Covered in pines, this small gorgeous island off the coast of Vlora can be reached by walking along a 270- meter-long bridge, offering the visitor a one-of-a-kind experience with nature.
Sitting at 30 meters above sea level, this picturesque island is named after the village of the same name, located about 13 km from the city of Vlora. Famous for its stunning forest of tall pines extending along nine hectares of land, the fairly small island also hosts the well-preserved 13th century byzantine Monastery of St. Mary. While Zvërnec is indeed compact in size, at approximately 400 meters in length and 300 meters in width, the island packs a magical experience.
The island and the village lie along the northern part of Vlora. The village is famous for its wonderful wine production so you may stop by to taste a glass or two before or after heading to the island. Recognizable due to its grandiose crown of pines covering the entire area, Zvërnec is very easy to reach. Situated between the Narta Village and the old, spectacular Soda forest, a paved road and wooden bridge take you to the entrance of Zvërnec.
View of Zvërnec from the air, Vlora. Photo Courtesy of Altin Serani.
The monastery is an impressive object of significant cultural and religious value. Its construction is thought to have occurred between the 12th and 13th centuries and, thus, boasts an architecture that is typical of the Byzantine era. To reach the monastery, you follow the charming bridge that, stretching over the water, connect the island with land.
Monastery of Zvërnec, photo courtesy of Sarah Goolishian.
Inside the Monastery. Photo courtesy of Sarah Goolishian.
The monastery was abandoned during the Communist period in Albania but soon after the system’s collapse, its important role in the community was restored. Named after St. Mary, every August 15th locals and others begin their pilgrimage to the monastery to celebrate the birthday of the woman who gave birth to Christ. Another female figure that has left her mark in Zvërnec is the one who embroidered the original flag of Albania’s Independence in 1912. Her tomb is located in the island’s cemetery.
Inside the Monastery of Zvërnec, photo courtesy of Sarah Goolishian.
The pine forest of Zvërnec, with its fresh air and wonderful scent, is a national natural monument that is well-worth witnessing. Keep in mind that this forest holds a large bat population so, unless you are a bat enthusiast, the best time to visit is during the day.