Rozafa Castle, Shkodër’s high point
Rozafa Castle sits on an amazing hill that gives view across the city of Shkodër up to the mountains and across the great Lake Skadar. The area was originally Illyrian before Romans and the rest of history. But today stands the ruins of a castle that give absolutely fantastic views in all directions, where the Bojana and Drin rivers enter Lake Skadar. Cue an orgy of panoramic imagery.The owner of the guest house was busy doing home maintenance so asked me to take his bike out. Shkodëra is a quiet small city, popular with bikes and everything is just within walking distance. Rozafa Castle is toward the west, towards the fringes of the city so perfect for bike, about 5-10 minutes ride from the centre.
I quickly discovered the bike was stuck in a high gear and had neither front nor back brakes. No problem, traffic here isn’t super bike friendly but they’re accustom to it – just remain clearly visible. Getting to the base I had no hope cycling further so walked the bike up for a bit before ditching it behind a bush. There is a cobbled road winding up to the castle gate that is somewhat slippery. I was glad to not visit the following day when it rained heavily.
Approaching the gate you pay a small fee (200 lek), otherwise there are no other staff or volunteers here.
Once inside you’re free to explore. Most of the underlying structure remains in place but it is quite overgrown. There doesn’t appear to be any current reconstruction efforts underway.
The views are of course the most impressive thing, this place perches over the surrounding environment in a truly imposing manner. There is a fantastic view towards the northeast over the city of Shkodër and the Bojana river. Half my photos ended up being of the views out rather than of the castle.
But back inside the castle, there are a few areas worth exploring. There are some rooms but most are inaccessible or locked. There is also a museum, but again it was shut when I visited. Amazingly this castle had its own pizzeria, what a historical find.
On the map there was marked a secret exit. There were a couple ways to get down into the sub-structure, mostly very dark and narrow stone stairs. Inside there was just darkness and constant sound of dripping. You can imagine someone being locked up here for life. The connecting tunnels require you to crouch and with the phone light I could barely make out anything besides… another set of stairs down. This time even darker. I let my eyes adjust but I’m convinced there’s not much else down there, just unoccupied space. I didn’t find the hidden exit to the outside.
Finally being there are more great view to the north and southwest. Since this is where Bojana and Drin rivers both exit into Lake Skadar. The Drin River is the largest in Albania, exiting both into the lake and the Adriatic sea. It also has spectacular views upstream, where a hydroelectric dam has created Lake Koman that you can take a ferry up.