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Jun 06 2014

Butrint National Park

During my short visit to Saranda, in Albania, one of the places on my ‘must-see’ list was Butrint.  What I didn’t realise was that it’s also on a lot of other people’s lists too.  Well, I suppose that’s no surprise since it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, has national park status, and is a Ramsar Wetland Site of International Importance. For that reason, it definitely deserves to be this week’s Foto Friday.


A Short History of Butrint

Butrint has an interesting history with archaeological evidence dating back as far as 10th century BC.  It seems that over the years, everyone and their dog has been there and left their mark in one way or another.

Here’s a very brief summary of its history:  According to classical mythology, it was originally called Buthrotum, and was founded by people fleeing the fall of Troy.

From the 4th century BC, Butrint was used as a healing sanctuary, dedicated to Asclepius, the god of medicine.  People travelled here to make offerings to the god, seeking cures, and attending ceremonies.

Later, with the rise of the Roman Empire, Butrint flourished as a Mediterranean city.  At that time, the area extended to about 20 hectares and a variety of buildings such as temples and baths were built.  Eventually, Christianity spread to Butrint, which is when the Baptistery and Great Basilica were built.  The Normans tried to seize Butrint at some point.  I’m unclear as to whether they actually seized it because I’ve read two conflicting versions.

By the 13th century, it began to thrive once again and a castle was built on the hill (acropolis).  In the 14th century, when Venice was a republic, it purchased Corfu and Butrint and pretty much controlled trade and shipping along the Adriatic coast.  From the 15th century, they refortified Butrint to protect it by building a tower and fortress because they were in constant battle with the Ottomans.

After all this, Butrint lost its prominence and became a small fishing village that happened to have a castle.  The settlement, at this time, was governed by Ali Pasha, an Ottoman, Albanian ruler after being under French control for a short time.  A variety of foreign diplomats and people such as Lord Byron and European artists visited the region, often as his guests.

Finally, in the 20th century, an Italian archaeological team, uncovered the ruins you see today.

Useful information

Today, it’s a very popular sight.   There are many coach tours throughout the day.  I took a local bus from Saranda, which takes no more than 40 minutes.  To escape the crowds and avoid the midday sun, it’s better to go early in the day.  Butrint opens from 08.00-19.00 daily and you can get a bus from Saranda every 30 minutes from 07.00 until 12.00 and then hourly until 18.00.  However, the bus back from Butrint only runs once every 2 hours.

One useful bit of information I found out as I was leaving (typical) was that you can have a free tour with a guide from the park, once you’ve paid for entry.  You will find them near the entrance.

If you fancy it, you could take a picnic and spend the whole day enjoying the grounds, once you’ve seen all the ruins.  If you do that, you’re bound to escape the crowds because the organised tours follow a certain route and only spend a short amount of time there.  That would give you the opportunity to explore and make the most of the national park.

Once you’ve finished at Butrint, you can get the local bus back at 12.30, 14.30, and 16.30.  If you get one of the earlier buses, you can stop off at Ksamil on the way back to Saranda to make the most of the beautiful sandy beach before getting the last bus back to Saranda.


Here are the locations mentioned:

Center map
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Have your say

Have you been to Butrint?  Do you have any further information on it that you’d like to share?

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