An ancient Illyrian city, Shkodra is Albania's cultural centre. A past that can still be seen living on the streets vibrant with life and trade in this city proud of its identity.
Your hotel in Shkodra will allow you to experience the city of a thousand faces – Greek, Roman, Venetian, Byzantine and Ottoman – with its churches and its beautiful mosques. After a turkish bath and a visit to the cultural centres such as the library and the prestigious universities, Shkodra will impress you with its nightlife.
Shkodra is 99 km from the country’s Capital city Tirana, 37 km from the Hani i Hotit border crossing-point (with Montenegro), and 16 km from the Murriqan border crossing-point (with Montenegro). It is situated along the shores of Lake Shkodra, and close to the Drin and Kir Rivers. It lies close to Lake Shkodra, the largest in the Balkans.3. How to arrive
By air: You could come via the Mother Theresa International Airport at Rinas, Tirana (98 km), and the Podgorica Airport (Montenegro, 55 km, and then cross the border at Hani i Hotit).
By sea: You can travel from the Durrës Sea-port, 123 km, and the Vlora Sea-port, 233 km. It is only 40 km away from Ulqin in Montenegro, crossing through Murriqan, and 60 km from the Tivar Sea-port.
By road: If you come from the north (Montenegro): Hani i Hotit – Shkodra (37 km) Murriqan – Shkodra (16 km). If you come from Kosova: Morina – Kukës – Fushë Arrëz – Puka – Mjeda – Shkodra (176 km), Qafa e Prushit – Kukës – Fushë Arrëz – Puka – Mjeda – Shkodra (188 km). If you travel from Dibra e Madhe: Bllata – Peshkopia – Burrel – Milot – Lezha - Shkodra (199 km) If you come from Ohrid, Pogradec, Korça and Kapshtica: Thana Pass – Librazhd – Elbasan – Tirana – Lezha – Shkodra (281 km) If you travel from Kakavija, Saranda, Gjirokastra and Vlora, you have first to get to Fier, and then, continue in the direction: Fier – Durrës – Fushë Kruja – Lezha – Shkodra (158 km from Fier).4. History
Shkodra is a city with 2500 years of history. The area around the site where the city is situated today, was inhabited since prehistoric times. Traces from the Middle Palaeolithic period are found in the area. The beginnings of urban life in Shkodra date back to the 5th-6th centuries BC. During this time, the walls encircling the city were fortified, the same as the walls around Lissus, or Ulqin, and other towns. The first walls were built with cyclopean stones, with no mortar. The castle is perched on a 130-metre high hill at the entry to the city (see: Rozafa Castle). During the first ancient period, the area was inhabited by the Illyrian tribe of the Labeates. In the 3rd century BC, another Illyrian tribe, the Ardiaeans, became predominant in the city, particularly under King Agron. Shkodra remained part and parcel of the Illyrian Kingdom, irrespective of its importance within that Kingdom eat different periods of time. During this time, the city saw economic growth, proof of which are the first coins minted in the city in 230 BC. In 181 BC, Shkodra, known as Scodrinon in ancient Greek and Skodra in Latin, became the Capital city of the Illyrian Empire, under the legendary Illyrian King Gentius, successor to Agron. At that time, Gentius expanded his realm considerably (north of the Neretva River, northwest of current Bosnia-Herzegovina, and southwards to the vicinity of the Lacus Lychnitis, nowadays Lake Ohrid). In 168 BC, during the so-called third and last Illyrian-Roman War, which was waged in the area between the Rozafa Hill and the Berdica hills, King Gentius was forced to hand the city over to the Romans, with the city being turned into an important centre of the Roman Empire on the entire eastern Adriatic coast. Following the occupation of Shkodra by the Romans, the Illyrian Kingdom ceased to exist. Shkodra was initially remade into a community centre of the tribe of Labeates, and starting from 42 AD, into a municipium, i.e. a Roman colony whose inhabitants had the status of the Roman citizens with all rights and obligations. The Serbs occupied Shkodra in the Seventh Century B.C to hand it over to the Venetian Republic. During the Fifteenth Century the ottoman invasion took place, which lasted until 1913; later during the Balkan wars it was transferred under the government of Montenegro, but in the same year it was occupied by the international forces and times later it became part of the recently created Kingdom of Albania.5. Population, Religion, Economy
Population The district of Shkodra has 240,000 inhabitants, of which 110,000 live in the city itself. Ethnic minorities include a small Montenegrin minority population with a settlement on the eastern shore of Lake Shkodra, in the village of Vraka and its environs.
Religion Three religions coexist side by side in Shkodra. The city is the seat of a Grand Mufti of the Muslims (almost all of them Sunni). The Catholics, too, have the seat of their Bishopric here. The Orthodox Christians, who form the third group, are much less in number. They are Orthodox Albanians and Montenegrins living in the Vraka area, on the shores of the Lake.
Economy Agriculture, light and food processing industry, as well as power generating are the main economic activities in Shkodra.6. Traditions and Customs
Traditional dwellings in the city of Shkodra feature a wide porch in several versions: front porch or side porch. They have a simple architecture and are two-storeyed, with the ground floor not being inhabited. These houses have high wall fences. A typical urban centre, Shkodra is distinguished for its narrow streets, with high stone wall fences on both sides, and big gates.
Folk Costumes: A typical clothing item for the women in the Shkodra area above the Drin River includes xhubleta, a bell-shaped skirt, with a wavy hem, especially at the back. The costume with fustanella is made up of the shirt, fustanella, tirq, belt, vest and short felt jacket. Later on, the costume with fustanella was replaced with felt trousers.
Folk Dances: Shkodra’s folk traditions include the well-known bucolic dances, such as the Dance of Sowing, in Zadrima.
City of Music: Distinguished wedding-parties in Shkodra and the jare, cultivated lyrical songs. The jare are nothing other than Italian lyrical arias adapted to the Gheg dialect (northern dialect of the Albanian language).
Cuisine: The traditional dishes in Shkodra include: Baked Carp (Shkodra dish). The main ingredient of this dish is the carp. Meat balls in gravy Tespixhe (sweet noodle pudding).7. Places to visit
Rozafa Castle: The Castle was built around 4000 years ago. It is the place where the first elements of the urban human life were recorded. As well as the Castle Museum, the Castle houses objects dating back to various historical periods. The medieval Castle assumed its present shape in the second half of the 14th century, during the Balsha rule. The medieval walls built in stone and mortar, were erected on top of the more ancient Illyrian walls, and follow the irregular ups and downs of the terrain. The interior of the Castle is divided into three yards, communicating with one another by means of small gates. The Castle is marvellously perched on a lime rock elevation about 135 metres above the sea-level, at the spot where Buna and Drin join together. In the eyes of the majority of the visitors, it contains all the dramatic elements that gave rise to the legends about the big medieval Balkan castles, such as Rozafa.
The Catholic Cathedral and the Friars’ Chapel: The construction of Catholic Cathedral was completed in 1898. The west wing of the Cathedral houses the rectory of the Bishop of Shkodra, a 19th-century building of typical Italian architecture. In the diocese building, you may find even more detailed information about Catholic churches and traditional Catholic celebrations. The Franciscan Church which the Shkodra believers call Kisha e Fretënve (Friars’ Chapel), is one of the most highly frequented in Shkodra. Almost entirely reconstructed after the 1990’s, it nevertheless preserves its architectural features of the 19th century when it was first built. This church is well-known all over Albania, because two of the most outstanding individuals in the Albanian history of the first half of the 20th century, Father Gjergj Fishta and Dedë Gjo Luli, are buried there.
Oso Kuka’s House and the Historical Museum: The house is a traditional two-storeyed building, over two hundred years old, reconstructed in the eighties. The ground floor serves as the Archae ology Pavilion, and the first floor as the Ethnography Pavilion. Oso Kuka was a legendary Albanian captain who, in 1862, following a long siege laid by the Montenegrins, blew up himself and his soldiers at the Vranina Island in Lake Shkodra. The Museum displays the wonderful Jesuit and Franciscan collections (between 1850 and 1890), and is constantly enriched with documents and artworks. The Museum boasts 2,700 original specimens, artefacts and relics of great historical value and in good condition, as well as around 5,000 documents, most of which in the original, and 40,000 educational documents. The Museum presents the history of the Shkodra area in a synthesised manner.
The Marubi Photo Archive is housed in the same building as the Art Gallery. The Photo Archive is one of the richest not only in the Balkans but also across Europe. Its founder was Pietro Marubbi (born in 1831, and died in 1904), an Italian revolutionary from Piacenza, who settled in Shkodra in the early 1850’s, and was later naturalised an Albanian. In 1856, he opened a photographic studio in town. An 1858 photograph of a rich nobleman taken by Marubi is the first known photograph taken across the Balkans. It was taken only 32 years after the first photograph ever taken in the world.
Razma: Razma is situated in the heart of the Albanian Alps and also in the center of tourist attractions in Shkodra Region. The geographical position which is very favorable, 50 km away from Theth, 100 km awy from Vermosh, 30km from Shkodra’s lake, 70km from the Adriatic Sea (Velipoja) make Razma a tourist crossroad with lots of opportunities for a tourist. In Razma are found 12 different caves in it, Razma is really favorable for the development of various sports for example mountain climbing in Veleçik, in Kunora’s Peak, trecking in the Fushë të Zezë (Black Area). Inasmuch in Razma there are 4 months of snowfall it is the ideal place for skiing, the asphalted and well-maintained road makes it a road that is never blocked by snow. The dense flora of pine and beech forests give Razma an incredible beauty in every season, by making it very pleasant to visit not only by vacationers, but also by groups of naturalists and colony of artists.
Theth: Quite close to Shkodra are the Albanian Alps, known for their majestic unspoiled natural beauty. The village is known for the hospitality of its inhabitants and the stone houses called kulla (tower). In order to explore these areas better and enjoy being there, you’d better take along a local guide. It would be a good idea to meet the village clerics because they are a source of useful information.
From Shkodra to Shiroka and Zogaj: Shiroka is a well-known village along the shore of Lake Shkodra. It is 3 km only away from the Buna Bridge, and 5 km away from the Shkodra city centre. During the trip, you will be able to see numerous fishermen, and several recently built restaurants offering tasty local food and fresh produce. Shiroka offers numerous beaches and quality services to all visitors and tourists. If you plan to spend a night in the peace and quiet of the Lake, feel free to do so. In the same direction, only 4 km further lies Zogaj, a village very similar in character to Shiroka. Here you will also find good restaurants offering tasty traditional dishes, mainly Lake fish. Both are fishermen’s villages.
From Shkodra to Velipoja: One of the most important beaches and tourist resorts in Shkodra, it is 35 km from Shkodra only. The varied landscape, including sea, beach, river, its delta and islets, hills, fields, a lagoon, the forest, and wetlands, makes Velipoja a very pleasant tourist resort. It is the best place to watch Eastern Adriatic birds on the sand dunes and shallow sand pools and ponds. Populated from early times, the area boasts an ancient history, and is rich in ethno-folkloric traditions. Its people are hardworking fishermen and farmers, and have a fine sense of humour and unparalleled hospitality.
The Buna Delta: which is located 10 km from the center of Valipoja is characterized by the presence of two islands, Franz Joseph and Ada island, the last one has a very rare species of oak called "wood root." The delta is a great place for fishing lovers.