Monastery of Saint Mary, Vlora, ReadyClickAndGo

If your cruise includes Albania, the city of Vlore may well be one of the port visits. While there aren’t as ancient ruins here as there are in Sarande or Durres, you’ll find plenty to keep yourself occupied- either enjoy the wonderfully scenic beaches or venture beyond the city limits to the historic attractions further afield on an Albania day tour that combines history with stunning scenery.

Vlore is the next largest port city after Durres, founded by the ancient Greeks on a hilly peninsula at the southern end of the region called Illyria, just 120km from Corfu and 70km across the Mediterranean from Italy, and it became an important hub with a strategic location on major trading routes across the region. Even nowadays you can still see the remains of several fortresses that were built – some by the Ancient Greeks and some in the Middle Ages – to defend the town and its port from invaders keen to expropriate this prosperous city and its resources.   Home to several national heroes over the centuries, Vlore was the capital of Albania for a short period after the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1912 when many Balkan countries were able to throw off the yoke of the Ottoman Empire.

A huge bronze monument to celebrate independence was erected in Flag Square, the largest plaza in the city, and you can also visit the Museum of National Independence to learn more about the country’s struggle for freedom. Archaeological relics from all over the region can be found in the History Museum, whilst in the Ethnographic Museum are displays of all sorts of traditional handicrafts, from weaving to woodcarving. Any visit to Vlore should include the Mosque of Murade – a legacy of the Ottomans dating from 1542, the mosque was designed by the same architect responsible for the renowned Blue Mosque in Istanbul. It is nowadays the city’s museum of architecture. For panoramic views go up to the terrace at Kuzum Baba, the highest point in the city, from where you have a wonderful panorama of the city and the Albanian Riviera.

If you prefer a shorter day trip in Vlore then head north a few miles to Narta Lagoon and the villages of Narta, famous for its wine, and Zvernec with its 13th century Monastery of St Mary on Zvernec Island. 

Or for a longer and more comprehensive day tour of Vlora head south, taking in the ruins of Kanina Castle, a mountain-top castle 6km from Vlora originally dating from the 3rd century BC and rebuilt in the 5th century AD and again in the middle ages. Then head to the Llogora Pass 470 to 2018m above sea level through the National Park for stunning views of the Albanian Riviera. Along the road you can see a 100-year-old and 20m high pine tree moulded by the winds into a flag shape, known unsurprisingly as the Flag Pine Monument. Perhaps enjoy a Turkish coffee and a traditional snack of yoghurt with honey and walnuts at a typical café and if it’s a clear day see if you can make out the island of Corfu in the distance before continuing along the gorgeous coast lined by craggy mountains to the seaside village of Dhermi where there are 31 churches and monasteries, including St Mary’s church which is up a steep hill, around 15 minutes climb, and where there are remains of some beautiful 18th century frescos. At Himara you may like to visit the castle and the churches in its walls, and perhaps continue another 10km south to the castle of Ali Pasha built in the shape of a pentagon for the pasha’s beautiful young wife. If you have time, just a few miles further south are some picturesque streams and little waterfalls at Qeparo where you can rest before returning to your cruise ship in Vlora after a spectacular and fascinating day tour in Albania. 

If you are planning to be in Vlora for just a short time, ReadyClickAndGo can arrange private full or half day shore excursions.  Experience Vlora  with your own guide, car and driver by emailing



About the author: Tara


The travel professional with years of experience in the travel industry – in guiding, reservations, operations, contracting, customer service and product development – and have travelled extensively in Asia and Eastern Europe not just on holiday but also for work, inspecting hotels, visiting attractions and seeing exactly what each destination has to offer. The only way I could do this properly was with my own guide, car and driver and this inspired me to create my own range of customised private day tours for other people to be able to explore in-depth and learn to love their destination as much as I do.