The southern Albanian coast is very close to Corfu and, since the 7th century BC when Greece established colonies in what was then Illyria, strong trade and cultural links have existed. Now regular short ferry and hydrofoil crossings from Corfu make it easy to reach Saranda and the remarkable UNESCO World Heritage Site at Butrint. It is just possible to make a day-trip of it.
Sunny Saranda is an attractively situated port and seaside town, a pleasant place to stay. An ancient city, it has Roman and Byzantine remains, though little archaeological work has been undertaken. On the Butrint road south lie the interesting mins of the Byzantine Monastery of Shen Gjergi, a lovely spot with views of the Adriatic and good bird watching in the marshes. Further south, the pleasant beach-resort of Kasmili makes an alternative base.
Butrint is one of the most exciting sites in the Balkan Peninsula. Set against a background of hills and largely bounded by water (ancient Butrint was effectively an island), this extensive and complex site has remains dating from periods covering 2,500 years. The excellent guide to Butrint by Neritan Ceka is essential for serious exploration. The massive perimeter walls, some dating from the 5th century BC, shelter Roman baths, a Venetian tower, a Greek lustral well, fragments of early Christian buildings and a large complex known as the Triconch Palace. Finely carved gates pierce the walls, two opening onto the lakeshore, where the ancient harbour lay. The inner fortress contains temples and baths, a gymnasium, a Roman house, Greek theatre and acropolis and an early Christian baptistery. Many of these have fine mosaic floors.
By boat and car
WHEN TO GO:
Late April to October
TIME IT TAKES:
It’s possible to complete the trip in 1 day, but much better to make it a jaunt of at least 3 days.
The enormous baptistery is a building of great beauty and tranquillity.
Ksamili has an idyllic beach, clean, clear blue water and good fish restaurants.
Sunset on Saranda’s waterfront, when Corfu seems to drift in a haze.
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
Get hold of the guidebook to Butrint before your visit as it’s rarely