Valona (Vlorë in Albanian) is one of the ports of docking to arrive in Albania , for many tourists the first encounter with the Land of Eagles but also the city from which to discover the South of the country and the beautiful Albanian Riviera , with its postcard beaches and sea. Third largest city in the country and second largest port of Albania Vlora is also a tourist city with an important past.
There are many who skip Vlora, using it only as an entrance to Albania. In truth, however, it deserves some time to visit the city and its surroundings. Here are some tips to organize your stay and get to know the city.
- History of Valona
- Monuments and museums of Vlore
- Worth seeing near Vlore
- Valona with children
Do not leave for Vlora without the guidance of Albania
The History of Vlora in Albania
Founded in the 6th century BC as an ancient Greek colony with the name of Aulona, it was for a short time the capital of the Albanian State and it was here, on November 28, 1912, that the Declaration of Independence of Albania was proclaimed. During the First World War Vlora became a cornerstone of the Italian military presence in the Land of Eagles because the possession of the port guaranteed the control of the Otranto canal. Then, in 1933, the city was occupied by the Italian militants and liberated by the Albanian partisans in 1944.
Among the curiosities to know to visit Valona is the history of its oil. The ancient city of Aulona was in fact known in particular for its olive groves. Albanian olive oil was one of the main trading products and the port of Vlora was one of the reference points for trade. A great contribution to the cultivation of olive trees in Albania came with the leader Giorgio Castriota (in Albanian Gjergj Kastrioti Skanderbeg) when every Albanian family had the obligation to cultivate the olive tree as a symbol of peace and prosperity. If you want to know more about the history of Skanderbeg you can read the post dedicated to Kruja , “his” city.
Many pass through Vlora during their trip to southern Albania, but in reality the city is worth a visit, not so much for the sea of Vlora which, apart from some beaches in the Gulf of Vlora that really deserve a stop, is not great, but for some monuments to see in the city.
What to see in Vlore: monuments
Among the things to see in Vlore we point out the Albanian Independence Monument , built in the 70s, which commemorates the date of November 28, 1912 when Ismail Qemali declared the independence of Albania from the Ottoman Empire by proclaiming the first government and the capital in Vlore.
Another destination to see in Vlora is the History Museum , located in the city center, which houses hundreds of archaeological finds found in the city but also in neighboring centers such as Orikum. A curiosity of the Museum is that there is the coffin of the Patriot Avni Rustemi, made of lead and glass.
Among the attractions of Valona there is also the Ethnographic Museum , located in the building where the Patriotic Association Laberia chaired by Qemali was founded in 1908. Inside there are traditional objects and costumes dating back to the 16th – 19th century.
Another museum to see in Vlore is the Independence Museum which is located in the building where on November 28, 1912 Ismail Qemali proclaimed the country’s independence from the Ottoman Empire. It is located at the port and was established in 1936 by King Zog I as a National History Museum which housed numerous finds from Apollonia. Closed during the Italian occupation and then reopened for the fiftieth anniversary of Independence, it houses memorabilia, documents and photographs from the era of the Albanian Renaissance, Independence and the first months of the government of Ismail Qemali, including the original text of the proclamation of ‘Independence of the country.
Also in Vlora, take a trip to see the Muradie Mosque , another symbol of 1912, the year in which Albanian Independence was declared. The mosque is built with an alternation of stone and brick parallelepipeds in contrast with the white stone minaret. It is possible to enter the evocative Hall of Prayer where the inscription “the light of Allah is sufficient for this mosque” in reference to the lack of light due to the small windows of the building.
Then take some time to take a tour of the districts of the Old Town of Vlora , among this Rruga Justin Godard is a museum street, with low houses, small shops and stone paving. During your visit of the city you will then see the ancient walls of Aulona and the place where the former synagogue once stood. In this regard, it is interesting to know that no Albanian Jews from the city were handed over to the Germans. The Jews were in fact protected and hidden from Christian and Muslim families in the name of the ancient Albanian code of hospitality.
Leaving the city instead, stop and see the Kuz Baba terrace , which offers a beautiful view of the Gulf of Vlora. Here there is a teqe bektashi from the 1600s which in recent times has been redone and a panoramic restaurant has been added. The terrace is a Bekatashian religious center and is named after one of the spiritual fathers of the Bekatashi
What to see near Vlore
If you arrive by ferry in Vlore you may decide to stay a few days in the city to see the surroundings of Vlore . So here are some ideas for organizing your stay, perhaps before heading to Saranda and Ksamil .
To see near Vlora: the beaches of Radhime
On the road that connects Vlora to Orikum, as soon as you leave the city you will meet Radhime . Here, along a stretch of road slightly raised above the sea, there are many tourist complexes and beaches equipped with umbrellas and deck chairs. The sea of Radhime is transparent and this location is a good idea for a day at the beach if you are staying in Vlore with children as well.
A trip from Vlora: The island of Zvernec
The island of Zvernec is an excursion to do if you are in Vlore and you want to leave the sea for a while to delve into Albanian history. The island is located in the Narta lagoon and to get there you will have to cross a pine forest to find yourself in front of the bridge that connects the island to the mainland. At the time of our last visit the bridge was in poor condition but a paid boat service allowed us to travel the last stretch of the lagoon and arrive on this picturesque and tiny island. From the research done during our last trip to the Land of Eagles, it seems to have been rebuilt.
Here you will find the Monastery and the Church of Santa Maria , dating back to the fourteenth century, places of peace and quiet that are wonderfully frescoed and can be visited. The island is uninhabited with the exception of the guardian but very fascinating: just take one of the paths that start behind the monastery to enter the pine forest, among the chirping of cicadas. Bring what you need for a picnic and enjoy a day of relaxation and the view of the Narta Lagoon.
An important party is organized on the island every year on August 15th . It is an Orthodox celebration in honor of the Holy Mary for which the faithful arrive on the island the previous evening to spend the night outside the church, organizing banquets , songs and dances until morning . The following day is instead reserved for the arrival of faithful of other religions: it is a religious celebration but there are many tourists who, intrigued, decide to participate in this festival. If you are planning a holiday in Vlora or even a city break during this period do not miss it!
The beaches of Orikum and the Karaburun Peninsula
Orikum is a tourist resort that has now become very famous and is located at the entrance to the Karaburun Peninsula and very close to Vlora so as to allow a day trip. Even the history of this Albanian town, like that of many other seaside resorts in Albania, is however much older than that of its tourism.
Orikum derives from Oricum or Orikos, the ancient Greek city that stood in the bay of Vlora. The city was originally an island, in a strategic place for communications with Corfu and used as a stopover for travel between Italy and Greece. Of considerable military importance under Roman rule, it was the first city conquered by Julius Caesar during the invasion of Epirus and the Roman leader who spoke in his ” Commentarii de bello civil “.
Today there are few remains of the ancient Oricum dating back to the 1st century BC or more recent times that can be observed but the town of Orikum has become one of the most popular with tourists in the Gulf of Vlora. Here you will find a Marina, a tourist port, hotels and restaurants with an atmosphere that is still quite peaceful and authentic, also thanks to the farming and sheep farming activities that remain in the area.
Orikum is also an excellent base for visiting the beaches of Karaburun, among the most beautiful in the Gulf of Vlora . The Karburun Peninsula is a still unspoiled strip of land whose beaches can be reached practically only by sea. This, combined with an initial stretch where there is a military area, has kept the beauty of this corner of the country intact. From the information collected at the time of our last trip to Albania to visit the Peninsula by car or on foot, it is necessary to obtain a permit in advance.
If you want to visit the beaches of the Karaburun Peninsula you will still find boats and rafts that make excursions from Vlora or Dhermi depending on whether you want to reach the north or south side. Famous are the Haxhi Ali Cave , also known as “The Pirate’s Cave” and Shen Vasi there, the Cave of the Slaves and the wonderful bay of Grama . The latter can be reached from Dhermi and is a natural inlet between high rocks where you can see the ancient graffiti, a sign of the passage of sailors over the millennia.
Things to see near Vlore: Apollonia
Another archaeological site to see near Vlora is the Archaeological Park of Apollonia . Here you will discover an important piece of the history of Albania and the connections between the Land of Eagles and Italy. For all the information to organize the visit to Apollonia from Valona, follow the link and read the post we dedicated to the archaeological site.
A trip from Vlore: the Llogara Pass
A good idea for a trip from Vlora in search of coolness during the hot Albanian summer is the Llogara Pass which can be reached along one of the most scenic Albanian roads. At the top there are excellent restaurants and hiking trails to go through the Llogara National Park.
Valona with children
The city has recently been the subject of many works that have made it more welcoming even for children.
The promenade of Vlore with children
The seafront of Vlora, leaving the city in the direction of Orikum, has been completely redone and today is a perfect place for a stop with children. Here you will find in fact a beautiful promenade with playgrounds, funfair, baskets and cycle paths that line the beach. The sea of Vlore is certainly not that of Orikum – after all Vlora is the second port of the country! – but it is perfect for spending a few relaxing hours with the family.
A trip from Vlore with children: Zvernec
A trip to do if you are in Vlore with children is to go to the island of Zvernec. The island, in addition to being shaded and therefore also suitable for a summer day with the little ones, is full of mysteries and therefore a very nice destination for families. Play with them to invent new stories or find clues to the mysteries of the past that have populated this green island.
For example, look for the tomb with the gravestone inside the church: you will find on it a carved skull surrounded by a snake and an epigram about a man named Karaxha. Who was he? The legend tells of a knight who arrived on the island at the time of the Freemasons, in the 12th century, who died here and his relatives later came to build his tomb (which is not made of local stone) and build the church.
And again, go to the small cemetery of this islet near Valona with the children: many men and women from distant places are buried here , perhaps sick with tuberculosis or mental illnesses who died here. Look for the most impressive tomb: it was built in honor of a Greek woman named Katerina Tsukalina. On the bas-relief there is an explanation in Greek of his life which, however, due to the damage suffered, it is not possible to reconstruct.
In short, the mysteries of the island will make you spend a beautiful day among the mysteries and history of Albania if you have decided to spend your holidays in Vlora with children!
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