Gjirokastra is a treasure of Albania, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, because of its outstanding historical and cultural assets. Like other European towns, the evolution of Gjirokastra began in antiquity and continued through the Middle Ages and European Renaissance. What makes Gjirokastra’s history unique is its position in the Drino Valley, which has been home to many civilizations. Excavations show that the Drino Valley has been inhabited since the 3rd century BC, as have many other sites in the area: Apollonia, Butrint, Dyrah, Corfu, Dodona, and Bylis. Gjirokastra, along with 15 other small settlements, was controlled by Antigonea in the period before Christ, and by Hadrianopolis after Christ. Antigonea, a few km east of Gjirokastra, was founded by Pyrrhus of Epir in 297, and served as the center of this civilization. Antigonea was burned less than 2 centuries later. Thereafter, the town of Hadrianopolis was built and served as the valley center for 150 years until it was destroyed by floods of the Drino River. After Hadrianopolis was destroyed people began moving to higher ground to feel more secure. The earliest archaeological evidence found in Gjirokastër (some wall fragments found inside the Castle) dates to the 5th century AD, at the end of a Roman Empire. Another discovery, a stone altar depicting four doves and some eucalyptus leaves, dates to the 10th century, a time when Albanian princedoms were established in the area due to its strategic position on the routes leading to Onhezmi (Saranda), Butrint, Ioannina, and Nicopolis. The alter was found on the hillside where the Obelisk is now located. Historical documents show that the town of Gjirokastra was founded in the early 13th century and the dwellings were initially built within the Castle walls. At the end of the century homes began to appear beyond the Castle fortifications. Byzantine chronicles indicate that in 1336 Gjirokastra was called Argyropolihne (Argyro town) and was under the control of Prince Gjin Zenebishi. He died without surrendering to the Turks, but in 1432 Gjirokastra came under Turkish domination. Turkish chronicles of 1583 indicate that Gjirokastra was a sanjak (an administrative unit of the Ottoman Empire) and boasted 434 buildings. In 1672 the Turkish chronicler Evliya Celebi visited Gjirokastra and his realistic description is considered the best documentation of the historic town’s evolution. Celebi describes everything as it is today, the neighborhoods of Old Bazaar, Varosh, Teqe, Mecite, Hazmurat, Cfake, Manalat and Dunavat, etc. The documents show that in the late 17th century Gjirokastra was almost the size it is now. Today the historical center covers an area of 1.2 sq. km., including the castle and the structures built up to the 19th century. The area protected as a UNESCO heritage site includes 1400 buildings.

The origin of name Gjirokastra
Gjirokastra under ottomans
How Gjirokastra became UNESCO property?
Gjirokastra Folklore Festival
Iso-Polyphony Music, part of UNESCO