Butrint National Park is an important UNESCO archaeological site in Albania, just a quick trip from Greece (including Corfu Island!).
Here you will learn everything you need to know about how to get there, what to see, and whether it’s even worth it!
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What is Butrint National Park?
Butrint National Park is the site of an ancient settlement that even pre-dates the Romans! The ruins of Butrint were built over several different eras, but the oldest parts date back to the 8th century BC.
Butrint is unique because not only can you visit the ruins of a very large settlement, you can see the remnants of a town that grew through ancient Greeks, ancient Romans, Byzantines, Venetians, and finally Ottomans, before it was eventually abandoned.
Where is Butrint National Park?
Butrint National Park is just south of Saranda and Ksamil in Albania, and just across a narrow sea from Corfu island.
Going from Corfu to Butrint
*Important! You will need your passport. The park is in Albania.
Best – Corfu to Butrint By Tour
Surprisingly, the cheapest and easiest option for going from Corfu to Butrint is with a tour. Check it out here.
I was pretty surprised because this tour includes your transportation, entrance fee, and a lunch, for only a few euros more than the ferry trip alone. (At the time of writing, it’s 58 Euros per adult.)
Corfu to Butrint by Ferry to Saranda
From Corfu island, you can take a ferry to Saranda with Finikas Lines. The speed boat takes just 35 minutes to make the trip.
In high season there are as many as 8 or 9 departures per day. Tickets can be purchased online, or near the port. For a map and detailed instructions on taking the ferry from Corfu to Saranda, I have all that in this post: Your Guide to Visiting Saranda Albania in 2023
After you arrive in the port of Saranda, there will be many taxi drivers waiting and ready to take you to Butrint for about 1000 – 1500 Lek (one way). The journey is approx 20 – 25 minutes. If you are short on time, a taxi may be the best way to go.
Going from Saranda to Butrint
Saranda to Butrint by Taxi
As I just mentioned, a taxi from Saranda to Butrint is very quick, and not too expensive if you are in a hurry. However the bus is very easy and cheap.
Saranda to Butrint by Bus
You can catch the bus one block from the promenade, across from the ruins and friendship park. This is an easy walk from the port if you arrive from Corfu.
Currently the bus runs on the :05 and :35, so one will come along without you having to wait too long or plan ahead too much. In Albania they do not typically take your fare as you board, so take a seat, and someone will come collect.
The fare for the journey is 150 Leke. Small kids are free at the collector’s discretion. (Basically, shorties ride free.)
The bus terminates at Butrint, so there is no fear of missing it. The total journey takes about 30 to 35 minutes depending on traffic, stops, and if it leaves on time.
Saranda to Butrint by Car
If you are already renting a car, Butrint is a simple 25 minute drive down the highway from Saranda.
Getting to Butrint from Ksamil
Ksamil to Butrint by Taxi
I haven’t personally taken a taxi from Ksamil to Butrint, but I probably would. The drive is just 8-10 minutes and should cost less than 1000 Lek.
Ksamil to Butrint by Bus
The same bus that runs from Saranda to Butrint passes through Ksamil. Unfortunately we have never gotten on there, so I’m not sure about the fare to Butrint from Ksamil, but it is probably less than 150 Leke.
There are 4 bus stops in Ksamil on the map:
If you are confused about whether you are at the right place or not, don’t worry. You should be able to flag down the bus from anywhere on the main road. It will have a big sign for Butrint. Public transit in Albania is very…informal.
Opening Hours and Admission for Visiting Butrint Archaeological Park
Butrint National Park is open daily (including weekends) from 9 AM to 7 PM.
Adult admission is 1000 Lek. Kid under 12 are free, and youth between 12 and 18 are half price (500 Lek).
While this price is very reasonable for what you are gaining access to, it is pretty expensive as far as things to do in Albania go. I think it is the most expensive entrance ticket that we bought in the country.
How to Explore (and Not Miss Anything) at Butrint National Park
There is a LOT to see at Butrint. The absolute standouts in my opinion are the areas 2 & 3 and 9 & 10 on this map:
Because you can’t end your visit on 9 & 10 since it’s in the middle of the park, I recommend saving 2 & 3 for the end. (Of course this won’t be possible on a tour, but it’s not super important anyway. Just a “nice to do.”)
I suggest working your way through the park in this order: 1, 7, 6, 8, 9 & 10, 11 – 15, and finish at 2 & 3, with just a few steps out of the way to see 4 and 5.
1 – Venetian Tower
This tower was built in the 15th and 16th centuries. Unfortunately you can’t go inside. (Not that we investigated or anything…)
7 – Roman Villa/Palace
In the off season (or other rainy times) this area can be flooded because it is very close to the water level. Here you can see the ruins of a large villa that was converted to a palace in the 5th century BC.
6 – Church
This area is thought to have been pagan before it was converted to a church. This is another spot that might be flooded if you visit in the winter.
8 – Baptistery & Merchant House
The baptistery contains a mosaic from the 6th century, and this is most likely what you will see in brochures for Butrint.
Unfortunately, they have the mosaic covered with a layer of sand and gravel to protect it from the elements, so you are unlikely to see it at all. They only uncover it for a brief period every few years.
Not numbered on the map, just down the path from the baptistery, is a merchant house. This is an interesting place where you can really see just how sunk these ruins are.
9 – Fountain Dedicated to the Nymphs
This fountain dates to the 2nd century AD, and you can see that it is right in front of #10 – the Great Basilica.
10 – Great Basilica
The Great Basilica is my personal favorite part of Butrint. It might not be the oldest but it is truly spectacular, and an amazing place to take some photos. It dates back to the 6th century AD.
11 – The Lake Gate
The Lake Gate was underwhelming for me, and the best part for my fortification-loving husband. It is a doorway through the remnants of the Greek walls.
12 – The Lion’s Gate
This gateway was reconstructed during medieval times. It’s called the “Lion Gate” because of the lion crouched over its prey above the door.
My favorite part of this was the fountain inside, with its perfect inscription.
13 to 15 – Acropolis, Castle, and Museum
We went to Butrint three times, and I’m quite sure that #13 is just where an Acropolis would have been. I really don’t recall seeing anything here, and even the map looks empty.
The Castle and Museum are nice but small. There are good views out to the lake here, and flush toilets! Bring some treats for the cats.
The museum is the only part of the castle walls that you can enter. It has a nice variety of statues and other artifacts that were discovered at Butrint. Photos are not allowed.
2 & 3 – Chapel and Ancient Theatre
From the castle you can follow the signs to the Ancient Theatre. If you follow the right path you will come out above it, and have an amazing view. (Mind the bees, there are a million flowers.)
If you follow the path to the exit, you will still come out by the theatre, instead of above it, which is totally fine and has less bees.
This Roman theatre is from the 3rd century AD. It’s one of the best that we’ve been through, but not quite as good as the one at Plovdiv. I love Albania and Bulgaria because of the insane access though. You can climb all over the theatre seats and pretend you’re an ancient.
Attached to the theatre is a 4th century BC chapel dedicated to the god Asclepius. The turtles like to hang out here in the water.
4 – Roman Baths
The Roman Baths are attached to the lower part of the ancient Theatre and town complex. Here you can find some very modern bullfrogs.
5 – Agora/Forum
Listed as “the commercial epicenter of the city” there is not much to this after everything else that you’ve seen in Butrint.
(If you’re exhausted, this is worth a pass.)
Additional Things to Know for a Good Visit to Butrint
There are Toilets (Free!)
There are clean flush toilets on site at Butrint. There is one set near the entrance path, not far from the ancient theatre. The other set of toilets is up in the castle.
Bring Drinks and Snacks
You should definitely bring water to Butrint at the bare minimum. During the summer there appears to be a cafe and a couple of small stalls, but in the winter and shoulder seasons there are no vendors in the park. (There is a restaurant just down the road.)
I would say that Butrint is medium accessible. They did their best with the main paths and you can enjoy most of the park with a stroller or wheelchair. I don’t think that there is a truly accessible way to go through map areas 12 through 15. This is a steep section to the top of the hill where the castle is.
I do think that you can skip the inaccessible areas and still see all the best parts of Butrint National Park.
Is it Worth Visiting Butrint National Park?
We have actually visited Butrint on three separate occasions, and will undoubtedly go again. Not only is it a great place to take first time visitors, the nature and ruins are a beautiful place to hike.
It’s a rare thing to be able to visit the ruins of an entire city, so I think it’s incredibly worth the trip. I would plan for three FULL hours at Butrint.
See more of this region here: