This morning, after meeting your guide and driver, you will transfer westward toward the coast to visit the historic seaside town of Durres, which is also the second largest city in the country.
Thanks to the area’s strategic location on a wide and protected bay, the ancient Greeks established a trade colony here in the 7th century BC. Under the Romans, Durres, then called Dyrrachium, prospered and became an important military and naval base as well as the starting point of the famous Via Egnatia road which crossed the Balkans all the way to Byzantium (now Istanbul).
Today, thanks to its location and the proximity to Western Europe (the distance across the Adriatic Sea to Brindisi in Italy is less than 150 miles) the city is again an important industrial, maritime and commercial center and boasts some great historic and archeological monuments reflecting its rich past. Regular ferry lines connect Durres with the Italian coast and the port towns of Bari and Brindisi as well as with Ancona and Trieste further north.
Upon your arrival in Durres this morning, your guide will take you on an overview tour of the city’s main historic sights. For a good introduction to the region’s history, you may decide to start with a visit to the Archaeological Museum located in a modern building on the seafront. It has an impressive collection of finds from the Greek, Illyrian, Roman and Byzantine periods including amphorae, coins, carved sarcophagi, decorated tombstones and statues.
Just a short walk from the Archaeological Museum, you will see some of the best-preserved parts of the city’s protective walls, the oldest sections of which were built by the Byzantines in the 5th-6th centuries to replace earlier fortifications destroyed by an earthquake. In the 15th century, when the Venetians controlled the city, parts of the fortress were rebuilt and some towers were added like the cylindrical one can see close to the harbor. Also in the center of the city, one of its main tourist attractions are the partially unearthed remains of the Roman Amphitheater which was built in the 1st-2nd century and once had a capacity of 15,000.
Continuing further north, you will reach Durres’ main square where the Town Hall, the theater and some administrative buildings are located. Just behind the theater, one can still see the Roman forum – a circular public area which was once paved with stone and surrounded by colonnades and which was used for public meetings and discussions. Nearby are also the remains of a Roman public bathhouse (thermae) which was an integral part of every Roman city and had an important place in the everyday lives of its citizens.
The remainder of the afternoon will be at your leisure to explore Durres with your guide. You may wish to stroll along the city’s promenade and browse through its cafes and shops. Alternatively, if you are interested in Ottoman or Communist architecture, your guide will be happy to show you some typical examples.
Later today, you will transfer back to Tirana and your hotel for an evening at your leisure.
Car, Driver & Guide
Hotel: Sheraton Tirana