With a very important historical and cultural center, famous for its spas, Elbasan is one of the most important cities of Albania; everywhere you can feel the characteristic Albanian hospitality and its hotels completely deserve this fame. You cannot say you know Albania unless you have visited Elbasan and its surrounding regions. Located right in the center of Albania, it has an infinite amount of attractions for tourists. You will find stories and objects from Roman times to our days, in addition to the picturesque river and mountainous pristine landscapes, as well as old and modern churches and mosques. The County of Elbasan consists of a variety of different landscapes, despite its relatively small size. It is considered as the cradle of Albanian education. A symbiosis with schools has given these people characteristics that you will find only here: a love for books and culture, wisdom, and hospitality. In addition to seeing monuments of nature and history, you will also be able to meet new friends. You will see that you will agree with us once you are there.2. Geographic position
Elbasan is one of the major cities in Albania. It is an important crossing point from north to south and from east to west. It is located at a crossroads on the roads from Tirana and Durres to Berat and Ohrid, connecting the west to the east both in ancient times (Via Egnatia) and today, being on Corridor XIII. Elbasan Is localited 56 km from Tirana.3 . How to arrive
By Air: Through Mother Teresa Airport in Rinas, 71 km.
By Sea: Through to main ports: Durres (88.9 km), and Vlora (186 km).
On Land: The road on the Pass of Krraba can be used by lighter vehicles and is only 56 km long. From Montenegro you can drive through Han i Hotit or Murriqan, and drive towards Tirana and then on to Elbasan. From Macedonia, you can drive through Qaf-Thana border checkpoint along the Qaf-Thana – Prrenjas – Librazhd – Elbasan Road. This road is a little over 70 km long. From Greece, you can drive through Kapshtica border checkpoint along the direction of Kapshtica-Bilisht-Korça-Pogradec-Qafë-Thana-Prrenjas-Librazhd-Elbasan. This road is about 120 km long.4. History
Its location by natural ancient roads has also defined the history of this ancient city. Archeologists think that it dates back to the first century A.D.; however, it is mentioned in ancient documents in the second century A.D. It was one of the most important stations on Via Egnatia, which connected Durres with Salonika and Constantinople. Its first name was Skampis. Two centuries later it was mentioned by the name of Hiskampis, a city living off the cereal and leather trade.
In the fifth century it had its own bishop, who is mentioned as a bishop equal to all other bishops of the Byzantine Province of Epirus Nova. It was at that time when it fell prey to the waves of Barbars, Goths, Visigoths, Avars and Ostrogoths. This marked the first fall in the former prosperity of the city. It seems, however, that Hiskampis lost its significance because the road that had given birth to it, Via Egnatias, lost its importance.
Following the division of the Roman Empire into two separate parts, Via Egnatia was not as important as it had been, thus weakening the city. In the 19th and early 20th century, Elbasan became a focal point of the Albanian cultural and nationalist movement aiming at preserving the national identity. The movement was initiated by Dhaskal Todri and Konstantin Kristoforidhi (see: Attractions in Elbasan).
Taking advantage of the freedoms granted by the Young Turks, the first Albanian language school was opened in 1908. One year later, since Elbasan was the center of all Albanian lands and could be easily accessed by delegates, the National Education Congress took place in the city. The Congress decided to open the Teachers’ School, which would prepare the first teachers for Albanian language schools in the country. The opening of the Teachers’ School was an important event in the Albanian education history.5. Population, Religion, Economy
Population: The City of Elbasan has a population of 135,560 (2005). Population in Elbasan also includes members of the Roma and Wallachian communities.
Religion: The four religions officially recognized in Albania are present in Elbasan. Muslims, Bektashis, Orthodox, Christians. Elbasan is a typical example of peaceful cohabitation of the various religious groups in Albania. People there take part in each other’s religious celebrations, and interreligious marriages are common.
Economy: Agriculture, both crop and animal farming are quite important for Elbasan. City of Elbasan have rich and varied resources for sustainable development of tourism in all areas,6. Traditions and Customs
The typical urban house in Elbasan is a two-story building with a chardak. This typical house has two floors, with the ground floor used as a warehouse/cellar, while the first floor is used as the dwelling. The chardak is the open part that connects the dwelling quarters with the outside world. The members of the household stay in the chardak in the longest period of the year.
Citrus Farming: Elbasan cannot be imagined without its citrus trees such as oranges, lemon, etc. Its houses seem to reside in eternal greenery. Every house in Elbasan has an orange orchard that surrounds it, which the locals simply call the “field”. Elbasanians are very good at pruning, fertilizing, irrigating and grafting. In addition to traditional varieties, they have grown new ones, especially all-year lemons.
Folk Songs: Songs from Elbasan are mainly love songs. Scholars think that they were originally sung by dervishes in the Bektashi tekkes, and were then disseminated among the people.|
Local Celebrations: One of the most popular celebrations is Summer Day—a festival that comes from ancient times, a delicate and poetic occasion, a celebration of life renewal. Summer Day has been preserved in Elbasan and its environs with all its elements from the times when Diana the goddess of forests, wild animals, plants, hunting, springs and rivers was adored. Diana protected mothers and their children as the joy of life renewal. This was a pagan celebration. Other typical elements of 14 March (Summer Day) include flowers, green areas, bollokumes, turkey dishes, and strolls in the countryside, songs and dances, games and other entertainment. There are also fairs and festivals, and visits from statesmen. Population in Elbasan increases manifold on Summer Day. People come here one night before from across Albania, Kosova, Macedonia, Montenegro, Presheva Valley and other countries. Visitors include both Albanians and foreigners.7. Place to visit
Attractions in Elbasan
The fortress will attract your attention as soon as you reach the center of the city. The fortress of the ancient town Skampi was built by the Roman Emperor Diocletian (A.D. 284-305) of Illyrian origin, and served as the center of a Roman legion. The fortress has a rectangle shape, 308 by 348 meters. It was surrounded by a moat the depth of which was 4 meters, and which drew water from the Stream of Zarranika. It has four gates, which are protected by towers. It has 26 towers. Its corner towers have a peculiar shape and are 12 meters tall, while the gate towers are square and the remaining 20 towers are U-shaped. The towers protrude from the walls entirely, with the exception of the four towers that protect the west-east road gates, which protrude only halfway. The towers are located 40-50 m from each other. Three periods are clearly distinctive in the surrounding walls: the Roman period, the early Byzantine period and the Ottoman period. The Fortress of Elbasan is one of the most interesting field fortresses in the Balkans. It is closely related to Via Egnatia, which goes through it from west to east. Inside the fortress you will see a quaint old neighborhood with well-preserved houses.
Bezistan Basilica: To the south of the century-old oriental plane tree in the center of the city, a basilica dating back to the fifth century was discovered in 2007. The basilica also has a monumental tomb, which is covered by a mosaic, and is located about 30 meters from the southern wall of the fortress, near its gate. The basilica has architectonical elements of high archeological and artistic values, including the mosaic and frescoes. The mosaic is a masterpiece of fine artistry. It depicts the pattern of eternity.
Ethnographic Museum: One cannot be said to have visited Elbasan unless he has seen its Ethnographic Museum. On the ground floor, which was traditionally used as a cellar, some of the numerous crafts of the city are on display. The upstairs shows the typical house of a rich household. The exhibits provide rich information on the multidimensional development in Elbasan over time, including its economy, lifestyle, culture, arts, etc.
Elbasan-Bushek: This is the shortest tour, starting from the center of Elbasan. To go to Bushek you should take the road to the big village of Shushica, which is only a few kilometers long. Bushek is a tourist attraction for the locals. Located very close to the river Shkumbin, several cold water sources spring from a high hill. There are several quite good restaurants there, which offer tradition cuisine cooked mainly with local produce from the surrounding villages. We suggest you go there in the hottest hours of summer to escape the heat.
Elbasan-Llixha: To get to the thermal spas—locally called the llixha—you should cross over the Shkumbin Bridge to the west of the city and take the road to Cërrik for only 12 km. there is public transport to the thermal spas. In a hilly location, somewhere above the village of Tudan, there are hundreds of thermal water sources with high sulfurous content. The water temperature sometimes reaches 56 degrees Celsius. The water is rich in various salts, which make it curative for such disease as rheumatism, arthritis, and illnesses of the peripheral nervous system, skin, digestive system, and others. In Llixha there are several specialized hospital-hotels that also provide relevant medical services. Recently the locals have built a few quite nice small hotels on individual water sources. Their premises are comfortable, and they provide all the necessary amenities. Do not be put off by the heavy smell; you will get used to it in a few minutes. Lixha is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Albania.
Elbasan-Shijon: Shijon is only five kilometers away from Elbasan. In the north of the village is the old monastery of Saint John Vladimir. The big Monastery Church was built by Karl Topia in the 14th century. Karl Topia was a powerful Albanian prince, who had even connections with the Anjous. An inscription in three languages—Latin, Greek and Slavic—at the Church entrance states that Karl Topia “built this monastery in his glory”. The Monastery was one of the most important religious and cultural centers in Albania. You can stay in the village for a long time. In summertime it is a getaway from the city noise and heat. You will also find all the services necessary for a journey in time.
Elbasan-Librazhd: To get to Librazhd you should follow the road to the east of Elbasan. You should stay at least for a couple of days in Librazhd. There you will be able to spend quite special holidays, including fishing by the river and long walks along the Shkumbin or on the mountains.One itinerary you can choose is the road to Çermenika. It is a remote mountainous area with a long history. One special thing about it is that you will see elements of that Albania which is becoming extinct. There you will see traditional stone and wooden houses, and even old traditional costumes worn, especially, by old women.