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11 Picture-Perfect Albanian Villages

By: Cityseeker
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A splendid destination for lovers of slow travel, Albania, with its Balkan beauty, alpine scenery and shimmering coastlines leaves travelers spellbound. Even more unique and worth exploring are its utterly rustic villages that combine the best of natural landscapes, medieval history and cultural charm, and sweep you away to a place of picture-perfect idyll.


Berat

Berat means White City in South Slavic dialects. It is nestled on the banks of the River Osum and on the foothills of Mount Tomorri. It is also known as the "Museum City" and "Town of a Thousand Windows." The Old Town (Mangalem district) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This Albanian city, with a history dating back to the 6th Century BCE, has many beautiful structures that are of architectural significance. It was during the 1700s that it began to thrive and is today considered to be among the finest Ottoman cities in the Balkans. It is divided into three zones by the river: Gorica, Kalaja and Mangalem. Some interesting places to see are the Berat Castle and Citadel, Onufri Iconography Museum, Berat Ethnographic Museum, Church of St. Mary of Blachernae, Church of the Holy Trinity, Church of St. Michael (Shën Mehill), Church of St. Theodore (Shen Todher), Bachelors' Mosque (Xhami e Beqareve), King Mosque (Xhamia e Mbretit), Halveti Tekke (Teqe e Helvetive and the Lead Mosque.

Berat, Albania
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Tirana

Home to the majestic Tirana Castle, the Albanian capital is a bustling metropolis and also serves as the country's economic and cultural center. Enveloped by a number of hills like the impressive Dajti Mountain, it is also bisected by the gushing Tiranë River. Tirana has been inhabited ever since early Paleolithic times, while it also remained under Ottoman rule for quite a long time. Apart from the Tirana fortress, the city is also home other major historical landmarks like the St Paul's Cathedral and the spectacular Tanners' Bridge. Tirana also boasts of a lively dining scene, regaling locals and tourists with a number of fine dining outlets. Boutique hotels, art galleries and history museums complete a vibrant cityscape, making it one of Europe's most buoyant capital cities to visit.

Tirana, Albania
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Krujë

Charming cobblestone streets wind through this quaint town nestled amid spellbinding environs. Closely associated with Skanderbeg, Krujë features a landscape dominated by rustic buildings which paint an evocative picture of its history, and its colorful bazaar entices with local handicrafts and paraphernalia. The town's culture is exemplified by landmarks such as Merlika and the Krujë Castle which is home to a series of museums that vividly illustrate Krujë's heritage. Strolling past the town's timeless structures is a rewarding experience, their weathered walls and ornate interiors offering a glimpse into the lifestyle which prevailed here in the past.

Krujë, Albania
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Gjirokastër

Archaeological digs have confirmed that this lovely Albanian town existed in the early Iron Age. Gjirokastër is nestled between the Drino River and Gjerë mountains on a steep slope. It is also called the "City of Stone", for its unique stone roofed houses, and the "City of a Thousand Steps." The town had many rulers and was an Ottoman stronghold and an Italian colony at one point, and has influenced artists, poets and authors alike. It is a fine example of an Ottoman merchant town and its Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Some of the fascinating places to see are the Gjirokastër Mosque, with its tall stone spire, the Gjirokastër Castle which dominates the city skyline, Old Bazaar, where can glimpse historic Ottoman homes with their unique architecture, Ethnographic Museum, Zekate House, Saint Sotira Church, Artisans' Center, Dhuvjan Monastery, and the remains of Meçites Mosque.

Gjirokastër, Albania
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Theth

Cocooned by the majestic Albanian Alps, Theth features a spectacular landscape stippled with some of nature's most mesmerizing bounties. Traverse well-trodden mountainous paths snaking through sloping hills, or bask in the glory of thundering waterfalls as the water cascades down in rivulets to meet turquoise-tinted pools. Striking mountains rise against the rustic sprawl of this village, making for a picturesque backdrop which enthralls all those who gaze upon it. The Albanian Alps and their environs have long since made for reposeful excursions and Theth is no exception, what with its natural features accentuating its cultural facets. Some of the most popular attractions here are the Thethi Blue Eye, Grunas Waterfall and an ethnographic museum. The Theth National Park ensconces the village amid its breathtaking folds.

Theth, Albania
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Valbonë

A jewel along the ridges of the Albanian Alps, Valbonë is ensconced amid a picturesque valley which shares the village's name. Owing to its spellbinding natural landscape which is dominated by towering massifs and snow-capped peaks, this dreamy settlement beguiles visitors with an inimitable charm. Encompassed by a sprawling national park, Valbonë offers tourists a chance to explore stunning locales and admire a pristine tapestry woven by nature. Hike along bubbling streams tinted with aquamarine, cross bridges spanning paths hedged by greenery or climb up to vantage points which offer breathtaking panoramic views. The village emanates a delightful warmth, a trait embodied by its inhabitants, and several accommodations stippling Valbonë's picturesque sprawl make for relaxing pit-stops.

Valbonë, Albania
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Korçë

A compact city surrounded by the beauty of the Moravia Mountains, Korçë is a wonderful destination for slow travel. It is deemed as Albania's cultural capital, as one can see from its lively summer months that are filled with concerts, festivals and carnivals, and the strains of serenata. Korçë's Old Bazaar is an exhilarating experience, a pleasant chaos heightened by a medley of local shops, bars, farmers markets and traditional restaurants where you can savor specialties like Byrek, Kernacka, or freshly made bread. Despite its local charm, Korçë also forms a starting point for several day trips that take you through Albania's stunning landscapes, from alpine villages like Dardhe, to the rugged scenery of the Drenova Fir National Park. For the best glimpses of Albania's soul-stirring scenery it is recommended that you take the slow yet scenic route from Tirane to Korça in a 'furgon' van.

Korçë, Albania
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Dhërmi

Built on the steeply rising slopes of the Ceraunian Mountains, Dhërmi is blessed with nature's bounty as it is bordered on one end by the turquoise waters of the Ionian Coast. The white, pristine sands of the Dhërmi beach beckon everyone to relax and enjoy the embrace of summer. For the party animals, there are plenty of seasonal nightclubs to visit along the coast which adds a modern flair to the rustic, fairy-tale charm of the village. While this scenic town's history is shrouded in mystery, visitors will be mesmerized with the glorious churches which dot the hillside landscape, the most notable of all being the 12th-century Panagia Monastery Church with its fantastic frescoes and rough, stone walls.

Dhërmi, Albania
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Himarë

Take a break from your busy city life and rejuvenate yourself with a visit to the scenic town of Himarë. Today, this region is a popular tourist destination and is known for its scenic beaches, the pristine white sands creating a beautiful, awe-inspiring contrast against the sky blue waters off the Ionian coast. Other than lounging around the several seaside resorts under a multitude of beach umbrellas and hammocks, you can even try your hand at water sports as Himarë has many facilities for kayaking, snorkeling and more, awakening the adventurer in you. Take a stroll along the narrow, cobblestone lanes as you admire the rustic nature of this hillside town, the steep walk ending with the very rewarding view of Himara Castle, and panoramic views of the countryside for miles around.

Himarë, Albania
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Vuno

Inhabited by a small populace of Orthodox Christians, Vuno is your quintessential, dreamy, Mediterranean Town. The narrow, cobblestone streets and stone villas wrapped in vines is enough to enchant any visitor. Nestled along the gentle slopes, the fun, party vibe of Jali beach attracts major footfalls in summer. Saint Spiridion Monastery upholds the cultural aspect of this scenic town, with its two-chamber bell tower and statuesque basilica. With no shortage of shrines and rustic charm, Vuno best defines an idyllic, authentic Himarë experience.

Vlorë, Albania
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Prezë

Not far from the bustling Albanian capital lies the idyllic village of Prezë, with its crowning glory, the Prezë Castle watching over the rustic settlement from its vantage point. This 14th-century landmark is steeped in legend thank to Skanderbeg's incredible resistance against the Ottoman forces, and this national hero's former abode is now a beacon of Albanian pride. Other than the pentagonal marvel, a stroll through the village replete with olive trees and local folklore will provide a fine taste of the local hospitality.

Prezë, Albania
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