Vlora (alb. Vlorë), known also as Valona, is located in south-western Albania where the two seas, Adriatic and Ionian, meet. Vlora enjoys a beautiful position beacause it is the gatway to the Albanian Riviera , which is the gem of Albanian Tourist places. The town with its wide boulevards decorated by huge palm trees has a real southern Mediterranean feel to it. It is located in front of Karaburuni peninsula and Sazani Island, close to various sandy and rocky beaches and the scenic nearby mountains. Vlora is Albania’s second largest port, having regular ferry boat connections with Italian ports of Bari and Brindisi.
The oldest traces of civilization in the area of Vlora date back to the 6th century B.C. In ancient times the city started as a port, and was known under the name of Aulona, famous for its olive groves and vineyards. During the 4th century AD was frequently mentioned as a landing port for ships of goods from the ports of Otranto and Brindisi, as well as an important stop over between the prosperous ancient cities of Apollonia and Butrint. After the fall of Apollonia and Orichum, it became the principal port of Illyria. In the fifth century Aulona was the centre of diocese. The emigrations of barbarians damaged it badly and brought the withdrawal of the city deeper in land.
During the Middle Ages the city was fused into one with the fortress of Kanina, which is situated a few kilometres to the south-east. At the fourteenth century, Vlora became an important trading and handicraft centre noted apart from wines and salt, for its swords, its ships and its silk.
The Turks invasion took place in 1417. In 1531 Sultan Sulejmani built a fortress, which is believed to have been designed by the architect Sinani. By the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Vlora had again become an important economic centre and port it was taken by Ali Pasha Tepelena in 1812.
Although an important town throughout history its claim to fame came on November 28th, 1912, when the National Assembly of Albania declared the independence of Albania in Vlora, to end a five century Ottoman rule. The town was the first capital of independent Albania.
What to see
The Museum of Independence – In the centre of town, erected in Sheshi i Flamurit (The Square of the Flag). It reflects the stern struggle of the Albanians for freedom and independence, the events that brought about the raising of the flag on the 28th November l912, when Albania was proclaimed an independent state.
The Mosque of Muradie – was built in 1542 by the famous architect Mimar Sinani (who built the grandiose Suleymanie Mosque in Istanbul).
Kuz Baba – Building of the Bektashi sect, perched up on the hill towering upon the town centre. This spot offers a unique view not only of the town, but also of the entire Vlora Bay.
The Vlora Bay – Is the deepest, largest and most beautiful bay on the Albanian coast, 19 km in length, with many sandy and rocky beaches which are frequented by tourists between May and October.
Triportus – This settlement lies on the coast about 3 km west of Vlora. It was founded in the 6th century BC and was enlarged into a town towards the end of the 4th century or early in the 3rd. This was probably the ancient city of Aulona mentioned by the geographer Ptolemy.
Vlora Surroundings – South
Kanina Castle – was built in the village with the same name which is about 6 km south-east of Vlora. The castle rises on the side of the Shushica Mountain, about 380 meters above the sea level. The elders of Kanina say that 5 “nations” worked on the castle: Illyrians, Romans, Venetians, Byzantinne and the Ottoman. Inhabited in antiquity since the 7th or 6th century BC and fortified since the 2nd half of the 4th century BC, it was also of great importance in late antiquity and in the Middle Ages. The defensive circuit is about 1,000 m long and encloses an area of about 3.5 ha.
Orikum – the ancient town of Orikum was established in the 7th – 6th century BC by Hellenic settlers. The settlement of about 5 ha in extent lies on a low limestone hill right at the southern end of the Bay of Vlora, about 30 km from the city of Vlora. It is close to a harbour which was mentioned by Julius Caesar as having great strategic importance. Approx. 4km from modern Orikum is located Archaeological Park of Orikum. On the outskirts of the Archaeological Park is the Marmiroi Church, dated back to the time of Byzantine Emperor Theodorus, around the 13th century AD.
Gramata – is a small bay on the west coast of the Karaburun peninsula, which since antiquity has offered shelter to shipping from storms and rough seas. On the rocks around the bay can be seen many inscriptions scratched by seafarers, including one by the Byzantine emperor Manuel II (1391-1425).
Pass of Llogara – Leaving Vlora through the scenic coastal road to Saranda you will climb up towards the Pass of Llogara, a National Park covered by dense forest of pine trees, 1027 m above sea level. There is a tourist village with wooden made villas. Llogara is an excellent place for air sports such as paragliding, delta plan etc. The mountain is very close to the beach, so you can combine the mountain climate with the warm of the sea.
Churches of Saint Stephen and Saint Mitri -in the village of Dhermi ( XII -XIV centuries)
Fortress of Porto Palermo (Ali Pasha Tepelene Castle) – this coastal fortress lies about 60 km to the south of Vlora, near Himara, and was built at the beginning of the 19th century by Ali Pasha of Tepelene for his beautiful young wife. The width of the stones is 1.6meters. This castle was designed by a French engineer and was constructed in the shape of a pentagon.
The ruins of Himara Castle – in the village of Himara
Amantia – An Illyrian town near the modern village of Plloc, about 40 km to the south-east of Vlora. Amantia was founded at the end of the 4th century BC. Archaeological excavations have revealed the defensive walls, the stadium, a temple, a basilica and many artefacts, which tell us much about the development of the settlement and its trading connections with the Mediterranean world. The defensive walls were built to encircle the acropolis in the 4th century BC. The stadium of Amantia, which is remarkably well preserved, had a capacity of 3,000 spectators and was built in the 2nd half of the 3rd century BC.
Vlora Area in Photos
Dhermi and Himara – pictures from Albanian Riviera, 2008