Albania Travel

GJIROKASTRA: 5 things for an unforgettable experience!

It was one of those trips where, not expecting too much, my socks were knocked off with a byrek in my hand. In this post you will learn how to get to Gjirokastra, where to stay (I found a BRILLIANT hostel), what to eat and how not to fall off an Albanian horse.

Stuck in the traffic? Listen to my podcast <3

Gjirokastra, called the Museum City, the City of Silver Roofs, the City of Thousand Steps, has been entered on the UNESCO List because of this well-preserved architecture, typical of the Ottoman period, in the old part of the city. This city of many names is definitely unique. But, before you run to walk around the city and eat byrek a few technical issues:

HOW TO GET THERE: buses Vlore Gjirokastra, questionable issue. Manner of luck, nothing more, I managed to get there buuut I wouldn’t rely on it. I always recommend asking Mr Busdriver whether such a course exists, if so, who precisely is driving and on what time. If you are traveling from Tirana or Saranda, it’s simpler, there you will undoubtedly find a direct bus connection. You were smarter than me and you’ve taken your driving license? I’m jealous. And happy for you, you can rent a car and SUCH solution is a truly brilliant one.

ACCOMMODATION: probably my favorite in Albania! Family room for exclusive use, with its own bathroom and kitchen. This apartment was located near the center, just a few minutes! What’s more, you could drink your morning coffee while admiring the mountains – such a view stretched from the terrace and from the patio, both of which were available to guests. I recommend it wholeheartedly!

HOW MANY DAYS: Ohh, it would be great if you had two days! Enough to see the city at night, and the next day the sunrise over the mountains! But don’t worry, you’ll see a lot in one too.

Due to the fact that I want my lil’ guidebooks to provide you the essence of a particular place, every time, Gjirokaster in today’s case, I have prepared for you creme de la creme of this charming Albanian town!



Such a bang-up title, and she starts with some bazaar? 😉 But the Pazari and Vjetër district is the absolute heart of the city! Under the open sky, stretching through several streets, radiating from a small main square, where time stands still. Buildings from the 17th and 18th centuries, with an unusual construction, create this unique atmosphere in the city. Colorful stalls where you can buy both refined handicrafts and tacky souvenirs mix with cafes and small restaurants. There, you will eat the best homemade ice cream, drink coffee with a view of the Bazaar, and after all, you can buy gliko as a souvenir.


I’m not a lover of castles, but what I like about them is that they are usually on a hill, which means one thing: there is a hope for a good view point! And so it is in Gjirokastra – on the way to the castle, you can admire the spectacular panorama of the city and the surrounding mountains. Once you see how the city’s gray roofs shimmer like silver in the sun can you understand where one of the city’s names comes from, the City of Silver Roofs (and while climbing you can understand with every cell of your being the meaning of another name : City of Thousand Steps). Admission to the castle is paid, it’s probably worth it, dunno know, I didn’t go in, but what a great joy I had while climbing to the the fortress.

What’s more, there is a tunnel by the castle built during the reign of dictator Enver Hoxha. Hoxha was afraid that Albania would become the object of nuclear attacks, so the whole city (and the country) is packed with tunnels, bunkers, shelters – all in order to give a chance to survive in case of a nuclear holocaust. You can go through the tunnel to the other side of the castle -I di it. A very quick walk. Wet, dark, scary – I didn’t want to be the material for the continuation of King’s Bag of Bones. Funfact. Did you know that citizens of Gjirokaster actually use this tunnel every day? It shortens the road significantly, connecting the two parts of the city. A walk home in the dark? Sweet.

For those of you, who would like to feel the spirit of Stephen King’s novels , I do recommend a short walk through the tunnel from World War II. It’s located on the way to the castle and enables going to the other side of the fortress. I did it. Quite quickly hence I had no desire to become an inspiration for the sequel of Bag of Bones.

Trekking path at the other side of Ali Pasha Bridge


This is definitely my favorite part of Gjirokastra! All you have to do is walk about 30 minutes from the city, wander the streets a bit, step in horse poo twice, question the validity of the idea and voila, you admire the views, taken straight out of The Lord of the Rings! I wish I could say I was kidding, but I promised I wouldn’t tell lies. Do not lose the spirits of adventure, however, I will tell you my tip for finding this wonder! What’s all the fuss about? A fragment of an aqueduct hidden between the hills, named after one of sultan of the Ottoman Empire’s vassal. When Ali Pasha obtained the power in this region, he not only extended the fortress in Gjirokastra but also provided its inhabitants with access to water. Although it may seem like an inconspicuous object, till this day only the its fragments have survived, don’t cross it off your list! It is a real gem, picturesquely situated between the hills. It is also a great place for trekking. The trail is well marked and not too demanding.

And why is the aqueduct so small now? This is an example, pardon my French, of the IMBECILITY of policy of that time. Well, in the 1930s, the authorities decided to make a prison in the fortress for political prisoners. So where to get the stones? From the historic aqueduct of course…

Protip! Regardless of whether you plan trekking or not, remember to take comfortable shoes. Gjirokastra is a cobbled city, located on a hill, so walking around it can be a bit of a challenge. Protip no2, if you have such a possibility, plan trekking in the morning, the Ali Pasha bridge in the summer Albanian afternoon will be an expedition much of a muchness like the Lord of the Rings … Do you remember the scene where Frodo and Sam were climbing to burn the Ring in the Mordor’s fire …? Exactly.

How to get there, not to get lost like me? Once you pass Kardhashi, turn right past the Brahimi Tavern and straight on till almost the end. After a few minutes of climbing – it’s not an exaggeration, the city is built on a hill, so sometimes you have the impression of walking on a vertical wall :d – you will see signs pointi to the Ali Pasha Bridge. And then, it’s a walk in the park. I mean, not literally but you know what I mean :d


Come for an OUTSTANDING dinner at, in my opinion, the best restaurant in the city, if not in the entire Balkans! Okay, I haven’t eaten everywhere but believe me, after a few months of living in Albania, I have at least general idea about their cuisine 😀 I’ve never eaten as well as in Kardhashi Taverna Tradicionale. Let me start with the fact that the place is so conveniently located on the route to/from the Ali Pasha bridge, so after trekking it is more than a good idea to come there! The restaurant is run by a family, a culinaryly talented Ms. Mum, a charming woman offering candies when you have already eaten dinner, and her Son, Waiter and Manager in one, who maneuvers between the tables making sure that none of the guests will run out of cloves juice (yummy), nor raki (bleh) or fresh, still warm bread. I decided to try something that this region is famous for: qofte, which is like meatballs baked with herbs or black pepper, served with salce kosi (creamy cheese a’la tzatziki). 11/10. In the meantime, Mr. Waiter came running with qifqi, a ball of rice baked with herbs, urging me to try this regional delicacy. 12/10. And at the very end, when I felt like a ball myself, Mrs. Mum came with a warm, homemade cake. I believe that Gjirokastra deserves a new name: GASTROkastra. The food is so good I gave it to-do status.

Where else for gastro experiences in Gastro, that is, Gjirokastra?

*a charming place in the Old Bazaar, tables set on the street in the open air, with friendly service, feels like home food: Restaurant Muço, Rruga Peco Kirka

*great coffee with a beautiful view: Hangover Cocktail Bar, Rruga Ismail Kadare 8

*delicious, homemade ice cream, prepared from fresh milk: Kodra Sweet Hill, Rruga Ismail Kadare

Make your childhood dreams come true and …

… go horseriding! Let’s be honest, guys, who as a kid wouldn’t dream of riding a horse like Legolas? And this vision can become a reality in Gjirokastra! Minus the orcs chasing you, knee-length blonde hair and a crazy gallop combined with archery … but the rest can be done! That’s more or less the vision I had in my head when I was arranging my ride. I decided to take the advantage of the offer of the Caravan Horse Riding and I can’t recommend them enough! The guide, Olti, was an extremely patient man with a lot of experience. Throughout the entire trip, Olti made sure that I felt safe and that I did not run out of breathtaking views to admire! With a horse perfectly matched to my size, Casto, I spent a wonderful few hours riding on mountain trails. I don’t have much experience in horse riding, so if you want to try it but you are getting cold feet, don’t hesitate no more. The entire Caravan Horse Riding team makes sure that the expedition from the very beginning to the last seconds is comfortable and safe. They are a great bunch of people who love what they do and want to spread love for horse riding.

So, how not to fall off an Albanian horse? Choosing the right team to work with!

The cost of such an expedition (route with a private guide! as it was not the season, there were no takers to create a whole group :d) is 50 euros. Money spent in the best possible way. UNFORGETTABLE EXPERIENCE. When you’re breaking into a gallop, having such stunning views, you feel undisturbed freedom and joy. This is definitely my favorite memory from Albania.

For me, Gjirokastra was a huge surprise! The views, the people, the cuisine, the experience – all this made me want to come back for more and more! The city has certainly more to offer but avash, avash, we are in Albania. there is no need to hurry here, so I hope that you liked my plan for the City of Silver Roofs and inspired you to visit this mountain gem. Let me know what you think!

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *