Himarë (Himara ) is a town in southern Albania belonging to the county of Vlorë. It is one of the largest towns in the area and has established itself as one of the typical holiday resorts of the Albanian Riviera .
The northern settlement of the Epirus region was inhabited by Hellenistic tribes of Caonians. Ancient Chimaira or Chimera – from which the present name Himara derives, although another theory holds that it comes from cheimarros (torrent) – functioned as a coastal trading post. This is recorded in texts by Pliny the Elder and Procopius (6th century AD). Conquered by the Romans in the 2nd century BC, the enclave was severely punished by the Roman general Emilius Paullus, for which little archaeological trace remains.
The collapse of the Roman Empire gave the Byzantines the opportunity to occupy the area, although the whole of Epirus was for centuries exposed to invasions by Goths, Avars, Slavs, Bulgars, Saracens and Normans from Sicily.
Himarë was the only region that did not submit to Ottoman Turkish rule in the 14th century. After the Venetian defeat, the castle that had held out was handed over to the Turks. In the late 15th and early 16th centuries there were some uprisings by Gjon Kastrioti, son of Skanderbeg, but they were unsuccessful. This meant that some Himariote families fled the city in 1482 and settled in Sicily, where, as Catholics, they were granted land near Palermo, in the enclave now called Piana degli Albanesi. The inhabitants still speak a dialect of Albanian called arbëreshë.
During the Ottoman occupation, religious tolerance allowed its inhabitants to remain part of the Orthodox Catholic Church. Furthermore, Suleiman the Magnificent, aware that it was better to handle a strategic outpost like Himare with a left hand, allowed tax exemption, the right to sail under his own flag in any Ottoman port, and the right to bear arms in Ottoman territory. This “self-rule” strengthened Himara, which concluded agreements with Italian city-states, especially Naples and the powerful Republic of Venice.
In 1797, Ali Pasha, the Albanian Muslim ruler, led an attack on Himara because it supported his rival, the Souliotes, resulting in six thousand civilians being killed.
In order to reconcile Ali Pasha and create an alliance with Himara, he financed public works and churches such as the church in front of the castle of Porto Palermo. In this way Himara achieved a status of self-rule against the all-powerful Ottoman Empire, as evidenced by tablets preserved in the Topkapı Museum in Istanbul.
During the Greek War of Independence (1821-1830), Himara supported the Greeks, and even after the Balkan War in the 20th century it was briefly part of the Autonomous Republic of Northern Epirus. Occupied by the Italians in both world wars, in 1945 it was integrated into Albania under Enver Hoxha’s regime.
What to see and do in Himara
Himara is divided into the historical area, inland, and the seaside area, with several beaches along the bay. At the top of the hill, an intriguing network of cobbled streets allows you to stroll and shop. In the old part, around the castle, there are several churches such as Kisha e Shën Mërisë or Kisha e Shën Gjonit. From the ruins of the castle of Himara there are beautiful views of the lush forests and towards Livadhi beach.
Himarë village below the castle
As a typical beach and relaxation destination, Himara comes alive in summer. The long bay is home to several beaches. Besides the “urban” one there is Spile , the main beach of Himara town called Sfageio and Marachi, a lovely place to lie on the beach and relax. Another beach is Potam , which attracts those who wish to get away from the centre of Himara.
Just a 20-minute walk through the forest north of Himara leads to Livadhi beach , which is another local favourite. There are many beach bars, making it a perfect place for sunset.
Accommodation and Hotels in Himara
The offer of hotels, holiday flats, campsites and other types of accommodation in Himara is very wide due to the fact that it is one of the most famous places on the Albanian Riviera.
How to get to Himara
From Tirana there is a bus leaving at 6.15am, and another at 1pm, going to Himara. Another option is to take the bus to Vuno (every 30 minutes) and from there catch another bus to Himara. The journey takes about six hours.
Excursions and tours
From Himara we can make excursions to other nearby beaches such as Gjiri i Akuariumit, Jale or Gjipe to the north. Just 2.5 km south of Himara is the Filikuri beach , a perfect spot for those looking for a more secluded beach hideaway. Cliffs cover Filikuri and it has a fairly rocky coastline, so it is best visited by boat or kayak. If you continue south you’ll come to Llamani Beach, another inviting beach on the Albanian Riviera.
History lovers can enjoy a castle tour, with visits to Porto Palermo and Borsh.