Albanian Heritage: Top 10 Historic Bridges to Cross in Albania
Albanian heritage is rich in historic and cultural monuments of different types and from different eras. Historic bridges make up an interesting part of this heritage; find out Albania’s most iconic bridges and what makes them special.
1. Ura e Mesit
Ura e Mesit (“Mesi Bridge”) is located in the village of Mes, about 5 km (about 3 miles) northeast of Shkodër. The bridge dates in the XVIII-th century, around 1770, carried our by the local Ottoman pasha (governor) Kara Mahmud Bushati. It connected the city of Shkodër with the then city of Drisht and other villages. On a larger scale, it was a crucial part of the road that went up the Kir Valley all the way to Prishtina.
The bridge, composed of round click stones and stone plates, has a total of 13 arches. Thus, it safely allows the crossing of the Kir River for a distance of 108 meters (354 feet). Other dimensions include a 3.4 meters (11.1 feet) width and 12.5 meters (41 feet) altitude. The Mesi Bridge is thus one of the longest bridges of the Ottoman era built in the region. It reflects an intriguing architecture placed in an idyllic landscape.
2. Ura e Vashës
Ura e Vashës (“Maiden’s Bridge”) is an iconic old bridge that spans for about eleven metres over the Mati bridge, between the Klos and Guri i Bardhe villages. It was constructed at the beginning of the XVIIIth century, as a voluntary contribution of Haxhi Hajrulla Skura from the “Mansaj” neighbourhood of Guri i Bardhë village. Thus, the bridge was previously called “Ura e Skurës” (meaning “Bridge of Skura”). It’s unclear how the bridge got the name “Ura e Vashës”, a name connected to a local legend. According to this tale, a maiden that wanted to marry a husband from the other side of the river, built by herself a connecting bridge.
“Ura e Vashës” is one of the oldest bridges of this style in Albania. It was the only connecting bridge in the upper stream of the Mati river and thus crucial for the imports of salt from the seacoast into the Dibra region. The structure is made of river stones, lime mortar, and stone plates. Furthermore, the canyon where the bridge stands offers a fantastic natural scenery. The bridge was declared a cultural monument in 1983.
3. Ura e Goricës
Ura e Goricës (“Bridge of Gorica”) is one the most beautiful bridges of the Ottoman era in Albania. The construction over the Osum River dates back to the XVIII-th century. Specifically, it links the city of Berat with Goricë, one of its neighborhoods.
Originally, in 1780, the local Pasha Ahmet Kurti financed the construction of a wooden structure. In 1918, a dynamite explosion destroyed most parts of the bridge. The structure took its current shape after a reconstruction in stone following the conclusion of World War I.
The bridge of Gorica is a unique and elegant structure with 7 arches, a length of 130 meters (426 feet) and a large width of 5 meters (16 feet). It rises up to 10 meters (32 feet) over the river surface. In 2014, the bridge underwent another reconstructed.
4. Ura e Kadiut
Ura e Kadiut (“Kadiut Bridge”) in Bënjë, Përmet dated back to around 1760. Ali Pashë Tepelena (1741-1822), the local autonomous governor (and one of the richest men) carried out the construction.
The bridge, built entirely in stone and limestone by local artisans, contains a single large arch and a side window. It has a linear length of 30 meters (98 feet) and a maximum height of 7 meters (22.9 feet). What really makes this bridge unique is the location where it stands. Near the bridge are the famous canyons of Langarica and thermal waters of Bënjë.
About 30,000 people visit the location of the bridge each year. The bridge itself, as well as the untouched beautiful scenery nearby, have turned into a magnet for tourists. About 30,000 people visit the location of the bridge each year.
5. Ura e Kasabashit
Ura e Kasabashit (“Kasabashit bridge”) was built in 1640 near the current city of Çorovoda, Skrapar region. It is believed that the bridge was designed by the famous Albanian architect Reis Mimar Kasemi (1570 – 1660) who was from Skrapar himself. The name of the bridge also supports this view as “Ura e Kasabashit” seems to mean “The Bridge of Master Kasa/Kaso”. Kasemi served as the chief architect of the Ottoman Empire and this bridge reflects his Classical Ottoman architectural style. Ura e Kasabashit is preserved in good conditions and still functional. It’s 26 meters (85 feet) long (of which 12 meters (39 feet) belong to the surface of the main arch), and 3 metres (9.8 feet) wide.
6. Ura e Beçishtit / Bridge of Ali Pasha
Ura e Beçishtit (“Bridge of Beçisht”) is a cultural monument of great value. Also known as “Ura e Ali Pashë Tepelenës”, it’s one of the oldest bridges in Albania still standing. Located right below the castle of Tepelena, the bridge seems to have first been constructed in Roman times, around the first century B.C.E.
Later, during Medieval times, the bridge redeveloped over the remains of the Roman-period bridge. In 1819, Ali Pashë Tepelena, who ruled as local Pasha during 1788-1822, conducted a full reconstruction of the bridge, hence the bridge’s name. The structure reached a length of 260 meters (853 feet) stretching over one of the wildest rivers in Europe. The footbridge, although not in good conditions, still serves as a link between Tepelena and other villages along the Vjosa.
7. Ura e Milotit
Ura e Milotit or Ura e Zogut (“Bridge of Milot” or “Zogu’s Bridge”) marks a milestone achievement in the history of Albanian engineering and infrastructure. The works proceeded during 1927-1928 at an impressive rate, taking less than a year to complete. When completed, the bridge measured 480 meters in length (1,574 feet).
Many consider it a magnificent metallic structure even by European standards. A combined team of German, Swiss, Italian, and Albanian architects, engineers, suppliers, and workers carried out the project. The executing company was the Italian Mazorana & Co. Triest.
Eleven years after its completion, Italy conquered Albanian as part of the World War II aggression. For half a century, this bridge served as the only solid crossing point over the Mati River. The bridge still stands on its concrete piers with its five steel arches.
8. Bridge of Zvërnec
The bridge of Zvërnec is one of the most beautiful bridges in the country. Reconstructed in 2017 to repair the damaged, old bridge, it’s stands entirely on wood.
This charming bridge connects the mainland with the island of Zvërnec in the Narta lagoon. It’s 35 metres (115 feet) long and leads the visitors to the island where the Monastery of Zvërnec is located. This monastery is some 700-800 years old. Thus, it reflects a typical Byzantine-style architecture.
9. Ura e Tabakëve
Ura e Tabakëve is a very small Ottoman-period bridge located near the city centre of Tirana, Albania’s capital and largest urban area. Built in the XVII-th-XVIII-th centuries, the elegant 7.5 metres (24 feet) high bridge stands as a symbol of the rapid changes that have affected the capital. The bridge takes its name from the local tanners famous for their craft and importance in the local economy during 1600-1800.
Ura e Tabakëve was part of an important road that linked the then town of Tirana with its eastern highlands all the way to the Dibra county. This road, known as Shëngjergj road, seems to have followed an old route.
The bridge allowed the crossing of the commercial caravans and other travelers over the older course of the Lana River. In the 1930s, this inner-city river changed its course to its current position, making the bridge obsolete. Nowadays, Ura e Tabakëve serves pedestrians who can literally walk in the footsteps of Tirana’s heritage.
10. Ura e Kordhocës
The construction of “Ura e Kordhocës” (“Kordhoca Bridge”) dates in 1820. It served as a key linking part in the network of roads connecting Gjirokastra, Libohova, and other parts of southern Albania with Janina and other parts of northwestern Greece.
The bridge is only 20 metres (65 feet) long and reaches a maximum height of 7 metres (22.9 feet). Although the construction is not impressive in its dimensions, its position makes it still the main crossing point over the Drino valley. The bridge is still functional for cars and pedestrians. It has featured in several Albanian films. The fine arches paved in cobblestones clearly reflect its meaningful heritage.