Backpacker’s day trip to Apollonia
In the midst of the Mediterranean, bordered by the Adriatic and Ionian Sea, Albania has recently emerged as one of the world's most interesting traveling destinations.
And Apollonia, is certainly one of them. The famous Roman orator Cicero, astonished by the beauty of Apollonia named it in his Philippics, “magna urbs et gravis” - a great and important city. While, Octavian Augustus studied philosophy in Apollonia until he heard news of Caesar's murder.
Getting to Apollonia
The trip from Tirana to Fier is 115 km long and an additional 10 km to Apollonia.
You can easily hitchhike in Albania, and the road to Fier is a very busy one and definitely you’ll get a ride, just get to one of the routes exiting Tirana, or you can take the minivan to Fier which costs 500 ALL.
The best and slowest route to Fier(absolutely a stunning experience) is taking the train from Tirana, it runs once per day and costs 205 ALL. For more info check the following website http://www.mpptt.gov.al/transportet/orari.php
There is no direct bus to Apollonia, but you can grab a taxi from Fier, which would cost you about 1500 ALL (if you don't like to share a cab) one way. Taking the minivan costs exactly the same and choosing this means of transport makes more sense if you are a group of people traveling together. Taxis are easily found all around the city of Fier.
You’ll pass through the Gylakea, that is the ancient name for today’s field of Myzeqe . Along the way, you will spot some small agricultural villages, where time seems to have stopped and it still feels like communism. These villages have peculiar names like Ferma Clirimit (translated Liberation Farm) accompanied by old buildings still holding on to graffiti paying homage to Marxism and Leninism.
Archeological Attractions in Apollonia
Established in the 7th century B.C., by settlers from Corinth and Corcyra, the ancient city is located to the west of the modern city of Fier.
The city has a 4.5 km long surrounding wall encircling an area of 137 hectares. It has been estimated that during the developed stages of the city, 60000 inhabitants lived inside its imposing walls."
At the entrance to the Apollonia ruins is a 13th-century-AD monastery, Shenmri (St. Mary), displaying artifacts from the site as well as medieval frescoes and stone carvings.
It is a fascinating place to visit which remains mainly undiscovered. As you walk around the area you will also come across some modern history when you see remains of bunkers and tunnels used in Communist times.
Among the most interesting monuments worth visiting are the Bouleterion (city council), the library, the triumphal arch, the temple of Artemis, the Odeon built in the 2nd century B.C., the two-storey 77 m long Stoa, a theater with a capacity of ca. 10000 spectators, and the Nymphaeum (a monumental water fountain covering an area of 2000m2), which has been visited by the Roman emperor Sulla.
In the third century AD it lost its importance when an earthquake shifted the course of the river and the city lost the harbor that had made it an important port.
Unfortunately, there are no hostels or cheap hotels around the area, but camping under the shadow of centenary olives, outside the archeological site is perfect. Apollonia is located on a hill overseeing the sea in the far horizon, and you could enjoy a beautiful quiet sunset in a cool breeze.
The ticket to the main entrance costs xxx for foreigners and xxx for locals. Upon entrance you could ask for the guide which is included in the ticket price. One of the guides is Admir Xhelaj, and he knows a great deal regarding the subject. If he finds out you’re interested, he’ll show you some very cool facts and stuff.
Activities in Apollonia
While in the park is forbidden to play any sort of game or cook, we managed to have permission to play some Frisbee in one of the flat grounds over the hill and barbeque.
Another good idea is to hike along the old walls of the city approx a 4.5 km hike (Bring plenty of water on a sunny day).
Communism bunkers sit at the top of the hill where the Acropolis used to be situated; an underground route links all of them, which might be a good idea to explore if you’re up for it.
All the surrounding area has great trails for mountain biking, a trip of no more than 5-6 km takes you to the sea, which has a white sanded beach very rarely frequented near the delta of the Seman River making it a perfectly peaceful camping site.
Food and beverages
At the site you can find two main restaurants, one located near the entrance and one on top of the hill, highly recommend the upper restaurant for the enjoyment of good views and hydration after the hike. Attention though, they don’t have a written menu and could sometimes abuse with prices. The main dish of course is meat, which is the local delicacy. Prices for the main dish are as follow: Pork meat: 650, Lamb meat: 750, local whole Chickens: 1200, Veal: 700.
The other restaurant has a written menu with prices as follows: Pork meat: 600, Lamb meat: 800, local whole chickens: 1100, Veal: 700.
If you want to be closer to the sea, do not take the turn that takes you to Appollonia, but keep going further down the road and you will come across village of Seman. There’s a great restaurant in this village, named after the owner Vangjel Profka. Food is really fresh and the place healthy crowded and there are a lot of choices in salads and other local specialties for vegetarians.
Enjoy it !!!