Vlora & Surroundings
Vlora is situated in the southwestern part of Albania, exactly where the two seas meet: the most southern part of Adriatic Sea and northern part of Ionian Sea. Vlora, through Otranto channel, is the nearest point of Albania to the Italian coast, only 72 km. It also is 135 km far from Tirana and 123 km far from Corfu Island. Vlora is one of the districts having the longest coastline.

The most ancient traces of Vlora date back to the period of antiquity. Since VI century B.C. four towns were built up in Vlora bay: Oricum, Thronion (Kanina), Triporti and Aulona. Each of these towns has their history of rise, prosperity and fall.
The most ancient traces of civilization belong to Oricum, which still keeps the old ruins of the city. Oricum, with its fortified walls, played a very important role in the war between Cesar and Pompey. Initially Pompey was holding it as a station for his military fleet, but later on it was captured by Cesar. During the Byzantine period and in Medieval Times Oricum was known under the name Jericho. In the period of ottoman occupation, the Turks baptized it with the name Pashaliman.. What have remained from the antiquity are: the theatre, some stoned chairs, as well part of the city's roads.
Antique Aulona (or Vlora of nowadays) is the most important trade and tourism center of southwestern Albania. The very ancient historic traces of Vlora can be seen today in the archaeological excavations behind the Monument of Independence, near the "Flag Square" (Sheshi i Flamurit). In 2nd century B.C. Ptolemy is mentioning Vlora as a city and port alongside Adriatic Sea. In Medieval times, Vlora and its surroundings fell under the Norman rule, and after that under Venetian occupation. During the ArbŰri Kingdom, in year 1272, Vlora is mentioned for the prosperity of handicraft, agriculture and arboriculture. In the century XIV, Vlora was under the rule of Balshaj feudal family. In 1417 Vlora is captured by Ottomans and it served as a basis of Sultan Suleiman during the wars against Italy, Himara and Corfu. During the centuries XVII and XVIII, Vlora was the key port of the southern Albania and developed the trade exchanges with Trieste, Venice, Vienna, Corfu, Istanbul, Izmir, Ioannina, etc.
By the end of the XIX century and the beginning of the XX century, a number of patriotic and cultural associations were established, playing an important role in the preservation of the language and culture. The most significant historical event for Vlora is the Proclamation of Independence on 28 November 1912. For almost 50 years of the communism period, the enormous natural and cultural resources of Vlora remained stagnant due to the isolation from the outside world.
Vlora is an important economic, commercial and touristic centre of the country.  The city and the entire district have played a significant role in the economic development of Albania. Tourism is the economic activity, which presently gives physiognomy to the entire coast of Vlora. The area is distinguished for its individuality, where the diversity of natural panorama is intertwined with the rich historic and cultural heritage.
A great step forward the tourism is made after 1990 following the opening of the country and permission of the market economy. Initially it was started with the construction of a number of bars, restaurants and hotels and today the entire coast of Vlora Bay is full of countless constructions serving to the tourism.
Vlora is one of the key points of the transport in Albania. Vlora port is the second in Albania in terms of importance, following that of Durres. Regular marine lines connect Vlora with the Italian, Greek and other ports.
Agriculture is one of the most important economic activities in Vlora. Thanks to the mild Mediterranean climate, with many sunny days and the very good land, in this area are produced many agricultural and farming products : citruses, olive, fruits, meat, milk, etc. One of its most important resources is the sea too.

There are many places and monuments to be visited in Vlora.
Mosque of Muradie is built up in the second half of the XVI century and continues to be functional. The great Ottoman architect Sinan, of Albanian origin, who is one of the most important constructors of the mosques in the first period of the Ottoman Empire, made the design and the implementation of the mosque.
ZvŰrneci Island and the Monastery of Saint Mary. ZvŰrneci is situated 14 km far from Vlora. The entire landscape creates a very beautiful natural assemble, full of contrasts, where the beauty is in harmony with the tranquility of the country. Besides the natural charm, the Monastery of Saint Mary is of special interest for the visitors. It is situated in ZvŰrneci island and is accessible only through a narrow wooden bridge. The Byzantine church, build in the 13th century is a spiritual oasis for Christians in the area. The Monastery has a very rich church library. The last monk left the Monastery in 1967, at the time when Albania closed the religious objects. Monastery was locked up for many years, and it was looted and burned. During the communism period, ZvŰrneci Island served as a deportation center for the dissenters of the communist system. Following the communism collapse in 1990, the Monastery returned to its religious function. Today, it is reconstructed and it is very interesting place to visit.
Orikum and Pashaliman
Church of Marmiro in Oricum dates century XII and from the outside it has a cubic form with tumbler cupola. The stones of the archway are taken from the antique buildings of Oriku.
Cropisht Castle is situated in the place called Llutroi and is built in the Roman period. It is composed of stones and has the shape of a square.
Vlora Castle is situated near the nowadays harborage and was builded in 1531 by Sultan Suleiman to protect Vlora from the attacks of the army of Venice. Until 1906 it was in good condition, but after that its stones were used to build the road Vlore - SkelŰ.
Sofa Castle is situated on a hill near Tragjasi and dates to the VI century. Its walls are ruined and there are ruins of a church on its southeastern part.
Castle of Gjon Bocari is located in the village of Tragjas and is built in the XVII century.
Tower of Dervish Aliu (leader of the peasant rebellion of the year 1847) is located in Dukati village. It has a peculiar architecture, preserving the characteristic features of a dwelling house in Laberia.
Fortress of Canina, 6 km far from Vlora, is one of the oldest establishments of Vlora area. It is built up on the top of a hill 380m above the sea level and has an area of circa 3625 ha. The castle rises on the side of the Shushica Mountain. The castle was built on the site of an ancient settlement, one of the oldest in the Vlora region. The castle is believed to have been erected in the 3rd century B.C. In the 4th century B.C. the castle was transformed into a fortress town. In the 6th century A.D. the castle was reconstructed by Justinian I. The castle was the center of the Principality of Valona in the 14th century.
The Cave Writings of Lepenica are to be found on the mountain and village of the same name. Pictures found in a cave represent post Paleolithic art, which is known as the oldest in all of Europe. It is supposed that the painting dates to the end of 3rd millennium B.C.
Mosaics are an important part of the excavations in the area of Vlora. The most important is that of Mesaplic. It is believed that this mosaic dates century V A. D.

Not far from Vlora is the Llogara National Park that represents one of the most amazing places of Albania. With an area of 1020 ha, Llogara is covered with everlasting greenery. In the inner part of its forests there are beautiful lawns, countless natural resources and diversified animal and bird species. A special natural element and very typical for Llogara is the Flag Pine (Pisha Flamur). It is situated in the northern part of Llogara Pass, 910 m above the sea level. It has the shape of a flag as a result of the strong southeastern winds. The pine belongs to Pinus Nigra family, is 20 m high, having a trunk diameter of 75 cm, and age of about 100 years. An amazing part of this geo-park is the äbalcony" in Llogara pass, at the height of 1050m, where the Ionian Sea can be seen.

ăika Mountain
Near the 1027 m high Llogara Pass are two of the most prominent peaks of the Albanian coast: ăika and Qorre. ăika is, with its 2045 meters, the highest point of Ceraunian Mountains in southwestern Albania, that lie parallel to the coast, and separate the Albanian Riviera from the hinterland. Starting at Saranda, about 100 kilometers in the south, up to Oricum, ăika mountain drops down to the Ionian Sea with an altitude difference of more than 2000 meters. Especially in the upper part, the mountain cliffs are very steep. The second highest mountain is Qorre with 2018 m.
Nearby also lays the Caesar's pass. In 48 B.C. during the Roman civil war, Julius Caesar and his legions landed on the nearby beach of Palasa. On his way to Oric following his enemy Pompeius, he crossed the mountains over to Llogara pass in a place later named as Caesar's Pass.
The west face of ăika mountain, north of Llogara pass, up to 1800 meters altitude, is covered with pine forest. This area is part of the National Park Llogara. Macchia vegetation spreads up to 800 meters altitude. On the west side, between 400 and 900 meters, there are cork trees too. The common shrubs are: yew, oak, juniper, ilex and sycamore. There are endemic plants too. The highest areas of the mountain have no vegetation. The fauna of Llogara National Park is very diverse consisting of both animals that live in the park's forests and mountain cliffs. Some of the best known animals include: griffon vulture, golden eagle, fallow deer, roe deer, European wildcat, chamois, red squirrel, Eurasian otter, European badger.
Usually the ăika peak is partially covered with snow until summer. Glacial cirques testify ice age glaciations. From the top the vast panorama of the entire Albanian Riviera up to the island of Corfu is wonderful. A curvy mountain road that runs through the mountain connects Saranda, Himara and other coastal towns with Vlora.

Karaburun peninsula, the biggest of the country, having a length of 16 km, width of 3 - 5 km, and an area of 62 km2, is known for its great natural resources and also for various archeological discoveries. In the most northern end of the peninsula, at the point where the strait divides the peninsula from Sazani Island, there is the famous cave of the Captain Haji Aliu (Haxhi Aliu). The cave is formed as a result of the abrasion by the sea waves of the limestone that composes the peninsula.
It is the biggest sea cave in the country having a length up to 30 m, a height of 10 -15 m and a width of 9,5 m. Its position enables shelter for the ships. The cave is used for a long period as a base in the wars against the military ships of England, Venice, France. Along the shore of Karaburun Peninsula there are several small bays and beaches where you can stay and have sunbaths in a very special atmosphere in a pristine coast.
In the Grama Bay sailors have anchored for thousands of years, leaving inscriptions on the rocks.
Since 2010, Karaburun Peninsula is part of Karaburun-Sazan National Marine Park, a marine protected area. The park covers an area of a mile offshore along the coast of the Karaburun Peninsula and around the island of Sazan. The northern part belongs to the Adriatic Sea, and the southern to the Ionian Sea. The cape "Kepi i GjuhŰzŰs" in Karaburun is the westernmost point of the Albanian mainland, closing the Strait of Otranto, which separates the two seas.
The park covers an area of 12,571 hectares, which protect some 50 kilometers of coastline. In the national park lie the wrecks of many ancient Greek and Roman vessels and warships of the Second World War. There is a rich marine flora. The area is very remote, unexplored and untouched. It can be reached only by sea or on foot because the only road leading to the uninhabited Karaburun Peninsula passes through the naval base of Pashaliman, near Orikum.