Activities in Albania
A number of important archaeological discoveries have been made in Albania. The sites that are found in the North as well as in the South are of great to those interested in ancient history as well the merely curious.
The city of Durres dates to the 7th century B.C. The modern city is built on top of the ruins of ancient Epidamnos or Dyrrachion, the latter transformed into Dyrrachium during the Roman period. During the 3rd century B.C. the relations of the city with the Illyrians was prospering, while Illyrian names account about 30% of all names engraved in grave stones found during excavations in and around the city.
Dyrrachium became a central battle place between the legions of Caesar and Pompey during the Civil War of 49-48 B.C. and suffered damage as a result of the war operations. During the reign of Augustus, in 30 B.C. Dyrrachium became a Roman colony, by the name of Colonia Iulia Augusta Dyrrachinorum. The largest of all public buildings were constructed in Dyrrachium during the 1st and 2nd centuries A.D. The amphitheatre, partially excavated starting since 1960, has a seating capacity estimated between 15,000-20,000 people and is situated in the middle of the modern city, while other important buildings are the public baths of the 2nd century A.D. discovered in 1966, the remains of the aqueduct about 15 km long, built during the reign of Hadrian, the Byzantine walls and the round forum-macellum, built in the 5th-6th centuries A.D.
One of the most interesting finds from the city is the "Bukuroshja e Durrësit” the beauty of Durres mosaic, situated at the National Historic Museum in Tirana. The mosaic belongs to the 4th century B.C., and it is definitely one of the most beautiful of its kind in Albania. In the 9th century A.D. the Theme of Dyrachium was created, one of the two themes in the western Balkans. In 1071 and 1081 the Normans attacked the city. From 1204 the city came under the Venetians and in 1501 the Ottomans managed to take it.
Fortification of Gorica
Located on the junction of the Osum River and its branch Velabisht, while serving a two-fold function. From one part the fortification encloses totally the Osum valley, having in front of it Berati Castle from the other side it controls the Velebisht river. From the north, the castle is defended by natural rock, whilst from the other side it is possible to clearly spot the fortification wall, that can be followed in its entire length.
This fortification wall dates to the 4-3 century B.C. There are indications that archaeological remains found earlier on the site, date to the Late Bronze and Early Iron Age, indicating that the site dates earlier to the 3 century B.C. The interruption of life in Gorica is strongly connected with Roman occupation in the 2nd century B.C.
The fortified hill of Peshtan
Archaeologists, based on the construction techniques and surface finds date this citadel to the 4th century B.C. To this period also belong large quantities of pottery fragments found on the southern side of the hill.
Mbjeshova Castle is situated near the village of Mbjeshova, it covers a surface of about 1.5 - 2 ha. The surrounding wall is well maintained along the length of the hill. The fortification is double, formed by an inner wall serving at the same time as a staging ground for soldiers and a lookouts. At the east side are situated three towers and an entrance, the castle dates to the 4th and 5th centuries AD. This castle is considered as one of the best maintained archaeological centres of the area.
The fortress of Vokopola
The castle of Vokopola known as Ali Pashë Tepelena's castle, is located on a hill 765m above sea level. at northern-west part of Vokopola village near the city of Berat.
Early Christian Bazilica of Shën Mëhill in Arapaj
Situated on the Shën Mëhill (Saint Michael) hill, 6 km from the city of Durrës, discovered in 1974 the remains of an Early Christian church. This church is known as Shën Mëhilli church.
The mosaic inside the basilica, covers a surface of about 54 m, and is well maintained. The numismatic material that has been found at the Arapaj Basilica is also rich and dates from the 5-th century A.D until the 13th-14th centuries A.D., thus showing that the basilica was in use for about 10 centuries.
The Monumental Tombs of Selca e Poshtëme
These 2,400-year-old tombs are located 40 km from Pogradec. Selca was a town of the Illyrain tribe of Desartes founded in the sixth century B.C. It is thought that ancient Pelion, residence of Illyrian king Klit was here. This archaeological site is located 1,040 meters above sea level. Five monumental tombs in Ionic style have been excavated there. Four of them have been carved into tunnels. They are very rare in the Balkan Peninsula but can often be found in Southern Italy. A great number of personal possessions in gold and filigree have been found there.
Albanopolis ( Zgërdhesh)
The ancient town is located to the right of the Fushë Kruja to Kruja road by Halil village.
The city was built on a hill of a 10-hectare area. The ancient city flourished for three or four centuries but then was abandoned during the second century A.D.
The ancient city of Klos (Nikaia) it is situated in the proximity of Byllis, covering an area of ca.18 ha. There is a single entrance to the city and three defensive towers. Among the most important monuments are the small theatre, a stoa, and the traces of a stadium. The theatre had a capacity of ca. 800-1000 spectators and has also preserved 14 citizenship-granting inscriptions, dating to the 3rd century B.C. life in Nikaia ended abruptly in 167 B.C., when the army of Paulus Aemilus ravaged Epirus and parts of Southern Illyria.
Located in Drino valley in Gjirokastra region is a village bearing the same name, this is Roman Adrianopolis of the second century A.D. A theatre was excavated in 1984 and has a capacity of 4,000 seats in 27 steps.
The first excavations began at the site in 1963 and since then a 30m long Stoa has been unearthed. The monument clearly resembles the Stoa of Apollonia, indicating the strong links between these two cities.
Situated near the modern town of Cakran, the site of Gurëzeza, dominates the plain of Vjosa with a view that extends to the Karaburun peninsula and the island of Sazan in the bay of Vlora. The partially preserved walls cover an area of over 15 ha.
The castle seems to have been built in the 4th century A.D. to withstand gothic invasions, while other finds bring the earliest date of occupation in the area to the 5th-4th centuries B.C.
Excavations near the cape of Treport have revealed traces of an ancient settlement dating from the 7th century B.C. Over the centuries the settlement extended, and a new wall was built around it in the 4th century B.C.
It is sometime in the 6th century A.D. that the town changes name to Hagia Saranda or Forty Saints, but it is unclear under what circumstances this happened. This may be related to the construction of a great basilica on a hill overlooking the modern city of Saranda. Various monuments and archaeological finds from the city have come to light during many years of research, such as the synagogue/basilica, a portion of a Roman Imperial archway, a late antique house, an apsidal building, an Odeon, a cemetery, and a building with an elaborate mosaic, the so-called Dolphin pavement.
Fortified settlement of Gradishta e Belshit
The settlement of Gradishta e Belshit is located near the Belsh village on the west side of Devolli river. The main phases of identification at this settlement are dated from the Late Bronze Age period until the Late Antique period, including the refortification of the settlement. Inside the necropolis of the city materials date from the 4th-1st centuries B.C. and 4th-6th centuries A.D.
The Persqop fortress
The Persqop fortress is situated near the Petrela Castle, on the Vila Mountain. The first phase of construction dates in the Illyrian period while during the Roman period the fortification was extended further.
The fortification of Rosuja
The fortification of Rosuja is situated 6km to the southwest of Bajram Curri, near the Binjaj village. From the excavations it has been revealed that this site has been inhabited from the Early Iron Age until the 5th century A.D.
Inside the fortified area, buildings of the Roman and Late Roman period have been found.
The cave settlement of Rrëza e Kanalit
The cave with a view over the bay of Vlora was first discovered in 1939.Eneolithic stone tools, pottery and animal bones indicate the use of the cave in early times, but also in later Medieval periods.
The tumuli burials of Shtoj
The plain of Shtoj is situated about 5 km to the northeast of the city of Shkodra,between the villages of Boks, Drago and the Bridge of Mesi, on the western side of the Kir river and dates from the Early Bronze Age until the Late Iron Age.
The fortified settlement of Karos near Qeparo
The fortified settlement of Karos is situated 490m above sea level, along the Qeparo river. The hill side of the Qeparo village is about 1 km long and continues toward the western slope. The material collected from the archaeological excavations give a wide date range starting from the Early Iron Age to the 4th century A.D.
The Kratul fortification
The Kratul fortification is situated on the homonymous hill, 143 m above the sea level, 6 km to the northeast of Shkodra and 600 m distant from the Bridge of Mesi. The archaeological material indicates that life at the settlement was active from the Early Iron Age until the 1st century A.D.
Music and Dance
Albania has a rich musical tradition and especially folklore. This is to be expected as the whole Balkan region is well known for its impressive musical heritage. The interpretation of Albanian folklore music varies a great deal from polyphony (songs without instruments) to flute or bagpipe polyphony to other kinds of songs and instruments.
Albania also has a rich tradition of dances with a great variety of choreography and costumes mainly depending on the origin. There are epic as well as lyrical dances. Particularly famous for their elegance, rhythm and drama are the dances of Rugova, Tropoja, Devoll, Lunxhëria, the couples’ dance of Rrajca, lab dances and the çam dance of Osman Taga.
National Festival of Folklore
This is the most important event on folklore in Albania. It is organized in Gjirokastra Castle every four years. All Albanian folklore groups participate together with Albanian groups from Kosova, Montenegro, Macedonia the arbresh of Italy, Turkey, the United States, Greece and other countries. Folklore groups from other countries as well as international guests participate.
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