Lock-In Tower of Theth – Theth, Albania - Atlas Obscura

Lock-In Tower of Theth

Theth, Albania

Once a safe haven for locals engaged in blood feuds, this 400-year-old fortified tower is now a museum showing what life was like for those lying in wait within its walls. 


Northern Albanians once lived by their tribal code according to the Kanun, a set of customary laws established by the Kanun of Leke Dukagjini, a 15th-century nobleman. Among its 1,262 articles, the Kanun permits blood feuds (gjakmarrja), in which a person is entitled to “an eye for an eye” in the form of murder as retribution for killing or dishonoring a family member in the name of justice.

It was not uncommon for these feuds to last years, spanning several generations and resulting in the deaths of multiple men—and sometimes even women and children as collateral damage—on both sides. Beyond the Middle Ages, Kanun law persisted in parts of Albania, despite being outlawed by communist dictator Enver Hoxha. To this day, scattered blood feuds reportedly still exist, with some individuals isolating themselves at home in their villages, living in constant fear of eventual retaliation by a family scorned long ago by one of their ancestors. 

During feuds, male family members would confine themselves in towers called kullas to give themselves a defensive advantage over the opposing clan. The men would remain here until the ensuing feud was over, that is, until all males who posed a direct threat were killed, or until reconciliation was achieved, possibly with the help of a council of elders. The kulla is located just off the main road in Theth, beyond the lineup of guesthouses. There are no designated opening hours, but locals in one of the neighboring houses will open the tower on request. At the time of writing, the admission fee is 150 leke. 

Know Before You Go

The Valbonë-to-Theth hike in the Albanian Alps is absolutely stunning and worthwhile for those who enjoy trekking. From the northern city of Shköder, a 90-minute minibus transfer to Komani can be arranged by your guesthouse or hostel. A beautiful ferry ride across the blue-green Komani Lake will bring you to Fierzë, where you can catch another minibus to Valbonë (the drive is about one hour). Stay overnight in one of the charming guesthouses in the village and make your way to the trailhead in the early morning. The hike to Theth is 17.2 km (the highest point is 1800 m) and takes around 6 or 7 hours to complete. 

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