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Be inspired by this UNESCO cultural tour, that will give you a memorable short trip in Albania, perfect for a mid-week or weekend getaway!
Highlights: Gjirokastra Castle, Old Bazaar, Blue Eye, The Monastery of 40 Saints, Castle of Lekuresi, Butrint National Park
Gjirokaster – is an UNESCO World Heritage Site famous as an Ottoman rocky town in Albania. You can see old houses that lean against raising and falling hills and enjoy their beautiful facades made by old wood and roofs covered by original stones. Gjirokastra is the place Ismail Kadare (internationally renowned Albanian writer) and Enver Hoxha (the infamous communist leader) were born. Since the city well preserves all history phases, sometimes can look controversial. The tourists describe the city view like “a view from a fairy-tail”.
First, you begin with visiting The Zekhate House, it is a great example of a “Tower House” which dates from a very long time. The fortified tower belonged to wealthy individuals first. There are embrasures set in the walls to help defend against attacking enemies. In the center of the top floor is a wooden balcony where the head of the family would meet his guests and since the balcony has a city view, the head of the family would sit and watch what is happening in town.
Not far from there you will visit the Old Bazaar. This is also a special place to visit where you can see small roads made of small original stones and maybe you can grab a souvenir or two as well.
The Blue Eye is your next destination. Once you get there you will understand where this name comes from. It is a magnificent spring water. The crystal-clear water bubbles from a depth of 50 meters. The nature around this attraction is surrounded by oak and sycamore trees.
Finally, you continue to Saranda, the unofficial capital of Albanian Riviera for spending the night. After arriving there you can enjoy the wonderful beaches, so don’t forget to bring your swimsuit with you.
Itinerary for day 1:
8:30 – Visit the Zekhate House
09:30 – Visit Gjirokastra Castle
11:00 – Visit the Old Bazaar
12:00 – Drive to Blue Eye
13:30 – Lunch near the Blue Eye
15:00 – Explore the Blue Eye area
16:30 – Drive to Saranda
17:30 – Free time
After spending the night in this small town located on the shores of the Ionian sea, you will continue visiting The Monastery of 40 Saints. This monastery is a dedication to the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste and dates from the 6th Century. It was thought to be an important pilgrimage site in the region, but now it remains in ruins following bombings in WWII and years of neglect.
After that, we will drive to The Castle of Lekuresi. This is a ruin fortress, located at the top of the hill, near the city. Sultan Suleiman built the Lekures castle in 1537. He attacked Corfu and wanted to control the harbor of Saranda and the road that relates it with Butrint. While splendid views of turquoise beaches surround you almost all around the castle, it will be an unforgettable experience.
Continue to the city center to visit the remains of a late antique synagogue that belongs to the 4th – 5th century.
Butrint the Microcosmos of Mediterranean is your next destination.
The first Albanian site included in UNESCO World Heritage is Butrint, in the south of the country, in 1992. It has been inhabited since prehistoric times and was a part of the Greek and Roman colonies. The most ancient objects found at the archaeological site in Butrint are a stone hammer and a shaft belonging to the second half of the second millennium B.C.
08:30 – Visit the Monastery of 40 Saints
09:30 – Visit the Castle of Lekuresi and Saranda Medieval Synagoge
12:00 – Lunch at the city
13:30 – Drive to Butrint National Park
15:30 – Drive back to Saranda, enjoy the sea