Porto Palermo Castle: once the residence of a powerful ruler is now one of Albania’s hidden treasures

Within the rich Albanian history, there is a treasure trove of undiscovered gems, which can only now, after the long communist era, be heard about and visited for the first time. Many cultural and historical treasures were waiting to be discovered during that reign, and one such gem is Porto Palermo Castle as well.


Nestled in the heart of the Albanian Riviera, a mere 9 kilometers from the renowned Himarë, Porto Palermo Castle stands proudly on an island within its bay. Once under the rule of Ali Pasha of Tepelena, one of the most powerful Albanian rulers of the 18th century, this castle now invites you to unravel its past hidden within its walls with open arms.



Porto Palermo castle, Photo: Ecksplorer, Depositphotos


Porto Palermo Castle, locally known as Kalaja e Porto Palermos, carries a somewhat unknown history.  Believed to be one of the most impeccably preserved castles in the country, it traces its origins back to the early 19th century. This period coincides with Ali Pasha of Tepelena’s triumph over the Ottoman Empire declaring independence for his region.

At the main gate there used to be a plaque carved in the Greek alphabet which stated “… Ali Pasha Tepelena built the castle in 1804 with the help of French military engineers…” 

The legends say that those engineers were killed right after it.



According to some sources, Porto Palermo Castle is believed to have been modeled after the pre-existing Butrint fortress, constructed by the Venetian Republic in the 17th century. While there is speculation, there is currently no conclusive evidence supporting whether Porto Palermo castle was initially built much earlier and subsequently renovated by Pasha himself.

The island on which Porto Palermo Castle is located wasn’t connected when it was built. It was done much later to ease the access.


Porto Palermo castle, Photo: Rweisswald, Depositphotos


During the reign of Enver Hoxha, Porto Palermo transformed, serving as a strategic base for the Albanian Navy. The castle, with its strong walls and strategic position, became a refuge and a prison. The remains of this historical period are still visible today.

Now the castle stands as a silent witness to the diverse chapters of its past awaiting your visit.


Porto Palermo castle, Photo: Rweisswald, Depositphotos


The ticket price for the castle is 300 lek or 3 euros.





Once I saw that there was a bigger world out there, so I made myself be a part of it.

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