Korça is the main city in South-eastern Albania. It is an interesting historical city with rich cultural traditions and fascinating buildings from the Ottoman period. The region has been inhabited from ancient times and has played a significant part in the expansion of Byzantine Christianity in Albania. Archaeological remains from the Neolithic era suggest that the area has been inhabited continually in the past 6,000 years, with significant cultural advancement from one period to the next.
The present territory of the city is situated on the site of a former Illyrian settlement thought to be related to the Barçi culture (an area close to Korça where Illyrian period tombs have been found).
Today Korça represents one of the most delightful and pristine cities in Albania with a unique tradition of its own.
Places of interest to the visitor are the Orthodox Cathedral and the neighborhoods between “Shën Gjergj” and “Republika” boulevards, with their characteristic cobble-stoned alleys.
The city is particularly known for its characteristic songs, otherwise known as "Korça serenades" which are commonly sung to guitar accompaniment. Among the most attractive events in Korça are the Carnival Days. The Carnival festival is one of the biggest of its kind in the country and is usually celebrated right before Easter.
Cultural attractions include the Museum of Medieval Art, the National Museum of Education, the Museum of Prehistory, Oriental Art Museum in Bratko, Museum House of painter Vangjush Mio, the Meadow of Tears (Lëndina e Lotëve) and the World War I French Soldiers Cemetery.
Natural attractions include the villages of Voskopoja, Dardha, Vithkuqi as well as the National Park “Bredhi i Drenovës”.
Voskopoja is an important tourist attraction and a veritable gem in the crown of the Albanian landscape. The village is situated 20 kilometres away from Korça, 1,150 metres above the sea level. What is now a village used to be a big town, believed to have been founded around 1338. With time it flourished and reached its zenith around 1750, with a population of almost 20 thousand inhabitants. In the past Voskopoja had 24 churches adorned with many exquisite frescoes of which only seven survive today. It was also known for its secondary school, Academy of Learning, and library, and as an important centre of craftsmen and textile artisans, blacksmith masters, tin workers, stonemasons, stone and wood carvers, carpet weavers, etc.
Voskopoja is an important centre due to its history of civilization and culture. The first mention of its importance appears in medieval chronicles of 14th century. At that time the town was known by the Greek name of Moschopolis. In the 15th century Voskopoja was occupied by the Ottomans who expanded it as a trade centre. It quickly grew and reached unprecedented prosperity after the expansion of the Venetians in the Balkans, at which time it served as a place of intermediary storehouses en route from Venice to Istanbul.
By the mid 1850s it population is thought to have been circa 50 thousand inhabitants in the greater area and 30 thousand in the town of Voskopoja itself. At this time it was the second most important town in European Turkey after Istanbul. The first churches were constructed here in the 17th century. The first ever print shop in the Balkans was also built here in 1720 and books in the Greek script were being printed as early as 1760. Authors Teodor KAVALIOTI and Teodor HAXHIFILIPI lived in Voskopoja. At that time there were 22 churches in the town.
Among the best preserved religious buildings are the following: Monastery of Shën Prodhon (Saint Prodhon), partially damaged. Every 24th of June numerous visitors from Korça and other towns come here to attend a religious service on Saint Prodhon's day. Outside the monastery one can see magnificent views of Lënia and Ostrovica peaks, 2246 metres high.
At the Church of Shën Koll (Saint Nicholas), built in 1721, there are frescoes and paintings of great iconographic value by David Selenica, Kostantin Jeromonaku and Anastasi. The church is well preserved and is a place of interest for a great number of tourists. The Churches of Shën Mëhill (Saint Michael) and Shën Athanasi (Saint Athanasius) also have important icons of great value painted by the same authors. The Church of Shën Ilia (Saint Ilia) also commands a magnificent view and is an object of extraordinary value.
The growth and prosperity of Voskopoja at the time stirred the greed and jealousy of Turkish and Greek beys, who carried out several military expeditions against the town from 1769 to 1789. As a result of these attacks many Christians were either killed or forcibly expelled from their homes and many houses were burned down. Even now Voskopoja is a living proof of the glamorous history of the region, as seen in its numerous religious sites, its building tradition, and the 400 year-old cobble stoned streets still in use today. Voskopoja has a hospitality infrastructure for people who want to rest or spend a few days' holiday there.
It is a tourist attraction offering beautiful natural landscapes, hotels, restaurants and traditional cuisine. The village is situated 1,344 metres above sea level, in a depression between the hills of Shën Pjetër (Saint Peter) and Shkëmbi i Vjeshtës (The Autumn Rock), 20 kilometres to the southeast of Korça. It was founded in the 1600s and was consolidated as a settlement in 1768 when the first Albanian school opened there. In the last decade of the 19th century a girls' school also started to operate. Dardha reached the zenith of its growth in 1913 when the village had as many as 500 houses. The village has a school and the Church of Shën Gjergj (Saint George) with its famous icons.
Two other churches, that of Shën Pjetër (Saint Peter) and Shën Athanasi (Saint Athanasius) are situated in two dominant points in Dardha. The village has many natural water springs, among which one with the strange name of Uji i Qelbur (Filthy Water) believed to help cure stomach and kidney conditions.
Heavy snows and natural ski tracks make the place suitable for the exercising of winter sports. The village has long been a favourite tourist destination. The colourful splendour of its natural landscape, the characteristic houses built in stone, the rich folklore, traditional cuisine, and folk costumes attract numerous local and foreign visitors. One simply must not leave Dardha without having tried some of its traditional dishes such as the famous lakror (a kind of a pie) baked in a traditional wood fire oven, or the snail and mushroom specialties.
The most commonly used drink in the area is raki (a kind of grappa) made from pears. A number of traditional events enliven the tourists' stay in the area such as: Saint Mary's Day which differently from other places is a festival celebrated on August 16th, to coincide with the Shpresa Association anniversary. In addition to the religious rites performed on the day, the villagers also celebrate by performing the traditional Dardha dance.
VithkuqiThis village is situated 25 kilometres from Korça. The highest peak here is the Rrungaja, 1,750 metres above the sea level. The main natural attractions of the area are the natural cold water springs of Bellovoda, rich in various minerals, also known as Uji i Bardhë (White Water).
Vithkuq is a mountainous village as old as Voskopoja. It is well-known for its old churches and monasteries. Worthy of mention is the Shën Pjetër (Saint Peter) Monastery with its iconographic values, of which the most renowned are frescoes by masters such as Zografi and Shpataraku.
National Park Drenova Fir Bredhi i Drenovës
The park is situated 10 kilometres from Korça, on the side of the Morava Mountain. It has an area of 1,380 hectares, of which 750 hectares are covered by forests, 240 hectares of pastures, and the rest is rough country land. The area is largely frequented by visitors from Korça and the surrounding villages. The numerous natural springs with all-year drinkable water, such as those of Shën Gjergj, Plaka, Pllica, add to the attractiveness of the park. The most common trees growing in the Drenova National Park, also known as Bredhi i Drenovës (Drenova Pine) National Park, are fir trees, beeches and black pines. The lower part of the park is covered in hazelnut trees. The Park has a rich fauna and includes the famous Bozdoveci Bear, a monument of culture