Saranda is a small town on the southern tip of the Albanian Riviera, at the Ionian Sea. Each spring, the quiet town is woken up by tourists, as they arrive to enjoy the sun, crystal clear waters, cheap prices and busy nightlife.
Although it gets busy in Saranda during the summer, you may still bump into a herd of sheep or cows loitering on the town’s hillside roads around the bay.
Go out and explore Saranda and its surroundings! You’ll find interesting natural beauties and historical attractions, such as the ancient town of Butrint and the salvage beaches of Ksamil. The town is located just a 30-minute ferry trip away from Corfu, which makes it a popular day trip destination from the Greek island.
Where to stay
The very center of Saranda is located near the port, an area with the best selection of restaurants and shops. The central square is called Parku Miqësia. The town is located on hills, so it's good to bear in mind that you have to climb uphill, if you’re staying anywhere up from the beach.
Things to do in Saranda
Butrint, a true archaeological gem, is located some 18 kilometers South of Saranda. The archaeological findings of Butrint give evidence of prehistoric activities in the area. The town has also served as a Greek Polis in the 6th century BC, and later as a Roman colony. Today, you can witness the ruins of old Roman baths, a Greek amphitheater, and more recent attractions such as the Basilika and the fortress on top of the hill. Butrint became an UNESCO heritage site in 1992, after the fall of Enver Hoxha’s communist government.
More information: whc.unesco.org
How to get: A taxi from the center takes about 30 minutes and costs around 10-15 euros. Alternatively, you can take a local bus that takes 45 minutes and costs 100LEK, equivalent to about 0,80 EUR.
The bus from Saranda leaves every hour from 6.30 am to 16.30.
The bus from Butrint leaves every hour between 7.30 and 17.30. The last bus stop in Butrint is a car park in front of the entrance to Butrint.
The first bus stop in Saranda is in the corner of Rruga Mitat Hoxha and Rruga Jonianet. The bus stops also in the corner of Rruga Flamurtari-Rruga Skënderbeu, Hotel Butrinti and Hotel Oasi.
Visit Lëkurësi Castle to get the best views over Saranda. The castle was built in the 16th century by the Ottoman ruler Sultan the Magnificent who needed to protect the city harbor after he attacked Corfu. There is a restaurant with terrace in the castle for food and beverages.
How to get: The castle is located approximately 4 kilometers away from the harbor of Saranda. By taxi, it takes around 10 minutes and costs around 5 euros, or by foot it takes around 45 to 60 minutes.
Ksamil is a small coastal village some 15 kilometers to the south from Saranda.
The Ksamil beaches are very beautiful, with crystal clear water. The small Ksamil islands, located in front of the village, are also such beautiful attractions.
How to get: Get to Ksamil with the local Butrint bus connection. Hop off one bus stop before Butrint. The bus leaves from Saranda every hour from 6.30am to 16.30.
The bus leaves from Butrint from 7.30 to 17.30 every hour. It takes about 5-10 minutes to get from Butrint to Ksamil. The trip from Saranda also costs 100 LEK, equivalent to about 0,80 euros, and takes around 35 minutes. A taxi trip from Saranda to Ksamil costs around 13-15 euros.
Compared to Saranda, the beaches of Ksamil are more impressive, though in the summertime, equally crowded of sunbathers.
Food and restaurants in Saranda
The local cuisine is still in its infancy, and the portions are served in an uncompromising manner and with a fair hand. Fish and shellfish in particular are present and locally sourced in Saranda.
The level of food and service at local restaurants is not necessarily world-class, but it is replaced by fresh raw materials and low prices.
In addition to seafood and fish dishes, gyro kebabs are loved all over the country.
Shopping in Saranda
The shopping possibilities is Saranda are scarce. There are several clothing shops in the town, but the selection is limited, mainly consisting of local clothing brands. Big international clothing brands are not available in Saranda.
In the mornings, local street vendors gather by the beach promenade on Rruga Joniat to sell all sorts of artisan products, especially lamb wool products are popular.
Prices in Saranda
Albania is one the most affordable travel destinations in Europe, which is one of the main reasons attracting tourists. Prices in Saranda are just fantastic for the most of us. The travel essentials, such as, lodging, food and drinks are suitable for any type of budget.
Below, there are some examples of restaurant and hotel prices in Saranda. The costs of hotel rooms are median prices at Booking.com.
Pizza in restaurant
Steak in restaurant
33 cl beer in restaurant
Hotel room, 3-4* (April)
Hotel room, 3-4* (July)
Find your hotel in Saranda from Booking.com Hotel Map
How to get to Saranda
Corfu: The nearest international airport is located in Corfu, Greece, which is a 30-minute ferry trip away from Saranda. From Corfu, there are one to four daily departures, depending of the time of the year. The faster hydrofoils take 30 minutes and the slower ferries 70 minutes to travel. The hydrofoils and ferries arrive at the port, located right in the center of the city.
Ferry timetables: ionianseaways.com
Tirana: The Tirana airport is the closest international airport in Albania. The bus from West Tirana to Saranda departs some 6-7 times a day. You’ll find the place from Google Maps by ”Terminali i Autobuzave të Jugt”. It’s known as the Eagle roundabout and located about 3 kilometers away from the center of Tirana. The journey costs 13 euros and takes about 6 hours, depending of the stops. It’s a rustic minibus, so it’s not the most luxurious way to travel. The bus finishes in Parku Miqësia in the center. Buses to Tirana also leave from the same square.
Bus timetables: gjirafa.com
Weather in Saranda
Winter: The winter months from December to February are often rainy, and the average temperatures vary between 8-15°C.
Spring: From March to May, it stops raining, and the sun is out often. The average temperature in March climbs up to around 10-15°C, but in May the average is already at 20 °C.
Summer: From June to August, the sunshine is pretty much guaranteed. The temperature climbs constantly up to 30°C and above.
Autumn: September is still a warm month and the temperature stays clearly above 20 °C. In mid-October, the weather cools down to 20°C and it starts to rain more often. In November, the temperature is already around 15°C.
Text: Ville Ryynänen, Photos: Ville Ryynänen & Päivi Ahola