Vlorë (or Vlora) has become a tourist destination thanks to its beaches which are part of what is known as Albanian Riviera . It is located in southern Albania, near the Nartes Lagoon and the enclosing Karaburun Peninsula, off the coast of the island of Sazan .
Vlorë seafront promenade
Its port is the second most important in the country after Durrës and after a past linked to industry, Vlorë is seeking to adapt to the new times by opening up to tourism. The Mediterranean climate with hot, dry summers and summer temperatures approaching 40 degrees makes the beaches of the Albanian Riviera a popular holiday destination. In addition, its university is one of the most prestigious in Albania, with more than 15,000 students that weave a pole of research in different sectors, attracting international conference meetings and incentive tourism.
Present since at least the 6th century BC under the name of the Greek colony of Aulon , it is first mentioned by the geographer Ptolemy, and in the Tabula Peutingeriana and the Synecdemus of Herocles. Due to its strategic position on the Adriatic Sea, Vlorë occupied an important place in classical antiquity as a base for trade for many peoples, who took advantage of the natural bay for sheltering ships. Some historians argue that the name Vlorë comes from the Walloon oak (Quercus macrolepis), whose acorns were used by tanners.
Under the Romans Vlore became an important port, and although it was Dürres, the continuation of the road to Byzantium, the trade in local wine, olive and salt production was prominent. In the Middle Ages, the political centre shifted to the castle of Kanina , six kilometres south of Vlora. The continuous shifts in territorial control of the Illyrian region necessitated the need for a secure defensive location. Thus, Byzantines, Venetians and later Ottomans fought over Vlora. After the collapse of the Roman Empire and the division between West and East, Vlora was the seat of a bishopric in the 5th and 6th centuries. In 733, Vlorë, and all of eastern Illyria was annexed to the Patriarchate of Constantinople, and with the invasions of Bulgarians …
It played an important role in the conflict between the Byzantines and the Norman monarchs of Sicily, and at the beginning of the 13th century the Venetians took control of Vlora, calling it “Valona”.
Map of Vlora by Simon Pinargenti in 1573.
In the second half, with the formation of the principality of Arbëria, Skanderbeg , rising against the Ottomans, added the territories of Vlora to his League. In the 14th century it was part of the Serbian principality of the Balshaj, but the return of the Ottomans brought it back under their control from 1417 to 1912, and it was an important trading port (boosted by the Jewish community that arrived after being expelled from Spain or Italy) and military port. In fact, Mehmed II Fatih (known as el-Fātiḥ, “the Conqueror”, Sultan of the House of Osman, launched the attack on the coast of Otranto on the “heel” of Italy from Vlora. Like other Albanian towns, it was hit by an earthquake in 1851, which caused major damage.
The city experienced one of its most important historical moments on 28 November 1912, when it was the seat of the First National Assembly of Albania , where the politician Ismail Qemali declared the country’s independence from Ottoman rule.Capital of Albania until 1914; Vlore was occupied by Italy until 1920. Again in 1939 Italy invaded until 1944, when the Allies and Albanian partisans drove the Germans out.
After WWII Enver Hoxha ruled Albania with an iron fist and Vlora was a Soviet submarine base until 1960 (the Russians’ only one in the Mediterranean), when agreements with the USSR were broken.
Despite being geographically closer to the ports of Bari and Brindisi, it has been Sarande to the south and Dürres to the north that have won the tourist ferry connections. To compensate for this, the port of Vlora has a commercial and industrial relevance, as the oil, natural gas, bitumen, oil, fruit and salt sectors are still important. The Pashaliman Naval Base is still the most important military port in Albania.
WHAT TO SEE IN VLORË
The growth of tourism on the Albanian coast has developed a fabric of luxurious hotels, restaurants and other services that complement the beautiful beaches of the Albanian Riviera. In addition to the beaches, Vlora’s attractions include castles, mosques, churches, museums and monuments.
Vlore is also known for its olive production. The type of olives ” Vlonjak ” is one of the oldest in Europe and the region is known for its large production of olive oil, products that you can taste in the restaurants of the city.
Most of the points of interest are close to the Flag Square , such as the monument to independence, the remains of the walls of the ancient city of Aulon (right next to the tourist office), and very close to the historical museum or the Muradije mosque.
A visit to the Muradije Mosque is highly recommended as it is the only remaining work in Albania by the famous architect Sinan the Great, built in 1542, in the time of Suleiman the Magnificent.Fortunately it survived the demolition of other mosques, and even withstood the 1851 earthquake.
Kuzum Baba Shrine
On the top of the hill overlooking the city is the religious shrine (Tekke) of Kuzum Baba. It takes its name from Sejjid Ali Sulltan, known as Father Kuzum (Quzum Baba), a spiritual leader of the Bektashi stream, who according to local tradition, is buried here.
Being the highest point of the city, Kuzum Baba offers visitors the opportunity to enjoy the fresh air and admire the beautiful scenery of the city. There is a Bektashi temple on the top of the hill (Tempulli i Bektashinjve), built around 1600. The sect was influential in the 17th century, but its power waned in 1826 due to local persecutions. Today, however, the Tekke of Kuzum Dad (Teqeja e Kuzum Babait) is one of the most important Bekatashi centres in all of Albania.
Museums of Vlorë
There are three museums in Vlorë: the Independence Museum, the Historical Museum and the Ethnographic Museum of Vlorë (where you can see traditional handicrafts and customs).
Another little-known site that serves as a tribute to those who fought against the Nazis is the Cemetery of Albanian partisans
Beaches of Vlorë
Within the city there are some beaches such as Plazhi i Vjeter and following the coastal road SH8 southwards you will reach first Plazhi i Ri beach and then Bora Bora. The best beaches are just past Logara National Park and include Palasë, Dhermi, Vuno, Himara , Qeparo and Borsh.
On the outskirts of Vlore are the ruins of Kaninë Castle , of which few traces remain, but which affords beautiful views from the top.
EXCURSIONS FROM VLORË
If you choose Vlorë as your holiday destination, it is possible to make excursions to the archaeological sites of Orikum and Amantia, the Karaburun Peninsula and the Llogara National Park to the south, or the Orthodox Monastery of Zvernec to the north.
During World War II, the island of Sazan became the site of a German and Italian submarine base and naval facilities; these facilities were heavily bombed by the Allies.
North of Vlore a very interesting excursion is the Orthodox Monastery of Zvernec (Manastiri i Shën Mërisë), located on a small island in the Narta Lagoon. It was built by the Byzantines between the 13th and 14th centuries
Zvernec Orthodox Monastery (Manastiri i Shën Mërisë)
The Karaburun peninsula is located in southern Albania, where the Adriatic Sea meets the Ionian Sea.
HOW TO GET TO VLORË
Getting there by car
The A2 motorway is part of the Pan-European Corridor VIII and is adjacent to the Adriatic Ionian Highway, including a direct interchange with National Road 8, 4.6 kilometres (2.9 miles) away.
Arriving by plane
The only airport in Albania is Tirana International Airport , which is 147 kilometres from Vlorë. It can be reached by rental car or bus. The Ministry of Transport has announced the construction of the Vlorë International Airport but there is still no concrete date for its completion.
ACCOMMODATION in VLORË
TOURS AND EXCURSIONS
CAR RENTAL IN VLORË
MAP OF VLORË