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UNESCO Heritage Albania

GUIDE TO THE IONIAN ISLANDS

The Channel of Corfu, which separates the island of Corfu from Albania, is just 2km wide at its narrowest point. Such proximity makes it eminently feasible for anyone staying on Corfu to visit a few of southern Albania’s many artistic, archaeological and natural wonders, including the UNESCO World Heritageprotected Butrint National Park and Archaeological Site

Clearly visible from many of our villas, the green hills and mountains of the park comprise almost 55km2 of richly biodiverse countryside, a freshwater lake, coastal wetlands and
the remarkable remains of ancient Bouthroton. Situated on a hill above the Vivari Channel, which links the lake to the sea, Bouthroton has a remarkable history that dates back to at least the 8th century BC. In around the 4th century BC, the town had grown into an important trading centre, enclosed by thick defensive walls. Its strategic position at the mouth of the Adriatic Sea, and its flourishing economy attracted the attentions of regional powers and soon it came under the control of the Romans. Both Caesar and Augustus expanded the town considerably by colonising it with veteran legionaries.

Despite being significantly damaged by an earthquake and undergoing a subsequent decline in importance, Bouthroton managed to survive the ravages of time and nature. After the fall of the Roman Empire it regained some of its former significance, becoming a bishopric in the 6th century. After joining the Byzantine Empire, northern powers arrived in the form of the Venetian Republic, the Angevins and Napoleonic France. Then, after a final 100 years of Ottoman rule, Bouthroton was abandoned. In 1912 the area was incorporated into modern-day Albania.

Excavations began in 1928, and it soon became apparent that Bouthroton was a remarkable site, which, in the words of UNESCO, “is a veritable conservatory of major monuments in ruins from each period of the city’s development... the fortifications bear testimony to the different stages of their construction from the time of the Greek colony until the Middle Ages.” Visitors today may admire a well-preserved Greek theatre and a wide variety of remains, including a sanctuary of Asclepius, defensive walls, Roman baths, a 6th century Paleo- Christian baptistery and Basilica (with some wonderful mosaic floors), a Venetian fortress and much more besides.

If your interest has been piqued, The Thinking Traveller would be delighted to organise a day trip for you. Find out more here.

Guided tours of Unesco Heritage sites >>

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