Krujë (Kruja in English) in Albania is a charming medieval village, beautifully situated among mountainous peaks and the green valley stretching all the way down to the Adriatic coast. Kruja, once inhabited by the ancient tribe of Illyrians, besides its natural charm, boasts an enormous historical importance. As early as in the 12th century, it was the center of the first independent Albanian state. The town lies on the foot of the Mount Krujë and offers spectacular views over the entire area. Although it's a popular and very easy to reach destination for a day trip from Albanian capital - Tirana, it's still very authentic - with very few foreign visitors. Many people who come to Albania stay only in Tirana and complain that there is nothing much to see there. The capital city, although interesting is not particularly beautiful and is not a great example of what Albania has to offer.
How to get to Kruja
Kruja, located just around 30 km (18 miles - 45 min ride) is a great place for a day trip from Tirana (I've described Tirana in detail in this article - did you know that you can have a pint of beer in the rotating restaurant on top of the highest skyscraper in Tirana for 1.5 EUR?) It's very easy to get to Kruja - you can find many mini-buses for around 1-2 USD/EUR in Tirana. They depart from the local market area nearby the main train station. I wouldn't recommend to take any private day tours advertised online - the prices are ridiculous. You may find some cheaper trips if you ask at a local tour offices, or if you want to explore more of Albania, you can contact me here, I'll be happy to help you arrange a cheap tour with amazing and reliable local company.
What to see in Kruja
Kruja was the capital of the first autonomous Albanian state in the 12th century. Not for too long though, soon after Ottoman invasions took over almost all Balkan Peninsula. Two centuries later, Albanians managed to defeat the Ottoman invaders, and, in the 15th century, the beautiful Kruja fortress (now Skanderbeg Museum) was erected.
The old center of Kruja is tiny and within several ours you'll be able to visit everything. The old market street is amazing, kept in the old Ottoman style with beautiful architecture. If you are interested in antiques, it will be a paradise for you. For a very reasonable prices, you can purchase many original, old and hand made tools and objects.
You can find some really different, hand made souvenirs especially associated with Albania, like for example little bunkers! I usually don't like gadgets like that, but those were pretty cool I must admit!
Around the castle, the amazingly preserved tower and walls integrate perfectly with the high, rocky mountains. Have a walk around and admire the views, so much better than in the city!
Kruja can serve as a foretaste of what you can see in Albania - beautiful nature and cozy, authentic villages. From now on, if you decide to explore this one of the most unknown European countries, it will only get better. Paradise beaches with white sands (both with posh beach clubs and hidden, with zero tourists and resorts), absolutely amazing towns of Berat and Gjirokaster, Dhermi and Ksamil, mighty mountains, turquoise lakes and ancient ruins of Greek cities.
Kruja, although it might seem amazing with all the Ottoman architecture, so different from the nearby, well known European countries, it still pales in comparison with other villages and towns in Albania. (I will write about them soon, you won't believe how spectacular they are!) So, don't limit yourself to Tirana only! Go and explore!
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