Historic and Cultural Treasures of the Saranda District - One Day Trip
ATMORNING CAPPUCCINO AT THE CA STLE CASTLEOF LËKURËS(2 km east of Saranda – approx. 10 minutes onsecondary roads)Begin your journey by following signs to LëkurësCastle a small 16 th century castle on a hillCastle,overlooking Saranda that was transformed into apopular restaurant and bar in the early 2000s. Toclimb up to the castle, visitors need to leave themain road on Qafë Gjashtë and go up the hill fromthe other side of Saranda. Built on the ruins ofLëkurës village, legend has it that the castle wasbuilt in 1537 by Sultan Suleiman the Magnificentwhen he attacked Corfu in his quest to control theharbor of Saranda and the road that connects itwith Butrint. The castle has a square shape withtwo round towers on its northwestern andsoutheastern corners. Enjoy your morningcappuccino in the restaurant as you survey Sarandaand its surroundings. From Lëkurës Castle, visitorscan see Butrint Archaeological Park to the south,the ancient site of Phoinike, the Monastery of 40Saints and the Greek island of Corfu in the distance.Admission is free. MONASTERY OF FORTY SAINTS (1 km east of Saranda – approx. 5 minutes on secondary roads) After Lëkurës, visitors may head to the nearby Monastery of Forty Saints a few minutes drive Saints, from the castle. The monastery is situated on top of a hill, on the outskirts of Saranda, in a strategic location from where it is possible to control the city, whilst commanding a tactical perspective over Corfu and the Lake of Butrint. It is thought to have been built in the 5th-6th centuries AD and was an
important pilgrimage center in its heyday in the 10thcentury. The church is dedicated to the forty Christianmartyrs of Sebastia who were put to death in 320 AD.The monastery also gave its name to the modern cityof Saranda, as “saranda” is the Greek word for “forty”.It is a unique complex in Albania, because it is the onlymonastery that has an underground script, which iswell preserved to a large extent. Considerable wallpaintings have also been uncovered duringarchaeological excavations. Admission is free.MONASTERY OF SAINT GEORGE(8 km south of Saranda – approx. 15 minutes onsecondary roads)Head to the south from Saranda, along the coastalroad, and after passing the bridge near the village ofÇuka, stop to visit the Monastery of Saint George George.The Monastery of Saint George is situated on thesummit of a small peninsula that juts out into the IonianSea and it includes a small church within the monasticcompound. Wall paintings in the church have beendated to the 18th and early 19th centuries. Admission isfree although visitors are encouraged to leave a smalldonation for the upkeep of the church. LUNCH OVERLOOKING KSAMIL ISLANDS (9 km south of Cuka – approx. 10 minutes on secondary roads) The tiny yet growing village of Ksamil is a perfect place to have lunch by the sea, with views of the nearby Ksamil Islands These islands are located in the Ionian Islands. Sea, near the Greek island of Corfu. Covering a total area of 15 hectares (5 hectares of land and 10 hectares of sea), they range from 7.5 – 15 meters above sea level. These small islands are located very close to each other, and are covered with typical
Mediterranean plants and bird life. A number ofrestaurants have been built up on the hillsides ofKsamil, offering visitors fresh fish and seafood fromthe Ionian Sea, mussels from Lake Butrint, and freshmeats supplied by local stockbreeders. In thesummer months, be sure to leave time for a quickdip in the sea from one of the many fabulous beachesin Ksamil before heading to your final destination,the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Butrint. HERITAGEUNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITE OFBUTRINT(4 km south of Ksamil – approx. 10 minutes onsecondary roads)The National Archaeological Park of Butrint issituated on a low promontory on the southwest coastof Albania, south of the modern city of Saranda andopposite the Greek island of Corfu. Named a UNESCOWorld Heritage Site in 1992, the site has been occupiedsince at least the 8th century BC. One of the morefamous myths associated with the origins of Butrintspeak of the city’s foundation by Trojan exiles, byHelenus, son of King Priam of Troy. Legend furtherstates that it was at Butrint where Helenus, also aseer, prophesized to Aeneus that he would later found
the city 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 6th centuryAD. Its later medieval history was turbulent as the townwas involved first in the power struggles betweenByzantium and successive Norman, Angevin and Venetianstates, and then in the conflict between Venice and theOttoman Turks. By the early 19th century the site of Butrinthad declined to a small fishing village clustered around aVenetian castle.One of the most noteworthy monuments in Butrint is theelegant 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 of interestinclude the sanctuary of Aesclepius; Roman-periodcourtyard houses and bath-houses; the ruins of a largeByzantine baptistery with its intact mosaic dating to theearly 6th century AD; a well-preserved 6th century basilica,later refurbished in medieval times; and kilometers of high,imposing walls dating from Greek, Roman, Byzantine, andmedieval occupations.Other than its historical value, Butrint also possesses awonderful ecosystem. It is positioned in the midst of averitable 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. Both the park and themuseum are open 09:00 – 16:00 and tourist guides areavailable in many foreign languages. Ask at the ticketbooth for more information.
VIVARI CHANNEL CA STLESVIVARI CASTLES(1 km south of Butrint – approx. 5 minutes onferry platform)The Venetian Triangular Castle was built on Triangularthe south side of the Vivari Channel by theVenetians in the 15th century. Reachable by footor by car via the ferry platform, or by rowboatfrom Butrint National Archaeological Park, thisfortress, known as the Triangular Castle, defendedthe fish traps of Butrint which were the primaryfinancial asset of the settlement in this period.Soon after the fortress was built, the old town ofButrint was abandoned in its favor. Admission isfree.Another small fortress is located at the mouth ofthe Vivari Channel and has often been attributedto Ali Pasha of Tepelena although it appears Pasha Tepelena epelena,on the Venetian cadastral map of 1718. Knownas the Vivari Channel Fortress, it is a small
rectangular structure (22 x 30 m) with batteredwalls. The earliest building within the fort is alarge rectangular tower supported by threebarrel-vaulted rooms. The main area ofoccupation would have been in the upper levelsof the tower. The fort’s circuitous walls includetwo battered round towers with firingembrasures on its seaward side and twoirregularly sized battered square towers, againwith firing loops or windows, looking up thechannel towards Butrint. The principal entranceof the fort lay beneath the former dwelling spaceto the north, where the central vaulted chamber,protected by musket ports, opened directly ontothe Vivari Channel. Admission is free.End your day by enjoying dinner at one of therestaurants near Butrint or return to Saranda fordinner and overnight.
This itinerary highlights the various culturalmonuments in and around Saranda, including castles,mosques, churches and archaeological ruins.Please note that travel and visitation times areapproximate and may vary depending on the season,weather, and/or vehicle used. Public transportationwill only provide access to locations on the mainVlora-Saranda National Road; private transportationis recommended. Walking shoes in good conditionare also advised. No sites on this itinerary arehandicapped accessible.For more Information:www.albaniantourism.comwww.tirana-airport.com.al; www.bashkiavlore.org;www.himara.eu; www.saranda-guide.comCelesi Tourist Guides; e-mail: email@example.comCar Rental Companies: Sixt; EuropCar; AVIS; HERTZ Integrated Coastal Zone Management and Clean Up Project