Albania's Archaeological Past - Two Day Trip


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Albania's Archaeological Past - Two Day Trip

  1. 1. HERITAGE UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITE OF BUTRINT(21 km south of Saranda – approx. 30 minutes onsecondary roads)Begin your trip by heading south from Saranda to theNational Archaeological Park of Butrint situated Butrint,on a low promontory on the southwest coast of Albania.Named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992, the sitehas been occupied since at least the 8th century BC. Oneof the more famous myths associated with the origins ofButrint speak of the city’s foundation by Trojan exiles, byHelenus, son of King Priam of Troy. Legend further states
  2. 2. that it was at Butrint where Helenus, also a seer,prophesized to Aeneus that he would later found thecity of Rome. By the 4th century BC a walled settlementhad been established and the city became a successfulcult site dedicated to Aesclepius, the Greek god ofmedicine and healing. The Roman Emperor Augustusfounded a colony at Butrint and the town seems to haveremained a relatively small Roman port until the 6thcentury AD. Its later medieval history was turbulent asthe town was involved first in the power strugglesbetween Byzantium and successive Norman, Angevinand Venetian states, and then in the conflict betweenVenice and the Ottoman Turks. By the early 19th centurythe site of Butrint had declined to a small fishing villageclustered around a Venetian castle.One of the most noteworthy monuments in Butrint isthe elegant Greek 4th century BC theater with its well-preserved seats and Roman stage, which has a capacityfor over 1,500 spectators and is still used for summerperformances today. Other remarkable objects ofinterest include the sanctuary of Aesclepius; Roman-period courtyard houses and bath-houses; the ruins of alarge Byzantine baptistery with its intact mosaic datingto the early 6th century AD; a well-preserved 6th centurybasilica, later refurbished in medieval times; andkilometers of high, imposing walls dating from Greek,Roman, Byzantine, and medieval occupations.Other than its historical value, Butrint also possesses awonderful ecosystem. It is positioned in the midst of a
  3. 3. veritable ever-green subtropical “jungle” with laurels andtall trees dominating in the area. Admission to Butrint is700 lek for foreigners and 200 lek for Albanians. Price ofadmission includes entrance to the Butrint Museum,created in partnership between the Albanian Governmentand the Butrint Foundation and located in the castle onthe hill, overlooking the entire park. Both the park andthe museum are open 09:00 – 16:00 and tourist guidesare available in many foreign languages. Ask at the ticketbooth for more information. VIVARI VIVARI CHANNEL CA STLESCASTLES(1 km south of Butrint – approx. 5 minutes on ferryplatform)The Venetian Triangular Castle was built on the south Triangularside of the Vivari Channel by the Venetians in the 15thcentury. Reachable by foot or by car via the ferry platform,or by rowboat from Butrint National Archaeological Park,this fortress, known as the Triangular Castle, defendedthe fish traps of Butrint which were the primary financialasset of the settlement in this period. Soon after thefortress was built, the old town of Butrint was abandonedin its favor. Admission is free.
  4. 4. Another small fortress is located at the mouth of theVivari Channel and has often been attributed to Ali Pashaof Tepelena, although it appears on the Venetiancadastral map of 1718. Known as the Vivari ChannelFortress it is a small rectangular structure (22 x 30Fortress,m) with battered walls. The earliest building within thefort is a large rectangular tower supported by threebarrel-vaulted rooms. The main area of occupationwould have been in the upper levels of the tower. Thefort’s circuitous walls include two battered round towerswith firing embrasures on its seaward side and twoirregularly sized battered square towers, again withfiring loops or windows, looking up the channel towardsButrint. The principal entrance of the fort lay beneaththe former dwelling space to the north, where thecentral vaulted chamber, protected by musket ports,opened directly onto the Vivari Channel. Admission isfree. BADHRA PREHISTORIC SETTLEMENT(70 km north of Butrint – approx. 90 minutes on theNational Road and secondary roads)From Butrint, return to Saranda and continue north alongthe coast on the Vlora-Saranda National Road until youpass the village of Piqeras. Approximately 8 km past
  5. 5. Piqeras you will see close on the left side of NationalRoad(approx.200-300 meters) the prehistoricsettlement of Badhra Noted by experts as one of Badhra.the more peculiar prehistoric settlements for its innerorganization and house plans, Badhra dates to 1,300-1,050 BC (late Bronze Age) and is situated at about300m above sea level. Archaeological excavationshave identified over 18 dwellings of various shapesand sizes, evidence of which can still be seen today. LUNCH IN BORSH(1 km north of Badhra – approx. 5 minutes on theNational Road))After a short drive from Badhra, you will soon arriveat your next destination, the village and beaches ofBorsh, home to one of the longest stretches of beachon the Albanian Riviera. Known as Meandria in ancienttimes, Borsh has plenty of green fields, beaches and
  6. 6. sea shore. The village is located on a narrow pit formedby the delta of the Borsh Spring which comes out of arock in the middle of the village. As a seaside town,visitors are encouraged to try the local catch of theday: sea bass (levrek), snapper (koce), or red mullet(barbun), served either fried (skuqur) or grilled (zgare).Fried potatoes and a variety of salads make for greataccompaniments, served family-style with homemadewines. PREHISTOIC SETTLEMENT OF KAROS(9 km north of Borsh – approx. 40 minutes on theNational Road and secondary roads)The tourist center of Qeparo is located just north ofthe town of Borsh, and travelers are encouraged tostop for a short coffee under the waterfalls of one ofthe local streams that run into the sea. Many of thebuildings in Upper Qeparo village, located on the sidesof the mountain, belong to the era of Ali Pasha ofTepelena, in the 18th century. Located near the villageof Upper Qeparo is the prehistoric settlement ofKaros It is one of the many fortified prehistoricKaros.settlements of the coast and has three distinct, separatewalls of fortifications, traces of which are still visibleon the surface. Among the most important prehistoricsites in the Albanian territory, Karos is 450m above
  7. 7. sea level and dates to 1200-1000 BC in the late BronzeAge. The Karos settlement played an important role onthe coast from the 12th-5th centuries BC in its role as afortified and militarized center. After the 6th century AD,the settlement became a farming and agricultural center.Watch the sun set over the Karos ruins, just as its previoussettlers have done, before returning to Borsh for dinnerand overnight. CASTLE OF BORSH(2 km from of Lower Borsh – approx. 10 minutes onthe dirt road)After a late breakfast, take time to visit the Castle ofBorsh where the only mosque along the Riviera issituated. Be prepared for a 15-20 min steep walk uphillto reach the castle from the main road. The Borsh Castleis an ancient fortification originally built in the fourthcentury B.C. by the Epirote-Illyrian tribes. The castlewas heavily damaged during the barbarian invasions ofthe fifth and sixth centuries A.D., and it was rebuilt in theMiddle Ages at which time it took the name of SopotiCastle, before becoming known as Borsh Castle. In 1417the castle was seized by the Ottomans who later restoredit in the 18th century. The castle occupies a surface area
  8. 8. of 5 hectares and is surrounded by large stone blockswhich are three meters wide. The Borsh Mosque isthe only monument of the castle that is almost fullypreserved. In 1769, the commander of the castle, asupporter of Ali Pasha’s, conducted massive works thatenabled people to live inside the castle. The inhabitantsthen erected a mosque near the main gate of the castle.After visiting the castle and mosque, head back to thetown of Borsh to purchase some olives, grown and curedlocally in the nearby olive groves. PICNIC LUNCH WITH THE GHOSTS OF CAESAR’S LEGIONS AT PALA SA CAESAR’S AT PALA ALASA(37 km north of Borsh – approx. 100 minutes on theNational Road and dirt roads)From Borsh continue north to the beach of Palasa Palasa,stopping to purchase local honey, beeswax or brandy forsale along the roadside. Just shy of where the road beginsto climb up to the Llogara Pass, there is a dirt road turn-off towards the sea. Follow the dirt road as far as yourvehicle will allow and continue on foot to the beach. Somehistorians claim this was the disembarking area of JuliusCaesar and his legions while he was at war with Pompeyin the 1st century BC. Caesar and his men crossed over
  9. 9. the Llogara pass to the north, attacked the city ofOrikum (today an archaeological park) and repelled thetroops of Pompey. Ruins of ancient Palaeste (modernday Palasa), date to the 2nd century BC. The naturalsetting of the Riviera and the archaeology of the areamake this the ideal combination for an afternoon of restand relaxation. ARCHAEOLOGICAL PARK ARCHAEOLOGICAL PARK OF ORIKUM ORIKUM(33 km north of modern Palasa – approx. 55 minutes onthe National Road, secondary and dirt roads)After lunch, return to the National Road, and drive upthrough the Llogara Pass and back down towards VloraBay to the town of Orikum. Local products, such ashoney, olive oil, and fresh seasonal produce are usuallyavailable for purchase from roadside stands on theNational Road, depending on weather and the time ofyear.From Orikum, head towards Vlora Bay to reach theArchaeological Park of Orikum According to Orikum.Pseudo-Scymnos, an anonymous Greek author andgeographer, the city of Orikum was settled by the lostEuboeans, who were blown off course by strong windson their return voyage from the battle of Troy, in the12th-14th centuries BC. Today preserved in a nationalpark, the ancient Greek city sits on a favorablegeographical position where the Adriatic and Ionian Seasmeet. As well as its proximity to Italy and Greece, thismade Orikum an important harbor on the Adriatic coast.Orikum was later occupied by the Romans as a defensive
  10. 10. base in their wars against the Illyrians and the Macedoniansin the 3rd century BC. Archeological evidence shows thatOrikum was a developed urban center, with anamphitheater that could hold around 400 spectators.Submerged under the Orikum lagoon, the city’s elaboratenetwork of roads can be still seen today. Cost of admissionranges from 200 lek for Albanian visitors to 700 lek forforeign visitors. This spot is also ideal for bird watchingenthusiasts. No guided tours are currently available,though locally-produced guidebooks are available for saleat the park entrance. An average visit lasts 30 – 90 minutes.Park hours are 09h00 – 16h30 daily.After the archaeological park, visitors may choose tospend the night in a guesthouse in the town or Orikum, orreturn to Vlora for one of their luxurious hotels. Dinnermay be taken at any of the numerous seaside restaurantsin either city, or along the stretch of National Road joiningthem.
  11. 11. This two-day itinerary allows visitors to step into theAlbanian Riviera’s archaeological past, highlightingprehistoric settlements, ancient underwater cities, andglorious castle fortifications, which will enchant theimagination. The visit is complemented by a trip to Albania’sfirst UNESCO World Heritage Site of Butrint.Please note that travel and visitation times are approximateand may vary depending on the season, weather, and/orvehicle used. As of January 2008, the Vlora-Saranda NationalRoad has only been improved as far south as the village ofDhermi. Travelers should be cautioned that the road is inthe process of being improved and road construction maydelay their journeys. Travelers are advised to travel thesesegments by daylight if the driver is unfamiliar with thesewinding, secondary roads. Public transportation will onlyprovide access to locations on the main Vlora-SarandaNational Road; private transportation is recommended.Walking shoes in good condition are also advised. No siteson this itinerary are handicapped accessible. For more Information:;;; Celesi Tourist Guides; e-mail: Car Rental Companies: Sixt; EuropCar; AVIS; HERTZ Integrated Coastal Zone Management and Clean Up Project