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.
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