Travel Guides Crafted by Experienced Archaeologists & Historians

Castles & Fortresses in Albania

Albania has 158 castles and fortresses listed as ‘Monuments of Cultural Heritage’. Not only do these monuments range in date and function, they are also in varying states of preservation. Some of the oldest have their origins in fortified hilltop settlements built by the Illyrians, which were then taken over by the Romans. More recent kalave (Albanian for castles or forts) were constructed by Albanians to protect their lands against the Ottomans to defend their interests. Many of these places are historically very important and are popular attractions for Albanians and visitors alike.

Venetian Triangle Castle

Away from the main archaeological site of Butrint, and on the other, south side of the Vivari Channel, is a triangular Venetian fortress built in the 15th century. This and other Venetian fortifications nearby, such as the Ali Pasha Castle, were built to defend the Strait of Corfu and the Venetian Merchants fishing interests in the area of Butrint. Inside the courtyard of the castle is a circular building, thought to have been added by the Ottomans. Perhaps a hammam. From the tower there are good views over Butrint.

Ali Pasha Castle

Near the archaeological site Butrint in the bay of Porto Palermo. Hence why it is also known as Porto Palermo Castle. This relatively well preserved castle was initially built by the Venetians in the 15th century. In 1804 the castle was seized by Ali Pasha of Tepelena, a powerful ruler of this region of Albania in the early 19th century. Until 1820, the castle was the Pasha’s second residence. It is a relatively small fort compare to his other forts, probably built to control access to Butrint.

Berat Castle

The earliest dates for building on the hill above Berat are from the 4th century BC. The hilltop has been successively occupied by the Illyrians, Greeks and Romans up to the Ottomans and the present. With a perimeter of 1400 m, the castle encloses 10 hectares with 300 inhabitants still living here today. Besides some of the finest preserved 17th century Ottoman houses, there are 12 churches, the ruins of two mosques and the 18th century Dormition of St Mary, don’t miss the Onufri National Iconographic Museum

Lëkursi Castle

Above Saranda on Lëkursi hill is a castle built by the Ottomans in 1537 when they attacked the nearby Greek island of Corfu. Around the castle are the ruins of village of Lëkurës. The strategic location was again taken up later by the Communist regime. Scattered about the hillside are a number of typical Albanian cold war bunkers. The restaurant in the castle and the wonderful views over the seaside town make this a popular spot for tourists and locals alike, who come to enjoy a meal, particularly at sunset.

Castle of Gjirokastra

Overlooking an important route through the valley below, the citadel has been in use since at least the 12th century. The Ottomans extended the fortress substantially. And in the 1930s king Zog used the fortress to imprison his political prisoners. Today the castle is home to a military museum that displays German artillery taken by the Communist resistance, and a captured USA Air Force plane. Together with Berat, the historic centre of Gjirokastra is on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites.

Rozafa Castle

Also known as Shkodër Castle, the rocky outcrop on which the ruins of the medieval and Ottoman castle are located has been inhabited since antiquity. During the Ottoman period the 13th century Venetian church was converted into a mosque. Rozafa Castle is thought to be the origins of a well known, regional legend that suggests human sacrifice is required for the successful construction of buildings. Since its earliest times, the castle has been the stronghold of many sieges.

Himara Castle

Overlooking Livadi Beach north of the popular seaside town of Himara is an ancient fortress known as Himara Castle. Strategically placed on a hill 240 metres above sea level is the historic settlement of Himara; the origins of which date back to the Illyrians some time in the 8th century BC. Greeks and Romans settled here, with substantial reconstructions taking place under Emperor Justinian in the 6th century AD. Later in the 8th century AD the fortress became the Bishopric of Himara.

Kruja Castle

Above the picturesque town of Krujë are the extensive ruins of the Castle of Krujë, parts of which dating back to the 3rd century AD. An important historical monuments for Albanians, it was here that Gjergj Kastrioti Skënderbeu successfully resisted three attacks from the Ottomans until 1478. Within the ruins of the castle are two museums (a national ethnographic museum and a museum dedicated to Skënderbeu), are the remains of a mosque and a Sufi shrine (partially destroyed by the Communists), and a Turkish bath.