Visiting Butrint from Ksamil, Albania

Visiting Butrint from Ksamil is a very easy trip and one I would definitely recommend. The UNESCO World Heritage site is just 5km away from┬áKsamil and can easily be reached by car or taxi. Butrint is a place of unique historical importance in Albania and is a great way to learn more about the varied history of the country. So if you’re planning a beach holiday in Ksamil, make sure you add Butrint to your itinerary too. You can even plan a day trip there if you take the Corfu to Albania ferry.

One of the things we loved most about Butrint is that it is right next to Lake Butrint and has lots of forested areas within the site. So it really does feel as though you have stumbled upon a forgotten world. It’s also one of the main reasons why I’d advise getting there early to beat the crowds!

If you’re travelling around Albania with kids, they’ll have a great time at Butrint. It’s a huge site to explore and the fact that you can climb around structures such as the Roman theatre make it really fun. I can pretty much guarantee though, whether you’re travelling with toddlers or teenagers, their favourite bit will be the wild terrapins which live in the moats and pools scattered across the site.

Why is Butrint important?

As a UNESCO World Heritage site, Butrint is important because of its unique history. There is evidence that it has been occupied from as early as 50,000 BC right up to the 19th century AD. During that time it has been a Greek colony, a Roman city and a bishopric. As a result it has a fascinating mix of archaeological styles. Added to this is the fact that, unlike many historical sites in Europe, it has not been cleared or developed and is surrounded by marshland. So it really does feel as though it is a lost city. In fact, many buildings remain underground, so there is still a lot to be discovered.

Walking around Butrint gives you a whistle-stop tour of its varied history. From the Sanctuary of Asclepius (the god of medicine) which was founded in the 4th century BC and helped Butrint rise to fame, to the Roman baths and gymnasium which were once central buildings in the town.

Further along, the Baptistery with its detailed mosaic floor is an important example of early Byzantine monuments. Unfortunately it is not possible to see the mosaic most of the time as it is covered over with sand to protect it from the elements. However you can see photos of it at the museum, which is inside the castle on the site.

the Baptistery at Butrint
The Baptistery at Butrint

The Great Basilica is also an impressive structure. It was built at the beginning of the 6th century and was still being used as a church until the 18th century. 

The Great Basilica at Butrint
The Great Basilica at Butrint was used as a church until the 18th century

The site itself is easy to navigate and there are information boards in both Albanian and English at many of the main places of interest. Some of these sites, such as the theatre you are free to wander around, whereas others have barriers to stop people walking on the delicate mosaic floors. (Not that this stopped the many ‘influencers’ we saw who simply hopped over them in order to get the perfect shot. Please don’t be those people.) 

Visiting Butrint from Ksamil

One of the reasons we planned our 10 day itinerary for Albania in this way is that it is very easy to visit Butrint from Ksamil. The site is only 5km from Ksamil, although it will take around half an hour to drive there due to the route you’ll need to travel. Don’t forget to prepare yourself for driving in Albania if you plan to do this. Alternatively you can also walk there, which takes around an hour.

It is also possible to take a bus from Sarande to Butrint, which costs 100 lek. It leaves from the Saranda ferry terminal once an hour.

Alternatively if you’re staying further afield, such as in Tirana or even Corfu, you could take an organised tour, such as these:

Visiting Butrint with kids

Visiting Butrint with kids is great. It’s a huge site to explore, with plenty of places which can be clambered over and explored. For older kids its a great way to learn about the varied history of Albania, with buildings remaining from its time as a Greek colony, right up to the Middle Ages. Meanwhile younger children will love having the freedom to explore such a big site. My guess is that everyone’s favourite bit will be the terrapins that live in the water surrounding the site!

Butrint with kids = lots of time spent looking at terrapins

If you’re thinking about when is the best time to visit Albania, something to bear in mind is that Butrint does get very hot during the day, particularly in the height of summer. The site is also very large and has some access to open water, so keep little ones in sight. 

Top tips for visiting Butrint

  • Arrive early to beat the crowds
  • Wear suncream and a sunhat as it gets very hot in unshaded areas
  • Take your own refreshments as there is only one restaurant on site
  • Wear sturdy shoes as the ground is uneven in parts
  • Keep a close eye on little ones as the site leads directly onto open water
Sanctuary Of Asclepius, Butrint
The Sanctuary Of Asclepius, Butrint

How long do you need in Butrint?

If you’re visiting Butrint from Ksamil, two to three hours will give you plenty of time to see the site. You could easily spend longer than this if you want to take a picnic, but be aware that it does get very hot in the summer. There is a small information office at the gate of Butrint and a restaurant near the castle.

Roman theatre at Butrint, Albania
Exploring the Roman theatre at Butrint

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