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Continuously inhabited since ancient times, the town of Berat, surrounded by aromatic pine forests and the rugged Tomorr mountains, enjoys a formidable defensive position inside the walls of a 195m high limestone gorge. Dubbed the ‘City of a Thousand Windows’, Berat boasts many fine Ottoman-era stone houses, along with an important citadel, churches, mosques, and a museum. The town was added to UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites in 2009.
Founded by the ancient Greek Chaonians in the 6th century BC, the settlement was ransacked and captured by the Romans some three hundred years later. After centuries of Roman rule, as part of the frontier of the Byzantine Empire, Berat witnessed protracted periods of instability and was repeatedly invaded by Slavs. The town changed hands several times until the Ottoman Empire finally swept through in 1417 and established political and religious hegemony.Read more
Berat subsequently became a major trade and craft centre specialised in wood carving and carpentry, and by the 18th century, was one of the most important cities in the Ottoman Empire. By the 19th century, it was a vital base of support for the Albanian national revival.
Today, Berat climbs up the slopes with a profusion of fine historical buildings. The Leaded Mosque, the Bachelor’s Mosque, the Sultan’s Mosque, and several Byzantine churches are among its surviving religious structures. But the lion’s share of archaeological and architectural sites lie within the fortified walls of the citadel. Most of its buildings date to the 13th century and were designed by Christians, including several churches and the ruins of a mosque intended for the Islamic troops stationed there. The citadel also houses a museum dedicated to the iconography of Onufri. Beyond the town, the countryside conceals several hiking spots. The Tomorri mountains – accessible with a 4-wheel drive – are home to Bektashi temples and waterfalls.