Gjirokastër, the pearl of Albania, is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful and enchanting towns on the Balkan Peninsula. The city has plenty of gorgeous places to visit and can be easily seen in a weekend. Here are 11 reasons everyone should visit this town, which has been deemed a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The Old Bazaar
The Old Bazaar is among the most charming areas in Gjirokastër and should be on every visitors must-do list while in town. The recently restored area offers many boutiques where travelers can buy souvenirs, as well as visit traditional cafés, byrek shops, and some of the most beautiful Ottoman-era houses on the Balkan Peninsula.
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
Another great reason to visit Gjirokastër is the shopping. As mentioned, the stores in the old bazaar are interesting places to buy souvenirs and traditional furniture. Gjirokastër is also the right town for beautiful carpets, called qilim, which are handmade by local artisans, as are many of the colored bags and instruments found here.
Gjirokastër Castle is among the largest and most beautiful castles in Albania. It also has a rich history: the prison in the castle was used by King Zog’s regime, then by the Italian and German occupation forces during WWII, and then again during the communist regime, as well. Since the ’70s, it has been home to a military museum, which features a U.S. Air Force plane that was captured near Tirana during WWII.
The Ethnographic Museum
The Ethnographic Museum is housed on the site of former dictator Enver Hoxha’s home. Hoxha was born in Gjirokastër, and though his home burned in a fire, the museum building now found here was built in the style of a traditional Gjirokastër home. With traditional folk costumes, furniture, cultural artifacts, and more it’s a great example of life in the town during the 19th century. There is also a large room in the museum with beautiful traditional rugs and colored windows that makes for a great photo background.
The food alone is a great reason to visit Albania, with fresh seasonal produce and traditional tasty dishes that are worth the trip. Gjirokastër is no exception: with byrek, traditional meatballs, rice dishes, and tasty pies, the town is a heaven for food lovers.
As one of the oldest settlements in the country, lovers of history and architecture should be sure to make the trip to Gjirokastër. The town features many outstandingly beautiful Ottoman-era houses, which were built in the 17th century. The old bazaar, an 18th century mosque, and two lovely churches are also must-visit sites.
The Zekate House
Zekate House is one of the most beautiful and fascinating buildings in Gjirokastër. This traditional tower house is unlike others because it has twin towers and a double-arched façade. Entry only costs €1.50—a bargain to visit this architectural masterpiece, which dates back to 1811.
The Fustanella Festival
As one of the most important cultural towns in the country, Gjirokastër is an ideal location for the Fustanella Festival, which takes place each July. Singers from around the world come to perform at the festival, and there is also a section entirely dedicated to traditional Albanian dances, songs, and costumes. This is a great way to become completely immersed in a typical Albanian experience.
Antigonea is just a 30-minute drive from Gjirokastër, and the Albanian Government fairly recently declared it a National Archaeological Park. Today, visitors will find only a few ruins of the old city, but the most impressive sites here are the walls and the Epirote House with its columns.
The archaeological site of Adrianopolis is in Sofratika, a village about 20 minutes south of Gjirokastër. The Roman Emperor Hadrian built the settlement in the 2nd century AD. The area also features an impressive and well-preserved Roman theatre.
The day trips
Gjirokastër offers visitors the opportunity to organize interesting day trips. In one or two hours driving (public transport is available, but it’s advisable to rent a car) it’s possible to reach locations such as Përmet (a hot spring known for its excellent warm water) or Syri I Kalter, also known as the Blue Eye, a natural spring hidden in a forest on the road to Saranda.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.