You might be thinking about visiting Albania, but are not entirely sure there is anything interesting to see there besides the long and gorgeous Ionian coastline. Well, let us prove you wrong. This Mediterranean country has a long history and therefore numerous cultural points of interest. There are even a few UNESCO sites in Albania which are definitely worth vising. Even if you are here for the sea-and-sun pleasures, you can still take daily excursions to enrich your experience with some cultural sightseeing.
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and visit UNESCO sites in Albania
HISTORIC CENTRES OF BERAT AND GJIROKASTËR
There are two cultural UNESCO sites in Albania. Or three, if you want to count Berat and Gjirokastër as separated entries. These two must-visit towns are considered rare examples of the Ottoman period architecture. The first one to be added to the UNESCO World Heritage List was Gjirokastër in 2005, also known as the city of a thousand steps. Three years later his twin brother Bear was added a as site extension. Even though they are similar, each has a unique soul and you should definitely consider visiting both of them.
Gjirokastër is a fairy-tale hillside town overlooking the Drino River valley and features a series of two-storey houses from the 17th century. While wandering through its steep streets you will also come across the cute bazaar and the 18th-century mosque. Not far away, Berat – a popular daily excursion from Tirana – has always been a melting pot for various religious and cultural communities that built their homes on the steep slopes of the castle whose origins date back to the 4th century BC. Most of what we see today way built in the 13th century including a number of Byzantine churches. Several mosques were added in the 15th century when Ottomans conquered Berat, know as a town of a thousand windows.
ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITE OF BUTRINT
The famous ancient town of Butrint (Buthrōtum in latin) close to summer holiday destination of Saranda, was the first of the UNESCO sites in Albania, recognised already in 1992. The beautifully preserved ruins in their natural environment have a long history. The first inhabitants of Butrint were the Greeks from Corfu in the 6th century BC, followed by the Romans, the Byzantines, the Angevins and the Venetians. All of them left a mark in the amazing story of renown archaeological site where you can still see a Greek theatre, a late-antique baptistery, a 9th-century basilica and fortifications dating all the way back to the foundation of Butrint. Exploring this World Heritage Site with a local guide will give you an even deeper understanding of its importance.
Visit UNESCO sites in Albania with a professional guide
In addition to the list of two UNESCO sites in Albania listed above, there are two more that are shared with other countries.
PRIMEVAL BEECH FORESTS ➨ In 2017 UNESCO decided to protect a huge area of primeval forests all over the Europe. Alongside Albania 13 more counties are included: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Germany, Italy, Poland, Roumania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, and Ukraine. The protected areas mark places from which the European beech has spread across the continent since the end of the last Ice Age. In Albania these areas can be found along the Gashi River in Tropojë in the northeast and the region of Perrenjas, in central Albania.
OHRID LAKE REGION ➨ When visiting North Macedonia, Albania’s neighbour to the east, the one thing that should not be left out is Ohrid. This beautiful historic town on the shores of the namesake lake has been recognised by UNESCO since 1979, but in 2019 the decision was made to extend the protected site to also include the area around the town of Pogradec in Albania. This region has always been an important passage route, inhabited by the Illyrians in the 5th century BC, followed by the Romans and the Slavs. If you are passing through on your way from Tirana to Ohrid, be sure to make a stop and check out the historical centre of Pogradec, a fine example of 19th to 20th century Albanian vernacular architecture.