Tirana and surroundings
Tirana is the capital of Albania, the cultural, political and economic centre of the country and the seat of the Parliament, government of the country, several institutions, organizations and parties.

Location
Tirana is located in Central Albania, at the western foot of the Dajti Mountain at an altitude of 110m. The port city of Durres, at the coast of the Adriatic Sea, is only 30 kilometers away in a linear distance. At its south and west Tirana is surrounded by hills that form a green belt around the city. At the northwest lies a 40-kilometer long plain that extends up to the seashore.
At the north of Tirana runs the river with the same name, one of the headwaters of the river Ishëm. A few kilometers south of Tirana flows the river Erzen and the city centre is crossed by Lana stream that springs in Dajti Mountain.
In Tirana prevails Mediterranean climate with an annual average temperature of 16° C and an annual precipitation of 1265mm. In July the average temperature is 24° C, in January 7° C.

History
There are many hypotheses about the origin of the city's name.
From the ancient Greek and Latin sources, the name of the city comes from the word "Theranda" or Albanian "Te Ranat" because the field was formed by mud and other solid materials brought from the water from the surrounding mountains. The origin of the town's name could also be the word "Tirkan" that is a castle of the beginning of the first century BC, that is located on Dajti mountain. "Tirana" could also come from ancient Greek "Tyros" which means milk, because a very important dairy market was found in the area of Tirana. For the first time the name Tirana was mentioned in the present form in 1418 in a Venetian document.

The region of Tirana has been inhabited since the Paleolithic Age. The oldest finds in the urban area are from the Roman period. In the 6th Century the Roman Emperor Justinian I built a fortress the walls of which are still visible.
According to Ottoman sources in 1431 - 1432 Tirana had 1000 houses and 7300 inhabitants.
A proper settlement in this area was only founded in the 17th Century under Ottoman rule: 1614 a local feudal lord built a mosque, baths (hammam) and a market (bazaar) at the crossroads of the trade routes.
Tirana remained for a long time small and insignificant until the city was proclaimed capital of Albania in 1920. King Zog built a palace and with the help of Italians, a boulevard and ministries were built too. For the first time there emerged modern structures, among others, the central Skanderbeg Square named after the Albanian prince.
During the communist era, the city developed rapidly: Socialist buildings and factories, many educational institutions and cultural centers such as the Opera House, several museums, the film studio and theaters were built. The University of Tirana was established in 1956. To build the centre of the new city, many historic buildings were destroyed in the 60's and 80's.
In the 21-st century Tirana experienced an economic boom. Many modern skyscrapers have emerged. The facades of entire streets in downtown were redesigned a few years ago in vibrant colors and wild patterns to soften the communist drabness.

Attractions
The centre of the city is composed by the Skanderbeg Square, the Historic National Museum, Tirana International Hotel, the Palace of Culture, the Et`hem Bey Mosque and the Clock Tower behind it.
The main streets of the city go from the Skanderbeg square in all directions. The Ish-Blloku - "former block" which lies west of the central boulevard, was a residential area, which, before the democratic changes was inhabited only from the higher leadership politicians, including Enver Hoxha. In recent years numerous cafes, trendy bars, chic restaurants, boutiques, skyscrapers, office buildings, apartments and shops emerged here. The district is now often referred to as the favorite place of the young elite. East of the central boulevard, on the north shore of the river Lana is the Catholic Cathedral of St. Paul.
The city's landmark is the Skanderbeg Monument on the square with the same name. Also famous is the Et`hem Bey Mosque (construction period 1794-1821) and the 35 meter high clock tower behind it built in 1830. Other remains from the Ottoman era are: Tyrbe of Dervish Hatixhe, the grave of Kapllan Pasha, the Ottoman stone bridge Ura e Tabakëve from the 18th Century and the mosque with same name.
The oldest monument is the Tirana mosaic, which belongs to a house of the III century AD.

Religions
Noteworthy is the peaceful coexistence of different religious communities. Originally the city was more influenced by Sunni Islam. Since Tirana was proclaimed capital of Albania, many residents of other religions have moved there. There are also many atheists remained after the religion prohibition during the communism. During the communism many churches, mosques and religious buildings were destroyed or converted; later, many of them were newly built. In the city there are a number of churches, mosques, a Catholic university, a Medrese and a synagogue. Tirana is home to a Catholic and an Orthodox archbishop, and also the world centre of the Bektashi Order.

There are many sights and attractions in the surroundings of Tirana, and they are part of our trips too.

Dajti is a mountain with an altitude of 1,613 meters that rises in the east of Tirana. The area of the mountain is protected and known as the National Park Dajti.
It is believed that the name of the mountain comes from the Greek goddess Diktynna. Other mountains bear her name too. Traces of prehistoric settlements have been found on the Dajti Mountain. The remains of several military installations from later times were discovered too.
The mountain is part of the Kruja mountain range, a long range of mountains, that rises abruptly from the coastal plain extending from south of Shkodra to Tirana. The mountain range is cut by deep river valleys. Dajti is confined at the north by the Tirana River and at the south by the Erzen River. On the west springs the Lana. At the north of Dajti peak raises the small peak "Maja e Tujanit"(1,531 m), which makes Dajti a double peak mountain. The mountain consists mainly of limestone. On the west side several rock strips at the altitude of 700-1050 meters give the mountain a striking appearance. Above one of this rock strips lies a four-kilometer-long and 400 meters wide terrace, the "Fusha e Dajtit". From this terrace one has an excellent view of Tirana and for this reason it is called "The balcony of Tirana".
The mountain can be reached by a narrow mountain road which winds up to the Fusha e Dajtit. Since June 2005, the Fusha e Dajtit can be reached by a cable car too.

Pëllumbas Cave is located in the southeast of Tirana, at an altitude of 479 meters above sea level. The path runs along some steep cliffs with stunning views over the Erzen gorge. The cave is 380 meters long, 10 - 15 m wide and 15 - 45 m high, and are needed about two hours to explore it. The path to the cave is very pleasant, well marked and secured. There are rest areas with benches and a series of viewing points along the way. After the first 40 meters, the cave is completely dark and the ground can be muddy and slippery.
The cave of Pëllumbas, also known as the black cave, is rated by experts as one of the most valuable archaeological sites in Albania. In this cave were found skeletons, which according to the Natural Science Museum of the University of Florence, belong to the Cave Bear (Ursus Speleaus). Unlike similar European caves, in Pëllumbas there are found human remains, which according to the Archaeological Institute of Tirana, belong to the Paleolithic era. Beautiful stalactites and stalagmites can be found in the cave.

Petrela is a village south of Tirana, located on a hill at an altitude of 500m. A short road connects the village with the main road from Tirana to Elbasan. The distance from the centre of Tirana is around 15km. The name Petrela is probably a mixture of the ancient Greek word "Petra" and the Latin word "Alba" which means white stone.
Petrela is especially known for its castle, which is located on a sharp hill west of the village. From here were controlled the roads on the Krraba Pass and down to the sea.
Emperor Justinian reinforced this place to defend the settlement of Dyrrachium (Durres). The tower was built in the middle of 500 AD, the surrounding walls are from the Byzantine period and the castle was used by Skanderbeg during the war against the Otomans.
Another fortress on a hill, east of the village, called Persqop, comes from the Illyrian period (3rd-2nd century BC). Today there remains only a 30 m long and 6 m high fragment of the stone wall.