Ermak Travel Guide

 

 

Gjirokastër Castle

Gjirokastër Castle

 

 

 

 

 

 

Transportation

Hotels, motels and where to sleep

Restaurant, taverns and where to eat

Cultural (and not so cultural) events

Interesting information and useful tips

 

Description of Gjirokastër Castle

Gjirokastër Castle  Gjirokastër Castle

Location: Gjirokastër, Gjirokastër Province
Built: 12th century

 

Gjirokastër Castle was originally constructed in the 12th century to guard the strategic route in the river valley below. Western additions were ordered by Ali Pasha of Tepeline in 1812. At the time of the Ottoman Empire, this historic fortress was called Ergiri, and the local Greeks called it Argirokastro, the name also applied to the castle. Castle Gjirokastra located at an altitude of 336 meters.

Gjirokastra castle was built in the 12th century to protect the river valley below. During Ottoman rule, the castle remained an important strategic fortress for the protection of the empire from the West. The western walls were added by Ali Pasha Tepelin in 1812 after his successful military campaign. The Albanian king Zog increased the castle and turned it into a prison in 1932.

Today the castle is open to visitors. Here you can see a collection of military equipment during the Second World War and the Cold War. Part of the weapon was captured by Albanian partisans during military operations against the Wehrmacht. Most American planes got here after they "accidentally" flew into the territory of Albania.

 

 

 

Ethnographic Museum, Rr. Hysen Hoxha, 3. Once Enver Hoxha's house, it is a well-restored Ottoman house which displays clothing, kitchenware, tools and other cultural artifacts. The guided tour (available in Albanian, English, and German though availability should be checked in advance). The entrance fee is 200 lek and includes a guided tour.
Old Bazaar and Historic Ottoman Homes. The old bazaar is still the social and commercial center of the Old Town of Gjirokaster. Though the newer sections of the city have attracted many businesses and people, the bazaar and its surrounding homes dating from the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries still manages to capture a bit of the bygone era of Gjirokastrite life. Several of the houses are at various levels of restoration and are open to the public. Traditional houses include Cabej House, and Topulli House. The Bazaar has undergone a cleaning and exterior restoration as part of the government's revitalization plan.
Kadare House. House of renown writer Ismail Kadare undergoing reconstruction.
Skenduli House. A renovated traditional house.
Zekate House, Rruga Mazllëm Shazivari, (in the historic Palorto quarter). It is the most visited of Gjirokastër's monumental stone houses. It is one of the largest of its kind, featuring three floors spread over two large towers. The house was recently restored again (having undergone earlier restorations during the Communist era) and is kept open by its owners as a museum house. In addition to providing an interesting primer of the characteristic architectural elements of the city's tower houses, it offers a beautiful view of the city below.
Saint Sotira Church (in the Old Bazaar quarter). every day between 07:00-07:30 and 19:00-19:30; Sunday Service takes place between 07:00 and 10:00 can also be visited upon request. this is a well preserved 18th century Orthodox Church.
Gjirokaster Mosque, Rruga Gjin Zenebisi (in the Old Bazaar). This mosque is a true testimony of the communist religious ban in Albania. Spared from destruction from its religious importance, the mosque was transformed as a circus training centre only to return to its original setting after the 1990s in the form of a Muslim school.
Seven Fountains, Mechite Mosque Remains, and the Hamams. The fountains and the exterior of the Hamams have been restored. One can observe the dedicatory inscriptions on the fountains and the cone shaped traditional roofs of the Hamams.
Cold War Museum. Underground bunker of Enver Hoxha with around 70 rooms built for emergency situations.

 

 

Archaeological sites

Sofratike (Sofratikë) (14 km South east of Gjirokastër). Site of an ancient theater and baths
Kardhiq (20 km North west of Gjirokastër). site of an ancient castle
Paleokaster (Palokastër) (12 km north Gjirokastër). Site of an ancient village.
Labove (Labovë e Sipërme, Labovë e Madhe) (20 km east via Libohove). Home of one of the oldest standing Orthodox churches in the Balkans and Tombs of Ali Pasha's sister and nephew in Libohove village.
Tepelena (33 km North west of Gjirokastër). the fortress of Ali Pasha
The Illyrian city of Antigone (Qyteti i vjetër i Antigonesë), near the village of Asim Zeneli (roughly 6 km east). This village is the starting point of a 3-hour round trip hike to the ruins of Antigone; it makes a nice day hike for the physically fit (you will want to hire a local shepherd as a guide)

 

Gjirokastër Castle

History of Gjirokastra castle

Gjirokastër castle has existed in various forms since before the 12th century. Extensive renovations and a westward addition was added by Ali Pasha of Tepelene after 1812. The government of King Zog expanded the castle prison in 1932.

Today it possesses five towers and houses, the new Gjirokastër Museum, a clock tower, a church, a cistern, the stage of the National Folk Festival, and many other points of interest.

The castle's prison was used extensively by Zog's government and housed political prisoners during the Communist regime.

Gjirokastra castle is under protection from UNESCO.

 

 

 


 

Transportation

How to get there
By car
The SH4 road passes by the city, from which well-understood signposts lead to a parking lot in the old town. It is best to leave your car on this parking lot, as the streets in the old town are narrow, winding, and pass through the mountainous terrain, and slopes of 15% are common. Southeast of Gjirokastra SH4 comes to the border crossing to Greece, and then continues through northern Greece, resting on the ЕО20 road. To the south from there you find yourself in Janina and, if necessary, in southern Greece and Athens, to the north ultimately in Macedonia, Bulgaria or Turkey, as well as in Thessaloniki. Count on a full day's ride to any of these boundaries, plus in any case you will lose a lot of time at the popular border crossing. To the northwest, the road from Gjirokastra leads to Vlora, and from there along the coast to Durres and Tirana. To Tirana a few hours by car.

 

By bus
Regional Bus & Furgon Station (at the entrance to the town, on the North-West corner where the town's main boulevard intersects the National Road. It is just past this intersection going north, on an empty lot opposite a shopping complex which includes Drino and Kaffe Bar Lani. There is a small shelter there with seating and a sign saying Autobus Bileta ("bus tickets").). It's less of a "bus station" and more of a collective gathering place for buses and furgons (shared minibuses) along the shoulder of the road. From here you can catch northbound buses to Tirana, Vlorë, Fier, Berat, Tepelene, Korçë, Permet, and southbound buses to Sarandë. -International buses direct to Ioannina (€5, 07:0/ departure) and Athens (€20, 20:30 departure) in Greece are available from the private bus agency offices found around the junction. A shuttle to the Kakavie border crossing with Greece runs several times a day. - Buses depart every day on the route Sarandë - Gjirokastër (300 leke) stopping hourly at the bottom of the hill until the early afternoon. Buses and minibuses are going to Tirana (1000 leke) every hour from around 07:00 until 13:00, then there is a bus at 14:30 and a night bus leaving at 24:00 (it arrives in Tirane at 05:45 near Skanderbeg Square).
Transportation and other tourism information is available from the employees of the Tourism Information Center (TIC), located in the old town, on the left side of the road leading towards the Gjirokastra castle.

Get around
Gjirokastër can be divided into roughly two halves, the old town up on the hill, and the new town in the valley below. You can walk just about anywhere if you're able to handle the steep cobbled streets. Taxis in Gjirokastra are cheap and there is a public bus circuit that connects the old town and the new town for about 30 leke. From the roundabout at the center of town to the bus station on the National Road is a fairly flat, easy, 10-minute walk along the main boulevard. Taxis will make this trip for around 200 leke.

 

Hotels, motels and where to sleep

Kotoni Bed&Breakfast, Rr. Bashkim Kokona, 8, ☎ +355 84 263526, e-mail: info@kotonihouse.com. The first guest house in Gjirokastra, since 1992, comes up with more traditional rooms and a characteristic restaurant. Each room has coloured satellite TV, bathroom, heating. 200 m from the old bazaar, you can have a great view of the old and new part of the town. - +phone=+355 69 23 66 846 €30.
Hashorva Guesthouse, Rr. Varosh, e-mail: HashorvaGuestHouse@gmail.com. The Hashorva Family, a well established name in the Lagjia Varosh Neighborhood, offers one very large, faithfully restored traditional Ottoman Era room, with a double bed and sitting area. The house is over 200 years old and is kept in wonderful condition by its original owners. Naturally cool in the summer, the guest bathroom is off the main hallway with 24-hour hot water and modern facilities. It's in the heart of Gjirokastër, an easy 5 to 15 minutes walk from all the major sites of Historic Old Town and 10 minutes walk to the new town and the bus station on the National Road. The large guest room is €20/night - it has a large double bed, a single bed off to the side. (Payment can be made by cash only in Albanian lek, euros or US dollars - Or you can book in advance online using a credit card at http://www.hostelworld.com/)
Hotel Relax, streets Sheshi i Çerçizit. 9 double rooms and 1 suite, with A/C. This wonderful hotel lies at the foot of the hilly center of beautiful Gjirokaster. It is a small hotel owned by a very sweet family. The father handles business, and is helped by his nice teenage daughter. They are incredible friendly and the hotel is very clean and has everything you need, including a cosy sitting area and balcony, overlooking the square. There is a bar downstairs, also owned by the family, so after visiting Gjirokaster it is perfect to relax and have a drink. €25 inc. breakfast.
Hotel Sopoti (Sopoti Hostel), Pazar i Vjeter (Old Pazar, Gjirokastër). Check-in: anytime, check-out: 11:00. A formerly grand hotel, it feels somewhat forgotten; rooms are basic, ask for one with a balcony to get a view of the castle, bathrooms are shared. The manager of the hotel is a refined older gentleman who also runs the bar/kafe downstairs. He knows some English. 1000 leke/person. editprice is 1200 lek per person. If you ask for wifi internet (which doesnt seem to happen very often) you will be given the password for a nearby cafe, but it is too far away so it can only work betwwen 03:00 and 06:00 when nobody else uses it. still a good choice for a single traveller as it is cheaper than a dorm bed in one of the towns hostels
Hotel Gjirokaster. Modeled after a traditional Ottoman House. Excellent location that is half-way between the castle and the market area. Friendly staff and free breakfast included.

 

Restaurant, taverns and where to eat

Gjirokastër is known for its Qifqi (baked dish made of rice, egg, and seasonings). The city is also well known for its dairy products, especially its white cheese.

There are also well established restaurants in Gjirokastër catering to travellers and the local crowd.

Old town
Fantazia – specializes in pizza and salad, but offers traditional Albanian fare, good views of the city.
Kujtim's – serves a wide variety of Gjirokastrian specialties.
The newly renovated Çajupi Hotel's Terrace Restaurant,
The Byrek Shop
Muço's Suflaç & Restaurant – Good omelets in the morning
Hajri's Coffee Bar
Sopoti Cafe

New town
Kufoi's, Pizza Erai
Antigone Fast Food Suflaç,
Suflaç at the Hotel One Restaurant
Modus Cafe – for coffee

 

Cultural (and not so cultural) events

Viroit Park (Parku i Viroit), Parku i Viroit (located 2 km north, along the SH4). A park encompassing the Viroi Lake and surrounding hills. The park features a relaxing environment and an accommodation area.

Events
National Folklore Festival. A festival showcasing traditional Albanian music and dance considered as the most important event in its genre. Held every 5 years since 1968 in Gjirokaster Castle, it was last held in May 2015. An artisans' exhibition took place as well.

Buy
Take a look at the Artisans' Center near the Information Center featuring many souvenirs and traditional crafts.

 

Interesting information and useful tips

Connect
Internet
There are internet cafes in Gjirokastër which usually charge between 50 and 100 lek per hour.

Internet Kafe (Opposite the mosque)
Google Internet Kafe
There are also a few cafes which provide free wireless:

Hotel Cajupi (on the roof top terrace/cafe)
Restaurant Kuka
Bar Karamel
Bar Grand
Gulf fuel station on the road to Saranda. A coffee is 100 lek, doubtful if you may find a cheaper option

Safety
Consulates
Greece Greece, Konsulata e Pergjithshme e Greqise - Sheshi I Cercizit, Gjirokaster, ☎ +355 8426 3804, +355 8426 2010 (Emergencies), fax: +355 8426 8141, e-mail: grgencon.arg@mfa.gr. M-F 09:30-16:30.