Albania is still a hugely undiscovered holiday destination in Europe with so much to offer for those who give it a chance. Saranda Albania is a hidden gem that will mesmerise you with unspoiled Saranda beaches with seawater so crystal clear that it’s hard to believe it’s even real! Saranda is an excellent beach destination, extremely budget-friendly and yet unspoiled by the mass tourism that can be experienced in similar sea resorts in Greece or Spain. This post is the ultimate guide to the beach in Saranda, the city including must-see places and beaches near Saranda.
Where is Saranda Albania?
Sarande is settled on the Albanian Riviera situated in the southwestern part of the country, 284 km south of the capital city of Tirana, and 125 km from Vlore. Saranda city is also located near other fantastic beach resort towns – Ksamil, Dhermi and Himare.
Below you’ll find the Saranda Albania Map.
Saranda Albania – Quick Guide
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Best Saranda Hotels Albania
Saranda is the perfect place for a beach vacation and also an excellent base for exploring some of the most beautiful places in Albania such as Ksamil, Butrint National Park, Blue Eye Saranda and the historic city of Gjirokaster. Saranda boasts a great selection of the best luxury beach resorts in Albania, but also the town caters for midrange and budget travellers. Below, you’ll find the best picks of Saranda Albania hotels.
Hotel Saranda Palace – Private Beach & Pool
Saranda Palace features a large outdoor pool with sun loungers and a bar and also boasts a private beach area for its guests. Rooms are modern and come with an ensuite bathroom and a balcony, and come with a sea view. Saranda Palace Hotel is situated right on the beach and it’s one of the best luxury hotels in Saranda Albania.
Illyrian Boutique Hotel – Hotel Saranda Albania with a Cool Rooftop
This boutique Saranda hotel features modern rooms with ensuite bathrooms, large windows and tea & coffee making facilities. It has an excellent location right by the Saranda Albania beach and the city’s promenade. The best feature of this hotel in Saranda Albania is its cool rooftop bar which is an excellent place to enjoy the sunset.
ArtNest Luxury Hotel & Suites – Modern Suites + VIP Beach Access
This Saranda Hotel Albania is located 600 metres from the Saranda beach and features ultra-modern suites with a terrace. Guests can enjoy a complimentary English breakfast and free parking at the property. The property also boasts a shared lounge and access to a VIP beach.
Star Hotel Saranda – Budget Hotel Saranda
This budget hotel features specious Saranda apartments conveniently located in the heart of the city within walking distance to the beach, Saranda port, restaurants and shops.
Saranda Albania – What to Expect?
Saranda is one of the most popular coastal towns on the Albanian Riviera and many tourists choose Saranda town as the base for exploring southern Albania, which is not a surprise because Saranda is situated centrally to all the best places to visit in Albania! Yet, Saranda never feels overcrowded.
Saranda is also a beautiful town, settled in a picturesque bay surrounded by hills that slope down towards the coast making Saranda port look like an amphitheatre. Saranda also boasts a lovely promenade that runs along the coast and it’s a perfect place for a morning run or an evening stroll.
This region of Albania enjoys over 300 sunny days per year and some of the best beaches in Albania with the unbelievably clear water of the perfect temperature to swim, almost all year round. Saranda is also famous for fresh seafood and here you will be able to find many excellent restaurants specialising in Albanian, Greek and Italian cuisine.
Public Beach in Saranda
How to get to Saranda City Beach
The public Saranda beach is located east of the ferry port Saranda Albania and you can get here on foot from most of the Saranda resorts and rental apartments. If you’re staying in one of the hotels located in the southern part of Saranda city, you can catch the Saranda Ksamil bus that operates regularly between the two cities. Check the “How to get to Saranda” section for more information.
What to expect at Public Saranda Beaches?
Unlike Ksamil beaches, Saranda boasts an extensive stretch of beach, which is open and free to the general public. You can simply bring your own towel and umbrella and enjoy the beach for as long as you want. There are a few separate Saranda beaches that are free and you can find them east of the port, along the main promenade.
The public beach in Saranda is a pebbly beach with shallow and crystal clear water of the beautiful turquoise colour. Swimming at the beach in Saranda is a pure pleasure with the Ionian Sea being so transparent, that you can see all the way down to the bottom! Saranda’s main beach is tucked in a bay and thanks to that the water stays calm most of the time, which is perfect for swimming.
Facilities at the Public Beach in Saranda
The public beach in Saranda boasts an excellent range of facilities such as jet ski, standup paddleboard and kayak rentals. As Saranda beach is located right in the heart of the city, restaurants, bars and shops are within a few minutes walk from the beach.
If you’re visiting Saranda Albania with children, there is also a lifeguard on duty in most parts of the public beach. For those that enjoy a little bit of adrenaline, there is also a jumping platform! Even if you’re not into diving, it is fun just to watch the local kids having so much fun jumping into the crystal clear waters!
Location | Public Beach in Saranda
Private Saranda Beaches
Mango Beach Saranda Albania
How to get to Mango Saranda?
Mango Beach Saranda is located on the southern edge of the town, 4 km away from the city centre and the public beach in Saranda. You can either take a taxi here or hop on the Saranda to Ksamil bus which runs frequently throughout the day. One of the bus stops is located right by the public Sarande beach, near the pier and it stops near Mango Beach.
What to expect at Mango beach?
Mango Beach is an organised and private beach that offers sunbeds and umbrellas for rent with drink and foodservice. The beach has a layer of pebbles that come in different sizes, so it’s actually nice to relax on a sunbed instead of lying on the stones. The sea gets deep fast so Mango Beach Sarande may not be the best spot for swimming with little kids. There is also loud music that is played most of the day, so the vibe is more party than relaxing. During the sunset, they often have a DJ and also run various events, so if you’re up for some fun, this is the perfect place in Saranda.
TIP | During the high season months of July and August arrive before 10:00 am to secure a nice pair of sunbeds!
Facilities at Mango beach Saranda
As Mango Beach is a part of a beach club, you can expect good food and drink options served straight to your sunbed. Prices for a pair of sun loungers and an umbrella start at 1,200 LEK (€10 in 2022) and you can also rent out a more comfy sunbed with a canopy and a bottle of champers included in the price. There is also a large, free parking lot for customers of Mango Beach.
Location | Mango Beach Sarande
Plazhi Era Saranda
How to get to Plazhi Era?
Plazhi (which means beach in the Albanian language) Era is located on the other side of the Saranda Albania port within a walking distance of the public beach in Saranda.
What to expect at Plazhi Era?
Era Beach Sarande is one of the private beaches that offer sunbeds and umbrella rentals for a more comfy beach day. Era is also a pebbly beach and due to its location, it is one of the best Saranda beaches to watch the sunset. During the summer months of July and August, this Saranda Albania beach may get a little busy, so if you want to secure a good spot, I recommend arriving before 10:00 am.
Facilities at Era Beach Saranda
Era Beach features sun loungers and umbrella rental as well as drink and foodservice.
Location | Era Beach Sarande
Best Beaches in Saranda Area
Ksamil Beach (Spiaggia Di Ksamil)
Sunset Beach or Ksamil Beach (Plazhi Ksamil in Albanian) is the main beach in Ksamil, situated half an hour drive south of Saranda. The beach area is divided into sections belonging to different beach bars and clubs that offer umbrella and sun loungers rental. This is the best beach in Ksamil for convenience as it is close to all the main attractions in town. Just walk along the shore and pick the spot that you like the most. During the high season, get here early to choose the best beach spot. The best sun loungers are located on small jetties with an exclusive area for guests only!
Ksamil beach is busy but also super beautiful. It has soft, white sand and calm water that is perfect for swimming. As you will have to rent an umbrella and sun loungers, you will also get access to facilities such as a shower and toilet as well as drink and food service brought to your sun lounger. Kayaks and water pedalos are available for rent here as well.
TIP | During high season, there is no public area where you can stretch your towel here at all.
Location | Saranda Ksamil Beach
Sunlounger rental cost | Anything between €10 and €20 per day, depending on the beach club and season
Monastery Beach Sarande
How to get to Monastery Beach Albania?
Monastery Beach Albania is located 9 km from Saranda town or about a 20-minutes drive by car. The easiest way to get here is by car. But, there is also a Ksamil Saranda Albania bus that connects both towns with a regular schedule. Basically, the bus leaves from Saranda every hour between 8:30 and 18:30. The bus will stop by the main road from where there is a 5 minutes walk downhill to the beach. On the way back add about 30 minutes to the time when the bus leaves Butrint and wait for it on the main road. You can also get here by taxi, which will cost about €15 one way.
What to expect at Monastery Beach?
Monastery Beach is relatively small and is surrounded by rocks from both sides. The beach is covered with large, round pebbles and because the beach is sheltered from both sides, the water is calm and lovely to swim in with its stunning azure colour.
Most of the beach is filled with sunbeds and umbrellas for rent and there is a small space on both sides of the beach to stretch your own towel. But, if you want to do that, I recommend arriving early in the morning during the high season. Outside of July and August, there is way more space. The pictures of the beach were taken at the end of August when Ksamil was still busy. Monastery Beach is way quieter compared to the Ksamil beaches during the high season.
Facilities at Monastery Beach Saranda
A beach restaurant serves well-priced Italian and Albanian dishes including salads, pasta and seafood and boasts a nice outdoor seating area overlooking the beach. The restaurant is closed during the off-season.
Location | Plazhi i Manastirit
Sunbeds Price | 1500 LEK (€12)
Greek salad | 400 LEK (€3.3)
Seafood pasta | 800 LEK (€6.6)
Mirror Beach Saranda ( Plazhi i Pasqyrave)
How to get Mirror Beach Saranda?
Mirror Beach is situated around a 20-minutes drive from Saranda. The beach is a little hard to get to because of the difficult road that is narrow with steep hills, and at the end, it turns into a steep dirt track. I highly recommend leaving your car at the top of the hill and walking down.
You can also get here by bus, but the bus will drop you off on the main road from where there is still a considerable distance to walk plus there are some steep hills to climb too. Our lady host took us here and she was super scared to drive and judging on the distance, it would take around 30 minutes to walk to the beach from the bus stop. You can also hire a taxi that will drop you off and come back to get you at the agreed time.
TIP| Leave your car at the top of the hill to avoid the dangerous steep dirt track road!
What to expect at Mirror Beach?
The beach itself is super gorgeous – covered with small white pebbles and surrounded by rocky cliffs from both sides. The crystal clear water with a lovely shade of turquoise stays shallow for a while which is good for the kids. The sea is not as calm as the Monastery beach and it experiences some waves, especially in the afternoon.
During the months of July and August, colourful sunbeds and umbrellas fill almost the entire space. If you’re travelling during that time, arrive early in the morning to reserve a good spot. There is also some space on both ends of the beach for stretching a towel for the early risers. Outside of the busy months, you can enjoy this stunning beach any time of the day or week. On the side, there is a small caved shape in the rocks and during the low tide, it is possible to walk to the beach next door called Seagull’s Beach through knee-high water.
Facilities at Mirror Beach Saranda
There is a parking space with a 200 LEK charge and a beach restaurant with a seafood menu and lovely outdoor space overlooking the unbelievably turquoise water. Other beach facilities include a shower and toilets.
TIP | During July and August avoid weekends and arrive early to reserve a good spot.
Location | Mirror Beach Ksamil
Sunbeds Price | 1200 LEK (€10)
Parking | 200 LEK
Seagull’s Beach – Pulebardha Beach
How to get Pulebardha Ksamil?
Pulëbardha Beach is located 5.5 km away from Ksamil town and about a 15-20 minutes drive. You take the main road to Saranda and then turn off left where there is a dirt track road all the way to the beach. Despite being unpaved, this road is much easier to navigate and it’s a little safer compared to the road to Mirror Beach. If you want to get there by bus, again the bus drops you off on the main road, from where there is a long hike down the dirt road to get to the beach. You can also take a taxi.
What to expect at Seagull’s Beach?
The path to the Pulebardha Ksamil leads through the restaurant, and down the stairs. During the months of July and August, almost the entire beach is taken by sunbeds and umbrellas. If you want to get a good spot during the busy months, arrive early in the morning – 8 am sharp and avoid weekends.
The pictures in this post were taken on Saturday in August and as you can see, the beach was packed. To the left, there is a smaller secluded beach where you can stretch your towel for free if you find the space. If you’re travelling outside of July and August, Seagull’s Beach is a peaceful slice of paradise. The water is super turquoise but not as calm as on Monastery Beach, in fact, waves are fairly common here, especially in the afternoon. And, the beach is covered with small pebbles which are a little hard to walk on.
TIP | Bring water shoes to walk on the pebbles with comfort.
Facilities at Pulebardha Ksamil
There is a beach bar serving cold drinks including cocktails and on Saturday afternoon loud music is played and the beach has a party vibe, which is not necessarily a bad thing.
The beach restaurant is decent, I had seafood pasta here and it was tasty but a little pricey compared to other restaurants in Ksamil Albania, but that is expected from a private, secluded beach. Other facilities also include a toilet and changing rooms, but unfortunately, there is no shower.
Location | Pulebardha Beach Ksamil
Sunbeds Price | 1500 LEK (€13)
Parking | 200 LEK
Shpella/ Lukove Beach
How to get to Lukove Beach
Lukove is a small coastal town located 22 km south of Saranda Albania. The best way to get there is by car and the trip should take just over half an hour. It is also possible to get to Lukove by bus. The town is on the way to Dhermi, Vlore and even Tirana, so you can take a bus to any of these cities and get off on the way.
What to expect at Lukove Beach
The beach at Lukove is way lower-key in comparison to Albania Saranda Beach, yet don’t expect a completely deserted beach during July and August. There is a wide stretch of pebbly beach partly organised with sunbeds and umbrellas and partly unorganised, where you can stretch your own towel and enjoy the beach for free. Lukove is excellent for families and its calm and shallow waters are great for kids.
Facilities at Sphella Beach
The sunbed prices are way cheaper than in Sarande and Ksamil and Lukove Beach is a great place to seek refuge during the busiest months of July and August. The beach is lined up with excellent restaurants and beach bars which are perfect for grabbing a light lunch. In the summer months, you can also find here kayak and SUP board rentals. There is also a free parking lot.
Location | Lukove Beach
How to get to Buneci Beach
Buneci Beach is a little further away, 28 km south of Saranda on the route to Himare, Dhermi and Vlore. Similarly to Lukove, you can either drive your own vehicle here or catch a bus.
What to expect at Buneci Beach
Buneci Beach is set in a quiet town tucked amongst green hills, if you’re looking for a relaxing beach away from the crowds, there is no more perfect place! The beach is a mixture of sand and pebbles and there is a small pier where you can make a jump into the refreshing Ionian Sea. The beach is divided by a small stream which begins up in the mountains surrounding the beach. The area has been occupied by the military when Albania was communist, and today there are still many abandoned bunkers in Buneci.
Facilities at Buneci Beach
The beach facilities include sunbeds and umbrellas for rent, toilets and showers and a free parking lot. There are also a few beach restaurants where you can grab some lunch and a larger supermarket to stock up with beach snacks and cold drinks.
Location | Buneci Beach
Borsh Beach Albania
How to get to Borsh Beach?
38 km south of Saranda Albania, you can find a quaint town of Borsh that boasts a stunning coastline. The best way to get to Borsh Albania is by car and the trip shouldn’t take more than an hour. It is also possible to catch a bus from the centre of Saranda city towards Vlore, Himare of Dhermi. Some buses to Tirana, also go through the coastal route and will stop in Borsh, Himare and Dhermi.
What to expect at Borsh Beach Albania?
Borsh is a great alternative to Saranda beach Albania during the busiest summer months of July and August for those that are looking for a more secluded spot for their beach day.
Borsh is a small village that boasts a 7 km long and 30 meters wide beach, settled amongst lush hills and olive groves. In fact, Borsh beach is the largest out of all Albanian beaches. Borsh beach enjoys white pebbles and crystal clear and unbelievably turquoise water that will leave you mesmerised! The beach in Borsh never gets busy as it is remote from more popular seaside resorts such as Vlore or Sarandë Albania.
Borsh beach is an excellent destination for a day trip, and if you enjoy some history too, after relaxing on the beach, head up the hill to visit Borsh castle perched 500 meters above sea level. The castle dates back to the 3rd century and includes a well-preserved mosque that was added later on, during Ali Pasha’s rule.
If you’re interested in the history of the Communist regime, you can also check out many bunkers that were built to protect Albania from the enemies during the Cold War.
Another excellent spot to check out is Borsh waterfall which runs by Ujëvara e Borshit restaurant. You can come here for lunch and cool down by the waterfall!
Facilities at Borsh Albania
Due to the long stretch of the beach, Borsh beach never feels busy or overcrowded, but that doesn’t mean it lacks beach facilities. You can find here a great selection of beach bars and restaurants as well as umbrellas and sunbeds rental. For the adrenaline enthusiast, there are also water sports facilities such as jet ski rental, kayaks and SUP boards.
If you’re looking for an excellent hotel in Borsh, check out the Sole Luna Hotel which boasts modern suites, superb breakfast and a beachfront location!
Location | Borsh Albania
Top Things to do in Saranda Albania
#1 Stroll the Beach Promenade
Saranda Albania boasts a picturesque beach promenade called – Hasan Tahsini Boulevard, and one of the best things to do in Saranda is taking an evening stroll along it. The boulevard measures around 1 km and starts from Saranda Port Albania and goes along the public Saranda Albania beaches until Saranda marina where you can find many small, colourful boats.
If you’re into fitness, come to the boulevard early in the morning for a jog. In the evening, the promenade is buzzing with life! You can enjoy here an excellent range of cafes, restaurants and bars or simply stroll its length and have a few snacks from the street food vendors.
Location | Saranda promenade.
#2 Get a bird’s eye view of Saranda from the Ferris Wheel
For one of the best views of Albania Saranda, treat yourself to a ride on Saranda’s giant ferris wheel! You can find it on the western side of the boulevard, close to the port. The best time to take a ride is late afternoon when the bay of Saranda is bathed in the golden sun rays. Make sure you’ll bring your camera and have it handy at the very top of the wheel, the view is absolutely breathtaking!
Location | Saranda Ferris Wheel
#3 Explore the Ruins of the Synagogue
One of the best things to do in Saranda for history lovers is exploring the ruins of the synagogue and learning about its history. The synagogue complex dates back to the 3rd century and includes various religious buildings such as schools and a community centre.
The complex was only discovered in the 1980s during the communist rule in Albania and archaeological research is still taking place. So far the archaeologists found out that the synagogue comes from the period of time when there was a sizeable Jewish community living in Saranda. The synagogue was subsequently destroyed by the earthquake and rebuilt to serve as a Christian basilica.
The ruins are open 24/7 and you can wander them free of charge. Make sure you pay special attention to the two mosaic pavements which have symbols of Jewish holidays – a citron tree and ram’s horn.
Location | Saranda synagogue.
#4 Gorge on Fresh Seafood
Saranda Albania is known for excellent seafood dishes and a visit to Saradna would not feel right without at least one seafood dinner! The absolute must to try is a portion of mussels that are served in various ways including fried and sauteed. Make sure you also order some Greek salad and local wine to go with it! I recommend choosing a restaurant that is located a little away from the beach and frequented not only by tourists but also by the locals.
My absolute favourite seafood Saranda restaurant is Taverna Fish Filipi which serves an excellent range of fresh seafood, generous portions of greek salads and a complimentary basket of various bread with dips. I also loved their white wine! Seafood dish starts at 500 LEK and a glass of wine cost 100 LEK (2022 prices).
#5 Take a boat trip from Sarande
Another great activity is taking one of the Saranda boat trips that leave daily from the Saranda marina. Typically, you’ll leave in the morning and will be taken on a tour of the nearby shore with a few stops at secluded beaches that are only accessible by boat such as Kakome beach and for snorkelling.
This part of the Albanian coast is littered with some of the most incredible Albania beaches, and there is no better way to enjoy them than from a deck of a boat!
Most of the Saranda tours by boat include lunch and come back to the port in the late afternoon. Check out one of the stands at the marina, during your evening walk on the boulevard for more information.
#6 Visit the Museum of Archeology
For all the history lovers, there is a tinny, one-room museum in the heart of Saranda city that was built to display and protect the mosaic floor that was excavated during the construction of a post office nearby.
Apart from the mosaic floor, you can see here various artefacts such as vases and columns found in the local area as well as photos and information about the Albanian UNESCO sites such as Butrint.
The ticket includes an entry to the Museum of Traditions and Galeria Art Saranda.
Entrance | 100 Lek
Location | Museum of Archeology
#7 Rent a kayak or SUP
If you’re a water sports enthusiast, Albania Saranda is the perfect place to enjoy kayaking or standup paddleboarding! The beach in Saranda is tucked away in a tranquil bay that protects it from strong currents and winds and it’s perfect for exploring on a kayak or paddleboard!
The best time to enjoy this activity is early in the morning before it gets super hot and when you can easily burn without realising. Another great time it’s during the late afternoon when the sun is low. The kayak rental places are situated along the public Saranda beach.
TIP| Whatever time you choose, make sure you wear a rash vest to protect your arms and back from the sun!
Location | Saranda Rent a kayak
#8 Learn Diving in Saranda Albania
One of the best things to do in Sarande is taking a diving tour! There is a cool diving spot near Ksamil, where the government sunk six ships from the communist era to create an underwater park for divers! The visibility is great and it’s such a fun way of combining a history lesson into communism and fun diving!
There are also a few other diving spots around Saranda including the Monastery bay and Hunda e Mërtesë which are great for spotting the many marine species!
If you’re a more advanced diver, you can also get your Padi certificate with this school!
Location | Saranda Diving – Padi Albania
#9 Visit Forty Saints Monastery Sarande
If you enjoy visiting scenic viewpoints this one may be for you. Situated just 4 km away from Saranda town centre, the ruins of the Eastern Orthodox Forty Saints Monastery boast a spectacular, panoramic view over Sarande Albania and the entire coast. The monastery dates back to the 6th century AD and was one of the most important pilgrimage sites in this part of the world.
TIP | Visit the monastery at the golden hour for the best views.
Location | The Monastery of 40 Saints
#10 Lekuresi Castle Saranda
Often referred to as Saranda castle – Lekuresi sits at the 300 meters hill and boasts some magnificent panoramic views over Saranda city, Ksamil and even the nearby Greek island of Corfu! Lekuresi Sarande castle is also very well preserved, the entrance is free of charge and the inside houses a fancy restaurant! You can enjoy it for a special dinner or just stop by for a coffee. Whatever you decide, make sure you have a little peek inside!
The best time to visit is late in the afternoon and you can stay at the top to watch the stunning sunset over the Saranda bay.
Lekuresi castle is located just under 4 km from Saranda port and you can either drive here or if you’re feeling energised, it is also possible to hike to the top. You can also come here by taxi and ask the driver to wait for you a little while.
Location | Lekuresi Castle Saranda
#11 Rent a jet ski in Saranda Albania
Roaming on a jet ski in Saranda bay is one of the best Saranda activities by far! Renting a jet ski in Albania is super affordable and the tranquil shore of Saranda beach is the perfect place. The jet ski rental shop is located by the main part of the public beach in Saranda, off the promenade.
#12 Take a Saranda Ferry to Corfu
Did you know that the Greek island of Corfu is located just a few kilometres from the shore of Saranda Albania? Visiting Corfu is one of the best day trips from Saranda!
A day trip to Corfu from Saranda is super easy as ferries leave multiple times a day from the port of Sarande and the ticket prices start from €20.
Search for cheap Saranda Corfu Saranda ferry connection via FerryScanner below:
Location | Corfu Island
Saranda is a great place to gorge on fresh seafood and delicious Greek, Italian and Albanian cuisine. Here are some of my personal recommendations for the best restaurants Saranda Albania.
Taverna Fish Filipi | One of the best seafood restaurants in Saranda Albania.
Proper Pizza | Best Saranda Pizza in town.
Like Creperie | One of the cutest, fast-food Saranda Albania restaurants specialising in sweet and savoury crepes and sandwiches.
Baci a Tutti | Lovely ice cream and cakes.
Things to do near Saranda Albania
Monastery of Saint George ( Manastiri i Shën Gjergjit)
The Monastery of Saint George (in Albanian Manastiri i Shën Gjergjit) is located right by Monastery Beach which takes its name after it. Unfortunately, it is no longer active, but there is a man that looks after it and hangs around there. If you’re lucky, he may be around to show you the place too. One way or another, if you have the time, this monastery is really worth checking out, even if it means you’ll see it just from the outside.
Park your car by the main road and follow the sign, up the hill to the monastery. If you’re travelling by bus, follow the instructions on how to get to Monastery Beach describe earlier. The hike up the hill takes around 10 minutes.
TIP | If you’re planning a beach day at Monastery Beach, check this place out at the end. The views from the monastery are stunning and the best time to enjoy them is at sunset.
Location | Monastery of Saint George
Visiting Butrint ruins is one of the best things to do in Saranda area if you enjoy exploring historic sites. Butrint was a grand ancient Greek city and later a Roman city that boasted some incredible monuments and castles including a colosseum, various temples and houses.
The first human settlement in this area dates back to the 12th century BC and during the 4th century BC, there was a Sanctuary of Asclepius here, which was a god of medicine. The worshippers visited this place to be healed because Butrint’s water was believed to have healing properties. Thanks to the sanctuary and the pilgrims, Butrint became famous in the ancient world.
Today, Butrint is a UNESCO World Heritage Site recognised for its historic importance and beauty and a super interesting place to visit.
When you buy your ticket, you will also get a map that comes in a few different languages that will take you through the most important sites of Butrint. The whole visit will take you about 2 hours and it’s a lovely walk to take in the late afternoon when the heat eases off.
I visited Butrint in August in the high season and even then, the place wasn’t busy which was a nice bonus. Make sure you don’t miss out on seeing the colosseum which was sadly under renovation during my visit and a castle that is perched on the highest point, for some incredible views of the surroundings including the picturesque lake.
How to get to Butrint?
There is a local Saranda Butrint bus that runs every hour. The bus leaves from Saranda to Butrint direction at half past every hour between 8:30 and 18:30 and on the way back it leaves Butrint every hour from 7:30 and 19:30 back to Sarande through Ksamil. The bus journey takes just under an hour and you can double-check the bus schedule inside the bus. For those that want to drive to Butrint, the site is easy to find and there is a large car park with plenty of spaces.
Best time to visit | late afternoon
Location | Butrint National Park Albania
Entrance Fee | 1,000 LEK
Bus Saranda Butrint | 100 LEK
Ali Pasha Castle
If you have more time, you can also visit Ali Pasha Castle which is located on a little island just off the shores of Butrint. As you come out of the Butrint site, there is a small jetty and the local men will most likely approach you, offering you a boat lift to the castle. The Ottoman fortress itself is mostly a ruin today but the place and the surroundings are super beautiful and worth a visit.
Location | Ali Pasha Castle
Return boat trip | €20
Blue Eye Saranda (Syri I Kalter)
How to get to Blue Eye (Saranda Syri i Kalter )?
Another exciting trip that you can take from Saranda Albania is the Blue Eye or in Albanian Syri i Kalter situated 21 km east. As with most natural sites on the Albanian Riviera, the last bit of the road is a sandy dirt track with a car park at the end that fills up quickly at weekends during the high season. When that happens, you can park along the dirt track road, which is not too bad.
It is possible to get to the Saranda Blue Eye by bus, but it is not direct. In Sarande centre you will need to catch one of the Albanian fourgons that look like white vans in the direction of Gjirokaster. Make sure you tell the driver, that you’re getting off at the Blue Eye and use your Google maps to know when to get off, just in case the driver forgets. You can also ask him about the time of the return bus before you get off.
You’ll get dropped off on the main road, and from there follow the directions to the Blue Eye. There will be a car checkpoint and ticket office and from that point, it will take another 30 minutes to reach the site. In order to catch a return bus Blue Eye Saranda, you need to get back to the main road.
Saranda Albania Blue Eye Bus | 200 LEK (€1.7)
Location | Saranda Bus Stop
TIP | On the way back, you can try hitchhiking to get to the bus stop. Hitchhiking in Albania is very common, and people generally are happy to give you a lift. Just remember to stay safe and I would advise against it if you’re a solo female traveller. I travelled by car with my partner and we were happy to give a nice couple a lift back to the bus stop.
If you don’t want to drive or take a bus, visiting Blue Eye is one of the best Saranda Albania tours that also include Ksamil, Butrint and Lekuresi Castle. This is a fantastic option for travellers on a tight itinerary!
What to expect at Blue Eye in Albania?
Blue Eye is a place of exceptional natural beauty with its main attraction being a super beautiful natural spring with a depth of 50 metres! The water in the spring is so clear, that you can see all the way down into the ‘eye’. The main attraction is a jump inside the Blue Eye which is extremely refreshing because the water only has about 10 degrees Celsius! In fact, it is so cold that no one can stay inside for too long.
There is a small gift shop just by the spring and two restaurants with nice river seating areas. Facilities also include a toilet.
Location | Saranda Syri i Kalter
Entrance fee | 200 LEK per car + 100 LEK per person (€0.8 & €1.6)
How to get from Saranda to Gjirokaster?
Gjirokaster is a charming byzantine town located 55 km northeast of Saranda. The best way to get there is to rent a car and drive yourself. It is, however, also possible to take a bus from the Sarande fourgon stop. I’m leaving the bus stop location and ticket prices below.
TIP | Albanian fourgons don’t normally have a timetable and only leave when full. I recommend leaving in the morning for the best chance of catching a ride.
You can also take a tour to Gjirokastra from Saranda!
Sarande to Gjirokaster | 500 LEK (€4.1)
Location | Saranda Bus Stop
What to expect?
Gjirokaster is easily the most beautiful town in Albania! Its old town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the best-preserved examples of an Ottoman town dating back to the 14th century. One of the best things to do in Gjirokaster is visiting the Gjirokaster Castle perched on the hill and boasting incredible panoramic views! Also, make sure you visit the old town which is just gorgeous, order a local beer and people watch from one of the cafes.
The town of Gjirokaster is also famous for its excellent food scene, so make sure to come hungry and eat your way through the town! Seriously, the food here was the best in the whole of Albania and for that reason, it was my favourite place. I’m vegetarian and this was no problem either. You also will be surprised how much cheaper the food is here compared to Ksamil. I’m leaving the links below to my favourite Gjirokaster restaurants:
Restaurant Tradicional Odaja | Superb traditional sharing platters
Taverna Tradicionale | Amazing food & hospitality, modest restaurant
Taverna Lani | Friendly host, modest settings but superb food
Edua Shop and Restaurant Gjirokaster | Tasty food and cute seating
Snack Bar Simple | Excellent smoothies
Location | Gjirokaster Albania
Village of Qeparo Albania
How to get to Qeparo?
The quaint village of Qeparo is situated 40 km south of Sarande Albania, between Himare and Borsh. The best way to get here is by a rented car. You can also take a Get Your Guide tour to Quparo & Himare that includes visiting the two historic towns and their beautiful beaches!
What to expect at stone beach Qeparo?
Qeparo is divided into two parts – a quaint, historic town perched 300 meters above sea level. The historic part of Qeparo is mostly abandoned but also well preserved. Stroll the charming cobbledstone alleys and admire the byzantine architecture, stone houses and a charming church with a well-preserved bell tower. The lower part of Qeparo is situated 10 minutes drive away and you can find here a stunning stretch of tranquil coast and a few hotels and restaurants that serve tourists.
Location | Qeparo Albania
Other Places near Sarande Albania
Himare is a charming coastal village, located 67 km north of Ksamil. Visit it for an authentic local vibe and chilled atmosphere as well as its nearby beaches such as Livadhi Beach which is a real stunner. Himare also boasts a beautiful ruined castle perched on a hill with stunning views over the coast.
Dhermi is more lively and has a great selection of chic beach clubs and bars on its stunning beach where you can spend a day in style and party in the evening. Dhermi also has a picturesque old town with quaint churches, red-roof historic houses and narrow alleys totally worth exploring.
How to get to Saranda Albania?
By plane – Airports in Albania
Unless you’re road tripping Europe by car, the most likely point of entry to Albania for you will be Tirana International Airport in Albania. Depending on the time of your arrival, you can stay a few nights in the Albanian capital (I recommend staying 1-2 nights) or head directly to Saranda. There is a shuttle bus that connects the Tirana Airport with the city centre. It costs 300 LEK (€3) and gets you to Skanderbeg Square. The main bus terminal that connects Tirana with other major cities is a little away from the city centre. The best way to get there is to grab a taxi. Make sure you confirm the taxi rate before you get inside.
Bus Station Tirana | check the location here.
By Private Transfer from Tirana to Sarande
For a hassle-free transfer from Tirana airport to your Saranda hotel, book a private transfer with Viator.
By Car – Saranda Albania Car Rental
The best way to get to Saranda is to rent a car. Car rentals are widely available in Albania, and if you’re flying to Tirana, you can prearrange a car rental with a pick up at the airport.
Albanian drivers are notorious for speeding, tailgating and, in general, being reckless, so make sure you are super careful. Always go for the full insurance and take a short video of the car recording all its existing scratches and dents before you drive away from the car rental place. If you don’t want to drive, opt for the buses Albania is known for.
Check the best Saranda car rental rates with Discover Cars:
By Bus – Albania Bus System
Saranda is one of Albania’s more popular seaside towns, and getting here from main cities such as Tirana or Ksamil by bus is relatively easy. Here are the most common routes with prices and journey times:
Tirana Saranda Bus
Most buses from Tirana leave from its main Tirana Bus Terminal. If you’re arriving at the airport, just grab a taxi asking for a bus station to Sarande. There are normally a few buses per day, but as there is no official schedule, it’s often up to the driver whether he will serve the connection or not. Having said that, the best time to catch the Tirana to Saranda bus is in the morning.
Tirana to Saranda Bus Timetable | 5:00, 6:30, 8:30, 9:30, 10:45, 14:00
Tirana Saranda Ticket | 1,700 LEK (2022 price)
Location | Tirana Bus Station
Saranda Ksamil Bus
Getting from Ksamil to Saranda by bus is super easy. There is a brand new local bus that runs between the two seaside towns multiple times a day. The bus stop in Saranda is located by a roundabout with a big tree by Rruga Jonianet, close to the beach. There are a few other bus stops in Sarande, but this is where the bus starts and if you catch it from here, you have the best chance of getting a seat or even getting onto the bus, during a busy time. You pay for the ticket inside the bus, but not with the driver. There is another person that goes down the bus to collect the payment. I’m also leaving the location to the Ksamil bus stops below.
What’s the Best Time to Visit Albania Saranda? – Saranda Weather
Saranda is an excellent all-year-round destination. In the winter the daily temperature doesn’t usually drop below 15 degrees celsius with plenty of sunshine and pleasant enough weather to rent a car and explore the nearby area.
For the beach weather, visit Saranda between May and September. In the summer Saranda doesn’t experience the heat waves that can occur in mainland Albania with temperatures getting close to 40 degrees. It also doesn’t seem to be as busy as the neighbouring Ksamil in the peak of the summer season which is in the months of July and August.
How many days do I need for Saranda Albania?
Saranda city is small and can be explored in one day, however, Saranda is a great base for exploring the nearby attractions and epic Albanian beaches that I’ve mentioned in this post. I’d say, you need at least 1 full week between Saranda and Ksamil to explore places like Monastery Beach, Butrint National Park and the Blue Eye!
What is Saranda Famous for?
Saranda Albania is famous for its superb cuisine based on fresh seafood, and strong Italian and Greek influences. Saranda is also known for the stunning beaches near Saranda Albania with crystal clear waters of the Ionian Sea.
Other Albania Travel Tips
Albania uses their own currency called Albanian Lek. 1 Euro is equivalent to 121 Lek 1 Pound Sterling is 143 Lek, and 1 USD Dollar equals 105 Lek. (2022 Rates)
Most places in Albania still use cash for purchasing goods and services, including shops, restaurants and even hotels. I was only able to pay by card in a few fancy cafes in Tirana. If you’re coming from Euro countries, you will also be able to pay in Euros. However, I advise you to withdraw Lek as the locals seem to always round up the prices if you decide to pay in Euros.
ATMs in Albania
Cash points in Albania are plenty, and you can find them in all touristy places, including Sarande, Ksamil and Gjirokaster. Most ATMs charge for international cash withdrawals around €3. However, there is one that doesn’t! It’s called Credins Bank, and you can find one in Saranda city centre (with yellow and navy blue colours).
The official language in Albania is Albanian or Shqipëri – how Albanian people call it. It is a fairly difficult language, but it is always nice to know at least a few phrases to get by. I’m sharing some below, and if you’re interested to learn more about Albania, read the post below, I promise the information I share is super interesting!
Evening life – Xhiro
One of the Albanian customs is xhiro, a post-dinner, evening walk to catch up with the neighbours. To experience authentic local life, try it too!
Albanians eat their main meal at lunchtime, which means that restaurants are open all day, and you can have your dinner as you please – early or late.
Albania has a rich culinary tradition. A lot of the traditional dishes are vegetarian friendly and resemble Greek food. If you’re a fast-food type of person, you will be very disappointed. In fact, Albania has hardly any international fast food restaurants! If you enjoy trying traditional dishes, you’ll love Albania. Don’t forget to try Albanian byrek – a fluffy puff pastry with a savoury cottage cheese filling!
You’ll be surprised that Albania is still very traditional when it comes to shopping. This means that if you want to buy bread, you need to find a bakery. Meat is sold at the butchers, fruit and veggies at the grocery, and there is even a separate shop for dairy and eggs. This is such a delight to see that Albania hasn’t been overrun by the large supermarket chains yet!
If you’re a sucker for fresh produce, like me, you’ll love Albania as you can find fresh fruits and veggies sold almost on every street by small local shops and for an absolute bargain!
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