Every time we leave it is different, yet during each of our road trips there is one thing that always repeats itself: an unplanned stage , one of those ” what do you stop for ” and then you remember it with a smile. This was also the case during our trip to Albania last August and the “surprise stop” was Tepelene, in the southern hinterland of Albania .
To be honest, we had gone to Tepelene to escape from a storm that seemed to want to chase us, starting with us from the coast and reaching Antigonea, the city lost in the mountains. Once they arrived at the ruins of the ancient city built by King Pyrrhus in honor of his wife, they thought they had left it behind but no. Thunder and lightning had found us there too, in the middle of the mountains and convinced us to go down to the valley to avoid the downpour that he seemed determined to unload on the ground at any moment.
The water of Tepelene
So, once we got off Antigonea, we continued, intrigued by the indication from the name of that city that we had read hundreds of times during our travel days in Albania: Tepelene .
However, Tepelene was not mentioned on our travel guide but on our… bottles! In fact, two of the most widespread mineral waters in Albania are produced in the city , Glisa and Tepelene .
Tepelene: what to see in the city of Alì Pasha
So we headed towards Tepelene and already along the way we understood the importance of the water industry for the area: even before entering the city there were dozens of street vendors selling honey and other local products in the vicinity of small waterfalls and springs that flowed directly from the rock, channeled into plastic pipes used by the patrons to fill bottles and tanks of water.
The city, on the other hand, had welcomed us not far away, with the statue of Ali Pasha , known as the Lion of Giannina , the politician and leader who was born here in 1741 and who from here governed most of the territories of the Ottoman Empire, until, rebelling under the power of the Sultan, he did not end up being captured and executed in Ioannina, Greece. Dumas also talked about him in the book ” The Count of Monte Cristo ” while if you want to deepen his history you can read this guide of Albania .
Very quiet, almost sleepy, Tepelene is not a tourist town at all but a glimpse of Albania , with the statues of the Albanian partisans who fought and defended their homeland on display on the main square together with their red star and buildings from unmistakable communist stamp.
Another face of communism, very different from that regime that would soon have imprisoned Albania for over fifty years.
Very little remains of the ancient castle of Ali Pasha : the mighty walls now house a bar with a beautiful panoramic view and enclose lush houses and gardens. On the ancient stones, however, a plaque in honor of Lord Byron makes a fine show, who was welcomed and hosted by Ali Pasha, in the words of the poet, “like a son” . On the other hand, the very long suspension bridge that connects Tepelene to the other bank of the Vjosa river is spectacular , even if in reality the intent is not touristic at all .
The Tepelene Suspension Bridge: one of the most spectacular bridges in Albania
The glance that the Tepelene bridge is really impressive, we would have liked to walk it as we had seen some locals do, but the storm had reached us just as we were about to start the crossing, forcing us to take refuge in the car and dry our soaked clothes with hot air!
So we returned to the coast, smiling, for that “surprise stop” of our trip to Albania, another piece that made up our mosaic of the Land of Eagles, totally unexpected as well as beautiful.
Update: When we returned, on a subsequent trip to Albania we crossed the Tepelene bridge to take some pictures. The bridge over the Vjosa river is really impressive and the original one was built by Ali Pasha as a gift to the city: crossing the bridge, you can get to the village of Beçisht, the place where Ali Pasha was actually born and where the ruins of his home, Christmas.
Useful information for organizing a trip to Albania
Below is some information to visit Tepelene and its surroundings, with also links for further information for the various destinations. However, we recommend that you buy a good travel guide and maybe even a map of Albania . There are not many guides in Italian on the market, here are three alternatives:
- a complete guide in particular for Tirana and its surroundings is this by Morellini ,
- an Albania guide designed for those who want to take a road trip with itineraries and advice while
- a guide full of historical and cultural ideas.
What to see near Tepelene: other Albanian cities not too far away
The city of Tepelene is about half an hour from Gjirokaster – the silver city as it is called because of its stone roofs that shine after the rain. In our opinion this is a destination not to be missed on a trip to Albania and if you want some more details about our experience you can read this post.
Antigonea is also an interesting destination if you love history and archeology. It is an Archaeological Park in the mountains, halfway between Gijrokaster and Tepelene, where once stood the ancient city built by Pyrrhus and destroyed only 150 years later by the Romans for revenge.
The entrance to the site is reached by following a well-signposted but somewhat winding road, once you get there you will have to leave your car and continue on foot. Unfortunately, when we were there it was bad weather but the view from the top is very beautiful. To visit the site you will find explanatory panels with the directions to follow.
Also not too far from Tepelene is Permet with the Benje baths . These are very beautiful and particularly curative natural spas. The city is very popular with outdoor sports enthusiasts and lovers of good food. Also for water lovers – this time not hot but cold – on the road that connects Tepelene with Saranda there is Syri i Kalter , or the Blue Eye Source, a very popular destination during the hot Albanian summer.
Then Tepelene can be a stop coming from the north if you are heading towards the south sea, to Ksamil or Saranda . In that case you can also stop in Tepelene to buy honey, as there are many local producers you will meet along the way. If you want more information or are simply looking for ideas by following this link you can read our travel itinerary in Albania.
How to organize a trip to Albania
For our trip to Albania we decided to reach Tirana by plane and rent a car at the airport with which we moved from north to south (and back) trying to see as much of this country as possible. The alternatives could be arriving in Albania by ferry (from Bari, Ancona or Trieste or even passing through Greece) or crossing the Balkans, passing through Croatia and then up to Albania.
If you have some time available, you are flexible and you are not afraid of long journeys, there are also some buses that connect the main Italian cities with Albania: the journey takes a long time (more than 24 hours) but the costs are a lot interesting.