There’s so much to explore in Central-South Albania, from outdoor adventures to the vast number of castles and towns from every historical era.
Bouthrotos is located on the southwestern coast of Albania, facing the Greek island of Corfu. The site has been occupied by various empires since around the 8th century BCE, but legends hint at the city’s foundation by Trojan exiles. Augustus founded a colony in Butrint and the town remained a relatively small Roman port until the 6th century CE. Butrint is the most important and the most frequently visited archaeological site of Albania, and part of UNESCO Heritage since 1992. The Butrinti Lake is highly praised for its biodiversity of flora and fauna.
National Park of Llogara is situated 40 km south of Vlora at the dividing point between the Adriatic and Ionian Seas. This park is notable for its expansive pine forests. The Flag Pine is one of the largest trees in the park and is remarkable for its ecological significance. Aerial activities are popular here, with numerous paragliding competitions being held within the boundaries of the park. Vistas of the nearby Vetëtima Mountain Range and the picturesque beaches serve as the perfect setting for a variety of outdoor recreational opportunities.
Established in the 3rd century BCE, once flourished as a political, economic and cultural center in the region. Being governed by a body of civil servants, the introduction of a bronze currency system and a reputation for having skilled artisans were the hallmarks of this powerful society. The cathedral is perhaps the most impressive area within Byllis. It consists of the basilica, the baptistery and the diocese complex. The threshold leading to the entryway is made with an extensive mosaic. Notably, it is the largest mosaic discovered in Albania to date. It displays diverse motifs and scenes reflecting the daily life of shepherds, anglers and others.
Cicero, the famed Roman orator, was captivated by the beauty of Apollonia, and in his -Philippics, referred to it as magna urbs et gravis,(the great and important city). The ancient city, founded in the 7th century BCE by Greek settlers from Corinth and Corcyra, is located 11 km west of the modern city of Fier. Among the most interesting remains are the city council building, the library, the triumphal arch and the temple of Artemis. The Odeon, from the 2nd century BCE, is also noteworthy, as it once accommodated approximately 10,000 spectators. The site is easily accessible and it offers both unique views of the Adriatic coastline and numerous historical and archaeological items of great interest to visitors.
Antigoneia was a very short-lived city, lasting for approximately 150 years. It was founded by one of the most famous names of the ancient world, King Pyrrhus of Epirus (319-272 BC), from whom the phrase -a Pyrrhic victory’ derives. At the outset of the 3rd-century BC, Pyrrhus was forced to go and fight in Egypt. His abilities impressed Berenice, the wife of King Ptolemy of Egypt, who decided to offer him her daughter, Antigone, in marriage. In token of his gratitude to his mother-in-law and his first wife, Pyrrhus decided to build Antigoneia.
Finiq (Phoenice) is located near the modern city of Saranda and is about 20 km north of Butrint Lake and the Albanian border with Greece. The site is rich in findings from the Classical to the Byzantine period. Ancient sources mentioned the wealth of the city, especially during the Hellenistic period, between the 3rd and 2nd centuries BCE, when Finiq was a prominent city in the Epirot League. Phoenice boasts several archaeologically important relics, including a small prostylos temple, a theater, exemplars of Hellenistic houses, and several Roman water cisterns. This picturesque site also contains an important Byzantine church
The only Marine Park in Albania. Consists of surrounding sea water 1 nautical mile from the shores of the Karaburun Peninsula and Sazan Island.
It is a small castle situated in a small tectonic bay of Porto Palermo (knowed in antiquity as Bay of Panormes). The castle is not far from the Qeparo village and has a pentagonal shape (dimensions 150 x 400 x 20 m). Built in honor of Ali Pasha’s wife, Vasiliqia, the castle served as a control point.
Situated 2 km south of Saranda city. The castle has quadrangular shape, with towers located in each corner. The castle was constructed in year 1537 under the order of Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent, during the Siege of Corfu. The castle is situated on the highest peak of the city, offering exceptional views and fine dining
The largest of the quarries in the Acroceraunian Mountains (today the peninsula of Karaburun) was located on the western coast of peninsula in a bay protected from the waves of the sea – today Gramma Bay. These quarries were once the main source of wealth for the town of Oricum, providing large blocks of stones, used to erect historical monuments in Apollonia and Dyrrhachion. The bay was named Gramma (Greek word for “letter”) because of the numerous inscriptions left by sailors who found shelter during the storms. The earliest of these inscriptions belong to the 3rd-2nd centuries BCE continuing into the Roman and Byzantine eras. Two important military and political leaders of the Roman Republic, Sulla and Pompey the Younger, have also left their traces in the Gramma cliffs.
Vlora has been described throughout centuries by foreign travelers as “the nymph” of the shores of Ionian Sea and as “the pearl” of the Mediterranean coast. Crowned by Illyrian castles of Himara, Kanina, Borsh, and Porto-Palermo, possessing ancient gems with historical value such as Amantia stadium, Triport, Mesaplik mosaic or Gramata’ scripture carvings, Vlora has always played a crucial role in the history, politics and the economy of Albania.
The Amantia National Park is situated high up the Kurvelesh Mountains, 50 minutes drive east of the city of Vlora. Aside from its spectacular location and biodiversity, Amantia offers traces of ancient history, as once the capital of the Illyrican tribe of Amantes, around V century BCE. Most notable sites among the preserved, are a stadium and a significant sculpture known as God of Fertility, which is currently displayed at the National Histoy Museum in Tirana.
Situated at the crossroad of the Adriatic and Ionian Sea, Orikum (Orikos) is today a small coastal town, but its geographical position made it once -around V century BCE – a highly strategic port . Orikum once hosted a crucial episode of Julius Caesar’s military career, a battle between him and his powerful opponent Pompeius Magnus, at the very beginning of the Great Roman Civil War.
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