main highway from Tirana and Saranda. However, the buses can be unreliable at times, so do ask ahead
The Discover Series by Wanderlist
Discover less explored destinations & places that have never been on your travel radar with our Discover Series. Every week we will share a beautiful underrated city you should add to your travel bucket list.