"Erected in the air, this town can be seen from all sides." This is what Ana Komnena of Byzantium wrote in the 12th century. A combination of the sea, the mountain, the lake, the forest, and the river represents a space of just several square kilometres surrounding Lezha. Home to ancient historical ruins, Lezha also evokes ancient memoirs. The wonderful nature, culture and history make Lezha a place in Albania where tourism will be developed, and today in this city are found many hotels that are able to offer excellent services.2. Geographic position
It lies in North-western Albania next to the Adriatic waterfront, in between the Zadrima Plain to the north and the Bregu i Matit Plain to the south. Lezha is situated 42 kilometres from the capital city Tirana.3 . How to arrive
By air Through the Rinas Airport, Tirana (52 km), or Podgorica (Montenegro). The distance from Han i Hotit border check-point to Tirana is 60 km.
By sea Through the Durrës Sea-port (81 km), the Vlora Sea-port (235 km), or Ulqin (Montenegro), 72.6 km.
By land, in your own car: If you come from Montenegro, through the Han i Hotit or Muriqan border check-points, you should drive through Shkodra (46 km away from Lezha). The distance from Han i Hotit to Lezha is 60 km, Murriqan–Lezhë, 44.1 km. If you come from the northeast and Kosova (Prishtina), you may choose to cross one of the two border check-points: at Morina from where, after having passed Kukës and Fushë Arrza, you may either drive in the direction of Puka-Vau i Dejës-Bushat-Lezha, or in the direction of Gjegjan-Rubik-Milot-Lezha. Morina border check-point-Lezha (266 km), Puka-Lezha (72 km). Otherwise, if you come from Kosova (Gjakova), you may drive through the Prush Pass, and from there, in the direction of Kruma-Kukës-Fushë Arrza-Puka-Vau i Dejës-Lezha. If you come from Peshkopia or Dibra e Madhe, you have to follow the following itinerary: Bulqiza-Klos-Burrel-Milot-Lezha. Bllata border check-point-Lezha (266 km), Bulqiza-Lezha (94 km). If you come from the east, Macedonia, Korça and Northern Greece, you have to follow the following itinerary: Pogradec-Elbasan-Tirana-Lezha. Distances: Pogradec-Lezha 208 km, Kapshtica-Lezha 280 km, Pogradec-Lezha 204 km, and Elbasan-Lezha 118 km. If you come from the south, southeast and Greece, you should drive in the direction of Gjirokastra, Tepelena, Fier, Durrës and Lezha. Distances: Gjirokastra-Lezha 275 km, Tepelena-Lezha 243 km, Fier-Lezha 157 km, and Kakavija-Lezha 307 km.4. History
Lezha is first mentioned in historical documents in the 4th century BC as Lissus. According to ancient sources, it was founded by tyrant Dionysius of Syracuse. The latter carried on a colonising expedition along the shores of the Adriatic Sea in 385 BC. The normal urban life in Lezha dates back precisely to this point in time. Before that, another short-lived settlement had started to develop up the Hill of Shëlbyem, south to the Hill of Lezha. The archaeologists called it the Acropolis (ancient Lezha). The Citadel becomes especially well-known following an important meeting of the Albanian nobles summoned by Gjergj Kastrioti Skanderbeg, the Albanian National Hero. On 2 March 1444, the Albanian leaders from the North and the South agreed to fight together against the Ottoman occupiers. The Albanians’ organised resistance started off precisely on that date and continued for 25 years, until 1479, when the last Albanian castle, that of Shkodra, surrendered. Lezha fell into Ottoman hands in the preceding year, in 1478. Skanderbeg seems to have been very closely linked with this town. It was precisely here that he spent his last days and was buried, in 1468, in the town church, situated in the low-lying area, by the side of the Drin River. When the Ottomans conquered the town, they exhumed the Hero’s remains and used them as amulets. They believed that carrying some part of the Hero’s skeleton with them would render them as brave as he used to be. St. Nicholas Church, which housed his grave, was later on turned into a mosque. The most important monuments in Lezha are precisely related to Skanderbeg’s era.5. Population, Religion, Economy
Population: the District of Lezha amounting to 94,000 inhabitants. With a surface of 5.5 square kilometres, the town itself totals 22,900 inhabitants. Given that the town is targeted by the migratory movements featuring inhabitants from largely northern and north-western rural areas, recent years have seen an increase in the size of the Lezha population.
Religion The population in Lezha belong with the Catholic and Moslem religions (chiefly in town). Catholic religion is prevalent in the suburbs, with the Orthodox believers accounting for a very small number of people.
Economy: The economy at Lezha relies on the revenues generated from tourism, fishing, agriculture, and to a lesser extent, from industry, with the private businesses contributing to the latter’s revitalisation in recent times.6. Traditions and Customs
The typical dwelling in the low-lying area of Lezha is the single-storey house with two living rooms connected by a hallway, with one of them being the guests’ ‘room,’ and the other the area where everyday activity occurs. Of a relatively large size, windows are inserted into one side of the structure.
Traditional clothing: The female’s typical clothing in the area of Zadrima includes a sleeveless woollen dress with a long undulating colourful lower part. Silver metallic ornaments stand out against a decorative backdrop. In the area of Zadrima, typical male clothing includes trousers with waistband, xhurdi, similar to the costume with decorations worn in the area of Malësia e Madhe and Mirdita.
Dances and songs: Lezha is a typical district in which labour-themed dances are performed alongside the other lyrical and epic dances similar to those performed in the area of Shkodra and Mirdita. The Dance of Sowing, with its subject matter taken from agricultural activities, is quite typical. The existence of numerous variants is attributed to the chorographical expressive means and the approach of its vocal accompaniment. Lezha suburbs are rich in folklore. Songs to the knights and ancient ballads are sung in wedding parties and social events. Rhapsodists compete with their new epic, lyrical and satirical creations in the Rhapsodists’ Folk Festival, on 15 august.7. Place to visit
The Citadel of Lezha is regarded as the biggest in Central Albania, and a hallmark of the late Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman architecture. It rises atop a hill around 305 metres high. The hill is located around 80 metres behind the Franciscans’ Church. The entrance gate is visible on the south-western side of the fortification, and is part of the tower that used to protect the lower part of the ancient town. It is worthwhile mentioning that the construction techniques are complex given the use of large blocks of stone, cut with high precision and well chiselled. Once in the interior of the Citadel, you will eye the ruins of Ottoman buildings, a garrison mosque, and a limestone massif in the middle. The open area around this massif is nearly 250 square metres. The encircling walls dating back to the Byzantine era were destroyed by the Ottomans who employed them for other constructions. As you walk past the south-eastern wall, you will run into a tower featuring a Roman arch. On the southern part of the wall, you will see a single tower base overlaid by subsequent constructions. Down in the plain, on the side of the Memorial Monument to Skanderbeg, you will come across one of the lower gates ascribed to the ancient period (4th century BC). The site has been excavated, and the gate has recovered its former appearance.
Memorial Monument to Skanderbeg: The Memorial Monument to Skanderbeg was built way up St. Nicholas Church in which Skanderbeg was buried in 1468. The Memorial Monument to the Hero Gjergj Kastrioti Skanderbeg was built in 1981 in an effort to evoke the vibe surrounding the League of Lezha, as well as to provide a burial-place to Skanderbeg. The bust to Skanderbeg worked by Odhise Paskali, one of the best known Albanian sculptors, along with a copy of his sword and bronze helmet, rises on the floor of the nave. Inside the walls there is an array of shields glowing with the armorial bearings of the tribes participating in the League of Lezha, which entered into alliance with Skanderbeg. An obelisk commemorating the reconstruction of the church is set up alongside the church, with a plaque on the wall being dedicated to the League of Lezha. Time: 09:00 – 15:00. Price of ticket: 100 lekë
The Franciscans’ Church: This church was built in 1240. The church is across the town, on the other bank of the Drin River. Its name is attributed to the first Franciscans’ assembly held in honour of San Francesco d’Assisi, who should have crossed here on his journey back from the Holy Places.
Lezha-Kune-Shëngjin-Rrenc Mountain-Rana e Hedhun: In order to reach the sea-port at the Shëngjin beach you should leave Lezha, and foot the short distance after the bridge across the Drin River, sticking to the national road linking Lezha with Tirana. You will have to drive for six kilometres until Shëngjin. You will notice a big arch on which ‘Welcome to the Shëngjin Beach’ is written. Now you are on your way to Kune, the most important beach at Shëngjin. Nestled against black pines, this beach stretches for entire kilometres south wise. For all the time of your stay at Shëngjin and the suburbs, you will never lose sight of the line of the overlooking mountain. This is the Rrenc Mountain. The first Shëngjin inhabitants heading for the low-lying area came down from this mountain. If you check with the local fishermen, they will point to a pathway that will take you to an entirely virgin place, which is called Rana e Hedhun (Thrown Sand). Perhaps for the first and last time in a lifetime you will see an entire mountain of ... sand! The winds blowing from the sea have formed a several-metre thick layer on the side of the mountain perched on a small bay. It is a wonderful place for swimming and sunbathing. When you visit there, for sure you will feel like spending many more hours. A sand mountain and an entirely crystal-clear sea: does it take more for one to enjoy swimming and sunbathing?
Lezha - Ishull Lezha: In order to reach Ishull Lezha (Lezha Island), you have to take the road from downtown Lezha towards the south. And, having driven past the town’s stadium and a flyover on the railway track, you may claim that you have already entered that area. Ishull Lezha is the name for an entirely inhabited area. It has been given such a name because it is surrounded by water from almost all the sides, and it may indeed be called a real island. It offers a typical beach landscape. For several kilometres you will walk alongside the Drin River of Lezha. And further on, all that there is to the landscape is boundless reed ground and typical plants growing at the edge of lagoons.
Lezha-Vela: You may reach Vela from the town of Lezha, moving into the north-east direction by following what the local population calls the Brick Factory Street. You may as well drive on this road. However, you are advised to travel on foot. Vela is a cool tourist location, full of greenery and numerous sources of cold water springing from the surrounding mountains. The Lezha population and the inhabitants of its suburbs holiday at this tourist site frequently. This trip will indeed be very rewarding if you join a group of local friends.
Lezha-Patok: The area lies west of Lezha between the valleys of the Mat and Droja Rivers. It is divided into two parts, and communicates with the Adriatic Sea by means of a canal. Patok is surrounded by wonderful still virgin beaches, and may be the ideal location not just to swim and sunbathe, but also to admire the rare natural landscape enlivened by rare birds and undamaged vegetation. Do not miss out on the chance to taste the fish from this area. It is delicious. The local fishermen stand out for their hospitality.
Lezha-Shkopet-Ulza: Given that you are in Lezha, it is worthwhile taking a trip beyond the Mat Bridge, following the road leading further on to Burrel and Dibra, and further on, to Macedonia. If you keep on driving on the Lezha-Tirana old road, past the new Mat Bridge over which the railway runs, you will see a small town with houses dispersed in between the river bank and the side of a not very high hill. This is the town of Milot, known across the area for its weekly livestock market. Turn left, and continue on the road running along the right bank of the Mat River. In a matter of minutes, you will arrive at a place where the Skuraj Brook flows into the river. This is a wonderful spot to go on a picnic and spend time at the beach. Particularly in very hot weather, you will be able to relax and rest under the shadow, plunging in the water of numerous ponds that the river creates. You may swim and sunbathe at the water edge of the Mat River. However, you will find more privacy further amidst the green banks. A relatively big lake occurs across it. Lake Shkopet is ideal for boat trips, or for fishing. you keep on to the east, several hundred metres away only you will notice a road sign indicating ‘Ulza, 4 kilometres. Close by the small town, on the western shores of the big lake, the commune has developed a beach, where you may swim in the clean water and rent a boat. A stop at the shores across the beach is highly recommended. Thus, you will also be able to get to know the traditional Albanian towers that have survived. The area is famous for its very tasty fish, abundant variety of fruit, and local population’s traditional hospitality. At the centre of the small town of Ulza you will find everything you need in terms of information, food and accommodation, or your equipment.