In this article, I will tell you about the city of Vlora, how to get here, where you can stay for a night, a week, or even a month (and why). I will also highlight the main attractions of the city. Additionally, you will receive valuable tips and recommendations.
Vlora is one of the cities in Albania where I would definitely stay for a while. More than just a “vacation” of two weeks: a month or even forever. I will explain why shortly.
General facts about Vlora and a brief history
Vlora is the third-largest city after Durres in terms of size. A little over 80,000 people reside here. However, compared to Durres, which is stretched along the coast, Vlora is more compact.
Vlora, like most Albanian cities, has an ancient history. It was known as the Greek colony of Avlon in the 6th century BCE. For instance, today Greeks call Vlora – Avlona, Italians – Valona, Ottoman Turks referred to it as Avlonya, and in medieval records, the city sounds like Avalon, Avalona.
Interesting to know:The name of the city Vlora originated from this Greek name – Avlon. Avlona = Vlona = Vlora. In the Albanian language, there was often a replacement of the sounds N=R. This historical transition in linguistics is called rhotacism, which is very characteristic of many Albanian words.
Historically, Vlora was a subject of numerous conflicts (again, like most Albanian cities). Founded by the Greeks, it later became a Roman city. After the fall of the Roman Empire, it became part of the Byzantine Empire, which competed with the Venetians in this region. However, with the arrival of the Ottomans, the city was restored and even became a major port.
In the 19th century, the anti-Ottoman movement gained momentum in Albania. Vlora often became the center of Albanian uprisings. In 1912, Albanian diplomat (and the first prime minister of independent Albania) Ismail Qemali declared Albania’s independence after the Balkan Wars. And this happened in Vlora.
Today, Vlora is a modern Albanian city with developed infrastructure. It is situated on the Ionian Sea coast, between the capital Tirana and the resort towns of Saranda and Ksamil. All of this makes Vlora a very popular city for both vacationing tourists and expatriates.
Getting to Vlora
Vlora is a major city and has good transportation connections both with the capital Tirana and the southern resorts of Saranda and Ksamil.
Of course, the simplest option is by bus.
- From Tirana, buses to Vlora depart from the terminal in the northwest at 41.34424, 19.77697 (direction Airport/Durres/Shkoder) every hour from 7 in the morning. The journey takes about 3 hours, and the ticket costs 500 lek (5$).
- From Durres: from the bus station in the south of Durres (41.29240, 19.50954). Departures are also every hour, the journey takes about 2 hours, and the ticket costs 400 lek (4$).
Another option is by car. The road to Vlora goes along the sea and through mountain passes. Unforgettable impressions await you.
Useful to know:From the port of Vlora, there’s a regular ferry to the Italian city of Brindisi. Read more about it in the article: Ferries in Albania.
Where to stay in Vlora
Vlora is a fairly large city, so there are numerous accommodation options here. Let me tell you about the coolest ones.
- EKA Luxury Apartments – modern apartments on the waterfront opposite the main beach of Vlora. Prices start from 50 euros per day. The apartments have two bedrooms, can accommodate up to 8 people, a luxurious terrace with a sea view, a fully equipped kitchen, and underground parking.
- Ames Hotel & SPA – a 4-star spa hotel. A night here starts from 60 euros. The hotel is located 300 meters from the beach, with some rooms offering sea views. Guests have access to a sauna, bar, and guest parking. Breakfast is served for guests.
- I’M JOY – apartments in the center of Vlora, right next to the central promenade. A spacious apartment with two bedrooms and all the necessary amenities for living. Starting from 70 euros.
- I also recommend reading an article about beach hotels in Albania. There’s information about Vlora as well.
Vlora is a major city, but there aren’t too many attractions here, and you can explore them all in one day. Below, I will tell you about interesting things to discover in Vlora when you’re done swimming and sunbathing. The first three items on the list can be visited on foot – they are all within Vlora. However, the others are a bit further from the city. Therefore, you have three options: taxi, rented car, or bicycle.
- Independence Monument and National Museum
- Ethnographic Museum
- Muradie Mosque
- Marmiroi Church
- Kanine Fortress
- Monastery on Zvernec Island
- Karaburun National Park
Monument of Independence and National Museum of Independence
Here we once again recall that Vlora is primarily known for its struggle for the country’s independence. It was here that the Declaration of Independence was proclaimed in 1912.
The monument was erected in Flag Square in 1972. In general, it closely resembles many similar socialist monuments found in various countries of the communist bloc.
Unlike the monument located on the outskirts, the National Museum of Independence is situated almost near the waterfront. However, the museum building itself wasn’t where the Declaration was signed; it was where the celebration of the first anniversary took place. Inside the museum, in several rooms, you can see photographs and interiors from that period (1910s-1920s).
- Monument of Independence: 40.47071, 19.49067
- Museum: 40.45223, 19.48525
- Ticket cost: 200 lek (entry to the monument is usually free)
- Time to allocate: 30 minutes for the museum and 3 minutes for the monument, if you happen to be on the outskirts of Vlora.
Author’s rating:3 out of 10. Not particularly engaging, to be honest. A few points are given out of respect for the Albanian struggle for independence.
Though I’d like to surprise you, the ethnographic museum in Vlora is exactly like those found in other Albanian cities. In several pavilions, the history of Albania is narrated, from Illyrian tribes to the early 20th century. The museum boasts a decent collection of household items, coins, and other artifacts obtained through archaeological excavations.
- Coordinates: 40.47229, 19.4917
- Entry fee and time to allocate: Currently, the museum building is under reconstruction. Part of the collection is housed in the nearby Historical Museum (40.47254, 19.49086). Entry there costs 100 lek, but gaining admission can be challenging as the schedule isn’t obvious, and even during working hours, it might be closed.
Author’s rating:2 out of 10. You can skip it if you’ve been to similar museums in other Albanian cities.
One of the oldest and well-preserved mosques in Albania, Muradie Mosque was built in the mid-16th century. Legend has it that it was constructed by the architect of the Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent himself, though this claim lacks precise confirmation. The mosque survived the 20th-century communist regime, allowing us to admire its medieval architecture today.
The mosque is still active. You can visit during the morning hours or when there are no prayers. Dress appropriately, as you would for a visit to any religious site.
- Coordinates: 40.46909, 19.49088
- Ticket cost: Free
- Time to allocate: about 15 minutes if you wish to go inside.
Author’s rating:5 out of 10. The architecture is intriguing, but I didn’t feel the urge to go inside.
The city’s attractions have been covered, and now we offer some options for places you can reach by car.
The closest to the city is Kanina Fortress, located on a hill overlooking the city. It’s not easily reachable on foot, but it’s accessible by car: the road is rough, but it’s only about 3 kilometers. It’s around 15-20 minutes from Vlora by car.
Kanina Fortress stands at an elevation of 380 meters above sea level on Mount Shushica. In the 6th century AD, the fortress was founded by the Roman Emperor Justinian I.
Interesting to know:During the Middle Ages, the fortress belonged to local prince George Arianiti. Interestingly, Albania’s national hero, Skanderbeg, married his daughter. Their wedding was celebrated in this castle. After Skanderbeg’s death, the Turks almost completely razed the fortress.
Today, only small sections of the fortress walls remain. There isn’t much to see, but from the height, you’ll enjoy breathtaking views of Vlora and the bay. Picnics during sunset are especially popular here.
- Coordinates: 40.44460, 19.52153
- Ticket cost: From 100 to 300 lek (yes, we paid 100 lek, but some friends visited and paid 300 lek at the ticket booth). At another time, the ticket cost 200 lek. Moreover, during the off-season, there might not even be anyone in the ticket booth, and you can enter for free.
- Time to allocate: If you’re staying in Vlora for an extended period, you can spend half a day here for a picnic. If you’re passing through, allocate about an hour for exploring the fortress and taking photos.
Author’s rating:7 out of 10. For splendid sunsets. Plus, it’s only a 5 km drive from central Vlora. If you’re adventurous, agile, and skillful, you can even walk there 🙂
Karaburun National Park and Sazan Island
Karaburun National Park and its eponymous peninsula are located south of Vlora. It’s the largest peninsula in Albania. However, reaching it is possible only by yachts or boats since the peninsula is closed due to a military base.
Some reports suggest that travelers have accessed the peninsula’s bays and beaches on foot. Yet, I must warn you that the path leads through a military base. If you can negotiate with the guards, you might be allowed to pass. However, it seems they rarely grant access. Additionally, you’ll only be able to appreciate the caves and wild beaches from the sea side.
Around 10 in the morning from Vlora’s port, boats depart to take tourists around the bays and beaches of the peninsula. En route, you’ll stop at Sazan Island, visible from Vlora. It’s also closed for unrestricted access, but they allow a 15-minute stroll along the beach.
- Coordinates: 40.39146, 19.36006
- Cost: The boat ticket costs 2000 lek per person (around $20)
- Time to allocate: At least half a day, if not a full day.
Author’s rating:10 out of 10. There’s no need to ponder for long. If you’re in Vlora, embark on a sea tour of the bays of Karaburun. You won’t find more “Instagram-worthy” beach photos anywhere else.
- For the best beaches in Albania, you can refer to a separate article.
And now, we venture to a location situated about 10 km north of Vlora. This is an ancient Orthodox monastery dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. It’s located on an island connected to the mainland by a picturesque bridge. To reach here, you can use your own car, take a taxi (one way), or even a bicycle. A beautiful bike path runs along the coast.
The island itself is small, and the monastery is still active. However, no one will prevent you from taking a stroll within its premises. Just make sure to dress appropriately, as it is a religious site, after all.
- Coordinates: 40.51740, 19.40240.
- Ticket cost: Free entry.
- Time to allocate: Definitely half a day, especially if you’re purposefully heading here for a leisurely visit, and even more so if you’re cycling.
Author’s rating:7 out of 10. The journey to these places can be promising. Even though I’m not particularly fond of walking around churches and monasteries, the surroundings offer picturesque locations worthy of capturing in your memory.
Beaches in Vlora
In this section, we’ll explore where you can swim and sunbathe in Vlora, which beaches are better, and which are best avoided.
Interesting to know:Vlora is often referred to as a city where two seas meet: the Adriatic and the Ionian. However, this is not entirely true. The boundary between the two seas is actually at Llogara Pass, which is 30 km away from Vlora
Within the city, there are two major beaches:
- The Old Beach (Vjeter) to the north of Vlora’s port (40.45655, 19.46897),
- and the Ri Beach (Plazhi i Ri) to the south of the port (40.43786, 19.49486).
The Old Beach is a public beach, free of charge, and despite being lined with major hotels, it boasts sandy shores and a gradual slope—ideal for families with young children. It offers all necessary amenities, such as changing cabins, showers, restrooms, and cafes. On the downside, it can get a bit dirty during the peak season, as it’s popular and might not be cleaned promptly.
My advice: When at the Old Beach, opt for its northern part, where a pine forest begins. It’s much more comfortable there.
Ri Beach. It’s quite similar to the Old Beach, but the southern side has more pebbles.
Beyond Vlora, there are many picturesque beaches. The best among them:mu
- Bora Bora
- 40.3891, 19.48166
- Entrance fee applies, starting from 500 lek for an umbrella and lounge chair.
- Beaches in the village of Radhime
- 40.37889, 19.48057
- Free of charge, cozy, with small pebbles.
For details about vacationing in Albania with children, you can read this article.
Tips and Recommendations
Firstly, what I want to recommend to travelers:
- Feel free to plan an extended stay in Vlora, perhaps even a month.
This is one of the few cities in Albania comfortable for foreigners to live in. It offers both beach relaxation and developed infrastructure.
- Definitely allocate a day for a boat tour exploring the bays and beaches of the Karaburun Peninsula. It’s truly worth it.
- If you have a car, take a trip towards Orikum – an ancient “suburb” of Vlora to the south of the city.
Modern Orikum doesn’t particularly attract tourists – the beach is uncared for, and the infrastructure is rural. However, there are many interesting attractions in the vicinity. These include the ancient Byzantine church of Marmiroi (40.30423, 19.44662), the ruins of the Gjon Boçari fortress (40.31118, 19.50253), and the village of Tragjas. The ancient Greek ruins of Orikum are located within a military base. Locals claim that leaving the ID at the guards and for 300 lek you will be able to go to the ruins of Orikum.
For budgeting your trip to Albania, I recommend the article: the cost of a vacation in Albania for two.
As you can gather from all that has been said, Vlora certainly deserves your attention. Moreover, the more time you can dedicate to it, the better. Rest assured, Vlora won’t disappoint you.
And we wish you an engaging journey through Albania and unforgettable experiences!
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