"NEW Gjirokastra/Argyrokastron page" Top 5 Page for this destination Gjirokaster by JLBG

Gjirokaster Travel Guide: 103 reviews and 213 photos

I have been in Gjirokastra in 1988 for a short visit and I had built a VT page. I was again in Gjirokastra in May 2007 and visited more of the city but two days were not enough and I will have to go for another visit! We visited again in May 2009.

I have here erased my former tips and written an entirely new page in which I have occasionally used 1988 pictures when that was relevant.

Gjirokastra, 24,000 inhabitants in 2007, stands in the south of Albania, 80 km inland from Saranda. Together with Berat, Gjirokastra is an absolute “must see” in Albania. Dominated by an imposing castle, the city spreads on the eastern slopes of Mali i Gjere (wide mountain), overlooking the Drinos River. Because of deep ravines carving the slopes of the mountain, several districts have individualized in the town : on the hill slopes Plake, Cfake, Manalat, Dunavat, Pazari i vjetër, Partizani, Palorto, Varosh and in the valley Puntore, 11 Janari and 18 Shtatori. Dunavat, Pazari Ivjeter, Partizani, Palorto, Varosh are the most interesting parts to visit.

Little information is available for the far away past of Gjirokastra. It seems to have been founded around the 4th century AD. In the 15th, the Ottoman Empire took possession of the city. Beginning around 1800, it was a leading center for resistance against the Ottoman Empire. In 1811, Ali Pasha captured the city. Though the castle dates back from the 13th and several mosques and churches from the 18th, most of what we can see now in Gjirokastra was built in the 19th.

Gjirokastra is the birthplace of both former leader Enver Hoxha and famous writer Ismail Kadare. After the book of Kadare “The stone city”, Gjirokastra is often nicknamed by that name. It is also nicknamed “the thousand steps city”. When visiting the city, you will soon understand why!

Ismail Kadare wrote: “Gjirokastra is not happy with easy victories. It disarms those that nothing would amaze, those that have built a second nature with indifference itself. Thou that enter in Gjirokastra, abandon any indifference…”

A World Heritage site since 2005, Gjirokastra has a charming bazar area with small shops facing cobbled streets. It had been awarded the status of "Museum-city" in 1961 by the Albanian governement in order to protect its historic center. The castle, entered from either the valley or the town side, now houses the National Arms museum, though the best things about it are the fantastic views across the valley,

In the early 1960's, the city was declared as a "museum city" in order to legally protect its architectural heritage. Unesco recognized it as a World Heritage site in 2005. I quote the comments from Unesco:

The historic town of Gjirokastra, in the Drinos river valley in southern Albania, is a rare example of a well-preserved Ottoman town, built by farmers of large estate. The 13th-century citadel provides the focal point of the town with its typical tower houses (Turkish kule). Characteristic of the Balkan region, Gjirokastra contains a series of outstanding examples of kule, a type of building which crystallized in the 17th century. But Gjirokastra also features some more elaborate examples from the early 19th century. The kule has a tall basement, a first floor for use in the cold season, and a second floor for the warm season. Interiors feature rich decorative details and painted floral patterns, particularly in the zones reserved for the reception of visitors. The town also retains a bazaar, an 18th-century mosque and two churches of the same period.

Justification for Inscription
Criterion (iii): The old city of Gjirokastra is an exceptional testimony to a long-lasting, and almost disappeared society and life-style, influenced by the culture and tradition of Islam in the Ottoman period.

Criterion (iv): The historic town of Gjirokastra is a rare example of a well-preserved Ottoman town, built by farmers of large estates, around the 13th-century citadel. The architecture is characterized by the construction of a type of tower house (Turkish ‘kule’), of which Gjirokastra represents a series of outstanding examples.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:An absolute must see
  • Cons:None
  • In a nutshell:Hurry up for a visit !
  • Last visit to Gjirokaster: May 2011
  • Intro Updated Sep 1, 2011
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Reviews (60)

Comments (17)

  • illumina's Profile Photo
    Jan 7, 2010 at 12:57 PM

    Great updates, I really hope I can go back one day. So glad to see a photo of the monument to the two hanged women - when I was there in 2002, I was working with the nephew of one of the women.

  • craic's Profile Photo
    Jun 26, 2009 at 6:39 AM

    i must read kadare

  • Kuznetsov_Sergey's Profile Photo
    Jun 24, 2009 at 9:55 AM

    Great updates since September, 2007 from your third visit of this place! Historic background was especially interesting for me. The name of Comrade Enver Hoxha brings memories from my student times. Thanks Jean-Louis for the virtual tour!

  • junecorlett's Profile Photo
    Jun 18, 2009 at 8:39 AM

    Thanks for the map - I had no idea where this was. Your pictures are very good too.

  • easterntrekker's Profile Photo
    Dec 29, 2008 at 10:16 AM

    very interesting pages! A country we hope to visit someday!

  • Jun 14, 2008 at 5:46 PM

    Great page, a lot of information!

  • bijo69's Profile Photo
    Apr 20, 2008 at 1:59 PM

    Gjirokastra looks very picturesque! Not sure if I can make it there in May as I'll just have a day in Albania.

  • Karolina01's Profile Photo
    Aug 26, 2007 at 2:58 PM

    It is really beautiful, I see a potential here. If only someone might fix up and preserve all this old archicetcure, it would be perfect.

  • kat-m's Profile Photo
    Aug 24, 2007 at 5:51 AM

    You are way out of my league with your travels, the hanged women are very sad. well done to you.

  • Nemorino's Profile Photo
    Aug 18, 2007 at 1:35 PM

    Yes, I remember the "lauzes" from one of your pages about the Alps. Interesting that they have the same (under the name of "pllakë") in this town in Albania.

JLBG

“I believe that tourists are very valuable to the modern world. It is very difficult to hate people you know. (Steinbeck)”

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