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korÇA

2009 - 2010

instant

Introducing Korça
A proud and cultured town high in the hinterlands of southeastern Albania, Korça
(pronounced KOR-cha) is a world away from Tirana, and is indeed close to Greece
in more than one way. Locals cross the border to nearby Kastoria and further afield
to Thessaloniki and Athens for the latest fashion, religious festivals, education, jobs
and family visits, and many of them are fluent in both Greek and Albanian.

Korça is known for its pretty girls, its tradition of seranades, and good food. Despite
its small size, it has quite a few great sights, including an excellent icon museum, a
bustling bazaar, a fantastic Byzantine-era painted church, a top-rate beer brewery and
a great beer festival. In the immediate surroundings, Pogradec has a lovely lakeside
setting and Voskopoja and Dhardha make for great daytrips in the mountains.

This new Korça In Your Pocket guide is the first English language city guide to this
fascinating destination. If you have any comments, please let us know at [email protected]
inyourpocket. com. Enjoy Korça.

2getting around

2009 - 2010

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Arriving in Korça
Arriving by plane
Albania’s only airport is in Tirana, 175 km northwest of Korça.
After arrival and passport control, most foreigners need to
pay a €10 fee to enter the country. There’s an airport at Ohrid
in Macedonia, 110km from Korça, serving mainly charter and
Balkan flights. Across the border in Greece, Kastoria airport
(76km from Korça) has flights to Athens, while Thessaloniki’s
airport (247km) has flights across Europe.

Arriving by train
Korça is not on the Albanian rail network, but the the sta-
tion at Guri i Kuq a few kilometres north of Pogradec is the
terminus of trains from Tirana. A direct bus to Korça (200
lek) waits for the trains from Tirana. Other furgons wait to
take passengers to central Pogradec.

Arriving by bus
There are no bus stations in Albania, and most buses drop
passengers off near the bazaar in the centre of Korça.

Arriving by car
The roads in Albania have seen massive improvements
over the past years, and the ride from Tirana to Pogradec is
pretty smooth. The Pogradec-Korça road is being upgraded
at the moment, causing some delay and considerable couds
of dust, and is expected to be completed in late 2009; at
the moment it takes 40-50 minutes to cover the 35km
between both cities.

Taxis
Taxis are green or blue with white roofs. All taxis in Korça
are independent, though most collaborate with the central
taxi switchboard at tel. +355 24 44 44. A ride within the
city should cost about 200 lek; all other rides are subject to
negotiation. Korça’s main taxi rank is outside the Grand Hotel
on the main square; in Pogradec ask for Rruga Rinia.

Public transport
Korça has five city bus routes aimed at shuttling residents to
the suburbs. Buses run every 30 minutes. Tickets cost 30 lek
regardless of destination and are bought on board.

Car rental
There are no car rental companies in Korça, though if booked
in advance, the car rental companies in Tirana can bring a
car to Korça for you. Cars with drivers or guides can be hired
via the local travel agents.

Buses
Korça is well served by buses from the main cities in Albania,
as well as Thessaloniki and Athens in Greece. There’s no
bus station and no official timetable, so it’s a good idea
to ask around for the exact departure locations and times
before travel - many buses depart from beside the bazaar
along Shetitorja Fan Noli. Most minibuses (furgons) depart
as soon as they’re full, starting from various places in town,
sometimes trawling through the streets to find passengers.
Buses to Gjirokastra and Greece are slower but more com-
fortable large buses.
There are direct daily furgon buses from Korça along the
Pogradec-Elbasan route to Berat, Durrës, Tirana and Vlora.
There’s a daily early morning bus (departs around 06:00)
using the stunning mountain pass route to Gjirokastra,
continuing to Saranda every second day.

The daytrip destinations Voskopoja, Gorica e Madhe (Lake
Prespa) and Vithkuq can be reached by a daily furgon, but the
timetable may not leave you enough time to explore.

Trains
The nearest place with rails is Pogradec, from where Albanian
Railways (Hekurudha Shqiptare, HSH) runs one daily, basic
and extremely slow diesel-hauled train to Tirana. Pogradec
train station (stacion i trenit) is a few kilometres north of
town along the lakeside, and tickets for the train are available
just before departure.
It’s much faster to take a bus, but if you have the time, the
stretch to Elbasan is a marvellous train ride, as you first
trundle along the lakeshore and then wind down a lush valley
towards Elbasan, sometimes perched high on rusty viaducts.
Avoid the flat tedious bits of rail beyond Elbasan by taking a
bus to Tirana or elsewhere.

Travel agents
Hotels and plane bookings and guided tours in the region
or elsewhere in Albania.

Albania Travel & Tours B-4, Blv. Gjerg j Kastrioti,
Pall. Çajupi 2, tel./fax +355 82 24 38 62, [email protected]
abissnet.com.al. Also on Rr. Reshit Çollaku in Pogradec,
tel. (083) 22 26 17.
Gulliver OK B-4, Blv. Gjergj Kastrioti, tel. +355 82 24
36 97/+355 68 227 04 70, [email protected], www.
gulliver-ok.com. A friendly travel agent that doubles as the
local Tourist Information Centre (see also ‘Sights’). Flight
bookings as well as local tours; ask for Orieta who is an
expert on the region and speaks fluent English. QOpen
09:00 - 19:00.

korÇa

www.inyourpocket.com

Map Hotels restaurants Bars Sights

2009 - 2010
MINI-GUIDE

Including
PoGraDEC

From Pogradec To Pogradec

Dep. Arr. City Dep. Arr.

12:50 16:00 ELBASAN 09:30 12:23

12:50 20:00 TIRANA 05:00 12:30

Train schedule

About this guide
This Instant guide contains the content of the Korça In Your Pocket
miniguide, the first English-language guide to Korça, Pogradec and
surroundings, produced in March 2009 in cooperation with Korça
municipality, GTZ Albania and the Gulliver OK Travel Agency. Copies
of the printed miniguide are free and can be found locally as well as in
many other distribution points in Albania including hotels, embassies,
airports and tourist information centres; copies may also be sold for
200 lek to allow bookshop distribution. The full content of this guide
can be viewed at http://albania.inyourpocket.com. Find In Your Pocket
guides to Tirana, Shkodra, Pristina, Skopje, Belgrade, Zagreb, Ljubljana,
Athens and other cities online at www.inyourpocket.com.

All In Your Pocket editorial content is independently written and is free from paid-
for advertising. In Your Pocket has made every effort to ensure the accuracy of
information at the time of publication and assumes no responsibility for changes
and errors. All comments and enquiries are welcome at [email protected]

Published by In Your Pocket, Albania Experience Sh.P.K, Rr. Papa Gjon Pali II, Pall
11/1, kati 5, Tirana, Albania, http://albania.inyourpocket.com, tel +355 4 225 56
55, fax +355 4 227 19 60.

All texts and photos © Albania Experience Sh.P.K; all rights reserved; no part of this
publication may be reproduced in any way without the prior written permission of
the publisher. Maps copyright Korça municipality and prefecture.

Publisher: Gazmend Haxhia
Co-publisher, texts, photos, editing: Jeroen van Marle (rentapocket.com)
Albania manager: Alida Karakushi, tel. +355 68 20 61 390
Fact-checking: Froseda Angjellari
Layout/design: Tomáš Haman
The publishers would like to thank Rajmonda and Vangjel Nase, Ismail Beka, Luan
Dervishej, Maria Grazia Amore and especially Orieta Gliozheni.
Cover photo: The cathedral seen from the Vangush Mio museum courtyard.

Page 2

3

Instant Korça

basics 4where to stay

2009 - 2010

Korça has plenty of hotels to choose from, with everything
available from an Ottoman inn to comfortable three-
star options. Breakfast is included unless mentioned
otherwise.

George E-7, Rruga Korce-Mborje, tel. +355 82 24 37
94/+355 69 208 31 12. Named after the owner’s father,
this curious structure on the hillside just east of town has
triangular rooms arranged like pieces of pie. Feel as happy
as a cherry in one of the newly built suites with wide wooden
beds and spanking clean bathrooms. The quiet location
makes air conditioning unneccesary as you can sleep with
windows open. Along the road to Mborje, it’s a bit of a walk
from the centre, but just a short taxi ride. Q 36 rooms (5
singles 1,500 lek, 25 doubles 2,500 lek, 6 triples 4,500
lek). LKW

Gold C-3, Rr. Kiço Golniku 5, tel. +355 82 24 68
94/+355 69 236 43 50. A modern and friendly hotel
with balconied rooms in various shades of brown, all
equipped wi th en sui te bathrooms wi th reliable hot
water. Just off Boulevard Gjerj Kastrioti. Q 10 rooms
(2 singles 1,500 lek, 7 doubles 3,000-3,500 lek, 1 triple
4,000 lek). PLK

Grand B-5, Blv. Gjergj Kastrioti, tel. +355 82 24 31
68, fax +355 82 24 26 77, [email protected]
Recently brought back to grandness with a thorough renova-
tion, the glistening marble hall of Korça’s largest hotel (and
one of just a handful with a lift) leads to adequate, simple
rooms overlooking the main square. The hotel brochure
proclaims “Yes, this miracle must be felt to be believed” and
without drawing the divine into it, we certainly feel it’s worth
a look. Q 84 rooms (26 singles 2,500 lek, 45 doubles
4,000-5,000 lek, 7 suites 6,000 lek, 2 VIP suites 10,000
lek). PHAUFLGKW

Han Elbasan B-5, Rr. Naum Kristo Vokopoja. The
wonderful 200-year-old inn built to accommodate traders
from Elbasan is Korça’s oldest hotel and has been taking
care of travellers for centuries (see also Sights). The four
wooden rooms above the main gate that are available
for foreigners are simple but clean, with basic shared
facili ties at the end of the corridor. With the bustling
bazaar right outside, i t’s an excellent and atmospheric
option for budget travellers in the warmer months. Q
25 rooms, 4 suitable for foreigners (250 lek per bed).
Breakfast not included.

Koçibelli (Turizem) B-5, Blv. Gjerg j Kastrioti, tel.
+355 82 24 37 94/+355 69 207 55 39, [email protected]
com. Formerly the dour state-run Hotel Turizmi, this newly
renovated hotel with its modern blue glass facade has decent
rooms with cable TV and en suite baths or showers. Koçibelli
overlooks the busy main square, so ask for rooms at the back
for a peaceful night’s sleep. Q 30 rooms (singles 2,500
lek, doubles 3,500 lek, triples 4,000 lek, suites 6,000 lek).
Breakfast not included. PHFLKW

Konti A-3, Rruga Korça-Pogradec, tel. +355 82 24 49
27, fax +355 82 24 38 15, [email protected], ho-
[email protected] A glam-looking hotel in Korça’s
industrial zone, overlooking the noisy main road into town.
Not the most romantic or central place to stay, but handy
for a early morning escape to Tirana. The single rooms
and cheaper double rooms have shared bathroom facili-
ties; air-conditioning is available in the suites and some
doubles. Q 27 rooms (3 singles 1,300 lek, 19 doubles
2,000-3,500 lek, 1 triple 4,000 lek, 5 suites 5,000 lek).
PHAKW

Internet access
There’s free internet access at the Thimi Mitko Library.
World Cup Blv. Gjergj Kastrioti. Surfing at 100 lek/
hr. QOpen 08:30 - 24:00.

Mobile phones
Three rather expensive providers are active in Albania.
AMC numbers start with 068, Vodafone numbers with
069 and Eagle Mobile numbers with 067. It’s easy to
buy and recharge a mobile phone SIM card for around
600 lekat the operators’ shops; recharge vouchers are
sold in kiosks too. National rates for pre-paid calls are
between 30-55 lek per minute.

AMC Blv. Fan Noli 26, tel. +355 82 25 28 33, www.
amc.al. QOpen 08:30 - 20:00. Closed Sun.
Eagle Mobile Blv. Fan Noli, Lgj. 3, tel. +355 82
25 40 50. Also at Blv. Gjerg j Kastrioti. QOpen 08:00
- 20:00. Closed Sun.
Vodafone Rr. Guri Stratobardha 2, tel. 25 28 30.
Also at Rr. Themistokli Gërmenji, pall. 2. QOpen 08:30
- 20:00. Closed Sun.

Post
Posta Shqiptare has the following rates for postcards/
letters under 20gr: Albania 15/20 lek; Italy, Greece,
Kosovo & Macedonia 20/30 lek; rest of Europe 30/50
lek; Americas 50/90 lek; elsewhere 40/60 lek.

Post office B-5, Blv. Gjerg j Kastrioti, tel. +355
82 24 39 92, www.postashqiptare.al. QOpen
08:00 - 16:00.

Public telephones
Public card phones can be found on the street, at hotels
and in post offices. Telephone cards are available at post
officesand should be wrapped in clear plastic. If you don’t
plan to talk away a whole card, you can rent one from
the ‘businessmen’ often found lingering near the phones.
Prices will run about 20 lek a unit.

Telephone calls
International calls: Dial the international access
number (00), the country code, the area code and the
subscriber’s number. Call 12 for international directory
assistance.
National calls: For calls outside Korça, dial 0, the city
code and the subscriber’s number. Call 14 for domestic
directory assistance.
Local calls: Korça numbers have six digits, all starting
with a 2.
Calling Albania from abroad: Dial the country code
(355), then the city code (Korça’s is 82). To call a mobile
phone in Albania from abroad, dial 355, then drop the
0 and dial 38.

Mail & Phones

Korça is one of very few cities in Albania with a good
municipal website with information in English: www.
bashkiakorce.gov.al.

Tourist Information Centre B-4, Blv. Gjerg j
Kastrioti, tel. +355 82 24 36 97/+355 68 227 04
70, [email protected], www.gulliver-ok.com.
Sharing an office with the Gulliver OK travel agency, the
TIC has maps and booklets about the city and region,
and can help with general information and hotel and tour
bookings. Ask for the knowledgeable English-speaking
Orieta Gliozheni. Hiring a guides for trips in the city or the
surroundings costs €35 per day if booked in advance.
QOpen 09:00 - 19:00.

Tourist information

Albania’s population is 3,619,778 (2008 estimate). There are
more than two million ethnic Albanians in Kosovo, hundreds of
thousands in Macedonia and Montenegro, and an estimated
two million in the United States, Switzerland, Germany,
Greece, Italy and Canada. In Korça, some 65% of believers
are Orthodox, with the rest split between Muslim, Bektashi
and Catholic.
At 28,748 square kilometres, Albania is a bit larger than
Wales or Maryland. The highest mountain is Mt. Korabi near
Peshkopi, at 2,751m.
At 3,710 square kilometres, Korça prefecture is the largest
of Albania’s 12 prefectures, and is ranked 4th in population,
with 265,000 inhabitants (2001). The prefecture’s two cities
Korça and Pogradec rank 7th and 11th in Albania, with
55,000 and 24,000 inhabitants respectively (2001).

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Kristal D-4,, tel./fax +355 82 24 89 92, tel. +355 69
209 83 21, [email protected] Up on the hill over-
looking town, this former ‘worker’s hotel’ is a large concrete
block with standard rooms and good views over the city and
the plains beyond. Unless you like long walks, you’ll need your
own transport or a taxi to get to and from town. Q 61 rooms
(4 singles 2,000 lek, 47 doubles 3,000 lek, 10 triples 4,500
lek). PHALKW

Pallas B-5, Rr. Misto Mame. The convivial doorman of
this ghastly hotel whispered to us that it should be closed
down, and he’s absolutely right. Anything but a palace, this
hotel has downright shitty rooms with sagging beds, mouldy
bathrooms, crumbling ceilings and broken mirrors. A smudge
on Korça’s fine reputation - but it’s oh so cheap. Find Pallas
in the alley next to the Procredit bank. No telephone. Q
6 rooms (singles 300-500 lek, doubles 600-1,000 lek).
Breakfast not included.

Regency B-5, Rr. Ismail Qemali 7, tel. +355 82 24
38 68/+355 69 230 47 48, fax +355 82 24 38 70,
[email protected], www.regencyalbania.com.
The ‘American-style’ Regency is one of few self-proclaimed
three-star hotels in Albania actually living up to the standards.
With good rooms and a quiet corner location in the city centre,
it’s often the hotel of choice for business travellers, though it
remains firmly Albanian, witness the ubiquitous chain-smoking
men hanging out in the lobby bar. A good breakfast is included
in the price. Q 18 rooms (2 singles €30, 14 doubles €40,
2 suites €40). PHARFK

Smerald C-3, Rr. Viktimat e Pojanit 1, tel. +355 82 24
50 93, [email protected] Great value for money,
this small but modern business hotel was the first in town with
key cards, is decorated with abstract art and has a funky-
coloured bar area. The decent-sized rooms come with marble
sinks and safes. In summer, there’s a piano bar here too. Away
from all the action, it’s located 100m from the stadium, off
Blv. Republika. Q 10 rooms (8 doubles 4,500-5,000 lek,
family rooms 6,000 lek). PHARFL

Vila Sidheri C-4, Rr. Mbledhja e Beratit, tel. +355 82
24 58 14/+355 68 205 64 45. Opened in early 2009, this
utterly charming new bed & breakfast is an excellent place
for a relaxed stay. The renovated house is built in traditional
Korça style, while the cellar restaurant and rooms are fur-
nished with the owner’s antique collection. Near the centre,
just east off Boulevard Republika. Q 4 rooms (singles €25,
doubles €50).

P Air conditioning A Credit cards accepted

K Restaurant H Conference facilities

T Child friendly U Facilities for the disabled

R Internet L Guarded parking

F Fitness centre G Non-smoking rooms

W Wi-Fi

Symbol key

How far does your euro, pound or dollar go in Korça?
Espresso 50-100 lek
Glass of local beer (0.5 litre) 200 lek
Mineral water (1 litre) 50 lek
Mars bar 50 lek
Hamburger 100 lek
Cinema ticket 150-200 lek
Public transport ticket 30 lek
100km by bus/train 400/250 lek

Exchange rates (per 1-4-09)
€1 = 131 lek; £1 = 141 lek; US$1 = 99 lek

Purchasing power

Page 3

Vila Themistokli C-5, Blv. Themistokli Germenji, tel.
+355 82 24 87 99. A well-known old café/bar along the
main road. Fine for a coffee break in between sightseeing,
and a good place to catch live music on summer weekends.
QOpen 07:30 - 24:00. PAE

International
Amerika C-3, Blv. Republika, tel. +355 82 24 76 73.
As eclectic as the New World it’s named after, the small but
modern interior of this Albanian-Italian restaurant holds a
stuffed grouse, African statues and a Tutanchamon mask.
There’s a popular terrace to escape all the history. QOpen
08:00 - 24:00. (600-1,000 lek). PLGBW

Valbona C-4, Blv. Republika, tel. +355 82 25 31 74. It’s
back to 1985 at the rambling commie-era Valbona restaurant.
Mainly used for wedding banquets and funeral meals, come
when invited but avoid otherwise. QOpen 07:00 - 24:00.
(500-700 lek). PLB

Italian
Antic Pizza C-4, Blv. Republika, tel. +355 82 24 31 47.
We’re not sure if they mean antiques, antics or something
else, but the pizzas at this popular restaurant are worth a
try. Decorated with stone arches and wine bottles, Antic has
just a few tables, so if it’s full, lay your scene in fair Verona,
just across the street. QOpen 11:30 - 24:00. (400-600
lek). PS

Verona C-4, Blv. Republika, tel. +355 82 25 28 28. A
quiet, modern pizzeria along the main drag, right opposite
Antic and alike in dignity. QOpen 11:00 - 24:00. (400-700
lek). PSW

Out of town
Prince Park Rruga Korça-Pogradec. Family fun can be
found 10km out of Korça on the Pogradec road. This modern
entertainment complex has a bar with indoor and outdoor
seating, a garden, children’s playground and a small football
field. QOpen 08:00 - 24:00. B

Turkish
Liceu Taverna C-5, Rr. Sotir Gurra, tel. +355 82 25
28 06. An old building opposite the imposing French school
houses the Liceu Taverna. Entered through a garden with an
old well, it has four cosy rooms with wooden furniture. On the
menu are well-prepared Turkish specialities, grilled meat, fresh
fish and salads. QOpen 07:00 - 24:00. B

5 restaurants

Instant Korça

Korça is one of the best destinations around for good
Albanian food. Apart from the ubiquitous pizzerias, there
are several welcoming restaurants serving local food
in a great setting. Don’t miss out on the kernace, spicy
small sausages. The price range in brackets indicates the
average price of main courses.

Albanian
Shtëpia Voskopojare C-5, Rr. Gaqo Koroveshi,
tel. +355 82 24 27 84/+355 68 205 44 88. This
small vil la beside the cathedral ser ves up cheap and
excel l en t Albanian dish es. Th e small salad feeds
t wo, and the qof te and other gri l l ed meat dishes
are fresh and tasty. Si t in one of two dining rooms
in ‘ambjente luksoze’ behind the pret t y porch wi th
Ionian pil lars, or on the shel tered terrace ou tside.
QOpen 08:00 - 15:00; 19:00-24:00. (800-1200
lek). PEGBW

Taverna Qilari C-5, Rr. Bardhyl Pojani 8, tel. +355
69 248 96 93, [email protected] An unassum-
ing apartment building on a quiet street off Blv. Republika
holds Korça’s best culinary surprise; an utterly charming
cellar tavern serving huge portions of local nosh. The two
dining rooms are wonderfully done up with old photos,
keys, ancient Albanian radios listing exotic radio stations
and a medieval tavern scene painting. Local dishes include
kernace, piperka me djathe and tave, as well as some
Mexican snacks spelled local-style: kesadia, burito and
tako. Some English is spoken. QOpen 13:00 - 23:00.
(800-1,300 lek). G

Taverna Vasili C-3, Rr. Kostadina Gaçe, tel. +355
82 24 66 10/+355 69 214 85 83. Renowned as the
best place in town to try Korça and Albanian speciali-
ties - at modest prices. The grilled qofte and kernac,
roast beef with spices, piglet, koloface salami, game
and fish are all wonder full y presented and delicious,
and for something special, order the Korça cannelloni
or call in advance to order lamb and koran (Lake Ohrid
trout) dishes. There’s an elegant dining room upstairs
wi th an open grill, and a rustic cellar space.QOpen
13:00 - 24:00. PGS

Cafés
Mësonjtorja C-5, Blv. Themistokli Germenji, tel. +355
69 204 77 48. Near the First Albanian School museum, this
modern bar with cubist and old paintings on the walls is fine
for a relaxed coffee. QOpen 08:00 - 24:00.

Niva Akullore B-4, Blv. Gjergj Kastrioti. Delicious ice
cream, of both the scooped and machine varieties. Look
for the shop decorated with juggling penguins.QOpen
09:00 - 20:00.

Serenata B-5, Rr. Ismail Qemali 7, tel. +355 82 24 38
67. The café inside the Regency hotel is a convenient spot
for foreigner travellers to meet up. Simple surroundings, good
coffee. QOpen 24hrs. PALGW

Sky Café C-5/6, Blv. Republika, tel. +355 82 25 30
70. Just south of the cathedral, the café perched on top
of a modern high-rise building offers the best views over
central Korça. The terrace seating is perfect but the lounge
bar inside, where the locals prefer to huddle and smoke, has
windows that are useless for scanning the horizon. This was
the first place in Korça to have wifi. QOpen 07:00 - 23:00.
PGBW

P Air conditioning A Credit cards accepted

E Live music S Take away

G Non-smoking rooms L Guarded parking

W Wi-Fi B Summer garden

Symbol key

6nightlife

2009 - 2010

There’s a concentration of bars at the far end of Blv.
Republika near Rinia Park, though the best options
are in the town centre. For proper clubbing you’ll need
to go to Tirana or Greece, but Korça does have the
charming daily xhiro, a mass evening stroll up and
down the full length of Boulevard Republika, which
is shut for traffic for this purpose during the early
evening hours.

Bars
Bar Bunkeri Bilishti, tel. +355 68 205 51 36. I f
you’re driving to or from Greece, I t’s well worth pulling
over for a coffee or a snack at the bar inside one of
dictator Hoxha’s thousands of bunkers. Find i t along
the main road, 1,5km south of Bilishti village. QOpen
08:00 - 24:00.

Havana C-4, Blv. Republika, tel. +355 82 24 52 89. Like
Buddhism, Cuba-ism is a popular bar theme and Korça can’t
stay behind. It’s not much more than a name in this case,
as this bar is simply a purple space filled with young lads
drinking and smoking. Still, it’s one of just a few bars in town
with a summer terrace on the pavement outside. QOpen
07:00 - 24:00. BW

Moska C-5, Blv. Republika, tel. +355 69 225 59
99. One of Korça’s best-looking bars, a first floor affair
wi th sil ver air ducts, stylish wooden walls and large
balcony windows overlooking the main street. Named
Moscow, i t has paintings of great Russians and oil
paintings of Korça alleyways lining the halls. Corona,
Fosters, Kronenbourg and Paulaner beer are available,
there’s a wine room and a a pleasant rooftop bar in
summer. Par ties ever y last Saturday of the month.
QOpen 07:00 - 24:00. PG

O2 Bar Blv. Republika, tel. +355 69 226 50 07. Set
in a rambling building above the local chamber of com-
merce, this bar hasn’t made it into the new millennium
unscathed. The sea-themed décor is a bit outdated, but
even though the full-sized snogging mermaid in the mural
does her best to cheer you up, you’ll need more than one
drink to process it emotionally. On the plus side, there’s a
wood burning stove cosily crackling away. QOpen 08:00
- 14:00, 17:00-24:00.

Piazza C-5, Rr. 6 Dëshmorët, tel. +355 68 207 45 60.
A popular new bar, built in the characteristic Korça style, with
two floors, a basement level and a buzzing terrace overlook-
ing the cathedral. Next door to Shtëpia 1821. QOpen
07:00 - 24:00.

Premier C-5, Blv. Themistokli Germenji, tel. +355 82
25 18 99/+355 68 206 27 44. Just down the street from
the First Albanian School museum in a modern highrise
complex, Premier has the nicest outdoor seating area in
town, a terrace with parasols beside a gurgling fountain.
There’s live music here on summer weekends. Inside, there’s
a stylish café that’s fine for a quick coffee break. QOpen
07:00 - 24:00. EB

Privilegj C-3, Blv. Republika. A popular but dimly lit tri-
angular bar amidst a clutch of nightlife options at the far end
of Blv. Republika. Good for a quick coffee or beer. QOpen
18:30 - 22:30.

Royal Park D-3, Rinia Park. A simple bar at the far end
of Rinia Park, at the point where everyone turns around and
strolls back. QOpen 07:00 - 22:00.

Shtëpia 1821 C-5, Blv. Republika, tel. +355 82 25
49 54. A hopping bar in a traditional-style building near the
cathedral, with a lively scene and a great terrace, linked to
that of Piazza next door. If you like it or not, there’s regular
karaoke and a ladies’ night on the last Saturday of the month.
QOpen 07:00 - 24:00.

Vanessa D-3, Rinia Park, tel. +355 82 24 79 11. A new,
modern bar built on the site of an old but popular kiosk, in the
centre of the park. Enjoy your beer surrounded by birdsong
and strolling couples.QOpen 07:30 - 23:30. P

Vasport C-5, Blv. Republika, tel. +355 82 25 03
88/+355 68 206 20 22. A pleasant restaurant right op-
posite the cathedral, serving traditional Albanian dishes and
wines. QOpen 07:00 - 23:00. PALGW

Vecchia Casa C-3, Blv. Republika, tel. +355 82 25 48
80. A bar set in a renovated building near Rinia park. Large
terrace. QOpen 08:00 - 24:00. PEB
Vila Alket C-5, Blv. Republika, tel. +355 69 268 81 30.
A quaint and fun bar attracting an older audience, set back
from the boulevard in an old stone house. The two floors are
crammed with antiques and knick-knacks, including record
players, radios and stuffed badgers, foxes and wolves. There’s
a separate function room that’s decked out with old photos
and rifles. QOpen 07:00 - 22:00. PB

Zeus C-4, Blv. Republika. A bar with modern cream white
couches and wooden separations on the first floor above
the El Forno pizzeria. It’s named after the king of gods and
Aphrodite’s daddy, and women can enter without fear as the
bar is a self-proclaimed me te shoqeruar or ‘woman friendly’
place; no dodgy smoking men in leather coats huddled around
low tables here. QOpen 08:00 - 22:00. PW

Beer gardens
Panda Bar D-6, Rr. e Mborjës. Quite unique for this part
of Europe, Korça has a ramshackle but pleasant beer garden
directly beside the Birra Korça brewery. Both types of Birra
Korça brews are served, along with cheap grilled snacks.
In summer, it’s quite lively with families coming to enjoy the
weather and live music.QOpen 08:00 - 24:00. EB

Clubs
Omega D-3, Rinia Park, tel. +355 82 24 63 00. A bar set
in the park behind the St Sotir church, with plenty of outside
seating and a small stage on the roof. There’s a strange
interior with blue-lit stairs curling down into a space with
Klimt-inspired art. Come on Thursdays and Saturdays when
DJs do their disco nights. QOpen 07:00 - 24:00.

Live music
Skena Park B-3, Rr. 1 Maji, tel. +355 82 25 49
54/+355 68 201 00 94. The most popular bar in town
attracts people from all over the country to listen to the
famous Prifti Brothers and other artists singing traditional
and modern songs, many of them typically Korçan. It’s best
to ask before visiting to check if there’s a performance. Q
Open Fri & Sat 22:00-03:00. EB

Page 4

7 what to see

Instant Korça

Though small, Korça has a fantastic range of sights
in and just outside its city limits. Boulevard Republika
is a good street for a stroll, and on summer evening
you’ll be joined by hundreds of locals doing their xhiro
promenade when the street is closed off for traffic.
It’s lined by old villas with decorative metal railings,
flower gardens and fragrant linden trees. Do take the
time to explore the old streets away from the modern
boulevards - you can find typical old cobbled streets
between Blv. Gjergi Kastrioti and Blv. Republika,
though the prettiest streets are directly behind the
cathedral.

Churches
Church of the Ascension (Kisha e Ristozit) Mborja
village. One of the best sights in Korça is this tiny, quiet
chapel in a village just east of town. This magnificent 14th
century Byzantine church is painted with brightly-coloured
frescoes that UNESCO specialists describe as being among
the best in the Balkans. In the narthex, the entrance hallway,
note the Day of Judgement fresco which shows a dragon
swallowing sinners in a river of fire, above some vivid il-
lustrations of what happens to sinners and non-believers;
devils gleefully ride atop people, wrench off noses, drill holes
into heads and span people in front of ploughs... believe
or burn! Unfortunately some frescoes are damaged by
ignorant tourists and electricians. Serious art lovers should
bring a flashlight to illuminate details in the dark interior.
The church can be found in the centre of Mborja. Follow the
signs out of town past the brewery and the George hotel
to Mborja; the church is in the village centre, a 20 minute
walk uphill from central Korça. If the church is closed, ask
around for the key.

Or thodox Cathedral (Katedralja Ngallja e
Krishtit) C-5, Blv. Republika. Korça’s Or thodox
Cathedral of the Ressurection was completely rebuilt in
1992 after the previous church on this site, St. George
cathedral, was destroyed by the Communist authorities
in 1968. Now the impressive pink building is the largest
church in Albania, and the second largest in the Balkans.
Inside, the modest white interior is is dominated by a huge
carved wooden iconostasis. Also note the Albanian eagles
carved into the chairs.

Spring of Life church (Kisha e Burimi Jeted-
henes) C-5, Rr. Kryengritja e Qershot. This church,
near the Mitropoli tan offices and also known as the
Mi tropoli tan church, was unluckil y selected by the
communist authori ties to be used for the Museum of
Medieval Art in the 1980s, and was subsequently nearly
completely destroyed to be turned into a bland concrete
bunker. However, the side entrance leads to the new
Shën Gjerg j church at the back of the building, where
the original 18th century wooden iconostasis can be
viewed. The carvings in the dark wood are impressive,
though not all icons remain. Q Open 08:00-15:00,
Sat, Sun closed.

Museums
Korça’s charming museums are well wor th visi ting
and can al l be seen in a relaxed morning or a fter-
noon, but as they are often found locked during
opening hours i t’s best to phone ahead. You can
ask an Albanian-speaker to cal l, but the Tourist
In formation Centre wil l also arrange this for you,
and can also provide a guide to help explain and
translate.

8what to see

2009 - 2010

Archaeology Museum (Muzeu Kombëtar Arke-
ologjik) C-5, Rr. Mihal Grameno, tel. +355 82 22 52
800/+355 69 26 23 217. Housed in two charming and
well-preserved Ottoman-era buildings around a cobblestone
courtyard that are worth a visit alone, the town’s archaeology
museum holds 1,200 Hellenic, Roman and Paleo-Byzantine
objects from 6000 BCE to 600 CE. Highlights of the museum
are a Byzantine-era floor mosaic and various Roman graves.
Call ahead to make sure the museum is open. Q Open
08:00-14:00 Mon-Thu, 08:00-12:00 Fri, closed Sat, Sun.
Admission 200/100 lek.

Bratko Museum of Oriental Art (Muzeu Bratko)
D-6, Blv. Fan Noli, tel. +355 82 24 30 56/+355 69
215 65 61, http://users.rcn.com/laura2. This curious
building combining a traditional Japanese tori gate with
modern architecture houses the art collection of the Albanian-
American Dhimitër Boria (1903-1990). Boria emigrated from
Albania when he was 17, attending art school in Detroit
before working in Hollywood in an early animation studio
and as silhouette artist. Boria became a photographer for
the US Army in 1942 travelled widely in Europe and Asia. He
started to collect Oriental art of which some 400 artefacts
are exhibited in this museum that’s named after his mother.
The exhibition has pottery, jewellery, textiles and furniture
on display from 17 Asian countries. Look out for the Tibetan
tanka cloths, the Indian Hindi and Buddhist statues, the silver
lobsters and chickens, and the fabulous Indonesian masks.
Some but not all exhibits have English-language captions. It’s
a good idea to phone ahead to confirm the museum is open.
QOpen 09:00-13:00, 16:00-17:00, Sat, Sun by appoint-
ment. Admission 100 lek.

First Albanian School (Mësonjëtorja e Parë Shq-
ipe, Muzeu i Arsimit) C-5, Blv. Themistokli Germenji,
tel. +355 69 246 17 92. Focus of considerable pride and
symbol of national awakening under Ottoman rule, the first
secular school with subjects taught in Albanian was opened in
Korça on March 7, 1887. Until then, education was only given
by travelling teachers. Korça was a logical place for the first
school, as it was Albania’s largest and most developed city,
with many trade links to the east as well as to Western Europe
and the USA, and an open attitude to foreign influence and
change. Though the school was originally mixed, a special
girls’ school was opened soon after, in 1891. The Ottoman
rulers tolerated the schools as Albanians came in handy in
the Ottoman Army, but after Albanians began to request
too many liberties in following decades, their schools were
closed. This resulted in mass protest - in 1910 some 12,000
people met in Korça (and later in other cities too) to defend

the schools, with success. The school continued to function
until the building was turned into a museum in 1960.
Exhibits inside the former classrooms show documents that
are important to the development of Albanian education such
as the first written Albanian text (‘The mass’, written by a
Catholic priest) and the very first student book.
The story of the Albanian alphabet is interesting too, as it was
a language with no written history that was spelled in a mix
of Greek and Turkish letters until the current alphabet with
36 Latin-based letters was accepted in 1908.
Outside the museum, there’s a charming concrete statue of
the ABC with a large writing feather and pot of ink. We’re told
the exhibition will be in for a well-needed renovation soon, but
we hope they hang on to the wonderful socialist ABC curtains.
Phoning ahead is a good idea, otherwise rattle the museum
gates to attend the guard of your presence. QOpen 08:30
- 14:30; 17:00-19:00, Sat, Sun 09:00 - 12:00; 17:00-19:00.
Closed Mon. Admission free.

Medieval Art Museum (Muzeu Kombëtar i Artit
Mesjetar) C-5, Rr. Kryengritja e Qershot. The best
museum in Korça, and one of the best in the country, has
a collection of 6,500 icons from Southern Albania as well
as 1,500 other objects, of which some 200 icons and 50
metal objects are on display in this curious building. Once
the most important Orthodox church of Korça, the Mitropolia
church was ‘renovated’ beyond recognition and opened as a
museum in 1987 – you can still recognise bits of the church
inside and next door in the newly re-established Shën Gjerg j
church. Starting with icons from the 14th century, most icons
are from the 16th-19th centuries. Many are from Voskopoja,
which in the 17th was one of the main centres for iconog-
raphy in the Balkans. Orthodox art is highly regulated, and
all icons had to be painted following precise instructions,
with a fixed position prescribed for each saint; Mary can
only be depicted in nine poses. Note the two icons of St.
George that incorporate grisly martyrdom scenes, with
Turks (representing evil of course) inflicting unimaginable
cruelty upon unwitting Christians who immediately acquire
haloes. The museum’s highlight is the collection of icons by
the 16th century Albanian master Onufri, which stand out for
their vivid colours and wonderful detail. Onufri started his
career in Berat but made his finest works later in Gjirokastra.
Phone ahead to make sure the museum is open. Postcards
and an English-language booklet are for sale at the entrance.
QOpen 08:00 - 14:00; 17:00-19:00, Sat, Sun 09:00 -
12:00; 17:00-19:00. Admission 200 lek.

Sotir Studio, tel. +355 82 24 73 95/+355 69 227
46 45. Korça-born Kristaq Sotiri (1883-1970) worked as a
photographer in New York and Los Angeles between 1903
and 1923, cooperating with the famous George Steckel,
before moving back and opening a studio together with
painter Vang jush Mio. Using his American skills and tech-
niques, he photographed portraits, urban life and cultural
events. Some 14,000 photos survive in the Sotir family’s
private collection, and it’s possible to make an appointment
to see a selection.

Vangjush Mio Museum (Muzeu Vangjush Mio)
C-5, Rr. Pavllo Katro. The gifted impressionist artist
Vang jush Mio (1891-1957) had a remarkable painting career
encompassing 40 years, producing over 400 paintings and
300 sketches. He studied art at Bucharest’s art high school
in 1919 and continued to study art at Rome university
before returning to Korça in 1924. Painting mostly Albanian
landscapes and portraits, Mio also made scenes for the
local theatre and was the topic of a dozen exhibitions both
in Albania and abroad. The artist’s daughter Rozeta shows
visitors around the handful of rooms that show Mio’s best

works (though 60 are in Tirana’s National Museum). Korça’s
streets and surroundings haven’t changed that much judg-
ing by Mio’s beautiful paintings. Three nude paintings from
the artist’s Roman period in the 1920s are on display too.
Interestingly, Mio had to stop painting nudes as the local girls
didn’t want to pose naked as eagerly as Italian ladies. The
lovely two-storey traditional Ottoman-era building housing the
museum is worth a visit alone, as it has many original carved
wooden ornaments and ceilings (some of them painted too).
Find the museum at the rear of the cathedral. Call in advance.
Q Open by appointment only. Admission 50 lek.

Ottoman Korça
Bazaar (Pazari tradicional) B-5, Rr. Naum Kristo
Vokopoja. The slightly chaotic Old Bazaar district is perhaps
the best place in town to get an idea of how the bustling
trade town of Korça must have been in Ottoman times, when
merchants from as far away as Russia, Turkey, Greece and
Italy came here to buy and sell at the 1,000 shops, staying
at inns like the Han Elbasan. The haphazardly built street
stalls are piled high with all kinds of goods, from shoes and
clothes to car parts and watches, and there’s no better area
in town to find a cheap traditional snack of byrek or grilled
meat. The area burnt down many times over the years, but
the area was always restored. The remaining shophouses
are a very quaint backdrop for all the bustle, but many seem
like they could collapse any minute. Come in the morning or
early afternoon for the liveliest scenes.

Birra Korça Brewery D-6, Blv. Fan Noli 1, tel. +355
82 25 40 33/+355 82 24 29 65, [email protected]
com.al, www.birrakorca.com. Korça’s industrial pride,
and Albania’s only good-looking factory, is the beer
brewery at the eastern end of town. Founded in 1928 by
the Italian Umberto Uberti, the brewery was in service
until 2004, after which it was thoroughly renovated. The
pretty yellow buildings have been lovingly restored, and
visitors are welcome to tour the facilities.
Birra Korça makes ‘blond’ beer and is also the only brew-
ery in the Balkans to make dark beer, using the Czech and
Italian technology. It brews 120.000 hectoliters of beer
annually. The specific taste originates from the traditional
five-stage production method, and fermentation and
maturation takes place in the twelve huge 500 hectoliter
tanks poking out of the building. All ingredients except for
water are imported from Germany, Czech Republic and
Italy. Highlight of the tour is the brewing room where the
massive steel brewing tanks are surrounded by tile tab-
leaus depicting the brewing process and the consumption
of the end product, with devils helping brew the beer,
pretty girls serving it and rowdy punters having a party.
The brewery is happy to receive visitors and conduct
30-60 minute tours of the factory in Albanian or English.
Phone ahead to make an appointment. Beer tasting is
not part of the tour, but the adjacent Panda Bar serves
both types of Birra Korça.QTours by appointment. Open
07:30-15:30, Sat 07:30-15:00, Sun closed.

Carpet factory B-3, Rr. 1 Maji, tel. +355 69 271
69 45. Korça has been a centre for carpet-making for
centuries, and this factory (the largest of its kind in Alba-
nia) is the one place where you can see women making
the Turkish-style kilims and other carpets. Visitors are
welcome to have a look and buy carpets too; it’s best
to call ahead.

Industrial tourism
Kamenica Tumulus (Tuma e Kamenicës) Ka-
menica village, 8km south of Korça, tel. +355 69 268
70 09/+355 69 265 97 95, [email protected]
org, www.kamenicatumulus.org. A prehistoric burial
mound near Korça has been partly excavated and is now
open to the public, accompanied by an excellent little
museum (quite rare in Albania) with with an instructive
DVD and English-speaking staff that can guide you around
the site. The mound was used between the 13th to 6th
centuries BC, and visitors can view several discoveries:
the ‘Big Circle’ around the central grave and several
monumental structures. The tumulus site is marked with
flags, 8km south of Korça along the road to Gjirokastra.
Q Open 09:00-19:00 May-Sept, 08:00-16:00 Oct-Apr.
Closed Mon. Admission 200/100 lek.

Archaeology

Page 5

9 what to see

Instant Korça

10pogradec

2009 - 2010

Han Elbasan B-5, Rr. Naum Kristo Vokopoja. Once an
essential part of all bazaars from the Balkans to Central
Asia, Korça’s original han (inn) is one of just two in the Bal-
kans still functioning as a hotel (the other is in Bucharest).
Built by a Greek trader over 200 years ago, it was a safe
place where travelling salesmen could feed and groom their
horses, conduct business, eat, sleep and of course enjoy
some hanky-panky. This han was mainly used by traders
from Elbasan. Built around a cobbled courtyard with a well,
roses and a gate to keep out unwanted visitors, the han had
stables for horses downstairs, and simple rooms upstairs
along a gallery. Immediately after World War II, the inn was
used as a base by the UK and US forces before returning to
its original function as a simple hotel.
The han still functions as a hotel, but visitors are welcome
to look around the picturesque courtyard and galleries. Many
guests in the dirt-cheap rooms are unfortunate would-be emi-
grants who have been kicked out of Greece and are waiting
for a new chance to get in. Ask for former maths teacher, DIY
philosopher and long-term han resident Ilija who may be at
hand to sit and chat with you in English about life in Korça.

Mirahor Mosque (Xhamia e Iljaz Bej Mirahorit)
B-5, Rr. Xhavit Dishnica. Korça’s venerable mosque from
1484, the oldest in Albania, was founded by Iljaz Bey Mirahor,
who played an important role in the seige of Constantinopel
in 1453. The modest building looks a bit battered and its
minaret was only recently restored after being knocked down
by an earthquake long ago, but it’s a true survivor. The build-
ing is usually locked up, but before and after prayertime the
community is happy to show you the interior with it’s depic-
tions of Islam’s holy cities Medina and Mecca.

Turan Tekke Turan village, www.komunitetibektashi.
org. The temple in Turan village, 2km west of Korça along the
road to Voskopoja, is where Bektashis meet and pray. The
originally Persian Sufi order which is part of the Islamic mystic
tradition considered blasphemous in many eastern Muslim
countries, fled to Albania after Turkish leader Kemal Ataturk
banned all Sufi orders in 1925. Bektashis are Muslims and
believe in one God, but their liberal understanding of this is
close to pantheism; Bektashis venerate the wider prophetic
family and are noted for their tolerance of other faiths. The
local leader is Baba Mondi Brahimaj.

Parks
Park of Tears (Lëndina e lotëve) C-3, Blv. Republika.
The small triangular park at the bottom end of Bld. Republika
has a sad name as it was where the main road out of town
started, and it was here that the women waved a final goobye
to their menfolk, who were hauled into senseless wars or to
find work elsewhere. It’s a quiet little place now - the town
has expanded, and the local women have modernised and
are as mobile as the men now.

Rinia Park D-3, Rr. e Bilishtit. The Youth Park is a lovely
green expanse along a hillside just out of town. Pine trees
shade old men on benches from the hot sun, children zip
giggling around on electric cars and several restaurants and
bars cater to thirsty and hungry strollers. Pity the fountains
are dry.

Mention Dardha to anyone in Korça you’ll instantly get a
smile, so good is the reputation of this small mountain village.
Lovelier than any other village in Albania, Dardha is set in the
Morava mountains, 20 kilometres southwest of Korça, at
1344 metres above sea level and has about 50 permanent
inhabitants. The village is sheltered by the Shën Pjeter and
the rugged Guri i Vjeshtës (Autumn Rock) mountains and is
surrounded by flowering fields, orchards and forests, making
it an ideal base for hikes in the surroundings.

Founded in 1600 by Orthodox Christians escaping from
Ottoman conversion campaigns, Darhda is famous for
felt processing (incorporated in the local black/red folk
dress), Dharda had 500 houses in the early 1900s.
Nowadays, the village consists of a few narrow cobbled
streets winding between stone houses, many of which are
decorated with carved symbols and retain their traditional
flagstone roof tiles. Most of the village’s stone houses look
rather smart after recent renovations, yet there are few
modern additions to spoil the atmosphere.

Dharda has few specific sights, though it’s worth entering
the small Shën Gjergj (Saint George) church for its old
icons. Scattered along the streets are several public
fountains and wells spouting natural mineral water,
believed locally to cure all manner of ailments. Drink
sulpher-spiced water from the aptly named Uji i Qelbur
(‘filthy water’) spring if you have stomach problems.

Apart from the pretty streets and mountain views, the local
cuisine is a reason to visit; Dardha is famous for its huge
fire-baked lakror onion and tomato pies, the unusual side
dishes like snails, mushrooms and corn flour pie, all best
washed down with the local raki pear liquor.

The annual village festival is on Shën Maria (St Mary’s; 16
August), when the road is clogged with people returning to
the ancestral home for the day, and everybody dresses
up in their best folk clothes and joins in the religious
rituals and traditional dances. In winter, some hardy
types attempt to ski on the slopes around the village,
though there are no rental or lift facilities at all.

Dardha can be reached across basic gravel roads by car
or taxi; there’s no minibus service. Heading south out of
Korça, turn left into Boboshtica after passing the new
prison, and left again at the World War II monument,
pass the Shën Maria church and follow the road up
into the gorge.

Accommodation is available in a handful of village homes
where one or two rooms are available for guests, at about
1000 lek per room. It’s difficult to book ahead so it’s best
to simply ask around on arrival. The Shtëpia e Pushimit
(tel. 069 266 60 10/069 214 85 75; 15 rooms, 600 lek
per person) is a rather basic converted workers resort,
with small rooms, a few dorm rooms, shared showers,
a restaurant with pool table and terrace.

The best meals are to be had at the local’s homes; ask
around or look for Mrs. Stolie Mekolli for the best lakror
pie in town, though don’t expect fast service; order, go for
a walk and come back later. Alternatively, the Batelli bar
and restaurant along the road at the top of the village is
a great place for traditional food, served on the grassy
terrace with its great views.

Dardha

A town of modest pretentions, Pogradec (pronounced
PO-gra-dets) enjoys a wonderful setting on the shore of
magnificent Lake Ohrid, 40km north of Korça. Though its
history goes back to the Iron Age, the town has a modern
appearance. With its long sandy beach, fresh air and vari-
ous sights in the surroundings, Pogradec can be visited en
route to Korça or Ohrid.
The word Pogradec is of slavic origin, meaning ‘below the
small town’, and the scant ruins of a 5th-century castle
high up on the hill indicate there was once an Illyrian settle-
ment here.
Modern-day Pogradec is pleasant enough for a stroll. Just
west of the Enkelana hotel is a newly pedestrianised street
with old houses that show something of the fishing village
that was once here. Nearby, the modern concrete Ebu Bekr
mosque has an unusual double-balconied minaret.
Further east, the Church of the Resurrection (Ringjallja
e Hyjlindëses) at the end of Rr. Kajo Karafili I sthe main
Orthodox church in town. The St. Mary Dormition church
(Kisha Fjetja e Hyjëlindëses) can be found in the Lagja e
Toplecit area.
A sandy beach fringed by a well-tended park stretches
for over a kilometre along the lakeshore from the centre.
However, it’s not recommended to swim here until the new
sewage treatment plant is functional.

Drilon springs
Near the border 5km east of Pogradec, Drilon is a lush and
delightful park set around the ponds where crystal-clear water
originating from Lake Prespa bubbles up from the side of Mali
i Thate (‘dry’) mountain at an amazing 7 cubic metres per
second. You can feed the ducks and swans and rent a boat
for a quiet paddle around. The Vila Art restaurant (tel. +355
68 225 32 45) serves coffee, snacks and Albanian food. The
small village of Tushemist, a few hundred metres east of the
park, is worth a visit for its 6th century St. Pantaleon church
with its original floor mosaic. Drilon can be reached by the
bus to Tushemist, departing from near the Orthodox church
daily at 08:30, 09:30, 10:30, 12:30, 13:30 and 16:00 (tickets
30 lek), on one of the irregular furgon minibuses (50 lek) from
the same point, or by taxi (200 lek).

Lin Mosaic (Mozaiku i Linit) Lin village, tel. +355 69
26 23 217. The paleochristian basilica on a hill by pretty
Lin village, on a peninsula 20km north of Pogradec on the
western lakeshore, may no longer have any roof or walls, it
does retain some stunning mosaics dating to the 6th century.
Similar in style to the early medieval mosaics in Ohrid, just
across the lake, biblical scenes, flowers, animals, and many
other things are depicted on the old church floor, some in very

good condition. Unfortunately, the whole complex is protected
by a hideous modern concrete roof. Lin is along the road and
railway between Pogradec and Elbasan. A taxi from Pogradec
to Lin and back will cost around 1500 lek. Always call ahead
to be sure that the site is open. Q Open 08:00-16:00, later
in the summer months. Admission 200 lek.

Shkumbin valley sights
Several ancient and medieval curiosities can be found in the
upper reaches of the Shkumbin river valley, 30km northwest
of Pogradec, a relatively untouched site of the ancient trading
routes between the Adriatic and the lands beyond the lake.
The first sight in the valley is the impressive Ottoman-era
Golik Bridge (Ura e Golikut) with its three arches.
A group of five monumental tombs can be found in the
rocks near Selcë e Poshtme village, the main settlement
in the valley. Dating back to the 4th century BC, one in the
shape of an amphitheatre, and another with two storeys and
decorated colonnades. The graves may well have been for
Illyrian kings, but grave robbers struck in the 1st century, and
very few artifacts remained. The narrow track leading to the
tombs best tackled by 4WD car; call tel. +355 69 262 32 17
to see if the graves are open.
A few kilometres further, Potkozhan village is worth visiting for
its traditional stone houses and for the diminutive medieval
St. Demetrios (Shën Bitri) church which retains its original fres-
coes; ask around for someone to unlock the church if you find
it closed. At Potkozhan it’s possible to stay in guesthouses
and enjoy the local food and raki.
The valley is best approached from Urakë on the Elbasan
road; there’s a direct gravel road to Pogradec but that is
impassable in wet weather. A daytrip by sturdy taxi will cost
up to 3000 lek.

Pogradec hotels
Enkelana Rr. Reshit Çollaku, tel. +355 83 22 20 10,
fax +355 83 22 21 73. The former state hotel dominating
the town centre has been modernised and now has decent,
simple rooms, some overlooking the lake. Q 46 rooms (34
doubles 2,500-3,000 lek, 6 triples 3,500-4,000 lek, 6 suites
5,000-6,000 lek). PHAULKW

Internet & Tourist Information Center (Qendra
InkuSat Cyberspace) Rr. Reshit Collaku, Pall. 23,
tel. +355 83 22 60 80, [email protected], www.
pogradec.info. A good internet café (100 lek/hr) where
the multilingual manager (English, Italian, French, Dutch)
doubles as the local unofficial voluntary tourist information
officer and Fedex representative. His website is the best
local site about Pogradec. QOpen 09:00 - 22:00.

Pogradec tourist information

Pogradec town is small enough to walk around, though
taxis can be found at the main hotels if necessary. To
order a taxi, have an Albanian speaker contact Liri Taxi
(tel. +355 69 235 09 38) or Bexhet Allko Taxi (tel. +355
68 219 68 69). A ride to Drilon park or the Macedonian
border will cost about 200 lek, or 50 lek in a shared
taxi. Furgon minibuses to Korça, Elbasan and Tirana
depart very regularly between early morning and mid-
afternoon, trawling for customers along the main road;
simply flag one down.

Pogradec transport

Street scene in Pogradec’ old town

Page 6

11 pogradec

Instant Korça

12voskopoja

2009 - 2010

Millennium 1&2 Rruga Pogradec-Tushemisht,
tel. +355 68 228 39 11. Along the lakeside between
Pogradec and the border at Tushemisht, this hotel has
a pleasant garden overlooking the lake and a popular
restaurant. The newly built annex has more modern fa-
cilities and conference rooms. Q 50 rooms (29 doubles
2,000-3,000 lek, 17 triples 3,500 lek, 4 suites 5,000
lek). HALW

Perla Shëtitorja 1 Maji, tel. +355 83 22 37 70/+355 83,
fax +355 83 22 66 88, [email protected] The nicest
rooms in this modern hotel are on the top floors, offering the
best views of the lake, some 50 metres in front of the hotel.
All corner rooms have a dainty circular balcony that pokes out
of the building. Q 20 rooms (5 doubles 3,000 lek, 11 triples
4,000 lek, 4 suites 5,000 lek). PALKW

Royal Rr. Reshit Çollaku, tel. +355 83 22 31 58, fax
+355 83 22 31 59, [email protected] A
newly renovated lakeside hotel with good rooms and a lovely
rooftop terrace for enjoying breakfast or a drink. Q 18 rooms
(10 doubles 3,500 lek, 5 triples 4,000 lek, 3 family rooms
4,000 lek). PAULKW

Vila Bimbli Shëtitorja 1 Maji, tel. +355 83 22 25
16/+355 69 223 20 57. A gleaming pink-and-white near
the city centre. The rooms are well-appointed, though it’s the
top floor suite with its huge private terrace with lake views
that impresses most. Downstairs, there’s a pleasant garden
terrace. Q 12 rooms (4 doubles 2,500-3,000 lek, 6 triples
3,000 lek, 2 suites 4,000 lek). LKW

Pogradec Food & Drink
Although well-known for the fresh fish from Lake Ohrid,
central Pogradec does not have many attractive restau-
rants yet. For a special meal, locals often head for the
lakeside restaurants a short drive north and east of town.

Blealb Rruga Nacionale Pogradec - Qafe Thane, tel.
+355 69 229 18 44. A well-known lakeside restaurant
offering views over to Macedonia. There’s a beach here
too.Q(500-700 lek). PB

With Macedonia within sight across the lake, it’s easy
to travel between Pogradec and Ohrid, stopping off at
the beautiful Sveti Naum monastery, right next to the
Macedonian checkpoint. There are rumours of a new
ferry service between the two towns starting in sum-
mer 2009, but till then the easiest way is to take a taxi
to Ohrid, costing 2,000 lek or 500 lek in a shared taxi,
taking under one hour. You can also take a taxi to the
border (200 lek), walk across the 500m of no man’s
land, and hop on a bus (or an infrequent ferry) to Ohrid
at Sveti Naum (the bus runs every two hours, costing
120 denars). Coming from Ohrid, you can expect taxis
to be waiting on the Albanian side of the border between
09:00 and 19:00 (16:00 in winter); alternatively walk to
Tushemist village (10 minutes) or Drilon Park (15 minutes)
and catch the bus to Pogradec there. Note that most
foreigners entering Albania need to pay a €1 land border
fee (leaving costs nothing); ask for a receipt. The border
crossing is open 24 hours per day. When travelling on to
Skopje, check out our online and print Skopje In Your
Pocket city guide.

Travelling to Macedonia Natyra e Qete Rruga Nacionale Pogradec, tel. +355 83 22 60 80/+355 68 208 29 93. Well-known for its fish
and grilled meat, Natyra e Qete is a large restaurant sited
4km along the main road north of Pogradec. Q (600-800
lek). PB

Mateo Disko Shëtitorja Rinia, tel. +355 69 269 08
96. Pogradec’ craziest structure is this crashed UFO float-
ing around on the lake. Wobble across the gangplank into
the round bar for house music and cocktails or take in the
lake views from the tooftop terrace. Open in summer only.
QOpen 19:00 - 05:00.

Oxygen Beach Bar Rr. 10 Deshmorët e Pojskës, tel.
+355 69 209 19 90, www.oxygenbeachbar.com. A
popular beach bar, a few hundred metres east of the centre
along the lakeshore. This is the best place to have coffee or
fresh juice during the day, watch the sunset with a cocktails
in hand, and hit the dancefloor. Open June-Sept. QOpen
09:00 - 04:00.

Tea Shetitorja Fan Noli, tel. +355 83 22 29 47. A mod-
est restaurant serving pizza, fish and the usual grilled meat
dishes. QOpen 07:00 - 22:00. B

Tek Mollët Rr. 10 Deshmorët e Pojskës, Lgj. 1, tel.
+355 69 269 27 78. Local pies, meat dishes and two guest
rooms. Call ahead to check it’s serving food today.QOpen
12:00 - 23:00.

V Pogradec Rr. Naim Frashëri, tel. +355 83 22 45
54. Traditional Pogradec cooking. QOpen 12:00 - 22:00.
(400-800 lek).

Amidst high mountains, forests and rolling green fields
some 18 kilometres west of Korça, Voskopoja is a
Balkan oddity; a village that was once a bustling town and
Balkan cultural centre. Set at 1150 metres above sea
level, Voskopoja was founded in 1338 in an isolated and
defensible location. Also known as Moschopolis to Greeks
and Moscopole to Vlachs, it grew steadily to become one
of the larger urban centres in the Balkans, and may have
had up to 30,000 inhabitants in the 18th century. The town
profited greatly from trading along the shortest land route
between Istanbul and Venice, and was also a major centre
of Orthodox culture (despite the Ottoman occupation) with
22 churches, a school, library and dozens of workshops
producing crafts, books (from the Balkans’ first printing
press) and religious artworks, including icons. For a while
it was even the largest town in the Balkan region. Ottoman
campaigns in the late 18th century spelled the end of
Voskopoja’s glory years. Voskopoja’s end finally came in
the 20th century, when battles in World War I and partizan
warfare during World War II destroyed most of the town.
Now only seven churches, a handful of houses and some
old cobbled streets still remain.

The Shën Kolle (St. Nicholas) church from 1721 was the
only church to be protected in the Communist era (the
others were used for storage) and is the only church reliably
open to visitors. It has an elegant painted gallery and a
dark and moody interior, with fantastic examples of wood
carving and sooty wall frescoes. The most valuable icons
have been moved to the Medieval Art Museum in Korça. If
you find the church closed, simply ask around for someone
with the key.

Another church worth visiting is the Shën Athanasi (Saint
Athanasius) church, set between fields just east of the
village; it’s damaged but enjoys a pretty setting and has
several well-preserved frescoes. Finally, the Shën Mëhill
(Saint Michael) and Shën Ilia (Saint Ilia) churches are worth
a look – finding someone to unlock these churches can
be difficult, however. In the woods, a bumpy 2 kilometres
beyond the village, lies the the Monastery of Shën Prodhomi
(St. Prodhon), a peaceful complex with a charming 17th-
century brick church in the courtyard. The guard is usually
at hand to unlock the gate and let you in. The church
celebrates Saint Prodhon’s day every year on June 24,
when it’s the site of a well-attended religious festival. The
Vlahos festival, celebrating Vlach/Aromanian culture, is
held annually on July 4.

There’s a daily morning bus from Korça to Voskopoja.
Otherwise, you can charter a taxi for the ride. The
roads all the way up to the monastery are accessible
for cars. Voskopoja is per fect for a picnic in a flowery
field – brings supplies from Korça. There’s a restaurant
serving Albanian dishes at the Hotel Akademia. Two

The nearby village of Vithkuqi, 25km southwest of Korça
and reached by minibus or taxi, is a picturesque and
ancient mountain village with mineral water springs and
several Orthodox churches that are worth a visit, most
notably that of Shën Pjetër (Saint Peter) monastery.
Vithkuqi suffered the same fate as Voskopoja and was
wrecked several times since the 18th century. A calm and
pretty village remains now, with several guesthouses and
restaurants. Annual village fairs take place on June 29, St.
Peter’s day, and on July 10, St. Nikodhim’s day.

Vithkuqi

Voskopoja is historically a centre for Vlachs or Aroma-
nians, an originally nomadic minority speaking a Latin
language close to Romanian, who as shepherds spread
widely throughout Central and Eastern Europe since early
medieval times.
Aromanians, the Vlachs in the southern Balkans who
have been strongly influenced by Greek culture, are
spread mainly in northern and central Greece and in
Albania, where up to 200,000 Aromanians can be found
in the area south of Vlora. Voskopoja, or Moscopole as
they called it, was an important urban centre for the
Vlachs. Korça, called Curcea in Aromanian, is the site of
Albania’s only Vlach church, sponsored by the Romanian
government, and also still has a Vlach district. Nowadays,
Aromanian language is seldom heard in Albania, though
there are attempts to revive the culture and start lan-
guage education in some schools.

Vlachs in Albania

trout-farm-cum-restaurants, Ura e Kovacë and Taverna
Peshku, are located halfway up the road to Voskopoja;
both have seats beside the fish ponds and serve good-
value, freshly grilled trout. Although Voskopoja is an
easy daytrip from Korça, consider staying the night to
enjoy the peace. There are several simple guesthouses
with rooms for tourists in the vil lage, best found by
asking around. Along the road east out of Voskopoja
towards the St. Prodhomi monastery, the renovated
Hotel Akademia complex (tel. +355 69 225 86 46; 27
rooms: 16 doubles and 11 chalets, 3,000-4,000 lek)
has simple rooms and new chalets (some with fireplace)
overlooking gardens and forests; call to check when loud
parties take place.

The Shën Athanasi church in Voskopoja

Pogradec overlooks Lake Ohrid (Liqeni I Ohrit), the
deepest tectonic lake in the Balkans (298 metres) and
one of the oldest lakes in the world, formed 4 million
years ago. Set at 695 metres above sea level and
shared with Macedonia, one third of the 358 square
kilometre surface is Albanian. The lake is fed by vari-
ous rivers (including an underground river from Lake
Prespa popping up at Drilon) and exits to the north in the
Black Drin. Ohrid is home to various endemic species
of plants and animals, including the koran, a ancient
and very tasty variety of trout, the Ohrid sponge and
various molluscs.

Lake Prespa, set at 850 metres above sea level,
20km north of Korça and shared with Macedonia
and Greece, is another beautiful tectonic lake fringed
by bare mountains. The whole area is a national park
and is excellent for bird-watching. The region also has
important Byzantine sites – the tiny uninhabited island
of Maligrad in the Albanian part of the lake has the
amazing 14th-century Kisha e Shën Meri (St. Mary’s
church), in a cave set high in a cliff at the top of a
rickety wooden ladder. It’s possible to spend the night
and taste the local food (including carp, sardines, fish-
stuffed byrek and meze) at modest guesthouses and
restaurants in Liqenas, Goricë e Vogël and Gollomboç
villages, reached by taxi or minibus from Korça. The
best sandy beach is at Liqenas/Zaroshkë. Village
festivals take place on various religious holidays; in
Zaroshkë on 12 July, in Kallamas on 20 July and in
Cerje on 28 August.

Great lakes: Ohrid and Prespa

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