Near Vlora , near the city of Fier , there is one of the most important archaeological sites in Albania: Apollonia . Going there means taking a dip in Albanian history but also discovering how much this country has to offer to travelers, beyond the wonderful beaches of Ksamil or the Albanian Riviera .
For this reason, if you are looking for something to see near Vlora that is not the “usual” sea, we advise you to walk the almost 40 kilometers that separate the city from the archaeological site to dive into the past, where two peoples who made history meet. of the Mediterranean, the Greeks and Romans.
- The history of the Archaeological Park of Apollonia
- The birth of the Archaeological Park of Apollonia
- How to get to Apollonia
- What to see at the Archaeological Park of Apollonia
- Practical information for visiting the archaeological park
- Apollonia with children
- What to see near Apollonia
1) The history of Apollonia in Albania
Apollonia was in fact one of the largest Greek colonies in Albania which was defined by Cicero in the Philippics as ” magna urbis et gravis “. Founded in 588 BC in its heyday, over 50,000 people lived here and the location chosen, in a strategic point not far from the peninsula not far from a navigable river, soon attracted the attention of the Romans.
Apollonia thus became a Roman protectorate , frequented by Silla and also by Julius Caesar who passed through the city during the civil war against Pompey, but here also lived Octavian, who, just while studying in the city, received the news of the murder of his adoptive father in Rome and met an astrologer who predicted his future as an emperor. In the 4th century Apollonia became an episcopal center but, perhaps due to attacks by the Goths, an earthquake and malaria, it was then abandoned and disappeared into oblivion.
Thus, traces of Apollonia were lost for centuries and, although many have searched for the place where Julius Caesar and Octavian lived, the site returned to light only in 1924 , when the expedition of archaeologists led by Leon Rey found the lost city.
2) The rediscovery of Apollonia and the birth of the Archaeological Park of Apollonia
The French archaeologist managed to carry out the main excavations in the period between the two wars and opened the first archaeological museum in Vlora, right in the place where the Declaration of Independence of Albania was made. The French archaeologist stayed in Apollonia for 14 seasons building his house on the highest point of the ancient city where the temple of Apollo once stood, the house and the museum were then destroyed by bombing and in the long years of Communism there was little research carried out on the site which has only been excavated for 10%.
Today the excavations continue also thanks to the collaborations with foreign universities and from the investigations made it has been possible to establish that the total extension of the city of Apollonia was over 1000 hectares , with a necropolis, the river port and the temples. The artifacts found, whose most important pieces are now in the Tirana museum, are of Greek, Roman but also Illyrian influence, and are very refined because there was a school of sculpture in the city, moreover the city could mint coins and the official language was Greek, a clue that suggests a free city even in Roman times. Apollonia still hides many mysteries, well protected under thick layers of soil, where today the peasants cultivate their fields, but in any case the visit to the site is very fascinating and gives a better understanding of the links between Albania and Italy.
3) How to get to Apollonia
Apollonia is located about an hour’s drive from Vlora , Vlora in Albanian, which is one of the ports of entry into the country for those who choose a holiday in Albania for this reason the Archaeological Park of Apollonia is one of the things to see near Vlora if , after arriving by ferry, you decide to stay a few days in the city. Other ideas in the area are the beaches of Orikum, the Karaburun Peninsula and the Narta Lagoon.
If you follow the links above you will find the indications for these Albanian destinations, our advice, however, if you love history, is to evaluate the stop in Fier which is not a particularly interesting city but also allows you to visit the archaeological sites of Ardenica and Byllis.
If you decide to reach Apollonia by car, you will have to enter the indications for the town of Pojan in the navigator : from there you can get to Apollonia in a few minutes. If desired, it is also possible to get to Apollonia by bus, changing at Fier and then taking the bus to Pojan (then a stretch on foot).
If you are based in the capital but do not have a car, consider the guided tours of Apollonia from Tirana , we recommend two:
- Apollonia and Ardenica : a tour that allows you to visit Apollonia and Ardenicache, its nearby archaeological sites;
- Apollonia and Durazzo : a place that combines Durazzo and Apollonia with a stop at the sea.
The advantage of organized tours, in addition to not having the problem of moving around, is that they will allow you to have a guided tour of the archaeological sites without which you will lose much of the history.
4) What to see in Apollonia and map of the Archaeological Park
The archaeological site of Apollonia allows you to see original buildings of different civilizations: the Illyrian, the Greek and the Roman.
The most visited parts of Apollonia is the ‘ Agora – where he organized the social life of the city, which, even when it becomes Roman protectorate, however, kept the Greek influence – and the museum , which displays the finds.
Worth seeing in Apollonia are the 2nd century AD Aganotheses monument , the Bouleuterion , the Odeon , the theater, the Roman villa with mosaics and the temple of Artemis . Also within the archaeological site are the Byzantine monastery and the church of Santa Maria.
Below you will find the map of the Apollonia Archaeological Park to organize your visit.
5) Practical information for visiting the archaeological site of Apollonia
Here is some information to visit Apollonia:
- The Archaeological Park of Apollonia stands on a hill and is surrounded by olive groves with very little shade.
- The cost of the Apollonia ticket at the time of our last visit was 400 lek.
- Along with the ticket we were not provided with maps of Apollonia, there are some maps at the entrance and in a few other points of the site, the signage is poor.
- The Archaeological Park of Apollonia is gigantic and only a small percentage of the beauties of the place have been discovered.
- We have carried out the visit with a guide on site but it is not certain that you will find one, in which case try to inform yourself first because without a guide you lose a lot of the site.
- On the site there are two bars-restaurants to stop or eat something, one is at the entrance while the second is on the hill.
- The opening hours of Apollonia are from 9.00 to 20.00 in the summer (but check as there may be changes).
6) Visit Apollonia with children
Unfortunately, at the time of our visit, no activities were organized for children at this archaeological site. If you decide to visit Apollonia with children do not forget the sunscreen and a hat because the heat and the sun are felt and there is not much shade on the site and if the children are small avoid the stroller because the paths are disconnected and sometimes enough steep.
Inside the Archaeological Site of Apollonia there is a restaurant where you can eat with the children but bring some snacks because you will have to walk there but the park is large and finding your way around is not easy.
7) What to see Near Apollonia
In addition to the city of Vlora and Fier , the beaches of Orikum and the Karaburun Peninsula and the Ardenica Monastery are also worth a visit .