Discovering Mirdita

Mirdita is located in the north-eastern part of Albania, bordered on the north by the Districts of Puka and Kukes, on the north-east by Kukes and Dibra, on the south-east by Mat and Kurbin and on the west by Lezha with an area of 869.71 km2

Since 2017 the artificial lake of Qafë-Mollë is the largest lake in the Mirdita District. It is a special tourist attraction of Mirdita and has potential for the development of water sports activities. Along the lake, we find the villages of Bukmira, Cekaj, Gëziq, peripheral parts of Simon village and Vau i Madh. The old traditional houses in these villages are categorized as “Kulla” (Towers) and are distinguished by their authentic architecture and stone carvings with pagan, religious, and national symbolism, such as the two-headed eagle.

The history of cultural monuments or archaeological sites are testimonials to an ancient history of the area dating back to the reign of the great emperor Justinian 1. The walls of the fortress of late antiquity still exist today. Among other Archaeological findings, excavations have been discovered coins from the Justinian period.

Near the dam lies the village of Bukmirë. It is an ancient settlement in Mirdita, whose age is exemplified by archaeological findings and the medieval church of Saint Demetri (today “the Wall of Shmetri” ruins). In the 1970s, the oak forests of Bukmirë were massively replaced with vineyards that became the most well-known in Albania. Today the vineyards are the main centre of grape production of the Arbëri winery a well-known international Albanian Brand.

Bukëmira is mentioned as a way station for travellers in the Middle Ages. During the Ottoman rule of Albanian territories for nearly 500 years, the road that crossed Bukëmirë was of great importance as it was the main way connecting the Autonomous Region of Mirdita, with other parts of Albanian territories. Through the centuries it was known as the “Great Road”. It was an ancient, cobbled road that crossed Mirdita, starting from Shkodra to Mirdita and continuing to Prizren. A large part of the terrain is flat through which passes the river of Gjadri and Voma Dibrri. Historical objects along the “Great Road” way are the Castle of Kastri, Illyrian Tumulus of the Papërdhok Field in Kalor village, the church of Shpal, Oroshi Abbey and Kulla Gjomarkajve (saraje).

A marked object along this road was the Bridge of Vau Madh a cultural heritage monument, on the Fani Madh River the ending point of today’s Qafe-Molla lake. With wooden beds and stone-walled walls dating from High Middle age, it is the oldest of Mirdita. The bridge was photographed at the beginning of the 20th century by European scholars exploring North Albania. Now days only the stone-walled walls can be seen. As of the ending of WW2, the road system underwent profound changes in Mirdita and the bridge served as a simple bridge for the village to access agricultural land on the other side of the river and not as a key junction of the “Great Road”. Not far from the village Vau I Madh lies Shpal, another old settlement of Mirdita.  

Shpali is mentioned as the site for the Benedictine conventions dating back to the 1200s, while the Church is mentioned in some Byzantine documented sources since 878. The Oaks of Shpali, close to the Church of Saint Pal and Peter, was the place where the traditional assemblies of Mirdita took place during the Middle Ages until the beginning of the 20th century, as Mirdita after the ottoman invasion of Albania was the only autonomous region that had a structure of its own to administrate its territories.

Over the years Mirdita had numerous disputes with the Ottoman Empire, sometimes facing bloody battles and sometimes negotiating at roundtables its favours and obligations to the Ottomans, but always managing to maintain its autonomy and above all the inviolability of the faith of the province, which makes it still today the only province whose population is of the Roman Christian faith.

When first in 1912 Albania declared its Independence from the Ottoman Empire, Mirdita started its integration into the new modern Albanian state. Although the First World War slowed down the process, Shpali became the administrative centre of the Mirdita Prefecture from the 1920s until 1949, when the centre was moved to Rreshen which is still today the administrative centre of the District.

Not far from Shpal and just 7 km from Reps intersection of “Rruga Kombit” E851 highway is found the Former Prison of Spaç. It was the main work camp and prison for the political prisoners during the Communist regime, from 1968 till 1990. It is also known as Department 303 by the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The political prisoners did hard labour in the Spaç copper mine. While the prison had an official maximum capacity of 600, as many as 1,200 prisoners lived there at one time. The political prisoners worked like slaves and endured inhumane tortures. The camp was on a rugged mountainous territory. Today it is a place to visit for those who wish to study the dictatorial communist past in Albania. There are start-ups currently working to turn it into a centre of education about the crimes of communism.

Finally getting back to an old settlement in Mirdita. The Church of Ndërfandin the village of Gëziq, a Mirdita’s historic church, in the place where the Late Middle Ages was a Benedictine Abbey, had a small medieval city around it. Ndërfana was known in the medieval area as Trafandina which means “between the Fan Rivers” is mentioned in various studies and medieval documents because it was the capital for a period of three years during the Arber State era (1190-1255). Among numerous archaeological findings, there were discovered the Epigraphic Inscription and Artificial Emblem of the state that is currently exhibited at the Tirana National Historical Museum, prof of great value to the history of the country.

Moreover, the traditional dress of Mirdita is one of the most beautiful dresses in the Albanian Ethnographic wealth. Those embroiders have unprecedented craftsmanship and a very good taste in embroidering these clothes. And these clothes are worn by everyone, not only by the Mirdita women but also by girls from other regions and even by foreign tourists.

In the territory of Mirdita municipality, there are 3 protected areas of different categories. The only protected area which lies entirely in the territory of the municipality of Mirdita is the protected area “Bjeshka e Oroshit”. The Orosh Plateau is made of forests, pastures, and other unproduced areas. It combines different kinds of flora and fauna as well as cultural and historic objects. Interesting places that can be visited include the Holy Mount, the Red Rock, the Meadows of Oroshi, Fushë – Lugjet and interesting caves. This series of caves are best represented by Pasha Cave and Stërqokëve Cave which have scientific, geo-morphological, and cultural values. Pasha Cave is not fully explored. The entrance of the cave is 5 meters deep and 15-20 meters wide from the inside. There is a presence of small stalactites. Stërqokëve Cave is also found on Orosh plateau and has the same formations as other caves in the area. It has been named because of the birds Stërqoku (western jackdaw, Coleus monedula) that have their nest there. There are vertical entrances. It is thought to be up to 80 m deep and 3 to 4 m wide.

Other protected areas that are partially located in the municipality of Mirdita are National Park of category 2 with the name “Lure-Mali i Dejes”. The territory of Mirdita municipality includes the area of high tourist interest of Kroit i Bardhe which is in the administrative unit Selite, as well as the mountain of Kunore which is the highest peak in Mirdita with an altitude 2121 above sea level. Lake Ulza, which wets with its shores the village of Ujë-Shtrez in the administrative unit of Kthella, has been declared a protected area of category 4 as a Managed Natural Reserve. In June 2018 a memorandum of understanding was signed by the municipality that shares the lake with the ministry to decide on the comity that will manage the area.

In the municipality of Mirdita, in December 2017 was created a tourism Info-point which is on the premises of Info Kulla Mirdita the centre of development of tourism located on the E851 highway km 19/VI Rubik. As of February 2019, in the Mirdita municipality, you can find 38 marked hiking trails. The wine history has been a tradition of the area, where traditional dishes are also developed. There is a tour of the wine factory, which is one of the oldest in the country, Kallment factory.

The Municipality of Mirdita has considered tourism in Mirdita as a walk from where the visitor can get acquainted with the special nature, flora and fauna, tradition, history, religion, ethnography, and delicious dishes. For this, a network of about 400 km of hiking trails has been built, where the trails are marked and found in the soft version and hardcopy at

The rural area around the lake presents a variety of aspects ranging from the historical-archaeological ones such as the Church of St. Mary in Gëziq (where the symbols of the state of Arbër have been found), the ruins of the Meshurdhi fortress in Simon to the processing of agricultural products and of grapes in the village of Bukmirë.

In a very short time, other historical objects such as the Church of Shelbuem in Rubik, the Pictograms of Rubik’s over 3000 years old and Info tower Mirdita can be accessed.

Currently, the accommodation capacity in the area for hiking is about 300 people with about 250 beds organized in 18 entities and host families scattered in the territory of the municipality. Meanwhile, many families and entities are in the process of adapting the towers (traditional houses) for the reception of visitors.