The ancient city of Butrint, one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites, is far and away the most visited archaeological site in Albania, with visible remains spanning two-and-a-half millennia – from the first settlers in the late 6th or early 5th century BC to Ali Pasha Tepelena at the beginning of the 19th century AD.
Then the site became overgrown and half-forgotten, visited only by the occasional artist (including the British nonsense poet Edward Lear), until 1928, when the Italian Archaeological Mission, led until his death by Luigi Maria Ugolini, began to uncover the city’s hidden treasures.
After World War II, Butrint was once again abandoned and forgotten until the Albanian Centre for Archaeology began excavating there in 1956. Archaeological research has continued at the site ever since.
Informative and well-presented panels guide the visitor through the city; the small museum, on what was once the acropolis, illustrates Butrint’s history through beautiful artefacts; further interesting sites lie across the Vivari Channel, which connects Lake Butrint with the sea, and can be visited on foot or by boat. There is so much to see in and around Butrint that anyone with more than a fleeting interest in history or archaeology could easily spend a whole day (or more) there.
- Mother Teresa (Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu) is generally celebrated as the only Albanian to win a Nobel Prize, though born in Skopje in 1910 (now in Macedonia but then in the Ottoman Empire).
- Between 1950 to 1985 around 600,000 bunkers were built in Albania, they are nearly impossible to destroy so many are still in existence.
- Noding your head in Albania is a disagreement while shaking the head means “yes”, so it can get pretty confusing for tourists.
- At its closest point Albania is only 10km away from Corfu across the Ionian Sea.
- Hoxha’s official title was ‘Comrade-Chairman-Prime Minister-Foreign Minister-Minister of War-Commander in Chief of the People’s Army’ – quite a mouthful!
- Under the leadership of Enver Hoxha, Albania was declared the world’s first atheist state in 1967.
- Xhiro is the name for an evening walk in Albania. Some of the towns close roads to cars at certain times of the evening so locals can talk their daily stroll.
- Norman Wisdom was a cult figure in Albania where he was one of the few Western actors whose films were allowed in the country under Hoxha’s dictatorship
- Officially 70% of Albanians are Muslim but the number who actively practice is much lower.
- George Kastriot Skanderbeg
- Mother Teresa
- Fan Noli
- Pope Clement XI
- Gjon Mili
- Ismail Kadare
- Ferid Murad
- Inva Mula
- Eliza Dushku
- John and Jim Belushi
- Ermonela Joha