Sight Tour: Butrint
- Length Two to Three Hours
Many people whizz straight to the theatre and other key Butrint sights, but you'll gain the most from a visit by taking your time and first visiting the more minor ruins and slowly building up to the main event.
The moment you enter the site the path forks. Left will take you towards the theatre and museum. Instead go right to the comparatively modern Venetian Tower. Carry on along a narrow forest path busy with lizards to the atmospheric and often quiet ruins of the Triconch Palace. Starting life as a grand Roman villa, it was greatly expanded in the early 5th century AD, though archaeologists believe it was abandoned shortly before completion.
Along the same path and deeper in the forest is a wall covered with crisp Greek inscriptions, and the 6th-century palaeo-Christian baptistry. Once the largest such building between Rome and Constantinople, its floor is made up of one of the finest mosaics in Albania. Unfortunately, though, this is almost always covered by sand for its own protection. Beyond are the impressive arches of the 6th-century basilica, built over many years.
Follow the massive Cyclopean wall (dating back to the 4th century BC) along the lake shore until you get to the imposing Lion Gate, which has a relief of a lion killing a bull and is symbolic of a protective force vanquishing assailants.
By slowly following the shady path to the top of the hill, you'll come to a Venetian castle which today houses an informative museum. The views from the museum's courtyard give you a good idea of the city's layout, and you can see the Vivari Channel connecting Lake Butrint to the Straits of Corfu.
Head back down the hill to marvel over Butrint's show-stoppers. First up is the 3rd-century-BC Greek theatre, secluded in the forest below the acropolis. Also in use during the Roman period, the theatre could seat about 2500 people. Close by is the Forum and the small public baths, where geometric mosaics are buried under a layer of mesh and sand to protect them from the elements.