Exploring the Albanian city of Pogradec, nestled on the shores of the magnificent Lake Ohrid amidst the Balkans’ scenic splendor. Here, you will find only useful and intriguing insights about this city. While the main tourist streams may pass by Pogradec, those fortunate enough to visit will always discover a plethora of activities to engage in.
Pogradec: History and General Facts
The history of the city is intricately tied to Lake Ohrid. Pogradec is situated right on the lake’s edge, boasting an extensive city promenade and beach. This unique geographical advantage significantly contributed to the city’s tourism development.
Interesting to know:Lake Ohrid lies on the border between Albania and Macedonia. It is the deepest and oldest lake in the Balkans. For more details about the lake’s attributes, including its strengths and weaknesses, refer to the article: Lakes of Albania.
Now, a brief overview of the city’s history:
- The most prevalent misconception, which you will read more about later in the article, is associated with the ancient Roman trade road – the Via Egnatia. The Romans completed the construction of this road around 100 BC.
- It extended from Durres, a city on the Adriatic Sea coast, to Constantinople, modern-day Istanbul.
- The length of the road was over 1,000 km.
- Stretching over 1,000 km, the Via Egnatia served as a vital trade route not only for the region but also for the Roman Empire.
- A segment of the Via Egnatia passed through present-day Pogradec.
- Pogradec, or rather its initial settlement, emerged in the 6th-7th century AD when the territory was already under the rule of the Byzantine Empire.
- From the 7th to the 15th century, Pogradec endured constant military conflicts, changing hands more than ten times. Only in 1468 did the Ottomans arrive, and for the next almost 500 years, Pogradec became part of the Ottoman Empire.
- In 1912, Albania gained independence for the first time in its history (over 2,000 years). Pogradec became part of independent Albania.
- Subsequently, the city witnessed the First World War, a period of growth and development, the Second World War, the rise of the communist regime, and 40 years of Enver Hoxha’s dictatorship.
Pogradec: Unique Features
The city possesses a distinctive characteristic that every tourist should be aware of. It is located in the mountainous part of the country, at an altitude of 700-800 meters above sea level. Consequently, the tourist season here is generally shorter by 2-3 months per year. The temperature in Pogradec is consistently 5-10 degrees Celsius lower than that on the coast or in Tirana.
Interesting to know:When it’s +30 degrees Celsius in Durres, Pogradec experiences temperatures of +25 degrees Celsius at best, and sometimes even +22 degrees. Such temperatures are comfortable for all. However, when in October Durres reaches +20 degrees Celsius and tourists are still present, Pogradec may have temperatures of +12 degrees Celsius during the day and as low as +3 degrees Celsius at night. Furthermore, the country lacks central heating, leaving locals to address this issue themselves.
Pogradec: Where to Stay?
Pogradec is a relatively small city, with just over 20,000 residents. However, if you consider the entire municipality, including its suburbs, the population reaches around 60,000 people. Nevertheless, accommodation options are available. There are a few hotels, but you can find more apartments with kitchen facilities offered by local residents. In my opinion, this is even better.
Below is a dynamic rating of the best accommodation options in the city. You can click on each one, check prices, view photos, and read reviews.
How to Get There?
I won’t dwell on private transport. From Tirana to Pogradec, there is a good road that takes about 2 hours to reach the city. The road is free and quite wide for Albanian standards. I will briefly discuss public transportation as there are some concerns. Not only is its regularity lacking, but the speed of travel is also limited to 30-40 km/h on any road.
- For detailed information about public transportation in Albania, including buses and railways, refer to a separate article.
Every day, more than 20 bus routes run from Tirana to Pogradec, with travel times ranging from 2.5 to 3.5 hours, depending on the route.
Important to know:Pogradec is almost always an intermediate stop for most buses. Usually, buses run to the city of Korca. Therefore, look for buses from Durres to Korca or Tirana to Korca. The ticket costs 450 lek or about 4 euros.
There is also the option of traveling by train from Tirana to Pogradec. Detailed information about this transportation method can be found in the above-mentioned article about public transportation. In brief, it can be a painful and laborious experience.
Pogradec: What to See?
All the attractions of Pogradec can be condensed into a short list. The primary activity for tourists is enjoying the beach on Lake Ohrid and strolling along the promenade. However, do not expect a wide array of cultural programs from the city. If we remove the fake tourist spots from the list, only three items remain.
Next, I will share what a tourist can indeed do in Pogradec. I will highlight what to pay attention to and what not to miss.
The main square and the waterfront of the city
No matter how you look at it, this is the main attraction and the main activity for tourists. The promenade extends along the entire city, right along the lake’s shore. The views are superb: the mountains and the neighboring Macedonia. There are plenty of cafes, restaurants, and simply beautiful scenery.
- Promenade length: over 3 km
- Time for a stroll: 2 hours
- Open and accessible 24/7 and free of charge
Author’s recommendation:6 out of 10. While not awe-inspiring, it is still worth your attention. Personally, I prefer the promenade in Sarande much more. However, if you find yourself in this city, it is impossible to pass by the promenade and the main square.
Panoramic platform on the ruins of the Pogradec fortress
On the outskirts of the city, there is a hill rising 200 meters above Pogradec. Once upon a time, a fortress stood here, but today, nothing remains of it, not even ruins. However, a panoramic platform overlooking the entire city and its surroundings persists. As there aren’t many attractions here, this place is considered a must-visit.
- Distance from the city center: 3.5 km
- Elevation gain: about 180 meters
- Coordinates: 40.908613, 20.646194
- A walk from the city center takes about 50-60 minutes, while the return trip can be done in half an hour.
- Time at the panoramic platform: 10 minutes will be enough. However, take a bottle of Albanian wine with you and, weather permitting, sit back and enjoy the scenery.
Author’s rating:I prefer nature over architecture. Admittedly, this observation platform isn’t anything extraordinary. Nevertheless, it still deserves your attention. I would rate it 7 out of 10.
Located just outside the city, this small park can be described as a recreational area right on the shores of Lake Ohrid. It features walking paths, a small lake, and even offers boat rides during the season. Overall, it’s a classic leisure park as we know it – green, well-maintained, and peaceful. While not a must-visit destination, it is often touted as one of the city’s main attractions.
- Distance from the city center: 4.5 km to Drilon Park
- Coordinates: 40.900161, 20.713296
- The road to the park is flat, running alongside the lake. You can easily reach it within an hour.
- During weekends, locals come here with their families for picnics, so there are quite a few people around.
- You’ll need about 20 minutes to walk around the entire park.
- Entrance is free.
- Boat rental costs 500 lek/hour (approximately $5).
Author’s rating:2 out of 10. Only visit if you have absolutely nothing else to do. Otherwise, it’s not worth your time.
Thomas Enkelana Coffee Shop
No one writes about this place, but I will. It might not be a city attraction, but it’s worth noting this coffee shop.
Albania doesn’t grow its own coffee. However, the coffee-drinking culture, particularly Turkish coffee brewed in a pot, was introduced by the Turks. Albanians drink coffee in liters, around 8-10 cups a day, always and everywhere. And the only coffee roasting factory in the country is located on the outskirts of Pogradec, called Thomas Enkelana. Their coffee packages bear the label “Made in Albania.”
While the factory itself might not be of great interest, they have a coffee shop in the city center. They exclusively serve coffee from their own factory – fresh and incredibly aromatic. I recommend stopping by for a cup of local coffee.
- Coordinates: 40.902684, 20.657697
- Opening hours: from 8 am
- By the way, Albanian coffee from this factory makes an excellent gift to bring back home to friends. What else can you bring as a gift from Albania?
Author’s rating:Just stop by for 15 minutes to have a cup of local coffee.
Via Egnatia and Golik Bridge – Tourist Traps
If you’ve read other articles about Pogradec, many mention the Via Egnatia and Golik Bridge as the city’s main attractions. Those are people who simply copy information from the internet without verifying it.
Indeed, in Pogradec, there is a street named after the ancient Egnatian Road. But this is what it looks like today.
- Here are its coordinates: 40.898519, 20.658011
- I don’t know if the ancient road ever passed here or if they just named the street after it. However, today, there are no signs of this ancient trade route.
Important to know:In reality, the Via Egnatia Road and Golik Bridge are located 70 km from the city, on the way to Tirana. The attraction is much closer to Tirana, just 55 km away. And from the major Albanian city of Elbasan, it’s only 15 km. There’s no need to purposefully come here, but if you’re traveling from or to Tirana, it’s worth a stop.
- For detailed information, coordinates, and photos of the Golik Bridge, refer to the article about Elbasan.
- The Byzantine bridge is well preserved and still serves its original purpose.
- It’s free and open 24/7.
- The only downside is that you can spend 10-15 minutes here. Only visit if it’s on your way.
- There are very similar Byzantine bridges in Gjirokaster; it’s better to go there. The city offers many more attractions.
- And near the famous thermal springs Benje there is also such a bridge.
Travel Tips and How Much Time to Allocate for the City
Whether to include Pogradec in your travel itinerary or not is entirely up to you. Most tourists come here for two reasons:
- They are traveling to Macedonia, and Pogradec is an ideal transit city near the border.
- They are traveling on the most beautiful road in Albania, Route SH75, which starts 40 km from the city.
- For others, I recommend visiting Pogradec only if you have already seen almost all of Albania and have plenty of spare time.
How much time you need in Pogradec:In reality, there isn’t much to do here. You can cover all the main attractions in 2-3 hours. The city lacks “must-see” sights of Albania. There’s no need to come here deliberately; it’s mainly a transit point. If you’re traveling around Albania in a big loop, you can arrive in Pogradec in the morning from Tirana and be here for lunch. Spend some time swimming and exploring the city, stay overnight, and leave in the morning.
For road trip itineraries for travelers by car, check the link. There are many tips and recommendations.
In conclusion: Pogradec is an excellent transit city for a one-night stay during your trip to Albania. It shouldn’t be your main destination, so don’t expect much from the city, and then you’ll enjoy it. There are many more places in Albania that you need to fit into your short vacation, and Pogradec isn’t one of them.
Wishing you a fantastic journey through the cities of Albania!
Resources to help you plan your dream trip to Albania
- Flights at the best prices with juicy discounts
- Car rental in Albania (cheaper – only by bus):
- Hotels and apartments throughout the country: Booking
- Tours, excursions and activities (including extreme ones):
- Comprehensive travel insurance: EKTA
- eSIM virtual sim card in Albania
- Taxi and transfers: Intui.Travel