Gjirokastër is a town and a municipality in southern Albania. Lying in the historical region of Epirus, it is the capital of Gjirokastër County. Its old town is a World Heritage Site described as "a rare example of a well-preserved Ottoman town, built by farmers of large estate." Gjirokastër is situated in a valley between the Gjerë mountains and the Drino, at 300 metres above sea level. The city is overlooked by Gjirokastër Fortress, where the Gjirokastër National Folklore Festival is held every five years. Gjirokastër is the birthplace of former Albanian communist leader Enver Hoxha and notable writer Ismail Kadare. It hosts the Eqrem Çabej University. The present municipality was formed at the 2015 local government reform by the merger of the former municipalities of Antigonë, Cepo, Gjirokastër, Lazarat, Lunxhëri, Odrie and Picar, that became municipal units. The seat of the municipality is the town Gjirokastër. The total population is 25,301 (2011 census), in a total area of 469.25 km2. The population of the former municipality at the 2011 census was 19,836. Gjirokastër later became the center of the principality ruled by John Zenevisi (1373-1417) before falling under Ottoman rule for the next five centuries. Throughout the Ottoman era Gjirokastër was officially known in Ottoman Turkish as Ergiri and also Ergiri Kasrı. During the Ottoman period conversions to Islam and an influx of Muslim converts from the surrounding countryside made Gjirokastër go from being an overwhelmingly Christian city in the 16th century into one with a large Muslim population by the early 19th century. Gjirokastër also became a major religious centre for Bektashi Sufism. Taken by the Hellenic Army during the Balkan Wars of 1912-3 on account of its large Greek population, it was eventually incorporated into the newly independent state of Albania in 1913. This proved highly unpopular with the local Greek population, who rebelled; after several months of guerrilla warfare, the short-lived Autonomous Republic of Northern Epirus was established in 1914 with Gjirokastër as its capital. It was definitively awarded to Albania in 1921. In more recent years, the city witnessed anti-government protests that lead to the Albanian civil war of 1997.
Things to do in Gjirokastër
The Blue Eye (Albanian: Syri i Kaltër, Greek: Γαλάζιο Μάτι) is a water spring and natural phenomenon occurring near Muzinë in Vlorë County, southern Albania. A popular tourist attraction, the clear blue water of the river bubbles forth from a stunning, more than fifty-metre-deep pool. Divers have descended to fifty metres, but it is still unclear what the actual depth of the karst hole is.
Gjirokastër Castle (Albanian: Kalaja e Gjirokastrës or Kalaja e Argjirosë) is a fortress in Gjirokastër, Albania (during Ottoman rule it was historically known as Ergiri while local Greeks referred to it as Argyrokastro, a name applied also to the castle). Gjirokastër Castle is situated at a height of 336 m.
Gjirokastër Ethnographic Museum is a museum in western Gjirokastër, Albania. The museum is erected on the site of communist dictator Enver Hoxha's birth home and offers an insight into the traditional lifestyle of the town.
The Church of the Dormition of the Theotokos (Albanian: Kisha e Fjetjes së Virgjëreshës, Greek: Ναός Κοιμήσεως της Θεοτόκου), simply known as Koimissi or Saint Mary church is an Eastern Orthodox Christian church in the village of Labovë e Kryqit, in Gjirokastër County, southern Albania. It is one of the most representative examples of Byzantine architecture in Albania.
Places to stay in Gjirokastër