best things to do in saranda albania

The Ultimate Guide To Saranda And The Albanian Riviera

Saranda, Albania is an enchanting city. It’s also a city that is undergoing some rapid changes. Tourism is growing here every single year, and now that I am here as I write this, I can really start to see why.

Right now I am perched up in Saranda – also referred to as Sarandë by the locals – for 3 months. It’s the golden jewel of the Albanian Riviera, tucked up on a wide gulf overlooking Corfu, Greece, so close that you think you’d be able to swim there.

For 9 months of the year, it’s just another sleepy beach town with a population of around 30,000. By the time July gets round, these numbers leap to over 200,000.

It is the summer vacation of choice for most locals within Albanian. They flock here in their thousands filling up every single bar, restaurant and nightclub, 7 days a week, for almost 90 days of the year.

The once sleepy fishing village becomes a bustling summer holiday destination, with something for everyone to enjoy. Myself included.

In this post, I will guide you through my experiences, what to do, when to do it, where to eat, where to find the best cocktails, the best clubs, and the best beaches. After reading this post, you will know how to get to Saranda, what to do in Saranda and understand all of the best things to do in Saranda. You’ll know all the coolest places around that most definitely should be on your travel itinerary for your next trip here.

 

saranda albania - ksamil beach

 

Just one word of warning. If you’re sitting there reading this thinking “yeah, I want to go check this place out for myself within the next few years”, I would rephrase that internal dialogue. As I said, this place is changing fast, and what I mean by that is, that new hotels and apartments look like they are going up almost weekly.

From my personal experience – much the same way as how Croatia has changed over the last 10 years – Saranda, and the Albanian Riviera in general, are heading in the very same direction.

More people are learning about the incredible turquoise waters, white sandy beaches and the 300 days of annual sunshine. More people are reading about the UNESCO world heritage sites right on the doorstep of Saranda Albania. More people are discovering the rich culture and diverse landscapes, quintessential villages, and super-friendly locals.

And if you’re anything like me, you like to explore these ‘new’ places before they become mainstream…whilst they are still untarnished and mostly untouched by international tourism.

Where every local in the restaurants greets you with a genuine smile – asks your name, and wants to learn where you’re from and where you have been. It’s a genuine curiosity from locals which I find diminishes as more Internationals begin turning up, year after year

So yeah, do come here and visit – most definitely do that. But if you ask me, I would get here sooner rather than later so you can experience it for what it truly is, before it’s overrun with package holidays and TUI hotels.

But first things first, let’s start with a bit of the history of Saranda. It’s always good to have a basic understanding of a country’s history before you visit. I find it helps to put a lot of things into context when you see and hear things for yourself when you arrive.

 

butrint saranda albania history

 

The Rich History Of Saranda

Saranda has a long and varied history, dating back to the ancient Greek period between the 4th and 2nd centuries B.C. The town was known as Onchesmus in antiquity and was an important stop on the Via Egnatia trade route.

It was later conquered by the Romans and renamed Byllis. During the Middle Ages, Saranda was under Byzantine, Bulgarian, and Serbian rule before falling to the Ottoman Empire in 1417.

The Ottomans used the town as a base for pirates who operated in the Ionian Sea and harassed Italian shipping. As a result, Saranda was repeatedly attacked by Venice.

In 1878, after the Albanian Revolt of 1877-1878, Saranda became part of the newly independent Albania. In 1913, it was captured by Greece but regained by Albania in 1920 after border adjustments were made at the Treaty of Neuilly-sur-Seine.

During World War II, Saranda was occupied first by Italy (1939-1941) and then by Germany (1941-1944). The town was heavily damaged during the war and its economy did not fully recover until the 1950s.

In 1967, Saranda was declared a seaside resort by the Albanian government. Since then, it has become a popular tourist destination for both Albanians and foreigners.

 

The ‘Need To Knows’ Before Travel

  • At the time of writing, the currency exchange from GBP to Lek was £1.06 = 150 Lek. For the sake of simplicity, I’ll be rounding this to £1 (who doesn’t like things easy). $1 would get 112 Lek, and €1 would get you 120 Lek.
  • ATMs are plentiful here, and you’ll quickly get used to using them. Most places here do not accept cards yet so you’ll be dealing with cash most of the time.
  • Everywhere excepts Euros here – it’s like their second currency. Even menus in the restaurants and tour posters will have writing in Albania with Lek and English with Euros. If you’re coming from the EU, then you won’t have to worry about changing up anymore.
  • Fun fact – according to a recent 2011 general consensus, 58% of Albanians here are Muslim. However, after speaking with lots of locals, they all seem to think it’s more like the low teens (10-20%). You’ll see quite a few mosques around and you may hear the call to prayer, but it’s cool and actually quite calming. I have yet to meet one Albanian that is actually religious at all in the south of Albania!
  • The tap water is safe to drink here, although most locals will still use bottled water. Most apartments I have stayed in also have a separate drinking water tap that’s filtered so you don’t have to keep buying bottled water.
  • I haven’t seen anywhere yet where you can recycle which is frustrating. Everything ends up in the big wheelie bins on the side of the road. The only place I have seen where they recycle (plastic bottles) are these big cage-like containers along the seafront which is kind of odd.
  • You’ll be pleased to know that Saranda is a super-walkable city – you can walk from one side to the other in no more than 30 minutes.

 

Best Time To Visit Saranda, Albania

The best time to visit Saranda, Albania will mostly depend on what you want to take away from your trip. With over 300 annual days of sunshine, the weather is great pretty much all year round.

 

saranda albania weather chart

 

Spring

In my option, Spring is my favourite time, and May, in particular, is just perfect. You see the city start to flourish back into life as some of the restaurants, bars and beaches that choose to close for winter start bouncing back to life again.

It’s not too crowded with people yet either so you can still get around all of the sights without the busy crowds ruining your insta ops.

You won’t need to make a booking for restaurants yet either, and the beaches are still quiet and peaceful, even at the weekend.

Summer

Summer is full-on – the streets are crowded and the restaurants, bars and clubs are brimming with tourists. The touristy sights are also packed which I find definitely takes a little away from the experience.

The beaches are overflowing and you’ll want to arrive early if you hope to have any chance to secure a bed and umbrella for the day.

On the other hand, if you like to party, summer is a great time to come, with the clubs and beach parties in full swing and young party goers are amass and having fun.

The weather is also stinking hot. I preferred the 24 degrees in Spring to the 34 degrees in July and August.

Autumn

Another pleasant shoulder season, with September and October still very warm and a great time to get about without the crowds. Some of the beach bars and restaurants will start to close, but there are still plenty of options aside from the ones that do

Winter

Saranda becomes a full-on sleepy town. A lot of bars and restaurants will close for winter, with just the local places and more popular choices choosing to stay open.

It starts to get cold so you’ll want a warm coat, but it also makes for a fantastic time to get in a car and explore what this beautiful country has to offer. From the mountains to the sweeping valleys, the snow-capped mountains look magical in winter and the cool, fresh air feels great in your lungs.

 

How To Get To Saranda

If you’re flying, you’ll either be heading to one of two places – Corfu in Greece or Tirana, the capital of Albania in the North.

As it stands, there is no international airport in the south of Albania, so travellers are restricted to these two options.

Corfu is much closer (just 2 miles or so from the two closest tips) and you can take a ferry from Corfu directly to Saranda in just 30 minutes. Tirana is a little more intensive, with a 5-and-a-half-hour bus down from the north to Saranda and the Albania Riviera.

Of course, depending on where you’re coming from, one airport might be easier to reach than the other, so weigh up your options once you know what they are.

 

Flying Into Corfu

This is the easiest way to reach the Albanian Riviera, with fast ferries shuttling people between the port of Corfu to the port of Saranda in no more than 30 minutes if you take the fast ferry.

You can book your ferries from directferries.com and they cost €17 one way.

There are 3 main ferry companies – Finikas Ferries, Ionian Seaways and Joy Liners. The first two operate regular fast ferries almost every hour in high season (June – August) as well as the occasional slow one, whereas Joy Liners (I believe) only operate slow ferries.

Fast Ferries are 30 minutes to Saranda, and the slow one is just over 1 hour. Bear in mind that when you arrive in Saranda, the clocks move one hour back. Don’t ask me why considering how close the two are.

From Corfu airport, you will head out from the airport and see a taxi rank across the road on the left. These guys will pull your pants down here and charge you €20 for a taxi to the port of Corfu. Unfortunately, there aren’t any other taxis like Uber here yet, and these guys don’t accept anything less for the 7-minute drive.

You can also take a bus which only costs €1.70 each way. Come out of the airport and turn left – as you walk towards the end of the arrivals lounge you’ll start to see buses lined up on the road, and look for one that says ‘Port’.

You will get dropped off right outside the international port which is also the last stop. Simple.

And lastly, yes you can also walk. It will take you around 45 minutes and if you have backpacks or suitcases, it’s not going to be very pleasant in 30+ degrees heat. Trust me – I walked one time to try this myself, and wouldn’t be doing it again in summer!

If you have some time to pass before your ferry leaves, you can ask your taxi driver to drop you off at Sette Venti – a nice coffee shop and food place to chill before walking 15 minutes to the international ferry terminal.

 

map of corfu ferry terminal to saranda

 

I struggled to find the ferry terminal when I was there, but at least you won’t have to.

From there, you’ll have to go through security and passport control again since you’ll be leaving the European Union, so give yourself at least half an hour to get through (plus the 15 minutes walk if you’re down in Sette Venti)

30 minutes later and you’ll be passing through Albania border control and welcomed to Saranda! You can walk to your accommodation from there or take one of the taxis that hang around outside of the port waiting for arrivals.

 

Flying Into Tirana

If you’re flying into Tirana, you’ll have to take a bus down from the north to Saranda. The buses run from the regional bus station just outside the city centre, so if you’re staying in the centre for a few days, you’ll want to take a taxi or other local bus the short drive to the bus station.

Going directly from the airport to the bus station is also a breeze, and taxis will be at hand outside the airport to run you the 16 minutes down to the bus station.

Now, when I say bus, I mean this in the loosest form possible. The buses that operate from Tirana to Saranda are not so much a bus as they are small vans that simply run the 5 and a half hour trip from north to south (and back again) 7 times a day.

One way costs 1500 Lek (around £10).

 

bus departure timetable from tirana to saranda

 

I haven’t taken one of these buses yet, but lots of friends I have met here have and they say they are perfectly fine.

Riviera Bus used to run regular coach trips around the country but I think these are no longer operating. Worth checking them out though since they might just have stopped running for a while from the time of writing.

You’ll get dropped off in the centre of Saranda so you will likely be close to your accommodation anyway. Just so you know, nothing in Saranda is too far away since you can walk from one side to the other in no more than 30 minutes.

 

Finding Accommodation In Saranda

There are plenty of places on offer here. There are a ton of options on Airbnb and booking.com – the two places you’ll find the most choice.

You will mostly find studios, and 1 and 2-bedroom apartments here. If you’re looking for more bedrooms than that, you might find the search difficult.

And if you’re planning on visiting in the high season (June, July and August), then you need to bury your indecisiveness and book your place sooner rather than later because the good places vanish fast.

As I mentioned, the population multiplies almost weekly as high season approaches as people flock to the Albanian Riviera from other parts of the country, and if you want to find the perfect accommodation for your stay, you’re planning needs to start 3 months or so earlier.

That’s not to say you won’t find anything if you’re after a spontaneous trip away here, but your options will be limited and you’ll pay through the teeth for something when better options for something similar would be quite a bit less.

If you’re like me and appreciate slow travel, your best bet is to book a few nights somewhere first and then get talking to the locals. A lot of taxi drivers, restaurant owners etc know someone with places to rent and you will actually be able to go and check it out first before committing to a monthly stay (I do the same with Airbnb in other places during the off-season too).

Insider Tip – you can also negotiate a little on the price for longer stays to get a better deal. As long as you go about it in a respectful way, these are usually more than happy to accommodate s few of your requests.

Other options are Facebook groups, and there are a few of them for apartments in Saranda as well. I used this group to find an apartment and got talking with the guy who managed it.

Andi is a really great guy and we actually became good friends during my stay here. If you want some of the best priced apartments outside of Booking and Airbnb, then drop Andi a private message in the group and tell him you’re friends with me (Ricky), and got his contact from my blog.

He told me he gets A LOT of messages which he doesn’t have time to reply to, but mention me and he said he will always get back to you!

And lastly, for monthly stays – sometimes even nightly stays on Airbnb’s – bills usually aren’t included, so you’ll need to remember to factor in these extra costs as well. Read the details of the stay carefully if booking on Airbnb, and make sure you double-check with the hosts if you’re asking around locally whilst you’re here (bills are usually around €50-80 for a monthly stay depending on usage)

 

Where To Stay In Saranda

As I already mentioned, Saranda is an incredibly walkable city so you will never really be too far away from anything. That said, there do seem to be 3 main parts that make up Saranda, so check out the below map and see for yourselves.

 

saranda albania map of different areas

 

1. Quiet Area

Mostly residential and a few local ‘tavernas’ serving up tasty food at a very reasonable price. Two of my favourite restaurants are here, but more on that later.

You’re also super close to the port so reaching your accommodation is a breeze, even by foot.

It’s a quiet area so you’ll get a good night’s sleep away from the noise of the crowds, clubs and bars.

There are also a few beaches on this coast that are just perfect for passing away the days. The beaches are private though, so you’ll need to pay for a bed and umbrella and/or eat/drink at their beach restaurant.

2. Centre

A lively area with lots of more western coffee shops and restaurants all on your doorstep. It’s a little busier on the roads here (and Albania seem to get out quite early at around 7-8 am), but keep the windows shut and the AC on and you should be fine.

The best thing about this location is that nothing is really much more than a 15-minute walk away, so you can enjoy the whole city on foot and not have to ever consider taking a taxi (depending on food/drink consumption…)

3. Lively/Party Place

This area is well-known for its clubs and bars that pump out loud music throughout the night. That’s great if you plan on frequenting these places often and through the night, but not so great if you want to be in bed by, say, 11.

You still have a lot of nice restaurants and coffee shops close by, and you also have some lovely private beaches that sprawl down this side of the bay.

 

Renting A Car In Saranda

If you’re planning on renting a car in Saranda, then all you need is your passport and international driving license and you’ll be good to go.

It’s worth noting at this point that you can’t get ‘full’ car insurance as you would in most other countries. Some places say they do, but the reality is, that Albanian car insurance covers the cost of up to 90% if you have an accident and you’re at fault, you will have to pay at least 10% (usually 15-20%) of the costs.

Prices vary widely here, from €25 to €45 per day for a small car, so it’s worth asking around at the tourist offices outside of the port where most of the rental places are.

If you do have an accident during your rental, regardless of who is at fault, make sure you contact the police on 129 so that they can complete an accident report. Without an accident report, regardless of who is a fault, you will be liable to pay the full costs. You have been warned!

Generally, though, the roads are safe and you shouldn’t have any problems with a car rental. The police will also leave you alone during their regular police stops if they know you are a tourist, so you shouldn’t have any problems there either. But if you do, just produce your license and rental documents and you will be fine.

18 Best Things To Do In Saranda Albania

So now you have your flights booked and you know the process of reaching Saranda, you’ll probably be asking “what to do in Saranda, Albania?”

There is a ton of stuff to do here and some incredible places to see, so plenty to get excited about. If you’re wondering how long you need in Saranda, then I would say no less than 3 days. Even with just 3 days, it’s going to be non-stop. I prefer to take my time as you know, so try and spend at least a week here, if not longer!

Below are some of the best things to do in Saranda, from local attractions you can make by foot as well as day trips out of the city.

 

Hasan Tahsini Boulevard best things to do in saranda albania

 

1. Enjoy a walk along the Hasan Tahsini Boulevard

So you have just dropped your bags off at your hotel and wondering what to do first. Well, the first thing is you need to get out and explore the local area on foot and find your bearings.

This is an enjoyable walk along Hasan Tahsini Boulevard and it’s an incredible pedestrianised coastal walk right along the main city beach from the east to the more chilled and quieter side on the west.

You’ll see locals out walking, running and cycling along here and it’s an incredibly popular spot.

Walking from one side to the other only takes about 15-20 minutes but take your time, stop for a drink or two along the way, and take in the incredible views from the bay looking over to Corfu.

 

2. Enjoy the sunset from the 40 Saints Monastery

The 40 Saints Monastery is located upon a small mountain just behind Saranda and provides the most incredible views out over the city and Saranda bay.

You can walk there in about 45 minutes from the centre or you can take a short cab ride from anywhere in the city. It’s not the most picturesque walk to the top since you’re walking along a road for most of the way, but it’s good exercise after all that food and drink anyway!

The monastery itself is quite small but beautiful, and it’s definitely worth visiting for the sunset alone.

If you visit during the day then you can also enjoy some incredible views out over the Ionian Sea towards Corfu. If you’re coming in summer though, it might be a little too hot to make the walk (or bring lots of water).

 

seafood miso best restaurants in saranda albania

 

3. Consume Your Weight in Fresh Seafood

Ok, not literally, but Saranda does serve up some pretty amazing seafood dishes. With local boats bringing home the freshest catches every single day here, you know you’re going to be in for a treat.

Taverna Laberia is a small, family-owned restaurant that gets super busy at lunch and dinner because the food is so good (and insanely cheap). The family there are also super friendly and won’t let you leave without first having some of their homemade raki.

Taverna Fish Filipi is also another local place serving up incredible seafood at really good prices.

And lastly, Haxhi is another super popular place with amazing seafood…and quite possibly the largest seafood pasta portion I have ever seen. You’ll need to book a table at Haxhi in advance as it’s really popular with tourists, with it being right in the centre and dishing up amazing food and really good prices.

 

4. Spend a day at Butrint National Park

This is an absolute must. I’m not even going to try and sell it to you, the photos do that by themselves. Butrint was founded in the VII century BC by Greek colonists and for centuries after was under Roman, Venetian and Ottoman rule which has resulted in a unique blend of architectural styles within the park.

You can spend a good few hours walking around exploring, and if you want to learn more about the history, there are numerous guided tours available. Just make sure you wear comfortable shoes as there is a lot of walking involved.

Oh, and did I mention that it’s a UNESCO world heritage site? Yeah, definitely worth checking out.

Insider Tip: The best time to visit is first thing in the morning or late afternoon as it can get pretty hot during midday.

Admission: 400 Lek (approx. £1)

Opening Times: October – March: 08:00-17:00 / April – September: 08:00-19:00

How to get there: Butrint is easily reached by bus. It only takes about 15-20 minutes from Saranda and costs 150 lek (approx £1) each way. You can also take a taxi, but prices can swing wildly since a lot of taxis don’t use a meter (one even tried to charge me €20 one way!) so if they don’t want to use the meter, agree to a price before.

 

ksamil in saranda albania best places to see in saranda albania

 

5. Beach Day at the Paradise-Like Ksamil

If you’re looking for a place to relax and soak up the sun in a paradise setting, then Ksamil is your go-to beach destination. Just a 15 minutes drive south from Saranda will get you to what is known as the “Ionian Pearl”, famous for its crystal clear, turquoise waters and perfectly white sandy beaches.

Ksamil is actually full of lots of little beaches, filled with sunbeds, umbrellas and beach bars. Honestly, it’s like a little piece of paradise.

> Discover the best Saranda beaches and the best beaches in the Albanian Riviera in my other blog post

It gets crazy busy in summer though so you’ll want to get here early if you want a sunbed and umbrella, otherwise, you can find a quieter beach close by on foot

There are also three small islands just off the coast as well, two of which you can actually swim to as well, or rent a kayak and go explore the different islands for yourself

There are also speed boats running visitors from one beach to the next, each one pumping out its own awful version of Albanian rap music or EDM, but it all adds to the experience 🙂

How to get here: 15 minutes by taxi or 20 minutes by bus (150 lek – £1). The bus leaves from the roundabout just down the hill from the port every hour.

 

6. Visit The Ancient Synagogue Complex

The ancient synagogue complex is one of the most important historical sites in Saranda. It was built in the third century BC and was used as a place of worship for the Jewish community until the fifth century AD.

The complex consists of two main buildings, the synagogue itself and the mikveh (ritual bath). The synagogue is believed to be the oldest in Albania and the mikveh is one of the largest and best-preserved in the Balkans.

The complex was restored in 2009 and is now open to the public as a museum. It’s a really interesting place to visit and learn about the history of the Jewish community in Saranda ad well worth the visit.

Admission: 200 lek (approx £0.50)

Opening Times: Monday – Friday: 09:00-17:00 / Saturday – Sunday: 09:00-15:00

How to get there: The synagogue is located in the old town, just a few minutes’ walk from the port.

 

7. Enjoy A Day at Dhermi Villiage

Dhermi is a small village located about an hour’s drive north of Saranda. It’s a beautiful place, surrounded by mountains and with its own beach.

The village itself is lovely to wander around, with plenty of cafes, restaurants and shops selling local handicrafts. There are also some great hiking trails in the area if you’re looking to explore the mountains.

The beach at Dhermi is one of the best in Albania with its long stretch of pebbly beach and crystal clear waters. It also has a strong nightlife scene with the younger crowd too, with lots of bars and restaurants to get to later in the day.

Dhermi village and Dhermi Beach should definitely make it onto your itinerary of things to do in Saranda Albania.

How to get there: You can either take a taxi (should cost around 1500-2000 lek – £15-20) or you can rent a car and drive yourself. The drive is really beautiful, especially as you get closer to the village which is surrounded by mountains.

 

blue eye natural spring best things to do in saranda albania

 

8. Visit the Blue Eye

Known locally as “Syri i kaltër”, The Blue Eye is a natural spring located about a 45-minute drive from Saranda. It’s a beautiful, remote place where the water is crystal clear with deep hues of blues and green.

It’s one of the strongest natural springs in Europe discharging a massive 18,400 litres of water every second, forcing anyone that dares jump in it straight up to the surface again.

Nobody knows how deep the spring goes since divers have only managed to get as deep as 50 meters, so it’s still wrapped in mystery.

Oh yeh, and it’s reallyyyyy cold. The freshwater pumped out throughout the whole year stays at a consistent 10 degrees, so you won’t be swimming around in it for too long!

How to get there: You can either take a taxi (should cost around 3000 lek – £20) or you can rent a car.

 

gjirokaster best day trips from saranda albania
Photo Credit: My good friend T 😉

 

9. Explore Gjirokaster – Albania’s Enchanting ‘Stone City’

Gjirokaster is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the most beautiful cities in Albania. It’s often referred to as the ‘stone city’ because of its striking architecture, with many of the buildings being made from white limestone and slate roofs that shimmer in the rain.

The limestone-paved streets are super cute as well taking you back to the Ottoman era when this city was built.

The city is located about an hour and a half drive from Saranda, high up in the mountains. It’s a great place to explore, with plenty of cafes, restaurants and shops to wander around, including the open-air bazaar.

There are also some great museums to visit, including the Gjirokaster Ethnographic Museum which is located in an old Ottoman house and the Gjirokaster Castle with its old war museum and fantastic views over the sweeping valley and a backdrop of mountains

If you’re looking for something a bit more active, there are also some great hiking trails in the area too.

Pro tip – Combine Gjirokastor and The Blue Eye into a perfect day trip, since you’ll be driving past Blue Eye to reach here anyway

How to get there: Rent a car or take a local bus. The drive is really beautiful, especially as you get closer to the city which is surrounded by mountains.

 

10. Drive Llogara Pass

Llogara Pass is a mountain pass located about two hours drive north of Saranda in the Llogara National Park. It’s a beautiful drive, with sweeping views of the mountains and coastline. The road itself is really winding so it’s not for the faint-hearted but it’s definitely worth it for the views!

There are plenty of places to stop along the way to take photos and there’s also a cafe at the top of the pass if you want to grab a coffee or something to eat.

Pro tip – The Llogara National Park lies just north of Dhermi, so enjoy an incredible day trip by combining the two

How to get there: Rent a car.

 

11. Explore Lekuresi Castle

Lekuresi Castle is a beautiful castle strategically located overlooking all of Sarande, Ksamil Islands, the Albanian Riviera and even Corfu. It’s a great place to explore, and a popular tourist attraction that’s very close to Saranda, Albania.

The castle is located on a hilltop overlooking the whole of the Adriatic Sea. It’s a great place to visit for the views, and even better for sunset!

How to get there: Take a taxi, rent a car or hike 45 minutes from the centre of Saranda.

 

Porto Palermo Castle best things to do near saranda, albania
Photo credit: intoalbania.com

 

12. Porto Palermo Castle

This is a must-visit for any history buffs out there. The castle was built in the early 19th century by Ali Pasha of Tepelena, and it has an interesting history.

The castle is located on an island in a beautiful bay, surrounded by mountains and the sea. It’s a great place to explore, with plenty of photo opportunities.

It’s around 45 Kilometers north of Saranda, with a pleasant ocean drive along the way.

How to get there: Rent a car or take a taxi.

 

13. Ali Pasha Castle

Located on a small island just off the coast of Saranda in the south, this castle was once home to the notorious Albanian ruler, Ali Pasha. A visit here will give you a taste of Ottoman architecture and history.

You can tie this one in with a trip to Butrint National Park and is the perfect little add-on. Take the turn just before entering Butrint and you’ll find a little car park and viewing platform that serves up some fantastic views of the castle and its surroundings.

How to get there: Combine with a trip to Butrint, by bus, taxi or car rental.

 

14. Explore The St. Geroge Monastery

This monastery is another popular historical site in Saranda, although less famous than the 40 Saints Monastery. It was founded by St. Athanasius in the fourth century and contains many valuable relics and is a great stop for those into their history and architecture.

The monastery is still an active place of worship and you can explore the beautiful grounds and buildings there. You’ll find it on top of Dema Hill offering panoramic views of Butrint Lake and the Ionian Sea.

As an added excursion, climb down the hill to Monastery Beach. A sublime little beach that’s just perfect for passing a couple of hours at.

How to get there: Take a taxi, car rental or take the bus. Ask the bus driver to stop at the monastery. From there, you want to look for a sign posted “Manastiri I Shën Gjergjit” and take the short climb up the hill.

 

15. Daytrip Over To Corfu, Greece

Corfu is no small island and has plenty of fun activities on offer. As well as stunning beaches, there are plenty of great historic sites to explore, as well as restaurants, bars and clubs.

The Greek island is only a short ferry ride from Saranda making it the perfect day trip destination. You can easily find a cheap ticket at the port in Saranda and be on your way in no time.

Once you’re there, I recommend taking a wander around the Old Town and immersing yourself in the old architecture and history. You can also take the open-air red bus to take you around the whole island.

Make sure to try some of the local food whilst you’re there too.

Kavos is a popular nightlife spot with the younger crowd if you fancy a little bit of hedonism for one night!

How to get there: Take a ferry from Saranda port which will take 30 minutes each way by fast ferry. Tickets can be bought on the day but I recommend getting them in advance if you’re coming in high season.

 

16. Explore The Phoenice Archaeological Park

This one makes for a great day trip for all those that love a bit of history. Located just 12km from Saranda, the ruins of this archaeological park span from the 5th century B.C. to the 6th century A.D….dishing up over 1,000 years of history.

The site contains the remains of a Roman villa, an early Paleo-Christian basilica, and a defence tower among other things. The Ancient City Wall entrance and the Great Bastion are all stand-out sites as well.

If you’re visiting with children, they’ll no doubt enjoy the playground on site too.

How to get there: You can reach the Phoenice Archaeological Park by taking a taxi or car rental. Public transport doesn’t go to this site unfortunately

marine national park close to saranda in albania
Photo credit: intoalbania.com

 

17. Get Under The Water At The Karaburun-Sazan National Marine Park

This is a must-do for all those that love the water. Located just off the coast of Vlore, around 3 hours north of Saranda, this national marine park is perfect for snorkelling, diving and swimming. You can even take a glass-bottom boat tour to see some of the amazing underwater creatures that call this place home.

If you like to scuba dive like me, you’ll appreciate the World War 2 shipwrecks you can swim around, with some wrecks below the water dating back as far as the Greek and Roman times.

The best time to visit is between May and October when the weather is warm and the water is crystal clear.

Keep an eye out for marine life whilst you’re there too…sometimes you can find sea turtles and dolphins out there!

How to get there: You can book a tour from Saranda

 

18. Enjoy Cocktails and Sushi At Tipsy Bar

This place had just been renovated so I had to stop by to try it for myself. The views from the upper deck overlooking the bay of Saranda were just perfect, and I’m pleased to report that the cocktails and sushi were super good too!

It’s one of my favourite places to come in the early evening and enjoy the sun going down over a fresh mojito and a few pieces of sushi.

Cocktails – 600 – 800 Lek (£4 – £5) / Sushi – Starts from 1000 Lek

How to get there: Walk from anywhere in Saranda.

 

fresh seafood pasta in saranda
Seafood Pasta – Haxhi

 

18 Best Things To Do In Saranda, Albania

  • Enjoy a walk along the Hasan Tahsini Boulevard
  • Enjoy the sunset from the 40 Saints Monastery
  • Consume Your Weight in Fresh Seafood
  • Spend a day at Butrint National Park
  • Beach Day at the Paradise-Like Ksamil
  • Visit The Ancient Synagogue Complex
  • Enjoy A Day at Dhermi Villiage
  • Visit the Blue Eye
  • Explore Gjirokaster – Albania’s Enchanting ‘Stone City’
  • Drive Llogara Pass
  • Explore Lekuresi Castle
  • Porto Palermo Castle
  • Ali Pasha Castle
  • Explore The St. Geroge Monastery
  • Daytrip Over To Corfu, Greece
  • Explore The Phoenice Archaeological Park
  • Get Under The Water At The Karaburun-Sazan National Marine Park
  • Enjoy Cocktails and Sushi At Tipsy Bar

 

Favourite Places To Eat In Saranda

Although prices vary from place to place, one thing to note before I get into my favourite places to eat is that even the pricier places are still not expensive. Prices are relative to each other – not to western prices.

  1. Taverna Laberia: $ | Seafood | Meat | Traditional
  2. Taverna Fish Filipi: $ Cheap Eats | Seafood | Traditional
  3. Haxhi: $-$$ | Seafood | Meat | Vegan | Traditional
  4. Moma Pasta Fresca: $-$$ | Homemade Italian | Pasta
  5. My Sushi: $$$ | Asian | Sushi
  6. Salad Farm: $$-$$$ | Healthy | Salads | Vegan

 

Other countries you might also be interested in…

 

Bringing Things To An End

And there you have it – the ultimate guide to Saranda, Albania. Hopefully, now you have all of the information you were looking for and I have answered common questions like “how to get to Saranda” and “what to do in Saranda”.

It really is a beautiful place, and at the time of writing, I have already been here for 2 months and don’t plan to leave before the end of my third!

Come and visit Saranda, Albania and see for yourself. Enjoy 🙂

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Tobias Bujok
2 months ago

Great Article! I really enjoyed reading about how you explored the beaches and found the tortoise. 😀
If you or someone else want to buy a house in Albania let me know.

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