The Island of Zvernec and its Monastery (Zvërnec)
Zvernec Island is an island within the Narta Lagoon in southern Albania. The island is almost covered with tall pine trees. It is 430 meters in length and has a maximum width of 300 meters. The island of Zvrnec is connected to the territory by a 270m long wooden bridge. The island is a tourist attraction, because it also contains the well-known Monastery of Zvrnec from the c. XIII-XIV of the Byzantine Empire. Near the island is the village that bears the same name. The island has an area of about 9 hectares.
Zvërnec Island is, undoubtedly, one of the most fascinating places in southern Albania. Located within the Narta Lagoon, a few kilometers from Vlora, it can also be reached on foot via a bridge that connects the peninsula to the island. Recently built, the large bridge almost seems to rest on the water, so as to give the idea of walking inside the lagoon. The connection winds towards a panoramic point, where you can take suggestive photographs. The island is located near some of the busiest beaches in the country; to visit it, it takes no more than half a day and for those who pass by Vlora for vacation or something else, it becomes a mandatory stop.
Thanks to the hunting ban issued in 2014, the island is populated by a great variety of birds. You can admire pelicans, wild ducks and sometimes the Dalmatian pelican, a rare specimen to meet. The varied presence of vegetables, which characterizes the island, is no less.
The undisputed protagonist of this enchanting place is the magical Monastery of Zvërnec, of Byzantine creation, located in the center of the island and surrounded by rich vegetation. The orthodox construction, dating back to the 13th century, is dedicated to Santa Maria.
The building already shows itself in all its beauty from the outside, with the stones placed on the facade, which seem to resist the weather undaunted and with its sloping roof supported by magnificent arches. A crucifix dominates the entrance door, as if to bless anyone who enters it. As soon as you enter, you feel like you have stepped back in time. The atmosphere that reigns is portentous and enveloping, just like the delicate scents that nature gives it. There are numerous Byzantine frescoes that embellish the interiors and that resist the wear and tear of time very well, being in perfect condition. The colors of the reproduced icons are warm and the reigning and religious silence is pure enchantment.
Totally abandoned during totalitarianism, which forbade all forms of religious practice, up to the imposition of atheism decreed by the Constitution, the building was restored and reopened to the public with the fall of the regime and the proclamation of Albania’s independence. Outside the building there are the remains of an ancient cemetery, whose inscriptions in Greek suggest that it was populated by women, perhaps religious martyrs. The entrance to the monastery is free, but it is not allowed to take photographs inside. The monastery of Zvërnec, today, in addition to being a beautiful tourist attraction, is a very important religious center for the district of Vlora, particularly popular on August 14 and 15, on the occasion of the Orthodox feast of the Assumption.
The night of the 14th becomes magical: pilgrims go to the island in the evening and await the new day, consuming food, singing and dancing traditional dances. During the day of the 15th, the religious functions dedicated to the festivity take place, which are a great attraction for believers. Tourists, on the other hand, are happy to be able to taste the local dishes, to be able to get closer to the local customs and to spend a different holiday. Apart from holidays, the island is inhabited exclusively by the guardian of the Monastery. Therefore, if you decide to spend time on site, you need to equip yourself for a picnic.