This hidden gem is an ancient Greek and Roman colony that became part of Albania's first National Park.
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Greek settlers founded a colony on the site of Butrint sometime between the 10th and 8th Centuries BC. According to mythology, the city was settled by refugees from the Trojan War, including Helenus, one of King Priam's surviving sons.
The city was built on top of a hill overlooking the Straits of Corfu and became a major strategic location. An acropolis was constructed during the 7th Century BC, and, by the 4th Century, the city had an amphitheater, an agora, and a temple dedicated to Asclepius.
Known to the Romans as Buthrotum, the city became a protectorate of the Roman Republic. As Rome's influence grew, Butrint was incorporated into the province of Macedonia. Under Emperor Augustus, Butrint became a colony for veteran legionaries.
During Augustus' rule, Butrint doubled in size. The city gained an aqueduct, a forum, bathhouses, new residential buildings, and a nymphaeum. These were all built around the existing Greek structures, creating one of the most important Graeco-Roman cities in Eastern Europe.
Butrint was struck by an earthquake during the 3rd Century AD, and this began a period of gradual decline. However, the city remained under the control of the Byzantine Empire until the 1200s. In 1992, Butrint was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and became part of Albania's first National Park in 2000.
Butrint is one of the largest and best preserved examples of a Graeco-Roman city in Eastern Europe. Today, the site sits within the Butrint National Park, which encompasses almost 100 km².
The amphitheater sits at the heart of the site and was built into the same hill that supported the acropolis. The remains of the temple dedicated to Asclepius can be found nearby. The Roman forum found in Butrint is one of the only surviving examples in the region. The complex also contains the remains of a Roman bathhouse.
Butrint also boasts several Byzantine Christian sites. The Baptistery, built on top of an existing Roman structure, displays an impressive surviving Roman mosaic on select days during the year. Another mosaic can be found in the ruins of a nearby basilica and is on display all year round.
After the Byzantines, Butrint was controlled at various times by the Venetians, who built the stunning 14th Century castle that now houses Butrint's museum. The exhibits display some of the finds from various excavations around Butrint, including several statues.
Visiting information and tips
Entrance fees to Butrint cost 700 leke (approximately €6) for non-Albanian citizens. Albanian residents can enter the site for 300 leke (€2.50). The site is open from 8am until dusk, while the museum opens from 9am to 4pm.
The nearby city of Sarande is the main travel link for Butrint. It's a five hour bus journey away from Tirana and a two hour ferry or 50 minute hydrofoil journey from Corfu. From Sarande, take a half hour bus journey to the archaeological site.