Shkodra is one of the most significant and ancient cities in northwestern Albania. It was founded in the 4th century BCE as the center of the Illyrian tribe of the Labeates, and became the capital of the Illyrian kingdom under the rule of King Gent. Coins from this period of prominence have been discovered in Shkodra.

In 168 BCE it was occupied by the Romans, eventually becoming part of Claudius’s empire. In 395 CE Shkodra became the center of the Byzantine Prevalis province. Following centuries of substantial political power, Shkodra came under Serbian rule in 1040 CE.

Due to its Mediterranean location and its geographical proximity to some of  the main centers of the world’s civilizations, a number of important archaeological discoveries have been made in Albania. The sites in the North as well as in the South are great tourism destinations for those who are interested in ancient history.

The Tumuli Burials of Shtoj: The Plain of Shtoj is situated about 5 km to the north-east of the city of Shkodra, in the vicinity of the villages of Boks and Dragoç, on the western side of the Kir River. The excavated tumuli, or burial mounds, appear to have been used for centuries, from the early Bronze Age until the late Iron Age. Most of the unearthed features of these tumuli are artifacts of the Iron Age, specifically from the 7th – 5th centuries BCE.

The most important monument to visit in Shkodra is the Rozafa Castle, which rises from a rocky hill to the west of Shkodra. The waters of three rivers, the Buna, Drini and Kiri, surround it. Rozafa is one of the major castles in Albania and the most important tourist attraction in Shkodra. The castle dates back to the Illyrians, when the Latin historian Titus Livius named it “the stronghold of the Labeates,” an Illyrian tribe on the shores of Lake Shkodra. The Illyrian queen, Teuta, used it as a base in the war against Rome.

Mesi Bridge: Northeast of Shkodra, where the river Drin divides the fields from the hillside of Drishti and the Cukali’s highland, there is a stone bridge with many arches that is named after the village near it. The monument is one of the biggest of its kind in Albania, constructed around the 18th century CE by Mehmet Pasha Bushatlliu, who governed his province wisely by ensuring that this important port region was able to develop extensive trade with the West. The bridge made it possible to transport carriages and agricultural products from the farmers living in the highland areas to the Adriatic coast. The form and the direction of the route was defined from the cliff’s massif and the water flow variations. The bridge was made with a causeway and reaches a length of about 120 meters. Thirteen cantilevers sustain it, and it makes a turn 5 m away from the central cantilever at a 15 degree angle. The arch is combined with two discharger windows, which differently from the arch does not have a circle form. The replacement of the old bridge, which was often submerged from the river’s high waters, added other cantilevers at both sides. The bridge’s width is 3.4 meters and the track has the form of a staircase.

In the city of Shkodra you may visit also the Historic Museum and the Marubi Atelier of Photography.
The ruins of a castle dating back to the 6th- 8th centuries BCE are also on the island. But the island’s main attraction is the residence of the Dukagjini family, one of the most important Albanian feudal families in the 11th century. Among the remains are the defensive walls, church ruins and the gate to the Dukagjini palace.

Located behind the Rozafa Castle, the “Lead” Mosque was built in 1773 CE by Mehmet Pasha Bushati and is one of the most prominent cultural and religious monuments in the city of Shkodra. Of particular significance is its architectural similarity to the Blue Mosque in Istanbul. This stands it apart from other mosques in Albania, which were designed and built based on typical Arabic architectural styles.
The ruins of the medieval town of Sarda can be found on Shurdhahu Island in the artificial lake of Vau i Dejës, 35 km away from Shkodra. Sarda is a very picturesque location, surrounded by 24.7 hectares of fresh, blue waters.

Alpet
An alpine tour of Albania isn’t complete without a stop at the famous Western Alps, (or Alpet Perëndimore). Here you will enjoy the unique opportunity to walk, breath, sleep, and eat amidst the legends dating from Homer and through modern tales of our majestic mystery and intrigue. This tour gives you the rare chance to enjoy the heart of the Albanian Alps, Gropa e Thethit. The journey begins from the cultural capital of Shkodra and wanders 41 km away to the village of Razma.
Situated on a blackberry hill at the feet of the Veleçik Mountain, Razma stands amid lush forests of pine and birch trees. Meadows and amazing alpine pastures abound, drenching any visitor with a keen
eye in the beauty of the Balkans. Even in the depths of winter when the snow drifts to its highest level of the season, adventure tourists visit Razma.
Several hotels already exist and others are being completed. Common activities on the excursions are mountain climbing, skiing, and, weather permitting, camping. The road turns from Razma to the village of Dedaj and then towards Boga, a village surrounded by the Alps and described by Edith Durham in her book, “The Burden of the Balkans.” It is here that the wealthy families of Shkodra built their houses and villas to rest and escape the city before the Second World War.
Boga is the perfect place for mountain climbing, skiing, and cave spelunking. Among the most famous caves, visitors often delve into the Cave of Mulliri (Mill), Akullore (Ice Cream), and Njerëzve të lagun (Wet People). The Cave of Puci is one of the most attractive, situated 1,087m above the sea level and 5 km deep. This cave is rich in stalactites, stalagmites, and wall veils, and branches into many different levels, five alone at the center. Passing through its curved galleries you can walk into the next cave, the Cave of Husi. After Boga, you can find one of the most popular tourist spot of the entire area, Thethi. Located 70 km from Shkodra, you have to pass Qafa e Tërthores at 2,000 m. above the sea level before descending to “Gropa e Thethit by crossing a stream bearing the same name. It is a journey you will want to have your camera ready for, full of long views from the mountains, with water cascading down craggy hillsides and trees struggling for sunlight on the rocky slopes. The area is rich in attractive sights like the waterfall of Grunas, 30 m high, the amazing cold-water sources of Okol, and the caves of Birrat me Rrathë (Round Holes) and Arapi. The animals in the park include bears, wolves, wild cats, and even herds ofwild goats climbing on the rocks.
The marble trout, a rare fish, can be found in the crystal-clear waters of the Valbona. It has a specialand exquisite taste. The valley, the park, and all the surroundings are known for the heavy snowfall, which starts in early November and lasts almost until May. The average amount of snow in this region during the year is 100 cm.
There are many outdoor activities organized in the national park, such as skiing, mountain

Grezhdani Castle is located 11 km southeast of the town of Peshkopia, not far from the village of Maqellarë. The castle dates back to the 4th century CE, during the late Roman period. During the Middle Ages, it was supposedly the Stefigradi Castle, which was under the control of Albanian national hero Skanderbeg. It was strategically located, linking the region of Dibra with Kosova and Macedonia. It was declared a historical monument in 1963 CE and covers an area of 34 hectares.

The Historic Museum of Mat opened in 1983 CE in the town of Burrel. The museum provides a description of the historical records of the area. A particularly interesting display is a layout of powder production, something that the region of Mat was well known for.
The Ethnographic Museum of Dibra. It is located in “Elez Isufi” boulevard in the town of Peshkopia. The objects of this museum are housed in a traditional building with typical architecture. There are round 2.000 objects displayed to the visitors. The items include a complex of national folk dresses, rugs and carpets, different arms since the Illyrian period, coins etc.

The city of Lezha is located 47 km south of Shkodra. It is one of Albania’s ancient cities, and in the historical documents it is mostly referred by the name Lissus. In 1398, after the construction of its castle, the city was under direct control of the feudal family of Lekë Dukagjini, but was eventually conquered by Venice. One of the most important historical events for Lezha, and indeed for all of Albania, was the famed “the League of Lezha” on March 2nd, 1444, where under the leadership of national hero Skanderbeg, the Albanian princedoms united against the Ottomans. The Memorial Grave of Skanderbeg is here, at the ex-Cathedral of Shën Kolli, where he was buried in 1468.

Lezha Castle, originating from Illyrian times, is located at the top of a186 meter high hill to the east of the town of Lezha. In 1440 CE it was reconstructed by the Venetians, and then again in 1522 CE after the Ottoman conquest. The castle bears traces of Illyrian, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman architecture. The Memorial of Skanderbeg was inaugurated in 1981 CE in honor of Albania’s national hero, Gjergj Kastrioti. It was built at his burial place, over the ruins of the Church of San Nikolas in the town of Lezha. After the Ottomans invaded Lezha, they destroyed the church and the tomb of Skanderbeg. The church was later reconstructed in the beginning of the 20th century. Inside the memorial, a copy of Skanderbeg’s sword and helmet are on display, along with emblems of Albanian feudal families during the period. Interesting places to visit include the ruins of the Ottoman buildings inside the castle, the tower at the southeastern wall with its Roman arch, the mosque and the Illyrian tower on the southern wall. In addition to being a cultural monument, the castle offers a beautiful view of the fields of Lezha and the Adriatic Sea.

The Church of St. Anthony of Padua in Laç (Kisha e Shën Anoit) is located close to the town of Laç, 3 km away. The church was built in 1557 CE in honor of Saint Anthony of Padua, a Catholic saint who was born in Lisbon and died in Padua. This church is famous for hosting the largest Catholic pilgrimage held in Albania. The peak of the ceremony is organized on June 13.
The Church of Rubik is located on the top of a rocky hill overlooking the small town of Rubik. The church represents one of the most important religious monuments of the 12th – 13th centuries CE. Its construction was completed in 1272 CE and has served as a Benedictine abbey and as a Franciscan monastery. Of particular value and importance are the Byzantine style wall frescoes that adorn the church’s interior.