Tepelenë is a municipality in Gjirokastër County, southern Albania. It is located on the left bank of the Vjosë river, about three kilometres downstream from its union with the Drino.
Until the abolition of Districts in 2000, Tepelenë was the principal settlement of the Tepelenë District.
Its location is strategically important and there is a ruined citadel occupying a point 300 metres above the river. Ali Pasha was born at the nearby village of Beçisht. In 1847, the British writer Edward Lear visited the town and noted the devastated buildings.
At the nearby Aoos Narrows ("Aoi Stena"), a Macedonian army barred the way to Epirus and, in 196 BC, a decisive battle, the Battle of the Aous took place between a Roman army commanded by Consul Titus Quinctius Flamininus and the Macedonians commanded by Philip V. After an attempt of a truce and an inconclusive battle, the Roman army was led by a shepherd to a point where the Macedonians could be attacked and the Romans won the battle.
The Byzantines built a defensive tower which was successively developed during the Ottoman Empire epoch in the 15th century and by Ali Pasha in the early 19th century.
The Young Turk revolutionaries met in Tepelenë in February 1909, in an attempt to persuade Albanian nationalists to join them.
In 1920, an earthquake destroyed the town which was completely rebuilt afterwards: local tradition says that if Tepelenë exceeds 100 buildings then it will be destroyed. In the same year, 400 Italian soldiers surrendered to the Albanians, during the Battle of Vlora.
On 7 April 1939 Italian forces landed in Albania and took control of the country and Tepelenë. After the failed Italian offensive on Greece in October 1940. In this time, the Albanian troops deserted the front of the order of their commander, Colonel Prenk Pervizi. Colonel protested and told the Italian command that the Albanians were not cannon fodder. Colonel Pervizi with other officers and Albanian troops were transferred and isolated in the mountains of northern Albania. Italians suffered a great defeat that debitarono the "betrayal" of the Albanian troops. This fact was the first sign of revolt against the Italian occupation.
Greek forces counter-attacked and advanced toward Tepelenë in a general offensive on Vlorë. Despite several attacks and assistance from the British Royal Air Force, the Italians managed to hold the town and in late April 1941, following the German invasion of Yugoslavia, the Greek army was forced to withdraw.
The local Italian army camp was converted by the post-war Communist regime to a forced labour camp. It had a bad reputation for brutality and disease and was referred to as the "Albanian Belsen". Here were detained families, the elderly, women and children. The most important families of "Albania, that the Communist regime wanted to destroy and annihilate. Many died and their graves were made to disappear.
The land was plowed and sowed of rye. So there remained no sign of the tombs. Was uncork himself dictator Enver Hoxha, who had given the order to make disappear the graves, when he learned that the tombs are of the condemned were locked up in that camp. The camp was closed in the 1954. In this camp, many children and old people died, of cholera, of hardship and deprivation. A cholera epidemic had killed most of the inmates.
In the 1997 unrest in Albania, Tepelenë became a focal point for the uprising against Sali Berisha's government. A people's committee took charge of the town in March 1997 and released opposition politician, Fatos Nano, from the local prison. The movement spread immediately to Gjirokastër where weapons were distributed from Tepelenë.
The local mineral water plant is an important and successful local enterprise.
The football club is SK Tepelena.