Surrounded by a picturesque lagoon, Butrint is one of the Ionian's most remarkable archaeological sites and one of Albania's most beautiful national parks. Inhabited since prehistoric times, Butrint, in antiquity Buthrotum, was successively the site of a 6th-century Greek colony, a Roman city and a bishopric. The city prospered under Byzantine administration, was occupied in the 14th century by the Venetians, then by the French, and then the Ottomans. The Ottomans built a fortress for private entertaining and one of their regular visitors was Lord Byron who wrote a poem dedicated to Butrint. Butrint began to be abandoned in the late Middle Ages due to marshes forming in the area. Wars, earthquakes and new cities hastened the city's decline. Today the site is a rich repository of the past and a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. From the pier, a 45-minute drive takes us to Butrint, where the visit begins.
The word Butrint is related to Aeneas, the Trojan hero who sailed to this area and sacrificed an ox to gain safe entrance to the region. The ox swam to shore, the site of Butrint, thus giving the area its name, "wounded ox". The idyllic wooded setting has inspired writers from Virgil to Racine. An Italian archaeological team headed by Luigi Ugolini supervised three excavations here from 1928 to 1939. Following the war, Albania continued the excavations. Since 1994, archaeologists of the University of East Anglia have made further excavations.
Today, the approximately 50 square mile site (86 sq. kilometers) is an Albanian National Park and is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1993. Walk along the winding paths to discover layers of civilisation: Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine and Venetian. Complete the visit with a view from Butrint's acropolis and a short visit to the museum.