Why go to southern Albania and not go to the Butrint Archaeological Park is for giuggerelloni! 🙂 And it is especially so if you choose to spend a holiday on the Albanian Riviera , in one of these two locations that are very close to Butrint.
Because I know that the temptation to lie down on one of the comfortable sun loungers on the beach and stay and watch the Albanian sea with your feet soaked all day, perhaps even having the coffee brought from the bar, is very strong, but the Archaeological Park of Butrint is absolutely one of the things to see in Albania !
Just think that they even organize day trips from Greece, with tourists who board early in the morning to ferry to Saranda and reach Butrint. And then going to see Butrint is equivalent to taking a history lesson , with the entire five-year high school program enclosed in a single site! Okay, maybe you’ve already done your baccalaureate exam, but there are certainly not many places to see in the world! 😉
In short, if you are thinking of organizing a trip to Albania enter Butrint among the things to see, you will not regret it! It is not for nothing that the Archaeological Park of Butrint, located in the homonymous salt lake, was the first Albanian site to be included in the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Map of Butrint and itinerary on what to see
- History of the Butrint Park
- When to go to the Butrint Archaeological Park
- How to visit Butrint
- How to get to Butrint
- Visit Butrint with children
- What to see around Butrint and Ksamil
1) What to see in Butrint and map of the archaeological park
Butrint National Park is inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List and currently covers an area of 86 square kilometers. Most of what was found during the excavations can be admired at the Historical Museum of Tirana but in Butrint to see there are the small museum , the Venetian castle on the top of the hill and some of the ancient buildings.
In particular, do not miss the Acropolis and the Greek Theater . The latter dates back to the third century BC, later modified by the Romans. Then there are the public baths , decorated with mosaics with the Sanctuary of Asclepius as well as the Palazzo Tricorno also known as the Palazzo dei Tre Apsidi.
Interesting to see in Butrint are the 6th century AD Baptistery , the great Basilica and the Illyrian walls with the Lion’s Gate . Below you can find the map of Butrint to organize your visit to the Archaeological park.
2) The history of the Butrint Archaeological Park in Albania
The story of the discovery, or rather of the rediscovery, of Butrint is a bit of a legend and is closely linked with that of Italy. In fact, it seems that the (Italian) archaeologist who discovered the ancient ruins was actually looking for Buthrontum , the city that Virgil sings in the Aeneid, citing it as the place where those who managed to escape from Troy found refuge. In reality, the political purpose of that archaeological expedition was another: in the period of Fascist Italy, an attempt was made to find a historical justification for annexing Albania to Italy, which in fact was done in 1939.
However, what Ugolini faced – this was the name of the Italian archaeologist who rediscovered Butrint – in 1928 was a site that contained in a relatively small area the history of the main civilizations of the Mediterranean , from the ancient Illyrians, to the Romans, up to the Venetians and the Ottomans. An exceptional discovery that probably not even he expected.
The site of Butrint then rises in an enchanting place, on a peninsula with the lagoon surrounding the ruins, and the visit offers wonderful views, especially at sunset, when the light of the dying sun makes the landscape even more evocative.
For all these reasons, the Butrint National Park in my opinion is one of the stops that you must not miss during a trip to Albania. Among other things, Butrint is very close to the beaches of Ksamil and remains open until sunset, so you could visit it right at the end of a day at the beach.
What do you say, did I persuade you to go there? 😉
3) Useful information for visiting Butrint: when to go
The Park is open until sunset but the Museum closes earlier (around 4.00 pm) so if you arrive late it is better to start the visit from the top and then go down to see the rest. Sunset is a very impressive time to visit Butrint but be prepared for mosquitoes and don’t forget a repellent (after all, the Butrint Archaeological Park is located in a lagoon!)
4) How to visit the Archaeological Park of Butrint
The visit to Butrint can be done independently (they will give you a map at the entrance and there are explanatory panels) but you can also take a guided tour with the Italian-speaking guides who are normally found right at the entrance to the park. This second option allows you to better understand the history of the Butrint Archaeological Park as the mysteries it holds are still many.
5) How to get to Butrint National Park
If you arrive from Ksamil by car, the Butrint Park is well signposted and you cannot go wrong , also because right in front of the entrance to the site you will find a… ferry! And to continue you will be forced to embark your car (or leave it in the parking lot and visit Butrint)!
If you do not have a car from Saranda, day trips are organized to visit Butrint (here the information for guided tours of Butrint from Saranda ).
6) Visit Butrint with children
The Butrint Park is well shaded so you will have no problems visiting it with small children even in the hottest hours, but if the children still do not walk it is better to avoid the stroller because you will face stairs and bumpy paths.
Inside the Archaeological Park of Butrint you will find a small kiosk where they sell drinks and a market where they sell local handicrafts that support the economy of the area. If you decide to visit Butrint at sunset remember an anti mosquito repellent because the lagoon is unforgiving! Then if you are looking for more information to go to Ksamil with children follow the link with the information.
7) What to do around Butrint
Next to the entrance to the park there is a hotel but Butrint is located very close to Ksamil , so perhaps the simplest thing is to spend at least a couple of days in the area and enjoy the wonderful beaches of this village recently discovered by tourists. If you want some more information on where to sleep in Ksamil follow the link.
If you are with your family and are looking for a more lively location with more services, another idea is to stay a little further away, in the White City. Saranda with children is perfect if you are looking for restaurants, carousels and inflatables. From there you could also decide to go to Corfu and spend a few days in Greece. In fact, daily there are hydrofoils that connect Saranda to Corfu and also some ferries useful if you want to embark the car.
Finally, about two hours drive from Butrint there is the beautiful Gjirokaster , in Italian Gjirokaster, another city that is certainly worth a visit and that I have told in a dedicated post.
If you decide to visit Butrint keep in mind that it will take you at least five hours from Tirana , so you should think about arriving the night before or, better still, dedicate a few days to the area, perhaps staying in Ksamil. On your way back to the north, take a detour and stop for a night in the charming town of Berat , a little gem still not very touristy in the Albanian hinterland.
Finally, if you are looking for more information to organize a holiday, we recommend some travel guides on Albania. There are not many on the market in Italian: this guide from Albania offers several itineraries for an on the road in the Land of Eagles, this is detailed above all for Tirana and the north while this is very rich in historical insights. The Lonely Planet of Albania, on the other hand, is a bit sparse on the Land of Eagles because it is dedicated to the Balkans but perfect if you are thinking of a wider on the road.
And if you want some other advice, leave a comment below.