Sitting proudly above the sparsely inhabited Drinos valley, Gjirokastra is one of Albania’s most attractive towns, and home to some of its friendliest people. It was once an important Ottoman trading hub and today a sprinkling of nineteenth-century Ottoman-style houses lines the maze of steep, cobbled streets. Gjiro is also etched into the nation’s conscience as the birthplace of former dictator Enver Hoxha, and more recently the world-renowned author Ismail Kadare.

The Old Town’s centrepiece is its imposing citadel (daily 9am–7pm; 200L), which is clearly visible from any point in town. Built in the sixth century and enlarged in 1811 by Ali Pasha Tepelna, it was used as a prison by King Zog, the Nazis and Hoxha’s cadres; the interior remains suitably spooky. There are also tanks and weaponry to peruse, but most curious is the shell of an American jet that was (apparently) forced down in 1957 after being suspected of espionage by the Communist regime. Other than the castle, Gjiro’s most appealing sight is its collection of Ottoman-style houses; a prime example is the eighteenth-century

The Old Town’s centrepiece is its imposing citadel (daily 9am–7pm; 200L), which is clearly visible from any point in town. Built in the sixth century and enlarged in 1811 by Ali Pasha Tepelna, it was used as a prison by King Zog, the Nazis and Hoxha’s cadres; the interior remains suitably spooky. There are tanks and weaponry to peruse, but most curious is the shell of an American jet that was (apparently) forced down in 1957 after being suspected of espionage by the Communist regime. Other than the castle, Gjiro’s most appealing sight is its collection of Ottoman-style houses; a prime example is the eighteenth-century Skenduli House (daily 9am–7pm; 200L), where the owner’s daughter gives English-language tours of its wonderfully preserved rooms throughout the day.

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