14 Mind-blowing Castles in Albania
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Albania isn’t short of exquisite historical and cultural monuments. There are a plethora of attractive sites in Albania – castles being one of those!
Its history of blazing warriors, various civilizations and clashes between empires makes it a must-visit for archaeology fans.
We’ve talked a lot about museums and cultural artefacts of Albania, but now I’ll uncover 14 mind-blowing castles to see in Albania!
From ancient fortresses to medieval castles, many beautiful sites exist in the north and south of Albania.
Of course, when you’re on a trip, there isn’t enough time to see everything, no matter how much you’ve read about it on a travel blog (assuming you’ve been around for some time)!
You can create your itinerary when travelling to Albania, but I recommend visiting, if not all, at least some of these beautiful historical sites.
How many castles are in Albania?
Albania has been the abode of the Ottoman, Roman, Byzantine and Venetian empires.
Each civilization and empire constructed a myriad of beautiful fortresses, castles and citadels. Although most are in ruins, some are well-maintained or have guesthouses and restaurants nearby.
There are 158 castles in Albania. Even if you shifted to Albania, you probably wouldn’t be able to visit all of the Albanian castles.
To make things easier for you, I’ve enlisted the ones you MUST visit, at all costs!
Not only are these structures of cultural and historical significance, but the majestic views of the surrounding towns, cities and the marine are to die for!
Best castles in Albania to visit
1. Berat Castle
Lined with brick-roof houses, Berat is a 2400-year-old UNESCO town boasting significance in Albanian history.
Berat’s architecture is of a fortress with various sites displaying Albania’s cultural treasures. Surrounded by mountainous terrain, the Citadel of Berat dates back to the 4th century.
Situated on a rocky hill along the river Osum, the Castle offers a panoramic view of Berat. The Castle has withstood the rise and fall of the Ottoman and Byzantine empires.
There are two major sites: the Church of St.Mary of Blachernae and the King Mosque.
Berat is one of the few castles in Albania where people still live within the castle walls. You can reach Berat Castle by drive or walk.
Even though the fortress is in ruins, it is still a fascinating viewpoint for gazing at the modern city of Berat.
2. Gjirokastra Castle
Another UNESCO town, Gjirokastra, is perfect for a two-night stay in Albania. Also called the “city of stone” due to the magnificent stonework across the city.
The Gjirokastra Castle, one of the largest castles in Albania and the Balkans region, is built with grey cobblestone. The Castle sits atop a hill and offers a bird’s-eye view of Gjirokastra.
Originally a fortress, Gjirokasta is a century older than Berat Castle. The Gjirokastra Castle is famous for the folklore of Princess Argjiro.
Legend says the Princess jumped from the Castle with her child to escape the Ottomans.
One of the most-visited castles in Albania, the Castle is home to the Gjirokaster Museum, a cistern, and a clock tower. It also hosts the National Folk Festival every five years.
3. Kruja Castle
The Kruja Castle is one of the most famous castles in Albania, primarily because of its history.
The city of Kruja got its name from the national hero of Albania, Skanderbeg, who exonerated Albania from the Ottoman Empire.
Located in the Albanian Alps, Kruja is a quiet and peaceful mountainous getaway for backpackers.
Like most castles in Albania, there are two museums next to the Castle: the Ethnographic Museum and the Skanderbeg Museum.
Although mainly in ruins, the Castle offers an expansive view of the city. Built in the 5th or 6th century, the Kruja Castle has a communist-themed interior, owing to Albania’s communist period.
4. Porto Palermo Castle
The Porto Palermo Castle is one of those castles in Albania that are along the Albanian Riviera. The Castle is on the bay of Porto Palermo, only a few miles from the town of Himare, Southern Albania.
Porto Palermo is one of the later built Albania castles, dating to the 19th century.
Like some other castles in Albania, Porto Palermo owes its significance to Ali Pasha of Tepelena. It was also a Soviet navy base during Albania’s communist regime.
The Porto Palermo Castle has heart-thrilling views of the Ionian Sea. Like most other fortresses in Albania, the Castle of Porto Palermo protected the city of Himare from external attacks.
The surroundings might not be well-maintained, but the Castle is in good shape, unlike other castles in Albania that are in ruins after years of destruction and poor maintenance.
It is a short walk from the beach, and you can hire a tour guide to get a glimpse of Albania’s history.
I have spent some time along the Albanian Riviera. The people are so welcoming, and the coolness of the ocean breeze makes you feel at peace. So, definitely a must-visit!
5. Lekuresi Castle
Sarande is on the gulf of the Ionian Sea and has awe-inspiring views of the blue marine. The beaches in Saranda are some of the most beautiful ones I’ve seen.
But the sandy beaches and sea views are not the only things that Saranda is known for. The Castle in Saranda, Lekuresi Castle, is a must-visit!
While the city has transformed to suit the modern-day lifestyle, the Lekuresi Castle stands tall, boasting its architectural magnificence and history.
Similar to other castles in Albania, this 16th-century Castle is in ruins. It sits atop a hill with a great restaurant built within the castle walls and offers a landscape view of Saranda.
The Castle in Saranda offered strategic importance for the Lekures Village in the previous era. Ali Pasha of Telepana attacked it in the 18th century.
Like a few other castles in Albania, there’s a restaurant next to it. You can either drive up to the Castle or take a 45-minute walk from the Saranda Centre to the Castle.
📚 P.S. Grab access to my Travelling Albania Guide to get a comprehensive insight into more places to visit in Albania (including secret spots that are not recommended in the usual guides!)
6. Rozafa Castle
If you’ve been around for some time, you know how much I have talked about Shkoder. Among other exciting places to see in Shkoder, the Rozafa Castle is a must!
Also called the Shkoder Castle, the Rozafa Castle is a limestone structure that sits on a rocky hill overlooking the Buna and Drin rivers.
There’s also an ancient church inside the Castle, the Saint Stephens’ Church.
Though most of the Castle is in ruins, like all the other castles in Albania, you can visit the Minaret of Fatih Sultan Mehmet Mosque.
Rozada is known for the legend of the three brothers building the Castle.
A wise old man suggested they sacrifice their wives by burying them alive inside the walls of the castles if they wanted to build long-lasting foundations.
Out of the three wives, only one was buried, named Rozafa.
There is also a life-sized sculpture of Rozafa, the youngest brother’s wife, and a child clinging on to her inside the Museum of Rozafa Castle.
7. Borsh Castle
Among castles in Albania along the coastline of the Ionian Sea, the Borsh Castle is monumental to Albanian history during the Byzantine era and the Middle Ages.
Also called the Sopot Castle or Kalaja e Sopotit, it is on a rocky hill in the village of Borsh, Albania.
The Castle dates back to the Antiquity period and has hints of Greek settlement. In the 17th century, the Hajji Bendo Mosque was built inside it.
The dome and minaret of the mosque are in shackles, but the structure still exists.
The mosque suffered destruction during the communist era of Albania. The frescoes and cisterns inside the mosque are in shackles. Nonetheless, this Albania castle is unmissable.
8. Himare Castle
The Himare Castle is another one of the castles in Albania that is completely in ruins but still a majestic viewpoint of the Ionian Sea and the town of Himare.
Like other castles in Albania, this one has a unique historical and strategic importance in Albanian history. Built in the 4th century, the Himare Castle became a fortress in the 8th century.
The small town of Himare, surrounding the Castle, held importance during the Middle Ages and Byzantine Empire.
Similar to other castles in Albania, Himare suffered severe destruction and frequent renovations.
The abandoned cobblestone structure offers stunning and majestic views of the town of Himare, the Ionian Sea and Livadhi Beach.
The Himare Castle is home to two beautiful churches: the Church of St. Mary Kasopitra and the Church of St. Sergius and Bacchus.
There’s also the Church of All Saints near the foothills of Himare Castle.
You can take a long hike from Himare, about 2.5km, to reach the Castle, or drive up.
Unlike most other castles in Albania, there are still people living inside the castle walls along with some beautiful guest houses if you want to stay within the castle.
9. Ali Pasha Castle (butrint)
Out of all the castles in Albania, the Ali Pasha Castle in Butrint is one of the finest and best ones to see!
This historical place is near the Albanian coastline, in the historical town of Butrint, right next to Ksamil.
Butrint has been a Greek colony, a bishopric and a Roman city in its pre-modern days. It was abandoned in the Middle Ages and is now a UNESCO site.
The Ali Pasha Castle, in Butrint, sits near the coastline and is only accessible by boat. Unlike other castles in Albania under Ali Pasha’s reign, this one was his place of residence until the 19th century.
Primarily, the Castle functioned as close access to the sea from the city of Butrint.
The best part is that there is much to see around the Castle. If you get overwhelmed by the history of this place, there are the beautiful beaches of Ksamil nearby.
📸 PRO TIP: My go-to camera for all my travels is the Sony A7iii – I highly recommend it!
10. Rodoni Castle
The Rodoni Castle also called Kalaja e Rodonit or the Skanderbeg Castle, is another one of the castles in Albania that held strategic importance from a military viewpoint.
In the early days, there were four defence towers around the Castle. The Castle functioned as a transportation hub for grain trade to Ishmi.
Built just 1 metre above the sea, the Rodoni Castle dated back to the reign of Skanderbeg and served as a defence point against the Ottoman invaders.
Destroyed in the 15th century by Ottoman invaders, the Republic of Venice rebuilt it in the 16th century.
Since it is above the sea, the abrasives from sea waves have ruined the exterior. I think the best time to visit Rodoni Castle is during sunse.
11. Kanina Castle
Kanina Castle or the Kalaja e Kanines is in the village of Kanine, in Vlore, southwestern Albania. It is barely 6km from Vlore city and slightly to the side of Shushica Mountain.
Historians suspect it was built between the 3rd and 4th century BC and later transfigured into a fortress. By the 6th century, Justinian I, a Roman emperor, ordered its reconstruction.
Lush green hills and a sporadic arrangement of trees and bushes border the Castle. Like most castles in Albania, this one is in ruins as the stonework is severely damaged.
You can drive up to the Castle or take a walk. The view from the top is quite stunning, especially at sunset.
There’s an entrance fee of 300 Lek, and you can swing by the restaurants and cafes nearby once you have toured this structure of Albanian history.
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12. Lezhe Castle
The Lezhe Castle or Kalaja e Lezhes is in the northern region of Albania, in the beautiful city of Lezhe. Like other Albanian castles, Lezhe has withstood renovations and reconstructions over time.
It dates back to the Illyrian era of Albania. Captured by the Venetians and the Ottomans, the Castle has remnants of the Roman, Ottoman, Illyrian and Byzantine empires in its structure and design.
Like other castles in Albania, Lezhe has a unique history, and some of the historical artefacts are on display in the old Ottoman buildings inside the Castle.
There are also ruins of a mosque and two Roman and Illyrian towers inside the Castle.
Built entirely with stone, the Lezhe Castle gives an eagle’s eye view of the Drin River, the Adriatic Sea and the city of Lezhe.
A good castle tour may take up to an hour and a half, and you can visit it by car or make a small stop when travelling between Tirana and Shkoder.
13. Castle of Libohovës
Located in Libohovës, in southern Albania, the Castle of Libohoves is one of my most-recommended castles in Albania.
It was built around the 18th century by the Muslim Bonaparte, Ali Pasha of Tepelena.
Built in a quadrangular shape, Ali Pasha built this fort as a gift for his sister, Shanisha. Now abandoned, the Castle of Libohoves provided refuge to the feudal of that time.
The entire town of Libohovës is a must-visit for history enthusiasts as there is an Ottoman cemetery outside the Castle where Shanisha was buried.
The city of Libohovës is a monument of Albania’s culture and history, and the Castle bears testimony to that.
14. Fortress of Bashtovë
Out of all the castles in Albania, the Fortress of Bashtovë is slightly different. Unlike other Albanian castles on a hilltop, the Fortress of Bashtovë lies on flat ground.
Bashtovë Castle also hosts music festivals frequently.
Just a few kilometres from Kavaja, the Fortress of Bashtovë is five centuries old and pays homage to the civilizations that lived through Albanian history.
The fort is on the periphery of Via Egnatia, which was of economic importance during the Roman Empire. Its architecture draws inspiration from the Ottomans and Venetians.
Fortress of Bashtovë was declared a UNESCO site like some of the other castles in Albania. It is the only one in the Balkans situated on a field.
However, its artefacts are in Tirana’s Museum. The two beaches, Spille and Grethi, are just a few miles from the Castle, and the Shkumbin River is pretty close too.
There are fishing, hiking, and swimming activities available as well!
Frequently Asked Questions
Albania has a long history. There are over 150 castles in Albania that qualify for the status of being a monument of cultural heritage.
The castles in Albania date from many periods of history, and as such were built by many different people!
Historians believe that fortifications were first constructed for Rozafa Castle in the 9th century BC.
These castles in Albania are great attraction sites for tourists and backpackers if you take zeal in exploring history and culture.
Even if you’re not the type to get impressed by the history, the castles of Albania are more than celebratory structures of Albanian history.
The nearby towns and cities, and the people who reside there, are so welcoming and hospitable that you would love every minute of your stay in Albania.
There’s also something for everyone. If you love staying by the beach or near the waters, Porto Palermo and Borsh Castle are great for visiting.
If you enjoy scenic views from hilltops, the Fortress of Lezhe and the Rozafa Castle would be ideal.
The castles in Albania depict historical presence through their vivid architectural magnificence; you should check these out on your trip to Albania!
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